This report will be split into two parts; part one-general impressions and lots of book titles, part two-Douglas County Library in Colorado and their impressive solution to the ebook dilemma.
Part One, All the other sessions:
BEA, for those who have never attended is the North American publishers party of the year. It is held in NYC at the Javits Center and is a showcase for what’s new, what’s coming up and what they are particularly proud of. Most of all, it’s a marketing bonanza for both mainstream and indie publishers and a way to get some buzz going for their authors. And, of course, it’s a great opportunity for a footloose librarian to pick up a whole lot of ARC and already published material FREE. Nothing better than that, is there?
This year, I had the honor of being offered a VIP pass from the lovely guys from Unshelved. They were presenting a session called “Surviving the Public” and had 50 passes to give away. The pass allowed me access to the entire run of the conference which made it especially fun. It also offered a special lounge where we could rest and recoup, which was a particularly nice perk (your feet can take a real beating at the Javits Center).
Among the conference sessions I attended (other than the one being presented by Gene Ambaum and Bill Barnes, with illustrations from Unshelved) was “ GoodReads 201: Advanced Tips for Helping Readers Discover your Books”, a primer for authors on how to take best advantage of GoodReads. This session made me more aware of how many layers there are to GoodReads and how much is hidden from the average GoodReads user. I guess I was a little naïve in thinking that they didn’t take pay for promoting certain titles. Lesson learned. GoodReads may be user generated to some degree, but from what I heard at BEA, not only do they keep rather detailed demographics on their users, but they can and will use those demographics to influence the people that use the site, as long as the publishers or authors pay. The presenter did cover how to increase your readership through author presence on the site, but when push comes to shove….money once again talks loudest of all.
I also attended a session geared towards librarians called “E-Books from Libraries: Good for Authors?”, where all those fine old canards (publishers are only protecting our authors, what about book piracy, libraries only circulate books X number of times per year so we’re justified in limiting licenses to ebooks, etc) were trotted out as though they were gospel by one publisher’s representative, with the president of ALA sitting next to her saying (over and over again) that librarians “stood for access for all”. The only really interesting part of this particular session came when the president of Overdrive talked about the surprising statistics just in regarding the unlimited access experiment that had just taken place on Overdrive in May with Michael Malone’s Four Corners of the Sky. I have not seen this in writing anywhere, but he said that Michael Malone’s backlist of books increased in sales by 900% and the actual title “Four Corners….” Increase d sales by 1600%. So much for unlimited access hurting authors.
I greatly enjoyed the speed dating concept used in the session “Great Book Group Titles for Fall/Winter”. The audience sat at tables covered with copies of the books being discussed and the publisher’s representatives got 5 minutes to introduce their titles at a table. When the bell rang, they were expected to move to the next table and do their spiel again. Most of the reps were so hyped on their books (and possibly caffeine) that they finished in plenty of time. Others did not marshall their time as well. But the excitement in the room was a marvelous to see. To see the list of books/publishers included, go to: http://readinggroupguides.com/features/BEA_Speed_Dating_Slides_2013.pdf Of course, not all these titles will go anywhere, but many are already generating some excellent reviews.
The APA(Audio Publishers Association) Author Tea, which was held on Friday, featured talks from Brandon Sanderson, Bill Bryson and Louise Penny moderated by Janis Ian. Brandon is a huge fan of libraries. As a reluctant reader until the age of 13 or 14, it was a librarian who turned him on to books. He was a delightful speaker, animated and humorous. Janis Ian’s only comment when he finished (before introducing Louise Penny) was “Wow, I’d hate to have to follow that” and then promptly resigned Ms Penny to her fate. Luckily, she was up to the challenge, relaying stories about her research into Gregorian chanting and monasteries which had us all hanging on her every word. Poor Bill Bryson just folded as the last speaker, doing a poor job of recounting one of the “bear” stories from his earlier book A Walk in the Woods. (I’m glad I got to see him at an HCL event a few years ago, where he was a terrific raconteur). Among the super CD giveaways that came out of that session were: a copy of Way of Kings by Sanderson, a copy of At Home by Bryson, a copy of Society’s Child by Janis Ian and a copy of The Beautiful Mystery by Penny---all unabridged CD versions which will be added to the collection shortly. The bonus goodie turned out to be an ARC copy of Bryson’s new book One Summer: America 1927.
A few other authors were worth standing in line to meet as well, such as Sue Grafton (W is for Wasted) Neil Gaiman (Ocean at the End of the Lane, Unfortunately the Milk), Sheri Fink (Five Days at Memorial), Wendy Lower (Hitler’s Furies: German Women in the Nazi Killing Fields) civil rights activist John Lewis (March), Robbie Robertson and his son Sebastian (Legends, Icons and Rebels: Music that Changed the World). Not all of these ARCs made it back to St Paul, as we discovered that when shipping books out of BEA---don’t leave the good ones in the box. Apparently, some people didn’t want to wait in line…they just followed people who did wait to the shipping area and then stole the books when others dropped them off. Sad. However, if anyone wants to get in line to read the Sue Grafton or the Bill Bryson books, contact me. Other celebrities showed up as well at BEA, among them Jim Carrey and Julianne Moore, but the longest line of all was for a most unlikely celebrity of them all; Grumpy Cat (aka Tardar Sauce) had lines of people waiting over 2 hours just to say hello to her and get an “autographed” cover of the soon to be released book. Yes, she is just as cute (and grumpy looking) as her pictures and no, I did not stand in line for two hours. See http://www.petside.com/article/grumpy-cat-rocks-bookexpo-america for more information.