It was the kind of trade show for which few people had superlatives. Yet BookExpo America 2001 worked well for most—and differed from its predecessors in ways that bode well for future shows. On the down side, rights activity lagged, fewer media members were in attendance, last year's buzz about e-books fizzed, exhibitor spending on booths and parties continued to decline, and some complained that they felt no urgency about the show. Some of the biggest news at BEA had nothing to do with the show—such as Vivendi's announcement that it will purchase Houghton Mifflin (page 20).
This BEA was marked, however, by a renewed interest in old-fashioned staples of the business that have been neglected in the digital age: books and writers. Booksellers jammed the ever-increasing number of events featuring readings and signings. The most talked-about publisher party was distinguished for the array of the house's authors in attendance. Fewer celebrities were on hand, but few seemed to mind so long as "real" writers were there. Most telling, booksellers talked up several books big time—something that hadn't happened in a few years.
The gloomy retail news of much of this year—including several high-profile chain store bankruptcies, a slowing of store openings and layoffs at booksellers and publishers—seemed distant. Asked about business in general, Larry Kirshbaum of Time Warner joked, "Hope springs eternal." In a more serious vein, he added, "This is the first time I've had the feeling that the economy is really going to have an impact on book sales. It's scary. But I think it's going to be a great fall."
Other attendees pondered the future, too. "Everyone's scratching their heads over what's next," said Simon Boughton of Roaring Brook Press, which will launch next spring. "People are wondering where we'll be in a year with the bookselling industry." Chronicle Books' Jack Jensen voiced similar concerns: "The fair is a lot more exciting than the industry."
In fact, traffic was brisk, particularly at booths on center aisles near the big houses. S&S, Warner, Random, Norton, Houghton and Hyperion corralled huge crowds (partly because of their narrower enclosures within the wide aisles), while the wide aisles on the edges that housed many small publishers, sidelines and e-operations saw fewer people. Still, some exhibitors were so busy they worked furiously up until the bell on Sunday.
In comments echoed by many exhibitors, Mark Magowan, v-p and publisher, of Abrams, said, "I was afraid the traffic would be off this year, but it was quite remarkable—exceptionally strong and constant. BEA is still very important for us."
In its last appearance in Chicago for several years, the show's logistics were impeccable: everything worked extremely well in terms of transportation, signage and food, all of which were problems in the early Chicago years. Attendance was up slightly from last year—21,898, compared to 21,681 in 2000. Last year's number of book buyers was 5,971; this year's figure was unavailable at press time.
Many people remarked on the return to basics. For example, Jed Lyons, president of National Book Network, noted that with the hype surrounding e-books diminishing, "Traditional publishers and distributors are no longer the buggywhip makers of the industry." He added, "The somewhat adversarial tone between publishers and booksellers has gone away now that the lawsuit between the ABA and the chains has been settled."
There was a lot of evidence of a particularly old-fashioned book show activity. As Jeff Theis, director of publicity at Storey Books, put it: "We're seeing a lot of order-writing at the show."
Ellen Chodosh, publisher of the trade division of Oxford University Press, agreed, saying, "A lot of people are taking advantage of our show special. There seem to be more bookseller badges, and the show seems busier than in past years."
Many exhibitors used the show for specific messages.
Dana Baylor, sales and marketing director at Globe Pequot, which made several acquisitions in the past year, said, "We've seen a lot of new business this year. The combination of the three companies—Lyons, Falcon and Globe Pequot—has broadened our reach, and we're really noticing it at this show."
Similarly, Amanda Bleakley, marketing director at Avalon Travel Publishing, said, "Last year we were in the throes of transition and had to spend most of our time explaining to booksellers who we were and what we were doing. Now we're really eager for bookseller input, and this weekend we had lots of opportunities to talk with them about how we can extend and expand our new brands—Foghorn, Moon Handbooks and John Muir. We're getting a lot of great retailer feedback."
Alan Bowers, sales manager at Koen Book Distributors, said that overall the show was "busy," and he noted that it gave the wholesaler an opportunity to "meet up with customers we don't regularly get to see." It was especially important to reinforce to customers in the West that Koen is still "giving them the highest level of customer service." He said that Koen still doesn't know when its Seattle warehouse would be up and running again.
For their part, booksellers were focused on books—and other products to sell in stores.
Janis Irvine, co-owner, The Book Bin, Northbrook, Ill., said, "I'm very well represented with reps from the major publishers, so I was busy skirting the edges of the show to find that little gem that I can really get behind. I didn't find one, though I found several good sidelines—lots of playthings! I didn't see any huge book for us, but that's okay. It will probably turn out to be like last Christmas, where there were a few great choices for everybody."
For the first time in many years, there was a buzz book at the show. In fact, there were two. Again and again, booksellers enthusiastically recommended Peace Like a River, a debut novel by Leif Enger (Atlantic), and The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen (FSG).
Peace Like a River impressed the many booksellers who received advance readers' copies before the show. "It's a really hopeful book," said Alaine Borgias, Village Books, Bellingham, Wash. In The Corrections, Franzen trains his wit and big-hearted scrutiny on the Lambert family and their glorious dysfunction, in a tale that has received glowing blurbs from Don DeLillo, David Foster Wallace and Michael Cunningham. The company gave away 1,500 ARCs of the Franzen book in four and a half hours over two different days.
Galleys of other titles were popular, too. Yale University Press senior publicist Brenda King said, "We brought tons of galleys of our two lead fall titles, and less than halfway through the first day, we were delighted and amazed by the speed at which they were flying out of the booth."
Dan Cullinane, Alyson Publications marketing director, added: "On Friday the galleys were whizzing out so fast that I had to pull some back so we'd have books for Saturday. We got a lot of bookseller attention for My Son Divine—people would see the poster and come to a screeching halt."
The mania for galleys carried over to audiobooks. Maja Thomas, v-p of Time Warner AudioBooks, called the show opening "madness. We had 2,000 copies stacked up, and they were gone within two hours."
Once forbidden, autographings on the floor were another highlight of this BEA and helped increase floor traffic. Random House, for example, worked the dozen or so authors it had at the show, including Andre Dubus III, Eleanor Lipman, Richard Russo and Sue Miller, as well as somewhat lesser-known authors, such as Dalton Conley, author of HONKY, a funky memoir of growing up multicultural that is a Vintage reprint.
In going along with the mood of thriftiness, there were few splashy new booths on the floor. However, Sourcebooks had a two-story house, complete with picket fence and (Astroturf) lawn. Publisher Dominique Raccah said, "We were looking for something to symbolize Sourcebooks. We like to be thought of as a home for authors, so we decided to build a real home."
The rights aspect of the fair was pretty slow. Scout Maria Campbell found activity "very reduced." The Rights Center, at about 100 tables, is a third the size of the London Book Fair's and was only occasionally busy. Several rights people noted that next year's BEA in New York City, which might be expected to draw a greater crowd of rights traders, will be handicapped by being a month closer to London than this year's Chicago show.
Scout Mary Anne Thompson said she thought the Center had been "fortified" by the greater activity on the show floor, and found it livelier than last year. There was probably more rights activity in the meeting rooms on the upper floors (in the 500 row), where some of the big houses conducted rights sales, than in the Rights Center. "Much better to have a cheaper room up here than more stand space down below," said one show veteran. Cyrus Kheradi, group international sales director for S&S, said of such encounters: "The vibe is good. We're seeing all the customers we expected to see, and all our managers are taking orders." A number of senior European publishing people were present, including Bertelsmann's Klaus Eck, Leonallo Brandolini at France's Laffont and Gianni Ferrari of Italy's Mondadori, but many houses were not represented, and American editors were few and far between.
Jeff Higgins, national sales manager of Dymocks, the big Australian bookstore chain with branches in Asia, reported "quite a few" fellow countryman and an increased interest in the Australian market from U.S. publishers. This may be in response to the possible introduction of an open market in Oz as well as a sign of the times—with sales off here, any "new" market looks enticing.
Jane Friedman's party on Saturday night was, at least by the lights of most who attended, a hit because of its mix of authors, booksellers, HarperCollins folk and media. Celebrating its 30th anniversary, Chicago's own Independent Publishers Group held a posh bash at the Francis J. Dewes mansion. Publishers Group West's annual concert featured Eric Burdon and the New Animals, as well as John Wesley Harding & the Radical Gentlemen. A sold-out concert featuring Wynton Marsalis, sponsored by BEA and Da Capo/Perseus, benefited the Book Industry Foundation (consisting of American Booksellers for Free Expression and AAP's Get Caught Reading Campaign) and the Louis Armstrong Jazz Camp in New Orleans.
Of course, there were many small invitation-only formal dinner parties at which publishers introduced authors to booksellers and the media. Crown had a kind of double-whammy party: it hosted a dinner for Gary M. Pomerantz, author of the forthcoming Nine Minutes, Twenty Seconds, a story about the crash of a commuter airline plane, at Tru, the hot restaurant owned in part by pastry chef Gale Gand, whose Butter Sugar Flour Eggs and forthcoming Gale Gand's Just a Bite: 125 Luscious Little Desserts are published by Clarkson Potter.
Lack of Celebs, Media
Many attendees commented on the fact that there were fewer celebrities at the show, probably a part of publishers' newfound parsimony.
Among the celebs were two FOBs: Vernon Jordan, talking up his October title, Vernon Can Read: A Memoir (Public Affairs), and former Clinton cabinet member Robert Reich, who spoke on a panel.
In addition, Jack Welch, longtime head of General Electric famed for his tough business approach, drew large crowds as he promoted Jack: Straight from the Gut (Warner); the advance of $7 million alone guaranteed interest.
Local bookselling queen Oprah Winfrey made an appearance at the show—although, almost unbelievably, in a supporting role. Attendees at Sunday's breakfast might have noticed "the woman in the hat" sitting at a front table. But it was not until speaker Quincy Jones pointed her out toward the end of his comments that people began to take notice of America's #1 book promoter.
After breakfast and a whirl of camera-clicking, Oprah's entourage made its way to the trade show. Briefly steadying herself on the arm of beau Stedman Graham (no stranger to publishing himself), Winfrey kicked off her heels and took to the floor barefoot.
And, of course, how could BEA be BEA without the appearance of Dr. Ruth?
Many publicists reported fewer media representatives this year. Notable absences included the heads of the New York Times Book Review and Los Angeles Times BookReview. Most speculated that the decreased media attendance was related to newspapers' financial problems this year and cutbacks in book coverage.
A Return to Returns
A panel held about returns by the Publishers Marketing Association revealed the passions this subject continues to arouse. "Returns are highly inefficient and affect profits," said Sourcebooks' Raccah. "We should all be driving toward more profitability, but the handling of returns cuts into it for both publishers and retailers." Independent publishers in the audience said that they are suffering from cash-flow problems, due to distributors returning books in lieu of payment (and often re-ordering the same books only days later). Linda Login of Interweave Press called returns a process of "shipping unwanted paper back and forth across the country." ABA's Carl Lennertz said that in his opinion, independent booksellers return less than the chains and should be considered a separate channel. Jan Nathan, executive director of PMA, and Fred Ciporen, publisher of PW, promised to follow up with a meeting in New York to discuss the issue further.
Reading Group Grab
About 175 people, most booksellers, showed up for Vintage/ Anchor's panel on reading groups. The comments of Mary Fellows, book club coordinator at Annie Bloom's, Portland Ore., were the most practical; her store has a very thorough, no-fuss packet of checklists it gives to reading group leaders to get them started without additional help from store staff, and an efficient system for keeping the schedules straight for book clubs that meet in the store. Lynn Carey of the Contra Costa Times surprised some by saying that her readers didn't seem to like books with reading group guides bound into them—that some found it an insult to readers.
At the panel discussion entitled "What a difference handselling makes!" Francine Fialkoff, editor-in-chief of Library Journal, said that "booksellers and libraries should collaborate more" and "book signings taking place in libraries can sell just as many books as those in bookstores." Carole Schneider, publicity director of the Random House Trade Group, said Random puts together chapters from books into a "reading notebook" that is sent to sales reps so they'll be able to get a sense of the "color and commentary" of a writer or a book without reading the entire volume.
Linda Bubon of Women and Children First in Chicago had the most interesting comments on handselling. First, she admitted that because her store does 10 to 12 signings per month, it's impossible to read all the works, so it's imperative that she delegate that duty to a staff member she trusts. The author must "be read and cared for" for a reading to be successful. She also said, "Whatever I can read, I can handsell. I'm picky and my customers know me, so if I've made that investment in time, it's worthwhile." She tries to think about specific customers and the right context for reading a book: Is it short enough to finish in one plane trip; is it a beach book?
Electronic publishing had a significant presence, but without the hubbub and hype of last year's BEA. Of course, some e-firms, like Bookface.com, have disappeared since then and there were a fair number of financially troubled digital no-shows, including Xlibris and ibooks.com, as evidenced by strangely vacant booth spaces. There were impressive booths—pavilions, really—displaying Microsoft, Adobe, Lightning Source, netLibrary, ebrary, Reciprocal, OverDrive and previewport.com as well as a small horde of lesser-known e-firms offering everything from e-books to text conversion. Questia made the most noise, with an active booth, splashy advertising and a model that seemed to pique visitors. Some of that had to do with the fact that this was Questia's first BEA as a fully launched company. Random and Warner each brought some of their electronic publishing/business development people, who were present in their booths.
E-books continue to be in a transitional phase, with a lot of promise but very few sales. Byron Preiss of ipicturebook.com, Time Warner's illustrated e-books venture, said for him, BEA is about "strategic partnerships and working to build a market."
Claire Zion, editorial director of ipublish.com, said she was meeting and greeting potential partners. "We're meeting with vendors offering new reading devices; talking with retailers and writers; emphasizing that we're part of the Time Warner family."
Michael Shatzkin of the Idea Logical Co. observed that the relative absence of e-book publishers on the exhibit floor indicated to him that e-publishers don't consider bookstores an important outlet for their products and are satisfied using B&N.com and Amazon. He thinks independents should get involved with e-books and that e-publishers are making a mistake if they ignore the bookstore channel.
E-books' struggle to become mainstream product was highlighted by an Ipsos-NPD survey of online buyers that found 69% of online respondents have heard of e-books but only 3% are very likely to buy an e-book and 20% are somewhat likely to buy one. The survey also found that 77% of respondents expect e-books to be cheaper than print editions.
E-pub panels were moderately attended and focused on the consumer e-book market, e-book standards and Microsoft's and Adobe's e-book readers. An e-book royalty panel drew no more than 50 people; a preshow discussion about e-book standards and DOI, the so-called UPC code of content, gathered an equally small number of people. If there's a substantive change from last year, it's that the discussion has moved from a general look at what the future might bring to the more specific concern of how to make money. (Richard Curtis held up royalty checks at the royalty panel.)
On the consumer e-book panel, panelists agreed that technology—particularly the continued development of reasonably priced multiuse (i.e., non-proprietary devices that also serve as address book-organizers, play and record music, etc.), handheld reading devices—and varied, reasonably priced content will ultimately drive consumer sales of electronic texts. BookSite founder Dick Harte reported disappointing results of his pilot program with five BookSite members. Harte, of course, believes that indie stores are being left out of the online e-book retailing paradigm. Harte also said that BookSite will continue to offer e-books and support e-books in multiple formats.
Some exhibitors reported lengthy discussions with online retailers. Mary Westheimer of BookZone, the Web site development, hosting and promotion company, called BEA "extremely productive. Our leads were up nearly 40% and we had very high quality contacts. People seem to be grasping the importance of online marketing, and there was lots of interest in smart sites, POD and e-pub, too. I know not everyone was happy with the show, but we certainly were."
Making Book Sense
ABA sponsored a range of seminars on Book Sense as well as specialty bookseller and task-oriented meetings concerning buying and marketing, all of which attracted many booksellers. ABA's Carl Lennertz said that the high attendance "confirmed my perception that bookstores sent more booksellers than usual to this show. I saw some great interaction among booksellers."
Linda Ramsdale, The Galaxy Bookshop, Hardwick, Vt., called the Book Sense 76 lunch—another of the author- and book-centric events that were popular this year—"a highlight, inspiring and a great pleasure." Likewise, Mitchell Kaplan, Books and Books, Coral Gables, Fla., said, "The Book Sense 76 lunch was such a wonderful event. It demonstrated how independent booksellers, publishers and authors can work together to promote and champion good books. The testimonials from authors, such as Andre Dubus III, were really great."
New ABA board member John Bennett, Bennett Book Nook, Wyckoff, N.J., noted the gain made in reporting booksellers. "There was a much better understanding from specialty stores that this program was not aimed just at general bookstores. Book Sense people explained that reporting is weighted so smaller stores' bestsellers are just as likely to appear on the list. I think this outreach made benefits to reporting to Book Sense clearer to stores. A diverse list of Book Sense bestsellers will benefit us all."
Linda Bubon of Women and Children First in Chicago said that her store had begun to sell a small number of titles written by men that were on the Book Sense 76. Plus, sales through the store's Web site have increased from one per week without Booksense.com to one per day with the program.
The Religion Corner Religion/spirituality publishers could be found all over the show floor, from the Religion/ Spirituality/Inspiration section and the NAPRA pavilion to the general-exhibitor, Spanish-language and children's areas. Most who spoke with PW reported good traffic and satisfaction—even excitement—with the show.
Friday was a day to scramble for the many publishers who exhibited at both the Religious Booksellers Trade Exhibit (see coverage next week) and BEA, breaking down and setting up again within hours. One newsworthy event that day at McCormick was an appearance by Studs Terkel, who signed some of his backlist titles and presided over the distribution of a sampler from his November memoir, Will the Circle Be Unbroken: Reflections on Death, Rebirth, and Hunger for a Faith. The book, which sprang from the loss of his wife two years ago, "addresses religious belief and expectations of an afterlife," according to publisher New Press. "This book is the most alive one I've ever written," Terkel told PW. "It's really about the preciousness of life's every moment."
Also on Friday's agenda was a luncheon marking the official launch of Time Warner Trade Publishing's new Christian line, headed by former Thomas Nelson publisher Rolf Zettersten. Warner's Jamie Raab commented on "the blurring of the lines between the CBA and ABA markets," and Larry Kirshbaum told PW, "I think we've got a really good lineup for fall."
For the first time, PMA University offered a religion session. The well-attended panel, "Religious Book Marketing from the Small Press Perspective," was chaired by Pilgrim Press editor Timothy Staveteig—a PMA University board member—who told PW the enthusiastic response meant there would be more such offerings in future years. BEA was also where the Church of Christ Scientist chose to launch its Web site spirituality.com, announced by banners on the show floor, sponsorship of the CyberCafe and a panel, "Spirituality Titles: What's Up with the Category?" This month, spirituality.com opens Writer's Corner, which offers chats with famous writers and an area to post manuscripts for comment.
At Shadow Mountain, the trade imprint of Mormon publisher Deseret, marketing director Chris Schoebinger said there was lots of excitement among booksellers about Orson Scott Card, who signed on Saturday in the autographing area and again on Sunday at the booth. Said Schoebinger, "The show feels busier than last year, maybe because we're in a better location." One publisher who could not say the same was Jewish Lights, which had a busy and productive RBTE, but "our worst BEA ever," according to publisher Stuart Matlins. "We thought being next to DK would be a draw, but they kind of overshadowed us. It would have been better to be across from them."
The year-old FaithWorks Christian distribution unit of NBN is now up to 26 clients, according to sales and marketing v-p Dave Troutman. Said president Larry Carpenter, "Our catalogue was obsolete as soon as it came off the press." He added they were striving for a blend of small and mid-sized publishers.
Tony Wales, sales and marketing director for the U.K.'s Lion Publishing, particularly appreciated the Rights Center. "This has transformed BEA for me," Wales told PW. "When we exhibited at BEA I had U.S. retailers trying to place orders directly, and when we didn't exhibit I had to wander the show floor carrying this heavy case. Now I can just sit here and take back-to-back appointments." Once again this year Wales reported doing "really good business," especially with children's titles.
Children's booksellers and publishers, by and large, had a bustling BEA. For the second year, the Association of Booksellers for Children added an additional day of BEA programming; sessions began Wednesday at noon with discussions meant to give practical business strategies.
In a well-received presentation, Diane Etherington of Children's Hour in Salt Lake City, Utah, and Kim Moppert of Mr. McGregor's in Fort Wayne, Ind., simplified the philosophy of Willard Dickerson (ABA's former director of education who led many financial workshops over the years) into practical steps for an "open to buy" budget, and offered suggestions for tracking orders and payment due dates. Other panels included planning events to bring the community into the store, headed by Moppert; and working with local schools to create seamless author visits, a session run by Ellen Mager of Booktenders Children's Books in Doylestown, Pa.
In addition to strong business approaches, another theme that emerged from the programming was literacy. ABC members shared Thursday breakfast with Jon Scieszka, whose just-launched Guys Read initiative advocates "connecting boys with books." Scieszka worked with his long-time collaborator, Lane Smith, to design a logo that appears on brochures, posters, pins and a Web site (www.guysread.com).
Prescription for Reading is another initiative ABC members were rallying around. Audrey Wood has written and illustrated a small paperback book, A Book for Honey Bear, which children can get for free by having their doctor "prescribe" it to them (on a special ABA-provided prescription pad) and taking the coupon to their local bookstore. The program is designed to use an alternate outlet for getting children in the habit of visiting bookstores, and is being sponsored by the ABA, Book Sense, Simon & Schuster and Koen Book Distributors. Tom Bodett, host of the Loose Leaf Book Company radio show, is the national spokesperson for Prescription for Reading. For more information, contact Jill Perlstein at firstname.lastname@example.org.
At the ABA/ABC/CBC luncheon that followed the ABC annual meeting, Newbery-winning author Christopher Paul Curtis kicked off an afternoon of awards discussions with a funny and moving keynote speech, pointing out that it was just over a year ago in Chicago that he was presented with his award for Bud, Not Buddy (Delacorte). "There was a short period after the announcement when Bud actually outsold Harry Potter," Curtis said. "By 'short,' I mean a two-hour period." He also read a preview of the novel he is currently writing, Bucking the Sarge (forthcoming from Delacorte/Lamb).
The Lucile Micheels Pannell Award winners were announced at the luncheon. The winner in the children's bookstore category was Alexandra Uhl from Whale of a Tale in Irvine, Calif.; Carol Moyer from Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh, N.C., won in the general bookstore category.
Thursday afternoon, ABC programming focused on the role awards play in the life and commercial success of children's books. Author, librarian and critic Michael Cart gave an overview of his experiences as a judge on various award committees, including those for the Caldecott Medal, the National Book Award and the Michael Printz Award; he did explain, though, that much of the decision-making remains confidential. Cart also said that YALSA is assembling a committee to assess the Printz Award, now two years old, and one of the things likely to be considered is opening the award to adult books and picture books that still meet the other criteria for the prize.
Carl Lennertz of Book Sense pleaded with ABC members, once again, to submit their booksellers for the Book Sense 76 list to ensure that the list reflects a wide range of independent bookstores. And illustrator Brian Selznick wound up the afternoon with an energetic presentation of his artwork for The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins by Barbara Kerley (Scholastic) and discussed his treasured position as two-time Lemme Award winner, bestowed by a second and third grade class at Helen Lemme Elementary School in Iowa City, Iowa.
El Mercado Español
The Latino Summit, held the day before the show opened, attracted about 70 people, for a full-day examination of the market (attendance would have been larger if the Summit had not been competing with the "Librarian's Day of Dialogue," which also included a major panel on Spanish-language books).
Kirk Whistler of the Latino Print Network presented results of a recent study of the readers of Latino newspapers and magazines. "What corporate America doesn't understand," he said, "is that Hispanics are different from earlier waves of immigration. They stay in contact with their home countries by frequent telephone calls and visits." Thus they tend not to lose their ability and desire to speak and read Spanish. (Fully 88% of the respondents to the survey speak Spanish well or very well.) Further, those who purchased books bought an average of 25.4 books in 1999, Whistler continued.
For the second year, BEA also featured a Spanish-Language Pavilion. This year, it was sponsored by the new Spanish-language review publication, Críticas (sister publication to PW, Library Journal and School Library Journal), which reviews Spanish-language titles in English for U.S. booksellers and librarians. The second issue was featured at the show and was enthusiastically received, in part for its potential to connect Spanish-language publishers from all over the world with the large Spanish-speaking market in the U.S.
The African-American Booksellers Conference drew 350 attendees and was highlighted by Denise Stinson, agent and founder of Walk Worthy Press, an imprint devoted to Christian fiction that has a marketing and distribution agreement with Warner. Stinson focused on the success of its initial releases and announced the debut of Glory Girls, national bimonthly reading clubs for Christian fiction aimed at black women. There was an equally large and enthusiastic turnout for Beatrice Berry, author of The Haunting of Hip Hop (Doubleday) and at the Ingram-sponsored reception for black booksellers in the evening.
In private discussions and at the panel on "Retailing to the African American Interest," consensus was that black indie stores are having problems that are similar to their white counterparts'. Manie Barron of Amistad Publishing said that overall the number of black stores is probably down, but that sales of African-American—oriented titles are strong and rising. Both Barron and Karen Dorris of Time Warner Trade Publishing agreed that nonbook sidelines are becoming bigger sellers than books in some black stores.
Nevertheless, Emma Rodgers, co-owner of the Black Images Book Bazaar in Dallas, remains "encouraged" by the numbers of aspiring black booksellers who continue to enter a difficult business. Many have small stores or set up shop in churches. She praised Book Sense for "keeping me current." Rodgers said black indies "have to be on the cutting edge, looking at authors, looking at self-publishers. We have to scout new writing talent. We can't depend on selling just bestsellers. We have to have our own author events." She pointed to novels like The Shirt Off His Back by Parry A. Brown and Dangerous Dilemmas by Evelyn Palfrey, both self-published books that have been picked up by large mainstream publishers.
Audio Loud and Clear
Between the all-day Audio Publishers Association conference and the black-tie Audie Awards, the audio industry had a busy show. Ken Oxenreider, director of national account sales for S&S Audio, called BEA "spectacular. There are a lot more people this year interested in putting audios into their stores and more interest in CDs. There's also a big upswing in the library and college market. That wasn't the case in previous years."
Alfred Martino, president of Listen and Live Audio, praised the location of audio exhibitors, "in one row, in a central location," where traffic was "much better than last year."
This year the BEA honored the audio book genre with its first book-and-author event, sponsored by the APA. The Friday afternoon tea offered a panel of bestselling authors sharing tales of recording their own audiobooks. James Patterson, author of Suzanne's Diary for Nicholas (Time Warner Audio); Robert Crais, author of Hostage (Brilliance Audio); Jacqueline Mitchard, author of A Theory of Relativity (HarperCollins Audio); and Bill O'Reilly, author of The O'Reilly Factor (BDD Audio) each seemed to outdo the previous speaker for laughs.
Comics' Graphic Presence
Comics activity at BEA focused on distribution. Seattle, Wash., comics company Fantagraphics is now distributed by Norton. Marvel has left LPC for Diamond, the biggest distributor to comics specialty stores and the trade. LPC has signed on Dark Horse and Image comics as well as manga publishers TokyoPop and ComicsOne.
Comics firms are working overtime to get the book industry interested, in part because of a fear that with store closings, the comics specialty market is in deep trouble. Marvel is restructuring its program to include trade paperback collections of its periodical titles. Norton sees Fantagraphics as a new-generation literary comics imprint. At the LPC booth, buyers were "shocked" by the range and quality, according to Colleen Doran, artist/author of the Distant Soil fantasy graphic novel series, who made an appearance in the Image Comics booth. Library buyers were also interested, looking to attract a new and younger group of readers.
Librarians Check Out BEA
Librarians in charge of buying books for their library systems have begun to attend BEA because it attracts more publishers than the American Library Association annual meeting. Increasingly, librarians come prepared to place orders. Recognizing this, BEA organizers plan to do more to make the show appeal to librarians. A "Day of Dialog," organized by Library Journal, featured a keynote by George Gibson, publisher of Walker & Co., on independent publishing. Panels focused on issues of importance to collection development librarians—how to acquire books in Spanish, issues of African-American publishing and diversity in children's publishing.
Next Year in New York
Next year BEA begins its three-city rotation, moving to New York City (May 3—5), and then on to Los Angeles and back to Chicago again. While some people—particularly international visitors—like New York, others fear that costs may be nearly double that of Chicago. Already some companies are planning ahead.
Africa World/Red Sea Press, one of the larger distributors to black retail outlets of African-American-oriented titles, did not attend BEA this year in part to save up for New York. For its part, to help offset costs in New York, Combined Book Exhibit will raise its rates for publishers who are part of its collective stand. The company has already notified publishers about the higher costs, especially those who get subsidies from their governments to attend BEA. Next year's fair also comes during the last week of the month-long Buenos Aires book fair, which could cause logistical problems for some South American publishers.
In fact, the show's early date—a month ahead of the usual time—will cause the kinds of difficulties experienced two years ago, when BEA was in Los Angeles. Look for rescheduled sales conferences, pushed-up publishing schedules and a lack of catalogues and galleys.
Still, based on what happened in Los Angeles, as well as at the last ABA in New York, in 1991, expect to see more East Coast booksellers and East Coast small publishers—as well as almost every employee at every major New York house.