More of the Same Only Different: BEA 2011

When one Editor-in-Chief was asked what kinds of books he wanted, he replied: “More of the same only different.” That also describes this year’s BookExpoAmerica. More technology booths, more discussion of ebooks, yet books still ruled the day. BEA was reaassuring. Publishers are responding to the changes in the industry, and as they have always done, finding ways to accommodate them. BEA is succeeding in reinventing itself to serve a rapidly changing industry. Librarians are helping to replace booksellers.

The biggest news was Amazon hiring Larry Kirschbaum, the former head of Warner Books and then an agent, to start a trade house, which calls forth a vision of the Six Sisters that dominate trade publishing becoming Three Sisters: Google, Amazon, and Apple.

The Bay Area was well represented on a panel about whether printed books will survive the growing e-valanche of ebooks and enriched versions of them. On the panel were representatives of the two most creative publishers in America: Workman and Chronicle Books, along with someone from Lonely Planet. They’re all doing well with pbooks.

Lonely Planet has had 9.2 million downloads of apps and has still seen double-digit increases in pbooks, although they invested in color to help make that happen.

Chronicle and Workman create books that can never be ebooks. Bob Miller of Workman showed a book for autistic children that included a brush for them to use. He also showed what looked like a bag of potato chips but contained things for cooking Italian food.

Another excellent panel discussed online promotion campaigns. One panelist had a list of more than a dozen elements of a campaign.

The biggest revelation of the convention for me: former Jossey-Bass Executive Editor Alan Rinzler saying that the future of publishing is self-publishing. This helps explain why publishers are starting e-imprints for authors they can’t publish otherwise and why agents are starting to publish ebooks.

Elizabeth and I rent a apartment in the Village, and spend a week or two before BEA seeing editors, family, and friends, and enjoying spring in the Big Apple. For us, BEA will remain an essential rite of spring: an annual reunion of people we only see at BEA; the chance to meet out-of-New York editors and new people, often by accident; gain new perspectives about marketing and publishing at the breakout sessions (which often have hashtags); hear about books at the editors’ buzz panel and the author breakfasts; and see what’s going on in publishing in one big room.

Next year, the convention is a week later, June 5-7. Hope to see you there.

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