Back from the Front Lines
Blogger: Rachelle Gardner
I’ve just come from BEA (Book Expo America) in New York and I’m all energized about books! BEA is the biggest annual event for the publishing industry, attended by industry professionals from all over the U.S. and the world, and an absolute mecca for book lovers. In fact, that’s the overriding feeling you get when walking around BEA: we all love books. It’s not just a job, it’s our passion. What a great feeling.
Attending an event of this magnitude makes it seem just plain silly that people are talking about “the end of reading” and that so many are pessimistic about the future of publishing. I sensed more enthusiasm around books than I have in years.
The event was high energy and crowded. Long lines for author signings were the norm. Lots of books were being given away—I was excited to pick up a few ARCs (Advance Reader Copies), especially Lila, the latest from Marilynne Robinson, to be released later this year.
A large contingent of the traffic at BEA comes from bookstore owners (there are still over 2,000 independent bookstores in the U.S.), librarians, and reps from larger retailers like Barnes & Noble and Books-a-Million. It’s fun to see how excited they all are about the newest books and getting authors’ autographs. These are genuine readers and fans.
There were lots of celebrities and celebrity authors—Jodi Picoult, Neil Patrick Harris, John Green, Anjelica Huston, Amy Poehler, Martin Short, R.L. Stine and Carl Hiaasen, to name a few. More than 950 authors were there to sign books.
This year, “BookCon”—the consumer book event that took place on Saturday, was a rousing success with over 10,000 fans showing up to meet their favorite authors, get new releases and get autographs. The plan is to make that aspect of the show even bigger next year. It’s clear that reaching out directly to readers is one of the key requirements for the publishing industry to thrive.
While “Amazon vs. Hachette” was a huge topic of discussion (and James Patterson called attention to it in an impassioned speech while accepting an award), I sensed the tide has changed in terms of the fear, pessimism and uncertainty that permeated the industry the last few years. Much of BEA now addresses the “new normal,” with everyone appearing fairly tech-savvy, lots of attention paid to digital, and even a whole series of workshops and resources for those involved in indie publishing. The attitude seems to be, “we’re figuring this out.”
While at BEA, I met with about a dozen of my industry contacts (editors, publishers, other agents) and ran into various friends and colleagues. I participated in an agent panel about the new ways agents are doing business. I also got out and about in NYC and had a terrific time. I felt like BEA was so worthwhile that I’ll probably try to go every year.
Do you think my perception of the durability of books & publishing can possibly be realistic? Or am I just looking at the world through rose-colored glasses?
Agent @RachelleGardner gives a rundown of BEA, says publishing is “figuring it out.” (Click to Tweet.)
Publishing isn’t dying? Who knew? @RachelleGardner takes the industry’s temp at BEA. (Click to Tweet.)
Photos: (1) Banners hanging in the main lobby of the Javits Center. (2) Books & Such author Tessa Afshar signing books in the Moody Publishers booth.
Jacob K. Javits Center, New York City, site of Book Expo America