Tuesday, May 25, 2010

First day at BEA 2010

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.


Julie Weathers said...

I'm really glad those of you attending are letting the rest of the world know what's happening. I'm also thrilled you're having a good time. You can drink away the bad time.

Laurel said...

Having spent way too many hours in corporate presentations the whole notion kind of gives me hives but then something like

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

happens and it's all worth it. I love that concept. I hope it's explored fully. We ruin a lot of classics for a lot of people by dumping them on kids too early. We fully expect them to drink Boone's Farm before they work their way up to Silver Oak. Same applies.

Unknown said...

You should sign up for next year's class on social media. Those guys obviously don't know what they're doing.
I love the idea of working backwards. I'd never considered that before. What a way to get them hooked on reading. Now that I think about it, it was the AR (advanced reading) program in 4th grade that jumpstarted my to-read list. I started with books I wanted to read--Bruce Coville--and when I ran out of those, I went to Little Women, The Invisible Man, and Dracula.
Thanks for the insight. Keep us posted!

Ronda Laveen said...

Thanks for explaining Twitter to me in two words. I can get that.

Emma Michaels said...

Wonderful post!

Debra Lynn Shelton said...

Thanks for filling us in. I attended BEA last year, in fact, that's where I met you at the end of a very long Pitch Slam day. I know they're not doing that this year, but I'm intrigued to hear what's happening there. Also, my Awesome Agent (Bernadette Baker-Baughman) is attending. If you run into her, please don't tell her I'm crazy. I don't think she has figured it out yet, and I'd like to keep it that way.

Seriously, thanks for the update. As always, I'm living vicariously through you. ;-)

Unknown said...

Hope I'll get to see you today! I don't have a "home base" this year, so I'm counting on just bumping into everyone I want to see. Which will happen, because I've told the universe it is what I want, and the universe owes me one.

Simon Hay said...

Social media is the most affordable, available, and easily accessed tool to market yourself. Yes, there are some tricks to it, but sincerity and perseverance is key. We're only limited by our imagination. Guest posting has been successful for me and the rest seems to sort itself out. I've got new clients by guest posting. I'm noticed overseas before I'm noticed at home, so I've searched and have compiled an email list to introduce myself. I'm enquiring whether there's an opportunity to be a guest speaker, run workshops, and promote a book. I've nothing to lose and everything to gain. My advertising has been all word of mouth.

I'm glad you had a great time, and thanks for sharing.

I like this quote for social media: The soul of the brand cannot be copied and cannot be faked, because, ultimately, "brand" is not a costume you put on. It is a short-hand for what you truly are. - Blythe Gifford

HK said...

I agree. Your presentation on Social Media at the Desert Dreams conference was wonderful. It made me want to sign up for Twitter (fortunately I came to my senses and still am Twitterless)

I also love the backwards concept for reading. I got tons of flack for letting my son read comic books when he first learned to read, but I just wanted him to read. Now, he reads Dracula and Treasure Island for fun (he's in 3rd grade)

I hope the concept catches on.

Bill Plante said...

Thanks Janet - as always, this is jarring information.

Caroline Starr Rose said...

Thanks for all the specifics!

Unknown said...

LOVE THIS! And that 7x20x21 presentation sounds brilliant. Truly.

Also: I wanted to let you know that a looooong time ago you posted a link to a video that showed an Eastern European girl using a light table and sand to tell a story about WWII. You also posted a link once to a Pantene commercial using classical music to tell a story about a deaf violinist. I'm a high school English teacher, and I've used both of those videos in my classes since you posted them, and my students love them. I used the WWII video yesterday, and I swear, one of the football players was choked up. Thanks for sharing these resources!

Joseph L. Selby said...

First and most important question about apps: What kind of phone do you have?

Second, reading backward seems so obvious now that someone's said it. Do you remember the Lclassics for boys" books? Abridged books of Robin Hood, Count of Monte Cristo, etc? I devoured those in fourth grade. Having seen the process required to get books approved for reading in schools, pitching at BEA ist even step 1. It's step 0. Now all these people need to go home and petition their school boards and curriculum directors. Good luck with that Sysiphean endeavor.

Loretta Nyhan said...

The reading backwards idea is so intriguing! I'm going to be thinking about it all day.

Thanks for this!

Annie Laurie Cechini said...

My sister Ashley is an English major and she was JUST ranting about how literature should be taught backwards in schools, and she felt like an uber-rebel for holding and promoting this view.
(I'm not biased or anything but I think she's a genius)

Also, I just saw the Cathy's Book app demo on youtube, and if things like that had existed when I was a teen, I would have devoured them in one bite. Mixed media has always been fascinating to me in art, and it's SUPER exciting to see the possibilities in literature (says the artist who's now trying to write a novel).

p.s. I used to be a ballerina once upon a time (before my knees, feet, ankles and hips all died), and can I just say AMEN to the adulation of The Baryshnikov? I still can't watch the ABT nutcracker without drooling.

Joyce Tremel said...

Thanks for the update!

You should have jumped up and taken over the social media presentation. I learned a lot in your session at the PW conference. Unfortunately, I still don't know what I'm doing on Twitter, but at least it's fun.

And I love the reading backwards idea. I was lucky that I had teachers way back in the 70s who did this. I remember reading "Summer of '42" as a sophomore. In a Catholic high school!

Unknown said...

Thanks so much for the BEA update. I wasn't able to attend this year so having your insight and thoughts is a wonderful way to get a snapshot of the event. I look forward to additional posts.

middle grade ninja said...

I'm so jealous. Wish I could be there with you, but thanks for allowing us to live vicariously through the shark!

Ami said...

This is probably considered gauche to comment on nice things someone has said about an event you've thrown, but Janet, I just wanted to say THANK YOU for the nice words and THANK YOU for coming. It is always a blast to throw these things, but then when it connects with people, I get goosebumps (literally).

Bridge Marie said...

Twitter is making friends! And so is blogging, yay!

Also 7x20x21 sounds amazing. I'm definitely suggesting that in every class I have that calls for 15 to 20 minute presentations...

Victor M Powell said...

I can symphatize with having so sit through long-suffering panels and the reading backwards idea is one I hope will continue to gain momentum. Its how I learned to love reading,. Lots of good stuff here, first time reader, I'll keep coming back.


DZ said...

Regarding the presentation by Ed Nowatka, I work at a university preparing students to become high school English teachers. I also work with experienced English teachers on curriculum development. I've always found it odd that publishers don't reach out more to English teachers. High school English classes could/should be the place where teenagers develop a life-long love of reading. And while that happens on occasion, we seem almost resigned to the fact that teens are driven away from literature in English class as often as they're drawn toward it. In my view, high school English teachers and those in publishing constitute parallel worlds of book lovers who ought be talking more with one another.

Carolyn Rosewood said...

This is great info! Thanks for posting it.

ryan field said...

I hate when people make Twitter, Facebook, Digg and other social networks more complicated than they are. They frighten people who don't know about social networks, and they turn people off who are intersted in learning about them. Even places like goodreads can be helpful...and it's all about making friends and having fun. You start out with the intention of promoting a book (or two), but you wind up getting friendly with the people you're connecting with.

I became such good friends, through livejournal networking, with a book reviewer from Italy I had her to my home last summer while she was here in the US and we've been friends since.

Erika Marks said...

Lots of information in this post--wow. Thanks for taking the time to share so much--it's very much appreciated by those of us who can't be there but want to know.

Anonymous said...

Re: "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."

He IS right. A friend of mine has been teaching costume/fashion history that way for 3 or 4 years now and the response from her students has been overwhelmingly positive, both in grades and enthusiasm for the subject.

Some subjects (math, science) need to start at the very beginning, but the more organic subjects work really well backwards. I'd say even regular everyday history - take current events and contrast them to past events. I might have paid more attention in school... or maybe not. I have a notoriously short attention span. :)

Have a great BEA!

kah said...

Love these recaps of BEA. So many of us wannabes would love to be there but can't, so it's nice to live vicariously through you.

Keep 'em coming, please. :)

Gen said...

I cringed reading about the social media presentation. I'm a YA junkie in my spare time, but I do corporate social media for a living and I'd have felt compelled to point out why it's such a good tool for authors: they have something to say. The most important part of using social media is being interesting, funny and engaging so that people have a reason to follow you and authors have a huge advantage there already. They're articulate and they have stories to share. And it's not a scary world, it's a really awesome way to make new fans and connect with your existing ones. Any authors who read this and are confused about the best way to get started- get in touch with me and I'll help you out. I do this stuff full time and I take on side projects all the time. (And lest this be deleted as spam or a solicitation- I'll help you get started and advise free of charge. I'm just irked at the idea of authors being turned off to this stuff because someone made it sound so inaccessible.)

I enjoyed reading your post though, Janet- you're smart about how you look at this and your explanations are spot on.

Tamara said...

Thanks for posting this. I might try that 7x20x21 presentation style. Sounds great. I'm hating missing BEA this year, but living vicariously mollifies me - somewhat.

Jan Markley said...

BEA sounds awesome, thanks for giving us the deets!

Anonymous said...

Informative and entertaining post-- thank you!

Spiced Apple Eye said...

Excellent post. I remember the first time I ever heard of "The Firm." This lady at work was anxiously counting the minutes till lunch so she could read more and she stole some time later when she thought no one was looking. Her words, "I've never read a book where you're sweating while this guy makes copies, copies at a copy machine!"

E. L. Psomiadis said...

This sounds like a mad-dash frenzy, which is, of course, what I'm usually in the mood for. One day, I'm sure, I'll make the trek up from Texas!


Thanks for this great recap!

I especially love your take on Twitter. I was reluctant when my agent first started urging me to take part in it. Then I read Shel Isreal's amazing book TWITTERVILLE and Joel Comm's book TWITTER POWER and realized I was totally missing the point of it. It really is as simple as making friends and knowing that your friends will ultimately buy and promote your books. What a @#$% concept!

Thanks for sharing this!

A.J. Cattapan said...

Janet, you are awesome for passing on this info!

Tomorrow I will be telling some of my eighth grade students about figmentfiction.com. I have a few phenomenal writers who need to know about this!

Also, "backward reading" was discussed in one of my grad school classes several years ago. I already do it. Last year we read the novel Flipped before reading Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" (both stories deal with unrequited love).

I've also read The House of the Scorpion with students before reading 1984 and Brave New World. Students love connecting the common threads among the novels.

Jemi Fraser said...

Wow - amazing - I totally agree with teaching students with the modern stuff first! Makes so much sense :)

Jenny Bent said...

Janet, as usual, a terrific post. I am so sad I missed all these panels but so lucky that I'm able to read your summaries.

Susannah Greenberg Public Relations said...

Janet: Great write up. I was at some of the same panels but it was good to read your recap and your take. 7x20x21 was mind bending and original. The $9.99 panel was good but I thought already out of date as it couldn't address the major development of the iPad and referenced Kindle as the main e-book reader, and I think the iPad is blowing Kindle out of the water. The apps panel was great, too, it also was a mind bender to contemplate the possibilities of a new medium. E-books won't be like print books, the medium will change the message. I'm not a technophobe but I hope the print book will survice along side it somehow. Keep writing this wonderful blog and it was so good to see you however briefly!

Steve said...

"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."

I find this idea disconcerting and disappointing. It seems to me to represent some sort of ultimate endpoint to the progressive cheapening og the word "friend" under the influence of the social media bandwagon.

I don't use Twitter, but I have a MySpace account which includes "friends". Perhaps 5-10% or less are actually friends without no quotes (I.e. friends in real life, not the pretend world of online life) The rest are people with whom I have some sort of (nebulously defined) online connection. But these other people are not my friends by any definition of friendship that existed prior to the new millennium.

And, the notion that one can make a friend using 140 character text messages boggles the mind. In my world friends laugh together, cry together, hold one another when the night is too long, and stand ready to sacrifice for one another. To collapse this into a 140 character online text service cheapens and degrades a concept which has enriched and ennobled humanity for thousands of years.

It's sad.


Janet Reid said...

I really don't ask my friends to stand ready to sacrifice for me. I guess my standards are too low.

I just ask them to laugh at my jokes.

Honest to godiva Steve, lighten up.

Twitter is a tool for connecting people not the end of civilization as we know it.

Steve said...

Hi Janet,

Thanks for responding to my comment. I understand that "friend" can mean different things to different people, and I guess to some extent this has always been the case. I'm 63, and I suppose in a way I feel that I've come here from a different time. Perhaps part of my outlook is simply the perennial complaint of the old against the laxity of the young.

I will acknowledge that as a socially challenged individual making friends has come hard for mr, and I value those that I have been able to accumulate over the years. And I do feel quite seriously thst not merely Twitter, but the social media movement as a whole has confused, not to say cheapened, the entire concept.

This is actually, IMO, at the root of some of the headline-grabbing concerns about social media privacy. I believe that the challenging issue is not merely what data one wishes to show to the world, but rather what levels of connection one would choose to make with the various "related others" of one's life. In the offline world it is common to at least distinguish between friends, acquaintances, co-workers, professional colleagues, etc. And there is much finer granularity available - I.e. one's bridge club, the four couples that meet monthly for dinner, etc. All these are categories of relatedness not adequately described by "friend" or not. Social medial tend to collapse all these categories, and more under "friends" - which I think has been unfortunate.

Of course, your mileage may vary.

Thanks for listening,