I must admit — I am egg-hausted (as is the rest of the book publishing industry). Tuesday, I attended the opening CEO panel about “The Value of the Book” at Book Expo America (and very nearly fell off my seat when Farrar, Straus & Giroux’s President and Publisher Jonathan Galassi scoffed at the thought of consumers spending time reading enhanced ebooks) and also the 7x20x21 panel about the future of publishing. Wednesday, I helped hold down the fort at the booth and met lots of folks including Michelle from Galleysmith, Trish from Hey Lady! Watcha Readin’?, Nicole from Linus’s Blanket, and Stephanie from Stephanie’s Written Word. I’m really looking forward to catching up with lots more book bloggers this Friday at Book Blogger Convention.
Ironically, for a conference at which change was the buzz word — changes in traditional book publishing, changes in the media, changes in reader habits — BEA was held in the Neanderthal version of a convention hall otherwise known as the Javits Center. As many tweeps know, I have been complaining bitterly on Twitter about the lack of extra power outlets there. Has anyone ever heard of a convention center that did not have extra power outlets? Even in the Internet Cafe?! So of course my laptop started dying, then my MiFi card (I think I saw somewhere that the Javits Center was charging $45 / day for WiFi access), then my cell phone. (In all fairness, the lack of 2.0 amenities is not BEA’s fault — the Javits Center has a monopoly on, well, space in Manhattan, so they pretty much call all the shots.)
Thursday I’ll be on the floor pretty much all day, which means I most definitely deserve a reward from Cupcake Cafe.
Being rather interested in both publishing and the future, I wanted to put together a post about the future of publishing. The first panel I attended was Do Publishers Still Hold the Keys to the Kingdom? A Panel of Authors Weigh In, held on Friday afternoon. Moderator Steven Johnson, author of The Invention of Air, was joined by Wired editor-in-chief Chris Anderson, author of the new book Free and the Long Tail, Lev Grossman (TIME senior book critic and author of the upcoming The Magicians) and Tom Standage (editor at The Economist and author of An Edible History of Humanity) as they discussed whether publishers are still necessary or whether authors could (or should) go it alone with self-publishing platforms. Tweeps in the audience commented on the, well, lack of publishers on the panel. Which sort of was a recurrent theme at the convention.
Jumping Off a Cliff: How Publishers Can Succeed Online, moderated by Publishers Weekly’s Andrew Albanese with Chris Anderson, Scribd cofounder Jared Friedman, and New York Times digital guru Nick Bilton, also lacked a publishing house presence. (Thanks to PW for these recaps.)
And Thursday’s The Concierge and the Bouncer: The End of the Supply Chain and the Beginning of the True Book Culture panel featured Richard Nash, former Soft Skull publisher. Hmm.
But before the conspiracy theorists jump in, I’ll say that I helped organize the “Keys to the Kingdom” panel, so I can say firsthand just how tricky a situation this is. When it comes to discussing the future of publishing, publishers will admit that we’re at a crossroads but are, understandably, reluctant to issue more detailed public proclamations. It’s unfortunate because there are plenty of people interested in and knowledgeable about the publishing industry who would like to participate in these “future of publishing” discussions. So how can we rectify (or at least amend) the situation? Here are a few suggestions:
1. Tackle part of the problem first
On Saturday evening, for example, publishers Dominique Raccah of Sourcebooks and Bob Miller of HarperStudio participated in the discussion about Stupid Things Publishers and Booksellers Do, moderated by Praveen Madan, co-owner of The Booksmith in San Francisco. Carole Horne, general manager of Harvard Book Store in Cambridge rounded out the panel and Carla Cohen from Politics & Prose in Washington, DC and others in the audience chimed in periodically. Each panelist spoke about three things they feel should be changed about the book publishing industry — no one divulged the meaning of life, but those three things (actually, 12) provide a place to start figuring it out.
Or in the 7x20x21 panel presentation on Friday evening, seven people in the publishing industry spoke about issues that excited them. Again, no one shared their secrets about how to save book publishing, but everyone was able to provide a few nuggets of inspiration.
2. Take the discussion online
If “future of publishing” issues don’t have much of a future in offline discussions, then (to state the obvious) let’s continue them online where they’ve been for a while. There are a number of general interest publishing industry blogs like Booksquare, Follow the Reader and Galleycat where you can read about important publishing issues. There are many more, some of which are listed on this Book Publicity Blog under “Future of Publishing Blogs” and “Publishing Blogs.” (Check the blogroll on the right.)
3. Be patient
What can I say — Rome wasn’t built in a day.
I didn’t get a chance to stop by BEA yesterday — there was too much to do around the office. (Plus, I couldn’t for the life of me find a list of the panels on the website beyond the sparse “Events at a Glance” PDF.) Which was a pity. But fortunately, Publishers Weekly was there, so I’m linking to their coverage.
Here are some panels that caught my eye:
I’ve been very interested in finding out more about ebook giveaways — on the one hand, you’d think that a free ebook would lead to fewer sales, but that hasn’t seemed to be the case. Or has it? Peter Balis, director of online sales at Wiley, and Brent Lewis, v-p for digital and Internet at Harlequin, discussed “rules” for giveaways and talked about cases in which free ebooks have both helped and hurt sales.
Richard Nash, formerly publisher at Soft Skull Press, and Dedi Felmen, formerly a senior editor at Simon & Schuster, discussed their new venture, Round Table, a mash up of sorts of a subscription service and a social network that gets writing to readers.
I’ll be heading up to the Javits Center later on today — it’s shaping up to be a busy afternoon (and evening).
I’ve only been to BEA once. And that was pre-Twitter. So if I get to go this year (I’m working on it), it’s gonna be exciting.
BEA, for those of you who don’t work in publishing, is Book Expo America, the largest book convention in the country. It brings together booksellers and publishing houses and rights people and book-y media and media escorts and pretty much everyone who has anything to do with book publishing (except, apparently, me).
Anyway, while I’m waiting to see whether or not my BEA visa comes through, I thought I’d jump in on the action. Since a lot of people will be traveling to New York for the conference and since about 99.9 percent of publishing people are based in New York, I thought we could perhaps offer our guests some help getting around the city.
It’s pretty simple — you just need Twitter. Here’s how it’ll work:
If you’re a BEA attendee coming to New York and need information about the city — directions, hotels, restaurants, bars, etc. — type in your question on Twitter using the hash tag #nychelp.
If you work in publishing and are willing to help provide information about NYC (in 140-character chunks), please check #nychelp between now and Sunday, May 31 and answer whatever questions you can. The more people we get checking in and answering questions, the more people we’ll be able to help.
A few things to note:
1. #nychelp is not intended for questions about BEA itself. (The BEA website provides a substantial amount of information, as does the printed guide.) It is intended for questions about New York in general — for example, if you’re standing at the corner of the Javits Center and are trying to figure out how to get to the New York Public Library. Or if you want to know how to get to Prospect Park from the Brooklyn Marriott. Or if you want to know where to get good sushi. Or if you’re looking for someone to run the Central Park loop with you. That kind of stuff.
2. I won’t be able to guarantee the accuracy of the information on #nychelp (although I do hope people will be as honest and as accurate as possible) so my recommendation would be to use #nychelp in conjunction with another source like a map (or a website or a guy on the street).
3. It’s entirely possible that someone else has already started something like this. If you know of something similar, let me know and I’m happy to close up shop and join forces with them.
4. And lastly, feel free to forward this post / link to it and encourage your publishing colleagues / BEA attendees you know to use the hashtag.
Mary-Kate Figur is the new Editorial Coordinator at Kirkus Reviews who can answer questions about review status or other related general inquiries. She reminds us to check their “coming-soon page” (which I think I have seen in the past, although when I just checked for it, the Coming Soon link took me to the home page). If you need her contact information but did not receive Figur’s email, you can check Kirkus’ About Us page or try calling 866-890-8541.
Publishers Weekly reports that the Amazon Bookstore Coop, a feminist bookstore in Minneapolis, will close at the end of June.
For those of you not at BEA, like me, you can look at photos of people at BEA. Carolyn Kellogg of Pinky’s Paperhaus (and the L.A. Times’ book blog Jacket Copy) posts some pix of her and some other well-known lit / publishing bloggers whose blogs you may be familiar with but whose faces you may not know.
I thought this post entitled The Art of No on PR Squared might resonate with book publicists. I would like to draw your attention to the following quote: “No, I’m sorry, your Enterprise IT Security product probably won’t be a good fit on the TODAY Show. We’ll both have egg on our face if we try that outlet.” Happy half-day Friday. (Unless you’re in LA. In which case you’ll be working through the weekend.)
I am not in L.A. at BEA and seem to be missing all the fun (or bother, depending on your point of view). No matter! Life goes on.
BNET.com (CNET’s business site) recently launched “Business Book Briefs.” They passed on some information: “BNET producers read the books, then work with the authors to craft a script that highlights important sections in an engaging way. The result is a five-minute minute video adaptation of the book that gives viewers the opportunity to learn a central concept directly from the author.”
Most Business Book Briefs are filmed at the BNET studios in San Francisco but videos may also be shot at a location mentioned in the book. To pitch a book, you can contact executive producer Marianne Wilman at Marianne.Wilman[at]cnet[dot]com.
Teresa Budasi, book editor at the Chicago Sun-Times, notes on The Book Room blog in a post about Harper’s new ecatalogs that she gets so many galleys and review copies that she no longer looks through publishing house catalogs. I imagine she’s not the only one to do so. (Last year I came back from BEA with a two-foot stack of catalogs — and those were just from the major houses.) Of course, on the other side of the fence are the people who request *every* single title we publish. (Those are the people to whom I send exactly … nothing.)