The exhibit floor at this year's BookExpo America will look different from the hall at the 2008 BEA in Los Angeles and even from 2007, when the event was last held at New York's Javits Center. That is not necessarily a bad thing, according to the show's general manager, Lance Fensterman. “It will be a more concentrated show,” Fensterman said. “Maybe that's more appropriate for how it should be.”
While not thrilled that the exhibit space will be down from 2007's, Fensterman said he is encouraged about the way some publishers are approaching the show. At the top of the list is Random House. The nation's largest trade publisher has engineered “a major transformation of our appearance on the show floor,” RH spokesperson Stuart Applebaum said. The booth has been “right-sized,” he said, and the emphasis will be on highlighting the publisher's authors. “Our polls with booksellers showed that meeting authors was one of their favorite things at BEA, and that is what the focus of our floor space will be,” he continued. RH will have hourly author signings at its booth, and the number of giveaways will be reduced. To facilitate business meetings with accounts, RH has taken additional meeting room space.
While exhibitor space will be down, there will be more meeting rooms. Reed Exhibitions, which oversees BEA (and is a sister company to PW), has built additional rooms on Level 1 of the Javits Center, which, in a separate hall, will once again house the children's exhibits and the autographing area. Among the larger publishers that will have meeting rooms only at the convention are Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Rodale and Macmillan. Fensterman said BEA wanted Macmillan, the nation's sixth largest trade publisher, to have a presence on the floor, but satisfactory arrangements couldn't be worked out.
Macmillan's Matt Baldacci explained the publisher's decision to move off the floor as a reallocation of marketing dollars based on the changing needs of the business. “We stay in contact with our customers on an almost daily basis,” Baldacci said, adding that Macmillan will use the meeting room to conduct business with accounts. The company is not bringing in any authors for signings, although Lisa Scottoline will participate in the Audiobook & Author Tea. Bridget Marmion, senior v-p and director of marketing at HMH, said using a meeting room will cut down on expenses, particularly drayage costs. She said HMH is setting up more appointments with accounts ahead of time and will tightly focus on what galley titles it gives away, while also reducing the number of catalogues it hands out.
Fensterman praised Random's decision to alter the way it is approaching this year's BEA, calling it “a great example of how other exhibitors may use BEA.” Fensterman said BEA is looking to put publishers' content and authors “front and center” at the show, adding that he hopes Random's initiative will be the start of a trend.
The booths of Hachette Book Group and Simon & Schuster will be largely unchanged from previous years, although both companies will be handing out fewer galleys and catalogues. An HBG spokesperson noted that while BEA “provides a great opportunity to launch a book,” the publisher has decreased the number of ARCs it gives away as booth traffic has declined. In New York, “we're being very careful about what we bring to the show,” the spokesperson said. S&S is cutting back what it hands out this year and will have fewer authors attending. A Penguin Group USA spokesperson said the company is “supporting BEA again this year with great enthusiasm, and as usual we will have our sales, marketing and publicity teams working the show,” adding that Penguin's presence will include several authors participating in lunches, on panels and at autographings.
While HarperCollins is keeping its booth pretty much the same, it will have a new feature. Since the company has done away with printed catalogues in favor of a digital version, HC will have computers in the booth to allow people to view the fall list. HC will also hand out something with the URL on it so customers have the address when they go home. “We won't have catalogues in the booth,” a spokesperson said.