Thursday, June 21, 2018

BEA Diary 2018

By Alan Canton...  with editorial assistance from Mayapriya Long and Alice Walker
[Note: Click on any pix to see it enlarged.]

Is silence golden? If so, then this year's BEA could pay off the national debt!

My guess is that this year the amount of floor space sold was about 30% LESS than last year... and last year was less than the year before. A bunch of large publishers decided to pull out and the venerable IBPA decided not to buy space this year... a decision I disagreed with and terminated my membership with them.

I'm a big supporter of BEA. I think the industry NEEDS a large and vibrant trade show, especially with the reported resurgence of small bookstores I keep hearing about. It is also important to vendors.

I read that attendance was up by 2% over last year, with some 7,000+ people in the room. In some part of the hall it was crowded, but to be honest, it did not feel like there was a 'crush' of people on either day. 

We came with a new service...

While the aisles were not as empty as the opening picture throughout the hall, there was no doubt that attendance way down compared to the BookExpo shows of years ago when upward to 20,000+ people would jam the place.

Anyway, there were not that many exhibits of great interest to me this year as in the past years, so this missive will be (probably thankfully) shorter than previous versions of this electronic fish-wrap. 

One of the strangest books I saw was Alphabodies. By using the female figure to create universal graphics of the English alphabet directed under the female gaze, the project allows the viewer to celebrate the human body in a space free from the stereotypical taboos often imposed by society. 

Alphabodies: very interesting but not sure it will sel
I always admire the single author with a single book who comes to BEA in the hope that lightening will strike and that his book will be discovered. A Hero Dreams won a Ben Franklin award and that means something. 

Author Mark Ristau and his novel
A pioneer in organizing freelancers into a network for mutual support and advancement, the Editorial Freelancers Association is now recognized throughout the publishing industry as the source for professional editorial assistance. It sounds like a worthwhile group to me.

Cindi Powell of EFA
Another organization that I was not very familiar with is PEN America. They write: "PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world.  Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible."

Elly Brinkely of Pen America
Me, My Dog and a Sheep is a new illustrated children’s book that tells the story of a tenderhearted boy and a good-natured dog who must overcome unique challenges together when the dog is suddenly struck with an illness that could leave him paralyzed. I'm not sure where the sheep fits in! I love it when authors tie merchandise to their book. Every author should do so. (We build great ecom sites...

I believe this is the publicist for the book
Unlike previous years there was not a lot of high-tech stuff at the show. But I found one item that is terrific. It is an app that has music and sound that syncs with your voice while you read a book to kids. I can't explain it well... just see the video on the Novel Effect website. 

Carmela Orsini (left) and Melody  Fuize of Novel Effect. This is very cool tech!
There are always giveaway items at BEA and this year's most favored was a rubber duck given by the American Academy of Pediatrics. They publish a bunch of books on children's health issues. Everyone wanted a blue rubber duck!

Sara Hoerdeman with the best promotional item of BEA 2018
I have no idea who Blackstone Publishing is... never heard of them before and no one wanted to bother talking to me.. but they had one of the largest booths of the show (which was not saying much since most were downsized from years ago.) 

No one wanted to talk to me
Everyone loves Workman Publishing and each year they build a most imaginative large booth. If I were ever to go to work for a publisher it would be Workman. They are terrific.

Great list from a great publisher
Each BEA has tech stuff of dubious merit. I think this was about the dumbest idea I've seen in a while... but I bet it will sell. Their pitch: "The Freewrite by Astrohaus is a distraction-free writing instrument designed to help the modern writer get in a flow state and stay there." $500 for a... typewriter? C'mon man!

It will sell... lots of dumb ideas do!
There are always celebrities at BEA hawking their new book. One was former Secretary of State John Kerry. In Every Day is Extra John Kerry tells the story of his remarkable American life—from son of a diplomat to decorated Vietnam veteran, five-term United States senator, 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, and Secretary of State for four years—a revealing memoir by a witness to some of the most important events of our recent history.

Sorry for the bad pix... no flash was allowed.
A huge line that ran around the building was for Sally Field who was doing an in-booth signing. Her new book, In Piecesis her account of a challenging and lonely childhood, the craft that helped her find her voice, and a powerful emotional legacy that shaped her journey as a daughter and a mother.

Sally Field (Yeah, we really do like her!)
There wasn't much in the way of interesting sidelines this year... and the only one that I saw that had much in the way of sales potential was eco-dough. eco-kids® is a line of art supplies that gives children the tools to create using non-toxic, natural ingredients and environmentally friendly packaging.

They say you can eat it... like the paste we ate in 1st grade
I've seen lots of dogs and cats and birds and even a goldfish as 'authors' at BEA but I can't remember seeing a little kid. According to the publicist, John Humphreys (John John) author of Be Amazing, is a "motivator, educator, actor, model, science kid, magician, pianist, singer, and all around happy Earthling." 

The youngest author I've ever seen at BEA
There are always a ton of kid-books at BEA and this year was no exception. I thought that Piggy and Pug was the best of a whole bunch of really good child-lit tomes. Also Anne Wheaton wins the award for the author who looks most like her poster!

Anne Wheaton, author
Do you remember that I said that not nearly as much booth space had been sold this year as in previous years? Well, in previous years all this space would have been publisher booths teeming with people. 


So what is the colophon here? I don't know. I just don't. Even though there were fewer publishers and even though I didn't see any breakout books, it was still a very good show from the standpoint of a book buyer, librarian, or a major exhibitor. But the booths in the marginal areas of the floor just didn't get the traffic that they got when there were 3X the number of attendees.

I want to be optimistic about the chances for survival, but I just can't seem to accumulate the metrics to base such a prediction on. I could see the BEA trade show canceled and only the open-to-the-public (for a price) BookCon continuing. It will all depend on if the major publishers continue to get value from BEA and, of course, continue to buy floor space.

But I don't know. This was the 21st consecutive BEA that I've attended and it was easy to wax nostalgic about "back in the day." 

When walking through the empty areas I kept hearing the lyrics from an old song from the 1960s...

Those were the days my friend
We thought they'd never end
We'd sing and dance forever and a day
We'd live the life we choose
We'd fight and never lose
For we were young and sure to have our way.


Thanks for reading this... a lot of work went into it and I hope your time was well spent. Below are Diaries of previous shows, should you be interested.

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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
NewMedia Create
"Websites for authors, publishers, and small businesses at an affordable price"
Fair Oaks, CA

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