The red-eye. It's a tough flight after a certain age. I used to fly Jack Daniels airlines but the landings got a bit rough. Anyway, I braved the midnight skies to land in a fog enshrouded New York airport in time to have an anticipated breakfast meeting with Claire Kirsch who is one of the leading writers of Publishers Weekly. No sooner had I gotten off the plane when I received a text saying "Can't make it, need my sleep."
In the old days you knew when you were dumped from the A-list when you would no longer be asked to lunch at the Russian Tea Room. These days you get the text that they can't have breakfast with you at the Tick Tock Café or the Stage Restaurant. Such is life.
My only consolation while getting on the train to get into Penn Station was that Publishers Weekly is now about as relevant to the book business as it looks like Borders is due to become... and that being dumped by a writer for PW is not the end of civilization as we know it.
It was too early to get into my hotel room so I went across the street to one of the local gin mills and had a drink. Not a bad way to start the day. Breakfast of champions.
Claire Kirsch... last year when she didn't stand me up!
When I visit New York for the Book Expo. I always try to spend some time with my friend Sophie Sacca. She's an aspiring author and I believe that when her book comes out in a year or so she will be huge in the New York literary scene. I also like the fact that she always pays for lunch!
The author of this fish-wrap and Ms. Sophie Sacca... remember that name!
I got on the bus to go to Javits Hall and what struck me as surprising was that the bus was almost empty. Now this was fairly early in the morning when there should have been a full busload of people. I did not think this was a good sign and was afraid that the show would be poorly attended.
Arriving at Javits, I found the registration area to be almost like a morgue. There were no lines. There was no excitement. There was no one. I got my attendance badge and went up the escalator to the main exhibit hall and I was pleasantly surprised to find that everybody was already there!
Every year the first place I visit is the Midpoint Trade booth and I always look to find Julie Hardison to find out any industry gossip she might have. Julie has been with the company for a number of years and she was also one of my very first book-babes. As you can see from the following picture she still is. Julie is now director of operations and has ascended high into the ranks of this company just is most people expected that she would.
Jilie Hardison of Midpoint - Major book-babe!
Midpoint is a really good distributor.. absolutely top-drawer. It's the distributor that I recommend to most small and midsize publishers because they know how to make money. This year, Julie did not have any special insights into the industry. Nobody at BEA did. Everyone is in a state of confusion. However she told me that Midpoint is ready for e-books and is working on their business model for the coming years. They usually have a pizza party but if they had one they didn't ask me. I'm off of their A-list as well!
I enjoyed talking with Eric Kaampman who is the chief-cook and bottle-washer of Midpoint Trade. He's also an author and has written a number of devotional books which I very much favor. Along with him was an old friend of mine, Jerry Jenkins of the Jenkins Group. His organization runs the IPPY awards. I did not go to Jerry's award dinner because he did not send me an an invitation to cover it. When I mentioned it, he didn't seem to care. Well I guess I'm not on his A-list anymore either. I'm seeing a trend here!
Jerry, Eric, and Eric's partner whom I don't know.
It wasn't long until I ran into another well-known book-babe, Marion Gropen. Marion is a book-consultant and specializes on the accounting side of the business, the dollars and cents. She told me she is worried that many would-be author-publishers are going to lose a lot of money in the e-book craze because they are not going to understand the finances of the business model. I think she has a good opportunity to make some serious money by helping lots of small publishers as well as publisher–authors count the credits and debits. Marion's rich. She owns a sailboat. Only wealthy people sail!
Marion Gropen owner of Gropen Associates in NYC
I moved off to the outer limits of Javits Hall in search of the small publishing section which is where they are always exiled to. It was a "why bother." There were hardly any small publishers there this year. However, I was very surprised to find one called PSI Press doing technical books. I rather like this one called Programming from Scratch. I think there will be a resurgence in tech books with the popularity of smart phones and computer tablets. Programming these devices is difficult and will require a number of texts and other resources for programmers who seek to make these devices into moneymakers for themselves. The Holy Grail these days is to create a $1.00 "app" and have a million people buy it on the Apple App Store. It's not just a dream. It's happened for a lot of people.
As I said, there were hardly any small publishers at the show. But one very large vendor who seemed to do everything... digital conversions, editing, and booking shepherding bought a lot of the space. I didn't quite get the name of the company. Sorry. I was more interested in the fact that they bought up all the floor space that the small press didn't want!
Anyone know who they are?
There are always a ton of university presses at the show and I have to say that this sector has come a long way in creativity. One book I found, from Baylor University is called The Friends We Keep by Laura Hobgood-Oster an professor of religion. It's a Christian perspective on our pets and animal friends. Interesting.
Leaving the micro-publisher area I ran into a wonderful little publisher with a great name. It's called Red Hen Press. They have a motley collection of books and I'm not quite sure what this one is about and they have a flash website which I can't view with my iPad. People! Don't use flash and expect a lot publicity from journalists who use Apple equipment.
House Arrest, a novel from Red Hen
Going around the corner I saw a company called Publish This. They have a new platform but I'm not quite sure what it's all about. It seems to be one of those formatting and one-stop shop outfits for publishers. It was really a nice booth bout I still don't know what they do because they didn't really explain it to well.
I like the hot booth-babe, but I'm not sure what they do!
You often see lots of genre presses at the book show and this year was no exception. I saw a well-known little publisher called Potomac Books. This company does mostly military historicals and biographies having to do with America's wars and American history. They have new book called Under Fire which looks like it will be their big seller for this year. Genre publishing has always been a good business model. If you can publish something in a limited scope that people will pay money to read you can do very well.
Good title, good cover, should do well in the market.
Chafie Press is out of Dallas Texas and are looking for authors. Lots of authors come to BEA in search of a publisher. Nothing new here, but what did impress me was that Chafie understands the changing paradigm of this industry. They had a nice booth that really focused on the future and were hoping to attract authors who will be willing to give them submissions that will go to the e-book format as well as the printed page. I liked their book on The Survivors.
"Chafie Press is a publisher for the changing world"... that's what they say about themselves.
Another venerable niche publisher is Dewalt Books. They had a large booh and of course had their very attractive yellow and black covered tomes on the construction trades. My guess is that these will do very well in e-book format because so many people in the construction trades will soon carry tablet computers and will be happy to read them that way instead of ink on paper. That's the way the entire industry is going... except perhaps for mainstream fiction that will still be read on airplanes via ink on paper. Anyway the Dewalt people were at BEA again and it's nice to see them each year.
Another successful niche publisher
I walked to another aisle and saw a friendly face. Her name is Gail Kump. She used to work with Midpoint Trade, and then was with NBN, but is now with the American Association of Publishers (AAP.) She is truly one of the legends in this industry and few people know the book business quite as well as Gail. I have no doubt that one day soon she'll be running the AAP. I asked her about the idea of a merger between IPBA and AAP and while she was interested, we both agreed that IBPA will probably not go for it. I wish her well and I expect we will see big things from her.
Gail... an old and dear friend. I wish her well at AAP
Mark Tekushan is a very interesting man. He's a terrific photographer and from what I understand fairly well known in his field. He came to the show to portray his single book on design which contains his own photographs. He has no distribution, he has no publisher, and he has no idea what he's doing, but he's there for the ride and I wish him well. That's a great thing about this biz. You never know when or where lightening will strike.
I came across a really beautiful cover. I'm really a sucker for really nice covers, I guess because one of my close friends is a book designer, Mayapriya Long at Bookwrights Desgin. The Reindeer Keeper looks like a winner to me.
Every year there is at least one dog book or one cat book that I find interesting. I found a book about massaging your dog! Well, you know... people will buy anything! I liked the author and I think he has a shot at hitting a niche market especially if he can sell these as a premium item through the dog food companies or pet store companies. His name is Jonathan Rudinger and he has a infectious smile and a great personality that I think will do quite well for him if he gets out and hawks his tome.
It might work. You just never know in this biz!
One of the more interesting booths at the show was from a couple that was sponsoring a treasure hunt. They have a very expensive statue of a bird with diamonds and gold and other jewels and they are trying to raise money for a charity via giving away this piece of art. They have a book about the hunt and they had a very striking booth. I'm told that the bird with the diamonds and gold was worth many, many thousands of dollars.
"Buy the book. Find the treasure. Save a life. Let me know if you figure it all out.
I looked and I looked for cookbooks but this year very few were to be found. The one that I did see which I really liked was a five volume set of very large books beautifully illustrated and probably cost more than anybody can afford to pay for them. I was told that Modernist Cuisine is a six-volume, 2,438-page set is destined to reinvent cooking. If you're getting a gift for a chef or to somebody who is a major foodie, this is what you want to get. The box-set price is $625.
Modernist Cuisine: The Art and Science of Cooking
One of the best small publishers in the business is called Nolo Press. They been around forever and they specialize in legal books. They have been recently bought by Internet Brands (whoever they are?) Over the years their booth has gotten smaller and smaller as has happened with other small publishers, but at least they were there. They're getting ready to put their books in electronic format as they understand where the industry is going. Nolo books are always popular with the general reading public looking for legal answers. I don't have to tell you what happens when good small pubs are bought by larger non-pub companies. It's usually the kiss of death. I hope this time is different.
Will we see Nolo again next year?
There are some titles that just crappy. But there are some titles that are just so good, you know that they're going to be successful. Prometheus Books has one such tome. It's called How to Become a Really Good Pain In The Ass. I know a lot of people who would believe that I was the author of that book! I don't know if this will sell but it has probably the best title of anything I saw at the BEA this year
Great title that will get great publicity
I usually don't spend too much time in the children's section because there's just too much to cover and most children books are not all that interesting to me. However I did see one publisher, Hawks Nest Publishing, with coloring and activity books all based upon major league baseball. The publisher explained to me that was a major pain in the ass to get permission from MLB to do these books.
What kid can resist real baseball coloring books?
I always look for people willing to do the absurd to get attention. Sometimes it's a funny costume, sometimes it's a bit a street theater. This year my winner was a woman who not only claims she has been to heaven, but had the best pink hair I'd ever seen. I report, you decide!
Each year some publisher has something in their booth that just grabs attention. Last year was a giant typewriter. This year my vote goes to Workman Publishing (great dog-of-the-month calendars) for their giant clock. Workman always has a crowded booth because they have lots of fun stuff they give away.
A busy booth and easy to find... just look for the clock
Each year I look for my old friend, Victoria Sutherland of Foreword Reviews. She didn't come but sent her associate, Linda who is this year's NOMINATION FOR BEA BOOK-BABE. I wrote a piece for Foreword for their first edition ten years aga. They never asked me to do another one so I guess I'm off of their A-list as well!!
Is she a book-babe... or what?
In years past there would be a fair number of publishers who do books on pets, but this year I only found one, Interpet. They have a new line of books out in conjunction with Animal Planet. They also gave out some very nice dog toys since their parent company (Interpet) is huge... publishing is just a sideline for them.
If there was ever a company that "didn't get it" it has to be Xerox. The whole world is going to e-book and so what do they bring to show off? They bring a print-on-demand machine! Come on, man! How "yesterday" as the kids would say. Makes you wonder.
We don't need no stinkin' ink on paper!
Lots of religious publishers come to BEA to show off their books. Yogananda was there as were the Scientology folks, but The Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, was missing. The Bahai folks were there. They have a large list of books about their faith, this being their latest tome.
Compassionate Woman: The Life and Legacy of Patricia Locke
It's tough to make it as a one-book publisher, but it's a lot easier if you already have an outside job. Dr. Richard Oppenlander is a well-known lecturer on environmental issues and he has put together a book and a marketing campaign that I'm sure will work. I sent them over the Midpoint whom I'm told the distribution company looking at taking Oppenlander on. You will see and hear a lot more from this guy.
Dr. Oppenlander and his daughter who helps run the company.
I've always been intrigued by books that have been "cut" into a shape that suggests the title. I don't know who the publisher is and I could not find anything on Amazon with the same title, but this book was very cool... shaped as a crock pot. If anyone knows who does it, let me know and I'll update this.
A neat looking book!
I always enjoy looking at the sidelines, however since there are fewer and fewer bookstores, fewer and fewer sideline manufacturers show up with their bookmarks, pens, and all the other stuff sold at stores. Primitives by Kathy has this small-town image but it's actually a fairly large outfit. I really liked their boxes and signs.
All made in China... which turned me off about them... but I do like them nonetheless.
Being a student of Bhakti Yoga (some of you remember them as the Hare Krishnas) I always like talking to the Self Realization Fellowship which was started by Yogananda in the 1900s. Each year they would give out small booklets of inspirational writings... but not this year... budget cuts. I liked to read them on the plane going home. They were featuring a new book called Odyssey.
Sometimes a great marketing campaign can make up for what I think is basically a trite and often-told story, especially in the self-help, "miracle" genre. The folks at Sunnys' Story have their act together. I was really impressed and also sent them to Midpoint who told me later they will offer them a distribution contract. I hope it works out for them as these are really nice people... with a good message... although one we've read before.
Good marketing can do wonders!
I was walking down an aisle and a really nice looking young woman grabbed my arm (happens all the time) and said she recognized me (does not happen all the time) and wanted me to help her find a publisher for her books, or maybe a distributor for them. I don't know anything about her book but I know a good salesperson when I see one and I told her to "sell" that to any potential publisher or distributor. You tell ME if you would buy a book from Dr. Emily Francis? I'd buy the whole package!!
If you've got it... flaunt it!
One of the reasons I go to the show is to hawk our Jaya123 software system for small publishers. I also like to speak with colleagues in the industry. While Jaya123 owns the market for the small publisher (seeing as it only cost $15 a month to use) there are a number of larger systems out there for larger publishers. The good people at Trilogy has one one of those systems.
Alex Dare of Trillogy.. good software for the larger publisher
I ran into my old friend Sharon Goldinger of PeopleSpeak easily the very best book shepherd(es) in the industry. I can't count how many authors and publishers Sharon has made rich and famous. Sharon will not let me take her picture nor will she let me tell the story about the fountain in Grant Park... but if you see her ask her. She introduced me to one of her clients, Kevin McCarney, who has an excellent book called Secrets of Successful Communication. No doubt it will be huge... Sharon does not miss the target on too many!
Nice man... good book... backed by Sharon... can't lose!
You can't have a book show without a diet book... and this show had an interesting one by Dr. Libby Weaver from New Zealand. She is a biochemist who takes a more scientific approach to weight. I'm told she is quite the sensation down there in the islands near Oz. I can't explain her theory in a few words, so take a look for yourself.
In past shows I'd see booths from lots of on-shore printers. This year all I saw were print-brokers for off-shore printers... except for the good people at Cushing-Malloy. C-M has been doing books since... like forever. Tom Weber (below) said this was his 40th BEA (used to be ABA back when.) I talked with them about their business model and they believe ink on paper will be here for a while. I disagree. Courses for horses and horses for courses. If you could know the future would you really want to?
One of the best printers in the biz
There are two guys who have been around the publishing biz for longer than I have. The first is the man who actually "invented" the small press, Dan Poynter of Para Publishing (middle) and Shel Horowitz (left) a well-known publicist, writer, and now book-shepherd. With him was one of his authors whose name I can't remember. I've had my issues in the past with Shel, but I respect his work and I'm glad to see him get away from being a flack and more into personal book-shepherding which I think he will be much better at. As for Dan, he's still the most popular and most knowledgeable man in the entire publishing industry. No one will dispute that... no one.
Shell Horowitz and Dan Poynter and Shel's author
There are always a few book-related toys at the show. This year I found what I think is a great idea... DoodleMark... a new kind of bookmark that allows kids to interact with books by drawing things or words. If it is priced right it should be a big seller. Take a look. It's terrific.
Way off to the far side of the hall were the tech exhibits. While most of them were companies offering conversion services, a few were showing tablet readers. I liked the Hanvon reader from China (actually I liked the Hanvon booth-babe as well!) but I'm not sure any company can compete with Kindle and iPad without the kind of budgets those outfits have. Still, this was a really nice piece of tech and my guess is they will look for niche markets like medicine and law and maybe education.
The Hanvon tablet-reader... and booth-babe!
As I said before I don't spend much time with children's books but another one I saw that was quite good was the Bella & Harry series which chronicles the escapades of a pup named Bella, her brother Harry and their family who travel the world. What a nice way to introduce kids to travel and cultural diversity.
The author of Bella & Harry, Lisa Manzione
Way in the back of the hall, way off the beaten path was a wonderful booth of giftware with the designs of the... wait for it... New York City Subway system. They had t-shirts, maps, iPad cases, tote bags, everything. I thought it was terrific... mainly because I've always marveled at the subway system in the Big Apple. I think it's an engineering marvel.
A fun line of clothing for the New Yorker (and after 9/11 we're all New Yorkers at heart!)
Every year there is someone who hopes to make a good living selling... note pads. There must be a market for these although I'm not sure I see it in a digital age. Anyway, Pocket Dept. is "a line of handy notebooks inspired by vintage stationary and designed to suit every pocket. Each Pocket Dept book is made from the finest writing papers and perfect bound for strength and durability. Designed and manufactured by Art House Co-op in Brooklyn, NY – from their workshop to your pocket." That's how they pitch it!
You notice I have not mentioned much about IBPA (PMA to the rest of us.) This is because all of their events were in Javits instead of the Roosevelt Hotel which is their usual NY home. Javits is hard to get to without a free bus taking you there!
No matter. The Pub-U, while not nearly as well-attended as previous years, received great reviews from those who attended. This year, for the first time in history, they did not have a free awards dinner. They sold tickets and collected them. They didn't send me one so I did not cover the Ben Franklin Awards. I have no idea who won what or who was nominated where. In previous years I always had pictures of the event... but no food... no pix. My time has value... but obviously not a lot to IBPA since I'm off of their A-list as well.
I ran into my old friend and IBPA President For Life, Florrie Kichler of Patria Press and she told me that while membership is down, it's not down as much as it could be. She said a lot of work is being done to keep the IBPA "relevant" to the digital age. I wished her well, but in a world where everyone and their Ingram-hating dog can be a publisher and where there is a ton of free material on publishing or low-costs books on how to be one... I just don't see the mission statement here, or the biz model for an association.
So there you have it. The 2011 BEA.
A lot of people predicted that this year would be the end of this show. However, I found the show well-attended and the interest factor rather high. It cost a lot of money for publishers to buy the floor space and schlep all their books, booth display stuff, and people to NY for the event so I have to assume they find the money to be well-spent.
I thought that the show sponsor, Reed, did a great job in publicizing the event (done by Roger Bilheimer Associates) and getting a lot of press for it and a lot of the working press (like me!) to it. There were excellent conferences as well as a "merger" with BlogWorld which I just didn't have the time to cover adequately this year. Next year I will spend more time there.
Reed announced that the next four shows will be in New York, so I assume that they have commitments from the large space-buyers to continue to attend. I think that is good. Whether it is ink on paper or electrons on tablets, it still involves PUBLISHING and this industry does need a yearly pow-wow to show off its products, vent a bit of steam, have a few drinks, celebrate the good things, commiserate about the bad things, and just congratulate each other that we're still on the A-lists that we're on.
Except for me. It seems I'm off all of them!
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.