Friday, June 8, 2012

A Little More Book Expo--To Farm or to Forage? That is the Question.

About seven years ago, I filled my calendar at the Book Expo convention with meetings. I had a great sense of accomplishment beforehand, but at the end of the event, I had this nagging irritation that I hadn't really covered the floor effectively, that I spent too much time looking at things I would see with my reps, and no sense of finding that hidden gems that I might not discover day to day in the bookstore.

So I get to the end of the show and I find that the convention, for most serious booksellers, has moved to continuous meetings throughout the show. In some ways, it's beneficial for both bookseller and publisher--each gets a sense of making the show worthwhile. But nowadays, the show floor is small enough to hit everything much faster. There are more aisles to skip--the booths highlighting foreign countries for rights sales is hardly useful for us.

And while most traditional publishers have much smaller booths, many of which simply function as styling stages, and many smaller publishers seem to be gone, there are other publishers which shall not be named for whom booths will simply not affect our sales. And I'm not even really talking about A. here, but B. and E. and H. And there are aisles and aisles of digital too, and my feeling is that Boswell will do whatever the ABA recommends.

Every so often I would come across a signing line that wasn't a two hour wait. And there were some booths that were still staffed with folks who wanted to talk about books. Workman's family of publishers were still using the show the old-fashioned way, and we spent a lot of time looking at Algonquin and Artisan and the distributed Black Dog and Leventhal, and Workman itself. Of course, they were also one of the few publishers that asked to sit down and go over titles, becasue they are particularly happy about how our events are going (that's a shout out to you, our customers, because part of the equation means you are showing up at them) and I it's one of the many things I messed up, and didn't set up. Next year, I promise I will be better, or maybe I'll just send two other people.

As we were going through the Chronicle booth (or perhaps just afterwards, or perhaps just after I had spent ten minutes being dazzled at McSweeneys), Jason noticed that there was a correlation between publishers who got it, who were still consistingly doing interestingly packaged books that competed with ebooks, and publishers who were still doing full color or otherwise interesting print interesting catalogs. I don't know if it's really true, but it seemed like an interesting thought at the time.

I should also give our first shout out to the Black Dog and Leventhal collection, My Bookstore: Writers Celebrate Their Favorite Places to Browse, Read, and Shop. It's coming out in the fall, and not only are we included, Next Chapter is too. I think this deserves it's own post, don't you?

Fortunately there were still some fortuitous meetings. Michael and Marissa from Graywolf were great, which I guess should not be a surprised, since we seem to rec every other book they publish, and Alice from Norton was gracious enough to go through the catalog with me, just as if we had made an appointment weeks ago.  Both of us gushed a bit about Manil Suri, whose third novel, The City of Devi, is coming in early 2013. And of course our friend George was holding the fort at Bloomsbury, touting Lance Weller's Wilderness, a Cold Mountain-esque novel that deserves more than my easy comparisons to bestseller phenoms.

But sadly, the only thing more shoddy than my comparisons were my jittery photos. I had this idea that I would take a whole bunch of pictures of men holding books and cut off their heads, the way women's  are always cut off on the jackets of novels. Alas, it's a project that needs more time and a steadier hand. So my apologies in advance for the blurriness of the photos, and we'll continue to chat up more buzzed about titles as fall approaches.

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