Tuesday, June 5, 2007

BEA report (part II):

I had a great day at the BEA. The fact that my in-laws watched the kids while Tracy and I had the day to ourselves (along with 10,000 other people in the Javits Center) made it sort of like a day-long date. She's a librarian and I'm a writer, so being surrounded by tens of thousands of books is a good thing.

My distributor and publisher had a very nice booth, though it was on the outer edge of the floor, so it saw a lot less traffic than the booths (though some were as big as our condo, so it's a stretch to call them booths) controlled by the big publishers. Plus we were right on the way to the bathroom, so by the time people worked their way over to our aisle, they were a little shell-shocked and exhausted from the barrage of displays and in desperate need to pee. This made it a little tough to flag them down in order to interest them in a signed copy of Tornado Siren.

I did sign and give away half a dozen copies in my 30-40 minutes, and met some interesting people. One woman was hooked the second she saw the cover--her sister lives in Greensburg, Kansas, and was there for the big tornado a few weeks ago. Another woman (and fellow writer) told us a story about how she was hit by lightning while driving her car across Texas.

My main celebrity sightings were Dave Barry (I wish that I'd said Hi, but I was too shy) and John Patrick Shanley (who signed two books for me). Had a great conversation with the guy who runs Arcadia publishing, who put out the "Images of America" series of pictorial histories of towns. Their business model is genius (they have 3,000 titles, with 800 more on the way)--they basically provide a book template that can be filled in by a town's local historical society that ends up producing an attractive book with a built-in regional niche market. Particularly interesting was that many of the books are sold in non-traditional venues (hardware stores, funeral homes).

Going to BEA as a writer left me with a touch of seasickness. Half the time I felt completely overwhelmed by the sheer number of publishers and books out there. I'd look around and think, "What can I possibly add to all of this that hasn't already been written? Look at the incredible amount of competition. What's the point?"

The rest of the time, I'd realize that all these publishers meant that a decent book with market appeal had a good chance of finding a publisher. And that each of these publishers needs new material every year. At BEA next year (at least for the big publishers), they're going to be pushing different books altogether. They need me to provide them with something to sell. (I'm working on it, guys.)

The BEA isn't a good place to try to find an editor or publisher for a manuscript, because the booths are staffed with salespeople trying to get bookstores and librarians to buy stuff for next year (and there were lots of press and other industry folks busy networking), but it does remind a writer that the book business is a big business (and it's all about selling books).

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