BEA is both a revival meeting and trade show for the publishing industry. We come from all corners of the country, the globe really, and talk to each other about the terrible dire straits publishing is in, how it was so much better way back when, and how we really can't see ourselves doing anything else. Honest, it's kinda fun in a Eeyore kind of way.
Today was the first real day even though the actual show doesn't open till tomorrow. Today was the chance for seminars and panels, the chance to remember where the Javits Center is and that water costs $3.00 a bottle so bring some from the corner bodega tomorrow.
The first presentation I attended was "Bringing Your Authors to the Social Media Party...and Getting Them to Stay." Frankly I'm not sure if the presenters didn't know what the title was or didn't have a clue how to actually do what the title said. It was worse than useless as a panel because it made social media sound corporate, difficult and not much fun. None of those are true.
It was all I could do not to leap up, grab the mic and say "ok, who here understands that Twitter is simply about making friends?" and then talk about how to make friends. Because honestly that really IS what Twitter is about. The reason that's important: marketing studies tell us (and have for YEARS) that word of mouth is the most effective form of book publicity.
Let me say that again: Word of mouth is the most effective form of book publicity.
How do you get people to talk about your book?
You meet them and befriend them.
How do you do that?
(And a myriad of other ways.)
It's not rocket science. And it's fun.
I think what annoyed me most about the panel is that it was clear they weren't even familiar with what authors in trade publishing need to do, or the barriers they face. The panelists described themselves as publishers, but their company is a software company, and what they publish looked and sounded like books for established customers.
This is apples and oranges with trade publishing.
Unfortunately I was trapped on the inside row, and it was too early in the morning to levitate out of my seat and leapfrog over the assembled multitude, so I just suffered. As did most of the people around me when the session (finally!) ended and we rolled our eyes at each other.
I was mollified by the arrival of the Amazing Suzie Townsend and the Essential to My Survival Meredith Barnes accompanied by the Greatly Missed Godsend Jujubeantea, and having them whisk me off to coffee and (lots of) complaining.
I decided to risk another panel, and chose "I'll Never Pay Over $9.99 For E-Books!" and Similar Lies" presented by Michael Norris of SIMBA. The contrast with the earlier session was marked. For starters, he was knowledgeable about general trade publishing. And he was funny. And he had clear, well planned out slides with interesting information. Much of what he said was info I already had, but I defiantly felt like it helped to hear it again, and it gave me some interesting things to think about in terms of information I'd really like to have.
No mollification required after this seminar at all.
And that was a good thing because we had to haul ass down to the next panel cause we figured it would be standing room only: "Mobile Apps: A Publisher Roadmap for Creation and Use"
Indeed it was SRO by the time the panel started but we were carefully ensconced in Row 2 right in front so we could see the slides and the camera work.
I knew nothing about mobile apps. Zilch, nada, zip. Right down to answering the question "What is an app" with "I dunno."
A lot of what the panelists said went straight over my head. Some of it stuck though and it was tremendously exciting to see the kinds of amazing things that can be done with content. Thrilling in fact.
I've got a lot to learn about apps, and that's one of the things that's high on my list for this BEA. I may not know a lot by the end but I will be able to tell you what it is.
Suzie and Meredith reminded me the panel we wanted to attend next was in the same room as the App panel, but there would be an intervening panel before "ours" started.
We didn't have a clue what that next panel would be. We really didn't care; we just wanted to keep our seats.
And this is why I will always go to BEA, and I love BEA. Serendipity.
The panel was "7 X 20 X 21"
From that title, I had no clue what it was about. It wasn't on my list of "must see." I'll NEVER make that mistake again. This panel was extraordinary.
The title refers to 7 minutes, for 20 slides, with 21 seconds per slide.
Each person on the panel gave a 7x20x21 presentation.
Did I mention extraordinary?
Ryan Chapman, Online Marketing Manager at Farrar, Straus and Giroux and Ami Greko, Director of Business Development at Adaptive Blue moderated. They were amazing. And they picked amazing people:
(1) Jennifer Egan, Author of The Keep and A Visit from the Goon Squad (June 2010);
Jennifer Egan gave a riveting talk on her use of PowerPoint in her new novel. Believe it. I leaned over to Meredith and said "order that book right now!"
I've been a devoted admirer of Jennifer Egan for many years. This presentation was like watching Mikhail Baryshnikov dance. Yes, you've seen ballet, but when you see Mikhail Baryshnikov dance you know you're seeing a master of the art.
Jennifer Egan was riveting.
(2)Justin Taylor, and Eva Talmadge, co-editors of The Word Made Flesh: Literary Tattoos from Bookworms Worldwide (October 2010)
I never knew I'd be interested in a book about tattoos, but I was pulled in to the concept of this book from the very first slide. It has pictures of tattoos of words, text, authors, etc, and text about why people chose to be tattooed with these images.
At one point a slide of a man's back, covered in words, flashed on the screen. There was a collective gasp from the audience. I'd never actually heard an audience at BEA gasp like that before.
Their presentation was beautiful and riveting.
(3)Jacob Lewis, CEO of FigmentFiction.com
This website isn't live yet. When it is (July 2010), go there. It's a place for teen writers to connect with each other and with professional writers.
Jacob Lewis mentioned he'd written a letter to Philip Roth after he read Portnoy's Complaint, telling Mr. Roth how the book moved him. The letter was not answered. Years later Jacob Lewis worked at The New Yorker, and met Mr. Roth, but never mentioned the unanswered letter, although he remembered it then, as he does now.
He closed his 7x20x21 by saying FigmentFiction was a place where no letter would go unanswered.
Have I mentioned riveting, and beautiful and deeply touching?
(4)Ed Nawotka, Editor-in-Chief of PublishingPerspectives.com
Ed Nawotka is brilliant. His presentation was why he thought literature should be taught backwards, an idea both revolutionary, and basic common sense. I think he's right.
Here's the idea: instead of starting kids on reading the classics, where you have to give them the vocabulary, the history, and a lot of help understanding the text, start them reading modern novels. Novels that have language they know and use. Ideas and stories they understand. Then, show them what earlier writers influenced the writers of those books and read those books and work your way BACK into literary history. Don't read Chaucer during your first term in English, read it your last.
Instead of driving high school juniors crazy with Hamlet, let them read Larry McMurtry, or Michael Chabon, or (forgive me for blatant self promotion) Sean Ferrell or Evan Mandery.
Have I mentioned stunningly obvious, brilliant, riveting and touching?
There were others, but these are the ones that made me quiver. These are the things I'm going to be talking about with a great deal of excitement.
That and ROOM by Emma Donoghue which was buzzed by Judy Clain, Executive Editor, Little, Brown & Co. and I would have trampled people to get my mitts on but fortunately Meredith ducked out five minutes early and saved me from Really Rude Reaching and Pushing.
BEA is amazing.
I love it and hate it.
I'm really glad to be attending.