BookExpo America, held May 30—June 1 in Los Angeles, had, perhaps appropriately for its California location, a kind of yin-yang quality. For each positive comment and experience, there was an opposing viewpoint. While Al Franken and Bill O'Reilly provided the most extreme example of begging to differ, there were others. Record numbers of librarians attended and graphic novel publishers raved about the show, but international attendance and rights activity were way off. Booksellers spoke of being energized, though booths were frequently uncrowded. Nonetheless, many exhibitors reported steady business. One attendee expressed the mix this way: "It was quiet with pockets of excitement." Perhaps the difficult sales year so far influenced the mood. After all, few people put stock anymore in the old theory that the book world is recession-proof.

As expected, total attendance was down from the 31,726 mark set in New York City last year, but the 27,143 industry professionals who attended the L.A. convention represented a considerably higher number than the total attendance of 21,898 who went to Chicago in 2001. BEA executives put the number of book buyers at 6,684 this year, down from 7,089 in 2002, but ahead of the 6, 132 book buyers who attended the 2001 Chicago event.

Susan Wasson of Bookworks, Albuquerque, N.Mex., summed up the overall value of the show for many, particularly booksellers, when she said, "It's always so enjoyable to talk books with everyone, to see old publisher and bookseller friends, to meet new people—and I love meeting the authors. BEA is a pumper-upper. I wouldn't consider missing it for the world." "There was so much I loved," Carla Jimenez, owner of Inkwood Books, Tampa, Fla., added. "It was a great show and I didn't get to do everything I wanted."

"The publishers here really know what they're representing and they have been tremendously helpful," Cheryl McKeon, book club coordinator for Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park, Wash., continued. "The show has been stimulating and really informative. It's like jumping into a cornucopia of ideas."

Patricia Dodd, general manager of Borders in Visalia, Calif., said: "It's great that vendors and booksellers are not in competition here and can really interact with each other. We all have the same idealistic goal—to make our stores better. I've learned a lot about children's books that Borders was not stocking just by talking to people on either side of me in the autograph lines."

For his part, Alfred Martino, publisher of Listen & Live Audio, said, "Meeting with book publishers and rights people is always good; that's what this show has turned into for us over the years—an opportunity to make, or to reinforce, those contacts." Diane Leslie, who attended both as a Simon & Schuster author (she was signing Fleur de Leigh in Exile) and as a bookseller, from Dutton's Brentwood, Los Angeles, called BEA "great fun."

Groups such as the Publishers Marketing Association, African-American booksellers and the general books division of the National Association of College Stores held lively events. Some panels focused on the connections—and disconnections—between the book world and Hollywood. As in recent years, parties were less lavish and more focused. Los Angeles and the convention center evoked some familiar complaints, particularly about the long trek between halls.

This year's BEA also had more of a political edge than in the past, in part because of the U.S.A. Patriot Act's onerous provisions concerning booksellers. Rep. Bernie Sanders, the only independent/socialist in Congress and the main sponsor of a bill to amend the act, was a featured guest of the American Booksellers Association. Molly Ivins spoke at several events. At the Saturday Book & Author luncheon, which C-Span's Book TV broadcast live, Bill O'Reilly and Al Franken got into a nasty sniping match that some found exhilarating and others disturbing. One bookseller commented: "It may not have been the most educational part of the show, but it was the most entertaining."

The media was out in full force, and some publishers reported that they had improved connections with book fairs and festivals. And while there was no big book of the fair, there was the big rumor—that Random House had agreed to buy the AOL Time Warner Book Group. The rumor, as the story on p.9 details, proved false.

Penguin Appears

The Penguin Group made its first BEA appearance in seven years, having originally abandoned the show as a result of the ABA suit against publishers, then decided to remain away on economic grounds. In a joint statement, David Shanks and Susan Petersen Kennedy, CEO and publisher of Penguin, respectively, said they were pleased to be back and called attention to what they described as a particularly strong fall list. The group's booth highlighted some of its fall stars with cover blowups and otherwise stressed its major authors in a big roll-call of names arranged alphabetically around the booth.

Although the company's location at a far corner of the South Hall was not as central as that of most big publishers, Dick Heffernan, executive v-p of sales, said he felt Penguin had "a good spot" and, in the early hours of the show, expressed satisfaction with the traffic. "So far we're happy," he said. Heffernan noted, however, that the company had brought fewer people than usual from the New York offices, and many of those at the booth were California staffers. He also stressed that this year's appearance was "a trial run," to see whether a presence at the show was economically viable.

Floor Follies

The Internet appears to have had an insidious effect on attendee behavior. Michael Morrison, publisher at Morrow and HarperEntertainment, complained to PW about possibly unqualified visitors scooping up several copies each of their galleys and reading copies, presumably to sell them online or through used bookstores.

"The most frustrating part of the show for me is that we put a lot of time, money and effort into getting galleys and finished books into booksellers' hands to get the word out," he said. "Then, when they open the gates in the morning, a sea of people, some with bookseller badges, some with no visible affiliation, stuff their bags with two or three copies. They don't talk to us if we try to engage them in conversation, they don't even glance at our catalogues. They just want to load up and move on."

He said he hoped show organizers would be "more discerning about giving out accreditation and try to check that people are legitimate booksellers. I think things were really out of control this year, and we're going to look very carefully next year at how many galleys we bring and how we're going to distribute them."

Parties Seen

Because the show was in L.A., parties were scattered and often required an evening's commitment. Most major publishers specialized in small dinners at which key booksellers and media people could meet authors. Among the others: Getty Publications' elegant soiree at the Getty Museum, D.A.P.'s Union Station party featuring a variety of strippers and the HarperCollins's closeup at Fox Studios. Perhaps most important, despite its purchase by AMS, Publishers Group West held its usual last-night blow-out party, which this year featured Ozomatli, an L.A.-based band partygoers raved about.

Ellen DeGeneres's hilarious Saturday night benefit concert for the Book Industry Foundation, hosted by Simon & Schuster, supported a good cause and gave an all—book industry audience of about 1,600 a live version of her June 28 HBO special. In part, the show focused on the procrastination involved in writing her book, The Funny Thing Is..., coming this fall from S&S—that is, if the manuscript is ever finished.

In opening remarks about the work of the foundation, which consists of ABFFE and the Get Caught Reading campaign, AAP's Pat Schroeder noted that when the Get Caught Reading program was being developed, the group working on it joked that the slogan might sound like an admonition to be arrested for reading. "Now that's not so funny," she commented.

ABFFE also received some unexpected support: on Saturday Scholastic's Michael Jacobs and Barbara Marcus presented a check for $10,000 to Chris Finan, ABFFE president, to support the foundation's efforts to protect First Amendment rights.

Buzz Forum

First held last year, the Buzz Forum, moderated by PW's Nora Rawlinson, allowed editors to plug forthcoming titles and give some underdogs on the fall list a bit of a push. Julie Grau of Riverhead put in a good word for Khaled Hosseini's The Kite Runner, just arriving in stores now, and a forthcoming graphic novel from David Rees, My New Fighting Technique Is Unstoppable. Dial Press's Susan Kamil offered an intriguing plot summary for Jennifer van der Best's Easter Island. Star Lawrence from Norton gave a compelling plea for booksellers to sell Gay and Laney Salisbury's The Cruelest Miles, a chronicle of a 19th-century dog sled team's race across Alaska to save Nome from diphtheria, this summer. Sonny Mehta of Knopf touched on new titles from Toni Morrison, Joan Didion, David Guterson, Gabriel García Márquez and P.D. James. Another title he mentioned, Tim Gautreaux's novel The Clearing, due in this month, was one of the most talked about of the show. S&S's Alice Mayhew tipped President Jimmy Carter's first novel and David Maraniss's They Marched into Sunlight, a Vietnam war novel, as probable hits for the house. Last, Morrow's Claire Wachtel praised a biography of the founder of the Smithsonian Institution, James Smithson, The Stranger and the Statesman by Nina Burleigh. She recommended readers look in their gift bags—featuring galleys of many of the aforementioned titles—and look through the Los Angeles Diaries by James Brown, a funny but dark memoir.

ABA Abuzz

Many booksellers were pleased with ABA and BEA programming. Panels were well attended. "I didn't spend a lot of time on the trade show floor because there were so many good educational programs, which were, for me, the most useful and meaningful part of the weekend," said Mitch Gaslin, manager of Food for Thought Books, Amherst, Mass. "I sat through [ABA CEO] Avin Domnitz's budgeting workshop for a second time, and it is quite wonderful and useful—I hope it motivates me to follow his advice." Other ABA panels covered marketing, staff issues and more.

The cheerful Book Sense 76 luncheon attracted hundreds of booksellers, who were delighted to meet authors and illustrators. Similarly, attendees raved about Thursday's "first annual" What Are You Reading? luncheon, where booksellers talked informally about hot titles.

Another ABA innovation was dubbed "the Hotel California." Thanks to the ABA buying a block of rooms at the Radisson Wilshire, ABA members had an inexpensive place to stay ($111 per room) and enjoyed publisher-sponsored parties every night. Booksellers were also able to pick up badges, convention guides and a welcome packet in the hotel lobby, rather than trekking to the convention center. Thanks to publisher sponsors, the 500 booksellers in nearly 300 rooms also enjoyed nightly "pillow drops" (a galley or hardcover replaced a mint on their pillow; bags of books were also delivered).

"It's the best thing since sliced bread," Chuck Robinson of Village Books in Bellingham, Wash., told PW. "I spoke with more of my bookselling colleagues the first evening than I usually do in all three days of the show." A "Hotel Chicago" is planned for next year.

Celebration of Bookselling

Most booksellers attending Friday night's seventh annual ABA Celebration of Bookselling were there to find out which titles would win in the six categories of the Book Sense Books of the Year. But before they were announced, the capacity-filled ballroom gave two standing ovations to Rep. Sanders for his sponsorship of the Freedom to Read Protection Act, which—if passed—will negate the onerous provisions of the U.S.A. Patriot Act that affect bookstores. "We want to make sure the American people can walk into a bookstore and know the FBI is not on their heels," said Sanders. "I believe we can fight terrorism without undermining the Constitution of the United States."

Also prior to the awards, there were three tributes. Gayle Shanks, co-owner of Changing Hands Bookstore, Tempe, Ariz., was awarded the Charles S. Haslam award for excellence in bookselling. Lila Weinberger of Readers Books in Sonoma, Calif., was saluted as she left the ABA board. Avin Domnitz lauded Carl Lennertz, who left for HarperCollins earlier this year, for his outstanding work with Book Sense. "We owe Carl a great debt of gratitude," said Domnitz. "He signed on for a year, and we were blessed with his presence for four years. There wouldn't be Book Sense without Carl." The audience stood for Lennertz, who urged, "We've gone so far together. Please keep it going."

Molly Ivins hosted the actual awards ceremony and no one could accuse her of not keeping the ceremony moving at a fast clip. "I've been making so many commencement addresses, I almost feel like I should begin, 'Go forth and be unafraid,' " laughed Ivins. She spoke of her love of indie bookstores, noting, "The last time I spoke at a Barnes & Noble, I got a death threat."

Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones (Little, Brown) won in the adult fiction category; Alexandra Fuller's Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood (Random) won for adult nonfiction. The Book Sense Children's Literature award went to Cornelia Funke's The Thief Lord (Scholastic/ Chicken House) while Mark Teague's Dear Mrs. LaRue: Letters from Obedience School (Scholastic) won for children's illustration. Ann Patchett's Bel Canto (Perennial) won in the paperback category, and L.M. Boston's 1954 novel The Children of Green Knowe (Harcourt/Odyssey) was named Rediscovery Book of the Year.

In another celebration of booksellers—and reps—PW officially presented its Bookseller of the Year and Rep of the Year awards to Ann Nelson, owner of the Bunch of Grapes, Vineyard Haven, Mass., and Wes Caliger of Heineken & Associates.

Incidentally, one new BEA exhibitor was Reed Press, headed by Fred Ciporen, late of PW. The new house presented its first list at the booth of its distributor, Sourcebooks. The lead title is The Complete Book of Oscar Fashion: Variety's 75 Years of Glamour on the Red Carpet.

Children's Book World

This year, the big events for the Association of Booksellers for Children took place all on one day, Thursday. As with last year's show, ABC members were invited to join in the ABA's morning programming—part of an All-Day ABA Education Day. Workshops covered such topics as budgeting and monitoring, technology, time management and marketing.

During the ABC annual meeting, which followed, executive director Anne Irish announced the incoming board: president Monica Holmes (Hicklebee's); vice-president Ellen Davis (Dragonwings); treasurer Beth Puffer (Bank Street Bookstore) and three advisers—Marilyn Dugan (A Likely Story), Carol Chittenden (Eight Cousins) and Carol Moyer (Quail Ridge); publisher representatives: Marjorie Naughton (Clarion) and Angus Killick (Hyperion). The cover image from Miss Smith's Incredible Storybook by Michael Garland (Dutton) will appear on the 100 posters and 50 buttons shipped to each ABC member store for the 20 Minutes a Day literacy campaign. Karen and Bud Gaston from Butterfly Books in Depere, Wis. (who recently sold the store to Barbara Wilson), won the ABC Spirit Award.

On Thursday afternoon, the Children's Booksellers and Publishers Committee (comprising representatives from the ABA, ABC and CBC) sponsored a number of events. Author Chris Crutcher and editor Virginia Duncan talked about how they worked together on King of the Mild Frontier: An Ill-Advised Autobiography (Greenwillow); members from the editorial and marketing departments of 10 publishers discussed a title from the fall list as part of a Children's Book Buzz Workshop, progressing from table to table in 15-minute intervals; finally, author Esmé Raji Codell described her unorthodox writing routine and read from Sahara Special (Hyperion).

Several booksellers mentioned that attendance at the ABC meeting was better than in the last few years and that the energy in the room was high. Some attributed the increased enthusiasm to the return of the Evening with Children's Booksellers Dinner (which was not held last year), which took place in Chinatown at the Empress Pavilion, along with the annual ABC Secret Garden silent auction. The auction raised approximately $25,000 for the ABC (the sum includes a raffle for a "blackprint" of a giraffe created by Clement Hurd, which took in almost $1,500; author Denise Cronin was the winner), and the many family-style courses that seemed to fly out of nowhere echoed a scene from the Hogwarts dining hall. Keynote speakers Cornelia Funke read from her new Inkheart (Scholastic/Chicken House) and Wendelin Van Draanen traced her road to publication and discussed her most recent Swear to Howdy (Knopf).

Winners of the Lucile Micheels Pannell Awards were local bookseller Doug Dutton from Dutton's Brentwood Bookstore in Los Angeles, in the general store category, and Cammie Mannino from Halfway Down the Stairs, Rochester, Mich., which won in the children's category.

ABC's Anne Irish said she felt "everyone was so excited about the dinner. And we got a lot of good ideas for next year."

Librarians Making Noise

Since taking over show management from ABA, Reed has increasingly been wooing librarians by offering discounts on registrations and special programs for librarians. The efforts appear to have paid off: many attendees noticed a greater proportion of librarians at the show. Most librarians said that they sensed a new level of integration at the show, with many publishers glad to see them. They emphasized that, while budgets are tight, they do still have money to spend—and, they reminded publishers, they do not return what they buy.

Prior to the show, more than 200 librarians came together at the L.A. Public Library for Library Journal's Day of Dialog with publishers, distributors and audio publishers. During a session called "Reading the Trends," six editors and publishers discussed the current book market. Jonathan Karp of Random House noted, "Books that present historical slices are on their way out. They are becoming increasingly arcane." Phil Ruppel of McGraw-Hill said that, along with patriotic books, there is an increased interest in politics. "People are looking for leadership in politics and are less interested in business leadership," he said. Hyperion's Bob Miller raised the issue of pricing, saying that he feels the business is "hitting the price wall." It is becoming increasingly difficult to sell any illustrated book over $30, he continued. The only area defying this trend is cookbooks.

International Crisis

The overseas presence at the show appeared to be the lowest in years, for a variety of reasons: the SARS epidemic kept away many Asian visitors who normally make the trip when the show is in Los Angeles. A large Chinese delegation canceled plans to attend only a few days before the show began. European visitors, too, were sparse: France and Spain in particular, usually represented by large numbers of visiting editors, had only skimpy national booths on the floor and almost no rights people. One exception was Jacques Binszstok from Editions Seuil, which earlier this year announced a joint venture/imprint with Chronicle Books. Germany's Lothar Menne, who never misses an international show, was virtually alone among senior German publishing personnel present. Droemer's Hans-Peter Ubleis, another indefatigable international rights buyer from Germany, didn't come.

Menne had his own theories as to the extensive absences. "Los Angeles is too expensive for Europeans to travel to—and to get around in once they're here," he said, noting that he planned time to see American editors in New York on the way home. "We're going to come in a big way only when the show is in New York," he said, recalling that last year's BEA in Manhattan had been a much better-attended one from the rights point of view. Chicago, he felt, had also outlived its usefulness for foreign visitors. "We don't really need two spring rights shows," he said, "and London is the one to go to now, unless we can be in New York."

Agent Jennifer Weitz at the Jean Naggar agency, one of the comparatively few New York agents manning tables in the large International Rights Center, concurred. "London isn't just winning the race as the spring rights fair for English-speaking publishers," she said. "It's already won." BEA, she continued, lost out in the competition for foreign visitors when it stayed too long in Chicago. "People got tired of going there, looked for an alternative and found it in London. New York is the only place on the current fair calendar that can draw a big response among European editors and agents." The only other attractive sites, she added, would be "fun places to visit, like Las Vegas or New Orleans."

Joanna Pulcini, a Los Angeles agent, had found only three foreign publishers with sub-rights representatives at the show. Her own foreign rights agent, Linda Michaels, usually a fair visitor, had stayed in New York to meet with foreign visitors there. In the absence of book rights activity, she was spending most of her time in L.A. seeing movie people. Marly Rusoff, making her first BEA appearance in the brief life of her agency (though she has been twice to London), was doing the same.

In the Rights Center, with about 200 tables, there never seemed to be more than a third occupied at any one time, and some tables never saw any occupants at all, leading at least one agent visitor to wonder whether some table-holders had bought space and then simply failed to turn up. The big New York and international agents who usually attend such shows were notably absent.

Show director Greg Topalian, who feels a greater rights presence is essential to the fair's progress, stressed to PW later that "there are 800 American publishers showing here who never go to any of the international fairs," and he hopes rights people will bear that in mind in the future.

Thanks to the SARS epidemic, Asia was represented in large part this year by the U.S. operations of Asian publishers and printers. Two educational seminars focused on Asia-related international rights, and while they were sparsely attended, both revealed the lucrative potential of rights exchanges in Asia.

Buying rights from abroad for the diverse cultural interests of American readers is gaining ground in the U.S. The explosion of Spanish-language and Latin American cultural materials continues, and similar interests among the Chinese, Korean and Japanese cultural markets grows.

The speakers at a Global Rights Forum, mostly rights directors from U.S. houses, concluded that there are "no rules" about which titles would work in translation, either in the U.S. or abroad. The panelist from Seoul, rights director Eric Yang, encouraged more two-way exchanges, and later spoke with PW about plans this year to launch a U.S. office, representing a number of Korean publishers and targeting the two million Koreans living in the U.S.

While the SARS epidemic kept the Taiwan and P.R.C. publishers at home, a combined stand of China Books & Periodicals, Long River Press, Eastwind Books & Arts and Cypress Book Companies displayed a wide range of books from China and other parts of Asia for U.S. distribution.

All of the above, including China Books, are now part of Sino United Publishing Holdings, according to Greg Jones. With headquarters in Hong Kong, the new owners intend to continue the original mission of China Books, to bring and distribute books from China.

SARS did not keep a dozen U.S. representatives of Hong Kong printers from their booths, scattered throughout both halls. Hong Kong's C&C Offset Printing (also part of Sino United Holdings) had director Charlie Clark, down from Portland, Ore., with news of a remarkable cooperation agreement announced in Hong Kong just days before BEA opened. The Hong Kong Printing Industries Association announced that the top 12 export printing firms in Hong Kong will dedicate 10% of their production capacity to the print demands of any of their number, should one of them be forced into quarantine with a SARS outbreak among their employees. None has been affected by SARS so far.

Audio Happenings

The audio industry continued to build on its strong BEA presence with this year's slate of programming, events and exhibitors. The Audio Publishers Association played host to most of the official audio events during the show, including Thursday's daylong conference. The morning's general session addressed issues of changing audio technologies and formats from the viewpoint of Kelly Gosh of Soulmate Audiobooks, a producer of digital audiobooks and a service provider, and Joe Bates from the Consumer Electronics Association. Other workshops covered returns and reporting, special sales and nontraditional markets. Many of the approximately 200 APAC attendees commented on the valuable interactive aspects of the sessions, an improvement over more formal structures in the past.

During the APAC luncheon, outgoing APA president and associate publisher of Brilliance Audio Eileen Hutton took care of business by introducing her replacement, new president Mary Beth Roche (Audio Renaissance). Hutton also announced that the APA is under new management, provided by the Association Management Bureau, McLean, Va. AMB's Laura Skoff will serve as APA's executive director.

After lunch, comedian and audiobook enthusiast Louie Anderson was the keynote speaker and kicked off a warmly received stand-up routine by saying, "You've been listening to people talk about audiobooks all morning; I thought I'd just be funny." Twelve afternoon roundtables, each guided by a discussion leader, covered such topics as alternative language audio and the rental market.

Friday night, APA members and their guests dressed to the nines for the eighth annual Audie Awards, a dinner gala held at the Petersen Automotive Museum, where attendees viewed such cars as the Batmobile and a vehicle in the shape of a red stiletto. Actress Marsha Mason served as emcee; presenters included noted authors and narrators Noah Adams, Richard Ferrone and Martin Jarvis.

In the BEA exhibit halls, audio publishers reported varying degrees of foot traffic, depending on location. "The booth has been jammin,' " enthused HarperAudio associate publisher Carrie Kania. "Booksellers have been really appreciative of our overall title selection and of some of our lower price points." First-time exhibitor Full Cast Audio enjoyed seeing "a great mix of people" that included what seemed like "an unusual number of librarians," according to managing director Dan Bostick. And Elizabeth Pearsons, editor of Brilliance Audio, offered, "We've been very, very busy and writing lots of orders."

"Our booth has been pretty busy; we've got a great location," said Chris Lynch, v-p and associate publisher of Simon & Schuster Audio. "I'm encouraged that a fair amount of booksellers are asking specific questions about audio," he added. At the Audio Renaissance booth, marketing director Jeanne-Marie Hudson noted, "We've had an enormously positive response to our titles. I think the show has been a little slower than New York [last year], but we've had more time to sit with people and talk."

Graphic Novel Publishing

This is how far graphic novels have come. For the first time at a BEA, comics publishers reported, nobody was asking, "What's a graphic novel?" Driven by the stunning sales growth of manga titles and film tie-ins, graphic novels are attracting an ever-growing number of booksellers and reaping high praise from librarians for their ability to lure droves of young readers into libraries.

At the Shelving and Selling Graphic Novels session—one of a series of panels and events held all day Saturday that focused on book comics—a librarian noted, "We don't shelve graphic novels, because we can't keep them on the shelf." Booksellers and librarians, especially school librarians, were crying out for more information—and clearer labeling—on age-appropriateness for titles aimed at younger audiences. Manga publishers, in particular, are working on labeling their books, but there's no industry standard yet.

Graphic novel publishers had their own pavilion and spotlight day this year, and many reported having an exceptionally good BEA. Manga publisher Viz expects its unit sales to double this year; it's abandoning periodical sales and publishing more of its titles in the "authentic Japanese" right-to-left printing format, aggressively pushed by Tokyopop. "We've got 14,000 retail outlets for our books," said John Parker, president of Tokyopop. "It's still a developing category, but when kids see these books, they want them." Manga publishers are having particular success with shojo, or girls' comics.

Small indie publishers like Drawn & Quarterly, Fantagraphics and Top Shelf are making inroads into the book trade through distribution agreements; larger indie houses like Dark Horse and Image introduced a slew of new book titles. By the end of the show, Fantagraphics, which had sent out a plea for help after having cash-flow problems, was far more confident about its financial health—even after having to lay off four people. Eric Reynolds, director of publicity at Fantagraphics, told PW, "We'll be okay. Sales aren't the problem."

DC held signings for the first time, notably an unannounced signing by Neil Gaiman in support of his much anticipated anthology The Sandman: Endless Nights, due this fall.

As always, there was strong interest in current and upcoming movie tie-ins like Viz's Spirited Away, Marvel's X-Men and Hulk and Alan Moore's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen from DC/WildStorm. Dark Horse announced a book tie-in: an Empire Comics project inspired by the imprint from Pulitzer Prize—winning Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, with some participation by Chabon. Wendy and Richard Pini's perennially bestselling Elfquest series (turning 25 this year, like the graphic novel format itself) is moving over to a new relationship with DC and switching its distribution to the AOLTW Book Group.

On the literary graphic novel front, the key word was big: Craig Thompson's 600-page graphic novel, Blankets, due out soon, was generating serious buzz; its publisher, Top Shelf, also announced that Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie have finally finished their mammoth, 13-years-in-the-making Lost Girls. Fantagraphics' summer titles include Gilbert Hernandez's 500-page compendium Palomar and coffee-table— sized books from Chris Ware and Jim Woodring; Chester Brown's epic biography, Louis Riel, is being collected by Drawn & Quarterly. Marjane Satrapi's slim, acclaimed memoir, Persepolis, was also making waves among buyers and librarians.

Electronic Publishing/POD

Although electronic publishing keeps a lower profile than just a few years ago, there was much activity among e-book publishers and print-on-demand vendors like 1stBooks and iUniverse, both of which reported lots of floor activity.

Adobe's release of its new Adobe Reader 6.0—which combines the Adobe Acrobat Reader and the Adobe e-book reader into one application—was the biggest technical announcement at the show. Adobe now offers a single free reader for e-books and documents with secure DRM that can run on desktop or laptop and, now, for the first time, on handheld devices. "It's an exciting development," said OverDrive president Steve Potash. "We're looking at probably over 100 million Adobe downloads."

The Open E-book Forum and BEA co-sponsored the E-Book Experience and the Reading Room, a big reception area with workstations and donated e-reading devices of all kinds that fairgoers could try out. Major vendors including Microsoft and attended. Palm Digital held media signings. OverDrive courted librarians. And RosettaBooks and Random House ballyhooed their new partnership.

Potash's biggest complaint was that the E-book Experience, while well attended, could have attracted far more visitors but for its hard-to-find location. Nevertheless, he reported that panels were well attended, and the e-book reading room was a hit that he expects to repeat next year.

1stBooks president Robert McCormack said his company's tremendous growth has continued. 1stBooks has moved from a 6,000-sq.-ft. facility to 26,000-sq.-ft. offices and grown from 60 employees to 130 employees. The company expects to publish upward of 7,000 books this year and pay about $2 million in author royalties. McCormack acknowledged that only about 5% of 1stBooks's 15,000 authors sell more than 1,000 copies. The company's better-selling books generally are taken over by more traditional publishers. "We listen to our authors and we try to be a springboard to traditional publishers, which actually happens a lot without much help from us," he said.

The story was much the same over at iUniverse, which has launched its Star program, a targeted effort to identify serious authors and salable books. "We want to be the farm team of market-tested books for traditional publishers," said CEO Kimra Hawley.

"We've been very busy at BEA," said Hawley. "We're making connections with lots of publishers and there's a lot of interest in our books. Why not? They've got nothing to lose."

All Things Latino

This year, session rooms and the mariachi-laden show floor were bustling with author panels, cocktail parties and seminars that focused on the Latino market in both English and Spanish. While the market continues to expand, the rise in programming was also due to a joint effort by Críticas and the Association of American Publishers to host several events to celebrate the AAP's yearlong Publishing Latino Voices for America campaign. Aside from the usual nuts-and-bolts panels from years past aimed at helping non-Spanish speakers buy Spanish-language materials, this year's BEA was marked by events that drew large crowds and lots of new faces, both Latino and non-Latino.

On Thursday, publishers HarperCollins, Cinco Punto Press , Planeta and Oceano enticed booksellers and librarians with their hot new fall titles in English and Spanish at the first Latino and Latin American Book Buzz Workshop. Friday's Latin American and Latino Author Forum, which featured appearances by authors Gioconda Belli, Alberto Fuguet, Cristina Rivera Garza and Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez, was SRO. The forum, hosted by Críticas editor Adriana Lopez, got lively during the q&a session as the audience and the authors debated how Latino authors should be marketed in the media. Valdes-Rodriguez talked about her frustrations with being regarded as a "Latina writer" rather than just a "writer." In the U.K., she noted, she's regarded not as "Latina," but as an American writer. Even though she was offered a large advance from another publisher, she chose to go with St. Martin's because they did not think of her book as "the next Nanny Diaries." On Amazon, her book is paired with Sandra Cisneros's Caramelo. "Our books are not at all alike—readers of Caramelo will be so disappointed by my book," she noted. Dirty Girls Social Club plays with Latina stereotypes, portraying four women with different Hispanic backgrounds who bond in college because others regard them as part of the same "minority."

Related events included the AAP and Críticas's cocktail party; a roundtable on publishing in Mexico and Spain; and the well-attended debut of the Writers on the Verge, featuring readings by up-and-coming U.S. Latino fiction authors Oscar Casares (Little, Brown), Felicia Luna Lemus (FSG), Marisol (HarperRayo) and Nina Marie Martinez (Knopf).

Religion: 'Funny Weather'

Asked to summarize his reaction to this year's BEA, one religion publisher told PW, "It's been better than we hoped, but then we had low expectations."

Many religion and spirituality publishers reported being adversely affected by the stumbling economy, and belt-tightening was the order of the day. Staffs have shrunk, travel expenses are scrutinized and title output has been cut at many houses. Quest Books publisher Sharron Dorr echoed the experience of many when she said, "Our sales have been deplorable over the past year and a half. Advance orders are down, though they are picking up for fall. We are planning on publishing fewer titles, focusing on those in which we have real confidence. We are doing fewer ads, cutting back on marketing and experimenting with using outside publicity firms."

Yet the picture was not uniformly gray. Tony Wales of Lion Publishing in the U.K. told PW he found the mood in the U.S. one of "if not doom, quite a bit of gloom. But some publishers are still steaming along, and they are not all the big boys. Catholics are publishing well to their niche, and evangelicals have moved well beyond the Christian market into the general trade." He also said that the economic climate in Britain is much like that in the U.S. today—"It's a funny kind of weather system, with some positives and some negatives."

In recent months, the more-energy-into-fewer-titles mantra has been repeated by many publishers, and some of them had a more positive report at the show. Asked about the economy, Thomas Nelson v-p of publicity Pamela Clements said, "We have had two great months. We anticipated a difficult economy and decided to get out in front of it." Thomas Nelson has made an aggressive move into the general trade with its business, current affairs, finance and health titles.

Zondervan media relations manager LaVenia LaVelle was flying high on the stellar sales of Rick Warren's The Purpose-Driven Life, which has lifted Zondervan's (and parent HarperCollins's) fortunes in recent months. On Saturday, Zondervan held a celebratory cake-cutting to herald a deal between its Inspirio gift line and Running Press to publish a new Inspirational Miniature Editions line, launching in September. The deal offers new opportunities for both publishers: Running Press will be able to sell its other miniature editions into the CBA market through the Zondervan sales force, and Inspirio miniatures will flow into general trade channels.

Despite the cautious climate, hope springs eternal, and new ventures were in evidence. Paul Cohen (formerly with Atrium), along with his partner Georgia Dent, has launched a new spirituality publishing house called Monkfish, which will release its first five titles this fall. "I've wanted to do this for a long time," said Cohen, and he actually sees advantages in these tough economic times. "It forces business discipline, which is healthy. And lots of other people will be backing off in this climate."

Marking their first solo foray into BEA was Orthodox Christian publisher Conciliar Press, exhibiting in the Midpoint Trade section. Director of marketing Shelly Stamps told PW, "We are really going for it now," seeking a higher profile in the trade. She said, "We're in B&N and Borders now, and we've always had a big direct-mail business."

Holding court at Midpoint was president Eric Kampmann, who said of Midpoint's bright new red-and-white exhibit, "My goal this year was to establish an NBN-like presence at the show, and I feel we achieved that." On the economy, Kampmann was philosophical. "Some people's sales are up. Some are down. That's life."

Returning to the show this year with Penguin was Joel Fotinos, head of religious publishing. He served on a Thursday panel on writing and publishing the mind/body/spirit genre. Fotinos told PW, "There is no next big thing, just good books publishers are excited about. The most important thing is what is a great book and who is a great author." Fotinos, who began his career at the Tattered Cover, said, "I'm surprised by how few publishers have ever really sold a book. That gives you a different view." He added, "I'm glad to be back at BEA."

At the well-located and busy NAPRA pavilion, NAPRA president Marilyn McGuire said, "This has been our best show ever." She described Saturday's booth traffic as "three-deep" and said her booth staff of four had been constantly busy. Hit by shrinking advertising, earlier this year NAPRA suspended publication of its print magazine and McGuire let her staff go. Now she outsources database management and Web design, and several former staffers still work for her as independent contractors. Still, McGuire described NAPRA as primed and ready for the future.

Next Year in Chicago

Next year's show will be held June 4—6 in Chicago. In 2005, the show heads to New York. In 2006, BEA returns, for the first time in 17 years, to Washington, D.C., where it all began.