Friday, September 29, 2006

Ya Gotta Believe

A Saturday Rant 9-30-2006: Ya Gotta Believe

Those of you with some Hollywood writing experience will know that in the 50s and 60s the network executives required every TV show (especially sit-coms) to have written into the script what was called the "Moment of Sentiment"... where Ward tells Beaver how honesty is the best policy and Kitten learns that even if punnished, "Father Knows Best." Many (jaded) TV writers (among themselves) referred to the MOS segment of their script as the "moment of s--t."

It seems like just a few days ago that I got married. Weddings are pure MOS (defined either way!) yet we all go through them and get married, at least for a little while. It was probably different three-hundred years ago when hardly anyone lived past forty. Today marriage seems like.... forever! Lots of folks can't cope with it and this is why you don't see too many sliver wedding anniversaries among my generation.

It's been a hard twenty-five years for me. Maybe its hard for everyone, but it sure looks easier for others! Sometimes I look at Jane and think "I've been married to this woman for what seems like a million years now, and I don't know who she is! Who is this person?"

You work hard, you fight hard, and you hope to build a life that has more happiness than sorrow, a life that has more joy than sadness, and a life that has few if any regrets. It's hard. I think it's really hard. And I must be right because so few people stick it out for twenty-five years or more.

I really have not accomplished much in my life, and I've screwed up a lot of things. But the one thing I didn't screw up was the one smart thing I ever did, and that was to marry Jane. We've somehow stayed together... and this may come as somewhat of a surprise to you, but I'm not exactly the easiest guy in the world to live with.

Many of the long-time readers of this space know that in the past ten years my first, current, and very expensive wife has had a multitude of health issues, serious surgeries, and related problems. Both of her hips have been replaced, one of them twice! Her knees and ankles are shot from arthritis.

Every year on our anniversary we would go to the bank and deposit $200 or $250 or $300... whatever we could spare. In fact I think that might have helped keep our marriage together because the deal was that the one who walked out... the other got to keep the bucks... and no-way was I going to let her be the one to get it!!

So we saved up our pennies and dimes and through the years Jane went through her therapy learning how to walk again and gaining strength and learning how to live when "mobility challenged." There were times when we thought she would never get off the walker and there were years when all she (we) knew were pain. And there was the time they thought she had a "death-sentence" cancer (which sort of put a damper on THAT holiday season... and of course they were wrong! Doctors... my ass!)

Over our life, we have had moments of great joy... and we have had moments of quiet desperation.

But we kept at the therapy and we took the meds and had the operations and even when things didn't look so good, we were encouraged by the spirit of others. We always recited the old Jewish saying "I cried because I had no shoes... until I met a man who had no feet."  We walked, we exercised, and we always kept our eye on the prize... that one day, if we believed, if we had faith, this would all be a memory.

And as the years passed, things got better for Jane... a little at a time, but better. We paid off our medical bills, and always put a few bucks in the bank for when "that" day would come. And over time our little silver anniversary fund mounted up to over $7,000.

Now finally, after so much work, effort, hope, prayer, and just plain old force-of will, "that" day is here. This week we leave on a "Celebration Of Life... a Celebration of US" trip... to Paris. We have always wanted to see Paris together. I know that when she walks down the jetway (with her cane that somehow unfolds into a little seat), there will be a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye. We are on our way after twenty-five years of hope and dreams.... and being together.

It can rain in Paris or snow in Normandy. I don't care. We have fought disease, we have sometimes struggled to stay married, and we still ARE. When I told her years ago that "on our 25th, it will be Paris" I honestly believed that one day it would. And now it will. So this space will be empty for a few weeks while Jane takes in the wonders of French art and I look for the perfect brandy and crême glacée.

Growing up a few miles outside New York City (in Great Neck) in the early 60s, I was a Mets fan. They were an expansion team to take the place of the Giants and Dodgers both of whom had taken the last train to the coast. The early Mets teams set new records for being terrible. But they kept on going out there game after game, year after year. And in 1969, they started winning some games. And they won more. And even more. I remember the motto of the 1969 Mets: "Ya gotta believe!" They won the World Series that year. It was a miracle.

Walking arm-in-arm down the jetway will be just as big a miracle to me.

Ya gotta believe.

Au revoir

Al Canton
Adams-Blake Company, Inc.
http://www.adams-blake com

Copyright 2006 by A. Canton and Adams-Blake Company, Inc. This piece may be freely copied and published in any media with proper attribution to the author and including his company and URLs.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

L'shanah tovah

A Saturday Rant 9-16-06: L'shanah tovah

Do you have a Jewish friend? This week and during the next three feel free to tell them: L'shanah tovah (sha-NAH toe-VAH) meaning "for a good year". The Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah (rush ah sha nah) is this week, followed by Yom Kippur.

One of my best memories was when I was in my first few weeks at the University of Virginia and just getting used to people with a southern accent. There was Charles, but he went by Chas, a very non-Jewish guy on our hall from Alabama and I guess he did some research because he came up to a group of us and said "Hey, SHANE toe-vah, y'all." It touched our heart... a guy from the deep South who had probably never met a Jew until two weeks before made an attempt to bridge a cultural gap. We made him an honorary Jew right there on the spot! (Y'all not gonna do that circumcision thing, that's for damn sure!")

This is the time of year when Jews ask a pardon to all those they have maligned... and for me that's about most of the world and probably everyone here! But seriously, do forgive me of whatever grief I've caused. We are not allowed to ask God for a pardon until/unless we have asked our fellow men and women. I guess it's to teach us a bit of humility.

Rosh Hashanah is a happy occasion... full of good wishes, fellowship, and hope for a better time... followed a week later by the very serious "Days of Awe" where we repent and ask to be inscribed in the "book of life" for the next year... "before the gates begin to close."

This time of year I always remember him. Chas had became a good friend of mine.. the first non-Jewish "real" friend I'd ever made. We would double-date... and even swap dates! I taught him how the stock market worked. He taught me how to drink bourbon (I got the better of that deal!). We laughed at the Smothers Brothers show. We cried when RFK was killed. On graduation day in June of 1969, in cap and gown and clutching well-earned diplomas, we hugged each other, shook hands and vowed to stay in touch. We had our whole lives ahead of us. It was a good time... an exciting time.

I went off to teach school in West Virginia.

Chas, being a son of the south and of a military family, went to the service as an ROTC officer.

I got a card from him that September.

All it said was "SHANE toe-vah, y'all." I laughed and laughed and laughed. I think I still have that card somewhere.

I never heard from him again.

He was killed in Vietnam three months later.

To all of you, L'shanah tova... to a better year.

Al Canton
Adams-Blake Company, Inc.
http://www.adams-blake com

Copyright 2006 by A. Canton and Adams-Blake Company, Inc. This piece may be freely copied and published in any media with proper attribution to the author and including his company and URLs.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

It's a GREAT time to be a writer!

I read a monograph recently that said that this was a terrible time to be a writer.

This is a great time to be a writer... either fiction or non. There are more publishers than ever. There is more media access than ever. There are emerging nations of new readers looking for material. There are more places to market intellectual property. Indeed, there is more opportunity than ever before for a writer or an artist, musician.... even poets... if they know a little about lyrics.

Why do you think there are so many people wanting to write... or "trying" to write? My take is because they see an opportunity to "make it."

How else does an unknown woman writer, on welfare (the dole) in the UK end up with more money than the royal family?

What I have said for years and years and years is that one problem we have in our society is that we don't have many GOOD writers or GOOD artists. You can debate the hell out of this, but bottom line, so much of the stuff that we are presented with is plain old unadulterated crap.

Write something really good. I mean really, really, really good (a Death of a Salesman, a Caine Mutiny, a Lord of the Rings, a Kill a Mockingbird, a What Color is your Parachute, a Grapes of Wrath, a Zen and Motorcycle Maint., or any of your favorite books) and if you work hard at it and do all you can to get it noticed, you will have A GOOD CHANCE for a huge success. I truly believe that. Hey. It works for 'pulp.' So why won't it work for 'quality.' John Grishem sold books out of the trunk of his car. He WORKED FOR IT. Most of his stuff is 'pulp.' How many authors (or publishers) are will willing to really WORK for it like John did?

I believe that our society DOES recognize quality. The problem is that we see so little of it from our "creative" intellectuals. It's a hell of a lot easier to write "another" murder mystery than something that takes some real "creativity".... like what a Hemingway or a Wouk might produce.

These are great times to be a writer or an artist or a musician. And because of it, everyone and their dog thinks they can be one... and the majority of them are just plain terrible. Thus, we are deluged with crap.

I don't for a minute buy the argument that it is TOTALLY our 'society to blame.' We're all here and when quality is presented to us (The Beatles, Rowling, Woodward, Miller, Williams, Vorst, etc.) we buy it.

Why aren't most "literary" writers rich and famous... or well-read? Maybe because they all sit on thier butt and do little to get their work noticed? You think?

We not only have to "sell" people on reading (as opposed to TV, GameBoy, X-Box etc.) but we also NEED quality content... and if the content is out there, I sure as hell don't know where it is coming from. All I see is crap.

Moan and groan all you want about how "good works" don't get sold. Then show me the "effort" made on the part of those creators to get them sold and I'll tell you again that the only place where success comes before work... is in the dictionary.

Writers tell me "Quality won't sell." I ask them "How much work have you put in to selling it?" They tell me "That's the publisher's job." I don't disagree at all... except that it just does not happen.

First of all publishers don't care about quality. They care about profits. They have to. THEY take the risk! It's their jobs, homes, savings accounts on the line. Yes, it IS about the money!

And because it takes a fair amount of money to get into print, publishers in the USA have grown scared. It's all a "numbers game." They have followed the lead from the movie industry where you put out ten films knowing that six will fail, three will either break-even or make a tiny profit, and one will be successful enough to pay for all the others and still return a nice profit.

I've always wondered what would happen if publishers tried to 'push' GOOD books instead what I call 'crap.' I've always wondered how this business would work if there were either fewer publishers or just fewer books published... but those that had trees killed for them were quality works.

Well, I won't live to see that, especially in a society that rewards rap and hip-hop crap and an entire generation who has never seen much in the way of quality (beyond Harry Potter).

And why have they not seen it? Because no one 'pushes' it.

(Look how required-reading lists in high-school and college have been either watered down or eliminated. Why aren't students required to take 4 years of literature instead of PE in post-secondary education?)

It's not just the fault of publishers. I think those who want to write 'quality' are afraid of the work it will take to sell it. And THIS is WHY I say it's a great time to be a writer of "quality". It's much easier to learn how to do "quality" media and publicity than to write quality fiction or biography or history, etc.

Show me a writer who says "Screw the publisher, I'm going to make this happen on my own" and I'll show you a writer who will succeed.

Unfortunately the writers in that category.... are all writing crap (diet books, bogus self-help garbage, revisionist junk-history, shock-politics, etc.) They are the ones willing to WORK for it.

I'd love to see a bunch of writers (a collective maybe) who write 'good stuff' (as agreed upon by all) join forces, all contribute to a fund for media and publicity... not for their particular books, but to promote quality. In due time I'm sure their own books would do well (colleteral damage :-)) and we'd all be better off for it.

It's a great time to be a writer. It's too bad there are so few of them who know how to sell.

There is a whole world of people sick and tired of crap. Go find them. It's a lot of work... but what isn't?

Al Canton
Adams-Blake Company, Inc.
http://www.adams-blake com

Copyright 2006 by A. Canton and Adams-Blake Company, Inc. This piece may be freely copied and published in any media with proper attribution to the author and including his company and URLs.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

It's the SERVICE, stupid!

Man, I'm steamed. OK, maybe it's a small thing... but I'm still steamed.

I get two copies of a well-known news magazine and I only need ONE! This has been happening for a few months and I've called and written them to PLEASE fix it. Does it ever get fixed? What do you think?

I guess I get peeved about stuff like this because WE'RE PUBLISHERS. I mean to say, that if you are a PUBLISHER and you are going to PUBLISH a something, then I expect you to KNOW the technology or distribution... or at least something about it. It's part of the 'skill set' of being a publisher. Most of us don't know how a web press works, or the fine points of CYMK... but we know something about them... and we know whom to ask and what to ask.

So when the magazine has a problem they can't or won't solve, then it's time to change. That's how we in the small press would deal with printers.... I'm sure that's how you (all) would deal with me and our JAYA123 service (see how I slipped that in??? :-) What if JAYA had constant problems or lots of downtime... yet I tell everyone that I'm an expert in computer technology? What are you going to think of me?

The magazine is an EXPERT in publishing. Thus, when I get 2 (sometimes 3) copies of the rag each week for months and months.... and I've POLITELY written to them about the problem and NEVER get any response.... well it makes me wonder.

To me a player is only as good as his or her last game. Why are guys like D. Poynter and S.Horowitz, and T&S, and Data R., and M&G, and M. Gilliland, and Midpoint, and M. Long, and B. Kerrigan held in high regard as vendors? Because they don't drop the ball too often and when they do, they acknowledge it and work their butts off to make sure they don't screw up again.

I'm just on a tear about bad service from people that I expect really good service from. I'm just sick of it. I'm sick of the "We got your money now so who cares about you" attitude. And I'm sick of calling customer service to someone I pay good money to each month and getting a "script reader" in Bombay who doesn't know his or her ass from a kumquat (or whatever the hell they eat in India!)

So is this a bad thing? Yes it is. But it's also a good thing!

I'm more convinced than ever that we are heading into what will be a golden age for small business. I think people are tired of the "Wall-Martization" of everything. It's not just price. People are starved for good service.

Case in point. At 4 PM yesterday (Friday) I was about ready to wrap up my day in the office. Phone rang and it was Peter D. from Silverback Books ( They are a big JAYA123 user... they have 3 logins for 2 employees and a fulfillment center in Kansas. They have about 100 titles and do about $2 million a year gross. (And you thought JAYA was just for the small-fry?) [Note: they have given me permisison to state the above stats. We would never ever say anything to anyone about a Jaya123 client without express permission]

Peter says that there is a problem with the Rep Commission report. So instead of going to the country club to work out (so I'm 'buffed' for BEA's book-babes), I fired up the local copy of JAYA to see if I could replicate the problem.

And yes, there WAS a problem with the report. It took me about 20 minutes to find and fix it and put it out on the server. I emailed Peter. He calls back and he is just stunned that anyone would fix or could fix or even be willing to fix a problem that was important to him at that moment (most folks don't have sales reps so it is not a heavily used report... he was trying to close his accounts for the month.)

He was incredulous. It just blew him away that I dropped everything and DID what he's PAYING me for.... to run the damn service! Yeah. It's supposed to be error-free. That's what I advertise. That's what people give me their money for. So what is the issue? He expected "Bombay service."

Peter is going to go to BEA and he is going to tell ALL of his publisher friends about JAYA123 and the good service I gave him, yada, yada. And so will our own Florrie K. of Patria.... because I've provided her with good service as well (she's a blonde book-babe so you have to expect that she will run into (and cause!)lots of computer problems!!)

My point is that we CAN compete with the big guys.

Hey, I go head-to-head and toe-to-toe with Intuit's Quickbooks on The Web. Do you think for one minute that anyone at Intuit would fix your problem, or add a new feature, within hours... much less days or weeks? Damn right they won't!

But I'll bust my butt for you... and THAT dear friends is what will be the key to survival for small businesses.

I don't know how applicable it is to publishers.... as we don't have that much customer contact... but if you publish non-fiction and can somehow adopt the Poynter model of surrounding your book biz with added services (you publish bicycle books so maybe you should open a bike repair shop or sell bike parts on the web?) the lesson is clear. You can compete with the "Intuits" of the world by getting a bit of press.... working your butt off... and letting your happy customers get the word out.

It's not enough to have a good product. "It's the service, stupid." They don't teach that at Wharton. I don't think there is a single MBA that knows this. You know where I learned it? From my days in sales at EDS working for Ross Perot.

He taught me that people don't buy products or even services. They buy EXPECTATIONS. I'll let you ponder that. Either you will get it or you won't. I'm all out of breath here and have beaten this into the ground. I'm off to the golf course to take a walk in the woods!! Fore, Five, Six...

Al Canton
Adams-Blake Company, Inc.
http://www.adams-blake com

Copyright 2006 by A. Canton and Adams-Blake Company, Inc. This piece may be freely copied and published in any media with proper attribution to the author and including his company and URLs.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Big Myths that Unsuccessful (i.e. Stupid) Publishers Believe

Because I have been writing this column for the past nine years and because (for some dumb reason) about 7000 people in the industry seem to read it and like it (not my numbers... provided to me by so-called net marketing experts who have crystal balls to extrapolate these figures... I think they are full of crap... I don't believe more the 80 people on the planet reads my ramblings... and each one sends me a letter once a week!) I get asked by lots of people, not so much for advice, but to confirm what they already believe to be true.

Let me tell you this. I'm not so much concerned (or afraid) of what people don't know. People can learn. What scares the hell out of me are the ideas people steadfastly and absolutely in their hearts believe to be true... that are absolutely wrong!

Here are what I call the 'BIG MYTHS' of small publishing.

1. Covers and Design Don't Count - Take me to the small press section of any book show (including BEA) and I can point out every cover that was designed by either the author/publisher, or by a designer who had never done a book cover before. Publishers don't understand that covers are part of packaging which is part of marketing. They buy the myth that "you can't tell a book by its cover." What they fail to realize is that they WILL sell a book by its cover. So instead of paying someone like Mayapriya Long at Bookwrights Design or some other experienced book designer $3K to get a professional job, they do the inside design themselves and hire their nephew or sister-in-law who just finished a Photoshop or Pagemaker course at Podunk Community College to do their book. And they get something with clip art on a pink and green background as a cover and an inside looking like a college freshman's first term paper. On this "platform" they are going to spend another $10K on printing. And they wonder why their books are rejected by every buyer of every wholesaler, distributor, and retailer on the planet. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

2. I Love the Subject - Unsuccessful publishers suffer from the most acute case of myopic, egocentric, provincialism that I've ever seen. They print what they want. Well, that's fine... if they want to lose their shirts and go tits up. They think that because their subject or philosophy is important to them, that there are 5,000 others who just can't wait to snap up their printed ramblings. Every retired doctor seems to think that "they" have a story. Every ex-political hack think that they have the solution for the next utopian society. And maybe there are stories and solutions here. But WHO CARES? I'll tell you the answer. NO ONE! Do these publishers ever bother to pay a few non-friends and non-relatives a $20 reading fee and ask whether or not the book might have any market appeal (to say nothing about if the book is any good in the first place.) I'm telling you, there is more crap, junk, and nonsense published and as you might have guessed, most of it fails in the market place and becomes recycled into egg cartons and grocery bags.

3. The Media Can't Wait for My Story - Unsuccessful publishers have bought into the myth that getting publicity for their titles is easy. I mean, look at all the space, time, and electrons the media has to fill each day. Surely they will want to print press stuff about the titles these publishers kill trees for. What idiot publishers don't understand is that the media does not give a flying rats ass about books, events, news, or anything else. The only criteria the mass media applies to any story is "will it grab ears and eyeballs SO we can package it with more advertising." Stupid publishers wait and wait and wait for "their" story to come out... and of course it never does. And there is a reason...

4. My Press Release is Terrific - Unsuccessful publishers don't know the first thing about writing media copy, but they THINK they do. They believe the myth that who, where, why, etc. is all that is necessary. That's what was taught them in all the media-writing books they read and they believe it. Idiot publishers don't understand that people like Paul Krupin and other professional copywriters know the one single golden rule of media.. and how to apply it. The rule is simple. Every editor who looks at copy asks two questions. "Why me? Why now?" If those questions are answered in the editor's head, the ink will flow. But what happens to the press releases of so many stupid publishers? More grocery bags and egg cartons.

5. My Distributor Is Really Going to Work For Me - A great and happy day in the life of a naive, stupid publisher is the day they get the letter accepting their title into a distributor's "program." They read on and on about all the wonderful things the distributor is going to do for their title and they mentally make a down payment on that new Lexus. Unsuccessful publishers rely on their distributor for their ship to come in... and most often such publishers end up going down with it. Most distributors have hundreds and hundreds of publishers and maybe a thousand or so titles. And it cost them almost nothing (some of them make money) on taking a new publishers/title. And what they do is simple. They throw a tiny amount of money at the title, maybe a press release, or a larger mention in a catalog. If there is any ripple in the marketplace, they then go whole-hog on that title and neglect most of their others. If that title is yours, great. But if it isn't (and most often it won't be) you are going to end up buying the myth of the distributor "making it happen for you."

6. Sales and Volume Myth - Unsuccessful publishers believe that they can lose money on every sale but make it up in volume. Idiot publishers have no idea on how to determine a unit price so that they won't lose money on it. They see that Random House has a similar book on the subject for $10.95 so that's the price point selected. But Random gets better deals from their printer (and they are owned by a printer!) than you will ever get, I don't care if you offer your first born, your antique Ford Mustang, or your body! Most unsuccessful publishers take the first step to failure when the decide the price point of their title. (And most publishers don't take very good care of their bodies either!)

7. It's On My Desk Somewhere - Once a publisher gets past the newbie stage and are selling more than 1000 copies a year, there comes a need for an organized approach to running the business. There is no quicker way to fail then to try to run a growing business with the wrong tools. You can't do it with Excel and Word. Every publisher I've ever met who ended up dancing the Chapter 13 tango had a "going" operation, but just could not keep up with orders, returns, and most importantly, had no idea of what their cash flow was... until they realized that their large customers owed them big bucks... yet they had to pay their creditors (like printers, publicists, etc.). And they didn't even have a method to determine which customer owed them what, so had no idea on even who to send a late notice (or lawyer letter) to. There are lots of software packages out there (like JAYA123 ($15/mo), Publishers Assistant $500) , Acumen ($10,000), Cats ($7,000), Merlin $500)) that could have prevented many failures. But so many publishers believe "I don't need good software to run my business." You can bet that the bankruptcy court will use "good software" to dissolve it!

8. I Can Do It On One Book - This has got to be the biggest myth ever perpetrated on the newbie publisher community. You see this repeated over and over in the many (otherwise well done) how-to-publish books on the market. Sure there are one-book success stores. Lots of them. One of my JAYA123 customers published a (rather graphic) sex book. They have made a pile of money on this book And everyone knows about Bear Kamoroff and his "Small-Time Operator" book. But that's the myth. The reality is that for every one-booker that makes it, there are 100 other one-bookers that go deep six. I have spent years ranting and railing against PMA on all sorts of issues. But there is one thing that Jan Nathan and company have right.. and have always had right. She (they) tell everyone that you can't make it on one book. The key to success in this business is a back-list of books that sell several thousand (or even hundred) copies year after year after year. When I ask a publisher who has just come out with their first book, "Congratulations, now what is the next one going to be on?" and when I get a blank stare, I know I'm looking at a failure.

9. This Is An Easy Business - Man, Oh Manischewitz (April was a good month!) do I hear this a lot. Publishing is the hardest "easy" business you can get into. And if you do it "wrong" all you have done is that you have "bought" yourself a job.... and you would do much better to go out and get a real one. Those who make it in this business work hard at it. My perscription has always been to do 5 marketing things a day for each title you are selling.... media, phone calls, letters, e-mail, articles, press material, etc. Five a day for 300 days and you've done 1500 "things." Some of them will work and if your products are good and you catch a bit of luck, you can make a good living. But if you are lazy, fergetaboutit.

If you want to play in the publishing game (a little plug for Fern R.) you need to know which rules to follow and which myths to ignore. Don't take my word for it. Ask some of the experienced publishers that you get to know. You can find them on the Pub-Forum list (see for sign-up info) where they will be glad to answer your questions. They will tell you the same thing.... believe half of what you see and none of what you hear... unless it comes from me ;-)

Al Canton
Adams-Blake Company, Inc.
http://www.adams-blake com

Copyright 2006 by A. Canton and Adams-Blake Company, Inc. This piece may be freely copied and published in any media with proper attribution to the author and including his company and URLs.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Returns, Lists, and Why We Do What We Do!

[Note: much of this Rant is about the Pub-Forum listserv. You can join (free) or get info about Pub-Forum here.]

It's been almost ten years since I received a return on a book. That's because we don't sell to the trade through Ingram or B&T. We don't accept returns... which is why we don't get them!!

So I've really forgotten the feeling of what it's like to get a couple of cartons of books back. For those who have been there, it's not the "fun part" of publishing. It's a sinking, depressing feeling.

In my consulting business, I've never lost or been canned by a client (although I once quit one company when I couldn't get along with one of the VPs).

Well, today I lost my first Jaya123 victim. She'd only been on the system for three weeks and decided it was too expensive and that it didn't meet her needs and decided to get Quickbooks. In the 3 years that Jaya123 has been going, not one person had left.

That old "returns" feeling came right back to me in a flash. Depressing as hell. But it got me to thinking (an activity I've not had much time for the past several weeks due to an ill wife... [has anyone noticed the absence of the Saturday Rant since the 2006 BEA Diary?])

Being in business is hard... and oftentimes it is lonely. Pub-Forum (P-F) helps to fill a void for many. I know a lot of folks hate the OT posts but I NOW think that they are needed, if for nothing else, to help us all be part of a community. I used to rant otherwise (as the Harry Pariser keeps reminding us) but I've come full-circle.

On the Self-Publishing (S-P) list, Marion and John and JC enforce an On Topic rule with ruthless fervor, and they frown on any humor, or feeling." It's a "biz-only" list. It's a cold house there, but lots of people like it cold. The list is three-times as large as P-F.

P-F is different. Maybe not better, but different. You're' "part of something" here. Sometimes that "something" is not what you want to be a part of... but that's how families go sometimes! (What a horribly constructed sentence!)

The big difference between P-F and the other lists is that here people really care. Yes, they get on their soap box and preach their brand of politics or religion because they really WANT YOU to join them. Harry really WANTS you to join his cause. Feel free to do so... although I'd like to know if Harry is ever FOR something instead of being AGAINST everything!. On the other lists, no one really gives a damn about anyone else. It's all business, all the time.

But more than that, I'll tell you one huge difference between the cold, gray, "on-topic only" S-P list and the sometimes "white hot" P-F list is that if someone you know dies, or if you're sick, or something bad happens, you're going to get flowers, cards, good wishes, phone calls, emails, and one hell of a lot of personal support. When my dad died a few months ago I got a beautiful set of potted herbs from V3 in the name of P-F. (I doubt Harry contributed to it... but the gift touched my heart nonetheless.)

So yes, P-F may not be the "best" list to discuss publishing issues. But I think it's the best list for a publisher to be on. There is a lot more to being in this business than black and white "publishing" issues.

You could not write this lament-of-a-post on Gundry's list and have anyone really care, and you could not write it on S-P at all. And I'm positive that guys like G. Heard and Mr. Pariser would rather not see posts like this here... but they don't run the place (much to their lament, I'm sure.)

I read the posts of people like Pam who came out of the ether to stand up against the Pariser diatribes of this week... but you don't see too many like her. You just have to LOVE Pam. And Marion as well... who had the guts to tell Harry to "deal with it." Even the mild-mannered Maya came out to set the record straight. You just know that all these folks are on Harry's hate-list... although there is no doubt that my name heads the list... a badge of honor I wear with great pride! I think people are afraid to get in the cross-hairs of Harrys rifle... and I don't blame them. He is a dead-on shot... and has no mercy.

But protest Harry is something people need to do. This list was founded on the principle that it would be a self administering list with the list-moms guarding the gates from spam and taking care of technical issues. So I hope that people WILL speak up when others (or myself) go "too far." The "system" has almost worked... but we still see that Parisar can hijack this list.

The majority should rise up and say to the neo-pols (i.e. Pariser) on the list "we've had enough, shut the fuck up Harry, ...STFUH." Maybe we should make STFUH a Pub-Forum "cultural icon" to be used whenever someone goes off the deep end, as Harry does almost every day. (Any of you remember the term "folfs" from years and years ago? It too became a cultural icon... but for humor.)

Of course I get accused of being the cause that people leave P-F. It might be true. But I think Harry has caused far more people to leave after he has beaten the hell out of them with his mean-spirited, indictive postings. But that's OK.

Huh, you say?

Unlike others, I don't mind people leaving P-F. It's not for everyone. And while I applaud the people (most of whom I've never seen post before) for standing up, I caution that we don't want to go to an extreme. We don't need to be S-P. S-P is already there, as is the Gundry list and Bob Goodman's "civil" list.

Harry is here and will stay here. And Mr. Kubica is a newcomer in Harry's tradition.... or maybe MY tradition. And we still have G. Heard to harass us. So be it. Maybe it's all good. Or maybe we need to just post: STFUH !!! I'm not sure... but I know that people need to stop being afraid of Harry and if they disagree with him they should stand up and say so. To allow one person to hijack this list is simply absurd. We're publishers. We KNOW how to be PUBLIC with our concerns... and so WE SHOULD with Harry, with me, with Heard and with anyone else. This is what this list was founded upon.

We are what we are, we will continue to evolve, change, and progress. And we're one thing that the other lists are not. We're a community, a family if you will, that is struggling to survive in a very difficult and constantly changing business climate.

I believe that those who have risen to the level of experience that P-F attracts from, are the survivors, the tough ones, the few who really know the oft-quoted thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.

I look at the newbies on the S-P list and I wonder how many of them will survive to where a list like P-F attracts them? I used to wonder what makes "us" out of all of the "thems". I used to wonder what it really takes to survive in business.

After all these years, I've learned the answer.

The answer is one word. Dedication. You simply have to want to be here, in this industry, more than any other you could be in. If you can meet that challenge, and you can hold out long enough, I believe success will arrive. Look at Pam S. She's the prototype you all want to follow... because she's done everything right... and is now making good money (sorry Harry that she is Christian... and a capitalist... just another bad day for a communist like you, I guess.)

It's not today's returns, but tomorrows new titles that are important. We must always keep our eye on that prize (just as Pam does). We need to strive for innovation and understand trends. We not only serve the public, we also lead it. Indeed, we are the keepers of the culture.

We are important.

We have purpose.

We are needed.

It's a hard industry, a hard business. We work long hours, we do our best, we get tired, we take large risks, and some days are diamonds and others are rust. But through it all we trudge on, in the firm belief that the journey is the reward.

And today, after losing a Jaya123 client, I feel as if I know a lot of you just a little bit better.

Al Canton
Adams-Blake Company, Inc.
http://www.adams-blake com

Copyright 2006 by A. Canton and Adams-Blake Company, Inc. This piece may be freely copied and published in any media with proper attribution to the author and including his company and URLs.

Friday, May 26, 2006

BEA Diary 2006

Go to Wednesday
Go to Thursday
Go to Friday
Go to Saturday
Go to Sunday
Go to Epilogue


I read the news today, oh boy.

I was in a Beatles mood. I didn't know why. Maybe because I had just heard that Sir Paul was getting a divorce. Or maybe it was because I fell asleep on the red-eye listening to Sgt. Pepper.

A Day In The Life was in my head all week. So were Lucy, the Hendersons and Mr. Kite. I had no doubt that this BEA was the publishing industry's Lonely Hearts Club Band.

Somebody spoke and I went into a dream..

It was the end of the show, time to strike the set, so to speak. The final curtain on this year's BEA was about to drop. I was heading up to the shipping area. This is a service provided by the convention where you get a big box, pop it on a table, and fill it with all the free stuff you collect at the show. If you are smart you do this on the first day and not on the last.

Going into the convention center I met up with Mayapriya Long, the talented cover and interior designer who runs Bookwrights. We always meet each morning for a short breakfast (and guess who buys!). Two minutes later, by chance we run into Sharon Goldinger of PeopleSpeak.

Both Sharon and Maya were smart. They had their boxes, had collected two tons of stuff, and were going to tape and ship them. I wasn't smart. I was going to set up my box and go down to the floor and scarf up whatever might be left.

Sharon and I are old friends, always giving each other a "hard time." It's a love-hate thing!

"Hey Sharon," I said as we rode up the first of several escalators. "If you ever start a blog I have a great idea for a name... People Squeak!"

Sharon turned to Maya, "Can we get a box big enough to put HIM in?"

Mayapriya, without a moment's hesitation said, "Not one that's air-tight!"

The show ended just as it had begun... with laughter, fellowship, and good wishes for all. When it comes to the fate of the publishing industry and the small press in particular it's a good thing we have those... because we don't have much else.

Oh, but there IS one OTHER thing we have... BOOK BABES. It's now a ten-year tradition that every year at BEA I nominate one, two, or three women to the lofty ranks of official Saturday Rant Book Babes to join such publishing luminaries as Mardi Link, Victoria Sutherland, Julie Hardison, Maya Long, and others. This year both of our babes come from Midpoint Trade Books, a well known (and really good!) distributor.

Our new BEA 2006 Book Babes are Robin Queen and Laurie Little.

Oh, lovely Rita meter maid,
Where would I be without you,

Laurie Little looking babe-a-licious!

Robin Queen, so young, so cute, so hot!


Picture yourself in a boat on a river,
With tangerine trees and marmalade skies

I decided not to exhibit our Jaya123 web service

this year at PMA. Jaya is doing OK and last year I didn't get enough 'face time' with the PMA-U students. Also, PMA had raised the price and I just thought they had priced themselves out of the market. So instead of getting up early and getting to my booth, I took the morning off and went to the National Gallery of Art. Walking around looking at the pictures I wondered what art or literature of my generation would be seen hundreds of years from now. After seeing some of what passed for 'art' in the "modern" collection I decided there wouldn't be much!

I saw a film today oh boy
The English Army had just won the war

I then took the long walk down the mall to visit the Vietnam Memorial. I've seen it before but it never ceases to put a lump in my throat... all those kids... who would be my age now... dead for absolutely nothing. I saw some names of guys I went to school with. I'm a draft evader. I would not go... and did not go. I only wish I had done more back then to persuade others to take the "Hell no, we won't go" pledge. But we all make choices in life. I'm alive... their names are on a wall. I don't regret the choice I made, although I remember it wasn't very popular back then.

It was late afternoon when I finally got to PMA. This year, instead of holding the "publishing university" in a hotel, it was held at the convention center, as would the Ben Franklin Award dinner. Lots of people complained about the venue, but I had no problem with it.

When I get older losing my hair,
Many years from now.

As soon as I arrived I ran into Dan Poynter and Pete Masterson. Pete had just published a new book on design and production and it has been well received. Dan had yet another edition of his Self Publishing Manual out.

Dan Poynter and Pete Masterson: good men who know this industry

I talked with Dan and Pete (and everyone) about what the future of publishing would be and for the first time I heard a tone of pessimism in Dan's voice. "The business model is broken," he told me, and he was not quite sure how the eventual adoption of e-books would change this industry.

Well I just had to laugh
I saw the photograph.

"Canton, that picture you took of me last year just about ended my marriage" I heard a loud voice say. I turned around and and it was none other than Jerry Jenkins of the Jenkins Group. He was referring to the shot of him looking down the dress of the former Miss USA taken at his previous IPPY party.

"Jerry, if you can't do the time, don't do the crime" I said to him in my best Bereta voice.

Jerry told me that the IPPY Awards had more entrants than ever before and he felt it was a good indication about the mood of publishers. Having spoken with Terry Nathan about PMA membership holding steady at around 4300 perhaps things were not as gloomish and doomish and they seemed to me.

From my conversations with people the past several months I've learned that the vendors are making money, the PMA is doing OK, the printers are thriving, and the middle channel is fine... but that the publishers are not making much in the way of a good living. It seems many have just exchanged being a corporate wage-slave for a low paying self-employment 'J-O-B.' But if they 'love' the job, I guess it is a fair trade.

Will you still need me, will you still feed me,
When I'm sixty-four.

And talking about 'fair' I heard the distinctive chirp of "Don't forget about lunch at BEA." Turning around I saw my old friend Mayapriya Long of Bookwrights Design. It is a long, long, long tradition that Maya never pays for lunch at BEA. Someone (usually me) takes her to lunch. She's the only vendor I know who gets her clients to feed her. And the reason is simple. She is always in demand and people want her to do THEIR work... and food-bribery always helps!

Last year one of the books that Maya designed won a Ben Franklin award and she was up for one this year, as well as two IPPYs. She did the interior of a complex history of western movies and cowboys. I was sure she was a shoo-in because the book was drop-dead beautiful... inside and out. We'd know later that evening. 

Just before going in to dinner (you have to be first in because the food is usually gone in a flash!) I spoke with Sharon Goldinger of PeopleSpeak. Sharon is always the voice of optimism, probably because she is always busy and her author/publishers always seem to do well from her stewardship of their books. Sharon is small in size but she packs a wallop in the book biz!

Sharon Goldinger

There were about 500 people at this year's Ben Franklin Award dinner and for the first time that I can remember, they didn't run out of food. Still, they gave us saucers as dinner plates as a ploy to keep people from taking too much. So instead, people made believe that this was a dim sum meal and they just collected little plates of everything offered. There had been a lot of grousing about the horrible box lunch that PMA had served earlier but from what I heard, this dinner made up for it. I thought it was quite good considering it was all from a commissary.

What would you think if I sang out of tune,
Would you stand up and walk out on me.

There are about zillion categories for awards, many of them somewhat esoteric such that no one really cares. But it's interesting to see the covers and titles of the nominees as they are flashed up on the screen via a Powerpoint-like presentation. What people hope for most is that the winner is not present and we are thus saved from a long, windy speach on the publishers humble beginnings, their struggle for success, and their vision of the great white light. The awards are probably the most boring two hours in the entire publishing industry. If dinner were not served you can bet that no one would go. In the small press there is no "draw" like free food!

This year most of the winners were not present... and I think the reason was because most of the books were really terrible and no one wanted to admit publishing them! There was nothing new, different, or even close to outstanding in my opinion. I can't think of the name of any of the winners and even when seeing the list not one comes to mind. I alwasys expect more from the small press and most years I'm not disappointed. But this year was a 'bust.' They (who?) always say we independents are daring and innovative. Well, not this year. We were just as boring and just as mundane as our bigger brothers and sisters in New York. If this is the start of a trend, it can't be good.

We held our breath as Maya's book was shown, but alas she didn't win. When the awards were over I went up to the table with all the winning titles and looked at the winner, and I could not believe that the book that won... won! It was nothing. A college student could have designed it. Hell, my cat could have done it. Mayapriya's work, on the other hand, was about as complex as an interior can get with lots of 'call outs' and pictures, and design layouts. I'd love to find out who the judges were for the design category. I wonder if their names are made public. I wonder if any of them know squat about book design. You wouldn't think so from the title they named as the winner.

In a cap she looked much older,
And the bag across her shoulder
Made her look a little like a military man.

Upon arriving back at the hotel, I saw Dan Poynter and Florrie Kichler of Patria Press in the lobby having a drink. I decided to join them. I've known Florrie for many years. She is a Jaya123 client and always says good things about our web-service back-office system for small publishers. You can't help but like Florrie. She always has some good book-biz gossip because she is so involved with the small press and PMA. However this time she dropped a bomb on us. She said she is going to be the next PMA president!

I've long derided the PMA as a mostly 'do nothing' organization that is best at getting members to spend dollars with vendors. Yes, I'm a member because even with all its faults we're better off as an industry sector with PMA than without it. The SPAN organization never really amounted to anything (despite my high hopes and advice to Scott Flora) and so by default, PMA is about as good as it gets for us.

Well, with Florrie having some real input, perhaps some things can change. Of course I said that when Nick Weir-Williams was made president and later when Pat Bell was on the board and nothing ever happened. So I don't have really high hopes here either, but if anyone can kick some PMA ass, it's my old friend Florrie. (She's sure kicked mine over the years!)


I've got nothing to say but it's O.K.
Good morning, good morning...

It was nice to sleep in. I knew it would be the last day I would be able to do so. Tonight is the annual Pub-Forum dinner. For those who don't know, the Pub-Forum is a mail-list chat group that has been around for many years. It's not the largest online publishing group, but it has a very high-quality subscribership of experienced publishers. Each year a group of us get together for a dinner to talk shop, knock back a few drinks, blow off some steam, and just have some fun.

While I wanted to go back to PMA to see some of the vendors as well as other people I knew would be attending, I didn't need to be there unitl the afternoon. Thus, I took the morning off and went to see the Space Museum. Having grown up during the days of Sputnik and the space-race it was exciting for me to be a "little boy" again and see the Mercury space capsules, especially the one that John Glenn rode into orbit. I had no idea it was so small. And when you look inside and see how primitive it was you knew it really took someone with the 'right stuff' to climb in there and wait to be blasted into space! Not me. I would have waited for the video!

For the benefit of Mr. Kite
There will be a show tonight

Upon arriving at PMA that afternoon I ran into a woman I'd heard of for several years but had never met in person, Antoinette Kuritz of the Kuritz Group. This very attractive lady hosts the Writers Roundtable Radio Show which I've known about but have never been a guest on. So I pitched her on the idea of a show about running a publishing office (a la Jaya123. If you don't ask, you don't get!) She also puts together the La Jolla Writers Conference in October, which has been running for six years now. She is really 'high' on this year's program and it sounds like it will rival the Maui Writers Conference. I wish her well on it and I suggest that those of you who find conferences helpful and enjoyable to check it out.

Along with Antoinette was Pamela Atherton, a well-known media coach. We had an interesting discussion on the 'power' of radio for book authors. The conventional wisdom is that print media is best, but with fewer and fewer people getting newspapers and magazines (the Internet strikes again!) and people driving longer and longer to work means that there is more airtime for stations to fill and authors always make interesting guests. It might be worth looking into.

Pam Atherton and Antoinette Kurtz: The PR babes!

In addition to Pam and Antoinette, another well-known PR expert was at PMA giving a seminar. This was Penny Sansevieri. We talked a bit about some of the basics of book publicity and how the Internet has changed everything. Whatever you thought you knew about getting some 'buzz' is now probably dated... or just worng! It's not any easier, mind you, but the net does open up a lot of other venues for getting publicity.

As the PMA-U wound down I spoke to some of the attendees. They were satisfied with the program and felt that they got their money's worth. However all of them, to a person, complained about the box lunch that was served. With all the money that PMA makes from this event and the Ben Franklin entry fees you'd think that they could do better than airline food!

She's leaving home after living alone
For so many years. Bye, bye

I talked to the vendors. One statistic noticed by all of them was that attendance was down by almost 20%. PMA-U usually books about 530 students. This year it was just over 400. Thus, the vendors paid higher rates for fewer "bodies." No one was happy about that. And just like last year, I was told that the schedule was so full that the students did not have time to speak to every vendor, or even a majority of them. As I've said year in and year out, the PMA really needs to re-think their schedule and their pricing if they want vendors to continue to support the program.

Talking about support, I noticed that several long-time vendors were absent. Central Plains Book Manufacturing was a no-show. I missed seeing Becky Pate, an old, old friend who's company has printed a number of our books. I don't know why they were not there. Another vendor I expected to see was Fiddler Doubleday. I also noted that United Graphics was not at PMA either.

While it has long been the case that 4-color work is often done offshore, I've heard that the Asian printers are now sucessfully competing for traditional black-ink work as well... even with the high cost of shipping. Is book printing the next industry to be lost to foreign competition? I won't be surprised.

PMA used to have an end-of-event food-fest. In previous years they have had ice cream, or a chocolate fountain fondue, or just coffee and cake. Not this year. When it was done, it was done. I'm all for the PMA making money, but the old saying is true: Greed Kills. If attendance is down next year they won't be able to say it was because of the DC location. It will be because people just don't feel they are getting the perks they have come to expect and which other seminar firms offer. How much would a sheet-cake and a few urns of coffee cost the PMA to wrap up the event on a fun and happy note? Only Jan Nathan has the answer.

The Hendersons will all be there...

So it was on to the Pub-Forum dinner. Dan Poynter and Mayapriya and I walked the few blocks down 7th Street to the RFD restaurant where some 35 list members were gathered at the bar in the private room that Sharon Goldinger and Fern Reiss (of Publishing Game fame) arranged.

Lend me your ears and I'll sing you a song,
And I'll try not to sing out of key.

For the second year they composed a song that features all of the dinner guests. We all got a kick out of it. Here is one verse (done to Blowin' In The Wind):

How many booklets can Paulette produce?
She must do it in her sleep.
Yes 'n how does the granddad of self-publishing, Dan Poynter, know
parachute leaps?
Yes 'n how many bucks can Shel Horowitz save--he has all his fun on
the cheap.

The answer my friend, is on the list,
The answer you'll find on the list

Fern and Sharon doing their American Idol thing

I immediately ran into Florrie, Gene Schwartz editor-at-large (a good title for him.... he's built like a linebacker) of ForeWord Magazine, and a newcomer to the group, Mim Harrison, the head of Levenger Press. I never knew Levenger (you know, the catalog for readers) had a publishing arm... but yes they do and Mim told me all about it. Gene is still traveling all over the country for ForeWord and it was good to see him looking so fit.

Florrie Kichler, Gene Schwartz, and Mim Harrison

I had a nice chat with the Pub-Forum dominatrix, Marion Gropen of Gropen Associates. Marion and I chatted about the problems of this industry from a financial standpoint (she is a CPA (Certified Pain in the Ass)) and has worked with publishers large and small for many years. For a CPA she actually has a nice smile and personality. You don't find that too often in bean-counters.

Jacqueline Church Simonds and Marion Gropen with a buzz.

I had never met J.C. Simonds but had corresponded with her for years. She runs a growing publishing "empire," writes books on women pirates who kick butt, and is one of the admins for the large Self-Pub listserv. She is getting into the distribution biz and I was impressed with the amount of energy she has. She may rule the Self-Pub list with an iron fist, but in person she's a very sweet woman.

Would you believe in a love at first sight,
Yes I'm certain that it happens all the time.

Sometimes a name comes at you from out of the past. I was standing at the bar when an attractive women walks up and says "You won't remember me but I really helped you out several years ago." I wondered if this might have been some ex-girlfriend... and was she going to make trouble? In this case it was Carol Hayes Uber of Stephens Press. Years and years ago, when I first brought out PUB123 she was an early adopter and helped me debug it. She was later offered a dream job with Stephens Press where she runs a company with over fifty titles and many more on the way. She said that it was I who recommended she sign with Midpoint Trade distribution and that she wanted to know if I would go to their annual pizza party as her guest... and bring as many people as I wanted. I never pass up free beer and pizza!

Carolyn Hayes Uber... she runs a book empire!

It was nice to see Steve Carlson of Upper Access. Steve and I are long-time competitors as we both do software for small publishers. While our Jaya123 system is web-based (nothing to download or install) his is traditional desktop software. It's a big market and everyone has different needs. Some like our system, others prefer his. We co-exist pretty well and I often recommend his software to people who have specific needs that ours does not cover.

The author (left) and Steve Carlson. We compete, but we're cool.

The band begins at ten to six
When Mr. H. performs his tricks without a sound

I guess that the city cops were not enforcing the parking restrictions under the various bridges because both Shel Horowitz and his wife were at the party! Shel is the king-of-cheap and has made a lot of money publishing books on how to live on ten cents a day via his Frugal Marketing site. We don't get along too well. Oh hell, we don't get along AT ALL, but his wife is real cute so I cut him some slack when he brings her. :-)

Shel Horowitz and wife. I hope their car isn't towed from under Key bridge.

I saw Deb Robson of Nomad Press. I've known Deb for a few years and have come to admire how quickly she has learned about this biz. She has published books on knitting but is now branching out into a young-adult (YA) imprint. She's one of those publishers who has done everything right and will end up being one of those who make real dollars in this business.

Deb Robson so happy to see everyone!

Two of the grand ladies of the independent press were at the party. Pam Fenner of Michaelmass Press is the perfect example of the niche publisher by doing books for the Waldorf schools. I've known Pam for many years and it's always a treat to see her. Tordis Isselhardt is another successful publisher. Her Images From The Past company concentrates on regional, New England history. There is much both these ladies can teach you about how to do this business.

Pam Fenner and Tortis Isselhardt

Also in attendance was another super-successful publisher, Paulette Ensign from Tips Products. Paulette has made a large fortune from small booklets and is known as the "Queen of Booklets."

Are you starting to see a pattern here? Pub-Forum has a lot of successful publishers because they all publish to a niche and don't try to compete with the big-guys in New York. Think about it.

Paulette Ensign (always in purple) and the ladies of the list

It was a fun party and I wish it went on all night but we all knew that the real work was starting. Tomorrow was the first day of The Big Show... the BookExpo America and we all needed to sober-up and rest-up for the busy (exhausting) days to come. Carolyn Uber had a car so Pete, Maya, and I walked her to the lot and then went to the Metro to catch the subway back to the hotel.

The party's over... turn out the lights

What do you see when you turn out the light,
I can't tell you, but I know it's mine.

While I was pretty tired I got a short blast of energy upon arriving back at my hotel and saw a dear old friend, Peter Goodman of Stonebridge Press. Peter used to go to the list and the Ben Franklin dinners but since he sold out and became a billionaire he has other masters to serve, so he says. We had a good discussion on the industry. He had just come back from setting up his booth at BEA and neither of us could quite understand why BEA still exists. There are no book buyers any more. So why spend the money? We didn't settle it, but we stayed up a while trying. I would have liked to have stayed longer because I knew I wouldn't see Peter again. But fatigue (and the beer) got to me. I went upstairs, turned off the light and fell into a dream.

Peter Goodman... the most successful publisher I know


Friday morning at five o'clock as the day begins
Silently closing the bedroom door...

... I went downstairs and got the free bus to the convention center. I've said it over and over again: I love the first day of BEA. It's just like spring training at the ball park. Everyone is optimistic. Every book is going to be a big hit. Returns are not going to happen. Critics are going to rave. It's going to be the book industry of 1980 all over again... and nowhere is this attitude more prevalent than in the small press area, which is where I start each BEA. I met Mayapriya for a quick sweet roll and some juice. We agreed to meet for lunch around 1 pm. ("Agreed' is a euphemism for "I pay for HER lunch!). Some things never change.

In past years my first stop has always been to say hello to Scott Flora of SPAN, the Small Publishers Assoc. of North America (why isn't it SPANA?) I was surprised that SPAN did not come this year but I found out later that Scott's daughter was graduating and he had scheduling conflicts. Scott is a good guy and would be a successful guy if he listened to me and made SPAN into a vocal advocate for the independent press... something PMA refuses to do. But hey, no one ever listens to me... so why should Scott be any different! This year I'm going to join SPAN. Maybe then he will listen? They have a great newsletter and I just plain like Scott and want him to succeed.

The small press was spread out in two sections... regular small press and something called "premium" small press. It made no difference. Most of the items in the small press were not only terrible and poorly thought out, the publishers I spoke with didn't have the first clue about how this business works and how important distribution is in the trade book sector. I can't tell you how many times I told these folks to walk way across the hall and talk with the PMA and maybe get some help and advice.

If most of the books were terrible, there were some non-book items that caught my fancy. One of them was a sponge-baseball yoyo by Tinytot Sports. It was kind of silly, but I liked playing with it. It was one of the ideas that you don't think will 'work' on paper, but when you get it in your hands you don't want to let go.

I don't know if I liked the yoyo or the blonde better!

Another interesting "almost book" item was the Book In A Box. I'm not totally clear on the concept and these folks don't have a website that helps in the endeavor, but what I saw I liked. If you are looking for a gift for someone, you might want to check this out... and then tell me what the hell this is all about and why I liked it so much when I saw it!

The Book In A Box booth-babe

Not far from the box babe were the rubber-book women. Say what? Yeah, well these gals "invented" a book for babies made out of some kind of latex stuff that babies like to chew on. I'm serious here. Farm Charm is a small picture book targeted to teething babies. Hey why not. I once bought a Pet Rock!

And they say innovation is dead in the book industry? Not so!

And it really doesn't matter if
I'm wrong I'm right
Where I belong I'm right

This year the convention planners again grouped the Afro-American publishers in one area. Maybe those publishers like the idea, but I thought it was a really poor concept. Anyway, most of what was out there was Afro-oriented fiction, most of it in the "dark and stormy night" tradition. And the books that weren't badly written (if first paragraphs are any indication) had trite or just butt-ugly covers. But there was one I liked called Between My Thighs by Naija. I don't know if there is a market for black erotica, but if so, this one will hit.

I love authors who have the balls to dress up in costumes and put it all 'out there.' I don't know if the book is any good but the concept is, especially for the Black community which badly needs some good self-help role models. Dr. Ida Green is a professional speaker with a whole slew of books, one which claims to teach you how to connect with your Guardian Angel. Why not? How often have we heard "may the force be with you." Different strokes, different folks.

I hope my angel is prettier than Dr. Green!

Will you still need me, will you still feed me,
When I'm sixty-four.

There was one game that I thought was a great concept... it's called HotFlash! The flyer reads: "Land on the wrong spaces and players can get stuck in PMS Purgatory or go down the Fallopian Tubes and end up in Bitchy Boulevard!" How can you miss with this?

PMA, PMS... all the same to me!

There was a very nicely done blank 'signature' book for parties and weddings etc. You used to see a lot of these at BEA but not so much anymore. I lost the name/address of this company so if anyone recognizes the woman or the book please let me know so I can edit this and add it.

Who is this woman?

I met Mayapriya for lunch where I bought her and myself an overpriced plate of lo mien and a spring roll. The food at the convention was soundly criticized and it was justly deserved. The smart folks were the ones who went to Subway before coming into the hall and had a half-way decent sandwich to eat. After lunch, it was back to the small and semi-small presses on the outer perimeters of the hall... the cheap spots.

And of course Henry The Horse dances the waltz!

Outside of booth-babes, I love it when kids write books and come to BEA to hawk them. After lunch I ended up at the Sunridge Press booth where the sweetest teenager I've met in a long time was in a homemade costume trying to get some interest in her equine fantasy adventure novels for adolescents. I wished her luck but it seems that today's kids would rather reach for a GameBoy or X-Box instead of a book... and while that's a failure of the parents, it's also a failure of our industry. Why don't we have a "Got Books?" campaign? (Maybe not such a good idea after all since I'm told that milk consumption has dropped since that campaign started several years ago.) We need something to enlighten kids that reading is FUN and not a drudge.

Why can't all kids be this good?

I'll mention more about this later, but there were a ton of animal-theme books and items at the BEA this year. And why not. Everyone else in the world has learned that sex, babies and small animals "sell". But not the book industry. We're still on the "high road" of "literary excellence." Nothing wrong with that... if you want to starve! One of the most interesting items was the Mammalian Daily. This is a really fun NEWSPAPER about a fictional park run by the animals. OK, it sounds crazy, but this is written as well than the NY Times and looks as professional They are charging $10 a year for 4 issues and this is a great gift for any animal-loving person. I loved this.

One of the most fun items I saw at BEA

It had been a long day of trekking through the small press area, talking with folks about their books as well as Jaya123. There was a lot of interest in Jaya, way more than last year. I think people are far more comfortable with the idea of a web-service where they never have to install anything, never have to back-up anything and all the data is on our super-secure servers in the bank-quality data center we contract with. We always get a bunch of new Jaya123 "victims" from the small and mid-size press sector that attends BEA.

I took the bus back from BEA and just by luck ended up sitting with Florrie Kichler.

"Please Al, don't give me your ideas on PMA," she pleaded.

I didn't as I knew she was tired. But I've written many times that if I were running the BEA I'd take it out of CA and pop in New York City and also put the management contract out to bid. But I have about as much chance of running PMA as I do winning the Powerball lottery, so it's all moot. Anyway, I long-ago became tired of PMA politics. I'll let others carry that torch from now on. So Florrie was spared my PMA ire. Besides, it was party time.

I get by with a little help from my friends,
I get high with a little help from my friends,

I changed clothes, took a quick nap and headed off to Jerry Jenkins IPPY party... good food, beer and booze, and lots of friends to argue with, dance with, or just schmooze with. The party was held at the Museum for Women in the Arts which had a beautiful marble lobby... plenty of room but deafening acoustics. Walking in I quickly found Jerry who already had a buzz on.

Just as the band played "Higher and Higher" so were we!

After getting a glass of an adult beverage I walked around and ran into two of my favorite pub-babes... Carolyn Hayes Uber whom I mentioned earlier, and Cynthia Frank of Cypress House. Cindy and I go way, way back to the old San Francisco Book Show days of the early '90s. Cindy is on everyones short list as one of the most knowledgeable people in the industry on foreign rights. I've always said that she has forgotten more about publishing than most people ever learn. It was great to see both of these gals again, especially since they each won an IPPY award. It's nice to see that there is 'justice' in the IPPY Awards because there there doesn't seem to be any in the Ben Franks. I was still shocked that Maya didn't win.

You want to know about publishing? These gals know it all!

Follow her down to a bridge by a fountain
Where rocking horse people eat marshmellow pies,

Cruising through the party I came across another Jaya123 client, Sheila Ruth of Wands and Worlds. You can't help but just LOVE Sheila. She's every man's dream... a technologist, a martial arts expert, and a woman of letters. We talked a bit about where her company was going (like to the top!) and where this industry is headed (like to the bottom.) Well, if we are headed toward bad times I have no doubt that Sheila will be one of the survivors.

She's a black-belt in Aikido. Hurts do good!

I talked about Marion Gropen earlier and how she is a CPA and thus not allowed to have any fun... but when she wants to strut her stuff, she has all the babe-a-licious ingredients. She was one of the 'hits' of the IPPY party. I don't know if the guys liked her in her blue dress... or if they just wanted free CPA advice. All I know is she was Ms. Popularity at the ball.

And you say CPAs can't look good? Yeah, right!

It was good to see John Kremer again. Somehow the past few BEAs I'd missed him. He's such a sweet man, always willing to help someone. Like Dan Poynter, John gives away far more consulting than he ever charges for. I told him that he and Dan ought to team up and go on tour with seminars called the "World Series of Independent Publishing." It would be a huge hit. John says he is leaving Iowa for a drier climate that will be more hospitable to his wife. No matter where he goes, he will always be sought out for his excellent advice on how to sell books.

He's not Mr. GQ, but he knows this biz better than most.

Look for the girl with the sun in her eyes,
And she's gone.

After getting some food and having a few (maybe ten) drinks I found the lovely and talented Robin Quinn an editor of unparalleled excellence. I've known Robin for many, many years, but had never seen her in clothes before. Well that didn't quite come out right. She was dressed to the nines and with her long flowing LA hair you just knew that you didn't have a shot with her unless you were a Hollywood star. I wasn't, but I still enjoyed being in the picture with her and Mayapriya Long, another dancing queen.

Robin, me, and Maya. Hope my wife doesn't see this!

Toward the end of the evening I got a chance to talk to one of the really "big guys" in this business... Dawson Church. Writer, editor, one-time distributor (Atrium), Dawson has worn all the hats in the industry. I talked to him about the future of the small press and he summed it up in one word: E-Books. We agreed that when we get a "reading tablet" that is 6x9, 1/4 inch thick, takes cheap batteries, is back-lit, and cost only $15.95 so that you can have one in each room of your house and the kids can lose them, that is when content will again be "king." Dawson was hawking a book called Healing The Heart of the World and was with a beautiful young woman. I didn't ask... and he didn't tell.

Dawson and his date? Anyone know her? I bet you wish you did!

Man I was mean but I'm changing my scene
And I'm doing the best that I can.

The hour was late and I needed to get some sleep in prep for the next day of BEA. Walking back to the Metro I looked in the window of a sushi place and saw Barry Kerrigan of Desktop Miracles with a large group of clients. Although he has a website that is un-readable by FireFox browsers, all done in flash with microscopic fonts, he makes up for it with his basic talent as a book designer. I don't know why so many book designers feel they have to use Flash in order to make them look like they are on the cutting edge but what they don't know is that Flash does not render well with all browsers. Anyway, I stopped in to say hello to him and was not surprised to see that he was not a sushi guy. "Where I grew up we called this stuff 'bait.'" he said. I always enjoy seeing Barry. I just wish he would fix his website so I could send customers to him!!


Woke up, fell out of bed,
Dragged a comb across my head
Found my way downstairs and drank a cup,
And looking up I noticed I was late.
Found my coat and grabbed my hat
Made the bus in seconds flat

I feel sorry for people who don't drink. When they wake up in the morning, that's the best they are going to feel all day!

I met Mayapriya for our usual juice and roll beakfast. Mayapriya never drinks.... does not use booze at all... ever. Makes a guy like me want to hate her in the morning... always looking so fresh and alert.... and (oh god I hate this word)... perky!

"You look terrible. Let me guess. You got loaded and struck out... again." she said.

I glared at her. "I don't trust anyone in the book biz that doesn't drink."

"You gonna find a bestseller in a bottle? I don't think so. It's been tried before," she countered.

"I drink because I write... and I write because I drink" I told her in my best Hemingway accent.

"Too bad you can't do them both at the same time... you might actually get something done," she fired back.

I had made one of two of life's greatest mistakes. First, you never go to court on a traffic case and testify against a station-wagon full of nuns. Second, you never try to argue with a book designer, especially a talented one, and especially when you are hung-over. You're going to lose each and every time. It's much better to fight with an agent or a publisher. But you're no match for a sober designer. That's why we all hate designers.... especially on Saturday mornings... after we've had too much to drink... and have struck out with all the book babes... and when we realize that life really is unfair.

I knew today was going to be both long and boring as I was going to cover the big booths of the mainstream publishers. These folks buy huge amounts of floor-space, put up elaborate booths, and give away tons of ARCs (advanced reading copies) and other free stuff. Do they get a return on the investment? If they do, no one seems to know how. There are no book buyers parading in the aisles. There's not even that much media anymore. So who are all those people walking to and fro? It's mainly other publishers and vendors. No new business to be written with these folks!

I can see the day when these big publishers wake up and realize that there is no "there there" and just decide to opt out of BEA. It happened in the computer industry with COMDEX. Can BEA be far behind? I don't know.

I walked from one booth to the other, hour after hour trying to find something that was new, different, exciting, refreshing. If it was there, I sure as hell didn't see it. There were a few interesting books... but not many.

I liked the The Greatest In The World series of books. The gal in the booth had a sweet smile as I walked by and it caught my attention. These folks are out of the UK and were hoping to sell rights to what I saw as a really nice, simple line of how-to books on everyday subjects. If the "dummies" books could make it, maybe these could as well. They were a nice couple and I hope they do well.

She had a nice smile, I stopped to chat her up. Her husband was a good sport.

They've been going in and out of style
But they're guaranteed to raise a smile.

Things were so dull in the main section of the BEA that I was relegated to looking for the bizarre. I came upon one chap dressed in what I believe was a zoot suit. I have no idea what book he had published, but I was so taken with the costume that I snapped a pix of him. If anyone knows what he was hawking, please contact me.

Great outfit... but what did he publish? Let me know.

You've probably all seen those poetry magnets where you get to form your own refrigerator classics. But have you ever met the gals who made them? Well they were at the show and they had a pretty good crowd of people playing with their toys.

I'll bet these gals made a fortune on this simple idea.

As I said before there were a ton of animals and animal related books at the show. One publisher brought out a book on FEMA rescue dogs and they had an official FEMA volunteer with her official FEMA German Shepherd Dog. And what was the name of the dog? I don't make this up. The dog's name was Brownie.

"You're doin' a hell of a job, Brownie."

Not to be undone by FEMA, one publisher paid a lot of money to be in the center of the hall, with her dog Sadie, hawking a tome called The Dog Diet. I loved the dog... and the book, while at first sounding silly, actually made sense when I read some of it. What do they say? D-O-G is GOD spelled backward?

The dog is in better shape than I'm in!

There was not much in the way of cat books. I saw Bad Cat, a collection of note cards taken from the bestseller from Workman Press. And there was Blue Cats a nice calendar of cats of the Greek islands. There was also "Duke" the talking dog from the Bush Beans commercial, but whenever I went to the booth, Duke was out doing a press conference or something. Still, given all the animals at the show the best one, far and away was Amadeus. I featured this dog in last year's BEA Diary and I was so happy to see that the folks I had spoken with and had given advice to were doing so well. Amadeus is a Great Pyrenees Mountain Dog and about the most beautiful animal you will ever see. I have not read the book, but I understand that it is selling well, in addition to the other toy tie-ins.

I'm the one with the red shirt without the wet nose!

Got the bill and Rita paid it,
Took her home I nearly made it,

The final book that caught my eye this long day was also from a mid-size publisher. This was an old-time Western for YAs titled Nick & Slim. I don't know if there is a market for this in the YA sector. Seems kids these days are more taken with shoot-em-up video games of aliens and cave monsters. But if a Western genre can appeal to kids, this might be the one that will. The gal in the booth sure as hell appealed to me!

Howdy Miss Kitty, I'm Marshal Dillion.

After some six hours of combing the booths of the large and mid-size publishers I was beat and ready for some real food and good beer. Mayapriya Long, Dan Poynter and I had been invited to the annual Midpoint pizza party by Carolyn Hayes Uber. This year it was being held at Uno in Union Station. So we met at the PMA booth and figured out how to get there via the Metro. We could have taken a cab, but this was going to be more of an adventure. Maya was our guide, Dan our scout, and I took the notes to chronicle our journey just in case there might be a book in it. There wasn't.

Suddenly someone is there at the turnstyle,
The girl with the kaleidoscope eyes.

When we got to the restaurant we immediately saw our hostess and previous official Book-Babe, Gail Kump. In this business there are people who talk about books and people who report on books, but there are damn few people who really KNOW what books will sell and which won't. Gail is one of those people. Eric Kampmann might own Midpoint, but Gail (a partner) makes it run. And the great thing about Gail is that she is a down-to-earth, just-plain-nice 'girl.' There are a whole hell of a lot of people in this industry that have only half of Gail's ability but who are a hundred times more arrogant. Even when Gail says "no" to your book, you know that she wishes she could have said yes. Gail is terrific. Everyone loves Gail.

Damn right she's a Book Babe... and a Book Ph.D as well!

Julie in the sky with diamonds,

One of the high points of every BEA is seeing one of my favorite past Book Babes, Julie Hardison. Julie has come up through the ranks at Midpoint and has (finally) been given a big promotion to Marketing Manager. She is going to embark on a new initiative for Midpoint, offering a number of new services to publishers. This will all be announced later, but I can say without reservation that Julie is the gal who can make it happen. It's nice to see young people advance. Her husband was with her and the two of them make such a nice looking couple.

Me and Julie

I talked to a number of Midpoint's party guests. One of the most interesting was Richard Hains, an author from Oz who is bringing out his first novel Chameleon, a financial thriller, published by David Nelson of Beaufort Books, the publishing arm of Midpoint Trade. David told me his company plans on a $100,000 marketing campaign with ads in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, along with a multi-city book tour. I was really impressed with Richard and I'm looking forward to seeing this tome. It's been a long time since the likes of Gordon Gekko. With Enron in the news, and the size of the advertising budget, this book has a shot... if it is any good. They promised me a review copy. I hope they mean it. I like this genre.

Richard "Gekko" Hains. Can $100K buy success? Stay tuned.

After eating about ten pizzas and drinking a keg or two of beer I was ready to hit the sack. Sunday is always a quiet day at BEA and each year they start packing earlier and earlier. I wanted to get there early so I could collect some free booty as well as see some of the sofware providers I compete with as well as a few booths I'd marked off in the show catalog that I hadn't yet gotten to.


How do I feel by the end of the day
(Are you sad because you're on your own)

Arriving at the convention center I met up with Mayapriya.

"Hey pork-boy! Did you leave any pizza for anyone else last night? I should buy stock in the Pepto company!"

She's always after me to not eat meat. "You should be happy I only ate the non-meat pizza," I told her.

"You could have saved some for others at the party. And were you expecting there to be a beer shortage sometime soon? You drank enough to turn yourself into a Clydesdale. We'll be looking for you on the next Budweiser commercial."

"Shows you how much you know... it was Miller light. Tastes great, less filling," I said trying to imagine Mayapriya and Marion in the famous Miller mud-wrestling commercial. "Maybe if you took a drink now and then you would feel better," I said, knowing that Mayapriya NEVER touches alcohol.

"Yeah, because I want to look and feel like you do this morning? That's rich. I know why your ancestors emigrated in the early 1900s from Ireland to Toronto. They saw a billboard in Dublin saying "Drink Canada Dry," she retorted.

If given a few minutes I might have been able to cut through the cobwebs and followed up with a smart remark, but we ran into Sharon... and you know the rest of that story from the opening prologue.

Everyone smiles as you drift past the flowers,
That grow so incredibly high.

As I said, my goal today was to get free books and stuff. I had heard that there was a terrific book on growing pot at the show and I thought that maybe they were giving out samples or maybe they had a small tent and were offering 'hits.' (Amazing what we come up with early in the morning when we have a Miller Time hangover.) I found Marijuana Access but alas there were no samples. Very nice book. When they legalize this stuff these folks will have a big hit.

She wasn't happy when I said I was from the DEA!

While filling my tote bag with this, and with that, and with whatever looked interesting... I came across several titles that I thought were fun. One was a literary travel book called Traveling Literary America which has references and annotations to more than 200 homes, museums, exhibits, memorials etc. of various writers What a fun type of vacation for a writer to take.

There are always all sorts of bookmarks at BEA. I missed the guy who sold the oriental rug markers but I saw something new called the Bookflip. You can get these with your company logo and they make great holiday gifts to your best customers.

We'd like to take you home with us,
We'd love to take you home.

There were a number of services that had exhibits, not the least of which were Microsoft's Live Book. They had a large display outside of the main hall. You send them your hardcopy and they will scan the complete book and will show whatever parts you want when people browse the site. Yeah, and we all know how honest and above-board Microsoft has been in previous years when working with small companies. Yup, that's just what I want to do... hand over my intellectual property to Microsoft because you JUST KNOW that they are going to take great pains to guard and protect it and not use it without your express wishes. (You're buyin' all this, aren't you!)

I found something that was very interesting to me, but will probably be a snoozer to most everyone else. This is a new OPEN SOURCE platform for creating eBooks called dotReader. These folks are going to use the format. I know it's all 'geek' to you, but believe me there are some really big things happening in e-book land... and Microsoft, Adobe, and some of the greedy corporations are not going to be happy when they find out about it.

If you are a publisher and you want to be one of the survivors when e-books FINALLY become a reality, you MUST join and participate in the program. I look for great things from the dotReader folks as well and it will be nice to see a start-up beat the crap out of the established players... most of whom don't know what they don't know about publishing. Please folks. We don't have to give in to Microsoft, Adobe, Sony, etc. Learn about, volunteer some time to help them, and it will be 'good' for all of us. End of sermon.

I didn't see too many children's books that made me stop and peek, but one of them caught my eye... Octopus Rex. The book had great art and was just... different. It had a CD with songs and narration. Maybe this will be a venue to get kids to read? Why not. Nothing else seems to be working.

I would have called it Calamari Rex

Getting back to services, the POD monsters were lurking. Both Lightning Source (owned by the the Evil Empire known as Ingram) and Booksurge owned by Amazon were doing all they could to convince all who would listen that print-on-demand is the way to go for OP (out-of-print) titles. One thing that LSI has going for it is that by using their service you get automatic entree into the Ingram database. I think this is more hype than substance, but it's something to consider if you're thinking of going this route. Of course, if you go with Amazon you are automatically in Amazon. Where would you rather be if you're trying to sell books? I'd take Amazon.

If you don't need to be in Ingram or Amazon, then Publishers Row might be a good option for you... as might Starnet. I don't know much about either, but the people at both booths seemed knowledgeable.

Another service that had a huge booth was AuthorHouse. They claim to have printed over 32,000 titles. When I told Dan Poynter this he retorted "How many have they sold?" Jan Nathan (Director of the PMA) told me later that so many authors have come to her bemoaning that they have used a service like AuthorHouse which publishes under their own ISBN and thus is publisher-of-record... and only the POR can deal with distributors, wholesalers, etc. If you are going to go this route, make sure you know what you are doing.

I used to get mad at my school
The teachers who taught me weren't cool
You're holding me down, turning me round
Filling me up with your rules.

While there were a ton of university presses at the show, I didn't spend much time in any of the booths. Why? Well for some reason the people who staff these are always so aloof... almost stuck-up... as if they are better than anyone else because THEY are part of a prestigious university. Or maybe it's because many of them are subsidized and they really don't HAVE to get out there and SELL or sully their hands with filthy lucre. Maybe there is still a reason for university presses to exist, but I sure as hell can't think of any. YMMV (geek-speak for "your milage may vary".)

I always like to stop and chat with the folks from the various regional publishing associations such as Publishers Association of the South and their sister group PubWest. The Colorado Indie-Pub Assn. also had a booth... first time I remember seeing a non-regional association at BEA.

I wonder if it might be more worthwhile for publishers to attend the regional tradeshows that these groups put on as opposed to BEA? I've never been to any of them because the regional groups tend to overprice their exhibit booths compared to the number of 'victims' that turn out for the show. But maybe I'll take Jaya123 to one of these events this fall and see how it goes.

There weren't too many publicists who took space this year. I saw Irwin Zucker walking the show and had a nice chat with him. He is the founder of the Book Publicists of S. California... even has an award named after him. The California group publishes the "Chopped Liver" series... such as this year's tome: Chopped Liver for the Loving Spirit. Forget Chicken Soup.

Newpaper taxis appear on the shore,
Waiting to take you away.

Also in attendance were the folks from PRWeb. If you've never used this terrific press release service... you should... and while it is free, you should contribute a few bucks so that they can continue. It's the right thing to do.

There used to be a fair number of 'book shepherds' (not to be confused with Australian Shepherds) that attended the show. This year I only saw called Book Connection and the other with the catchy name of Perceptive Marketing... actually more of a publicist than a "take-it-all-the-way" type of outfit. I think the BEA should have a section (with low booth rates) for publicists and consultants.... but for some reason Reed (the BEA company) just doesn't listen to me!

There wasn't much in the way of political books this year... as there were during the last election cycle. While not overtly "political' I met these two women from Elva Resa Publishing that have a line of books they call Military Family Resources. These titles are targeted to families who have loved-ones deployed in the Middle East. Since so many publishers are politically just to the left of Hilary Clinton and Al Sharpton, I was not surprised when they told me that they had taken some 'heat' from the liberals in the industry. I'm against this damn war as well (especially after just visiting The Wall) but my heart went out to these women as I think they are doing a good service to their country. I hope they sell a ton of books. I really do.

Whether you are for or against the war, these women are patriots

I'm fixing a hole where the rain gets in

I always enjoy going to see my software competitors. Both the Cat's Pajamas and the folks from Acumen were at the show. I like both of these companies. Often we get people who call about our Jaya123 web-based system and say:

"Whoa, $14.95 a month? That's a lot of money each year! I want to OWN our software! This Jaya subscription thing sucks!"

So I tell them, "You're right. Maybe you will be better off with Cats or Acumen. Go to their site and take a look. Let me know what you think. Thanks for calling."

Understand that both of these products are at the high-end... like around $10,000 "high"... and that's just to get in the door. Once in, you have customization fees as well as yearly maintenance fees. It's amazing how many call-backs I get saying "Hey, you guys really look good... I like this Jaya123 thing." :-)

So each year I go and talk with the two Cat women who sit the booth (both very nice) as well as Larry Wolf of Acumen and tell them how much I value them because they really make our software look 'good' pricewise!

Everyone you see is full of life.
It's time for tea and meet the wife.

It was 2 PM and I met Mayapriya for lunch. Normally I wouldn't mention lunch, but we went to the food court and got Wolfgang Puck pizza. Now Wolfgang is a pretty high-end name... synonymous with gourmet dining so I figured the pizza would be pretty good. Uh.. major big-time wrong. It was the worst pizza I'd ever had. As an experiment I tore off a piece of the brown box the pizza came in and tasted it. Yup, the box tasted far, far better than the pizza. It was true. I should write the Wolf-man and tell him he may want to take his name off of this stuff. Either that or give the pizza away for free and sell the boxes and designer scissors to hungry convention goers!

By two-thirty the hall was almost empty and the vendors were starting to pack up. In the past two years this didn't happen until an hour later. And two years before that the show was crowded right up to the closing bell. I ran up to the packing area, loaded up my box, got it taped and shipped and went back downstairs for my final visit... which has traditionally been to see Victoria Champagne-Sutherland at ForeWord Magazine to get her 'take' on the BEA and where the industry was headed.

First she said "This BEA shows that people are tired of bestsellers."

"Uh, Victoria, is that sort of what Yogi meant when he said 'No one eats at that restaurant anymore because it's too crowded'?" I asked.

Victoria, who IS a lady of letters realized the incongruity of her remark and then gave me a quote about how publishers have to follow something called the "long tail' theory of marketing. I had no idea what she was talking about and was too tired to ask. She said the show was great for her and the magazine, so I'll just go with that.

Victoria Sutherland, chosen Book Babe in 1996

The hour was late and I started thinking about the folks that didn't come to BEA this year. I missed Pat Bell, one of the grand ladies of the small press. Everyone misses Pat. And another well-known "personality" of the independent press who didn't come this year is "V3" aka Virginia Van Vynckt of V3 Graphics. (She is a top-flight web designer and editor... and helped edit this BEA Diary... thanks V3!). I was surprised that Jay Brown and Barbara DesChamps didn't make the trip this year. And, of course, I missed Harry Pariser... for reasons I won't go into here!

I always hate it when the show ends. Reality sets in, the euphoria is all gone, and it's back to returns, problems with Ingram, no checks from B&T, and incomprehensible statements from distributors. I walked over to the PMA area, said good-bye to Jan, Terry, Maya, Dan, and a whole bunch of other hangers-on and trudged "bump, bump, bump" up the stairs, got on the bus and went back to 'real life.'


We're Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
We hope you have enjoyed the show
Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
We're sorry but it's time to go.

So what kind of a show was it? Where is the industry going? Well, if you believe that the amount of floor-space sold by Reed and the number of exhibitors is an indication on the health of the industry then you would walk out feeling very optimistic.

But if you use attendance as your measuring stick, you will come away feeling that this show is in trouble.

This year they scanned badges EVERY TIME you went into the exhibit hall. Not the building, but EACH hall. Thus, when you came out for lunch and went back downstairs (or upstairs) you got scanned. When you came from downstairs to go upstaris you got scanned. So will Reed 'spin' the attendance by touting hall-visits instead of head-counts? It won't surprise me a bit.

As much as I love going to the BEA, for the life of me I can't understand why the big publishers pay more than $100 a foot for their space, bring in tons of people and construct expensive booths. For what? There are no buyers. There is little media. It's just other publishers scouting out other publishers... with the occasional service vendor like the printers and designers walking the show.

When you ask people "What's wrong with this industry?" you get simplistic (but accurate answers) such as "too many books," "too many returns," "not enough readers," or you get complex answers detailing how the business model of the industry is 'broken' and how this whole business is basically a house of cards.

One thing I do know for a fact is that the Internet has hurt the book business by enabling people to get free content quickly and easily. Years ago there were tons of computer books on every large publishers' list. Not any more. Same goes for the travel sector... and just about ever genre we publish to. What's the answer? The only thing anyone comes up with is e-books. I guess it's like the old 1969 baseball Mets fans who said "Ya gotta believe."

Me used to be a angry young man
Me hiding me head in the sand
You gave me the word
I finally heard
I'm doing the best that I can.

I don't know if the large corporate entities that dominate this biz are making money, but I'm sure that the smaller houses are not. And when it comes to the smallest of the small, only those who understand the niche model are doing well. You either have to publish to a sector that is 'information bound' and which likes to buy books (such as Christians... and not truck drivers) or you need to have content that is so original, so unique, and so compelling that people line up to buy it, sort of how the "dummies books" are sold.

I admit it's getting better
A little better all the time

Maybe Sgt. Pepper thinks so, but I don't believe this industry is getting better, but I think it WILL get better, as I mentioned earlier, when we finally get e-books. However, when I asked the guys and gals in the big booths about this eventuality, they looked at me with blank faces... sort of like how deer look when caught in the headlights.

Why do we stay in this business. Well for sure it can't be for the money. It's the culture... and the need to keep it. We stay in the book biz because we just... have to. I'm sure I could write a long-winded monograph on this, but Woody Allen really nailed it in his final lines of Annie Hall:

Alvy Singer: It was great seeing Annie again and I realized what a terrific person she was and how much fun it was just knowing her and I thought of that old joke, you know, the, this, this guy goes to a psychiatrist and says, 'Doc, uh, my brother's crazy, he thinks he's a chicken,' and uh, the doctor says, 'well why don't you turn him in?' And the guy says, 'I would, but I need the eggs.' Well, I guess that's pretty much now how I feel about relationships. You know, they're totally irrational and crazy and absurd and, but uh, I guess we keep going through it...because...most of us need the eggs.

Or perhaps it's even less rational than eggs (if that's possible.) It's a mission for us. No matter how bad this business gets, no matter how many returns pile up at our door, no matter how many unsold books sit in our warehouses, and no matter how badly we get treated by the middle-channel, we persist. After all these years in the business I believe that down deep in his or her heart of hearts, every publisher lives one dream... one mantra:

I read the news today oh boy
About a lucky man who made the grade

I'd love to turn you on


If you liked this special edition of A Saturday Rant or if you disagree or if you have changes to be made, please let me know by writing to: rant at adams-blake dot com.