Page0000001 1
D&Q’s Peggy Burns posts a different view of BEA while explaining why they DIDN’T attend. The money spent on a booth could be better spent elsewhere (like on an ad in this week’s Fiction issue of The New Yorker.) Burns also seems to be firmly in the “moving towards a consumer show” camp:

A few years ago, my mother met me in Washington DC while I attended BEA. An avid book club devotee and voracious reader, she was floored and even a little bit peeved that here is a huge event with all of the authors she loved, countless new authors she could discover and she had never heard of or known of BEA, and wasn’t even allowed in, as a general customer. Or as she said a book club member. She’s got a point. If BEA did regional consumer book fairs like they are doing with Comicons, they would be reaching the very element left out of BEA…the customer. It may make BEA marketing dollars vital again, in helping publishers not just reach accounts, but actual customers. Similar to the growing strength of regional comic books shows or the crowds who show up to PEN,IFOA and the New Yorker Festival, this may be the future of books shows.

Above: Dan Clowes’s cover for this week’s New Yorker.


  1. It’s interesting that traditional publishing still doesnt see the benefits of mixing consumer with trade as Comic Con does so well. I, along with some other folks on the BEA advisory committee had proposed a sort of split show option. Consumers could purchase a ticket, pick up five free galleys and sit in on their favorite author panels or book club discussions. The trade pros get a seperate wrist band that allows them access to the trade show floor. The Javits is set up perfectly for this sort of deal. Anyway, we werent able to win over the hearts and minds-this year.

    If the traditional pubs would scope out San Diego, New York or the new Chicago Comic Con events, they would see a whole new world.

    Anything is possible if you work at it….

  2. Dave Roman has a point.
    The initial benefit of comic conventions is the ability to strip mine the product for consumers (pencils, inkers, colorists, writers, and ancillary product). All this without disturbing the monthly flow the combined product.

    Of course books can break down into a few things, as well. Plenty of films are generated from books, so Hollywood star power can land at BEA, and there’s always spin-off merchandise. But the visual medium of comics has a wider range for consumers than the written word. Granted, that could change as graphic novels increase their foot print at book trade shows.

    But it wouldn’t happen until there’s a comfortable gap between product, consumer and retailer, as Roman points out – especially if books begin to debut at trade shows prior to retail – which happens a lot at San Diego shows.

    Of course, the book industry can just do it anyway and say screw retail. There’s no *law*. If the event / venue allows Stephen King to make a *show* out of it, who is to stop him if the proper paper work is conducted? His only hurdle might be getting the publisher to provide the books for him to sale. I don’t think authors have enough “comp copies” to sale at a trade show. I could be wrong.

  3. I can speak from the point of view of someone who used to work for a book wholesaler / distributor, who used to attend the BEA when it was the ABA (as well as attending the CBA and other American regional shows), as well as being an avid bookie. These shows are quite insular, and the only thing that tends to get out to the general public is what is big, or popular, or an angle the local media may latch onto. There is no selling at these shows (with the exception of some items that displayers may not want to ship back to their offices), and in many cases the items displayed or shown may not yet be available to the public. What would be wrong with having a day or two where the public is invited to see what is out there? If anything, it can only help publishers who want to get their product out in the public eye, especially those who don’t have money for advertising or who will not be picked up by the Big Box Bookstores (whom I have also worked for in my past). A small press publisher can have 16-page samples of a title, a fall catalog or even a one-sheet or business cards with the title and author of their fall release(s) can put that into an individual’s hand and be just as effective (or even more so) than talking to a bookstore owner or chain store rep who may or may not order their title. Give the public the information, and point them to sources to order the books from! I think that the BEA people (as well as all the regional fall shows) would be very surprised at the response they would get from the general public if they opened up part of their shows to the everyone. And isn’t that the general goal of these trade shows: to sell more books?

  4. To follow up on all of this, the cool thing that Comic Con does is generate excitement. Book Expo can easily duplicate that energy by hosting author events where the writers or editors spill the beans about the next big thing they have on the horizon.
    Traditional publishers and retailers need to step out of their insular worlds and embrace the opportunties that a Con-style show can create.
    Here’s something to ponder: Comic Con sells out in record time. New York Comic Con grows by leaps and bounds-enough that Reed Exhibits is encouraged to launch Comic Con Chicago. The regional book shows and BEA have smaller crowds or they are flat.

    I am thinking the formula is quite easy to figure out.

    Set aside trade days and then open the doors to the public. They can sell back list titles of the authors they are promoting. The excitement will resonate across the country and retailers can talk about the great books to all their customers.

  5. See a book you like at BEA but can’t buy it until the Fall? Call 1-800-THE-BOOK.

    Have BN sponsor the show, with service booths around the floor for presales (and backlist sales).

    Hmmm… what’s to prevent B&N or Amazon from hosting their own book fairs?

  6. Just curious… why can’t the BEA be more like the LA Times Festival of Books?

    Major publishers, hundreds of authors attending, and above all— open to the public! The only downturn is that it’s FREE, so the profit incentive for REED to do so is severely diminished— but if the goal is to create the buzz and media attention of a Comic-Con for the printed word, why not? Think of all the potential P.R. windfall. Just get Columbia and NYTimes to partner up and do a similar campus/funding deal…

    Surely the Center-of-the-Publishing-Universe/Greatest-City-In-The-World ™ deserve to have something what the Left Coasters have enjoyed for the last 13 years! Hell, if REED managed to bring that SDCC flavor to NYC, why not THIS?

  7. Apples and oranges. Lou has the best view above. The BEA is a show for focusing on upcoming books for the Fall season, showing bookstore owners and buyers what’s coming up and publishers having a chance to converse with store personnel, the media, publishing agents and other publishers about their books, marketing and publicity plans, and booking appearances for authors on tour, at stores and other venues. 90% of the books being heavily featured are upcoming, not-yet-published books: it’s not a selling show, it’s a marketing show.

    There most certainly is a place for targeted-to-the-public book festivals like Ed mentions: The Los Angeles Times Festival, Miami Book Fair, and the Brooklyn Book Festival—all these are open admission and geared for the general public. But the BEA is specifically built for seeing bookstore personnel who will selling the book later on to build excitement and advance buzz/word of mouth. Since they are the targeted market, the main consumers if you will of BookExpo, they would be most unhappy if (as Dave Roman rightly points out) the publishers eliminated the middlemen and sold directly to the public at this venue.