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Category: BEA

The view from there: Wrap-ups of Book Expo America

Jimmy Fallon at the Book Expo
Publishing's biggest annual conference, Book Expo America, has come to a close. According to most accounts, there was a new optimism in the much-beleaguered industry. Maybe it's because e-books are finally looking like a value-add, not a terrifying pirate ship. Maybe it's because Jimmy Fallon made some good jokes. It's kind of hard to tell from 3,000 miles away, so we're relying on the accounts of the event to get a sense of things. Here are some of the highlights:

Patti Smith interviewed Neil Young about his memoir, "Waging Heavy Peace," but she didn't just stick to books. “Books, albums,” she said, “they’re the same. People create things.” Ben Greenman writes the conversation up for the New Yorker. Young described the way their two books were similar: “I’m a highway and landscapes. You’re a city and painted bricks and lots of people. I’m travelling and you are, too, but I’m on the road and you’re travelling down streets.”

Industry rag Publishers Weekly has all its coverage in one place. It polled booksellers about fiction to look forward to, including new books from some big names: "Telegraph Avenue" by Michael Chabon, "This is How You Lose Her" by Junot Diaz, "Flight Behavior" by Barbara Kingsolver, and "Casada" by James Salter, who turns 87 on Saturday. They've also got their eyes on "Back to Blood," a novel by Tom Wolfe set in Miami, and the first book for adults by "Harry Potter" creator J.K. Rowling, a mystery titled "The Casual Vacancy." A buzzed-about debut is "Under the Shadow of the Banyan," a novel of hardship under the Khmer Rouge based on the real-life experiences of Cambodian-born Vaddey Ratner.

Children can look forward to another "Wimpy Kid" book from Jeff Kinney in November. Hungry people can get the first book from popular food blogger Deb Perelman, whose cookbook carries the same title as her blog, "The Smitten Kitchen."

One book promo went wrong: Two boats rowed into the Hudson River to promote a forthcoming book about historical reenactments; both capsized, plunging the conventioneers into 60-degree water. Everyone got out OK; chances are, they'll stick to the convention floor at Javits next year.

What's Javits like? "Inside, the Javits Center is like an airport with no scheduled departures and much more carpeting,"  Emily Gould writes at The Awl. "It is hot and cold, somehow, at the same time, and it smells like the sad turkey wraps you'll see hungry souls clutching as they crouch in the corners of the main convention floor eating hurriedly between meetings. There is not quite enough oxygen. It's actually a lot less like being in an airport, actually, than it is like being on a plane. But like being on a plane that, if you have been in or around the book industry in some professional capacity, is filled with everyone you have ever met in a professional capacity. So it's sort of like a high school reunion. On a plane. Ugh... it's like a giant trade show, okay? That's what it's like."

BEA tried a new day when it opened up the convention to members of the public; tickets were $45. It seems like a good idea, but it's an awkward fit: the business model has always been that publishers sell to bookstores, then bookstores sell to readers. Letting in consumer ticket buyers, who were dubbed "power readers," was something of a mixed success.

Los Angeles author Antoine Wilson's book "Panorama City" was selected for the coveted editors buzz book panel, in which just a handful of upcoming books are selected and touted to booksellers at the start of the conference. Here he is signing at the booth of his publisher,  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

As the floor is buzzing, BEA also puts on panel discussions. Ann and Jeff VanderMeer have edited a massive anthology called "The Weird," coming soon, and they appeared on a panel about science fiction and the mainstream with Walter Mosley and John Scalzi. Jeff got meta and did a write-up of the write-ups of the panel. The most intellectually lively panel in recent years has been 7x20x21, a rapid-fire set of presentations organized by Ami Greko of Kobo and Ryan Chapman of FSG; for those of us who couldn't make it, here's the video.

The creepiest note from the conference is news that a former murder suspect was cruising the floor looking for a publisher for his book -- about a murder very much like the one in which he'd been a suspect. If that rings a bell, no, he's not a former pro athlete. The hopeful author is 47-year-old Dimitry Sheinman, who became a suspect in the 2004 death of Juilliard student Sarah Fox after he came to police with information about the killing that had not been made public. Sheinman, who now lives in South Africa and goes by the name Victor, says he has learned the name of the killer in a psychic vision. His book is titled, "Is He Friendly?"


Festival of books: Publishing in the digital age

Book Expo 2010: Looking both forward and back

It's Book Expo week and the e-book announcements are flying

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Jimmy Fallon at Book Expo 2012. Credit: D. Dipasupil/Getty Images

A first encounter with BEA: Writer Maile Meloy


Writer Maile Meloy was named one of the best young writers in America by Granta in 2007. Her upcoming novel, "The Apothecary," is the first she's written for young readers -- really young, as in 9 to 12 years old.

"The Apothecary" -- a magical story of two children in 1952 England -- will be out in October. Although Meloy has published four prior books, including the acclaimed short-story collection "Both Ways Is the Only Way I Want It," this was the first time she's attended Book Expo.

"All these people excited about books is fantastic," Meloy, who lives in Los Angeles, told The Times Wednesday. "It feels optimistic."

When she did a book-signing at the booth for Putnam Juvenile, her publisher, she said she encountered booksellers, librarians, other authors and people who run after-school programs.

"When I first started, I was really shy," she said, but this time around she was told by someone waiting in line that she was spending too long talking to each person. "I've gotten better at it," she said.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Maile Meloy with a copy of her middle-grade novel "The Apothecary." Credit: Carolyn Kellogg

Walter Mosley makes stops in L.A. tonight, Thursday

Waltermosley_mlk Walter Mosley, known for the iconic South L.A. detective Easy Rawlins -- featured in "Devil in a Blue Dress" and other works -- actually spends most of his time in New York these days. So do his novels -- particularly the Leonid McGill mystery series, which had its third installment, "When the Thrill is Gone," appear on shelves this week.

Mosley too will be making a couple of appearances here in L.A. On Wednesday, he will read and sign books at Vroman's in Pasadena at 7 p.m. On Thursday, he'll be at Eso Won Books in Leimert Park -- Easy Rawlins territory -- at 7 p.m. Both events are free.

Mosley grew up in Los Angeles; he was 13 during the 1965 Watts riots, which figure in the Easy Rawlins mystery "Little Scarlet." He told Powells.com about his two significant memories of that time:

The first is that I was a member of an acting group called the Afro-American Traveling Actors Assn., and at the height of the riots we went down to perform our play. But nobody was going to plays because they were either rioting or fighting rioting or hiding from rioting. So we drove back to West Los Angeles right through the riots. I saw all the fighting and police and people lying unconscious or, you know, dead on the street, and all that kind of stuff.

But that had less of an impact on me than the night I came into a room and found my father drinking and sobbing. And I said, "What's wrong?" And he said, "It's the riots." "Are you afraid?" I said. And he goes, "No, I want to go out there and riot. I want to fight. I want to burn. I want to shoot at these people." And I was very afraid, and I said, "Are you going to?" And he went, "No, I'm not, because it's wrong to hurt people you don't know, who may not deserve it, and it's wrong to burn down your own property. But I want to," he said. And that had a really big impact on me.

But that was then. For now, he's focused on McGill. Look for our review of "When the Thrill is Gone" in the coming weeks.


Walter Mosley: From Easy to Leonid

Bookstore of the Week: Eso Won Books

Liberty Hill Foundation to honor Walter Mosley

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Walter Mosley at the 25th annual Brooklyn tribute to Martin Luther King Jr. at BAM Howard Gilman Opera House on Jan.17. Credit: Astrid Stawiarz / Getty Images

Book Expo: Looking both forward and back


BookExpo America banners came down Friday at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City after a shorter, smaller convention. My report on the conference -- its optimism and pessimism, its senior executives, hopeful visionaries and sassy upstarts -- is in Saturday's edition of the Times:

If it was a bright sign that plenty of iPads lit up BookExpo America, the publishing industry's annual trade show and convention held at Manhattan's Jacob Javits Center this week, it was equally telling that the hot trend for fall books is dystopian fiction.

For an industry still reeling from the battered economy and not yet reconciled to the e-book revolution, tales of society gone wrong have resonated. As for the big picture, it was possible to find writers, independent publishers and executives optimistic about the future, but many remain guarded and grim....

"No author is going to want to only publish his book online," said Jonathan Galassi, head of Farrar, Straus & Giroux. "They want to give their mother a copy." This got a laugh, but publishers might also do well to consider what authors' children find appealing.

That was the point of the edgy, multivaried 7-by-20-by-21 panel, in which writers, innovators and independent publishers offered an array of new ideas.

What did the panel have to say? I recommend Publisher's Weekly's blow-by-blow; our report has additional details and how it fits into the context of the conference as a whole.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Workers roll up Book Expo 2010 banners at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. Credit: Carolyn Kellogg

BEA: All quiet in the digital book zone

BEABook Expo

Book Expo attendees who need to get a break from the crowds should try heading to the downtown end of the Javits Center. That's where the Digital Book Zone has been set up, and the aisles stretch wide, nearly empty.

This doesn't indicate what it might seem. Digital books have in fact found traction with many in publishing, from independent Soft Skull press, which prefers to send out pre-publication galleys in electronic form, to major distributor Ingram, which is one of the section's sponsors.

But e-books and the myriad new aspects of the e-book business don't seem to have found equal footing with the booksellers and librarians attending the conference. Maybe it's because discussing formatting manuscripts for ePub, Kindle or other e-book types is too techy. Or maybe it's because people who work in bookstores don't see an obvious way to bring e-book sales into their business model.

Or maybe it's just that the downtown edge of the Javits Center is far off on the edge of the conference. Author Jeff Kinney, whose "Wimpy Kid" books are huge bestsellers, appeared on a panel near the area to a modest audience -- maybe 45 people and many empty chairs.

-- Carolyn Kellogg in New York

Photo credit: Carolyn Kellogg

Clicking on Green Links will take you to a third-party e-commerce site. These sites are not operated by the Los Angeles Times. The Times Editorial staff is not involved in any way with Green Links or with these third-party sites.

Looking at Book Expo

BEABook Expo

People who came to Book Expo at the Javits Center on foot from the east -- and who looked up -- saw this massive iPad billboard hanging up above. Would iPads be as much in evidence inside the convention, I wondered?


It was impossible to get a count of iPads or Kindles or Nooks because, just a few hours after the floor opened, crowds were filling the aisles. I tried to get a picture of the people who'd been lured to the Disney booth by a "Tron" poster, but the volume of attendees eager to pick up swag -- which looked, to me, like a sparkly bracelet -- kept jostling me. So my photos were blurry.


At the end of the day, people gathered in a large front-facing hall for a networking session. Wait, isn't this whole thing networking sessions?


Even the panels have an decided networking component. When I sat down for the "Are E-Books Good for Authors?" panel, the woman next to me immediately asked if I was an agent. The panel was agent-heavy; it was moderated by agent Simon Lipskar, above left, and included Brian Defiore, next to him. But it also included digital publishing heavyweights Brian Redmain from Harper Collins (far right) and Madeline Macintosh (third from left),; Sourcebooks' Dominique Raccah (center) and author Stephen Baker. Bea10_devices Trying to figure out the balance in the room, Lipskar asked for a show of hands: There were many agents present, a bit fewer from publishing houses, with a smattering of booksellers, librarians and members of the media. The majority of the room, however, was authors themselves. 

Although that panel had many things to say about how e-books are good for authors, and for publishing, the short answer to my original question boiled down to one word: yes. In panel after panel, I saw new media and high-tech devices existing side- by-side with old media. At Tuesday's interesting and edgy panel 7x20x21, the front row was filled with people taking notes on BlackBerries, on paper, on iPhones and on iPads. 7x20x21 is based on the PechaKucha presentation model -- seven presenters, 20 Powerpoint slides, 21 seconds per slide -- and it was, so far, one of the most interesting panels I've attended. The diverse presenters included writer Jennifer Egan, who showed how she's used Powerpoint as a narrative form in her upcoming novel, and journalist Edward Nawotka, who urged teaching literature from the contemporary moment back to the classics, instead of the other way around. What do these two have to do with each other? What did they have to do with the other five presenters? Well, that's what makes it interesting. With any luck, I'll have figured it out for a blog post, sooner or later.


In the booth selling life-sized sculptures of children reading -- somewhere between charming and disturbing, depending on your point of view -- all kinds of technological devices were on display. You can order your sculpture with a child at a laptop, with a pad and pencil, or even reading an old-fashioned book.

-- Carolyn Kellogg in New York

Photo credit: Carolyn Kellogg

Clicking on Green Links will take you to a third-party e-commerce site. These sites are not operated by the Los Angeles Times. The Times Editorial staff is not involved in any way with Green Links or with these third-party sites.

Barbra Streisand kicks off New York's Book Expo

Barbra StreisandBEABook Expo

Barbrastreisand_2010 Commanding singer, actress, producer and activist Barbra Streisand kicked off Book Expo 2010 in New York on Tuesday night with an extensive and candid conversation with Oprah confidante Gayle King. Streisand's book "My Passion for Design," out in November from Viking/Penguin, details her meticulous home decor and includes some of her (strong) likes and dislikes.

Streisand said she enjoyed the writing process, which she began in longhand. "I started writing my autobiography," the notoriously private star admitted. "And I thought, this is hard. I better write a book about design."

King, wearing in a white dress with blue accents, started by talking about picking out a dress for the evening; at first she'd chosen yellow. But, she admitted to Streisand, "I read in the book that you don't care for yellow."

"Certain kinds of yellow." Streisand agreed.

"My second choice was orange," King offered.

"Oh no no no," Streisand interrupted, holding up a hand. She raised her eyebrows and looked over her shoulder toward the wings of the stage, indicating she couldn't possibly understand how anyone might even consider wearing orange. King laughed, explaining that she'd even repainted her toenails to please Streisand.

It was a cute way to begin, and the two soon settled into an amicable conversation. Wearing all black, Streisand answered questions about the energy she puts into her home, about what kind of wood is masculine and a small hill -- a "berm" -- on her property. She spoke about her family not owning much furniture when she was a girl in Brooklyn. But she and King kept coming back to color.

"When you're planting a garden, you have to be very specific," Streisand said. "What color is that flower? Is it a pink red? Is it an orange red? Why do we like certain things -- probably from experiences in our childhood." At 6 years old, anemic, Streisand explained, she was sent to a health camp. Everyone was disinfected and dressed in identical, starched, royal blue uniforms. "The only thing that separated us was the color of our sweater. And I had a burgundy sweater, and it gave me...." Streisand paused. "Myself." She paused again. "I'm not saying it is the reason I love the color burgundy -- ."

"Oh it is, it is," King filled in.

Later, Streisand again returned to family, childhood and loss.

Continue reading »

BEA: For some in publishing, digital is just too much

BEABook Expo

It's the first day of Book Expo America, and here at New York's Javitz Center things are quiet. Booksellers and librarians are going to a series of business-oriented sessions in smaller rooms as publishers set up their booths for the crowds expected on the main floor Wednesday. Huge wooden crates hold box after box after box of books. If these boxes are any indication, galleys -- which were missing, in large part, last year -- may be back. In volume.

But just because it's quiet doesn't mean nothing is happening. First thing Tuesday morning, a panel of chief executives -- David Shanks from Penguin, Skip Prichard from Ingram, Bob Miller from Workman, and Farrar, Straus and Giroux's Jonathan Galassi -- spoke before a huge, mostly-filled room. They were joined by agent Esther Newberg from ICM and the president of the Author's Guild, Scott Turow.

In a frank conversation that veered between collegial and contentious, they debated the state of the industry. The upshot: The vicissitudes of e-books and digital publishing are a thing to be weathered, not celebrated. Only Miller seemed ready to embrace new technologies and the variety of new ideas for publishing that have come with them, but his forward-thinking imprint, HarperStudio, was shuttered shortly after he left for Workman earlier this year.

Galleycat has some blow-by-blow, but my favorite takeaway came from the very quotable Newberg, who is skeptical about the changes that digital media are bringing to publishing. "One of the only good things about being old," she said, "is that I won't have to deal with this."

Later Tuesday, I'm going to talk to people who have exactly the opposite attitude. Stay tuned.

-- Carolyn Kellogg in New York

Photo: The Random House booth being set up at Book Expo America on Tuesday. Credit: Carolyn Kellogg

A 'smaller, more compact' Book Expo America


Oddly, Book Expo America is going to feel more crowded when it fires up Friday, even though attendance is expected to be off by about 14% from the last time it was held here in New York City’s Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in 2007.

Lance Fensterman, a vice president at show producer Reed Exhibitions, just told early-bird reporters that when it became clear attendance was going to be lower this year because of the economic troubles battering the publishing industry, the organizers “made a concerted choice to pare it down a little more. Perhaps we’re crazy, but I don’t think so. We see BEA as needing to be a highly focused, high-level event. And that probably means a smaller, more compact event.”

So, Fensterman said, they rejected about 1,500 credential requests from “industry professionals,” which he described as the “other” category -- in essence, publishing hangers-on and people who slip in because they have a friend with a bookstore. “Our exhibitors told us this was the group that had the least amount of value to them,” he said. Fensterman has been trying to spin the decline as a distillation process for a couple of weeks now.

But the publishing houses are sending fewer people too. Exhibitor registrations, including the number of credentialed staffers, are down by as much as 15%. Fensterman said, however, that the number of attendees who are members of the American Booksellers Assn. is about even with 2007. Press and media credentials are up by about 20%. And the amount of space BEA takes up will be down 21%.

So, what does all that mean? A leaner, busier show. So get your elbows ready.

-- Scott Martelle

Publicist Julie Burton on BEA


Julie Burton, publicist at independent publisher MacAdam/Cage, spent most of her time at Book Expo America working at her own booth, talking about its upcoming fiction and nonfiction offerings. One morning, she snuck away to the signing area to get the new autobiography by actor Kirk Cameron.

I went thinking it would be cool to meet a childhood crush, but I was surprised at how giddy I was.

How giddy? Just like in the picture.

Carolyn Kellogg


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