From Publishers Weekly:
Adding a public component to BookExpo America has been one of the most hotly debated topics regarding possible changes to the annual event. BEA officials have discussed it internally and with their customers, and the concept has now received a major boost from Penguin, whose CEO, David Shanks, and president, Susan Petersen Kennedy, have outlined what they see as a viable way to bring book lovers into the event without having them at the Javits Center. The executives made the proposal in response to queries from PW to publishers and booksellers about how BEA can be improved.
I’ve argued in the past that book lovers should just be allowed into Javits, but whatever, at least this is a push in the right direction . . . maybe. Nothing too specific in the article, but here’s the core of the idea:
As envisioned by Shanks and Kennedy, the new component could be modeled after the annual PEN World Voices Festival and New Yorker Book Festival, which hold a series of author events and panels at different locations all over the city. Ideally, the cost of the tickets would cover the overhead for the venues, and events would be scheduled in the evening and not conflict with BEA programming and exhibits. All BEA badge holders could attend these events for free.
Creating off-site public events, Shanks and Kennedy said, “would further expand the opportunities and exposure for the BEA, authors and their books.” The addition of these events, the two said, “would ultimately help generate advance buzz for the overall convention as well as for the authors and their books—not only in the media and among booksellers but among consumers, who would get a sneak peek at a few select major fall authors.” At the off-site events, publishers could do consumer giveaways, as they do at other book fairs across the country.
OK, so that sounds decent. Although coming exactly one month after the PEN World Voices Festival, it might be a tough sell. My real concern though is that this will be totally corporate and, similar to the extremely popular Winter Institute, a pay-to-play situation in which only the biggest of the biggest can actually participate.
That would be extremely disappointing. Hell, we already can see Malcolm Gladwell nine thousand times a year, and trying to rope the general public into paying to see the “Big Names” is an idea that operates under the deteriorating blockbuster model, trying to prop up some new hits instead of offering readers an opportunity to explore all the diverse voices being published today. For that, they’d have to visit the Javitz Center . . . Oh, wait.
It really is a positive development that people are thinking in this way, and I applaud Penguin for making this proposal. I guess it’s the cynic in me that envisions this as a potentially good compromise that turns into something that I would never want to attend if I wasn’t part of the industry. But for now, I’ll hope for the best . . . The best being that some smaller publishers can also have their authors participate in this without having to fork over thousands . . . Maybe Lance can chime in in the comments and reassure me . . .
Today’s Publishing Perspectives (which everyone in the universe should subscribe to), has a great piece by Lance Fensterman, the man behind BookExpo America, the New York Comic Con, the New York Anime Fest, and the soon-to-be-launched Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo. The interaction (or lack thereof) between publishers and readers is a long-running hobbyhorse of mine, so this bit is of particular interest to me:
But for all this nuance, what is the real distinction between all these shows? Since I work so closely with both the business to business model and the con (or consumer/public) model, my observation is that the cons (I use this term generically to define SDCC, NYCC, C2E2) drive media coverage, are epicenters of energy, and allow an incredibly porous connection between creator and consumer. Trade events (exclusively business to business environments) lack this porous connection between creator and consumer. The con model is based on an outside-in style of connection and promotion; the creators are there to hear from the consumers, to influence the consumers, and to interact with the consumers. The model at trade events such as BEA is much more inside-out. Publishers are there to influence emissaries or tastemakers who are then expected to take the message to the book buying public based on what they saw and who they met.
The notable increase of bloggers at BEA and the quality and quantity of information that is conveyed through the Internet is certainly changing the paradigm at BEA as the “public” is becoming increasingly involved through a Web based universe. But this introduction of a public component is a long way from what we see at SDCC or NYCC. I am not suggesting that there is a perfect model for any single event. Different shows serve different purposes. But just as NYCC needs to think about building a better business to business environment to set it apart, so too does BEA need to think about creating more direct communication with the public. We live in a world where everyone feels empowered to have a “say” and to wield some influence. Since this is the case, I think it is appropriate for both NYCC and BEA to ask the question: just who is an industry insider anymore?
That was the name of the panel that I moderated at this year’s London Book Fair, and which featured Abby Blachly of LibraryThing, Lance Fensterman of Reed Exhibitions (in particular, BookExpo America and New York Comic Con), Bob Stein of the Institute for the Future of the Book, and Mark Thwaite of ReadySteadyBook.com, the Book Depository, and the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize.
By design, this panel was more about new methods and ideas about marketing, and about the evolving relationship between publishers and their readers, rather than about how to market a particular book. That said, a lot of the discussion—and the particular ideas presented—centered around more “niche” books and how to find a particular audience for these sorts of books via the internet, LibraryThing, etc.
Rather than recap the whole event (not that my memory of what happened last Monday is all that clear anyway), here are a few of the bigger points that came out of this:
Overall, this was one of the best London Book Fair panels I’ve ever been on. Great presentations and wonderful questions from the audience. And hopefully we came up with some interesting ideas that are of some benefit to publishers large and small.
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