Thursday, February 12, 2009

Book Expo Ameri... or really just NYC

Remember how I went to BEA last year to look for a publisher or an agent for my book? How I stalked Neil Gaiman and sold a Walter the Farting Dog Doll to the uber-sexy Bernadette Peters?

I used to go BEA every year when I worked at MerryMakers. In the olden days, when it was known as ABA, it was held in Chicago every year. Then it became BEA and started rotating between NY, LA, and Chicago. Recently they went to DC and were supposed to return to DC next year followed by a trip to Vegas in 2011.

Well, not anymore. They're retooling the convention. It will stay in Manhattan at least through 2012 and will no longer take place on the weekend. (Publishers Weekly Article)

Why? Basically because the publishers are lazy and in a move to cut costs have decided to make their customers come to them. They're also effectively admitting that independent booksellers (like Stacy's), long on the decline, now make up a statistically irrelevant amount of their business and can now be ignored. The reality is, any independent bookseller outside of the North East won't be able to afford to send anyone to the show, further marginalizing them and making it even harder for them to compete.

In response to criticism, the show director said:

"This fall we went through a process of recreating the event as if there never had been a BEA before... The location seemed like an easy choice, you'd base it in the capital of the publishing world, just like the biggest gaming show is in Vegas and the auto show is in Detroit."

In short, BEA is no longer about publishers selling books to booksellers. BEA is now about generating publicity for the industry. It's a show for reporters and bloggers, not so much buyers. Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily. (Although I question following Detroit's example on anything business related.)

It is however, certainly a bad thing for smaller exhibitors (small publishers or small side-line companies like my former employer) who actually do rely on the show to find customers and meet with buyers. Many of these smaller companies are not based in New York. In addition to incurring more costs to attend the show every year, they will see their sales at the show decline due to the lack of buyers. This will effectively shut them out of the industry and marginalize them as well. The publishing industry is not just about the major New York publishers, but now BEA is just about them.

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In 1789, the governor of Australia granted land and some animals to James Ruse in an experiment to see how long it would take him to support himself. Within 15 months he had become self sufficient. The area is still known as Experiment Farm. This is my Experiment Farm to see how long it will take me to support myself by writing.