Tuesday, June 10, 2014

BEA Diary 2014

By Alan Canton...  with invaluable editorial assistance from Mayapriya Long

Who loves you? Amazon? Not if they won’t stock your books. That was the buzz at this years’ BEA, it’s what everyone was talking about and it may be an issue that will define this industry for the distant future.

But that's not what I'm here to tell you about. Indeed, this is yet another missive in a long line of BEA Diaries (see end for links.)

Usually I spend all of "Book Week" in New York City, but I had some conflicts that kept me in my native Sacramento, CA until the exhibits opened. So I took the Tuesday night red-eye to JFK.

If you go to New York in the summer you don’t expect it to feel like winter. When I left the hotel to walk down to the subway it was cold, with an equally chilly mist blowing through me.

My first stop this year was the Independent Book Publishers Association Ben Franklin awards.

I got out of the West 4th Street station in weather that felt like a Dr. Zhivago winter and walked three blocks in the wrong direction. Yes, thanks Google Maps. Whoever created the Google map of Manhattan probably lived in Nebraska!

I was saved by Siri who got me back on track after a I sighted what looked like a penguin and an Eskimo crossing Sixth Avenue! Yeah, it was that cold!

In previous years IBPA (which used to be called Publishers Marketing Association or PMA for short... or PMS by some!) held their award program in a swanky hotel with a full buffet dinner, dessert table... and the entire industry showed up… probably for the free food… but they stayed for the awards and got a good look at what the small press had to offer… and saw the best of it.

Not this year. IBPA held it at NYU down in the Village in a big room with sushi finger food and a $40 admission charge. While the elbow-to-elbow crowds were missing, there was still a pretty good turnout… but mostly limited to those nominated for awards as opposed to industry professionals (seeking a free meal!)

Not a large crowd, but the room was full
The harp player was a classy touch.

I had a nice chat with Mr. Terry Nathan who is the CEO of the association. He said that while membership is down from the usual 3500 of previous years, is it holding steady and he expects growth.

Terry Nathan, the big kahuna of IBPA and a hell of a good guy!

A lot of this growth is going to be due to the new directions being taken by the new Executive Director, Angela Bole.

Ms.  Bole, who looks like a runway model, understands the digital age and from her previous position at BISG she knows that e-books are the future of this industry and will be the primary revenue generator for her membership. And she understands that marketing programs are no longer the most viable service that IBPA can offer. It is education as well as well-vetted vendors (Note: NewMedia Website Design is a preferred vendor of IBPA.)

The new "girl" on the block... who is re-making IBPA
I was fortunate to run into two of the most knowledgeable people in the small press, Sharon Goldinger and Cindy Frank. Each had clients nominated for awards. Cindy does both book shepherding as well as foreign rights, while Sharon provides just about all services to her author and small-publisher customers. If I were bringing out a new book it would be difficult to determine just whom I’d choose as my mentor.

Sharon Goldinger (left) and Cindy Frank: You got the questions... they got the answers

After stuffing myself with a ton a sushi and a few stiff shots of an adult beverage to ward off the cold in the frozen tundra of Sixth Avenue (no one calls it Avenue of the Americas!) I trundled back to the subway, catching the E train up to Columbus Circle to attend the IPPY award party. (I grew up just outside of New York City so I know the subway system... it's not hard and if you learn it you will save a fortune in cabs... and not have to speak Hindi to get where you are going!)

If you didn't like sushi you were SOL!

While the Ben Franklin is a traditional award ceremony where the winners give a speech thanking their mother, their 3rd grade teacher, and the cab driver who brought them to the Village for winning the award, the IPPY is a party atmosphere… while the awards are being announced, people are drinking and visiting and often not paying much attention until their category comes up. Also, there are no speeches… thankfully.

The host of the party is the venerable Jerry Jenkins the owner of the Jenkins Group. Jerry told me that he got over 2000 entries for this year's IPPY awards; each year this award gets more and more popular.

Jerry Jenkins (far right) with Nell Tearse (middle) and David Hahn. Jerry has always been a babe-magnet. 

As I mentioned, the IPPY awards don't have speeches but they always have their share of easy to look at 'assistants' to present the awards. Sometimes the title of the book kind of works 'well' with the award being presented:

Jeremy Edwards who won this year's award for erotic fiction. Yeah, I get it!

The whole bash is held in a night club up on 57th and 8th Avenue that has a dance floor downstairs and a balcony upstairs. It's loud, it's happy, and it is publishing spirit (bottled) at its best!

The place is jumpin'
Some wise person once said "Wine is a good poison, but not a great poison." It was dark and cold when I stumbled out of the IPPY party and somehow found a cab that whisked me back to my hotel over on the East side. (It's hard to get cross town on the subway, especially when close to three-sheets to the wind (you could easily end up in Flushing... not a place you want to wake up in... the name says it all!)

I feel sorry for people who don't drink because when they wake up in the morning that's as good as they are going to feel all day! When I woke up that morning I knew I was going to feel better... because I could not have felt much worse!

After a gallon of coffee I walked on down to Lexington and 49th Street to catch the free BEA Javits bus. I aways wonder at the logic of BEA in having a bus go down 42nd Street and through Times Square (or close to it) during rush hour. But that's what they do and so I just sat back and hoped that my breakfast would stay down! It took almost an hour to go eight blocks.

For those folks who follow this electronic fish-wrap, you remember the major issues I had last year getting a press credential for myself and my colleague Mayapriya Long to cover the event and do the huge amount of work that this Diary entails. This year was different. The BEA press "Star Chamber" gave us credentials without us having to yell and scream about it.

So up to the press room I went and who was there but none other than one of the grand marshals of the publishing industry, Irwin Zucker. Irwin runs the Book Publicists of Southern California which does a great job with small publishers and authors who self-publish.

Irwin Zucker (seated) with David Beakel and Bo Lebo behind him. Irwin is 80+ years old and still going strong!

Many of you know that besides being a publisher with Adams-Blake Publishing I also run a web design business called NewMedia Website Design. In past years we've passed out fliers to friends and acquaintances we meet during Book Week, but this year Phil Knight and the nice people at Color House Graphics
printed up some "drop cards" for us. These are larger than a business card but smaller than a postcard. The venerable Dan Poynter of Para Publishing (whom I'm told helped invent the printing press!) came up with the idea for his books and I thought it might work for websites.

I always like to cover what are called 'sidelines' first... these are really gift items... and book stores are becoming more like gift stores every year.

I loved the boxes  of Enchanted World of Boxes. They evoke the tradition of collecting rare books that date from the ancient library of Alexandria and extends through the spiraling bookshelves of secret societies of Europe. Inspiration for their collection comes from the libraries of Nostradamus, Gutenberg, the Geographic Society of London, and hidden vaults from Widener Library in Cambridge. These are very nice... I'm going to get one for my very expensive wife.

These will make great gifts

I saw another interesting sideline that is made by a company called Heart The Moment. These are clever and colorful paper tiaras. These vintage inspired designs make great greeting cards with the included "cardlet" and envelope. You could give one to each party goer. I thought this was a good idea... and I must be right because Fern said they sell very well. I was impressed that they are made in the USA. I think maybe these are where the Burger King gets his crown?

Fern and Sam Solomon wearing their creations. Ya gotta love creativity like this!

Yet another sideline that I found interesting was from a company called Litographics which creates art from the books you've read and loved. Their posters, t-shirts, and tote bags are all created entirely from the text of classic books. Here is the interesting part: From a distance, the artwork illustrates a theme, character, or setting from each book. Move closer and the text becomes fully legible. The booth had two guys when they needed two booth-babes!

A good idea that I think will catch on, at least with literary people

You know the old saying that "whats old is new again." I saw an old, simple 'game' that I played as a kid and it has been brought back via the name Can 'n Ball. You get a ball and two cans... like those that tennis balls come in and you throw and catch the ball with the cans. Maybe hula hoops and Slinkys are next?

Looks like a good beach game but won't replace bikini volleyball!

There are always companies that exhibit reading lights but this one by Mighty Bright was by far the best and most ingenious. You can bend it to any position and it is really bright. If you are like me and still like ink-on-paper when reading in bed, you want one of these. (They are great for finding the bathroom in your hotel room at 3am when you are hung-over. Ask me how I know!)

Michelle Haas of Mighty Bright

The final sideline was terrific. African American Expression creates (no, not in China) calendars, greeting cards and nice gifts. The company, now the largest black-owned greeting card company in America, began as a single product company selling ethnically sensitive Christmas cards in three designs. Now they are into gifts and other stuff... all made in my hometown of Sacramento, CA.

Beautiful calendars and gifts

I'm a sucker for anyone who has the guts to wear a costume to hawk their book... and it just wouldn't be a BEA without at least one foodie who claims to have the cure for whatever ails you. I loved Baker Dan and his arthritis cookbook. The blurb says: "“Beating Arthritis” shows you a method of how to prevent and reduce the inflammation of chronic disease and an attitude of never giving up. It is not a magic cure, but instead a way of eating, one that will pay off if you persevere."

It's worth a try, but I think maybe smoking a joint would also help

Per usual there were the publishing arms of various oil-rich countries. No one pays much attention to their booths, which is too bad because some of them are elaborate and have beautiful books in them. I suppose there is a market for these tomes or they wouldn't spend the money for the booths. And we know they HAVE the money!

The most comfortable chairs in the hall. I took a short nap in one. No one bothered me.

In past years, BEA had an African-American section of small authors and publishers, but no longer. Indeed, I didn't see many authors or publishers from that community and I don't know why. But one that did stand out was The Passdown a book designed to encourage the reader to seek, discover and share their legacy with their children.  The journals allow you to tell your story in your own words. It's different, and I liked it.

Autry Alexis with The Passdown

It has been several years since there was a publishing house from India at BEA... or even a house showing books about Eastern philosophy and religion. This year the Gita Publishing House took a booth to show their many titles, including translations of the Gita. Dressing in traditional clothes made them stand out a bit. Being a long-time student of Bhakti Yoga and Krishna Consciousness I was glad to see their booth, although I know nothing of the yogi whose book they are holding.
Representatives from Gita Publishing. Hare Krishna!

In past years we saw a lot of political books which caused a lot of controversy and contention, but nothing like the booth for Chipoltle Publishing's Small Arms Journal. They told me that they got a lot of bad press from the show which I think is unfortunate because they seem to be a responsible voice for gun ownership as opposed to the whack-jobs at the NRA. I'm not a gun nut, but I own a shotgun. In my heart of hearts I believe that if every Jew owned a gun and took one Nazi with them, there would not have been a Holocaust.

See my last line above

Each year at BEA there is one brand-new tech start-up that is flush with venture capital money who takes an enormous section right up front (most expensive location in the hall) and fills it with a bunch of computers and a large staff of 20-something self-absorbed guys who do their best to ignore anyone over 25 who comes into the area. It took me a while to find someone who wanted to speak with me so I could learn what Mopro is all about. I'm still not sure, but it looks like they have built yet another do-it-yourself web-builder (which looks like they borrowed a lot from Squarespace) along with a video service. I wish them well, but like those that came before, I expect that when they burn through their VC money they will vanish.

Johnny Brown from Mopro -- the only guy over 25 years old in the booth (and the only one who would talk to me!)

Another software company called Media Services (such a catchy name!) has a product called Elan Book Solutions (and I'll bet only 5 people in the hall knew what 'elan' means) which, in their words "consolidates customer data into one centralized CRM, seamlessly integrating the database with eCommerce and a full suite of publishing management tools."(I love geek-speak!) Looks like a hell of a nice system. I don't know the price but if you have to ask my bet is you can't afford it!

Ted Thomason, Karen Tiesling, and Carrie McEvoy of Media Services, makers of Elan

You know when I mentioned the arrogance of young 20-something tech guys earlier? Well, arrogance is not just confined to tech... or kids. I went to the Ingram booth and ALL the staff were way too busy talking to each other to pay any attention to visitors. And why should they? They're Ingram... it's their culture and history. The only thing they have going is they are now hated less than Amazon by the publishing industry!

Arrogance raised to an art form!

Everyone gives stuff away... mostly candy. I think the BEA is a dentist's dream! There are pens too, but most booths have candy. Then there is CN Times Books. They had bags and bags or fortune cookies. I loved it. Everyone loved it. Inside each cookie was a ad for their company. The company is a new publisher and distributor that has focused on works about Chinese history, philosophy, culture, and economics.

Hard to see but there are fortune cookies in the bag... a big hit!

Walking through the aisles you can meet all sorts of people... especially if you have a press badge. There are always several authors looking to find a publisher. I stopped at one of the trash containers to throw away some candy wrappers and standing there was Dr. Leslie Kumer with her book. It looked nice. I told her to get a website.

A book to make an MRI less scary to children. I hope she sells it.

One of the best booths that I saw was from an Italian food academy called Academia Barilla. They claim to be the first international center dedicated to the diffusion, promotion, and development of Italian gastronomic culture in the world. Brian Nacht was passing out a terrific cheese-on-cracker concoction and showed his books that are 'cut' in the shape of the actual product. These would be great gift books.

Book is at left... note the shape

There is an old joke about Beverly Hills. Two women have lunch... and a new boutique is started! I'm not sure if this is how Peek-a-Bear Press started but they have a terrific children's book and toy. Peek-a-Bear is an adventure/ discovery peek-and-play book following the journey of Peek-a-Bear. The child follows Peek-a-Bear under water, through the zoo and across the sky. Along the way he introduces the reader to interesting characters and  themes. The book provides an interactive element to supplement the story line. If they can get distribution they will sell a zillion of these

Author Jill Weisfeld (center) with Judy Roth and Cindy Weissman

I love books that actually HELP the world in some way and was pleased to find Kentrell Martin, the owner and author of Shelly's Adventures. Shelly's Adventures LLC was created to provide children and their parents with reading material that teaches American Sign Language. What a nice mission to have. They deserve to succeed and I hope they do.

Tell someone about this book and help bring a bit of joy to a deaf child

Each year there are several distributors at BEA... each of them represent a couple of hundred publishers. The publishers pay a fee for a small table and a display of their books. I'm not sure it is worth it, but each year I see the same publishers in the same distributor booths. I think the best distributor in the industry is Midpoint Trade. If nothing else they have always had the best looking book-babes... and Julie Hardison who is now Director of Operations (she started in the warehouse!) has been one of them for years and years now.

Julie knows what will sell and what won't. 

The Pink Pig Press is one of the best known publishers at BEA. Yes, they are a mother-daughter company (I think they are really sisters)  and they always wear weird outfits and they have an 'eclectic' line of books... but they are well-known because... they always have a booth right in front of the main-entrance restrooms. EVERYONE sees them sooner or later.

Liz and Vell Sweeny. I can't tell who is mother and who is daughter!

It has been many years since Arcadia Publishing was at BEA. This is a really interesting publisher. Arcadia Publishing is the leading local history publisher in the United States, with a catalog of more than 8,500 titles in print and hundreds of new titles released every year. Talk about a profitable niche? They have it. I love their books and when in a new town or city that I'm interested in learning more about I look for one of their tomes.

The Arcadia rep... easy to look at and knows her products. This is a terrific publisher.

Old hippies never die... they just go into the book or t-shirt business. There were only two t-shirt outfits that I saw and Liberty Graphics was the best in show. They have been around forever and they have a neat line of literary products. My favorite was the take-off on E.A. Poe above Jeff Lord's head below.

... said the raven!

There are always a fair number of countries that take large spaces at BEA. Some of the booths are the same year to year, but I think this is the first year Italy has had (i.e. paid for!) such a large presence.

Italy had a huge booth, but hardly anyone was there. 

We all know about e-books but there are also 'hybrid' books... iPad software that 'works' with a hard copy tome. A small company out of Palm Beach Gardens, FL called Mutasia has a terrific interactive group of products. They say that "Somewhere far away, in the uncharted realms of the ocean, lies the mysterious island of Mutasia. As one of the few unexplored places left on Earth, Mutasia is home to a previously unknown collection of wildlife, unique to the island of Mutasia.The inhabitants are called Mutasians and are mixed up mixes of every type of animal imaginable." Personally I think it sounds like the Bronx in New York City!

Brigitte VanBaelen of Mutasia

Every year that I can remember the L. Ron Hubbard company takes a large booth and always does something kind of cool. One year they brought in a dixieland band and served champagne while we danced in the aisle. This year it was pirates... to hawk one of Ron's novels. The man has been dead for a who knows how long, but they push his books like he is still in the building... and I guess that they sell! L.Ron reminds me of Elvis!

Shiver me timbers... arrrgh!

You've heard the old story that if you hang out in Times Square long enough you will eventually meet everyone you ever knew. Well, in the publishing biz, it's pretty much the same with BEA... if you attend enough of them. I went over to the IBPA exhibit and I ran into an old friend, Peter Beren. When I say old friend, I mean it... Peter and I went to high school together and lived about three blocks apart. Peter is a literary agent and a publishing consultant to authors, self-publishers and  independent publishers. Formerly Vice-President of Publishing at Palace Press International, Publisher of Sierra Club Books, Publisher of VIA Books and an Acquisitions Editor for Jeremy Tarcher,  he has more than 35 years experience in the publishing industry. Need an agent? He's 'da man.'

Always nice to see an old friend

Being a tech-nerd myself I always look forward to seeing the exhibits from the technology sector. This year BEA had a Digital Discovery Zone, not only booths but kiosks for some small companies to show their e-readers, conversion programs, and other stuff. Unfortunately, it didn't generate too much traffic mainly because it was way off to the far left (west) side of the hall... actually I think it was in New Jersey :-)

It's a good thing these booths and kiosks didn't cost much as there was little traffic

I saw one piece of technology that I thought was kind of cool. It is called Beneath The Ink. Using Beneath the Ink technology, it's easy for authors to embed additional content for readers to access when they choose. These enhancements are called Binks™. Each Bink™ gives readers more insight into the characters, places, concepts, and words that pique their curiosity — without ever leaving their page. It is hard to explain so you just have to go to their site and see it. This could work if the big players ever discover it.

Olivia Tufo showing her technology working on the iPad. It's very cool.

Of course everyone's hated ISBN provider was at the show. The two good things you can say about Bowker is that they are less arrogant and less disorganized than Ingram! I asked them "What is this year's story" and they didn't seem to have one... at least not one I remember. But the three women were so sweet and very kind and it made me forget how the company gouges authors and publishers for ISBN numbers. One day someone will come along and put Bowker's whole ISBN business out of business... can't happen soon enough for most members of the small press who have limited budgets.

The charming women at Bowker. Nice people. but an arm and leg for an ISBN? C'mon man!

About the only vendor who had lots of traffic in the mostly deserted tech area was Bookbaby. BB reminds me of Amazon and WalMart. Each wants to do and sell everything and wants to put everyone who competes with them out of biz. Of course in trying to do everything neither do anything all that well. BB does a few things well, but I think they have their butts on too many pots. However, they hire nice people and so that says something good about the firm. I asked for the twenty-second pitch and I got a dog and pony show... none of it I remember.

Not sure what Scott McCormick was showing me but it looked interesting. They need an 'elevator' speech.

One of the big attractions of BEA is the autograph area where people will stand in line for hours to get a signed book by a favorite author. In my experience most of those getting copies are librarians and teachers. It is always a happy section of the BEA hall.

This is a nice gesture but I never heard of the Book Industry Foundation. Maybe it's like The Human Fund? :-)

Want a free book? This is the place!

I love animals. Sorry, but I'm a sucker for pet stuff. This is the first year that I didn't see a real dog or cat or any other animal in a booth. But there was a company called Paw It Forward that warmed my heart. They have shirts, and hats, and calendars, and books about Ella and other dogs. They say their mission is to celebrate great dogs who are changing the world by inspiring kids to change the world through kindness. I bet when they go to bed at night they feel pretty good about what they are doing.

I wish them well because I like their mission of inspiring acts of kindness.

There were a number of other vendors hawking stuff on the floor. This is the first year that I saw BEA actually sell t-shirts... and they were quite good. I was told they sold in years past but never had a front-and-center location like they did this year. They were doing a land-office business as you can see by the empty bins.

Very clever shirts ... they sold well.

And then there was a cute little cart for a company called Starling Eyewear selling eyeglasses in very smart-looking frames. I would have bought them but I can't use non-prescription 'readers.' However, I loved the booth-cart and the quality of their frames.

A sight for sore eyes?

Finally, in the "I wanna buy it" category was the most terrific and comfortable chair I've tried in a long time. Yeah, we've all seen bean-bag furniture, but this is different. Yogibo is definitely not the bean bag chair you had as a kid. Unlike the traditional bean bags of the past, the Yogibo reinvents itself with every use – accommodates the most demanding of bean bag enthusiasts. Yogibos are made from super-comfy, cotton-lycra fabric that stretches and moves with you. It feels luxurious against your skin and combined with the near-frictionless beads it completely molds to your body; making Yogibos “shockingly comfortable.” I tried it. I loved it.

You gotta get one of these. I'm going to. 

Each year that I do this electronic page-turner (and this is my 19th year) I always present what I think is the best book in the show. By best I mean most interesting... at least to me. You can make your own choice.

This year there is a tie.

The first is The Kitchen. I'll let them explain it in their own words:

"UptownGrowLab has been around in one form or another for more than 35 years. Our first and overriding interest in this plant was driven by the need for medicine that could help deal with chronic abdominal pain and discomfort suffered by one of our partners. We have decided to share the fruits of our labor with you, and this is the objective of our website. Like anything, it will  evolve, but for now we are trying to keep things simple – primarily displaying images of flowers that are beautiful not just in how they look but in their power to ease people’s pain or discomfort or alter one’s consciousness in a positive way. "

A terrific book that is best in show.

Finally, there is a book that words just can't do justice to

My choice for this year's best book is Mohan Bhasker's "Seven Continents" landscape photography book filled with 244 photographs from all seven continents including thrilling and adventurous stories enshrining his adventurous spirit. It is HUGE. This was the best book I saw at the BEA and you just have to see it! It cost $295 but it is something you will keep a lifetime and pass on to your survivors. Just see it!

Photographer (right) and Ms. Michelle Parra. Pix does not do this book justice, You have to see it!


The first thing I noticed this year was that there were even less members of my press brethren than last year. Reed knows how many press people registered for the show, but I and my colleague who brings you this electronic time-waster thought there were fewer reporters than last year... and there weren't that many then either.

To get a press credential this year was even more rigorous than last year from what people told me. As I wrote earlier, when we made the BEA press committee aware of these many yearly postings as well as the various articles that appear from our coverage in media around the world, we had no trouble.

By their actions I think BEA is discouraging the media by making the press register and then show actual reporting on the show itself, as well as also taking three weeks to a month to made a decision. Add to that the fact that they didn't open press registration until mid-March... well it is makes it difficult for media to get travel and budget approval, to say nothing about having to make late (and expensive) reservations for lodging.

To their credit, BEA, via Roger Bilheimer Associates does a great job keeping media folks updated on all of the various activities, and speakers. The BEA iPhone app was also a big help.

Press and media issues aside, bottom line, Reed knows how to put on a successful trade show. No one does it as well as Reed. They are at the top of their game at BEA.

People always ask if the show was well attended. I think it was. My bet is that 15,000 people went to BEA this year... maybe a few more not counting the members of the public who were admitted to a special section on the last day. And I think there were at least the same number of booths as last year, although some publishers took smaller ones than in the past.

Since I make it a point to cover the small and mid-size press who seek exposure, I'm not sure what the business model is for the large publishers who spend upwards to $150,000 for their (large) space, as well as food and lodging for their staff. But I guess it must pencil out since they come back year after year.

(I always find it ironic that the largest and most important player in the industry does not take a booth... Amazon. And this year Google decided to skip the show.)

Next year we are back in New York and after that we're off to Chicago.

I hope you enjoyed this year's wrap. It's a lot of work for me and my colleague (Mayapriya Long) to do but it is a labor of 'love' and we will continue it... so long as BEA continues to give us a press credential.

If you want to see some of the past editions, here they are:

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You MAY (and are encouraged to) share the link to this piece or reprint any part of it without prior permission so long as you use the following attribution:

Alan N. Canton, Managing Partner
New Media Website Design
"Websites for authors, publishers, and small businesses at an affordable price"
Fair Oaks, CA   916-962-9296

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Per usual, if you have comments or corrections, please send them to bea-diary at adams-blake dot com