June 11th, 2012
My wife and I attended the Book Expo of America (BEA) in New York last week, and aside from being first-time attendees, we came away with several perspectives from the event, and a few more regarding the grand old city itself.
The last time I visited New York was in 1996 as director of media relations for the Cincinnati Reds. Despite the fact the club’s hotel was very near Grand Central Station, I had little time to explore the city while being there in a working capacity. Nevertheless, I could not get over how much the city had changed since that time. I will get into that in my next post. First, the BEA.
Not having a real good clue as to the goings on of the BEA prior to showing up that first day, I can say without a doubt, the convention was not what I anticipated. Though I registered as an author – which I am, which now I’m not so certain was the best of ideas – I quickly figured out, within the first 15 minutes of walking about, this was not a real author-friendly environment, unless of course you were somebody, and there to promote and autograph books for one of the big publishers.
I found it very interesting while perusing through the Javits Center and past all the big publishers, how many of the big time publishing reps almost refused to engage in conversation after that first initial scan of the big plastic I.D. badge hanging from the lanyard around my neck. I know the badge was color coded for “author,” and actually had in big, black, block letters the title “author” under my name. I even doubled checked it at one point to make sure it was not color-coded for “leper.”
As I mentioned, I quickly figured out what the program was all about, and the simple fact was, this was not an event for asking questions, soliciting, or probing. Unless you were there to place an order for books, or were James Patterson, Mary Higgins Clark, or Ted Dekker, it was a convention where keeping your eyes open and your mouth shut paid much bigger dividends.
And I get it. I can only imagine how many times those publishing reps are confronted with an unknown author who has just written a book that will do much better in the marketplace than Grisham’s best effort. I don’t blame them. The fact is I found it absolutely fascinating watching the interaction between buyers and sellers, and listening in on as many conversations as I could absorb. It was a tremendous learning experience.
I think the BEA also did a great job in providing really interesting educational seminars – albeit almost all geared toward publishers, publicists and the like. But my wife and I attended several anyway and came away much more savvy about the industry, and with a bucket-full of ideas I can apply as I continue forward in my writing career.
Two things happened at this convention that made our trip well worth the effort. First, we learned a great deal about how influential and instrumental libraries and independent book stores can be in catapulting new authors into the marketplace. We learned many great strategies, and ways we can take advantage of those in our own community. We also spent nearly two hours meeting with a New York publicist (arranged prior to our visit), who has been in the business for several years. All I will say about that meeting is that my wife and I walked away much smarter than when we first sat down.
The trip to the BEA was well worth it and something I think every author should attend at least once; even for us unknowns who dream of one day wearing a name badge that doesn’t send publishing reps running in the opposite direction.
Posted by Michael Ringering
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