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BEA Blog

BEA Blog
by Fern Reiss, CEO,

Book Expo America is the largest book event for the trade held in the U.S. (and second only to the Frankfurt Book Fair internationally.) Nonetheless, not all authors and small publishers are able to make it to Book Expo; indeed, some have never attended. Experiences at Book Expo vary widely. But for the curious, here is one author/independent publisher’s experiences, culled from my blog. Enjoy.

Monday, May 30:

Appointment list? Check.
Flyers? Check.
Books? Check.
Speaking supplies? Check.

Tomorrow I'm doing an all-day Expertizing Workshop at the Central Park Ritz, where I'll train a roomful of small business owners, large business owners, and non-profit organizations how to get more media attention.

Although this is not directly BEA-related, it's important if for only one reason: As an independent publisher (and entrepreneur, for that matter), anytime you have an opportunity to add in a revenue-enhancing event to the financial drain that BEA (or any expensive event) would otherwise be, do it. In addition to the Expertizing Workshop tomorrow, I'll be doing a Publishing Game Workshop at the other end of BEA (at the Harvard Club next Monday). Because of this, rather than coming out roughly $2000 behind in my ten-day trip, I'll be way ahead.

And immediately after the workshop tomorrow, I'm attending my first official BEA-related event: the opening night reception at Publishers Marketing Association University, at which I am speaking later this week, followed by a catch-up dinner with one of my favorite publicists. (The best thing about BEA is that *everyone* in the industry attends, so you can pretty much hang out with whoever wants to hang out with you, and for many of these folks, it's your only opportunity until next year's BEA.) Anyway, tonight's my last night to get some sleep, so catch you tomorrow. Stay tuned…

Monday stats:
Expenses: 1 falafel, $4.25 plus 1 night in hotel. (Driving in with friends kept the transportation costs down today, but I'll end up taking Amtrak back to Boston at the other end.)

Wednesday, June 1: PMA University

Talking points for PMA U talk? Check.
Supplies for speaker bookstore? Check.
Flyers galore? Check.

PMA University is a small publishers' heaven. The newbies to independent publishing love it because the educational sessions are unparalleled, at BEA or elsewhere. We old timers love it just as much, because it's such a great opportunity to reconnect with everyone in the industry. BEA is the banquet that's almost too large to enjoy; PMA U is the bite-sized, manageable feast. This year there are close to 600 people in attendance, over 300 of whom are first-timers.

I arrive early, because I need to set up the Speakers' Bookstore. The Speakers' Bookstore is a concept I proposed four years ago, as a way to showcase the publishing/book promotion titles of all the speakers who are donating their time (no speaking fees here) for the three days of PMA U. Before the speakers' bookstore, there was no good way for PMA speakers to sell their wares, since blatant selling from the podium is, quite rightly, discouraged. Now, we all take turns staffing the table. The bookstore is my baby, and since its first year, the number of titles being exhibited and the enthusiasm of the speakers has grown considerably. Last year we introduced the idea of book signings, where we take turns autographing for 15 minute slots; next year I'm hoping to get us a banner so that attendees can find us more easily. (Tip: If possible, grab a piece of the action at every conference/event you regularly attend, so that you have something you ‘own’.)

Once the bookstore is set up I join Judy Safern for a quick breakfast and catch-up. Judy Safern, one of the panelists I've invited to speak with me in the afternoon, is founder of Leading Thinkers Literary Publicists, and one of the most creative publicists I know. Since she's in Dallas and I'm in Boston, BEA is one of our few opportunities to bounce ideas off each other in person. (Tip: You can always buy the tapes of the educational sessions at conferences; what you can't get at home are the one-on-one interactions with attendees. Do as much face time with colleagues as possible.)

Next on the agenda is actually registering for PMA U, which I've somehow neglected to do. Lisa gives me the usual very heavy notebook stuffed with PMA presentations, the cards which entitle me to lunch (though they never collect these), and a tent card with my name (for my afternoon talk) and badge. I ditch these immediately, because I bring my own tent card and badge, both with my branded logo. (I mention this as part of my talk when I speak about publicity, but for some reason this idea hasn’t yet caught on.) I also collect this year's speaker gift, some sort of complicated pocket knife. I hand Lisa a box of brownies and cookies that I've brought to make sure the staff doesn't starve to death back there since registration seems to go on for days. (Tip: Always bring food for the staff. This, by the way, also works wonders when you're doing TV gigs; the broadcast media loves it when you arrive with donuts.)

I wander around a bit, catching up with other people I haven't seen in a while, including several vendors, chief among them Mayapriya Long, my wonderful cover artist, and Henry Ayala who has some new Tu-Vets mesh posters that spark lots of ideas.

Lunchtime is a little disorganized, because the cards that usually adorn the tables advising people where to sit ("Health books", "Parenting books," etc) have gone missing. By the time the cards are discovered, half the people are already seated. This results in a little grumbling and a few people (one at my table) abandoning her half eaten roast beef sandwich for greener pastures. I'm eating with Paulette Ensign, the tips booklet queen; Marcia Yudkin, my other panelist and marketer extraordinaire; and Brian Jud, who's now doing interesting things with quantity sales in conjunction with Bowker. Paulette shows me her latest ingenious idea, a tips booklet on organizing with individual tips written by different professional organizers around the country. She tells me how much the organization has already netted with this one booklet, and it gives me a lot of ideas for new products and cooperative possibilities. (Tip: Listen hard to those people succeeding in this business. They always have something valuable you can apply to your own business.)

After lunch, we brave the elevators-from-hell to get to our room. Marcia, Judy, and I are speaking on "Absolutely Dynamite PR on Any Budget" and by 2 pm when we start it's standing room only. Instead of each speaking for half an hour, we do five minutes each then pass the microphone, which is more fun for both us and the audience. We get a lot of good questions, and I get several inquiries about consulting and publicity opportunities. (Tip: If you speak, always raffle something off so that you can collect the business cards.)

I have two more meetings with individual author/publishers with whom I might be doing joint ventures, and one quickie conversation with Eric Kampman of Midpoint Books because I'm considering acquiring a national distributor for my titles.

I make it through only some of the Ben Franklin Awards, and head for bed. Tomorrow starts at 7 am with breakfast and won't end until late at night, and I still need to save energy for BEA. You'll see why soon.

Cab rides, 1, $7; meals eaten, 1 (lunch); books sold, 4 ($80); consulting gigs booked and paid for, 2 ($600).

Thursday, June 2: The trying-to-cram-it-all-in-before-BEA experience

My day starts at 7 am with the Independent Publishers of New England meeting. I do a flying visit to the Audio Publishers Association (conveniently meeting upstairs in the same hotel as PMA U) because I'm coming out with the fifth book in the Publishing Game series later this year, "The Publishing Game: Create Audio Products in 30 Days," and I want to check out the new vendors. The most interesting thing I discover is that Barnes and Noble is now mandating the specs of all audio products, and if you don’t conform to their new dimensions, you won’t be eligible for audio sales to B&N. Gulp. Going to be a lot of unhappy audio publishers soon.

I do a little on-the-spot consulting with two authors with BEA-related issues and questions, thereby amortizing the cost of all the taxis I'm about to start taking.

A few more networking and client meetings, a quick lunch, and it's off to the Javitz Center to get my badge (Tip: Always get your badge the day before, if possible, when the lines are ten minutes rather than 45); drop off books and tote bags in the Small Press Center (Tip: Always find someone else to exhibit your books so you won't have to -- saves both effort and money); and drop off my contribution to the American Booksellers for Freedom of Expression auction, which this year is free admission to my all-day Publishing Game Workshop plus a set of the books, a $249 value. (Tip: Always contribute to the ABFFE auction! ABFFE is a wonderful cause, and one all authors and small publishers should be supporting.) Most exasperating moment at Javitz: When I realize that the Small Press section, usually buried so far up in the rafters that visiting requires oxygen, is actually not located in the main hall though the large banner claims it is, but is, as usual, down in the dungeon below. I discover this after I've shlepped my bags of books up and down the non-working escalators several times.

Then it's a quick pop in to Lisa Grant’s Writers' Collective reception, an even quicker appearance at the WNBA reception (where I finally get to meet Donna Paz of Bookseller School fame, after admiring her for decades, and share a quick catch-up with Karin Taylor from The Small Press Center) and it's off to the Pub-Forum dinner for independent publishers, which Sharon Goldinger and I organized this year. (Organizing was the easy part; singing the song was the tricky part :*)

Tomorrow it's an early morning wake-up call for Book Expo, and a day packed with appointments and meetings. Stay tuned…

Today's stats:
Cab rides (2), $16; meals consumed (2); Funniest moment: At our indy publisher dinner when Publishers Weekly's Midwest correspondent Claire Kirsch claimed her status as secret love child of Alan ‘Rantin’ Canton.

Friday, June 3: First official day of BEA

Books? Check.
Map and BEA guidebook? Check.
Agent proposals? Check.

The first year I did BEA I had no clue what I was doing. I wandered the aisles aimlessly, happily stuffed advance galleys into tote bags, collected more than my fair share of magnets, canvas bags, stuffed animals, and cool baseball hats, and had a glorious time. I also accomplished almost nothing.

That was seven years ago. Since then, my BEA days have gotten more and more packed, until now I have appointments booked virtually every half hour. I come home having accomplished a lot more, though I have to admit it's not quite as much fun. (Also I come home with fewer fun toys. The kids liked it better the other way.)

Today I've allocated an hour and a half of 'wander' time into the schedule, and that's how I start the day. I'm a more informed wanderer than I used to be, and I am so organized about which galleys I am seeking that I am the very first person into attendee shipping and my box of chosen treasures the very first box shipped. I know this because they have to practice on me; my suggestion that I get a freebie for providing guinea pig services is jovially ignored. (Tip: If you're interested in bringing galleys home from BEA, get them early and ship them early. By the end of the show the lines in attendee shipping become horrendous. Keep in mind that attendee shipping is also a great place to store your stuff during the show: Raincoats, extra books, etc, can all be stashed in your box. The only better locale in which to stash stuff is the cubby hole area in the Rights Center, and you need at least one appointment to access that, because the Rights Center, where the literary agents live, is by appointment only.)

Although I'm intent on my list of desired galleys, and am picking up very few items not on my checklist, I do spare a moment to leaf through the oddest galley I've seen at Book Expo this year: The "Veggie Bible" by Integrity, which is a dictionary of both Biblical terms and vegetable terms. ??? I am clearly not the market for this book.

The most clever guerilla marketing tactic I've seen at this show is courtesy of the author of a book called TEA, who I met earlier in the week at PMA U. He's enlisted legions of helper bees to hand out numbered pins with the TEA logo; the gimmick is if you find your matching number, the two of you can collect $100 at the TEA booth. (Tip: If you’re exhibiting at BEA, come with a clever guerilla marketing idea or save your money.)

I spend the remainder of my morning interviewing distributors. After seven years of doing my own distribution, having gotten into Barnes and Noble, Ingram, and all the other big accounts, I've decided it's time to consider letting someone else handle the minutiae, and I interview several distributors (some of whom think they're interviewing me.)

I take a quick fly past the Simon and Schuster exhibit, because I promised Pat Holt I'd see what they were doing for Terry Ryan's "Prizewinner of Defiance, Ohio," one of my favorite books from that year, and am disappointed that despite the upcoming movie, it rates only a small poster amidst a crowded wall.

Then after a quick gobble of peanut butter sandwiches with a friend (BEA is not a gastronomic feast) it's on to meet the agents. I'm meeting with three literary agents to discuss whether a mainstream publisher can pick up my book, "Expertizing: Position Yourself as a Name Brand." The problem in the past has been that I would make more self-publishing this book; this year, my new idea is to sell it to a publisher and keep 10,000 copies for my newsletter mailing list, which will allow me the best of traditional publishing and the cash of self-publishing. Maybe. Check back in a few weeks for the update.

Then it's on to meet Linda Walker of F&W, because Writer's Digest buys all my Publishing Game books for the book club; they're interested in the forthcoming title, "The Publishing Game: Syndicate a Column in 30 Days," and will put in a purchase order for 1000 books as soon as I give them a final schedule for the book. I discuss some other potential avenues of joint business with them, and we agree to touch base soon.

I have just enough time to rush over to the Foreword Magazine Book of the Year Awards ceremony, where I'm doing a 15 minute talk on Expertizing. I give my talk, collect a lot of business cards, meet a lot of interesting authors, and make plans to meet Foreword's publisher, Victoria Sutherland, for lunch on Sunday.

Then I, like everyone else at BEA, spend a frustrated 40 minutes trying to hail a cab (Tip: Never go anywhere in Manhattan between 4:30 and 5:30; the cabs go off duty and can't be had for love or money) and give up. We end up walking the 2+ miles to Greenwich Village. Did I mention that it's pouring rain?

It's worth it when I get to the California Literary Tea, a staple of BEA. I meet a lot of interesting publicists, and some media, including a Newsday connection that I haven't seen since last year. Maybe I'll get a story out of this show yet.

I'm supposed to be continuing on to the ASJA party at the Westport Rooftop and the IPPY awards at the Marriott, but it's pouring and I'm tired, and I've got another few days of excitement coming up, so I head back to the hotel.

Sunday, June 5: Last day of BEA

After a late night hanging out with my friend Mim from Levenger's Press, I start this last day of BEA early with breakfast at the Harvard Club with some folks from Amazon. Amazon is, as usual, doing some interesting things, and as always bears watching. Their latest is a strategic alliance (ok, they bought it) with, a company which can transfer ebooks onto cell phones and other devices — "platform agnostic," as they say. This is a development to watch.

After breakfast, I head out to the show. I get a brief chance to wander the Small Press Section, catching up with friends and acquaintances, before heading over to meet my friend Rachel from Publishers Weekly and catch up with their latest gossip.

Next on my list is lunch (which I’ve brought) with Victoria Sutherland, the progressive editor of Foreword Magazine. (Tip: Always bring your own sandwiches to BEA; you could spend your entire weekend waiting on lines.)

After lunch I head to the Publishers Marketing Association booth to volunteer some time. I get a chance to catch up with a few friends there, as well as the opportunity to meet literary agent Anna Olswanger in person, after many years of list and email communication. (She invites me to speak at the Jewish Children’s Writer’s Conference in November; so far, I’ve managed to score four additional speaking gigs from this show.)

Finally, I've got one last meeting with an agent at the Rights Center, to float the idea of whether Expertizing will be a book anytime soon.

The end of the day sees me back on 44th Street, running the Harvard Authors and Publishers meeting, a collection of authors, publishers, publicists, literary agents, journalists, and others. Tomorrow I'll do an all-day Publishing Game workshop (already full at 18 people) and then it's back to Boston.

In recent years, it's been the serendipity of BEA which I've found so appealing. I have met, usually in the coffee line, everyone from the book buyer at Walmart to the audio editor at Booklist. Today is no exception, and the day ends with my trading cards with the book buyer from Books Are Fun, which may be interested in purchasing my books in large quantities (at rock-bottom prices) for their teacher and corporate book fairs.

Next year, BEA will be in DC in mid-May. I hope to see you there.


Fern Reiss is CEO of ( and ( and the author of the books, The Publishing Game: Find an Agent in 30 Days, The Publishing Game: Bestseller in 30 Days, and The Publishing Game: Publish a Book in 30 Days as well as several other award-winning books.  She is also the Director of the International Association of Writers ( providing publicity vehicles to writers worldwide. She also runs The Expertizing® Publicity Forum where you can pitch your book or business directly to journalists; more information at  Sign up for her complimentary newsletter at

Copyright © 2011 Fern Reiss


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