BEA Diary 2002

OK, so I gained a few pounds over the past year. OK, so my girth has increased a
few inches. OK, so I’m fat.  That’s not new to me. What’s new to me is that
there are about ten million ways people have of telling you that you’re fat.

BEA was fat this year. I’d say it was the most well-attended BEA that I’ve ever
been to. There were people everywhere… in the aisles, in the lines, in the
bars, in the seminars, and in the can. And there were people fatter than me…
but I’m the one everyone seemed to point out as being more rotund this year than
last.

Tuesday

Because coming from the West coast kills a whole day, I got to NYC later than I
would had it been the usual Chicago trip. But tradition is tradition and
Mayapriya Long (www.bookwrights.com – she’s a well-known
designer, writer, and producer out of Charlottesville, VA) and I went to dinner. Every year for
the past hundred or so, I meet Mayapriya for dinner.

Her first words were “Well I can see why McDonalds stock is up this year.”
Thanks a lot.

Did I say meet for dinner? Make that buy her dinner! And since I was buying, I
did the choosing. I took her to the Second Avenue Deli. Now do understand that
Mrs. Long is a strict vegetarian… and the last place you go if you’re a
veggie-head is a NYC Jewish deli. But I hadn’t had a “real” corn beef  sandwich
in about ten years and if it was going to be my dime, it was going to be the
Second Avenue Deli. So while I had a “Dagwood” sandwich, Mayapriya munched on a
spinach knish the size of a softball and we got caught up on things. It’s always
nice to see her… and even nicer this year because she did some magic to get
rid of the gray hair. She looked good… but she’s the official Book Princess so
it would come as no surprise to anyone that she looks far, far younger than her
chronological age.

Because I was exhausted from the flight and because I couldn’t move after eating
a two-foot mound of choice New York corn beef, I went back to the hotel  and
crashed.

Wednesday

It was either the jet lag or the dinner, but I got up much later than I wanted
to. Since I was staying on the “free breakfast” floor, I ran down the hall just
in time to grab some coffee and a bagel. Then it was off to the PMA-University
being held about eight blocks down Lexington at the Hyatt Grand.

The Hyatt really is “grand.” PMA must have some major bucks in its treasury to
afford to put on its traditional two-day seminar in such opulent digs.  The
dues were raised recently so I guess it was no surprise that the event was held
at one of the city’s most expensive addresses instead of the no-tell-hotel,
rooms-by-the-hour place where I was staying!

“You’re looking so…. uh….’healthy’,” is what she said. Upon walking in, the
first person I saw was Jan Nathan, the Book Queen, herself. Jan had new hair,
had lost some weight, and had recently hooked a new  husband. She had taken
years off of her appearance. While I disagree with how she runs PMA, I have
always liked Jan. She freely shares her knowledge, always has a smile and a kind
word, and never takes people’s disagreement with PMA personally.  She is a class
act.

PUB-U is Jan’s pride and joy and she was beaming over it’s success. She said
that enrollment was up this year by a small margin. This is important as it was
feared that no one would be attending because of the crummy book-biz economy.
What was “down” was the number of vendors attending PMA-U. In past years I would
share a booth with the Book Princess, but because we got “murdered” last year,
we decided to opt-out this year. I think that $1000 for a table is far too much,
especially since a lot of the attendees don’t spend much (or any) time at the
exhibits. PMA would be well-advised to lower the costs so as to attract many
more vendors, as they have had in past years.

“Jane [my current and very expensive wife] has been doing the cooking, I see,”
said Becky Pate.  In past years my old pal Marty Gilliland from Central Plains
Book Manufacturing  was always there, but I learned that he had left Central
to work for Walsworth. Becky, the sales manager at Central Plains told me how
sorry she was to lose him. I always enjoy seeing Becky. She has been in the
printing biz for many, many years and got me caught up on the latest technology.
It’s all about digital pre-press. I don’t know what all the fuss is about since
it doesn’t save the publisher any money.

Many of the usual cast of vendors were on hand to meet and greet the attendees
and I spent some time talking with most of them.

It was good to chat with Barry Kerrigan (barry@desktopmiracles.com) of Desktop
Miracles. “You’re getting to look a bit like me,” said Barry in his Texan
accent, now somewhat tempered by his years living in Stowe, Vermont. Barry and
Mayapriya did a PMA seminar together that received rave reviews from the
participants. Barry does good work as a designer and always has a kind word and
a smile when you see him.

Do you remember several years ago there as a TV commercial for Schweppes
featuring a rugged sailor-type named Commander Whitehead? Well, Dan Poynter
(www.parapub.com) was sporting a new beard and looked very much like the famous
Whitehead. “Looks like you gave up the running, last year?” was the initial
reaction of the industry’s main guru.  I didn’t get a chance to chat too long
with “The Man” because due to his celeb status in the small press world, there
was a constant stream of visitors to his table. He also taught just about every
other seminar that was on the program! (And there is no one better qualified!)

She would never say it, but I could tell that when she saw me  she was thinking
“He’s eatin’ good in the ‘hood.” A real treat was seeing Mary Westheimer from
Bookzone (www.bookzone.com). This industry has a lot of first-rate nice people,
but Mary is the “first-est” and the nicest of them all. Mary told me that there
are some “big deals” that are coming out of BZ later this year but I’m sworn to
secrecy so you will just have to wait for them.

Mr. Frank looked at me and said, “You look different this year. New hair style?” I
was very impressed with the offerings of two POD vendors: Bill Frank of One2One
(www.121direct.net), a friend from past BEA conferences, and I discussed a
radical idea that he has been working on, but again, I can’t go into detail.
Bill was his usual trim and fit self. I obviously wasn’t.

Barry Merrell of Alexander’s Digital Printing (www.alexanders.com). has  a good
handle on where the POD business is going. I was surprised that a well-known POD
outfit named  DeHart’s was not there this year, but as I said, a lot of vendors
did not show. My guess is that those who did were having a good year and those
who didn’t, weren’t.

“So now I know where they got the model for the Goodyear blimp,” she said with a
bright smile. It wouldn’t be a PMA (or BEA) without a big kiss from one of the
industry’s official Book Babes, Victoria Sutherland of ForeWord Magazine
(www.forewordmagazine.com).

The magazine and media company has had a rough time of it the past year, mainly
because a deal with a major investor went South. But Victoria assured me that
ad-page revenues were picking up and that things were turning around for this
wonderful publishing resource. They have grown in stature  to the point where
they can attract a paid-subscription (instead of being a free
controlled-circulation magazine).

I urge every publisher who is serious about being in and staying in this
business to subscribe to FW. FW is NOT a magazine targeted TO us, but a magazine
about what WE produce… books. If you want to know what people are (or will be
reading) so that you can make intelligent marketing decisions, you should get FW
each month. If you don’t, you probably won’t be around the trade book scene too
long.  Anyway, Victoria (who is part Italian) has gone back to her natural
brunette look and I mistook her for a young Sophia Loren.  I’m sure she saw me
as another famous Italian…. Lou Costello.

Sharon Goldinger is one of the brightest and “most fun” people in publishing.
And outspoken as well (after all her company name is PeopleSpeak
(www.detailsplease.com/peoplespeak/)). “You look great. Did you open a pizza
restaurant or something?” she asked? Sharon was pissed at me most of the year
(she was in good company… and in a long line) but she has gotten over it. It
was good to see her. Unfortunately her associate, a tall, good-looking, shapely
woman, was not so disposed and gave me the ice-age treatment. Obviously not
everyone likes funny-lookin’ rolly-polly guys like me. Of course, if I was in as
good shape and built as she was, I’d probably be pretty haughty as well. Who am
I talkin’ about? It’s not really important. Forget I mentioned it.

“I thought you were a little, skinny, guy,” said David Chananie, author of a
drop-dead beautiful collection of Vietnam Era photographs. This was another
Mayapriya Long masterpiece and I’m sure it will be huge hit… if he markets it
correctly. It was good to finally meet him.

It’s always a pleasure to see Shel Horowitz (www.frugalmarketing.com), even if
he did say, after surveying my size, that I obviously was not a frugal gourmet!
No one in the small press works as hard as Shel does, enjoys it as much, and is
as successful in his field as is the man who can live on zero dollars a day in
the world’s most expensive city.

I didn’t see too many others from the Pub-Forum list, but one that I did see
really surprised me. Barbara Hudgins despite her storm-trooper attitude on the
list, is a charming, witty, and a thoroughly engaging woman. I honestly believe
that if we didn’t dislike each other so much that we could be good friends!
While she is a holy nightmare to me on the Pub-Forum list, in person she is a
study in grace and good manners. I don’t think anyone will ever say that about
me, that’s for sure!!!

“Everyone said you were a short, thin guy. Well, you’re short!” The best
surprise of the day was finally meeting our own Eric Anderson
(www.futurethru.com). Eric is another contradiction. On the list he’s hard as
nails, suffers fools not at all, and has about as much warmth as the late Sir
Alfred Hitchcock. But in person he is… well how can I say it…. just sweet.
Really. He’s a great guy with a wonderfully warm and witty personality.  Eric’s
a big guy. Not fat (like some people), just big. He reminds me of Hoss (Dan
Blocker) in Bonanza. Eric and I  have corresponded for many years, but had never
met. It was the highlight of the day for me.

Pat Bell says what she thinks. Poking me in the stomach she said “If they ever
need a Jewish Santa Claus, you get the part.” Pat had lost a lot of weight and
looked like a woman closer to 50 than a woman close to 100. There is no one that
I respect more and agree with less than La Bell Patricia. While I think she is
wrong on most issues (especially with respect to PMA politics) it’s hard to
argue with someone whom I’m told has an autographed copy of the Ten
Commandments. I was glad to learn that Pat is starting work on an update to her
industry standard text “The PrePublishing Handbook.” (www.catspawpress.com).

And so the morning went. Meeting, greeting, and getting such wonderful
complements from my “friends.” True, in past years I looked like I had walked
out of USMC boot camp. This year I looked like I’d walked out of Burger King. So
I gained a few pounds. You’d think I was an ax murderer or something the way
people carried on!

The PMA-U lunch looked like it would gag a goat, so Mayapriya, Eric, and I went
down to the lobby for a late lunch. Now you would think  that in a hotel as
large and expensive as the Hyatt that there would be day-long service in the
restaurant. Nope. We had to order at the bar… and pay when ordering. Mayapriya
ordered a salad. Eric and I ordered burgers. The bartender rung up the totals
before calling down to the kitchen. As he walked over to our end of the bar,
ZOOM! Mayapriya was off to the power room. She flew down the stairs, vaulted a
bell-hop, stiff-armed a security guy, and knocked over two nuns who were
blocking the door. Spider-Man couldn’t have moved faster. Eric and I had a good
laugh. It was nice of him to pick up the tab, but he can afford it seeing as his
FutureThru (www.futurethru.com) web design and hosting company is doing really
well and giving Bookzone some real competition for publisher’s web sites.

The three of us had a wonderful discussion where we solved most of the problems
of the publishing industry. Actually Eric solved them for us. I’ve never met a
man who could be so totally convinced he is right when I am so totally convinced
he is wrong! Our lunch would have made a great PMA-U session.  Too bad it wasn’t
taped. But had it been it might have been mistaken for a World Wrestling
Federation show. Lord knows that everyone said I looked the part!

In the late afternoon people wandered back to their hotel to change for the
annual Ben Franklin dinner and awards gala, sponsored by PMA. Not me. I took a
page from the Peter and Robert Goodman “dress for success” school of thought
where the more casual you look means the more successful you are. That makes
Peter the most successful publisher on the planet!

It is traditional for Peter, Bob, Mayapriya and I to share a table, eat dinner
and then “dis” all of the award nomination books as they are flashed on the
screen. This year we were joined by Eric, David, Sharon, and a few others whom I
forget.

I mentioned that the food was good this year. Someone at the table said that by
the size of me, they were not surprised that I would say that. But the food
really was pretty good. And it was a nicely served buffet…. except one
thing…. and this proved to me that I must be the stupidest person on the
planet.

Let me set the scene for you. First of all it was rather dark in the ballroom as
the lights were dim. Second, Mayapriya has known me for almost ten years now and
she knows of my absolute devotion to ice cream.

Mayapriya comes back to the table and says “Way over there they have a “make
your own ice cream Sunday” table.” Good deal, I thought. Usually you get
three-day old cake at a buffet. Fresh ice cream sounded great. So after my third
helping of dinner, I trundle off to the far side of the huge ballroom (there
were some 800 people for dinner) and I see a guy behind a table that has a two
foot high metal container of vanilla ice cream… a container that looked like
it was from an ice cream maker. On the table were parfait desert glasses. Very
fancy. “Homemade ice cream,” I thought. It does not get any better. So I walk up
and say to the guy “I’ll have chocolate sauce and some nuts on mine, please.” He
looks at me like I had just landed from Planet Zardo and says “Sir, this is
mashed potatoes and over here is gravy, and these are baco-bits.” And it was
true.  There was no vanilla ice cream. There was no chocolate sauce. There were
no nuts. They were serving &^%$ing mashed potatoes in dessert glasses.

Mayapriya claims that she didn’t know that it was a “potato table.” But I don’t
know. I think she set me up. And I don’t know if I feel more stupid for ordering
the chocolate sauce or for believing Mayapriya in the first place! Anyway, we
all had a good laugh (They always laugh at the fat guy) and as the program
started we were all in a good mood.

As the ceremony went on, Peter and I took verbal pot-shots at some of the “small
presses” that were nominated or won… DK, Random House, etc. I’ve long held
that the Ben Franklin awards should be limited to publishing houses with gross
sales of five million dollars or less. But the PMA has never listened to me
before, so there is no reason to believe that they will listen to me now… or
ever!

As in past Ben Franklin’s all of the nominated books were on display after the
show. I spent quite a bit of time looking at them. In my opinion the books that
should have won didn’t, and the ones that did shouldn’t have. I think that this
year the judges had their head up their butts with respect to some of the
choices they made. But judging books for a book show is more subjective than
judging dogs at a dog show, and there is no way to please everyone. However this
year I felt the judges did an especially poor job.

After the awards, our table went down to the bar for drinks, talk, and as Peter
Goodman once coined: “assholery.” We were joined by several others including a
woman named Jacqueline Marcell, who was touting her book “Elder
Rage.”(www.elderrage.com/) It was nice to meet an author who so far had done
everything “right.” She’s been on some three dozen TV and radio shows, has
endorsements from just about every known authority on elder care, and is
now poised to go to the “next level” by getting her book onto the bestseller charts.
We gave her about a million dollars worth of free consulting. Anyway, she’s an
example of an author who came up with a good idea and who has “executed” it
almost perfectly.

As the evening ended I was sorry to say good-bye to Eric. He was leaving in the
AM. The rest of us had another day of PMA…. which is not unlike a day of PMS.

Thursday

I woke with a terrible hangover. There is nothing so ugly as a fat guy with a
hangover. Actually there is something worse. It’s the sound of the telephone at
oh-dark-thirty in the morning with Mayapriya’s chirpy voice saying something
like “rise and shine” or some other mid-Western aphorism handed down from mother
to daughter to terrorize sleepy, booze-brained men into submission. Anything to
get her off the phone. Yes, even taking her to breakfast. Anything. That morning
I knew why I felt sorry for people like Mayapriya who didn’t drink. When they
wake up in the morning, that’s the best they are going to feel all day. I, on
the other hand, knew that I could only feel better… assuming that I didn’t die
first.

“Do you know how many calories are in beer? From the size of you, I guess you
do!” she said as I met her. She’s mean when she’s sober. And since she NEVER
drinks (at least not in the ten years I’ve known her) that makes her pretty
mean! And hungry. While I could barely get down some coffee and toast, the Book
Princess could have cleaned out Pepperidge Farm

Mayapriya had a session to teach at PMA so she went on while I took a walk up
and down 5th Ave., looking at the shops, and especially the bookstores.  They
read the same trash in the sophisticated Big Apple as they do in East Tennis
Shoe, Nebraska. The difference is that they read it here FIRST.  To paraphrase a
song, if you can sell trash here, you can sell it anywhere.

I spent the afternoon at the PMA exhibits talking with the rest of the vendors.
Of all the printers that I spoke with, the only one that said they never slowed
down was Thompson Shore. All the others (Vaughn, Central Plains, Rose, Malloy,
Walsworth, Delta, etc.) said that it was a slow winter but that things were
picking up this spring. I’m not sure that TS was telling me the truth or if they
were trying to snow me. I don’t believe that all the others had a slow period
but TS just chugged along.  I might have been born at night…. but it wasn’t
last night!

“Hey Al, you gained a few pounds this year!” It was good to again speak with
Kate and Doug Bandos (www.ksbpromotions.com). Their publicity company has a
track-record second to none. Their success is based upon only taking on the
types of books that they KNOW they can do a good job on, unlike some flacks who
will take on anything, and more often than not, provide zilch for the client.

I spent some time talking with the two young babes from Phoenix Color. This was
their first year so they did not know me. But I’m sure they were silently saying
“Geez, he sure is fat!” especially as I scarfed up a handful of Hershey’s Kisses
they had on the table. The big news with them is that they are going into the
book fulfillment business. This surprised me because fulfillment is a million
times different than pre-process color. Obviously it’s not something that they
could do on their own and when I asked about it they said they were in
partnership with an established fulfillment house…. but I forget which one.
Maybe they can pull it off, but it’s hard to have one’s ass on two pots at the
same time.  It will be interesting to find out if they are still at it next year
at PMA-U.

I wanted to go to the Independent Publishers dinner at the New York Library, but
it was my Dad’s 81st birthday so I took the train out to Long Island to have
dinner with him at an outrageously expensive steakhouse. It was good to see him
again. He’s not doing well and won’t be with us forever.

I got back to the city around 10 PM, called Mayapriya on her cell, and she said
everyone was again back at the Hyatt. With a million watering holes in New York,
I don’t understand why they had to drink at the most expensive one ($6 a beer)
but I took the subway shuttle from Penn Station to Grand Central and joined an
already lively discussion.

“I know you’re mean, but you’re no longer lean” said my old and dear friend
Eugene Schwartz. Schwartz was around when the printing press was invented and he
understands more about this business than anyone I know.  He was at the Indie dinner,
covering it for ForeWord magazine, of which he is Editor at Large (and large is
a good word as Gene is a (another) big guy).

Since I am partly responsible for there being any interest AT ALL in an Indie
Pub “movement” I was interested to hear what went on. And what I heard rather
distressed me. It seems that one person sees an opportunity to start a “new”
organization called Publisher’s Advocate, complete with dues, a newsletter, and
discounts for printing services.

There was a lot of discussion about this concept, with Peter Goodman being
somewhat supportive. It was one of the rare times that I disagreed with Peter.
My position is that if we want a better PMA than instead of starting a new
organization, we should just “take over” the existing one. It would be easy to
do.

The woman who is behind this new organization has gone ahead and started an
infrastructure. However, no one is quite clear what her positions are on the
issues. There was a lot of talk that it looks as if she is seeing this as a
money-making opportunity, in order to help sell her series of  “how-to”
publishing books.

On the other  hand, others at the table said that if she wanted to take on the
job it would be a good thing.

To my way of thinking, this whole thing does not pass the “logic test.” We don’t need a new
PMA. What we need is a simple organization that is dedicated to only one
chore…. speaking for independent publishers and getting us a “seat” at the
table.

I’ve always advocated a group of 25 to 50 publishers who would divide along
issue lines, study an issue (like returns, discounts, copyright, etc.) and issue
well-thought-out position papers on the subject, and then use these papers as
the fulcrum for a full-court media campaign in the expression of our point of
view. By being a non-profit collective, and by working hard for two years
“earning” the respect of the publishing industry as well as the mainstream
media, I think we can effect much greater change than by starting a new PMA.

Anyway, we debated these concepts back and forth until past midnight without
coming to any single conclusion. I didn’t know it at the time, but the subject
would come up again when I met the AAP folks.

Friday

The first few hours of BEA is like spring training in baseball. Everyone is
high. Everyone is excited. Everyone believes that lightening is going to strike.
It’s infectious and it’s good for the publishing soul. When the day comes that
people are not “buzzed” in the early hours of BEA, that’s when this industry
will be in really big trouble.

I caught the free shuttle bus at Lexington and 48th Street and enjoyed the free
“tour” of midtown Manhattan as the bus wove its way through rush-hour traffic
over to the West side where the Javits Hall is. I didn’t know what to expect.
Would anyone come to New York for the Expo? Or would it be a ghost-town, where
you could drive a tank down the aisles?  As soon as I got to Javits I had my
answer. This was not going to be your ordinary BEA. The joint was jumpin’.

As always, I seek out the small press area and start there. I tell publishers
about our PUB123 software (www.adams-blake.com) as well as look for titles that
we might like to buy rights for some special markets we sell to. And, of course,
I look for books (or subjects) that I can write feature articles on and sell to
our media contacts.

Each year the first booth I stop at is Leigh Davidson’s Down There Press
(www.goodvibes.com). There are a number of publishers I admire, but Leigh is at
the top of a very short list of the best. She publishers to a niche audience and
she does it with a success few can equal. She’s upbeat, she’s perky, she’s sexy,
and she’s a great way to start the day (that didn’t come out right… but you
understand what I’m trying to say.)  I’ll let you find out exactly what books
Leigh publishers. I was hoping I could get a review copy of Cyborgasm I, but she
was not giving anything away this year. If you want to learn how to publish,
Leigh is the one who can teach you. (I’ve always wondered what else she could
teach, but have always been afraid to ask!)

The small press section was rather disappointing. There were the usual loser
novels, loser diet books, and loser self-help books. There were only three or
four publishers that I remember from last year. I saw only a few publishers
that I can say with certainty have books that will be hits.  The first is a press
called Chilvary Bookshelf. (www.chivalrybookshelf.com). They do books on
medieval swordsmanship and weaponry.  This is a niche area that has a huge
following and which does not have a zillion publishers. Their books are
drop-dead beautiful. Ann Price seems to know her market well and I have no doubt
about her success.

The other small press book that I was excited about was a one-book outfit with a
title called “Brother CEO, A Business Success Guide For African American Men.”
Harold Leffall, Jr. is the author and he is looking at a huge market, to say
nothing of the tremendous amount of media interest he can generate. If there is
one market that is not on anyone’s publishing radar, it’s the black male. If
this guy does it right, he will be big, big, big.  He’s young, good-looking,
smart, and has a great message. Of all the concepts I saw at BEA, this one is
one of the best.

Finally there are “Joy Stories” from www.joystories.com (which I believe is
their company name. Not smart having a dot com name these days!) These are
combo-packs of children’s audio tapes with finger puppets. The purpose of
the product is to use bedtime story telling to support a positive message that
will raise the self-esteem of the child. I was impressed with the concept and I
think it’s something that every parent would want to buy for their toddler.

In many of the booths that had promising material, I mentioned the importance of
joining the online Pub-Forum mail list (www.pub-forum.net) and getting advice
and assistance from publishers who have been down the road a while. I was amazed
at the number of publishers who just didn’t know what they didn’t know. Some had
never even read a how-to book on publishing. Obviously, many won’t be back next
year.

Moving out of the small press area I walked through the children’s book area.
Very boring. There was nothing that turned me on; not from the huge presses like
Scholastic, or from the small ones. I was happy to see that Morgan The Dog was
back. (www.morganthedog.com). I predicted their success last year and sure
enough they had a great year. Maybe it was too great. They made enough money to
get a new website… but some idiot decided to put in a Flash home page that not
only takes forever to load, but even if you ask it to stop it doesn’t…. it
loads in the background and hoses your browser. If they keep this website, this
will be their last BEA.

On the lower floor was a large area of “sideline” vendors. These are the folks
who sell all the non-book stuff you see in bookstores…. from carved rocks, to
calendars, to book holders, to reading glasses.

One item that caught my eye was a simple concept…. a calendar frame. This is
just a simple piece of plastic that “frames” a wall calendar
(www.calendarframes.com) I don’t know if it will catch on, but it’s clever
enough that it just might.

Another item that was nice was a collection of  handmade books. That’s right.
Books that were hand-bound AND hand written. Malachi McCormick of Stone Street
Press (www.stonestreetpress.com) is a calligrapher and artist who creates these
special gift items.

Finally there was what I would consider the most tasteless item I’ve ever seen
at a BEA. This is a calendar of….. dog shit. Yeah, that’s right, dog shit.
It’s called “Monthly Doos: The Dog Poop Calendar.” The company is called Watch
Your Step Productions (www.monthlydoos.com) and is a testament to the idea that
what many call “art” is in reality nothing more than shit. I’m glad I don’t know
one person who would buy this thing, but I’m sure there are a lot of whacko’s
out there who will.

I moved into the audio area and found fewer vendors than last year. It’s  been a
hard year for audio books and music said some booth-babes. Most are terrified of
anything that is Napster-like. I was told that a lot of vendors were curtailing
production until online content delivery systems are in place such that their
intellectual property won’t be ripped off and given away by every twelve year
old with a laptop. In past years I would see a lot of pop “new age” instrumental
CDs like those made popular by Windham Hill. Not this year. What I saw was a lot
of CDs for meditation and yoga, such as Dharma Moon (www.dharmamoon.com)
and Drala (www.nudgie.com). The best sampler CD I got was called “Music to Heal
Our World” published by the NAPRA folks (www.napra.com). Anyone in the “new age”
biz should be a NAPRA member. I have no idea what NAPRA stands for, but they do
excellent work for their members.

Moving over to the video area I was surprised to find more exhibits than in
previous years. The one with the most traffic was the Alexander Institute
(www.intimateloving.com). They produce a “soft porn” series called “Intimate
Loving” which are low-key video sex-manuals using real couples instead of
models. While I prefer the more “base” hard-core porn, I have to say that these
were really well done and I think they will be able to sell to the young-couple
market. Since 9/11 people are staying home more, so you have to believe that
they are having more sex. If these folks can “sexploit” that, they will have a
winner.

It was closing time and I was glad I got through the lower floor. Since I was
going to miss the Sunday session, I moved a bit faster than I would have liked.
I was taking my Dad to Charlottesville on Sunday so that he could see his
beloved University of Virginia one more time before he passed on. I knew that
Saturday would be a killer day on the “main floor.”

By the time I got back to the hotel I was pretty tired. I got a hold of
Mayapriya and she agreed to let me buy her dinner (like there was another
choice) at a small Chinese place two blocks over on Second Avenue. After dinner
I wanted to attend the Jenkins Group party at the Algonquin Hotel but I was just
too tired. Mayapriya had an appointment with a potential client so I went up to
my room and enjoyed a few hours of peaceful reading and blissful quiet until I
fell asleep.

Saturday

I forgot to set the alarm and I got up a bit later than I had wanted. I got to
Javits around 10 AM and started my “death march” through the main floor. There
was no doubt that this was the best attended BEA that I’d ever been to. The
aisles were jammed, especially in the huge booths of the major publishers. But
as in past years, the number of blue (book buyer) badges was sparse. There were
a lot of media people there, and there were a lot of authors, editors,
designers, and other publishing industry vendors prowling the aisles. While
Mayapriya told me that she saw a lot of deal making going on at the small, round
“order tables” that each booth had, I didn’t see much of it. What I mostly saw
were people trying to get free books, free calendars, free audio tapes, free
anything from the exhibitors.

I usually stay away from the mega-houses like Random, Wiley, Harper, etc. They
never have anything that I’m interested in writing about, and the people in the
booths are usually pretty standoffish. When I look for properties that I might
like to buy or for items I want to review, I visit the mid-size independents and
the university presses.

My first stop on the main floor is always Midpoint Trade Books
(www.midpointtradebooks.com). I don’t care for many distributors, but Midpoint
is one that I highly admire. They have a fair and somewhat unique business model
that is perfect for many small and mid-size presses. But more than that, they
have the industry’s newest official “Book Babe.” Julie Borgelt. This young woman
is a unique bundle of wit, drive, energy, and drop-dead good looks. Every year I
“nominate” a new Book Babe, and this year it’s Julie. She gave me the grand tour
of this year’s Midpoint list. When I asked her for a quote, she said that
“Midpoint rocks.” And it does. They have some really good publishers in their
stable. Their big rain-maker of the year was a huge seller called “America Wide”
by Ken Duncan Panographs. I met Ken Duncan and I can see why this is such a “big
book.”

One secret to Midpoint’s success this year is that they did not take on a lot of
“high risk” projects. They had their eye on the pulse of the market and they
stayed with products that have always been good sellers. On the down-side, they
have been concentrating on multi-book houses and abandoning the one or two book
publisher. I understand why they are doing this, but it’s sad nonetheless. The
lesson for small houses is clear… and the advice has always been the same: You
can’t survive on just one book and that if you want to be a long-term player you
have to develop a strong back-list. When you do, the distributors will be
knocking at your door.

Another hot item in the Midpoint stable is “Common Things, Uncommon Ways” by
Sunny Kobe Cook. When the publishing gurus tell us that the difference between a
good seller and a bestseller is the energy of the author, they were talking
about Sunny Cook. She stood right in front of me and absolutely “sold” me on her
book. In a “former life” she was the “mattress queen” having started a string of
mattress stores called Sleep Country and selling them for a fortune. Her book is
about employee motivation… and if anyone can teach this, it’s Sunny. While she
might have been the “mattress queen” she did NOT know the riddle that asks “What
is the definition of a mistress?” The answer is that a mistress is something
between a mister and mattress. Sunny, who was Inc. Magazine Entrepreneur of the
Year promised me a free copy of her book for telling the riddle. I’ll be
interested to see if she actually sends one out. I hope she does.

Maybe because the show was in sophisticated New York instead of puritan Chicago
I saw a lot of erotica titles. The best in taste, innovation, and concept were
from a publisher called Goliath (www.goliathclub.com). Their photo books were of
European quality but with American subjects. I don’t know what the market is for
picture books of naked people, but if books in this genre sell well, then this
company should do well.

And talking about erotica, who do I run into but an old friend, Janet Hardy. You
have to be out there on the “edge” to appreciate Janet’s Greenery Press
(www.greenerypress.com). I’m not much into bondage, S&M, and cross dressing, but
from her success it’s obvious that a lot of people are. What took me by surprise
was that Janet had lost some 50 pounds, and had a complete make-over. She looked
great. I’d spank her myself if given a chance! We had a good chat and I was glad
to hear that things were going well in her sector of the book biz.

Walking through the exhibits was somewhat disappointing. Not only did I not see
anything really “interesting” I didn’t see a lot of new stuff either. I saw a
lot of titles that were featured last year as front list items and which were
being featured this year in the same way. I wouldn’t mind if there was a lot of
quality stuff, but last’s year’s front list crap is now this year’s front list
crap. No matter what the genre, it was same-old, same-old. Even Warner-AOL used
the same Lord of the Rings booth they had last year. I guess with the red ink
that has been flowing through their organization they couldn’t afford anything
new.

I walked through booth after booth after booth and when I came to an end of an
aisle I stopped and asked myself if  I saw anything that was really cool. The
answer was the same most of the day. Nothing.

I saw very little in the way of interesting history or biography this year.
Maybe the Ambrose and Kerns-Goodwin copy-cat scandals have put a damper on that
part of the market. I also did NOT see the plethora of 9/11 books that I had
expected. Perhaps it’s too soon. I’m sure they are coming, but you wouldn’t know
it from this year’s BEA.

Here is a unique book. “Sleeping Beauty II – Grief, Bereavement and the Family
in Memorial Photography” by Stanley Burns (Burns Archive Press
www.sleepingbeauty2.com). I can’t explain why this book is so interesting to me
but maybe it’s all the death and destruction we’ve seen in the past eight
months. I have no idea if there is a market for this book, but it was one of the
most interesting titles I saw at the show. If you like the Six Feet Under HBO
show, this book is for you. While I was looking at it, I was thinking that this
is the kind of thing that I would have expected Lisa Carlton of Upper Access to
publish as she is one of the nation’s foremost authorities on death and dying.

I like to speculate on how titles are created. Some you really have to guess at.
Others jump right out at you. This was one of my favorites: “The Reasons Why
They Are Rich and You Are Not” by Tyrone Lowman (www.tdlowman.com). I don’t know
if the book is any good, but the title definitely is.

I always enjoy visiting the booths of the regional associations. The Publishers
Association of the West is having their annual conference at Lake Tahoe on Nov.
20-24. (www.pubwest.org). I plan to go since it’s only an hour or two from my
home in Sacramento.

The Publishers Association of the South is having their confab Sept. 19. in Fort
Lauderdale. John Kremer is the headliner. I hope to make it there, and visit my
mother in Palm Beach at the same time.

Down the aisle from the major regional associations was the Association of
American Publishers (AAP). I stopped and enjoyed a long chat with Lily Clark,
their membership director. I told her that over the past few years I had written
the AAP many times asking about how their organization might create a membership
category for independent publishers. I never received an answer. Never. And when
I would visit the booth at BEA each year, I would get “Oh yes, we’re really
interested” talk, but never a follow-up.

However this year it was different. Lily and her boss, Patricia Schroeder had
been to the Indie dinner on Thursday night and got a real education in how
dissatisfied members of the small press are with how they are treated in the
industry and how PMA refuses to take up the causes of the small press. Lily told
me that I would hear from the AAP and that they really DO have an interest in
representing our sector of the industry.

Of course, I don’t believe a word she said… as I have heard it all before.
Booth-talk is of the same genre as “I’ll respect you in the morning”.

Of course, if AAP had half a brain they would come and court the 20,000 or so
small press members. PMA has some 3600 members and I have no doubt that AAP
could siphon a fair number of them away, to say nothing about attracting the
huge majority that are not members of any organization.

While I personally think we would get better representation from the Teamsters
or the Auto Workers union, that’s obviously not going to happen. Maybe the AAP is
serious about being an advocate for the small press. Time will tell.

Making my way over to the far side of the hall I found the booths of several of
our software competitors. While there are a fair number of firms that provide
software for booksellers, there are only a handful of programs for publishers
and only the high-end (i.e. $7,000 per user and up) take exhibits at BEA. I had
a long talk with the Cat’s Pajamas company. They make a stable and solid, but
somewhat antiquated software system for publishers. They say that they are in
the midst of updating their product so I expect they will have some whiz-bang
stuff to show next year. While our  PUB123 “owns” the low-end of the publisher
software spectrum, the profits are really in the high-end products. We’ve been
thinking more and more about creating a product that will compete with the “big
boys” and maybe next year we’ll have something to show as well.

It was a tiring day. But I’m not sure it was worth the effort. While there were
tons of attendees, I didn’t see a lot of enthusiasm on the part of the
publishers. It was as if all the exhibitors were in stasis.

I usually leave BEA really “pumped up” but this year I just left feeling
“ho-hum.” I didn’t see any new “big thing” that I could get excited about. There
is no new fiction coming out that looks all that interesting. I saw nothing from
the scores of European and Asian publishers that looked like a sure-bet for the
US market. And with a few exceptions, I didn’t see anything at the show that
left me with a feeling that, yes, this industry is in good shape. Most of what I
saw was back-list stuff that was boring last year and even more boring the
second time around.

Well, every year can’t be a bell-ringer. Considering all the “stuff” that has
happened since 9/11 perhaps a “quiet show” was inevitable this year.

I met Mayapriya at the PMA booth, we said good-bye to those who were hanging out
there, and got on the bus back to the East side. I was planning to just grab a
quick bite to eat, pack my bag and retire early. I was somewhat depressed about
what I had seen at the show…. or more precisely what I had not seen.

The phone rang and it was the Book Princess. I didn’t believe my ears. I mean, I
really didn’t believe what I was hearing. But there was the unmistakable chirpy
voice of Mayapriya saying that she wanted to take ME to dinner. The Book
Princess is a strict vegetarian and will not pay for anyone who has meat… and
I always take her places where I have meat. It seems that she had made
reservations at a well-known veggie place called the Zen Palate way down at
Union Square and wanted me to go with her. Since I knew that it might be another
ice-age before Mayapriya made the offer to treat again, I jumped at the
invitation and met her outside her hotel where we got a cab.  I had some kind of
imitation meat made with wheat gluten and it was pretty good. Some of the
vegetables that it came with were rather strange, but it was a good meal. And
when the check came, miracle of miracles, the Book Princess picked up the tab.
It wasn’t lunch. She has never paid for a lunch in her life. But it was a start.
Dinner now and maybe lunch in a few years. I think of it like the start of a
12-step program.

Next year the BEA is in Los Angeles. Mayapriya told me to lose some weight so
that I would not have to pay for two airline seats.

I got the message.

Alan N. Canton
Adams-Blake Company
www.adams-blake.com