BEA Diary 2003
“Well, they don’t call it Los Anga-sleaze for nothin,” the cab driver said to me on the way from the airport to my hotel. “The bums are everywhere, and that’s not countin’ the ones in suits.”
I don’t know about the ones in suits, but downtown LA where my hotel was located looked like a homeless convention. I saw a guy pan-handling for money who had a sign saying “If you were homeless, you’d be home now!”
And just before I got to the hotel I spotted our own Shel Horowitz (www.frugalfun.com) the “king of cheap” walking toward Rite-Aide. I think Shel was staying in a culvert at the corner of Sepulvata and Pico! Anyway a homeless guy came up to Shel and gave HIM a dollar! (Rim shot goes here!)
The PMA had enlarged the PMA University to a third day and were starting it with a pre-U seminar followed by a reception. I went to the ballroom to start setting up my half of the booth when I saw her.
There she was, in all her Book Princess glory, the lovely, talented, and always hungry Mayapriya Long.
“So you ARE alive,” she said. “Since we haven’t seen a Rant in three weeks I thought you had left your body. Where are we going to dinner?”
“Wait a minute,” I squeaked. “We do LUNCH. Not dinner, but lunch.”
“But I wasn’t here for lunch, so that means I get dinner,” she said with impeccable logic.
I told her I’d think about it (yeah right!) and was saved by Dan Poynter (www.parapub.com) coming over to say hello.
“Al, good to see you. I heard you were dead. I guess it was just a rumor.” said the venerable book guru.
It’s always nice to see the “father of the industry.” Everyone knows that Dan has an autographed copy of the Ten Commandments (the one that was returned by Ingram) but you’d never realize it from looking at him. Lean and trim, he gave me a firm handshake and a wide smile. You couldn’t ask for a better friend. Dan gives away far more consulting than he ever charges for. A class act.
Maya and I set up the table and for some unknown reason I got one third and she got two thirds? Some day someone will write a book on Maya-math! Our table was between Publishers Weekly and Central Plains Printing. It was good to see Becky Pate, VP of Sales for CP. She printed my first book about a hundred years ago.
“You’re not dead. I thought you were a goner,” she said, giving me a big hug.
“Geez, I’m better known as a corpse than alive,” I told her.
“Well, where have you been? No Rants in a month? I figured you were dead and buried!”
I explained to her that I had been working on the new web-based version of PUB123 called PUB456 (yeah, isn’t that clever?) She told me that CP was doing well but as I was to find out later on, doing “well” in “printer-speak” means “getting by.”
Our table was right across from Sharon Goldinger (www.peoplespeak.com) and I had some concern because I thought she was still pissed at me from the Diary I wrote two years ago when I composed a little ditty that she thought insulted her.
“I thought you went deep six,” she said. “And I was upset because I didn’t want someone ELSE to kill you!”
She gave me a big hug (she’s a really good hugger!) and we caught up on old times. She’s been very busy with a lot of new projects. I was glad to hear it as I always admired her “can-do” attitude.
It was about 6:30 PM and everyone was hungry, mainly because the reception food that PMA provided consisted of stale cheese squares and the usual array of raw vegetables. I figured that Shel had planned the menu.
Maya and I walked into the hall and ran right into one of this year’s book-babe nominations. Paulette Ensign.
I don’t know how I had gone this long in the biz without ever meeting Paulette (www.tipsbooklets.com). She is my alter-ego. She’s bright, tough, in-your-face, funny, and just the exact person you want as a dinner-mate and as well as a best friend. Everyone who knows her knows she is a true book babe so I make it official.
She looked me in the eye. “Whoa, a dead man walking!”
Paulette has made a billion dollars teaching others how to make money publishing booklets. She’s actually famous. And when you sit next to her at dinner you find out why she is known for the best sense of humor in the small press.
With her was Beth Walsh of Clearpoint Agency (www.clearpointagency.com). Beth is a PR expert with a resume of gilt-edged clients. There is a possibility that I will hire her to help with the PR campaign for PUB456. The best thing about Beth is that she didn’t know me and was not surprised that I wasn’t dead!
There were a few others, but when you are with a book babe and a book princess, it’s hard to remember. We went across the street to the CA Pizza Kitchen and had a great dinner. Paulette entertained us with her Noo Yawk humor while we all did our best to keep from getting thrown out of the restaurant for being too rowdy.
Except for being taken for dead, it was a good day. I knew that tomorrow would be a killer so went back to the Wilshire Grand and got to bed early. The first day of PMA-U is always hectic and I had a big story to tell… not only was I not dead… but that PUB456 would be out in the fall… for $9.99 a month!
I was on one of the “executive” floors and that entitled me to the free continental breakfast. I figured that if the PMA “breakfast” was going to be anything like last night’s reception, I better eat upstairs. And it was a good thing I did as the stuff downstairs would gag a goat.
The first morning of PMA-U is always exciting. This year there were about 600 students and a list of really excellent speakers. I disagree with PMA on just about everything, but I give credit where it’s due… no one puts on an educational seminar as well as Jan Nathan and company.
As I walked into the ballroom area I heard a familiar voice shout at me. “Al Canton. You’re definitely not dead!”
It’s always good to see Jan. She radiates warmth, energy, optimism and a spirit that everything in this biz is possible. She had lost a few pounds and looked better than I’ve seen her in years. Perhaps having a new husband had something to do with that.
“I am not a ghost,” I told her. “Although the way the book biz is, I’m sure a fair number of publishers have been killed off.”
Jan agreed with me that the industry is sick, but no one wants to be the first to do anything about it. The retail outlets want higher discounts on cheaper books. And the distribution channel is looking to cut costs by concentrating on only the larger publishers with large lists and potential volume.
I had a hope that she would tell me that PMA would finally step up and try to accomplish some changes in this industry, but like in past years my hopes were dashed. More and more I think that the PMA rather likes the status quo. Think about it. If there were a level playing field and we all had the same access to distribution and markets that the AAP publishers had, how many of us would join the PMA? I know it’s rather cynical, but I don’t know what else to think. Here is the largest book trade association in the world, and when it comes to the problems in the industry, they don’t do bupkes (bup-kiss … Yiddish for “zilch”.)
There were a number of visitors to our table, but they were all marveling at Mayapriya’s book covers. No one cared much about PUB123… and who could blame them. She had done some really fine work last year and it’s why she is on everyone’s short list of best designers in the nation (maybe the world.) She’s on my short list of the most hungry lunch-eaters in the world!
As soon as the first sessions started it became a ghost town in the ballroom. As in past years, this is when the vendors renew old acquaintances by making the rounds.
I saw Marty Gilliland for the first time in two years. “Hey, you’re not as dead as they said you were!” We shook hands and talked about his new job with United Graphics. I’ve known Marty for a hundred years and was glad to see that he had landed with a company that he would be happy in. He showed me some of the work his company does and it was first rate. I was especially interested in a cover for a spiral bound book that hid the coil behind a spine. It was very ingenious.
“I was hoping to probate your will,” said Ivan Hoffman the well-known intellectual property lawyer (www.ivanhoffman.com). “But I guess this is one fee I won’t be able to collect. I never have a problem collecting from dead clients. They all said you were a stiff!”
Ivan and I chatted a bit about some of the copyright issues that the music biz is dealing with and how the commonly held notions of “protection” are being eroded. I don’t like most lawyers, but I like Ivan. Still, if you go to his web site and see what finger he is holding up, ya gotta wonder.
And if one lawyer is good, than two must be better, right? “So you didn’t assume room temperature?” asked Paul Krupin, an ex-lawyer turned media hound.
“No, I stayed alive just to make your life hell.” I replied. Whenever I want to know something about how to reach the media, Paul is my go-to guy. Paul has a new book out on Internet search engines (www.magicsearchwords.com), and is planning another one, but I forget about what. It’s always good to see him…. even if he is still “pissed” at me for saying in a Rant that one of his previous books was “butt-ugly” ! (I hear that he has hired Mayapriya “The Book Princess” Long (www.bookwrights.com) to do his next one. Nice to see that they FINALLY learn!)
As the students filed into the vendor area for the lunch break, I got to meet a lot of new faces. Many of them knew me from my seven years of writing the Rant and it was nice to learn that so many of them enjoyed it. There were a few folks from the list that showed up at my table… Cathy Stucker (www.idealady.com) as well as Susan Goland and Lisa Miller.
“I thought I saw you in Six Feet Under last week on HBO,” said the always comical John Harnish (www.infinitypublishing.com). John wrote what I think is the definitive book on POD and I plan to publish a review of it this summer. John gave me a great idea for the new web-based PUB456 system. He said that many authors will like to be able to go to the web and find out how many books their publisher has sold in what city. I asked why, and he said that in todays hard market a lot of authors are doing their own targeted marketing and publicity. Well, this made my day because he said he thought most publishers would be willing to pay a bit more for this kind of “add-on.” For me to provide this feature would not be rocket science… and I plan to do it… assuming I don’t croak.
Lunch was nuts. Instead of a noon speaker, the PMA put signs on the tables like “Marketing,” “Design”, “Fiction”, “Travel”, with the idea that people would find a table that interested them and lots of good table talk would ensue. I ended up at the “Internet” table, but it was really made up of people who could not find seats anywhere else. I don’t think this concept worked in previous years, and I don’t think it worked this year either. But maybe others liked it. I would have rather had a speaker. Better yet, I would have liked to give the speech. Yeah that will be the day… when the PMA asks ME to do a speech or a program! I’m sure they will wait until after I’m dead before they consider it!
The afternoon went well with lots of visitors to my table and at least two or three of them were interested in PUB456. Most came to look at Maya’s work and engage her in conversation while I stood around looking like a piece of chopped liver.
I walked over to the tables of some of the other printers. If there is such a thing as a Printer Babe, Catherine McAtte-Luick is it. She works for Sheridan Books, which is the old Bookcrafters company. Like the others, Sheridan is trying to ride out the slow economy. Since they have a fullfilment center, they have a revenue stream that other printers don’t have so I would not expect them to go tits-up.
Conspicuous by their absence was Data Repro. I heard a number of gripes about their customer service, their quality, and their inability to “fix problems.” That coupled with them not being at PMA… well you can draw your own conclusions. When a company known for service and fair play all of a sudden goes “cheap” you gotta think about what that might mean from a historical perspective.
Another printer that was a no-show was McNaughton & Gunn.
With the economy the way it is I would not be surprised to see several printers doing the same book but never getting past Chapter Eleven.
I had a nice chat with Kay Stevens, the Western Rep for Thompson-Shore. The one thing you could always count on from T-S was super quality work, slow turnaround, and a high price. Well it looks like the economy has caught up with what has always been the “Rolls Royce” of the short run printing industry. Kay says that T-S is much more price competitive than they used to be and they finally have learned how to use some of the new equipment they have bought over the past few years and can get stuff out of the plant in less than a dog’s age!
Around 5 PM I went upstairs to dress for the Ben Franklin Awards dinner that would start at six. You have to be at the BF exactly at 6 PM because they are out of food at 6:15!
As I have for the past five years I shared a table with Peter Goodman (www.stonebridge.com). Book babe Paulette Ensign and Princess Mayapriya joined our merry table along with Beth Welsh and a few others.
We had an interesting discussion as to whether the BFs should be limited to only the small press, as are the Independent Publisher Book Awards done by the Jenkins Group. There are two schools of thought. The IPPY school is that it’s not a level playing field when a huge press with huge dollars can enter the BFs. The other school is that the real world is not a level playing field and that if you win a BF you are winning in a real-world competition. Being a real world (ie. not dead) kind of guy, I go with the BF concept. However, I don’t think any award for any book means all that much as judging is so subjective. (Same for films and TV.) Most awards are nothing more than an industry daisy chain… and I’m not about to explain to you what THAT is… not with Robin Blum and the other church ladies reading this!
We also wondered if anyone has ever been able to definitively say that winning an award contributed to greater sales. While the answer is ‘no’ it would be hard to really know for sure unless, for example some chain called and said “We heard you won the BF or IPPY and we want a thousand copies.” Yeah, in your dreams.
Bottom line, if you missed the BFA, well ….BFD. Really. There was nothing that I saw that either won or that was a nominee that made me sit up and take notice. We were all hoping that “Not Yet At Ease” designed by Mayapriya would win, but it didn’t. Tahabi took the best design award for its class.
What really upset me was the length and stupidity of the acceptance speeches. Jeez, you’d think they had just won a Nobel or a Pulitzer. One guy got up and just about read his entire book. I don’t know how it won because it sounded boring as hell.
The highlight of the evening was midway through it. The PMA, honored Jan Nathan with a short tribute as well as what was supposed to be a life sized bust of Ben Franklin… but which looked far more like Alfred Hitchcock. Jan has worked hard to build the PMA from nothing to 3800 members in twenty years and she deserves the honor. However, I can’t help but think what the organization might be like (or the industry for that matter) if she were more pro-active on issues and not just on nuts/bolts marketing. Why are there only 3700 members… a number that has not budged in the past 4 years? Is PMA really relevant in today’s market? All good questions. Few good answers, IMO.
After the Ben Franklin coronation was over, all of us retired to the bar and discussed the poor state of the book economy. We were joined by Pete Masterson, the past president of BAIPA in San Francisco and a well-known expert on graphics. Pete is working of a tome about book design and says he will finish it by the next BEA. I met Pete about seven years ago and have always valued his friendship, even if he does think that the Macintosh is anything more than a waste of money when you can get a cheap clone and run Linux on it for about one third the cost of Apple’s overpriced and over-hyped computer.
All in all it was a good day. I didn’t have to buy Mayapriya any food. It does not get much better than that… unless ole “money bags” Dan forks out for the grub… yeah, again, in your dreams!
For vendors, the second day of PMA-U is rather a waste of time. Most of the students who attend have either already been to the exhibit tables or they just don’t give a damn.
Entering the vendor display area I ran into Alan Gadney from One On One. He’s an old friend of Dan Poynter and was sharing Dan’s booth. He has a lot of good ideas, many of them “out of the box” on how to market and promote literary products. We talked a bit about the potential of PUB456 and he gave me some good ideas. Don’t be surprised if I hire him to direct a targeted marketing campaign. I’ve always liked Alan. Dan picks “good” friends.
Later that morning I met a book designer named Dotti Albertine (www.dotdesign.net). I really like her work, especially the Hundred Ways To Sunday book. But beyond her skills, she is a bright, intelligent, and off-the-wall woman whom I would think would be easy to work with. She is very “Santa Monica” and if you have a new-age or spiritual type of book, she might be a good choice as a designer. She was “a hoot” to talk with and I hope to become better friends with her.
After talking with Dotti, I got up all my courage and ventured forth to the foyer where one of the very first “book babes” had her booth… Victoria Sutherland, publisher of ForeWord Magazine. Now everyone on the planet must know by now that I’m the world’s greatest supporter of FWM. My problem is that I want FW to be so much more than it is…. and in keeping with who I am (perhaps make that “the asshole that I am”) I proceeded to tell Victoria in four part harmony and full orchestration how she should proceed to make FW into a mass consumer magazine on the order of “Books” or “Pages.” Well, would you believe that she thought that I was full of shit?
FW has an opportunity to become the “TV Guide” of the book industry. But instead, Victoria wants to do battle with Publishers Weekly… and there is no way she is going to beat them.
Last year she brought out her “ForeWord Reviews” but unfortunately she didn’t follow my advice to hire a professional PR flack and do it “right” by getting out in front of the “issues” of “pay for review.” So the result has been a lot of industry confusion, hostility, and misunderstanding, such that she has never made the kind of impact, both financially and philosophically that she would have had she listened to me a year or so ago. I think that she needs to move off of “dead center” from where she is now if she wants FW to survive. She won’t beat PW at their own game, but she has a really good chance to compete with Pages and Books if she can only be convinced that this is the way to go. However, there is no way that **I** will ever be able to do so. Everyone in the industry knows that I love Ms. Sutherland, and that there is nothing I wouldn’t do to help her. But she pretty much blew me and my concepts away that afternoon, so I can only assume that she knows best about what she knows best about. Whether anyone else will be convinced is still up for debate. But before you render an opinion either way, remember that she HAS been successful, FW is still publishing, and she is a hell of a lot more popular than I am…. and perhaps a lot smarter too.
The keynote speaker for PMA-U this year was Ruby Ann Boxcar. Ruby Ann is either the ugliest woman on earth or a guy in drag. My bet is “drag.” Anyway, she is a small publisher who has hit it “big time” with a series of “Down Home Trailer Park” cookbooks (www.rubylot18.homestead.com/index.html.) It’s a “shtick” and she plays it very well. Her speech was about how you have to “break the rules” in order to get ahead. However, it wasn’t so, because she didn’t really break any rules… she followed them to the letter… going out there and becoming a marketing machine. I rather enjoyed the humor of the speech but I heard several grumbles about it later on. It was “different” and we all know how most publishers really don’t like “different.” PMA took a gamble and I think they won. Others thought it was a loser.
Toward the end of the day I had a nice talk with Dean Sherman of Malloy. This is one of the printers that I believe produced one of the very early tablets of the Ten Commandments. They have a new “precision spot gloss” process and are the printers of that old venerable tome The Moosewood Cookbook… a book we all had in the early 70s that we read in order to make all those munchy things to eat when we were stoned on that “good sheet, man.”
As the PMA-U ended and the students came into the ballroom for the final free-food reception (again more cheese and carrots… from Cafa Le Shel) I talked with a few of them and as in past years, heard glowing reviews of the PMA. When I asked what was the best sessions many, if not most, said it was the panel with Mayapriya Long and Barry Kerrigan (desktopmiracles.com) on book covers and design. I didn’t get much of a chance to talk with Barry, but I knew I would see him at the “really big shoe” (OK, which famous TV host used that “term” in the 50s, 60s, and 70s?) in the next few days.
Before going upstairs to dress for the annual Pub-Forum (www.pub-forum.net) dinner, I spent about an hour talking with the always delightful and often insightful Patricia Bell, the matriarch of this business.
Her first words: “You look very much alive for someone who is dead.”
Pat and I go way, way, way back to the publishing list that was originally on AOL, before PMA came along and before anyone even thought about Pub-Forum. Pat is about opinionated as I am and I always enjoy meeting her each year. Since she is on the board of PMA, we naturally talked about the organization. Much of what she said was in confidence, but it’s safe to say that if you like the PMA the way it is than you have nothing to worry about because it is not going to change much.
The fact that the board of directors is chosen by the current sitting members (and tacitly approved by Jan Nathan) and the fact that they will never open up the board selection process to direct selection by the members pretty much determines that the future will be like the past… few changes, little innovation, but good salaries for the staff, director, and the vendors who sell to it. Is that a bad thing? I think it is, but as Pat aptly pointed out, there is not a huge ground-swell of dissent to change the focus or mission of the organization. It will be the same-old, same-old for some time to come.
I left Pat thinking that more than ever it is time for someone to offer an alternative. I didn’t know then that I would end up discussing this with Pat Schroeder, Director of the AAP later in the week.
The Pub-Forum dinner was held a few blocks from the “PMA” hotel. Sharon Goldinger and Susan Goland did a great job of organizing this. The one problem was that the tables were set up in what you might consider the “lobby” of an office building. It looked like it was once a cathedral. The acoustics were terrible. However the food was good, and it was fun to meet many of those whose names we see on the Pub-Forum list each day.
After dinner, several people got up to do a reading or some comedy. I did a stand-up routine and really bombed. However there was one joke I told that brought down the house, especially Dan Poynter.
“I love the restaurants in LA. Last night I went to one so fancy that they had a waitress for everything. First the cocktail waitress gave me a drink. Then the bread waitress came and gave us bread. Next the butter waitress gave us butter. The water waitress gave me water. Finally the head waitress came… I love that restaurant and can’t wait to go back.”
It had been a long day and I knew the next one would be even longer. BEA is an endurance contest and if you don’t go to it well rested, it will defeat you. I’ve had years of experience and I knew that eight hours of sleep was the best preparation. Of course I didn’t do anything so foolish and went to the bar and had two… or was it ten scotch and sodas. I sort of reminded myself of my old Irish Uncle Danny O’Canton. He emigrated from Dublin to Quebec because he once saw a billboard that said “Drink Canada Dry.”
When I get to BEA, I always like to visit the small press first. You see, at 9 AM on the first day of the BEA, the small press area is just like baseball’s spring training. Everyone is going to win the World Series. Everyone is going to pitch a perfect game. Everyone is going to get into the All Star game. However, by around 2 PM the same day, in the small press area it’s like mid-season after a ten game losing streak. Thus, I like to get down there while the spirits are high.
At the Los Ang-sleaze Convention Center, the small press is exiled to the basement. The one thing they had going was that this is where the autographing was done, and the BEA planners figured that people would pass through the small press area on the way to get free books. It’s a good concept and it helps to sell booth space, but it never quite works that way. Most bookbuyers looking to get free books just ignore the small press on thier way to the signing lines.
I always look for good things from the small press area, but for the most part this year was really dismal. Just about everything I saw was something that was a damned poor excuse to kill trees for.
Of course there was one exception, as there is every year. Leigh Davidson’s Down There Press had blue-badged book buyers lined up to give orders. Most of you women (except Robin Blum and the church-lady contingent) know where “down there is.” And most of you guys are always happy to go “down there.” Well, Leigh Davidson simply knows how to “work” BEA. She makes the calls and contacts well before the event and the buyers come to her. Of course, she is well known and her “slot” (bad pun) in the industry is well defined. It is always a pleasure to see Leigh… who by the way never ages… which is probably a testament to the concept of getting plenty of sex (works for me!).
One last thing I want to say about Leigh. She is involved with the N. CA. Book Publicity and Marketing Assn. which puts out just about the best newsletter in the industry. It’s not fancy and it’s not pretty, but it always has some really good ideas, tips, and contacts. I don’t know what it costs as they send it to me for free (not sure why). But if you want something that can REALLY HELP YOU you should contact Leigh at goodvibe@wellcom. Honestly, this really is a great little newsletter no matter where you live. It’s published six times a year and you can’t beat it.
What else did I see in the small press area? Not much. One book I liked is titled “Just Say Mikey” and I mention it because I like the cover (www.clintadams.com)
Another publisher I thought was worthy of mention was Newchi Publishing. They have some books on “Equine fiction” (www.calicanberra.com) which I thought were well done and sort of novel in concept.
I so much wanted to see some really good small press stuff as in previous years, but all I saw were the same old tired diet books, self-help tomes, wedding planners, stupid kid books, and so on. It was really depressing and I felt sorry for the folks who had paid not only a lot of money for their booths, but for the printing of their books… books that were going to end up as worm food in the landfill or as egg cartons.
Around 11 AM I went upstairs to what was the “main hall” and made my way to the large PMA display in the center of the floor. Jan was holding court there, meeting and greeting media types, publishers, authors, and wanna-bees. Dan Poynter was also there meeting and greeting the many minions who wanted to meet the guru who started it all. I can’t say that I saw a lot of “action” in buyers looking at the hundred or so books on display there, but I was only there a short time.
My first stop was to find my old and dear friend Cynthia Frank of Cypress House. (www.cypresshouse.com)
“And they say you can’t rise from the dead anymore!” she said.
I love Cynthia and admire what she does. While there are many co-pub houses, I think hers is the best. She is fair, she is honest, and she gets books (or their rights) sold. No one knows this business better than Ms. Frank and when I want to know something, she’s who I ask. She’s also one of the ten best looking women in publishing, but she would not want me to say so. I’d make her a book babe but she’d kill me if I did! Anyone who wants to know how to do it right should meet and learn from Cynthia.
I like to search out the services before looking at books.
I went over to the AAP booth and was amazed to find Pat Schroeder herself meeting and greeting. She knew of me from the Rant, but we had never met in person. I pitched her in about 50 seconds on the idea of an “off-shoot” of AAP that would work for the small press and be its spokesperson on issues like returns, discounts, etc. She was very open to the idea, took my card, and said someone would contact me. Of course I didn’t believe a word of this. Those of you who have been reading this missive for the past ten years know that each year I go to the AAP booth and each you they say “someone will contact you” and each year no one ever does. I’m not saying Ms. Schroeder was lying, but she DID spend 25 years in Congress.
My next stop was to pay a call on Mary Westheimer, the Mistress of Bookzone (www.bookzone.com). If you have not seen the BZ site recently than you won’t know that Mary is moving her organization to a different level… looking to provide services to larger publishers who have a strong mid-list. In her own words: “Bookzone is looking at the big picture of the business solutions for publishers allowing them to grow while not increasing costs.” I think that’s a fancy way of saying that she is going to compete against my upcoming PUB456. That’s OK. She’s got a big organization with big overhead and I have no doubt that I can go head to head with BZ. Besides, as the old parable goes “In a small southern town one lawyer starves to death… but two make a fortune!” That said, Mary is a worthy competitor and it will be interesting to see how each of us does. With any luck, I will beat her to the market, grab a big piece of it, and then sell the whole thing to her for seven figures. Mary, being the richest woman in publishing (with the exception of the Harry Potter author) can afford it!
Walking around the main hall showed me WHY the book biz is in such bad shape. There was damn little to get excited about. Indeed, after seeing a large number of booths from publicists and consultants I came to the conclusion that the sure way to success is to sell services TO publishers, not BECOME one!
I had a nice chat with the 1stBooks Library (www.1stbooks.com) but came away wondering if they could really “move” the books off the shelf (or out of the printer as they do POD.)
Another interesting service business is PenQuest (www.penquest.net). I rather like their concept but I don’t quite believe that they can sustain a revenue stream that will enable them to continue. If “nice” counts for anything, than they will make it, but I’m not sure it does. I enjoyed talking with them and hope that they will be around next year.
By accident I ended up at the booth of a publisher that puts together how-to-publish books, yet I’ve never heard of them…. and don’t know why. SquareOne Publishers (www.squareonepublishers.com) has a nice line of books on the business. I think the best is by Rudy Shur. This one could give ol’ Dan Poynter a run for his money. Its worth looking into, IMO.
Another service that looked interesting is New In Print (www.newinprint.com). I’m not sure if they are a POD or a PR firm but they have a fair number of books that they push and their rates are reasonable. However the president of the company gave me a card that had a “hotmail” address on it, so I’m not sure if these guys are for real. You make the call and let me know.
Have I talked about Robin Quinn? No not the former Playboy Bunny (although maybe in another life it was her?) Robin (www.writingandediting.biz) is an editor, copywriter, and ghostwriter who is very, very good at what she does (One of her clients (“Divorced Dads)” won a Ben Franklin this year.) Well Robin and I are old friends and we’re both sort of nuts. Anyway I ran into her in front of an official BEA Information booth. However there was no one in the booth and we were standing at it. Well tons of people walked up to us and asked us stuff…. like how to get to the other halls, etc. They thought we worked for the BEA… and I don’t know about her but I made some really good contacts. One of them was Brooke Halpin of Halpin House West (www.hhwpr.com). If you are looking to sell something to Hollywood, this might be your guy. And if you are looking for a super editor, Robin is your girl (another potential blonde bomb-shell book babe … except that she would also kill me!)
Also in the service sector was Donald “the Diligent” Kubelka. Hey, that’s what his card says. The company is PushButtonPres.com which claims you can publish your book in “about 5 minutes.” Hey, the concept worked for LensCrafters. I wasn’t too impressed, but first impressions can be wrong. I’m not sure what they do for the $500 you pay them, but I doubt it can be a whole heck of a lot. YMMV.
I spoke with the Expertclick.com folks. This looks like a knock-off of Lorilyn Bailey’s GuestFinder service. These folks have some real money behind them and I think I will give them a try when I roll out PUB456. Whether they can cut through the clutter and get ink is anyone’s guess, but they impressed me with their ability.
I went up to the press room hoping that there would be some food. But it seems that there was no deep-pocketed sponsor (like last year’s Franklin-Covey) to provide vittles for starving writers, so I had some awful (but free) coffee and some fig newton cookies I had packed. I used to bring beef jerky but it made me too thirsty. It wasn’t much of a lunch… until I got to meet Michael Cader the founder and head chipmunk of the Publishers Lunch newsletter. We had a short chat and he persuaded me that his daily tome would be a good and affordable vehicle to advertise PUB456 next fall. Hell of a nice guy, for someone who has a hell of a lot of influence in this business.
A really interesting service is Books For Life (www.booksforlifefoundation.com). I’ve yet to figure out what these folks do, but it looks like they are well funded from the John Lupton foundation to do it. Their literature says that they “provide, without cost, the opportunity to become educated about the publishing process and alternative publishing methods.” I don’t know what they know that others don’t know… except maybe how to land some big grants to let everyone know! If anyone can figure out what they do, let ME know. Maybe they are an alternative to PMA? The price is right!
I ended up at the iUniverse booth. Lots of people don’t like iUniverse but they impressed me as company that knows what it’s doing. I think for certain authors, this is a good venue for them to get their works published. Seeing as they are backed by Warburg Pincus as well as B&N, you can bet that they will be around for a while.
My final stop of the day was with the Flip Over Books people (www.flipoverpicturebooks.com). This is a very interesting service that produces storytelling books for teachers that have narrative on one side of the page and graphics on the other. They are not really a publisher. I’m not sure exactly how they are going to market this concept… be it to publishers or printers, but if I had a children’s book I’d take a look at this.
I saw Alistair. “I heard you were dead. It didn’t surprise me considering how much meat you eat.”
Every year for as long as I can remember I have dinner with Alistair Taylor from Torchlight Publishing (www.torchlight.com). They do books on Eastern spirituality, vegetarian cooking, and alternative medicine. This year they have a huge book called Pain Free For Life, and had a large crowd at their signing. Princess Long came with us. Both of them are strict vegetarians so we went to Govinda’s Restaurant in Culver City where for about $8 each you get all you can eat of the best vegie food I’ve ever had. We had a wonderful debate (as we do each year) about Western vs. Eastern philosophy (of course I always win… and if you believe that YOU can pay for Maya’s next lunch!)
After dinner, Alistair drove us back into the city and dropped us off at the Bonaventure where there was a huge party hosted by the Jenkins Group, Planned TV Arts, Midpoint, Phoenix Color, and MarketAbility. Every year Jerry Jenkins invites me and every year I always have some other commitment. But this year I vowed to go… and I was not sorry. Jerry and his pals KNOW how to throw a party. Wherever you looked there was a band, a babe, and a beer. And anyone who is anyone in the publishing biz was there. I’m sorry I missed all the previous bashes. I won’t miss the next one, that’s for sure (assuming I get an invitation!)
By around 10 PM I was beat so I left party girl Mayapriya and walked back to the hotel to crash. It was a great day. And I was feeling no pain…. at least I guess I wasn’t …. seeing as I woke up the next morning in my clothes… along with a head the size of a football.
I thought it was the fire alarm. Yeah, just what I needed. But it was the phone blasting in my ear like the Queen Mary coming into port.
“You’re not dead,” a shrill voice echoed in my ear. I immediately knew who it was. Anyone who has ever heard Ethel Merman sing “Show Business” knows that voice.
“No Wendy, I’m not dead ’cause I didn’t sleep with you,” I said, trying to shake away the cobwebs.
Wendy Balmer was an old friend, an ex-reporter and now semi-retired free-lance writer… living well from the insurance policies on her late husbands. As she tells it, both died while she was giving them oral sex.
“They went with a smile on their face” Ms. Balmer would say. Perhaps this is why in media circles she had the nickname of Wendy The Em-Balmer.
“Well everyone said you had bought the farm… not that anyone much cared!” Always a sweet, gentle, caring soul the Em-Balmer is. “Get out of bed and meet me in the restaurant and I’ll buy you an eye-opener,” she said.
“Wendy, the only thing that would open my eyes this morning is if I rolled over and saw the Dixie Chicks naked staring back at me,” I told her.
“I wanna see you. I’ll meet you in 30 minutes.. and don’t stand me up or you’ll wish you WERE dead!” and the phone went quiet.
Wendy looked pretty good… for a woman who had murdered two husbands. I won’t go into detail about what she had to say because most of it was off the record. But one thing that I can report is that she’s been hearing “things” about PGW.
“What things?” I asked.
“I don’t know. It’s strange. No one will actually say. People are ask me ‘have you heard anything about PGW?’ There is something goin’ on with them if you ask me.”
The other piece of gossip she had for me was that she expected B&N to get more and more involved in the publishing business. “If Microsoft can go vertical and only get their wrists slapped by the anti-trust cops, it’s a natural for B&N to try to control both the content and the distribution channel. Why give anything to Ingram?”
I don’t know if I agree with any of this, but it has a certain logic to it. Anyway, we finished our talk on the bus to the convention center, she gave me a seductive kiss good-bye (I’m sure her husbands DID have a smile on their faces) and we parted.
I can’t begin to detail all of the books I saw and publishers I spoke with as I walked around the hall. I had some business cards printed with “the story” of PUB456 as well as the URL for potential vicitms… uh I mean clients… to look at the demo and I was passing them out to publishers whom I thought would be interested. I was pleased to see that so many were.
My first chore was to look for technical books. I was aghast when I saw that O’Reilly did not have a booth this year. Things must be really terrible in the tech-book sector for Tim not to come to the BEA.
Since Wrox went tits-up, everyone knows that sales of over-priced and quickly out of date computer books have been down, but I never thought I’d see the day when O’Reilly would not show for a BEA.
I found APress (www.apress.com) a relative newcomer to the tech area. They had bought some of the Wrox titles and were re-editing them for publication later on. When I first saw Apress two years ago, they had ten titles, now they must have about 40. They do good books and I wish them well.
Not finding any other tech publishers in the catalog (that I knew about) I started to meander toward the edge of the hall where the booths were cheaper and the publishers were smaller.
I always enjoy going to the Nolo Press booth. They do books on self-help law and have been around forever. Nice people who know their niche and do a great job with it.
I walked over to the Words Distribution booth and ran into Cate Monroe, owner of Moon Mountain (www.moonmountainpub.com). They do wonderful children’s books. She said that she had many interesting people stop by her booth… not traditional booksellers, but reps from book fairs, overseas distributors, etc. I always enjoy seeing Cate and her husband Bob. They started from nothing and are building a first rate house.
I had no idea what Laptop Lunches was all about but I heard some buzz about it so I went to take a look. Obentec (www.obentec.com) president Amy Hemmert explained to me the concept of packaging a book on nutrition for children with a kid-oriented lunch box, food containers, etc. It was a good idea It could become a “big deal.”
I talked with Donald Ellis of Creative Arts in Berkeley, CA. They are a small fiction house that has been around for over 30 years. He says the future is good for publishing. “The Internet, websites, next-day book printing, and various other kinds of electronic selling and publishing will only give us greater visibility to our readers and potential authors, and more choices to those of us in the business of the distribution of ideas, words, and pictures.” In a house of doom and gloom it was nice to find someone up-beat about things.
I love the title and the graphics of The Tush People. It’s a children’s book. Good art, clever story. Poor marketing. They don’t have a website. Why be in this business if you’re just going to shoot yourself in the foot.
I’ve always loved the Laughing Elephant line of books (www.laughingelephand.com) especially their animal tomes. It seems that each year they are able to afford a larger booth. I have no doubt that they hire some of the best artists and photographers in the country for their titles.
I always tell my friends who are in non-publishing businesses that doing a book about their business or something related can be great marketing. The folks who have done this better than anyone on the planet is the Wine Appreciation Guild (www.wineappreciation.com) Their books on wine are absolutely first rate and they set an example for all businesses and non-profits to follow.
As an observer of the publishing scene I’ve always wondered why there are not more people doing what Jerry Jenkins does…. special sales. Well, it looks like we’re going to see more of this. I ran into Brian Judd of Book Marketing Works (www.bookmarketingworks.com) and he says he is out of the seminar biz and will be going toe-to-toe with Jerry. I think it’s a good idea. It’s something I would do if I had the time. I just KNOW I could make the rounds in Silicon Valley and sell some of these companies on the idea of doing a book that they could use to market their products with. Brian is a stand-up guy and I’d put my money on him any day.
I went up to the press room to have some lunch. Actually it was for the free coffee, a chance to use the computers, and to get off my dogs. There was this year’s official PR Babe… Joanne McCall. Working out of Aloha, OR, she has built up an impressive list of authors and publishers. She good looking, well connected, and street-smart… all the things you want in a PR person. And she’s a BABE! She told me that her “main author” was doing a signing at the BEA. It was a book that I was interested in titled “The Brand Called You” by Peter Montoya (www.petermontoya.com). I told her I’d go down there if I got a chance.
Just after she left, in came the Ticklekitty girls. Honest. I’m not making this up. Sadie Allison is the author of Toy Gasams and if you guys want your “down there” to become “up there,” you really DO want to take a look at her (www.ticklekitty.com/Meet_Sadie). This is a short, simple book, summed up best by the author: “Orgasms Big, wet, multiple, heart-pounding, scream-inducing, life-affirming, scrape-you-off-the-ceiling orgasms.” This is a sex book for women. Nothing special, except that Sadie has become a marketing machine. She and her Ticklekitty girls in form-fitting outfits were all over the convention floor passing out flyers and just “looking good.” I had a short chat with Sadie. I expected a “ridden hard, put away wet” type, but she is actually somewhat shy, reserved, and a hell of a lot smarter than anyone gives her credit for. She gave me a copy. I’m going to send it to Wendy The Em-Balmer to help her kill her next husband! Or maybe I’ll send it to Robin Blum as a peace offering!
Going back to the main hall I stopped off at the e-book exhibit. There were not many booths here, but the one I really liked was Gem. Gem is owned by TV Guide (or vice versa?) and they market a reading tablet that was well made, easy to use, and which you get the content from the net. It cost $149, way too much to ever become popular. Maybe that’s why I read this week that they are going to discontinue it. Well, one day we are going to get a low-cost, high-quality tablet and the entire e-book thing will take off again. You heard it here first!
I went over to the Midpoint Tradebooks booth to check out Julie, an official Book Babe nominated last year. My sweet innocent Julie got married. And I thought she was waiting for me to get divorced (which I’m not, so don’t start talking!) The now Mrs. Julie Hardison has risen to the job of Manager of Marketing and Communications… and so now she is a babe with money AND power! Julie invited me to have dinner with some of the Midpoint folks and their guests and I was very honored. She told me I could bring a few friends and I told her I’d see her later.
I headed back to the PMA booth to find Dan Poynter and Princess Mayapriya. I was really taken with one of the exhibitors in the PMA area (they re-sell space to members) who had a book called “Animals and the Afterlife.” (www.animalsandtheafterlife.com) This was a great idea for a niche book, but I told them that instead of a 400 page tome, they should have broken it up into a series of short hard cover books sold to the gift trade, not the book trade. I don’t know if they had the first idea what I was talking about but if they do what I say they will have a huge seller… every vet in the country will carry it.
I found both Dan and the Book Princess and told them about the Midpoint dinner at the Pizza Kitchen in the Wells Fargo Center. Dan was happy because there would be beer there. Maya was happy because she could get a vegie pizza. I was happy because I would not have to pay.
We all took the bus back to the hotel so that we could freshen up and then we took a cab to the Wells center. This was a casual dinner of pizza, beer, and relaxation. It was just the immediate Midpoint management and staff, along with some of their authors and publishers.
I sat across from a tall, good looking guy, about 60, who was in great shape. He had a new book coming out called Foul Ball, so we started talking about baseball. I asked his name. I almost died. It was Jim Bouton. Now this might not mean anything to you, but when Jim was pitching I was a teenager and a HUGE Yankee fan. I knew all the players, their positions, their averages, etc. Well, I went nuts. I rattled off all the players names and I’m sure Bouton thought I was a certified lunatic. Jim had an “important” book in 1970 called “Ball Four” which was an expose on the game. It was critically acclaimed and he was “blacklisted” from the sport for many years… because he told the truth. It was a real honor and treat for me to meet one of my boyhood heros.
Eric Kaampman, one of the owners of Midpoint is an interesting guy. I usually don’t like really tall people, but Eric has a gentleness about him that does not make him seem the eight foot tall guy that he is (OK, maybe 6-5… still too damn tall!) I don’t know if any of you saw the article written about him in the December 2002 issue of Inc. Magazine. Eric has hiked the Appalachian trail and the piece was about his philosophy of business as it relates to hiking and the wilderness. Eric has a new book coming out called The Tree of Life: A book of wisdom for men. (www.midpointtradebooks.com/detail.php?bk_id=3375). I’m looking forward to this book because I don’t know anyone as qualified to write such a tome, given all the “stuff” Eric has been through in his storied life. Eric is a guy who had done well doing good.
Dan, Maya, and I piled into a cab and went back to the hotel. I don’t know where they disappeared to, but I went into the bar and found Peter Goodman and Pete Masterson. Pete is a designer and will be having a new book out on book design later this year. He’s a Mac-head so I gave him my usual “hell” about it. He thinks Apple walks on water but admits that for regular business tasks a cheap PC gets the job done as well as an overpriced Mac. I argue that a cover designed in Photoshop on the Mac will come the same as one designed in Photoshop on the PC. You make your own decision. Anyway, after a beer, I went upstairs to hit the hay, hoping that maybe one of the ticklekitty girls might be there. When I got to my room, it was empty. I guess they were with Dan. Oh well, fame has its rewards.
It must have been at o’dark thirty in the morning when again the phone rang. What is it with these people? I was starting to wish that I WAS dead… at least I wouldn’t be woken by the phone.
“I’m hungry. It’s lunch time.”
“What do you mean? It’s only 7 AM,” I told the obscenely chipper Mayapriya.
“Yes, but in Bombay it’s lunch time,” she says.
I forgot that as a Vedic scholar (it’s true) she thinks in terms of “spiritual time” and not “reality time”… which was too freakin’ early in the morning! “You didn’t buy me lunch yesterday so that means you get to buy me breakfast.”
I felt like Pooh Bear, going bump, bump, bump down the elevator that had to stop on each floor to pick up the hordes of people checking out. Many don’t stay for the last day.
I’ve never seen anyone have a Coke, two chocolate doughnuts and a large bowl of fresh fruit for breakfast before, but that’s what she ate… and that’s what I paid for.
For the last time, we rode the bus together to the convention hall and agreed to meet later on at the PMA booth.
The last day of BEA is always my favorite. It’s not as crowded and if you know how to ask, you can get just about any book on display because the booth-babe and pub-stud sales people really don’t want to pack them up.
I went to the West Hall. In Chicago everyone is on one floor, but in LA there is the main hall where the big guys are, the West hall where the foreign and smaller publishers are, and the basement where the small press is exiled. The West Hall is a hell of a long walk from the main hall but not far from the press room, where I stopped to see what the “buzz of the day” was. The buzz, was about how poor the attendance was, how there was nothing really new or exciting to write about, and about the rumor that some “big dogs” at the New York Times were going to resign (which as we know now turned out to be true.)
I always like to see who got the booth the furtherest away from the main hall. These are usually the last booths sold and for a discount. And most often they are sold to people who have absolute “loser” books. And this year was no exception. The booth at the “end of the road” wins my Most Terrible Book of the Year award. As their flyer says: “The Bird Poop series. (www.birdpoopcentral.com) focuses on a group of international, crime fighting seagulls… Pierra La Splat, Hoo Flung Dung, and I.B. Dumpin… kids will be rolling in laughter as our diverse task force stamps out doom, danger, destruction and diabolical idiots.” I’ve seen some bad books before but never anything as terrible as this. Last year was the Dog Poop calendar. This year a series of books with the theme of bird poop? No wonder the rest of the world thinks we’re a sick society…. because we are!
Not far from the poop people was one of the very best things I saw at the show. It was only two days old, said the publishers of LittleBigBooks (www.littlebigbooks.com) These look like match books. But when you open them, it folds out into a large sheet of paper. They have one on golf tips, one that is a carbohydrate counter, and my favorite, on cocktails. There were about 20 others. This is a great sideline item for all types of stores and they were so well done… full color, good info, absolutely terrific. The guys at the booth said the product had just been shipped from the printer overseas and they were looking for distributors. I’m SURE they will find them. This is a great concept that was well executed. The only thing they have done wrong is that their web site is entirely in Flash… and everyone and their dog hates flash sites as they take forever to load and run. I’ll bet that next year these guys will have a booth in the middle of the main hall. These are the best stocking stuffers I’ve ever seen. This company should make a fortune if they do some half way decent marketing.
I ran into Jerry Jenkins (www.bookpublishing.com). I had seen him and Jim Barnes at the party, but did not have a chance to talk, so we went into the hall, found a quiet spot and chatted. He told me about his new endeavor called Printillectual. I won’t go into detail as I don’t want to jump any guns but bottom line it’s a way for publishers to get discounts on printing and for printers to fill up excess capacity. I thought it was a good idea but I’m not sure it will be warmly received by printers who are already operating at close margins.
A lot of folks don’t like Jerry. I think it’s the same reason a lot of folks don’t like me. Jerry’s an “idea” guy and he is not afraid to say what he thinks… or to act on it either. Jerry comes up with ideas and others are pissed at him because he makes money on these ideas. Jerry is not afraid to fall on his ass… and he has in the past. But he has an indomitable spirit and a singleness of vision. He acts. He doesn’t react. Some say that he cheats publishers, but he’s always been up-front about the fact the 90% of the people who pay him to make “lightening strike” end up losing their money. People have no problem buying a lottery ticket or going to a casino that advertises that you will walk out a winner, but they grouse at Jerry when they pay their money and they lose it. Jerry is no angel, but just exactly who is in this business?
Tehabi Books (www.tehabi.com) won three or four Ben Franklin awards so I went over there to see if I could learn the secret to their success. I had a wonderful conversation with Sam Lewis, VP of Operations. These guys were a one-book house in 1993. Today they have over 60 titles and have sold 5 million books. Sam said the secret is to NOT rely on the trade books. Just about all of their titles are done for the “special sales” and corporate market. The block-buster “Ford” book was done this way. If I was to choose just one publisher who really understands how to make money as a small press, it would be Tehabi. If you have half a brain you will go to their web site and see what they do and then COPY THEM. (However, don’t be an idiot and put a Flash intro page on your web site like they did… where the “skip” button does not seem to work on all browsers.) What Tahabi should do is a book about themselves… and I’m sure every small publisher would buy a copy… I know that I would.
There were not many printers with booths at this year’s BEA, but one that I found were my friends Charles and Nancy Vaughan. (www.vaughanprinting.com) This husband and wife team work out of Nashville where they do a lot of printing for the Christian publishers. I love seeing them each year. Nancy is a flirt and Charles is a womanizer, kissing all the good looking babes that come by his booth? Does Nancy care? Telling me that she has been married to the guy for 40 years “If these young girls can stand him, they are welcome to him!” This is a couple that has “it” together.. and who run a company that does too!
I went over to the SCB Distributors area to see my old friend Janet Hardy, owner of Geenery Press (www.greenerypress.com). Janet does books on S&M, bondage, swinging, G&L sex, etc. She used to be a rather large (OK, I’ll say it… fat) woman. But last year she had taken off about a thousand pounds… and I was glad to see that she has kept it off. This year she sported a “butch” hair cut. I told her I didn’t like it. She said “The girls I want to get, do.” Different strokes.
Janet told me a good story, one I want to repeat because distributors are often taken as the “bad guys” in the industry. When Janet’s former distributor went Chapter 11, they took all the money owed to Greenery Press and Janet had nothing for new titles and was at the edge of going under herself. Up stepped Mr. Aaron Silverman, President of SCB (www.scbdistributors.com) who fronted Janet with enough funds to go back to press for back-list and new front-list titles. She has paid him back all the money and it’s just a good story about a good guy. I didn’t get to meet Aaron but one day I hope to. If we had more distributors like SCB this industry might be in better shape.
Walking down the aisle, a voice called out to me. “Your’e alive, you’re alive!”
I didn’t recognize it… or its owner. It turns out to be Brain Price, Publisher of Chivalry Bookshelf (www.chivalrybookshelf.com). I had written a blurb about his line of medieval history and swordsmanship/arms/armour books in last year’s BEA Diary and he wanted to thank me. I could not believe he remembered me. He said that my short piece helped him get noticed by distributors and he was hoping that Midpoint will take him on. I told him I was happy for him but to keep it a secret because if it gets out that I helped it would ruin my reputation as a hard ass. As you all know, my attitude is: Why should I do anything for you? What the *&^% have you done for me?
The day was winding down and there was only an hour or so before the 4 PM close. I found myself back in the Word Distributing area talking to Literary Trips (www.literarytrips.com). I was really taken with this concept of travel essays for those who are literate. If you have ever read a book that took place in some city or area and wanted to know more about it, this is a great way to learn. If you like travel books, they don’t get any better or more interesting.
Walking down the aisles that had the sideline stuff… eyeglasses, pens, globes, and other non-book stuff sold at book stores, I came upon a really nice set of greeting cards called Literary Luminaries (www.literalyluminaries.biz). These are large blank cards with the charactature of a famous author and a short bio on the back. These are perfect for writing thank-you notes to people who reviewed your books. I liked the Virginia Woolf one the best and the guy gave me one. I hope they do well in the marketplace.
No BEA would be complete without visiting a brothel… at least in literary terms. And the best madam in the biz was showing off her book, Pandering, Heidi Fleiss (www.heidiwear.com). I wanted to see this book, because my name was in her first book. (Will someone please explain that to Robin Blum?) I really liked Heidi’s book, but didn’t care much for Heidi herself. She was a pompous little snot who was merely famous for being famous. However she did have a great quote for me: “If you’re going to run an illegal business, you better be driving the best car, living in the biggest house, fucking the best looking people, and spending every dollar you make, because sooner or later you’re going to get caught.” The hype aside, Pandering is not only interesting but done in multi-media montage/collage style it is drop-dead beautiful. Heidi ain’t bad looking either…. but she’s a bit long in the tooth to compete against the tickle kitty babes.
And that was that. They announced over the PA system that the show was closed, the traditional cheer went up, and everyone left. I said good-bye to Dan and Mayapriya and Jan and Tordis Isselhardt who were hanging out at the PMA booth, and got on the bus back to the hotel.
Entering the bar was a table with Barry Kerrigan and his partner Del, John Kremer, Jerry Jenkins, and the lovely and talented Tami DePalma owner of MarketAbility (www.marketability.com). Everyone was discussing the BEA and the overall consensus was that this year’s show was a big yawn.
John and Jerry didn’t think it was as well attended as last year, but Barry Kerrigan owner of Desktop Miracles, a book design firm in Vermont, said his booth got pretty good traffic.
I got to talking with Tami. I’ve known her for a number of years and have watched her firm grow and prosper. And I’ve watched her mature as a business woman. She used to be arrogant little thing (when you have the looks and brains she has, it’s quite common) but this year I noticed an air of maturity and sophistication about her. She’s still drop dead beautiful, but she seems a whole lot “nicer” than in the past. Anyway, she invited me to join all of them at dinner at the Engine House, but I had a previous engagement (but not with a ticklekitty girl!)
I’m not quite sure how to characterize this show. To me the one theme, if there WAS one theme, was sex and sleaze… perhaps because it was being held in Los Anga-sleaze. It seemed that every other publisher was trying to sell a book that had something to do with the pleasures of the flesh. I don’t know if it’s a reaction to the somberness of the post-911 years, or the seriousness of the Iraq war, or what. All I know is that this year, and I guess like others, sex sells… at least better than computer books do!
For me it had been a great week. Everyone I talked to about PUB456 seemed to like the concept. Of course, people will tell you anything. Will it sell? Well, when I bring it out this fall, we’ll soon find out. But if it doesn’t, what the hell. If you don’t try, you don’t succeed.
I went up to my room after leaving the bar. The phone rang. It was my friend from Disney whom I was going to have dinner with that evening.
“Hey, you’re not dead. Everyone thought you were dead.”
It never ends.