Book Expo America 2012 just concluded here in New York, and once again it’s been an interesting trade show.  Some stuff was normal, some was new, and overall, I felt it was a good show.  My thoughts and discoveries follow.

One interesting, if under-reported, improvement was the “Power Reader” program.  On Thursday, the last day of the show, when most attendees are winding down, BEA invited “power readers” to attend.  Twelve local independent bookstores and the New York Public Library invited their best customers to pay $45 to attend the show on Thursday.  What did they get?  I quote:

  • Discover new and upcoming books before they hit the stands
  • See and meet your favorite authors
  • Talk to publisher about favorite books and authors
  • Mix and Mingle with other book lovers and share your passion for reading
  • Get autographs and advanced reads of unique books (quantities limited)
  • Get tons of giveaways from exhibitors.  [62 different promos]
  • Swag Bag Get a FREE POWER READER SWAG BAG at registration, filled with goodies like:
    • An advance copy (before books even hit shelves!) of an upcoming title from one of today’s hottest authors, including Debbie Macomber’s Inn at Rose Harbor, Dean Koontz’s Odd Apocalypse, and Karin Slaughter’s Criminal
    • A special edition copy of Justin Cronin’s bestselling sensation The Passage
    • A sampling of recipes from beloved QVC host David Venable’s first cookbook, In the Kitchen with David®
    • A Janet Evanovich magnet
    • A Debbie Macomber keychain
    • A sneak peek guide with the early scoop on forthcoming releases from bestselling authors

When BEA moved to the middle of the week (Monday-Thursday, instead of Wednesday-Sunday), I thought that BEA would be planning a weekend “Book-Con” for the general public.  After all, Reed runs BEA, and they’ve got experience running New York Comic Con at the same location. They could arrange booths so that a wall could be set up to reduce the size of the show (or they could fill booths vacated by trade exhibitors with retail exhibitors the next day).  The possibility of a huge weekend crowd (if 100,000 attend NYCC, how many romance, mystery, and science fiction fans would attend a book show, especially to discover new titles and meet authors (just like Comic-Con!)?) might reinvigorate the show, encouraging lapsed publishers to return to the show (or risk ending up on a waiting list, like at San Diego).

Would it be hard for publishers to shift from trade to retail?  Not really.  Most of the mainstream publishers sell books at the American Library Association shows.  Every comics publisher knows how to sell and market books to fans.  Smaller pubs could either rent credit card terminals from the show, or just add a credit card reader to a cellphone.  Other book shows around the world allow the public to attend during the show, and this would bring excitement back to the show.  (I love BEA, but there hasn’t been any mainstream publicity from the show for years.)

Since exhibitors tend to start packing up at 2 PM, I wonder what sort of reaction these Power Readers will have to the money they spent.  I also wonder how many attended.  (That will give a good idea on how many would attend if it were a public event.)

I attend using my day job in retailing, but it’s all on my dime.  It’s a chance for me to see all the cool stuff, chat with publishers, and grab some free stuff.  When I worked in a bookstore, I made a point of searching for new product, grabbing catalogs, and distributing cards from our events manager for titles I thought would be good for the store.  I even trolled the shipping room, grabbing free books for my fellow employees.

Now, since I’m at the home office, I don’t do that.  I do talk with publishers I have work relationships with, and I like to scan the books to match to the abstract data which streams through my terminal.  But mostly, it’s an opportunity to just chat with publishers I like, to discover cool stuff, and to brainstorm a few marketing ideas that pop into my head while I’m chatting.  A few know me well enough to invite me to sit down and chat, so that’s nice.  A few even ply me with review copies, which is even nicer!

So what was cool?

Well, a caveat for the lectors:  I actively look for new titles as a bibliophile.  I’ve got access to publisher catalogs, and book publishers actively announce books six months in advance of publication.  So there are few surprises, aside from seeing the actual book and flipping the pages.

Abrams is evil.  They publish so many amazing books, do it so well, that it’s hard to resist.  I was given a preview of The Carter Family: Don’t Forget This Song.  According to the book’s thesis, the Carters were the first country music stars, and had a profound impact on country, bluegrass, southern gospel, rock, and the folk revival of the 1960s!

Over at their Amulet children’s imprint, the big event was Jeff Kinney signing the Wimpy Kid calendar and handing out free chocolate bars!  I picked up a bar on Thursday, and it was quite tasty!  In that same display were two new graphic novels: Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: Big Bad Ironclad! and Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: One Dead Spy.  They seem to be history books, not fictionalized, so worth a look!  $12.95 for 128 pages in hardcover.

What else?

From NBM: Taxes, the Tea Party, and Those Revolting Rebels: A History in Comics of the American Revolution by Stan Mack.  This might be a revision of his previous book on the American Revolution, but he’s an alternative cartoonist who deserves discovery.  NBM also has a new book from the Louvre series (which continues to be popular in France, with new titles being added), an actual right-to-left full-color manga!

Other books:

So, You Want to Be a Comic Book Artist?: The Ultimate Guide on How to Break Into Comics! by Philip Amara

Three books from Rizzoli:

Bunny Yeager’s Darkroom: Pin-up Photography’s Golden Era by Petra Mason

Beatles in Comic Strips by Enzo Gentile, Fabio Schiavo

Neoludica Art and Videogames 1966-2011 by Luca Traini, Debora Ferrari

Lerner is importing Monkey King graphic novels from JR*Comics!  They were handing out action figures on Tuesday!  Of course, Lerner’s Graphic Universe imprint has been producing a wide variety of amazing graphic novels aimed at the young reader market!  They are even doing multi-path comics!

Okay, this one has been out a while, but it was so beautiful, and new to me, I had to share!  The Cult of LEGO by John Baichtal, Joe Meno!  (DK also had their LEGO books on display, along with many other pop culture titles.)

Here’s something that’s interesting… back in the 1980s, Time/Life books used to advertise book series on television.  (The Old West was the one I remember.)  Of course, I always wondered why a big magazine publisher didn’t have a more prominent book publishing company, and why didn’t they do a series based on Looney Tunes or DC Comics?  Later, DC would license books to Watson-Gupthill.  Well, Time Warner Entertainment/Oxmoor House had a booth next to their distributor, Hachette (which acquired Time/Warner’s Little, Brown publishing division years ago).  Well, given the new synergy strategy dictated by Diane Nelson, it looks like Time/Warner is pulling their licensed titles in-house.  An example: Totally MAD: 60 Years of Humor, Satire, Stupidity and Stupidity.  I didn’t notice any new DC art books at the show, so their relationship with Dorling Kindersley might continue.  The MAD book is credited to “DC Editors”, as MAD is part of DC Comics.  DC is in the midst of their 75th anniversary celebration (Superman is next, in 2013), but not much has been announced since the massive Taschen tome.

Andrews McMeel is the publishing division of Andrews McMeel Universal, which also runs the Universal Press Syndicate.  They’ve been publishing comic strip collections since 1975, and they dominate the category.  So, what’s interesting this year?  After seven years and 600,000 copies sold of the hardcover, The Complete Calvin & Hobbes is finally being released in paperback, as a slipcased set of four volumes, retailing for $100.  But more interesting is the new line of comic strip collections aimed at middle grade readers, AMP! Comics for Kids.  Spurred by the success of Lincoln Peirce’s “Big Nate” diary books from HarperCollins, Andrews McMeel produced comic strip collections of the strip.  These $9.99 paperbacks sold well enough, encouraging a specialized imprint.  In addition to Big Nate, there will be an initial volume of Foxtrot and Lio.

For the geeks out there, both of sports and data, here’s some infographic porn.  (Yes, it’s safe for work.  Although it might affect your productivity.)

And finally…  it’s not comics, but it is highly anticipated:

September 27, from Little, Brown.  No word on how many copies are being printed.