“This has been the most active, popular show,” said John Murphy, newly named v-p, publishing strategy, at St. Martin’s. Among the highlights, said Murphy, were the tributes to Maya Angelou at Thursday’s author breakfast, which featured Anjelica Huston, Tavis Smiley, SMP author Lisa Scottoline, and Neil Patrick Harris as emcee. In particular, hearing Huston read Angelou’s poem “A Brave and Startling Truth” was, said Murphy, “extraordinary.”
Seta Zink, publicity manager at Perseus Books Group, also spoke in superlatives about traffic and energy at BEA thus far. In the seven years that she’s been with the company, it’s the “most exciting” show she’s seen, and Perseus has more events lined up at this year’s show than ever (three well-attended signings yesterday, with “long lines that moved quickly”) and giveaways. Perseus’s most buzzed about book this year is Accidental Billionaires author Ben Mezrich’s foray into fiction, Seven Wonders. Film rights to the novel have been optioned by 20th Century Fox.
Tracy van Straaten at Scholastic said that more than 200 people crowded into their booth yesterday morning to get a copy of Maggie Stiefvater’s Sinner, which is a companion book to her bestselling Shiver trilogy. Van Straaten said it was exciting to see people interested in the “wide range” of titles on the publisher’s list.
Michael McKenzie at HarperCollins’s Ecco imprint said the booth was busy with lots of traffic as they gave away galleys of two books acquired by soon-to-depart editor Lee Boudreaux (who is leaving to run her own imprint at Little, Brown). The first was The Miniaturist, which Boudreaux plugged on Wednesday’s buzz panel. The second novel in high demand, another of Boudreaux’s books, is Lauren Oliver’s adult debut, Rooms.
Jacques Glénat, owner of Glénat, one of France’s biggest comics and manga publishers, noted that fewer of the publishers he wants to meet with are attending the show. Still, he said, interest in their titles from U.S. publishers is growing.
A subtext to the show, of course, is the showdown between Amazon and Hachette. At the Hachette booth, everyone was predictably mum on the subject of the ongoing terms dispute. Sonya Cheuse, Grand Central’s director of publicity, was happy, though, to discuss some of the house’s books that were drawing attention. Noting that both Jeffery Deaver and David Baldacci were at the show for signings and pulling in crowds, Cheuse said Hachette had a “really robust list of authors here.” Cheuse also pointed to The Secret Wisdom of the Earth, a debut novel by Christopher Scotton, acquired by Deb Futter, and special BEA edition galleys were given out.
Although the major houses were reticent about the public battle between the publisher and the online retail giant, other attendees had a few choice words about the situation. The industry conflict was very much in the open at the ABA Celebration of Bookselling & Author Awards Lunch, where James Patterson received the Indie Champion Award.
When Patterson was announced for the award, he received a standing ovation for the support he has shown independents with his million-dollar grants. A second ovation at the end of his talk came for his remarks, which opened with, “Hi, I’m Jeff Bezos.” He added, “All we can ask of people is that they try to do the right thing, the best thing.”
But according to Patterson, it also means taking a stand. “There is an evolution, revolution going on and it affects everybody,” he noted. “Every publisher is feeling a great deal of pain and stress. I’d like the press to think about this: publishers are not terribly profitable.” If publishers don’t make money, he said, they won’t be able to support good literature.
As Patterson sees it, readers and the bookselling community must step up in order to safeguard the future of our literature. He spoke about how this “economic war” will affect grocery stores, libraries, and bookstores. “Ultimately it will put thousands of mom-and-pops out of business. If Amazon’s not a monopoly, it’s the beginning of one. If this is to be the new American way, this has to be changed, by law if necessary.” He wanted the media and authors groups to take up this topic. “It’s a worthy subject of this BEA.”
Patrick Hughes, Fulcrum’s marketing and sales director, was also vocal on the subject of Amazon, and completely unsympathetic toward Hachette. “I can’t complain, there’s nothing better out there,” he said. “Amazon is our largest customer.” He continued: “One international corporate behemoth complaining about another international corporate behemoth—I have absolutely no sympathy.”
Looking to Saturday
On the whole, publishers were excited about the rebranded consumer day, BookCon, to be held tomorrow. It’s a “great development,” said Murphy, one that, per Perseus’s Zink, will make the whole event friendlier.
“If I was not in the industry, I would totally want to be there,” said Zink. “Anybody who loves books will be there, or should be.”
Anmiryam Budner, a buyer at Main Point Books in Bryn Mawr, Pa., said, “This feels like BookCon already: there are so many young women here who are so excited about what they’re reading. There are all these enormous lines. There’s a lot of energy here and there’s going to be even more on Saturday. The names they attracted to it are huge. Anything that gets people in the door is a good thing.”
Speaking of BookCon, Scholastic’s van Straaten said she was “excited and interested to see what it’s going to be like.” She added, “We’ll see how many people come.”
With additional reporting by Rachel Deahl, Claire Kirch, Judith Rosen, and Heidi MacDonald