Posts Tagged ‘book expo america’

Looking for Respect (and Swag) at BEA

June 8, 2012

Leslie at the “old” BEA

I just got back from New York City where I was attending Book Expo America (BEA), the annual convention and trade show of book publishing. What happened? Let me just put it this way. In 2007, the last year I attended as a bookseller, I was invited to over 50 parties and dinners at the toniest New York venues. The following year, my first as an agent, I was invited to…let me try to remember.uh. I believe it was zero including even the party that was being hosted by one of my best friends in bookselling. It was an indignity, but one  that taught me a heartbreaking lesson about the fickleness of fame. It calls to mind  T.S. Eliot’s unforgettable line: “The only wisdom we can hope to achieve is the wisdom of humility.”

I returned home feeling pretty depressed. After a few months, Leslie told me that it was time to get over it, stop moping, buck up,  and start being a good father again to Hayley. I didn’t go back to BEA for three years. But finally, my self-respect restored, I decided to return.

There was reason to be hopeful. Before the convention, I contacted Bob Miller,  of Workman Publishers. Not only did he most enthusiastically agree to meet with me,  he even invited me to the Workman cocktail party at their offices on Varick Street. It seemed like a sign, an indicator,  that my status in this business was starting to look up. I kept waiting for the mail to come every day, even standing on the porch looking  for the postman. But as I sifted through the daily harvest of letters, I began to realize that there would be no other invitations forthcoming.

When I got to BEA, I walked up and down the numbered aisles around the convention floor at Javits Center thinking that my old friends in publishing, people I had known for 30 years, would come up and stick an embossed invitation into my breast pocket, give me a little pat, and tell me that they hoped I could come to their  intimate  private dinner at The Four Seasons in honor their author who had recently won the National Book Award for Fiction. But no. Sometimes they said hi. Sometimes they said: “We’re really sorry you aren’t still at Moe’s.”

On the second day of the convention, I was walking out of the hall and encountered an old friend in bookselling. I told her that I was feeling a little down because I had nothing to do that night. She raised her eyebrows and motioned for me to come with her over to a darkened niche adjacent to the men’s room. She told me that she had pinched an extra ticket to the Publishers Group West Party being given that night and could give it to me if I promised not to say a word about  where I had gotten it. I just shook my head and told her that this old bookseller still had a little pride left in his heart.

We walked back to the front entrance and ran into another bookseller, an old friend who had served with me on the American Booksellers Association Board of Directors. She asked me if I would be attending the Knopf dinner for David Remnick of The New Yorker. Looking down at the floor, trying to hide my shame, I told her, “No. I had not been invited.” She looked at me with a kind of smirk on her face, and said only, “Pity”, before turning away and leaving the hall.

As I walked down the aisles,  the images of the great moments at BEA  seemed to fade in and out of my thoughts  like specters of times past,  better times for book publishers and booksellers alike, times when we could let go of our phony elitist literary pretentions and   indulge our  secret longings for all things crass and  tasteless.

 

The Bodice Ripper

I remembered the years that the Harlequin booth was the most splendiferous at the show. Harlequin is  the downmarket  publisher of racksize paperbacks of women’s romance. We used to call them “bodice rippers.”  At the booth  there was always a bit actress dressed to look like Scarlett O’hara reclining next to a man, probably a “b” list model,  with bulging biceps, a shining saber at his side and a patch over his eye.

My favorite moment was in 1982. I was walking down the aisle of university press booths and saw another day actor dressed in overalls and a John Deere cap, dragging a live hog on a leash down the aisle. I believe  they were trying to promote a book being published by Oxford University Press, a quantitative economic analysis  of the emerging agribusiness economy in America’s heartland..

And the swag back then was something else. This year the only handout I saw was at the Houghton Mifflin Harcourt booth,  a book bag promoting the new edition of  Tolkien’s Hobbit, tied in to the movie release this December. The fabric was cheap, the workmanship shabby. (I noticed a “made in Bengladesh” label attached to the inner lining.)   You would have never seen that kind of  Schmattah  being given away in the 80s. When  I tried to grab one for Hayley, the smiley face greeter at the booth gave me a dark and threatening look and growled, “Sorry. Booksellers only.”

I remembered the best freebee I ever got at BEA. I was sharing a cab with the CEO of one of the major houses.  They were  heavily promoting a new thriller for the fall called, Jig. Larry, the CEO,  pulled a watch out of his pocket and handed it to me.  It was oversized. The face was black with huge white letters J,I,G. It was a real treasure. Later I proudly showed it to my friend. She commented rather archly that I might not be making the right fashion statement wearing an accessory with an ugly racist epithet scrawled across it. The Jig watch is now gone along with so many other treasures of my past.

That was a long time ago, a different time. A time when bookselling meant something. It was a time when I used to stand next to the new title table at the front of Cody’s greeting my customers. I remember once an elderly woman came up to me and said, “Mr. Ross, your taste in books has always been unerring. What do you recommend that I purchase today?”

I turned and scrutinized the tall stacks of new titles, the best sellers on the front table, and gingerly picked up one. I turned back  and handed it to the woman. “Try reading this  one.  I think you will find it quite satisfying. People are talking about it a lot this season.  It’s called, Jig.”

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Linda Watanabe McFerrin on Social Media for Writers

May 12, 2010

Linda Watanabe McFerrin is an author and  teacher of creative writing.  Her new novel, Dead Love , is being published this Fall by Stone Bridge Press . Dead Love is an incredible Zombie story that takes place in Tokyo, Haiti, Malaysia,  and Netherlands.  For those of you who have, how shall we say, somewhat exotic taste in the sexual, you will be turned on by the slightly green, slightly clammy, slightly putrescent  sex scene.  You can find out more about it on Linda’s  Dead Love blog   and her website . Linda will be attending the Book Expo America Convention  in New York this month and will be signing copies of Dead Love there on Thursday,  May 27.

Linda understands that the hard work of the writer really begins after the book is written. Book publishing, has become focused on the mass audience. They concentrate their resources on the few big blockbuster books and frequently give short shrift to everything else. That is why it is essential for the writer to promote her own book. Linda is going to talk to us today about social media for writers.

Andy: Linda, welcome to Ask the Agent. Tell us why it is so important for authors to understand the new social media and how to use it to promote books.

Linda: Well, Andy, though my undergraduate degree is in English and Comparative Literature and my Masters is in Creative Writing, I also have a background in sales and marketing. Even though I spent years doing sales and marketing in the apparel industry and knew how important marketing is, I had trouble applying what I’d learned to my own projects. Artists and writers sometimes recoil from this part of the process, but if you are getting  your work published,  it means you want to share it.  Visibility is critical to achieving that end. We expect our publisher to provide this, but sadly, it’s often what’s missing. What’s really exciting … or, I should say “revolutionary,” is the way the Internet has made new and volatile communication channels available to everyman and everywoman. Writers can now reach the potential audience online directly and without the costs and restrictions that used to be associated with that kind of outreach.

Andy: So let’s break this down to the major venues: Facebook, Twitter, Myspace, etc.   Can you go through each of these and tell us their strengths and weaknesses?

 Linda:  Sure. Let’s walk through the fundamentals and let’s do it in bullets. That’s easiest.

  • Website : This is the foundation of any online presence. It defines the artist and the artist’s product. My first website went up in 1998 and it has served me well and saved loads of time. It certainly eliminated the need to mail out lots of author bios and portraits and it allowed people I hadn’t yet met to become more familiar with my work.

 

  • Blog: Many websites today are no more than this. Blogs are the new journalism and one of the key sources of information and interaction on the web.

 

  • Twitter: The fastest moving, most mobile method of interaction is the phone or the hand-held device. Twitter is a micro blog designed for short, immediate, and constant updates.

 

  • E-mail: This is still the most widely accepted method of online communication. In 2009 ninety trillion emails were sent. The average number of emails a day is 247 billion. Clearly, this is where contact lists are key.

 

  • Facebook and other online social media networks like Myspace: There are so many of these. They are a super way to expand a platform and reach out to those with similar tastes. Each network has a distinct identity. Best to know what it is and whether it meets your specific needs before sinking time into development.

 

  • Google and other search engines: These tie it all together. We feed search engines with content and we use them to find content relevant to our objectives.

 

I use all of these on a daily basis and could devote hours and pages to further defining each and every one of the areas. The Internet is massive, fast moving and, once you overcome certain insecurities, it’s also fun. For a totally shocking real-time update on statistics, you can go to http://www.peterlang.us/index.php?s=statistics and read and scroll to the “Social media statistics in real time” section.

Andy: Ok. It sounds like it is essential to develop an Internet marketing and promotion plan and to take control quickly. We can assume that your publisher is too busy to labor in the Internet trenches. What are the elements of a good plan?

Linda: A good plan begins with a well-crafted Mission Statement. To be really clear on something, you need to know what you want to achieve. I want, for instance, to use the Internet to reach out to readers who would enjoy but might not know about my work. It’s actually a lot like the writer’s task of selecting a protagonist and defining his/her inner and outer story goals, which is—as any writer knows—key to developing a plot.

Andy: Describe how you are implementing the plan for Dead Love.

Linda: I have four websites: www.lwmcferrin.com, the oldest (1998); www.leftcoastwriters.com, www.hotflashessexystories.com, and the newest: www.deadlovebook.com. For Dead Love, the most active is the www.deadlovebook.com site. Everything about the book finds its way onto the site and is mirrored variously in other Internet locations. www.deadlovebook.com  is the hub where the bulk of my content in support of the novel is captured. It has a fairly high ranking with search engines. Erin, the near-zombie Dead Love protagonist posts daily on the site in a blog called “The Daily Slice.” It’s a little bit of the dark side, often but not always zombie-related. I share the link with social media networks on an ongoing basis. To me this is the new journalism. Erin reports on Dead Love related topics—literary, pop culture, current events—every day. The novel is also serialized on the site in bite-sized, easily digested segments once a week.

Andy: Penguin Books has a spiffy little .pdf pamphlet on Internet marketing for writers that lays out the fundamentals of Internet marketing. But you are saying that the author needs to be an expert in this. What resources do you recommend to help the authors improve their expertise and develop strategies.

Linda: Things are moving so quickly in the social media area that it’s difficult to keep up. I’ve had a number of marvelous advisers every step of the way and I was truly resistant at first! Bradley Charbonneau www.likoma.com  got me started with my new site models. Laurie MacAndish  King www.laurieking.com  also helped tremendously. I deeply respect the knowledge and advice of Cheryl McLaughlin www.cherylmclaughlin.typepad.com  ; she created my first YouTube video. Then there’s social media guru, Peter Lang www.peterlang.us, my current key mentor. Peter’s recommendations follow. These are online resources and tools that are available to everyone:

http://www.google.com/reader/ (Follow top industry sites in order to keep up with this ever changing online world)

Resources:

 http://Mashable.com (a favorite!)

http://www.searchenginejournal.com/

http://www.quickonlinetips.com/

http://www.toprankblog.com/

Tools:

http://bit.ly/

http://sendible.com/

http://pluggio.com or  http://hootsuite.com

http://mailchimp.com

Andy: Do you do any consulting on this?

Linda: I do, but with a “total marketing” focus. I work on brand establishment and communication for writers. I have a new program that allows for a full year of training and consulting. I meet with selected writers every month to discuss platform and marketing and tailor outreach programs that work in today’s fast-paced, hyper-creative environment. The program features guest speakers in major marketing areas online and in print. It’s intense and exhilarating, and if anyone’s interested, they should send me a note via Facebook, which is one of my favorite Internet playgrounds.

Andy: And what about traditional media? Advertising is expensive,  but is there any way an author can exploit it to promote their work?

Linda: Certainly. I’ve used postcard mailings to drive web traffic, and when we go to  the BEA (book) Convention later this month, I’ll be signing advance readers copies of Dead Love. There’ll also be Dead Love T-shirts and buttons. I used to direct art for a major T-shirt line and I love T-shirts; they are wearable art. Also if a writer has expertise in an area, that writer should be publishing stories that demonstrate that expertise both in print and online. I think the key thing is to produce interesting and enlightening content. That’s what writers are supposed to do. The problem has been, in the past, that there was no sure outlet for all that creativity. There is now with the Internet. Finally, we have a way to share it.