I had an interesting time at Book Expo America, primarily because the wholesale book show was so different than the last time I attended—and that was only two years ago.
First off, it was a smaller show. The booths of Big Six and midsize publishers were smaller in size, yet a lot of smaller publishers also had booths. I don’t recall seeing so many digital-first presses at the show before.
One thing that was very exciting to me was that there was a booth hosted by six bestselling indie authors: Bella Andre, Stephanie Bond, Tina Folsom, Barbara Freethy, Hugh Howey and CJ Lyons. It’s not been common to see authors with booths, and totally out of the norm for them to be so crazy-busy. They were the highlight of the show, IMO – and Bella Andre was on the cover of the show edition of Publishers’ Weekly magazine, as well. This was one of the many signs that publishing is changing.
There were other indications of transition, as well, including ads and booths targeting indie published authors, offering services for those authors. That was new. Previously, BEA was all about publishers and offering services to them – authors were not particularly welcome at the show, unless they had been invited by their publishers for the purpose of promoting their books. Authors arrived, signed their books, and left. The business of publishing was left to publishers and agents. But the focus of BEA is changing: their reader day had 2000 attendees this year, a vast increase over the 500 Power Readers who booked last year. Publishing needs authors and readers. You’re probably not surprised by that, but it seems that many people in the biz still are.
I only attended the Power Reader day (Saturday) which was fun because it was so busy. The show was filled with enthusiastic readers and fans. The line up for a free copy of Sylvia Day’s book was huge! I was lucky to see Syl in passing and have a chance to give her a hug. She’s doing so well, and that’s exciting. My only official appearance was to sign postcards for free downloads of Double Trouble from KOBO in the Kobo Writing Life booth. The best part of this was that I had a good chat with the Kobo people, and also that I met up with Joy from Joyfully Reviewed again. That was wonderful!
I realized a bit late that I could have signed books there – my badge was from RWA and two years ago, authors could only book a signing in the RWA booth with books from RWA-approved publishers. As a result, I never even thought to book a signing with my indie books, but I could have done it because that rule has changed. So, next year, I’ll sign in the RWA booth.
My main goal at the show was personal contact. One of the frustrations with digital publishing portals is that it’s very hard to contact an individual to get something fixed, or even to find out why something is displaying how it is. Most of their helpdesks are anonymous, and each request goes to a new individual – even if you’re continuing to pursue the same unresolved issue. This can be a huge time sink, and doesn’t always lead to a resolution. (Yup, it’s frustrating!) At BEA, though, I was able to talk to real people and get connected to find solutions. All of the indie portals had booths and I had a list of questions. As a result of that trip, I’m hoping to soon have my books properly displayed on Nook UK – something I’ve been trying to fix for months – to verify and correct my book listings on Overdrive, and to work out some kinks at Smashwords. I talked to ACX about taking my books to audio, which is pretty exciting, and to NetGalley about having my books available to reviewers in advance of publication. Neither of these options existed for indie authors two years ago. I also talked to Califa about selling my books directly to libraries, another option that is entirely new for authors.
In the end, I came home with sore feet, a pile of information and my head spinning with possibilities. My To Do list has gotten longer again! I will go to BEA next year, though, and have a good plan as to what I need to do to prepare for that trip. I also made some modifications to my plan for RWA National in July, based on what I learned at BEA. More about that closer to the date.