Guest post from Linda Collison, Old Salt Press author
The BEA (Book Expo America) is touted as the largest publishing event in North America. This year’s show certainly covered a lot of landscape, set up in New York City’s spacious Javitz Center, on the bank of the Hudson River. There were hundreds of exhibitors -- traditional publishers, University presses and independent presses, and a myriad of industry support services such as industry magazines, publicists, printers, distributors, etc.
This year China was the guest of honor in the global market forum. Hundreds of Chinese publishers, authors, and government officials attended – 500, according to the press release. Being interested in Chinese culture and maritime history, I spent some time checking out these exhibits and talking briefly with a representative of Dalian Maritime University Press about an intriguing maritime history book they had on display. I also sampled tea, learned about early Chinese papermaking and printing processes, and watched a calligrapher wield his brush.
Dozens of “celebrity authors” were scheduled throughout each day to sign advance copies of their newest books. Eager librarians and indie book bloggers lined up like cattle in chutes to wait their chance to have their ARC signed. Other authors, less well known and not chained to a mighty publisher, had bought booth space and set up stands that almost reminded me of waterfront hucksters at the far end of the giant hall. I felt I represented the great majority of authors who fall in the gap between celebrity and huckster.
I attended the BEA as an indie author-at-large, having purchased a discounted badge from Author’s Guild. I went to the explore the current publishing territory, so to speak. I had paid for two of my titles, Looking for Redfeather (Fiction House, Ltd.) and Water Ghosts (Old Salt Press) to be showcased by Foreword Reviews, a publication that promotes small presses and independent publishers by providing professional reviews of their books and selling advertising space to indie authors and publishers. I wanted to personally meet with some of these people – to put a name to a face. Not to mention, it was an excuse to attend a Broadway play.
Most of all I wanted to have some face-to-face time with fellow author, friend, and founder of Old Salt Press, Rick Spilman. This exchange of ideas and camaraderie took place outside of the Javitz Center and was not a result of the Book Expo, except that we both attended. Having attended a few other publishing events, I’ve found the real value is in the connections outside the hall, yet it is often the event that brings us together. (I also managed to see not one but two Broadway shows with Bob, my husband. We saw Phantom of the Opera and Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, an electrifying stage adaptation of the book by Mark Haddon, which influenced my own writing to some degree.)
My personal take-home message from BEA 2015:
- Books are simply a product and writers (except for celebrity authors) are just part of a team manipulated by the Big Publishers, who are masters of the universe, or so they would have us believe.
- The average reader is greatly swayed by marketing hype from the publicity department and subsequent media buzz.
- It’s crucial to discover my “market” -- the people who want to read my books -- and connect with them. I’ve always thought of readers discovering my books but I must discover my readers.
- It’s beneficial for authors to form working relationships with like-minded writers to improve our craft, promote our work, and to exchange and explore new ideas.
- The dedicated book-lovers at Foreword Reviews are doing a great job. I highly recommend them.
- Old Salt Press is a progressive publishing alternative I’m pleased to be a part of.
- Wear sensible shoes! I thought I did, but should have worn dedicated hiking shoes with arch supports. Oh, my dogs are killing me.
Look for my review of Linda Collison's latest, Water Ghosts, coming very soon.