Quality not quantity may be a cliché, but it is one thing Steve Rosato embraces as he gets ready for his first BookExpo America as event director. Rosato has been working with BEA parent company Reed Exhibitions since 1995 and has been associated with BEA since 1997. This past January, he was named to succeed Lance Fensterman as the head of the annual trade show when Fensterman was appointed to lead a number of other Reed events, including the new and just concluded C2E2 (Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo). Fensterman, as Rosato aptly describes, was “an agent of change” and Rosato is fully prepared to see that the changes conceived by Fensterman are implemented as smoothly as possible at the 2010 show. “Lance was super collaborative,” Rosato notes. “I was in on the ground floor of all the planning that went into making changes for this year.”
The two biggest changes, of course, are moving the show away from the weekend to the middle of the week and limiting exhibits to two days instead of three. Originally, BEA execs had planned to open the show floor late on Tuesday for a two-hour preview, but dropped the idea when it received pushback from exhibitors. The preview “would have competed with some of our best events,” including the Editor's Buzz panel, Rosato says. While Tuesday is devoted to various educational panels and seminars, Rosato says the number of educational programs has been dramatically scaled back over the past few years in an effort to “get rid of the noise” and to put as much focus as possible on the exhibit floor when it opens Wednesday and Thursday. Still, BEA serves as a tent pole for a host of other programs. This year the IDPF will be holding its digital conference on Tuesday, and a new seminar for self-published authors: DIY (Do It Yourself) Authors Conference and Marketplace will be held on May 25. “Day of Dialog” meetings held by Library Journal and School Library Journal are expected to attract a total of 550 librarians that Tuesday.
With the economy improving, Rosato says he is much more relaxed heading into this year's show than in 2009. “Last year, every day I would hear about some one canceling. That's not the case this year,” he says. Exhibit space will be down from 2009—and the show will be on one floor instead of two—but the decline is likely to be closer to 10% than the 10%–15% range Rosato had predicted just before the eruption of the volcano in Iceland made it impossible for most Americans to get to the London Book Fair. Rosato began receiving inquiries about extra floor space and more tables in the rights center even before the LBF began and those requests have continued. “People are scrambling to find out what they can do,” Rosato says, adding that he has sold much more space in the week after LBF this year than last. Business is coming from a combination of new publishers signing on for exhibits, existing exhibitors asking about more floor space, and/or meeting rooms, and agents asking about tables for the rights center. When all is said and done, Rosato believes the number of exhibitors will be flat with 2009. Some exhibitors have come back—Macmillan has a small booth and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt is returning—some have opted for meeting rooms only (Scholastic) and others have downsized (Simon & Schuster). Random House will keep to its strategy of a small booth on the floor plus meeting rooms. Apple will be at the show, just having signed for a meeting room.
A major push of BEA has been to bring more book buyers and media to the event, and Rosato says those efforts have been largely successful. Press registration is double what it was a year ago, and the number of book bloggers will also be up. A BEA outreach to the special market buyers should bring in about 200 buyers from nontraditional outlets. And while BEA has worked to lower the number of “industry professionals” from 3,000 a few years back to 700, there will still be significant numbers of consultants, ones that publishers said they want to see, Rosato says. (Registration to the self-publishing conference does not include admission to the exhibit floor, Rosato notes).
One initiative that is not taking off—at least on the convention floor—is opening the show to the public. “The logistics just don't work,” Rosato explains. “The right books aren't available, and if they were, who would sell them?” BEA has instead chosen to partner with bookstores and other cultural institutions to help promote author events at their locations. Readings are planned for the week at a range of venues, including independent and Barnes & Noble stores, libraries, and the 92nd Street Y (the full list is available at www.bookexpoamerica.com/en/New-York-Book-Week) .
Rosato believes that all the changes made by BEA have given the show more focus and made it more navigable for attendees. Before the volcano disrupted LBF, Rosato was confident total attendance at BEA would be up slightly over 2009; now he thinks attendance could grow by as much as 10%. Fairgoers, Rosato says, “should be prepared to be busy.”