May 22 saw the U.S. Book Show’s most successful iteration yet. In case you missed it—or if you're ready to relive it—we've rounded up some highlights and takeaways from all the panels.

The publishing CEOs who joined PW at the U.S. Book Show had a lot to say about artificial intelligence, from a number of perspectives. S&S CEO Jonathan Karp had the most colorful take, rejecting the suggestion that the technology is currently the “elephant in the room” in publishing and calling it, instead, “more like the cicada in the world. You know, lots of buzzing and lots of screwing.” On a more serious note, he added, it was clear that “rights are being infringed,” despite being a “valuable tool.”

Macmillan's chief financial officer, Clare O'Rourke, started the day by doing the Lord's work: explaining how to make heads or tails of profit and loss statements. (The practice is famously opaque; at the 2022 antitrust trial that ended Penguin Random House’s bid to acquire Simon & Schuster, the presiding judge asked Brian Tart, president and publisher of Viking: “The P&L is really fake. Am I wrong?” Tart, laughing, responded, simply, “No!”) “In this example, I'm assuming this is a nonfiction book, normal nine-inch trim, 250 pages long, for a debut author, and we're paying a $300,000 advance.” The crowd, mostly young agents, laughed half-heartedly. “I know,” O’Rourke joked. “Love that, right?"

Steve Potash, CEO of OverDrive, discussed the broad range of libraries and customers that the platform serves, from schools and academic institutions to corporations and government. “Our single largest non–public or academic library is the United States Department of Defense,” he said. “Each branch of the military has 1.7 million constituents. It’s every active serviceman. It's all their families, all their children, whether they're in submarines or they're at the War College or at a forward station. They want fiction, fantasy, education materials, graphic novels…. This is a huge market.”

A conversation between Hachette VP and head of contracts Janet Saines-Cardozo (r.) and AALA general counsel Jaime Wolf, whose jobs have grown more complicated as AI has proliferated, took a cautious approach to the buzzy new technology. Although much of the conversation on AI in the book business has surrounded concerns over copyright infringement and potential job loss among book jacket designers and literary translators, Saines-Cardozo and Wolf hinted at even broader implications. One example was the issue of image and likeness rights, which have routinely been included in publishing contracts as part of the publicity and marketing materials for the books and which could be interpreted as giving a publisher the right to, as Wolf suggested, “create a video of the late Toni Morrison endorsing somebody's book”—something he suggested would be easy using such tools as OpenAI’s text-to-video model Sora. Saines-Cardozo, for her part, dismissed such possible deepfakes as “insanity” that a publisher would avoid on principle, “because that is 1. unethical, 2. fraudulent, and depending on the brand, it's also an endorsement that has monetary value for somebody.”

Owen Smith, VP of product and technology for audiobooks at Spotify, spoke about how the company has integrated audiobooks into its platform and expanded the potential audience for publishers' books. “By introducing audiobooks to Spotify, we have been able to bring them to over 650 million users and over 239 million subscribers in 180 markets all over the world—it’s just a huge amount of people to reach,” he said, adding that the platform’s high level of user engagement means that it can target the right reader for a book title. “I believe it's this mix of the human editorial expertise with our personalization products that make our recommendations feel more authentic and more culturally relevant.”

Keith Reigert, CEO of Ulysses Press, demonstrated use case scenarios for a variety of AI products, including ChatGPT, Claude, Copilot, Midjourney, and Photoshop. Whether we like it or not, he said, AI is going to have an impact on the publishing industry—and he implored the audience to prepare. “If you run a publishing company or you oversee a team, this is a really, really important time to set out an AI roadmap,” he said. “And if you are working in the publishing industry, this is a critical time to start using AI as much as you possibly can. Because it is not AI that is going to take your job—it's somebody that is using AI that is going to take your job.”

“How do you manage the intimacy that this job demands to make the relationships, the work, better, while simultaneously being efficient?” Yahdon Israel, senior editor at Simon & Schuster, mulled at a pre-lunch session featuring the newly created Young Publishers Association. Noting that agents have told him before that they'd “rather hear ‘not for me’ ” than nothing, Israel suggested that, “while that is an efficient way to navigate the job, I find it not to be a sustainable way to do the job in a way that's meaningful as an editor.” To address this, he said, “What I have been doing is intentionally getting numbers of agents and calling the person up. I've just seen that making the step to have the phone call, it's a five-minute conversation, versus an email thread that can occur over two or three days”—and it's more personal.

Unsurprisingly, former Knopf publisher Reagan Arthur bowed out of the U.S. Book Show after losing her job suddenly on Monday in a move that sent ripples through the book business, which was described, during the panel’s introduction as “a business of musical chairs.” The crowd applauded a suggestion that those assembled were “looking forward to seeing where she lands next.” Remaining panelists including 37 Ink publisher Dawn Davis (c.) and Little, Brown publisher Sally Kim (second from r.) discussed what characteristics they look for when hiring young publishing professionals and how they've handled career shifts. “People who set a high standard for themselves," Davis suggested, are ideal: “You don’t have to micromanage them, because they’ve already set a bar that’s high” and “aren’t afraid of the industry that is required to be successful.” To the latter question, Kim replied, “I don’t think I’ve ever known when it was time for a change.” Publishers: They're just like us!

A panel discussion, “Kicking Down the Gates,” featured publishers in discussion about best practices for making publishing more accessible and diverse. Joy Peskin (third from l.), executive editorial director of FSG Books for Young Readers, suggested that overcoming conflict, which is sometimes born of miscommunication, is key. “I think conflict is a very important and healthy part of people coming together across differences,” she said. “We are going to stumble, but then we're also going to be able repair any relationship.” Peskin went on to describe a needlepoint that was given to her as a gift that summed up her point of view about handling conflict. It reads: “Be curious, not furious.” Other panelists focused on the use of comps in presenting books, noting that the preponderance of comps were made to books by white authors, which often make for inappropriate comparisons to books by BIPOC authors.

During the afternoon panel “Sales Says,” directors addressed the symbiotic relationship between sales and marketing. Christine Edwards (second from l.), SVP of sales at Abrams, pointed out that while point-of-sale data is an “invaluable tool” for publishers, it isn’t infallible. “We spend a lot of time working in the rear-view mirror,” she said. “We can look at POS historical data or POS on comps, expecting that that is an indicator for the success of a future publication, but it isn’t, necessarily.”

How can agents and editors tighten their relationships? What can they do better for each other? At a session called “Great Expectations,” panelists and audience members alike shared tips for how to make everyone's work better and easier. Suggestions included cc'ing agents on all correspondence between editor and author, remembering the importance of the lunch for networking, following up on submissions with phone or video calls in addition to emails, and remembering that a lack of response from editors can impact relationships between authors and their agents. Aliya King (r.), executive editor at Disney Publishing, kept the audience in stitches. “I want to talk about the word ghosting, make sure we're using this the way I see it," King said, suggesting that editors losing track of emails and forgetting to respond to agents was not malicious in the way that word implies. "My introduction to ghosting came several years ago, after my divorce."

Agents and editors shared their experiences on opposite sides of an auction during a late afternoon panel that introduced some memorable terminology. In an effort to convince the assembled agents why publishers find round robin auctions preferable to best bids, Stephanie Hitchcock, editorial director of the recently launched Simon Acumen, suggested that “if you've been playing it out over time, you can probably generate more enthusiasm” in-house. “Are you talking about… auction fever?” moderator Ivan Held, president of Putnam, Berkley, and Dutton, asked slyly. Asked by CAA agent Anthony Mattero to explain, Held cracked up the crowd: “Where you went to the finance people…and said, ‘I need $350,000 for this book,’ and then a bid comes in at $600K, and you go back begging, saying, ‘I know I wasn't going to spend a penny over $350K, but I need $700K.’” “How are those P&Ls?” asked another agent on the panel. “Terrible,” Zack Wagman, VP and editorial director at Flatiron, deadpanned.

The panel discussion “Greenlighting 2.0” took a look at the current state of adapting books to film. Lucy Stille (second from l.), founder of her eponymous agency, said that it is important for publishers to remember the key differences between the way streamers and filmmakers produce work. “One of the things you need to understand about them is, in television, streamers like Netflix commit to a season—maybe eight to 10 episodes—unlike broadcast companies like ABC, which commits to a pilot and then maybe a season. Book IP became crucial to them because they could see what the whole thing was going to look like.” Another key takeaway was that books remain appealing to producers, but are most appealing in a series, where there is a strong central character or set of characters that can appear in multiple seasons and become, in essence, a franchise on their own.

To wrap up the day, Vivian Tu (l.), author of Rich AF, offered suggestions to young people in publishing on how to manage their finances and maximize their publishing salaries.