BEA 2000

[For newcomers: This is a weekly article designed to satirize, educate, and
editorialize on issues pertinent to the Pub-Forum list, the publishing
industry, and book selling.]

A Saturday Rant 6/10/00

A BEA DIARY

Tuesday

“The place is a dump” is what I thought as I walked into my room at the
Downtown Marriott in Chicago, where I would have to spend the next six
nights. A year before at BEA, the Wilshire welcomed me with an upgrade to a
suite and their “concierge floor,” but no such occurrence with this place.

The baggage porter, who was about 280 of pure muscle took my bags to the
room and could not get the door open. Some kind of problem with the latch
lock. It was high-tech at it’s worst… the plastic cards that would not
open the door with either a song, a prayer or a 280 pound guy banging on it.
Here I am, one of the influential voices in book publishing and I was going
to spend a week in room that I could not get into and where the air
conditioner did not work… to say nothing about how small the cell was …
for $185 a night when you computed in all the taxes. It was going to be the
hotel week in hell. I thought the Marriott was better than this. I should
have known better. Two years ago in Chicago, I stayed at the Hyatt and
should have done so again… but I figured that PMA would go “top drawer”
like they did last year in LA. This Marriott was close to bottom drawer…
poor food, poor service, dingy rooms, bad engineering, and bad air
conditioning. And it is the only hotel I’ve been in the past ten years that
does not provide those cheap but effective plastic shower caps. You don’t
want to come here if you can avoid it.

At this hotel, staying for any length of time is a bad use of resources….
especially if said resources are limited… and you can quote me on that.
And I’m so pissed off that I’m going to send this note to the CEO’s of the
Intercontinental, the Drake, the Hilton, the Hyatt, the Sheraton, and even
Motel Six and they can quote me as well!

I had arrived early and as soon as I realized that I this would be “hotel
hell,” (hell-tel) it was nice to get a call from Mayapriya Long and get out
a bit. We met in the lobby and decided to take a walk up and down Michigan
Ave. Since I believe that Chicago is mostly a “culinary hell” I told her I’d
take her to a late lunch at the California Pizza Kitchen, not far from the
hotel. How wrong can you go with a chain restaurant? It was good to see her
again. She was even better looking than when I saw her last year. Some
people just don’t age. I felt fortunate that we would share the PMA-U booth
together again… I knew that this talented woman would draw “traffic.”

At 6 PM PMA was holding a pre-PUB-U reception and I dropped in. It was good
to see lots of old PMA faces again, Jan and Terry Nathan, Gene Schwartz, Dan
Poynter, Nick Wier-Williams among others.

After the reception, around 7PM, Mayapriya and I went down to the lobby and
met up with David Cole, one of the more prominent book publicists in the
biz. However, he quickly informed us that he was doing less and less
publicity and was the new author of a new book on independent publishing
(but I can’t remember the name). I always enjoy time with David as he is
never without an opinion on whatever is going on in the business. So
Mayapriya and I were glad that he agreed to join us for dinner. We went
across the street to Banderas for a huge but mediocre dinner and wonderful
conversation on the many changes taking place in publishing. David sees all
and knows all (almost as much as me :-)) and we had a wonderful dinner
talking about the book biz, and where it was going. As a new author, he is
far more optimistic than I am. David believes that the so-called e-book
revolution is going to create a golden opportunity for independent
publishers. Maybe he is right. I just don’t know. However, I do know that if
you are ever looking for entertaining dinner conversation, you want to
include David Cole in your company.

Upon return to hell-hotel, we ran into Peter Goodman (Stone Bridge Press)
and his older brother, Bob Goodman (Silvercat), along with Sharon Goldinger
(PeopleSpeak) with her friend/partner Mary Ellen. It was nice to just sit in
the lobby bar and chat with all of these super-knowledgeable book people. Of
course, most of you know Peter and Bob as industry pundits. But Sharon also
has a sharp perspective on where this industry is going. We all talked about
the fact that this BEA was probably going to be a turning point in the
industry… there is just so much going on. While Peter would be building
the Stone Bridge booth the next day, Mayapriya, Sharon, and I would be
exhibiting at PMA PUB-University the following two days, and we were all
wondering what kind of turnout we would get for the money we spent for our
booths. We would soon find out.

Wednesday

By the time I got down to the ballroom, Mayapriya was already there setting
up her side of the booth. She has become one of the USA’s leading book
designers, doing work for not only the big New York publishers and many
“influential” University presses, but for both the small independent
presses as well. Even though I’m a celeb in publishing circles because of my
weekly column, I felt like a “groupie” knowing that she would attract a lot
of traffic to our table from the PMA-U attendees. I had some 600 demo CDs of
PUB123 and Media123 and I stacked them on the table to give to those who
came to talk to Mayapriya.

And they came. PUB-U had a huge turnout. And well it should. No matter what
I find fault with in PMA, there is no doubt that Jan Nathan and company are
the masters at putting on educational seminars. No one does it better and
this year there were some 500 students. And as the day wore on I got to see
not only many of our company’s customers like Linda Senn and Adel Bakin, but
those that helped to develop PUB132…. such as Pat Johnston and Virginia
Van Vynct (V3). And there were many newcomers to publishing who came up to
talk to both Mayapriya and me about our services. Like all trade shows, it
was tiring talking to all who came up, but at the same time it was rather
fun. And I got to see our other vendor friends such as Barry Kerrigan, Marty
Gilliland (Great Plaines Book Manuf.,) Dan Poynter, Tami DiPalma, Dave
Prentice (Vaughan Printing,) Kate Bandos, Ivan Hoffman, and others. In
addition, Lorilyan Bailey of Guestfinders was there. Some of you may
remember the terrible problems Lorilyin had with me in past years. It was
probably a good thing that we both kept a wide space between us. The woman
is a whacko, IMHO. However, I did meet with Mary Westheimer from Bookzone.
Again, this is someone with whom I’ve had major difficulties with over the
past few years…mainly because she has a sweetheart deal with PMA to host
their web site due to her seat on the BoD. We were trapped on an elevator
and had a brief but cold chat. We are never going to be friends as we both
know that she is where she is today because of her board seat and not
because PMA ever put their web contract up to bids. It’s like a lot of
things in the book biz, it’s not who you know , but who you blow (so to
speak.)

As soon as the PUB-U closed down for the day, I was off to the Pub-Forum
dinner being held at a small Chinese restaurant not far from the hotel. It
was fun to see about 30 people from the Pub-Forum list. I sat next to Pat
Johnston of Perspectives Press. Pat is one of the publishers who helped our
company develop PUB123 into what it is today and it was wonderful to have a
chance to talk with her. Pat Bell was also at our table, and as you all
know, there are few people who know this biz better than Pat “La” Bell. It
was good to see her. Pat never ages. She has boundless energy for an old
broad and always makes you feel privileged to have met her. I love Pat Bell.
The most energetic publisher at our dinner was Rainy, a dark-haired beauty
who is on this list. She has a children’s book called “Jazz… The Rainbow
Dog” or something like that. All I know is that she has done everything
right and will sell a zillion copies of this thing… if she doesn’t screw
it up. She’s young, energetic, and dedicated to just making it happen. Watch
for her. She’ll be teaching all of us a thing or two about publishing in a
year or two.

Sharon Goldinger of PeopleSpeak put the whole thing together. While I had
corresponded with her the past year and had talked with her earlier during
the day, it was during this dinner that I got to know her. You have to meet
Sharon. She is irreverent, hard-core, opinionated, and smart…. the exact
same qualities that I have :-). We have a lot in common and I really enjoyed
meeting and talking with her. I hope all of you one day get a chance to sit
down with Sharon. She has boundless energy and almost endless knowledge
about this business. And she tells it as it is, like it or not. Maybe I can
get her to write a few of these Rants!

It was a lovely evening and as Dan Poynter and I walked back in a light
rain, we talked about how strong the independent sector of the biz is with
the likes of those we had dinner with. The people in this dinner group had a
motto that everyone should have: “Refuse to lose.”

Thursday

I was up at the crack of dawn. The “non” air-conditioner in hell-tel made
the room hot and stuffy so I got up and went down to the lobby for coffee.
It was the second day of PUB-U. If I spoke to some 200 people yesterday, I
spoke to the remaining 300 today. It was both energizing as well as tiring.
Many were already PUB123 customers wanting to learn about the Media123
product. Others just wanted to say “hello” having read one of my books or
perhaps my Saturday Rant that I’ve been doing the past five years. And of
course, there were a few who wanted to give me their opinion in no uncertain
terms about some of the things that I’ve written in past Rants. But that’s
OK. Every writer worth any amount of salt gets criticism. It ‘s part of the
game.

During lunch, PMA scheduled the publisher of IDG’s Dummy books to address
the attendees. I was told that the speech would be good, but I decided to
skip this and instead meet with Alister Taylor of Torchlight Books. Alister
has a Ben Franklin nomination in the Mahabharata and we talked about the
near-term future of publishing. I was hoping that he might win a Ben
Franklin. His “Mahabharata” is a beautiful book so deserving of an award.
Alister is one of the very smart men of publishing and I learned a lot from
him. I hoped it would not be the last time I had a chance to talk with him.

As the PUB-U wound down, I said good-bye to many of my PUB/Media123
customers who were leaving that evening. It was good to see them and I hope
that they all go on to great success in this biz. Mayapriya and I packed up
all our stuff and agreed to meet later on for the Ben Franklin Award dinner.

I went upstairs to my hell-tel room, to take a short nap, a quick shower
and to dress for dinner. Coming down to the ballroom I found that it had
been expanded and set for some 700 people. I saw Dan Poynter having
cocktails with Curt Mathews, a previous (do-nothing) PMA President. However,
seeing as I can’t stand Curt, I decided to find another venue. I landed at a
table with Peter and Bob Goodman. To my good fortune, the vivacious Sharon
Goldinger, her partner Mary Ann (a haunting dark-haired beauty who’s last
name I never learned) also joined us. And in due time, Mayapriya sat with us
along with both Alister Taylor and his assistant Susan. There was no doubt
that this was the “in” table. But there was one troubling moment. Some of
you will remember the name of Johnny Hamilton. He is a small publisher who
is on the board of PMA and with whom I have had many, many, many
professional disagreements over the years. Johnny came to the table and sat
down. I had no problem with this. But as soon as he saw that I was at the
table, he got up and walked away. Talk about rude. I wasn’t all that upset
as I know that he lives in the backwoods of Georgia, or Alabama or some
other third-world place and is not wise to the ways of civilized society.
But the rest of the table seemed pretty offended. It was a really
uncomfortable moment and it was not called for as we could have ignored each
other as we have for years. I guess you can take the boy out of the country
but not the….

Peter, Bob, Sharon and I were stunned when Harper-Collins won so many
awards. Of course we all know that they are a small press, right? I figured
that maybe it was just Harper and not Collins that entered their books! And
to add insult to injury, not only did they enter just about every category
(at $40 a pop) but they didn’t even bother to send a representative to pick
up the four or five awards that they won.

While most of the winners were not surprising, I think one publisher got a
bad deal. Sourcebooks was nominated for a number of awards for their “Crowd
Goes Wild” and “Interrupt Broadcast” books and they should have won. But the
Ben Franklin awards are somewhat like the Oscars in that “sentiment” plays a
part. The judges (there are about 50 or so) are fairly well-known people in
the biz and I believe they know “who is whom” in the industry… at least
when it comes to the larger independents like Sourcebooks. And it is no
secret that the publisher of Sourcebooks is a woman with, well how shall I
put it… an “attitude.” (No, I didn’t say “book bitch”). This publisher is
not on anyone’s “most loved” list, of that you can be sure, and I think that
a lot of judges took this into consideration when voting. That is the only
way that I can explain why they lost five out of six categories… winning
only one inconsequential award for best RE-design (talk about a bogus-Ben
award!! It’s awarded to the publisher who didn’t get it “right” the first
time!!!)

We were all pulling for Alister Taylor’s “Mahabharata” tome to win, but it
didn’t. However, Sharon had two of her clients win and I had one of mine.
When Len Lamendorf (“The Crouching Dragon,” SeaScape Press) got up to accept
the prize for best young adult book, I was crestfallen that he didn’t say
“and I want to thank Al Canton’s PUB123 for helping me run my company :=)”
Oh well, maybe next year with someone else. Of course, given my reputation
in the biz, a PUB123 user might want to hide that fact from the judges, lest
they suffer the same fate as Sourcebooks 🙂

The (free) dinner that PMA provided was terrific and there were no
complaints from the nearly 700 people who attended. Most of the speeches
were very short and some publishers were very emotional. The only downer on
the evening was the out-going PMA president’s speech about how much he has
done for the organization in the past two years. The truth of the matter is
that he hasn’t done a whole hell of a lot, has followed in the do-nothing
footsteps of his predecessor, Curt Matthews, and PMA is no stronger or
better recognized in the industry after his administration then it was
before. It will be interesting to see who the new prez will be. My bet is
Robin Bartlet, but Kent Sturges has an outside shot as well. “Meet the new
boss, same as the old boss!”

Friday – BEA Day 1

I got up early, bundled up some 200 PUB123/Media123 demo CDs that I would
hand out, and got a cab to the McCormick exhibit hall. Because of the fame
(or infamy) of my Saturday Rant I had a press pass for the show, so I went
up to the press room where I knew there would be some coffee and pastries.
Breakfast of champions… and journalists. There were three terminals up
there and I was able to get some of my e-mail, as well as record some
thoughts I knew I’d need for this missive.

I spent the entire day in the small press section, which was way at the end
of the hall. I guess there were some 100 or so small publishers there,
sitting behind their tables waiting for the hordes of buyers to flock to
them. Of course many of them knew me and it was nice to put faces and voices
to names. But there were many publishers I had never heard of and I spent
quite a bit of time talking with them. I was not surprised to learn how many
of them didn’t know what they didn’t know! I ran into many of them who had
zero idea of what they were doing or how to work a show. I tried to give
some pointers and I think I opened a few eyes when I showed them how to
reach out and “grab” a passer-by initiating a conversation.

On the whole, I was very disappointed in the small press section. It was
just more and more of the same old, same old. Diet books, career books,
children’s books, personal inspiration, and so on. And many of the covers
were amateurish. I knew a lot of these people were going to lose their shirt
or blouse on their project.

But there were a few publishers that stood out. The first was Leigh
Dickenson’s Down There Press. She concentrates on women’s erotica (hence the
“Down There” name) and while Leigh has a lot of experience in this game and
could branch out, she knows her market and how to find it. She also spends
the money to have terrific covers.

There was a wonderful kid book by a Dallas police officer called “I Want To
Be A Police Officer.” This will become a must-have for every school and
public library.

One of the surprises to me was the large number of publishers from different
minority groups. In the past, small press has been snow-white. But not this
year. There were a number of Afro and Hispanic publishers who had books
relating to role models for ethnically mixed kids. Very good idea… also
library must-haves.

And the very best small press book was a picture book of celebrity
look-alikes and the publisher had four of her models there… Madonna, Tina
Turner, Cher, and the Pope. The pope was a dead-ringer and everyone wanted
to pose for a picture with him holding their book… which he did while he
was holding his. These folks are going to sell a lot of copies of this book
to corporate publicists who are always looking for a way to make a “splash.”
It was a great idea and was flawlessly executed.

I sent many of the small press folks over to the huge PMA booth and told
them to join PMA. No matter how much I rail against PMA, it is still the
best game in town for the new publisher to learn stuff. I hope a number of
them went over there. I think BEA does a disservice to small press by
putting them way out in left field. True, the booths cost about $700 instead
of $3,000 for the more centrally located ones, but there is just not as much
traffic that finds these booths. And BEA did a poor job of setting them up,
leaving an empty row between small press and the rest of the hall, so it
would look to a casual observer walking across the front of all the rows
that they had reached the end, when behind the curtains were two or three
more rows of booths. I wish that BEA could find a way to integrate the small
press into the rest of the larger booths and maybe put a few of the larger
publishers at the ends to help draw traffic.

Of course, the best location for a small press is with the PMA section. PMA
buys a ton of space and re-sells it to members who want to have a better
location than they would in the small press section. And the PMA combined
exhibit is very professionally done, is right in the middle of the hall, and
easy to find because they have the blue/white PMA flags hung from the
rafters. You can tell anyone to “look up for the PMA flags and that is where
we are.”

Upon returning to the hotel, I met Pat Bell, Tim McCormick, Mayapriya Long,
David Cole, Craig Marcott and a few others for drinks. They were well ahead
of us, especially Pat Bell, and Sharon Goldinger (a.k.a. “the party
animal.”) David wanted to go for Greek food, but he was voted down. Pat and
her contingent of hard-core boozers decided to have dinner at the hotel,
while the rest of us went to Jilley’s Italian Steak Joynt (sic.) I think we
walked to Milwaukee to find this place! The food was merely OK, and way
overpriced. I had a steak the size of an elephant and I learned that in
Chicago, which has elevated the hotdog to an art-form, that the food motto
is “if you can’t cook it right, then just cook a lot of it!” I don’t care
what you say, food-wise Chicago is a culinary wasteland. This was a $50
dinner that was worth no more than $11.95.

However the conversation was good. Tim regaled us in how he has sold over
300,000 copies of his How to Behave book, and Craig told us about his
terrific book project called “Three Minutes of Intimacy,” about social
dancing and how it can help with people’s social lives. Craig has one of the
best covers I saw at the show and when this comes off the press, if he
doesn’t screw it up, he will sell a zillion of them. He could start a whole
new dance craze with this book. It is a example of a small press coming up
with a good idea… one the big presses would never hit on in a million
years. Watch for this book. It will be big.

We were having a great evening, but it was Sharon who stole the show. Our
waiter was a young, very good-looking Italian guy named Claudio. Sharon, who
had a three-Margarita dinner, decided to set her sights on this young man.
We were all giving Sharon tips on how to “get him”. At one point, Tim
engaged Claudio in conversation (he was a good sport about all of this….
probably used to lots of attention from older women). After Claudio left,
Sharon asked Tim what he had said to Claudio. Tim said “I’m trying to help
you. I’m trying to soften him up for you.” Without a missing a beat, Sharon
said “That’s not exactly what I want you to do for him!” We all fell on the
floor laughing. It was a fun evening. Claudio gave Sharon his card (I never
knew a waiter to have “a card” but Claudio did.) I don’t know if Sharon and
Claudio got together later on, and when I saw her the next afternoon, I was
too polite to ask. However she seemed a lot calmer that she had been the
previous two days and was even a little starry-eyed. Sharon is young,
single, and pretty. I wish I was just one out of three!!

Saturday – BEA Day 2

Today I worked the middle of the hall, where the mid-size and large
publishers had their displays. I spent most of the day talking to the what I
call the “specialty presses.” These tend to concentrate on one particular
subject genre and one of the best of them is O’Reilly Press where I spent
considerable time trying to learn which technical subjects were “hot.”
(Anything that has to do with web development, XML, and ASP… for you
tech-heads out there.)

I tried to find out more about the ABA Booksense project but was not able
to. I went back three times and there was never anyone there to answer
questions. If someone with a press badge (which has large red ribbon so you
can’t miss it) could not get answers, I wonder how lowly publishers or
booksellers would fare. I asked around, and it seems, not too well. While I
hope I’m wrong, I think Booksense is doomed. There is just no value-added
for the buyer. I can’t see why my wife, a huge book buyer with Amazon and
B&N is going to shop at Booksense.

Booksense has a bunch of built-in killers… such as uneven pricing and
terribly slow performance. The buyer has to enter their zip code and will be
taken to the web site of the bookstore nearest to them. But what if this
site does not have the book the buyer is looking for? They will have to go
to another site. Amazon has everything! I just don’t see people switching
from Bezos and company to the ABA’s solution.

What I did find out is that ABA finally got wind of how terrible Baker and
Taylor has been the past few years. Obviously, if you are going to be an
online store, you have to do two things well. One is to ship books quickly
and the other is to pay the suppliers quickly so they will keep your shelves
stocked. Well, B&T can’t get books to library buyers in a reasonable time
when there are NO deadlines. How will they be when they need to get the
product out in 24 hours? And when was the last time you got a timely check
from B&T? So the scuttlebutt is that ABA is looking for a second (perhaps
backup?) supply line. And just which company in Tennessee do you think they
have in mind?

And talking about Ingram, I visited their booth and they were as snotty as
ever. But maybe it was just to me, as I’m sure that several of them
recognized my name after bashing them for the past five years. If there is
one company I’d love to see fail, it is Ingram Books. But I don’t expect
that to happen!

One trend that I noticed is that the larger houses all seem to have new
titles that center around Eastern philosophy, Indian (as in India) religion,
and Asian culture. One large publisher told me that they missed the boat on
Christian books. But they see that market as having peaked and that people
are starting to get interested in alternatives to Judeo-Christian thought.
As the baby-boomers age and are facing death and disease, many of the
traditional concepts of Vedic writings, such as reincarnation, have wide
appeal and that the larger houses are not going to make the same mistake
twice and miss this market the way they did with the Christian genre. I
would not be surprised to see some of the larger houses pick up books
written by Indian guru-theologians and give them a big media push… lecture
circuit, TV etc.

I also talked with several of the software houses that “compete” with my
PUB123. The biggest news that I found was the CIS Pub company went under and
was taken over by company called S3. Their system costs $100,000 compared to
ours which cost $200. In previous years they were rather stand-offish to me,
but the guy in the booth at the new firm was quite nice and wants to find
some way that we can send each other business.

I found another competitor called Media Services Group which has a
back-office system that a publisher can subscribe to for around $250 a
month. Most of their system is up on the web… something that we plan to do
with PUB123 this summer… while parts of it run on the desktop via a
plug-in. Again, I talked to them about how we can send each other customers
where our respective software systems was not a good fit.

I looked for both the Cats and Accumen software people but did not find
them. However I heard a lot of gripes from the larger houses about both of
these companies so it makes me think that there is something going on that I
don’t know about. And I was also surprised that I did not run into either
the PiiGs (now Publisher’s Assistant) or the Meryln boys. These are software
products that I compete with, even though PA might be considered to be
targeted to a larger customer. I sold a 5-user system (@ $200 per seat) to
Future Horizons who in past years would have been an easy sale for PA since
there was no low-price alternative.

Toward the end of the day I talked with the e-book folks. There are zillion
players here and I have no idea who is going to survive. The model I like
the best is Roxybooks.com. I think these folks have the right idea and are
using a good security model. You might want to check them out. I don’t see
anyone in the e-book world doing all that well until there is a low-cost,
rugged, well-lighted reading tablet. I saw the new Microsoft reader software
and I was very impressed with it. The type was really clear and easy to
read. But people don’t want to read books on laptops or Palm Pilots and
until the Sony ReadMan comes out, I don’t see e-books doing much.

I talked with a number of mid-sized and larger publishers (having a press
badge made this easier this year) and found that they have the same concerns
that small press has in putting their intellectual property on the net where
it can be copied, cracked, and distributed via web sites in countries where
there is zero enforcement of intellectual property laws. One publisher
showed me a technical title that nets her a quarter million dollars a year.
She is terrified of putting it on the net, having it stolen, and waving
good-bye to her little cash-cow. There is more than technology to this
e-book biz. There is going to have to be some political solutions as well
before this is ever going to take off. If the big guys with New York lawyers
are scared, perhaps we smaller entities should think a bit before dashing
out and popping our stuff on the web.

As I walked around the center of the huge hall, I took note of the number of
blue-badges (booksellers) that I saw. There were damn few. I figured that
maybe they were all placing orders with the large houses, but when I went to
the major displays, all of the little tables where orders are written, were
empty. I’m not sure I see much a future for BEA unless they can focus on
something else that will add value to the publishers who spend big bucks to
be there.

As you can imagine, I was drop-dead tired when the doors closed at 6 PM.
While I had been invited to several parties I decided that a quiet, less
frenzied evening was what I desired. As luck would have it, I ran into
Alister Taylor who invited me to join the Torchlight Publishing folks for a
light dinner. We went to a small vegetarian place in the Boystown section of
Chicago and had an evening of animated discussion about Eastern philosophy,
the book business, vegetarian cooking, and who was boinking whom at BEA. (We
are all being boinked by Ingram!)

Sunday – BEA Day 3

This was the last day and I still had a lot of ground to cover. I started
out with the far left side of the hall, where all the sideline stuff was
exhibited. I love this section as I am always amazed at all the book-related
items that are available for stores to sell…. stuffed animals, puzzles,
bookmarks, reading glasses, etc. This year I had our SOHO-123 program to
talk about. I learned last year that these small businesses have just as big
a need for an easy-to-use order-entry/back office system as do publishers.
So it was fun to talk to them about it, as well as to see what was new in
that sector of the biz. One of the hottest items I found was a
spring-loaded bookmark contraption that holds the page but lets you turn it
as well so that you never have to move the marker.

The bottom line is that the sidelines people are hurting from the decline in
the number of retail bookstores. Unlike us, they can’t as easily market and
sell their items over the web and most of these “things” are impulse items
or are tie-ins. However they still have the gift store market (where there
are no returns) so I’m not crying rivers of tears for this sector.

Moving on to the children’s section I found one book that was drop-dead
terrific. This was a short four-color book of photos called “Stranger in the
Woods.” The author built a large snowman in the forest, dressed it up, and
in the hat and sleeves he put some seeds and other goodies for the forest
creatures. He then hid somewhere with a camera with a zoom lens and took
pictures of the deer, birds, and varmints that came up to eat the seeds and
stuff. Around this, they wove a simple story. It was a terrific looking
book, a great idea, and I know that they sell a zillion of them. They also
won a Ben Franklin award for best children’s picture book… and they
deserved it.

I talked briefly to the reminders folks. Business is good for them.
Second-hand and discount books shops are sprouting up all over the country.
The margins are great. You can buy remaindered books for two or three bucks
and sell them for 2 or 3 times the price. No one is getting rich, but
someone must be doing well as I see more and more of these stores wherever I
go. I personally find old, beat-up books with faded covers rather
depressing, but lots of people see them as treasures. Anyway, I’m glad to
see that someone in publishing is making a few dollars.

The books on tape people are also making money, as they say this is the
fastest growing segment of the publishing industry. Maybe it is time for me
to re-read Judy Byers’ “Words on Tape” book.

It was the end of the day and I wanted to get back to the small press area
to see what they thought of the show and how it worked for them. I was not
surprised by their reaction. It was split right down the middle. Half of the
people I spoke with were dejected beyond words. They had no orders, made no
contacts, and felt that they were ripped off by the BEA salespeople who said
that they would get lots of orders and see lots of reps. The other half of
the people said the show was terrific, that they made contacts, learned lots
of stuff, got some media attention, etc. However, they also admitted that
they sold zero books.

I tried to get a handle on why the show was good for some and bad for
others. And I think it just came down to the simple fact that those who had
titles that were “different” and which were unique, had a good experience.
Those who had another diet book, or personal inspirational story, or disease
book, or a novel, or poetry, just got killed at this show.

After saying good-bye to Jan and others at the PMA booth (but missing Peter
Goodman somehow) I left the hall thinking that while I didn’t get all I
wanted out of the show, it was a worthwhile trip and that I’d do it again.
Actually it just plain fun.

Observations

Every year the BEA staff claim that some 25,000 people attend the show.
Well, that may be true if you count the exhibitors! But I don’t think it was
anywhere near 25,000 during all three days. My guess is that it was closer
to 3,000 per day, if that. And if there were more than 1000 blue-badge book
buyers, I’d be surprised. There was a fair amount of media there, that’s for
sure, but my guess is that most of the folks walking the floor were authors
or publishers who’s books were being shown by their distributors. Just
about every badge I saw had “exhibitor” on it.

The concept of a trade show is to get orders. And I just did not see that
many orders being taken. Perhaps much of the business was done off the
floor, but I tend to doubt that. Thus, I see the BEA show as becoming either
just a rights fair or a big-house party. While the seminars are good, I
can’t see that many publishers paying tens of thousands of dollars in space
and travel expense to attend BEA in future years. I don’t know what the
answer is, but BEA is going to have to find some way to make this show more
profitable to the exhibitors if they want it to survive. Perhaps they could
open it to the public on the last day and fill the aisles with people who
are interested in the coming releases. Or perhaps it could be turned into a
public book fair.

I think BEA will still be around for several years, but I’m not sure it will
grow. Indeed, this show “looked” smaller than last year’s LA show. I think
the BEA people have to sit down and come up with a new game plan, something
that revolves around the e-book “revolution” and the POD concept. I hear
that they are going to have a new show called E-PUB in New York so if that
is a success, they might combine both into one show.

After every BEA I leave more convinced than ever that the world is awash in
books. The supply is increasing while the demand is staying constant. In a
world where literacy as well as book-reading is decreasing, I have some
grave doubts as to the long-term prospects of publishing. And I’m not alone.
However, unlike me, everyone I spoke with believes that e-books will be our
salvation. They don’t say why, they just say it will. I don’t know. Perhaps
as traditional ink on paper books morph into multi-media “systems” used on
Star-Trek-like reading tablets, maybe more and more people will put down the
mouse or the TV remote and pick up a book to spend the evening with. At this
point we can only hope.

Well, this has gone on and on and on. I hope it has given those of you who
were not there a taste of what these five exhausting days were like and that
maybe I will see some of you in Chicago next year.

Alan N. Canton, Vice President
Adams-Blake Publishing

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