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My Book Expo America Experience
On Thursday, May 30, 2013, I was lucky enough to take a trip to the annual Book Expo America. This year, it was held at the Jacob Javits Convention Center. It will be in New York City for the next two years; after that, I believe that it will be in Chicago.
I fell in love with Book Expo America when I first attended the conference in 2012 at the suggestion of my supervisor. This event is different than most of the other conferences in the New York City area that I have attended, which are mostly attended by librarians. Last year, I went to a session about academic publishing, a subject which I did not know much about. I think that it is good to get a new perspective on things. Constantly being immersed in study about what you do every day with people who do the same things every day can be helpful, but it is also good to talk to people who are in sister professions.
The first thing that struck me about the 2013 Book Expo conference was the gigantic Diary of a Wimpy Kid van in the center of the book exhibitor area. Literally, there was a white van decorated with Wimpy characters and the lettering of the book brand. You definitely could not walk into the Javits Center and fail to notice that someone was there who was interested in the Wimpy books.
The first session I attended was the "Who Updates Publisher Metadata & Why? Downstream Vendors On What Happens to Publisher Metadata in the Supply Chain." I stayed for a couple of minutes, but I am totally not against ditching a session early on if it is not captivating in a conference situation, since many concurrent sessions may beckon. I do not really know if it was the topic of the session or the presenter, or both, but I ended up trying a different session.
I entered my second session of the day, "Facebook 2.0: Advanced Strategies for Book Sales" with high hopes. I was pleasantly surprised. The speaker, Cindy Ratzlaff (cindyratzlaff.com), marketing guru, had some really great marketing strategies, including ways to brand yourself. She talked holistically about building a fan base and targeting specific audience groups for your advertising efforts. Many of the audience members were authors looking to sell their books. She discussed the interactive nature of the social media relationship between writers and readers. She also suggested that people spend $10 a day on advertising, using the argument that $10 is not much. $10 on its own is not much. However, $10 a day turns into $300 a month, which turns into $3,600 a year. I think that people really need to think seriously about whether they actually have that much capital to spend on ads.
Ratzlaff said that many Facebook friends can be obtained through this advertising scheme, and exposure can drive sales. She did not encapsulate exactly how that happens. Ratzlaff did mention that adding elements of author's personal lives can captivate social media users and make them feel as though they can relate to the authors more. She has written some books, none of which I can find at our library, unfortunately. She has a Facebook page for her books and a Facebook page for her marketing business. She was a fantastic, captivating, interesting speaker and I did learn more about how authors use social media to promote their work. There were many authors in the audience.
The next session I attended was "All's Fair?: Book Reviews & the Missing Code of Ethics." The major conundrum presented in this session was whether or not it was possible to ever be completely objective when reviewing books. Due to our human nature, everyone brings their biases to the table when they are evaluating literature. However, there are some biases which our society does not consider acceptable. The subject of reviewing books written by friends came up. Many of the panelists were editors. It was said, as I have heard in other panels, that reviewers have the obligation to plainly make known any connection that they may have to the author which may color their perception of that author's work.
This advice really helped me. I had this experience recently when determining whether or not to review a book written by a colleague. I have known this particular person for years, and I have attended a program that she has hosted for years. To be honest, I believe that she is very much a crackerjack librarian, a super-talented person, so I decided to read the book. If I liked the book, I would blog about it. Most of my blogs are not really reviews; they are written to promote the good literature that we have. If I had something significant that was critical to say, I blog about that as well. I wrote after the book talk element of the blog that the person was a staff member of the library and that I have attended her programs for years to lay that out for the readers. I looked at my perception of the book again and again, and I honestly did not have any criticisms of the book that were not trivial. I liked the book; it seemed fun and playful and had dance as an element, which I love. I do not list trivial criticisms in the blogs that I write. I pretended that I did not know the author and I honestly do not think that I would have written the blog differently if that had been the case. I am very much interested in the subject of the book that my colleague wrote; I am sure that that fact biased me more in favor of the book than who wrote it. There was terrific advice given in this session. Editors should not puff up work that is inferior in their reviews, and they should also not unfairly exaggerate any criticisms that they have of literary work.
Next, I had my gluten-free vegan lunch that I brought with me in a lovely seating area of the Jacob Javits Center. People think that my diet is unusual, but it is necessary.
The afternoon brought two more thought-provoking sessions for me, one of which included "Sundance Institute Presents - Nuts and Bolts: From Text to Screen." I was excited to attend this session because I just saw an awesome Sundance film, Angel Share, which was set in Scotland. I loved the footage of Edinburgh, Glasgow and the countryside. It was about some young men who were in trouble with the law who end up going on a field trip to a distillery with a mentor (possibly a parole officer). One of the young men has a talent for whiskey tasting, and he eventually gets a job in the field. When we were contemplating the movie, my aunt saw that it was a Sundance film, and she told me that they were usually good. She was right.
There were many movie producers and a lawyer on the panel. It was interesting to hear about how they got their material for films. They discussed the experience of vying with other companies for movie material. Walt Disney films and companies with much more money dwarf the Sundance Institute and smaller companies. Producers must seriously think about what type of films will generate money. Some ideas simply do not work out. Authors need to understand that the movie and screenplay will be a different piece of work than the book. It can be heartbreaking if it is written into the contract that the author has final say over the movie. What can happen then is that although many people may have pored a tremendous amount of work into the film, the author can decide that he or she does not like it.
The next session that I attended was "Telling Stories About Your Stories - Lessons in Audience Development, Discoverability & Marketing From Beyond the World of Books." I did not find this session particularly enlightening. One of panelists was talking about her company that would help authors market their books. Unfortunately, the session was somewhat forgettable, but I just stayed put. By that time, I had left my BEA program brochure with the names and locations of the sessions inconveniently at the table I had lunch. I realized this immediately after the fact, but I was too lazy to go back and see if it was still there. Luckily, BEA had giant posters near the E hall where all of the sessions were held detailing this information.
The last session I attended this year was "Trending Sales With BookStats: How Publishers Identify Macro & Micro Shifts in the Marketplace." This was an interesting session for me because the panelists were research analysts from different companies, including BookStats. BookStats is a research publication that tracked which segments of the book market are being transformed into ebooks. It is produced by the Book Industry Study Group. It reminded me of the publication produced by the banking association that I worked for. I found myself learning more about the book due to the in-depth questions I got from the customers regarding how to decipher the book and make sense of the content. Each of the panelists made presentations, then a general discussion ensued amongst the panelists, which included audience members. It is important to remember that the company is also interested in selling its product, Bookstats. Statistics can be manipulated to show certain results, and some of the graphs that were displayed on the projector were confusing.
All in all, it was a very terrific day. I networked with research analysts, movie producers, authors, etc. I love learning more about how books are viewed and utilized by sister book industry professionals. Book Expo America was an eye-opening and inspirational experience for me, and I look forward to attending next year's conference.