And it is once again time for me to perform my civic duty and pimp the American Booksellers Association convention (now BookExpo America or the BEA)
. It's in NYC at the Javits Center June 2 - 5, 2005. And when it's in NYC, it's big
-- NYC is the biggest location they get, because Manhattan and SF are the Centers of Book Publishing. Just as a for example, last year it was in Chicago, and had an attendance of about 25,000 "industry professionals". (Total crowd is about 60,000.) Last time it was in NYC? It had an attendance of about 30,000 "professionals." Which means more booths, more exhibitors, more authors, more everything -- it's big in NY and big in LA and not so big in Chicago.
For those of you who missed my last pimpage, let me explain to you why the ABA/BEA rocks. My. World. My parents are in the publishing industry, so I've been going to these things since I was four or five. Really.
Here's the basic deal: 2000 exhibitors, mostly in publishing but some in sidelines (bookmarks and all that). Want to know how big it is? Well, here's
the floor plan -- as of September
. Usually more than 600 authors doing autographs -- last time I went, this included Neil Gaiman and Laurie King. And there are books everywhere
The details: So this is in large part about promoting books to press and booksellers. And publishing folks do that by ... giving their books away.
They give books away signed. So you look through the list of the six hundred people autographing (usually available online around March) and pick the ones from whom you want a free book. And then they give it to you, signed to whoever you like. (Okay, brief waiting in line is involved.) And then they'll give you a second copy if you ask, and then they'll thank you for taking the time to read their book, and I'm not kidding.
And they also just plain-old-give-them-away. Without lines. You know, there are three or four or twelve stacks of their forthcoming releases in the booth, as and you stroll by you pick up a copy (or two or three) of each. Some of them are already in-press, but a lot of them are ARCs (advance reading copies, which we used to call bound galleys before non-initial phrases go too passe) -- which means they're both free and
make you feel cutting-edge when you've read the books six months before everyone else. (There's nothing like walking into a bookstore and browsing the new releases and realizes that you've already at least skimmed every one of them.)
ARCs are the cheapest way to publicize, because you often have to produce them anyway for book reviews and final revisions. But there is Other Stuff Aplenty. Candy and pens and bags and pins and hats and funny little puzzles and posters and action-figures and erasers and inexplicable fingernail jems that don't seem to have a publisher's name printed on them so when you open your bag at home you can't work out what in heaven they're advertising. I mean, last time I came home with about ten canvas bags of varying styles, and I spent most of my time in the autographing area and not on the show floor. And I got a Harry Potter OotP release date hat, which generated a lot of conversation when I wore it around town.
I would tell you some of the notable giveaways for 2005, but people haven't really started thinking about them yet, so. One can assume the standard drawings-for-vacations. And when you get hungry, there's really no point going to the overpriced convention-hall cafes. For the College Student At Heart, the person who loves free food -- take a quick spin down the cookbook section of the floor, followed by a loop through the children's books area, which is fraught with candy. Because in the Cookbook Pavilion, publishers attempting to promote their cookbooks will import the authors and there will be death-by-chocolate cake and marinated chicken and asparagus spears. ( (And )
And of course exhibitors have to pay the teamsters to pack and remove anything left on the floor at the end of the show -- union rules say they're not allowed to do it themselves -- and they pay by the pound, so often they'll give things away on Sunday so's to not pay for packing and shipping. Really.
Plus there are Events, many of which you probably care more about if you're in the managerial wing of publishing -- mostly they're about, you know, How to Get Your Books Placed at Aisle Displays and How To Choose Chairs for Maximum Bookstore Success and stuff. Plus the standard How To Work the Frankfurt International Bookfair session, which they give every year. The BEA is about the size of UC Berkeley. Frankfurt International is... the size of San Francisco. (I exaggerate a little, but not much -- it's about 300,000 people. AND they're nicer to kidlets than is the ABA -- they offer interns a basically-free admission as long as your publishing company fills out a form. And for non-publishing students it's only four dollars a day for a total of twenty dollars. There is no student admission for the ABA -- even babes in arms need to pay for a badge. Although my family always bought just two and then played going-in-and-out-of-door-games. Anyway.) But also there's fun stuff -- publishing companies throwing on-the-floor parties for their anniversaries, the BookSense award ceremonies and author readings (which last year included Art Spiegelmen). And if I chat with folks from Consortium (a distributor -- Consortium Book Sales and Distribution; my dad's distributor back when he ran his publishing company) we can all go to the Consortium party, with free food and music and wine and did I mention lots and lots of free food?
And there'll be some Big Name Opening Speaker dude, who will be completely uninteresting -- last year's was Bill Clinton, who hadn't even finished his book at the time. And I remember once in LA it was Colin Powell. Ick. Also there are paid events, like author breakfasts, where everyone gets to sit and eat while people like Ursula LeGuin talk at you and answer many questions.
And best of all, lots and lots of book people. Sure, some of them are in it for the money, but lots of them are book people. These are people who read the bestsellers and the not-bestsellers and can gossip about J.M. Barrie and speculate about his endocrine disorders and can tell you all about their favorite childrens books and what they thought of C.S. Lewis and whether or not the BBC's latest adaption of whatever was appropriate and by the way did you know that Coffee House Press is doing coffe table books of the Wimsey books with illustrations by Robert Sasuma and isn't that a horrible idea? (I totally made that up, just in case you were worried.) If you ask someone about an author, they can say "well, his book won the PENN of course, but I've never really been able to get into it -- I feel like the characters are really overdrawn" or "oh, I love him, and speaking of him, have you ever read X?"
And consider the following not-made-up-but-averaged-statistic, 'cause I'm too lazy to look up the study for the exact numbers -- 60% of people never read a book after they graduate from high school. Not a one. Not even Harry Potter or Chicken Soup for the Soul. So then you get to spend time with all of these book people, people who read Chicken Soup for the Soul and people who read Tolstoy and people who read in Spanish and people who translate Neruda as a hobby and people who read Grisham and people who read Oxford Press books and people who collect dime novels and people who read E.E. Doc Smith and wish he'd come back into print and just a whole city's worth of people who read
And for this, you pay probably about $75 for your three-day pass. Maybe around $60, if you know someone who works in a BEA-affiliated bookstore and will buy you your ticket (absolutely the way to go, since then you get a badge that says "bookseller," and everyone says "ooooh" and "ahhh" and gives you even more
free things.) Or around $50 if you know someone in publishing who will buy you a pass. Or free if they're exhibiting and have left-over badges (they get some number free per size of booth). Or free if you write for a paper or can get an editor to write them a letter saying you're freelancing for them and will be writing an article on the event. Whee!
And we live in Philadelphia, and are the House of Futons (tm). So we figure y'all can come out here and sack out -- cheaper than a hotel in Manhattan, 'cause of the free. And then we can either train in ($30 round trip per person for three days) or rent a bigger car for the lot of us and drive in (probably cheaper). Claim your futon now.