Sunday, May 30, 2010

Book Expo America Day 2

I've been delayed in posting this because my flight home from New York was canceled and I had to spend an extra night with a total stranger in a hotel by LaGuardia - but that is a whole different story covered in my personal blog at, if you are interested. Back to Book Expo...I attended the adult author breakfast first thing in the morning. While standing in line waiting for the doors to open three men came down the stairs of the convention center. The center man began yelling, "Yes! Yeess! Yeeesss! This is going to be great!" The ladies in line ahead of me had to inform me that he was Jon Stewart. Being a person who spends way more time in front of a computer than a t.v., I did not recognize him. But I could tell it was going to be fun to have him moderate the roundtable discussions. And fun it was! He kept the audience in stitches during his monologue as well as his introductions of the other speakers, which included Condoleeza Rice, John Grisham and Mary Roach. My favorite Jon line was "Hope you enjoy the show, the boat show comes in at 2:00 so get the hell out!" Although his reference to our "breakfast in a bucket" (referring to the fact that breakfast consisted of a few muffins and bagels served in a basket) was pretty amusing as well. And you could just tell that as the other speakers gave their presentations he was gathering fodder for the next "Daily Show".

Condoleeza Rice gave a poignant talk about her upcoming book, which describes how she went from being a poor black child in Alabama in the '60's to working in the White House. She describes her parents as being extraordinary ordinary people. When she concluded, Jon Stewart said, "Don' like you!"

John Grisham didn't really talk much about his new book but instead described how the idea for the only (?) non-fiction book he has written came from a newspaper article about a man who had been on death row was found to be innocent and set free, only to die a few days later of a disease. This got him wondering about how many other innocent people are on death row, and he now works for an organization trying to help death row inmates.

Mary Roach is an author I am not familiar with, but she was hilarious. Her new book, "Packing for Mars", will be out in August, though we were given an advance copy. She commented that if you think it takes a long time to send a man to Mars, just try waiting for a response from NASA when you send them an email with the subject line reading "Intercourse in Zero Gravity."

Best advice from the Q. & A. session:

Grisham: Until you are writing a page every day, you are not a writer. Have a routine.
Rice: Seek your mentors as people who are interested in you, not people who look like you.
Roach: Trust your instincts, believe in yourself.

Following the breakfast basket, I again made my way through the exhibit hall. I met with some fantastic authors, enjoyed my time chatting with other attendees as we waited in the lines, and picked up some interesting marketing materials from publishers and authors. As I had an afternoon flight (or maybe I should say what was supposed to be an afternoon flight), I only was able to spend half the day in the hall before shipping my prized autographed books home to St. Louis. Book Expo America was a fantastic experience and now that I know the ropes I will be able to get the most out of future BEA meetings. Congrats to all on a great meeting!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Book Expo America

Today began early with a children authors rountable breakfast beginning at 8:00. I arrived at the convention center at 7:30 to find a long line already assembled waiting to get into the meeting room. (People really need to get a life - we all had tickets to get in!) We were treated to an original, patriotic song performed by three men and one woman from the military, which brought the crowd of 1,000 to its feet.

The moderator of the roundtable was Sarah Ferguson, and I have to admit that I really liked her. She wasted no time in referring to her latest media disaster by saying that it was a challenge to get to the Javits Center as a number of people got in her way on the drive there, referring to the media. "But you might have heard about that," she said. She poked fun at herself by saying she should take a page out of one of her own books, mentioning "Ashley Learns About Strangers". Author Cory Doctorow talked about how he became a young adult author, being influenced by his father's love of telling stories. Mitali Perkins followed Cory and mentioned how libraries had influenced her love of books. And Richard Peck finished his presentation by stating, "The only way we can write is by the light of the bridges we left burning behind us." The speakers were all excellent, and I hope that the adult authors breakfast tomorrow lives up to this one.

I spent most of the rest of the day visiting the exhibition hall. Oh, my! It truly is overwhelming for a first timer, despite all the tips given out by Dan Poynter yesterday. I have more autographed books than will probably fit in my suitcase, and I still have tomorrow to get through. A few of the authors I read we here, so it was an honor to get to meet them. And to get exposed to some new authors (at least new to me). My book is displayed in the IBPA booth, and I have to admit it was a thrill to see it there. I finished up the afternoon with a panel discussion on "Are E-Books Good for Authors". The panel consisted of an agent, three publishers and an author. An interesting mix, I thought. Why weren't there more authors on it? And in fact when they were asking about the demographics in the audience (agent, publisher, book sellers, etc.), they didn't even ask about authors until prompted by someone. At least the moderator sheepishly said, "That's what you'd expect from a publisher, right?" It was indicated by most of the panel that in the new digital world the author would receive a smaller piece of the pie, and the publisher a larger piece. I know what I was thinking - No, more authors will just self-publish since there are services available to help us. And the author on the panel? He had the guts to pretty much say just that. Good for him!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Day 2 of PU

Wow, I don't know how to describe the information overload I am experiencing right now. The day began at 7:00 a.m. with Ask the Experts. The tables in the Grand Ballroom each had a person with a certain expertise assigned to it, and the attendees had the opportunity to sit down and pick the experts brain before moving on to the next table. I started with a publicity expert, who offered some suggestions for marketing my book that I had not considered. The other people who sat down at the table were so interesting that I ended up staying in one spot longer than I anticipated. As I changed tables I could see that others were getting wrapped up in their discussions as well. It was so much fun to hear about all the different projects people are working on.

For my first session I again chose one dealing with marketing since that is where I feel I need the most assistance with my book. Dan Poynter (pictured above) spoke for this one and a half hour session, and he began by telling us not to define our business as a "book business". People buy books to learn something or solve a problem. We can help them do that. One of the most thought provoking things he said was that large book advances are just thinly disguised political contributions. Hmmmm.... One of the funniest things he said was when he motioned to a lady in the room and smirked, "I see you brought your Apple Maxipad with you!" He took on the vanity press companies when he threw out that they are in the business of selling books to authors. Dan ended on an upbeat note by saying that the future of self publishing is very bright. We should invest now and reap later. "Write your book," he urged.

For the second session I chose a panel discussion on social media marketing with a couple of gals from PR by the Book and a man from PassPorter Travel Press. They offered a lot of good tips for maximizing your return with social media, and Dave from PassPorter added how important message boards have been in his success. There was a subgroup of a subgroup on the Disney message board who latched on to his Disney travel book and ran with it. One good suggestion was that we all set up a calendar for our blogs, listing the topics we will cover each month. That will help with your organization as well as take some of the pressure off on what you are going to write about next.

Next was lunch followed by the headline act: Seth Godin, who was named America's Greatest Marketer by American Way Magazine, and who also has the most popular marketing blog in the world. You might not necessarily like the message that Seth is spreading with the changes in publishing from p-book to e-book, but you had to admire his delivery. He is an excellent speaker with a great stage presence. Seth suggested that we find our tribe - the people who care about topic, and then get their permission to talk to them. We need to treat readers as an asset and publish for them. "Find writers for your readers, not readers for your writers."

I had to miss the last session after lunch because I needed to head to Javits Center to pick up my badge and breakfast tickets for Book Expo America. The counter there was only open until 5 today and doesn't reopen until 8 tomorrow morning. Since the breakfast rountable begins at 8, that wasn't going to work for me. After all, I didn't want to walk in late on Sarah Ferguson, who is the moderator. Assuming she doesn't do anything to get arrested between now and then, that is...

PU finished up with a hospitality hour at 5, during which I met a couple of other publishers I hadn't connected with yet. This day and a half experience has been one that I am sure will change the direction of my publishing company, and perhaps myself as an author as well. So to the IBPA, my heartfelt thanks for providing me with this opportunity. Write on!

Monday, May 24, 2010

The E-volution of Books

This was day 1 of Publishing University. At noon the recipients of the scholarships to P. U. got together for a meet and greet. There were 13 of us, and quite a variety of experience from the one book (so far) publishers like myself to one company that has 60 titles under their belt.

Dominique Raccah was the opening keynote speaker. She started Sourcebooks in 1987 and has grown her publishing company into the largest female owned publisher in the United States. Her topic today was the digital revolution in books. She captured my attention right away with the following comment: "I don't care how I feel about the content [of a suggested book]. I only care about what the customer thinks about it." And she basically is not interested in what I would call one hit wonders. She only wants to publish authors who have multiple books in them.

After talking about changes in printing books such as digital print, print on demand and e-books, she asked the question "We are morphing from being book publishers to what?" Because really, when is a book no longer a book? She said that we are in the business of delivering our content to readers, and we need to remain flexible on how we do that. Her summary? We need to be able to connect author and readers anytime, anywhere, and in any format.

Her presentation was a great segway to the next general session entitled "E-Magination". Moderated by Chris Kenneally of the Copyright Clearance Center, the illustrious panel included Mike Coker of Smashwords, David Hetherington of BLIO/Baker & Taylor, Jack Sallay of Vook and Sara Nelson from O Magazine. Each of the panelists gave a short synopsis of their company and how they approach the e-book market, and this was followed by Q. & A. Vook's approach takes the e-book concept and expands on it by embedding photos and videos into the book as well as offering communities for the "readers" to connect with each other. This is where you begin to see the relevance of the question "When is a book no longer a book?"

For the final session of the day I elected to go to the session "What Kind of Printer Do You Want to Be?" That's a pertinent question for me, but also Dan Poynter was one of the speakers. His bible on self-publishing was crucial to me as I brought my book to life, so I was very interested in hearing him speak. Also on the panel with him were Steve Carlson of Upper Access and Danny Snow of Unlimited Publishing LLC. Dan did not disappoint with his presentation, and even though a lot of it is covered in his book it was still great to hear him live. Favorite quotation made by Dan - "Publishers buy authors, they don't buy books."

Tomorrow's schedule has many great choices on the agenda. It will be hard to decide which sessions will be of the most benefit to me. But I'm up for the challenge!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Dear Diary

Can't remember if I wrote about this or not, but on the CBI Theater website I came across a woman who had submitted information about her dad's service during WWII, specifically in India which is where my dad was stationed. Her dad kept a diary of his adventures, and he was transported to India aboard the USS Andy E. Anderson on the same day as my dad. I sent an email to Glenda telling her how excited I was to learn of her dad's diary, and she emailed me the pertinent passages from the voyage. It certainly put words to the pictures I have gathered about life on board the "Andy".

Over the weekend I contacted Glenda by phone, and we spent an hour discussing our dad's war service and what we are doing with the information we have gathered. While I am writing a book about my dad's military days, she is compiling a book about her family. This of course led into a lively discussion about genealogy. No one in my family has much interest in my other pastime, so it was fun to have a conversation with someone who shares my passion. I hope to remain in touch with Glenda in the future.

On Sunday I leave for New York to attend Publishing University. I received an email from IBPA (the sponsor) requesting that the email recipients meet at noon on Monday to introduce ourselves and get acquainted. The email didn't say, but I am assuming this will be a gathering of the scholarship winners. Hopefully I will find someone I connect with so I have someone to hang out with during what little free time we'll have. My goal is to post my thoughts and observations about the seminar on twitter, facebook and this blog. That is assuming I have access to the Internet, so fingers crossed on that. I hope to be inspired by the other publishers, and perhaps gain some perspective on where to go with Provenance Publishing.