10 March 09 | Chad W. Post

Over at MediumAtLarge, Lance Fensterman has started a short series of posts entitled “Who Is BEA?” on what BookExpo America is and how it should evolve.

Ultimately I believe the event’s success is measured by the demand and buzz publishers create for their book(s) and how meaningfully they impact the people that impact book sales in our market. Did the publisher put themselves in a position to create more buzz for it’s books by participating in BEA than if they’d stayed home watched 30 Rock and ate potato chips?

If that is indeed the ultimate test of BEA’s value to publishers – “making” books – then how will the show continue to hone it’s offerings and identity to foster that? I offer a few broad themes that BEA needs to continue to evolve to, embrace and execute:

  • Touch the books and meet the authors
  • All the shows a stage
  • Think outside the light box
  • Create new media buzz (but where?)
  • Influence the influencers (From Part I)

In the second post, he looks more specifically at the first three points, which all focus (more or less) on the presence of authors at the fair and the interaction between these authors and booksellers, librarians, members of the media, etc. For example:

Think Outside The Light Box – Stages built by BEA to highlight authors is more a stop along the way than a final destination towards a more engaging and media friendly event. Ultimately, the big booths themselves need to be questioned and reexamined. BEA is working with a few key exhibitors to fundamentally alter the way they approach exhibiting at BEA. I give the example of the Marvel booth at New York Comic Con or San Diego Comic-Con. The booth is a wide open space surrounded by large hanging banners (for promotion and a clear delineation of where the “booth” is), signing stations along the edge for creators to interact with fans, a PA system, some flat screens running promos and the days schedule and a stage where interviews and creator talks take place. The booth is jammed. Always. Marvel understands that they, their sales catalog or the staffers are not what people are there to see. They are there to meet the writers, the artists and to see what is new and hot – how better to do that in real life instead of in a flyer or a catalog. They put there most important assets forward – the creators and there products. We need to work with BEA exhibitors to think out side the light box (the author book jacket blown up and put inside a lighted box hanging from the booth) and put the authors up front whenever relevant.

Overall, it seems like Lance is pushing for BEA to be more “interactive” (for lack of a better term). Less passive (“Hi, would you like a catalog?”) and more active in terms of creating buzz via actual interactions between actual people.

Part III should be available online on Wednesday. And if you’re interested, here’s my take on BEA and its evolution.


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