Reed Exhibitions, the world’s leading events organizer known for producing BEA, BookExpo America, the largest annual book trade fair in the United States, turned the page to a new chapter in publishing with the recent success of BookExpo Reimagined, May 30 – June 2, at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City.
In a world that gets more ditgitized by the day, Reed’s goal was to deliver new value through distinct programs in order to directly connect editors and publishing peeps with booksellers, distributors and librarians, the people responsible for getting books into the hands of readers.
The programs included “Meet the Editors,” “Editor’s Hours,” “Publicist In Booth Meet-Ups” and “The Vital Bookstore,” a new interactive learning lab that offered visitors insights into the best merchandising practices to help drive success. To provide optimum results, these new programs were created alongside the ABA – American Booksellers Association. Their development was based on extensive customer and industry research, and the strong and healthy tie of Reed to ABA brick and mortar.
As well, exhibitors had the option to decline the traditional three-day show, and participate for only two days. “There is an excitement and a focus in a concentrated two days,” said Michael Barrs, Marketing Director of Hachette Book Group, who noted that most of the major publishing houses had opted for just Thursday and Friday. But it helped build buzz, and turned into a fun-filled frenzy, discovering new ways to connect all the moving parts.
Take the marketing success story of Little Fires Everywhere, a 2017 novel by author Celeste Ng and soon to be Hulu TV series. In a Library Journal sponsored “Day of Dialogue” event, a Goodreads Interactive plan was analyzed by Penguin Press associate publisher and marketing director, Matthew Boyd, and VP Communications, Suzanne Skyvara. The two key points to takeaway were: 1) Know your audience prior to the pub date, and 2) Social media is now in our DNA. So how did this translate?
By knowing your audience you could get the book on the many customers’ Goodreads “Want to Read” shelf way in advance of publication. And with social in our DNA, the offline word of mouth now happened online. Knowing that, the publishers kept up momentum by making sure something big happened every month, and potential readers stayed anticipatorily engaged.
Then more pages turned, to show how to keep up with the changing times to tell a story.
Behrman House, a 97 year-old family run business, serving the educational needs of the Jewish community for almost a century, spoke of the trend to have more diversity in children’s books. Behrman launched Apples & Honey Press in 2015, and the imprint is thriving. “It is important our illustrations represent all children,” said Dena Neusner, Executive Editor at Behrman House who leads the Creative Team. “Our books are inclusive,” she said, showing that the books depicted all types of children, for example, one of an Ethiopian Jew. Behrman also takes on hot topics like the controversy surrounding vaccinations, and Kindertransport, as told in a new graphic novel about the real-life escape of the legendary Dr. Ruth from the Nazis. In Roller-Coaster Grandma: The Amazing Story of Dr. Ruth, a trip to an amusement park with the grandkids provides the framework to a story that demonstrates lessons of strength and grit.
With BookExpo at its peak, the page turned once more with the arrival of BookCon. Saturday and Sunday, June 1 and 2, brought a fandom weekend of meets, greets and signings, connecting fans directly with their favorite books and authors to discover new stories. Original storytelling the spoken word, it’s no doubt that audio books just soar. Blackstone Audio, created in 1987 by Craig and Michelle Blackstone, were the first to deliver that platform, recording and renting audiocassettes, direct to consumer. “Audio was the golden child of publishing, and it has grown by double digits. However, it has also become such a competitive landscape it made sense for us to expand to print,” said Anne Fontenau, VP of Blackstone Publishing, now in business three years. Flourishing, with several USA Today and New York Times bestselling authors on their list, Blackstone delighted the fans that lined up for book signings at BookCon. Shelley Shepard Gray personalized copies of Take a Chance, a story of love and hope, while Orson Scott Card made magic with A Town Divided by Christmas.
There are people that think the book biz is in turmoil but, in fact, it is only changing. “It’s a really exciting time to be in publishing,” according to Olivia Taussig of Viking Publicity. “There is a new freedom, with publishing as a protector – like the father-figure of self-expression. The business of publishing is older, and in some ways still old-fashioned. But that is its dignity, opposed to all the noise of the Twitter explosion. Publishing is solid, reading is real, and it’s not going anywhere.”
Photos: Laurie Graff