Monday, September 07, 2009

The Shangri-las! Senior Prom 1965

On Sep 6, 2009, at 11:00 AM, one of my friends wrote:
Long live the Shangri-las!
* * *

This brought back a memory.

They performed at my Senior Prom, June 12,1965, Great Neck North High School, Great Neck, New York.

Janice Udell was my date. I wore a tux with a white dinner jacket. We all did. The girls all wore long, formal gowns with matching bags and shoes. We were all "grown up" ready to go on with our lives. Most were headed to college. We didn't pay any mind to the Vietnam War figuring it would soon be over... at least before we were to be involved.

We didn't smoke pot or even drink hard liquor. All the girls were Jewish so we definitely didn't get much in the way of any sex beyond what they called "petting" which was always above the waist, but with my dates it was almost aways above the neck!

The assassination of JFK two years previous was still the "Where were you" event in our lives... and we were all in the same place... in school, sixth period on that horrific day. While there were some 550 in our graduating class, we knew a lot of our friends since first grade. People raised families and stayed put.

I drove my father's car to pick up Janice who lived about a mile away. She was a junior. I loved Janice. She came downstairs in her gown and I almost fell over because she really cleaned up nicely! All girls look great on a prom night and on their wedding day. I fumbled with the box with the corsage and was glad that her mother pinned it on her dress because I would have stuck her with the pin, and that does not make for a really good beginning to any date, much less a prom.

We went to a very, very fancy restaurant for dinner... called Four South. I'd never taken a girl out to dinner before. It wasn't done. Dates were movies and dances and parties... not dinner. I was terrified of the head waiter, much less the cocktail waitress who wanted to know if we wanted something to drink. (18 was the legal age but on prom night in Great Neck, no one ever asked.)

I'd never ordered a drink before. I had once had bourbon and coke but didn't like it. The first thing that came to my mind was something else. "I'll have Scotch and Dr. Pepper." Well, I'm sorry but it sounded like a really good drink. The cocktail waitress looked at me like I had just landed from Planet Zardo... and asked Janice what she was going to have. She ordered a Manhattan. I didn't know what that was. I wondered if I should cancel the Scotch and Dr. Pepper and order a Bronx or a Brooklyn... but I didn't.

I learned a life-lesson. Don't order Scotch and Dr. Pepper. It will gag a goat.

The menu came. Bad deal. It was in French. Janice's didn't have any prices on it. That's always bad because if the girl does not know how much you are spending she is not likely to put out much later on. It's a well known formula. The more costly the date the more nookie you are likely to get in the back seat... if any. It was the first time I'd ever seen prices on a menu without "cents." They just put a long "dash" after the amount. And each entrée was in TWO digits? Holy crap! Ten dollars ($10-) for... wait... what is that? I don't know French. Janice didn't know French.

The waiter came to take the order and I pointed to something and said" I'll have "that." The waiter said that that was the name of the head chef. So I pointed to something else. It was "Les cuisses de grenouilles." The waiter said "Good choice sir, the frogs legs are very fresh tonight." Frogs legs? What? Who eats frogs? Answer: I was... because I was too poulet to admit I didn't know what the hell the menu was all about. But I was rescued. The waiter must have seen that I had turned as green as Janice's dress and said "Our steak diane is very good as well."

Steak? Steak! YES! I don't care if Diane makes it or serves it or even spits in it... anything but FROGS! Of course in my most sophisticated English-major voice I said "On second thought my good man, I think I will have that instead." The waiter knew I was a jerk, but it was not the first prom night he had ever worked and he knew we would tip him well.

He turned to Janice, "And for the lady?" You see, now this is why women are just "smarter" than men. They are not afraid to ask directions! She said "What fish do you recommend?" He said "Our sole is very nice tonight madam." Done. Simple. Why couldn't I have done that. It's because we have stuff between our legs and they don't. That's the only reason I can think of.

I don't remember much about our prom. It was held in the gym, but the decorations were so beautiful that you'd never know it was a gym. The theme was The Twelfth of Never since we held it on the 12th. I spent a lot of time throwing up the Scotch and Dr. Pepper, but it was OK because I saw a lot of my friends throwing up what they had as well. One of my oldest friends told me that vodka and apple juice does not go well with the garlic lamb chops with mint jelly he ordered at another fancy place.

For the girls it was more of a night to see and be seen, especially the senior girls who all had college-boy dates... who contrary to what you might think also go to the mens room to throw up their drinks too. The difference was that they had experience and knew the correct position over the porcelain goddess so as not to ruin the shine on your shoes!

After the prom the tradition was to go to Jones Beach and make out on blankets and watch the dawn. I really, really, really loved Janice. She was the girl I would invite down to college for weekends and with some luck she would have my children. What I didn't know was that I was alone in that thinking. To her I was a prom and a really nice dinner. She knew the score. I'd be going off to school in Virginia and she knew... what she knew... which was reality.

Still, this was an un-real night... for both of us and while I was sincere, she played the role and we slept on the beach cuddled together until the sun came up. We didn't do much in the way of sex... except think about it. Only the Catholic guys got laid that night... but they got laid every date night. Of course I didn't know that until later on. Had I known I would have converted in a New York minute.

For my friends and I it was the last night of youth. We were now "adults" and grown-ups." Life was not going to be as simple as it used to be for us. And while we relished that... there was an element of sadness about it as well.

The next weekend Janice had a party at her house. All my friends were invited. But I wasn't. I was totally crushed. I was devastated. What hurt worse was all my friends went... and didn't tell me about it. I was furious... in that way teenagers can be.

I saw three of my best friends last year. We had been planning a reunion for the past 30 years or so... but never brought it off until last April. Do you know that not one of them remember Janice or her party or how angry I was? Not one. And yet to me it was as if it had happened yesterday... especially when I hear "Leader of the Pack."

I wonder what happened to Janice.

If any of you know, tell her I still have the book of prom pictures with the pressed petal from her corsage... and some sand from the beach... I put there... in my youth... to preserve the memory.

Alan Canton, Janice Udell - GNN Senior Prom 1965

Note: Since publication of this piece, Janice and I were able to re-connect and have been corresponding from time to time

Alan N. Canton, Managing Partner
NewMedia Website Design
"Websites for authors, publishers, and small businesses at an affordable price"
Fair Oaks, CA

Sunday, June 07, 2009

BEA Diary 2009

There are places I remember
All my life, though some have changed,
Some forever, not for better,
Some have gone and some remain.

The economy is down, the book biz is in shambles, and a lot of the folks I like to hang with were not going to BEA this year. Everything seems to have changed in only one year... not that I didn't see it coming... but that didn't make it any easier.

There was one old friend whom I had not seen in several years... Sophie Sacca who lives down in the Tribeca area, a place I had not been to since I was a teenager. So my first order of business was to have lunch with her. She is working on what will probably be a killer novel, IF she ever finishes it. It was good to see her again and I hope this time to keep in closer contact with her... since I think she is the next Erica Jong.

Sophie Sacca and author

I think most of you know that while I own a publishing and software company, I also work in the life, health, and disability insurance sector. I like sales, I like meeting people, and it has afforded me a nice extra income stream. I had arranged to take some short seminars in the city on annuities and that rounded out the rest of my day and the early part of Wednesday.


All these places had their moments,
With lovers and friends I still can recall,
Some are dead and some are living,
In my life I've loved them all.

On Wednesday I took the subway (I'm a subway guru.. the whole country should run as well as the New York City subway!) up to the Roosevelt Hotel to see what was happening at PMA... which for some dumb reason that no one can figure out has changed its name to IBPA. I wasn't sure what to expect since my mother told me the Roosevelt was an old hotel when she was a girl! However, they have kept this grande dame in wonderful condition... it was like stepping back into the days of Gatsby.

Of course the first two people I ran into are two of my favorite people in the entire industry. Mayapriya Long of Bookwrights is an award-winning book designer who was up for four Ben Franklin awards this year. Two were finalists in the same category, so at most she could win three. (She won two out of three—and both books published by Pub-forum members (Pat Johnston and Bryan Marshall)).

About ten minutes later I ran into another publisher who always defies the odds and makes money in this biz, Sheila Ruth of Wands and Worlds.

Sheila Ruth (without wand.)

I am he
As you are he
As you are me
And we are all together.

Wednesday night was the traditional Pub-Forum List dinner and unlike previous years where we had a private room, since we could not get a quorum we settled for a meet, greet, and eat. Sharon Goldinger and Fern Reiss set it up at a diner way over on the east side that served old-fashioned comfort food.

Florrie Kichler, Sharon Goldinger

Paulette Ensign and Fern Reiss

The group

There was lot we talked about and not much of it very optimistic about the industry. I had not seen Fern for about three years and to celebrate that, I paid for her dinner... not that Fern (or Paulette) needs the charity as both are super-successful publishers. I see Paulette every year and we correspond, but I don't often have the opportunity to get a viewpoint from Fern... and her viewpoint is basically that if we can just hold on that e-books might be our salvation. Of course, e-books will basically allow anyone with two dimes to rub together to become publishers... which is why the "pub" in publishing, meaning "publicity" will become more important... which is what Fern has been consulting on for several years now.

Paulette has her niche in small booklets, having taught people how to do this since the dinosaurs roamed. And I agree with her that more then ever, niche markets are what publishing will be all about in the coming years.

I always learn a lot from these two women and over the years they have become good friends and valued colleagues.

Dear Sir or Madam will you read my book,
It took me years to write will you take a look,
Based on a novel by a man named Lear,
And I need a job,
So I want to be a paperback writer,
Paperback writer.

This was Ben Franklin Awards dinner night. Lots of people don't understand how PMA (yeah, it will always be PMA to me, I don't care what they name it!) can afford to put on such a lavish dinner... for free. The BFA pays for it. PMA chrages $80 a title to enter the contest... and that's for members. They charge $180 for non-members (which includes a year of membership.) Well, I'm told they had about 1500 entries, so do the math. Even if all were from members only, that's a pretty good hunk of cash.

I was told that attendance at the entire Pub-University was only around 200 this year. They used to get 550 students, but not this year... not in this economy. But no matter, it's always been the awards that has been the cash-cow and this year was no exception.

I always enjoy the dinner and this year it was outstanding. I counted tables and estimate that about 550 showed up. I walked around with my horrible iPhone camera and ran into several folks.

Anyone you know here?

We all know that Dan Poynter has a girl in every city he visits, but he has never gone public with any of them at BEA. Well, this year he did, and talk about a major book-babe. I didn't get her name, but I couldn't miss her look.

Who is Dan's book-babe?

I didn't stay for the awards, just the introductory slide show which is always interesting. I left the hall and went down to the hotel bar.

I had an appointment with a group of vulture capitalists who thought they wanted to buy Jaya123, our award-winning back-office, web-based software system for small businesses. (What award you ask? The Festivus Award for Best Software, given by the Human Fund. It's really well known. I'm surprised you've not heard of it.)

It was a good meeting (defined as they paid for the drinks!) but their concept was analogous to the basic gold mining paradigm... where they get the gold mine and you get the shaft. I might have been born at night... but it wasn't LAST night. I thanked them for their time, and the over-priced Scotch, and we all parted as friends. I really didn't want to sell Jaya123 as it makes a nice profit, but I thought maybe they might make me an offer I couldn't refuse. The evening was not a total loss. They did leave me with one good joke

A blonde, wanting to earn some extra money decided to hire herself out as a handy-woman and started canvassing the neighborhoods.

She went to the front door of the first house and asked the owner if he had any odd jobs for her to do.

"Well, I guess I could use somebody to paint my porch," he said. "How much will you charge me?"

The blonde quickly responded, "How about $50?"

The man agreed and told her that the paint and everything she would need was in the garage.

The man's wife, hearing the conversation, said to her husband, "Does she realize that our porch goes all the way around the house?"

He responded, "That's a bit cynical, isn't it?" 

 The wife replied, "You're right. I guess I'm starting to believe all those dumb blonde jokes ."

A short time later, the blonde handywoman came to the door to collect her money. "You finished already?" the husband asked.

"Yes," the blonde replied, "and I had paint leftover, so I gave it two coats - no extra charge."

 Impressed, the man reached into his pocket for the $50 and handed it to her.

"And by the way," the blonde added ... "it's not a Porch -- it's an Audi."

I headed out into the rain back to the subway to get some sleep in the hope that I would not feel like hell in the morning.

Picture yourself on a train in a station,
With plasticine porters with looking glass ties,
Suddenly someone is there at the turnstile,
The girl with kaleidoscope eyes.

You gotta feel sorry for people who don't drink... because when they wake up that's as good as they are going to feel all day! I woke up feeling like the entire world was a Tuxedo and I was a pair of brown shoes! It only took about a gallon of coffee at the bagel place across the street to get me in shape to do battle at "the big show" in Javits... the BookExpo America.
The only pre-show buzz was whether or not anyone was going to show up! There were rumors that a lot of floor space was not sold this year and that many of the large publishers had decided to skip the show.

When I walked in, and saw that I was not going to be trampled by thousands of others trying to worm their way up the escalator to the main floor I realized that this could be the "last picture show."

On Friday the major NY houses gives everyone a day off to attend the show. And anyone who is anyone also goes on Friday. Normally the aisles are jammed elbow-to-elbow with book lovers. Not so this year.

The best you can say is that the show was not well-attended, but it was not badly attended either. It was not a ghost-town, but compared to past years, it was hardly jammed.
The first thing I noticed was that it looked like about 20% less space was taken than last year. The second thing I noticed was that they had room to put the indie press (which for some dumb reason was re-labeled "Writers Row") on the main floor. It was still empty, but at least it was empty on the same continent as the big boys! Usually the indie press is hidden away on Planet Zardo!

As in past years I went over to the small pub area and the first thing I saw that interested me was The Book Seat. I'm just a sucker for these kinds of things because I believe that anything that makes reading easier or more attractive is a good thing for our industry.

The Book Seat

Self-help is always prevalent in the indie press area and there were no shortage of entries. One of them that I thought might have a shot is about miracles. We all need a miracle once in a while!

Jennifer Hoffman's 30 Days to Miracles book

There used to be a lot of physical fitness books at BEA but you don't see them any more. This one captured my imagination because it is just "out there." Workout with a water bottle? Why not? I travel a lot so I would buy this book.

Water Bottle workout!

I didn't spend too much time looking at children books this year because most of them never sell. However, every once in a while one comes along that shows so much love and dedication that I just have to mention it. Sunflower was done by this guy and you have to just love it.

The Sunflower

As always there are novelists who have a ton of money to put behind their efforts (about the only way a small publisher can sell fiction) and Mephisto was no exception. The author had a great booth and it garnered a lot of attention.

The Mephisto author Antoinett Pannard

I don't quite know what a psycholinguist is, but Vanda Baross was there with her book and for all I know it will be a bestseller. She says it has won numerous awards and if nothing else she has the good looks and the "charm" to make this happen. When I find out what a psycholinguist is I'll let you know!

World Wide Wisdom by Vanda Baross

Along with authors who have tons of money, Final Trumpet by Karl Lenker is right there with the others. This guy has gone out and gotten a ton of high-profile endorsements... with a twist. How does this read? "... wonderful book. I read all 500 pages in one sitting. The next day, during an interview with her, I recommended it to Lily Tomlin." Anyone who has the balls to print that... simply must have a book that he will spare no effort to get sold! I enjoyed talking to him and if energy and self-confidence alone can get a book sold, he's the guy.

Final Trumpet
There is always a doctor who has a book. It never fails. I didn't read this one, but I liked the cover, as well as the gal who was in the booth. I told them they need to get distribution for it, but I don't think they listened to me. Anyway, I researched the author and she has the credentials to write a book in this genre.

Nice cover, nice girl, it might have a shot

I always look for authors who have a personal story to tell and who are not afraid to do whatever it takes to get the kind of buzz needed to get the book off the shelf (or out of the garage.) Carol Gershman is just that author. I don't know if she can get on Oprah, but I would not bet against her. I sent her to Midpoint Trade, but they were not sold on the title, The Jewish Lady, The Black Man and The Road Trip. I think it could work, if not as a book than maybe as a film.

Carol and her hat!

I really liked The Easy Bird Guides. These are pen and ink drawings of birds... and there are a lot of bird-brains out there. Pieter Prall has good distribution and will do well with these. Only at BEA will you find someone wearing a seersucker suit!

Peter can draw!

There are some 300,000 books that come out each year and most won't get read. I think many are just too "good" to be read... in that they are beyond the comprehension of the reading public... which has been dumbed-down by TV and the Internet. I loved this cover and the subject... "What does our consuming desire for knowledge signify, if not the loss of myth, of a mythic home, the mythic womb?" This is a novel, and I'm afraid it will never make it.

John Giacchetti has a message... which no one will get.
n past years we saw a lot of medical books, but we've not seen many in the past few shows. However, Anne Katz, RN, had a book that I know will get read... Women, Cancer, Sex. These kinds of books make us all proud to be in the publishing industry.

An important book

I don't have the first clue who Tamara Pelosi is except that she was involved in a murder case with her husband. She is a local celeb and has a new cookbook coming out on the coattails of her self-help book Pennies From an Angel. Everyone seems to know her... except me. She was very gracious at the booth and she has a lot of experience dealing with the media... which is a good thing for any author. I really liked her.

Dr. Tamara Pelosi

I'll buy you a diamond ring my friend,
If it makes you feel alright,
I'll get you anything my friend,
If it makes you feel alright,
'Cause I don't care too much for money,
Money can't buy me love.

It was getting to be lunchtime and those who are long-time readers of this fish-wrap know this is when I meet my old friend Mayapriya Long and buy her lunch.

We met at the PMA booth and walked downstairs to the food court. That's when I knew the show was half empty... there were no lines. In past years the lines were "forever."

Then guess what happened. Mayapriya and I both had the same veggie Chinese food and SHE paid. They say if you live long enough you will see everything come to pass. She said she wanted to thank me for sending her a major, multi-book client last year. I only wish I had ordered something really expensive!

We had a nice chat and then it was back upstairs to the show.

If costumes help (and you don't have big boobs!) then I had to hand it to Travis Bowman who had on a costume right from his novel Hercules of the Revolution. Historical novels are hard to sell and I don't hold out much hope for this one, but you never know. I think he used his own pix on the cover... you don't see that from too many authors!

Travis Bowmam as Hercules?

Here is by far the best book I saw at the show... by that I mean the one that should be a huge seller if marketed correctly. Lisa Calicchia has written a book that will resonate in the black and white community... I Want to Teach... Not Raise Your Kids. The minute I saw it... and her... I knew she had a winner. She is the whole package... intelligent, well-spoken, educated, and good-looking. I sent her over to Midpoint Trade and they gave her a contract immediately. This book should be a huge, huge seller.

If this does not sell, nothing well!

The second best thing I saw at this show was from a UK publisher called Roastbooks Limited. These are short reads. Now there is nothing new about short stories. But there was nothing new about coffee until Starbucks re-invented it! I think these folks may have the same formula. If people won't read long novels, perhaps they will read short ones. I believe the 1 to 2 hour read might just be a winner, and these folks seem to have a whole bunch of original concepts to market. This could be very big... and if it is... it will be good for the whole industry.

Short reads... great concept!

It was getting toward the end of the day. As I was working my way toward the exit, I came across what I thought was the best "thing" at the show... the Cooler Reader. This was really great... a thin, simple, easy-to-use e-book reader. At $249 it is still way too expensive for most people. We need to get something like this in the $19.00 range... so that people can have one in each room, give one to each kid... and if they get lost or broken (if the dog eats one)... who cares for nineteen bucks. Folks, this is the future of books. Get on board... or get your butt out of the biz.

Great product... great booth-babe!

I was exhausted. Remember, not only did I talk with all the publishers and authors in the pix above, there were another three dozen I also talked with, but didn't think they were worthy of mention. Thus, I was sled-dog tired!

I caught the bus back to my hotel, filled the tub with some cold water and soaked my feet. Most people don't know this "trick" but seasoned convention walkers know that it really works. The problem is that in New York hotels it is hard to get cold water in the summer!

After a quick shower and a change of clothes, it was off to see Jerry Jenkins and his IPPY awards. Now if you think PMA got a good response to their Ben Franklin, the IPPY folks out did them by more than double... like 4,000 entries at $85 each. Thus, they can afford to throw a big dinner... but they don't. While the offerings at The Provence Club were nice, it was finger-food compared to the lavish spread the PMA folks roll out. Instead of expensive food, Jerry invests in a DJ and has a dance party and open bar instead of a dinner. Not a bad deal!

As usual, the majordomos of the independent press were there for the handing out of the awards... and as usual Jerry had some major models to make the presentations. Below is a pix of me. Sorry it is fuzzy but obviously, I didn't take the picture. If the blonde looks familiar... she is the same gal who was in the Cooler booth (above.)

Yeah, she is like really tall! I'm short... but not THAT short!

It was a good day... but there was something missing from the show. Maybe it was the lack of wall-to-wall people... or some big celeb author or maybe it was the overall pessimism about the industry, but something was definitely missing. I thought that maybe it was just me. Maybe it would pick-up tomorrow. I got the 7th Ave. local train and headed back downtown where I collapsed from exhaustion and slept like a rock... until the phone rang.


I read the news today oh boy
About a lucky man who made the grade
And though the news was rather sad
Well I just had to laugh
I saw the photograph

I don't remember who it was who woke me up, but it was from someone who wanted to discuss Jaya123. Because Jaya has been out so long and because it is solid and stable I often forget that it is even around. People join online and never seem to ever quit. Beyond the welcome letter I send them, I often have no other contact with them. Most new users never call with questions. They just use the free online demo and decide to either subscribe or not subscribe. As I visited each booth I left a Jaya123 card... and while I get a lot of new users from BEA, I never get one who calls me on my cell at zero-dark-thirty in the morning!

When I got to the convention hall I thought it was Sunday morning, not Saturday. If I were paying $30 a square foot for a booth, I'd re-think whether BEA is worth the cost.

My first stop was to see Dave Marx at PassPorter Travel Press. He has the best travel books on the market and his Disneyland guide is the best there is, by far.

Dave is on the board of PMA and I wanted to discuss with him some issues that I had. I'd really like to re-join PMA but I won't do it until I can either vote for candidates for office OR run for office myself. Currently all candidates for the board or officers are chosen by the current board and vetted by the Nathan family which runs the organization. There is no way they would ever let someone like me run... because I'd institute a whole bunch of changes... the first being to put the management contract out to bid and see what another association management firm might offer. The second would be to move the organization from Los Angeles to New York. If you want to have a seat at the table with the big dogs, New York is where you have to be.

Well, we had a nice chat. In the fifteen years that I WAS a member I've never had anyone on the board offer me as much attention as Dave gave me. He didn't agree with me on everything, but he at least listened.

The day before I had met Andrea Nathan and told her about my concerns and she basically cut me a new one. She sounded like she founded the PMA instead of marrying into it. Well, if the small turnout of this years PMA-University is any indication as to the viability of the organization, she and Dave and Terry (Jan's son who "inherited" the directorship,) have their work cut out for them.

Dave Marx of PassPorter and PMA board member

I always say hello to the Llewellyn gals. They are there almost every year and are always in a good mood. However this year they were rather worried because they have a ton of receivables with Borders... and everyone knows that the chain is in financial limbo... bankruptcy is being talked about. If they go under, Llewellyn might not fare so well. I told them that from what I understand they have a new investor and that they will not go paws-up. Of course I could be wrong!

The Llewellyn gals... not so many smiles this year.

I'm a bookmark guy. I don't know why, but I just like to have bookmarks around the house. There were not as many "sidelines" this year as in the past, but a first-time exhibitor caught my attention with their bamboo markers. These were really nice. They wholesale for about $2.50 each so they will retail for about $5.00. I like these a lot.

These will make good gifts

I remember that at the 2004 BEA we were awash with political books. That was the last big wave of them. This year I saw one... and it was a novel... by Oliver North. If it is even half-way good, with his name, it will sell to the right-wing whack jobs out there.

Can Ollie sell books?

I never spend too much time at the foreign booths because most are really boring... and small. But this year for some reason Italy had a huge booth... and won my award for the best carpet!

People came just to walk!

Everyone likes picture books and they usually sell well, but this year I didn't see too many of them at the show. However there was one that was really terrific... Our Ordinary Extraordinary Earth There is nothing I can say that will do justice to this work. It is just really, really good. It will be a gift for someone under my tree this year.

If you like photography, this is for you

I finally came to the Midpoint Trade booth. I think Midpoint is by far the best distributor in the business because it is run by people who not only love books, they also know how to run a business (what a concept!) Laurie Little and Julie Hardison have been official BEA Book-Babes... and they will always be. Laurie is getting married soon... and Julie is still babe-alicious!

Laurie and beau


Also at Midpoint, sharing a table was the editor (or designer?) of The Virtues of Wealth, and William Roetzheim, the author of Five Poet Plays. I enjoyed talking to the playwright. His show was running (off Broadway) and I wanted to see it, but I had another engagement.
I read Virtues on the plane coming home. Many of you know that I run a life and health insurance agency called InsuranceSolutions123 Agency (You thought Jaya123 paid he bills? Not with my very expensive wife!) This book is a must-read for anyone in the financial biz.

Playwright William Roetzheim

Wonderful book for anyone in finance

I love booths that have a magic act. This year I only found one... and the guy was terrific. Wayne Allen is the magician-author and I loved the book. It is another one I will be getting as a gift for someone (who cooks for me!.) It is hard to sell a meatless cookbook, but add in a how-to on doing tricks and he might have a winner.

What a fun book!

I don't know why BEA has a separate section for black publishers but I guess those publishers have no issue with it. It was the one aisle that was jumpin' the whole day. There were a ton of books being shown, mostly by author-publishers. The one I liked the best was because of the message it has about personal responsibility. The tome has a shot if it can get any distribution.

This has a good message

Way on the far end of the hall were a whole bunch of Arab national booths... and I mean LARGE booths. I have no idea why there were there except that they could afford to be! The whole area was mostly empty. I had some interesting conversations about the Mideast situation with a few of the booth-sitters. People are OK. It's governments that screw things up. Everyone wants peace there... except those who run the damn governments! The Saudi booth and the UAE booth were giving away the best quality pens I saw at the show!

She was very sweet and spoke perfect English

Day after day, alone on a hill,
The man with the foolish grin is keeping perfectly still
But nobody wants to know him,
They can see he's just a fool

It was getting late and I was not feeling too well. My feet hurt and I was a bit dizzy... probably from lack of food and water. I needed to sit down for a few minutes. I saw the Independent Publishers Group booth, which is always very large. They are a well-known and well-respected distributor.

They had a bunch of small round tables in an open area so I sat down at one of them. I was not feeling well at all. About a minute after I sat down a guy by the name of Tom Green came over to me. He was dressed in a very expensive blue suit (not that many suits at the show this year... people went for a more casual look) and he told me that the area was reserved for IPG "meetings." Now I know the owner Curt Mathews. He used to be president of PMA. I told Tom that NONE of the tables were being used, the booth was empty (I took the pix below,) it was 4:00 PM, and that I just needed to rest a bit because at age 61 I'm just not as young as I used to be.

Well, there was nothing I could say to convince Sheriff Tom to let me sit for a few minutes. He said I have to leave. Now I could see it if the place was busy... or if I had B.O. or really bad breath... but I checked and my body didn't reek, and my breath didn't smell. Tom Green was determined to make sure that someone of such low breeding as myself would not dare steal a few minutes of respite at the IPG area.

Something happened. All of a sudden I was not tired or dizzy. I was mad as hell. My blood pressure spiked, the adrenalin kicked in, and I was ready to do battle... because I was sure as hell that Tom (who was easily twice my height and weight) would attempt to forcibly remove me from his area. Yeah, he would have kicked my butt, but I would at least go down fighting.
It was at that point that I remembered Falstaf's line about discretion and valor. I mean this guy could really hurt me... and I was pretty sure he wanted to. So I decided to get up and leave. I might have lost the battle, but not the war. I will spend the rest of my life telling that story to EVERY publisher on the planet. And when I'm asked about what kind of a distributor IPG is, I will tell them in four-part harmony and full orchestration about Tom Green and how they would not let a tired "old man" sit in their precious space for five minutes to catch his breath.

My take is this. If this is the attitude they would take with me... at 4:00 PM in an empty booth... what attitude are they going to take with you as your distributor?

They threw me out of an empty booth. Thank you, Tom Green!

We're Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band,
We hope you will enjoy the show,
We're Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band,
Sit back and let the evening go.

Two full days covered the whole show. I was not planning to go on Sunday anyway but I was happy that I was able to cover the whole thing in two days. In past years I would not have been able to do that.

One of the best events was still to come... the annual Midpoint Trade pizza party. Eric Kampmann and Gail Kump host this event, this year in their office. It is always fun to get the viewpoints of both Eric and Gail. And their views were the same as everyone else... that books are not selling as well as they did before. The only thing everyone disagrees with is why!

Eric (right)



Roll up for the Mystery Tour
The Magical Mystery Tour is coming to take you away
Coming to take you away
The Magical Mystery Tour is dying to take you away
Dying to take you away - take you today.

As much as I love the "show atmosphere" and as much as I admire Reed for putting on a top-notch affair, and as much as I believe that books are necessary for a democratic society, if I were a publisher that was having some severe financial dislocations, I'd question the efficacy of spending what it costs to exhibit at BEA.

When you walk around you see all these people sitting at the little round tables looking earnestly like they are conducting business... that there is some buying and selling going on. But if you stop and eavesdrop for a few minutes you find that they are either old friends visiting, or they are talking about the weather, the state of the business, or last night's basketball playoff games.

For a small publisher who has something really, really good [i.e. new,different, exciting] there is a reasonable possibility that they will get some media or perhaps find a distributor. Getting a deal with Midpoint Trade would make the cost of the event worthwhile. But for the mid-size and larger publishers, I simply don't see what they have to gain. I know that if I ran a large house that I would look once, twice and three times at the risks and rewards of participating in BEA.

A lot of people I know from my thirty years in this biz (I published my first book in 1979) did not attend this year... even as a visitor. Of course the fact that BEA jacked up the one-day ticket prices probably had something to do with that. But, I think there is more. It cost a lot of money to sleep (alone) and eat in the Big Apple, much less the cost of getting there in the first place. I think people asked themselves if it was really worth the trip... and I know for a fact that a lot of people came up with a negative answer.

What is to be done? Well, I understand Reed will keep the show in New York for the next couple of years. If I were Reed I'd move it to a smaller, cheaper venue where food and lodging is cheaper. I also heard rumors of them opening the show to the public to buy books. That would be a good idea as it would give publishers an opportunity to sell lots of "hurts."

However, it would turn the show from being "trade" oriented, to being retail oriented. That might be a good thing. I don't know for sure, but my gut feeling is that anything that stimulates interest in books... can't hurt.

As I've said in this space for many years now, our industry never tried to "sell" reading as a mind-altering "drug." That's what the internet and video games and movies, and TV, and most of the forms of "social networking" are. The difference is that they have dumbed-down our young people into a continuous stream of mental "brain bites." We need to have advertising messages that READING will "blow your mind." We need to re-tell the adventures that books hold. We need to sell books the way big-pharma sells pills or Godiva sells candy... that there is going to be a huge personal reward and gratification by making the investment. Reading is the soul-food of imagination. Books should be "sold" as the prescription for an ever-bored population whose brains have been caramelized by information overload without any sensory rewards. Reading, not books, needs to be SOLD.

I think our only salvation will be when we finally get a crop of cheap, easy-to-use, e-book readers. Kindle is nice, but I don't see too many people spending $300 for one for each of their kids. We need to see these things come down in price the same way calculators did. Do you remember when hand-held calculators (the Bomar or HP) sold for over $200 in 1969? I do. But it was not more than five years until we started to see affordable devices (I bought my first Radio Shack calculator for $70 in 1973... and $75 was a lot of moolah back then.) Now they are given away for free. When the software meets the hardware, that is when everything changes... similar to what has happened with the music business in response to the iPod device.
After attending this show and speaking to literally hundreds of publishers, the only thing I know for certain is that we are headed down a long and winding road.

The long and winding road that leads to your door,
Will never disappear, I've seen that road before
It always leads me here, lead me to your door.

The wild and windy night that the rain washed away,
Has left a pool of tears crying for the day.
Why leave me standing here, let me know the way.

Many times I've been alone and many times I've cried,
Anyway you've always known the many ways I've tried, but
Still they lead me back to the long, winding road,

You left me waiting here a long, long time ago.
Don't leave me standing here, lead me to your door.