Ether for Authors: BoatExpo America

In News by Porter Anderson

31 May 2013  iStock_000016813441XSmall photog mcpix TEXTED STORY IMAGE

Table of Contents

  1. Where Show­boat­ing Swamps Roland Garros
  2. BEA’s Authorial Irony
  3. BEA’s Ring of Fire. No, Those Are Conferences.
  4. BEA’s Shirt­less Men Kiss­ing Dig­i­tal Women
  5. BEA 2013: How Did All This Start Up?
  6. Why They Keep Telling You To Turn It Off
  7. Conferences
  8. Last Gas: When Lit­er­a­ture Succeeds

Where Show­boat­ing Swamps Roland Garros

Just as you start getting the hang of the three-network hopping required to watch the French Open in the United States—ESPN2 to Tennis Channel to NBC—our showboating event of the season, BookExpo America (BEA), barges into the first week of the tournament. Twitter handle #BEA13.

BEA 2013 againSomehow, the deeper into its dire disruption the industry! the industry! floats, the more conferences and trade events it stages. It’s hard to know whether everybody’s going to these things to find answers or simply to escape the alligators back at the office.

And at these massive trade shows, it’s also hard not to imagine the boats.

Big Six yacht-white pavilions hunker in the most expensive spots on the exhibition floor, decked out with shiny little tables and colored lights and flat-screen displays, traditional publishing’s dogged efforts to look techno-hip while dominating the waterfront. Schooner booths and and fishing boats rock along in the big boats’ wakes, a few of them part of the author-services self-publishing platforms that keep docking alongside the older guard, so cheeky.

A shot from BookExpo America 2012

From BookExpo America 2012

Many displays look like mere rafts, little better than book-fair tables at a writers’ conference. These are frequently startups that can seem impossibly limited in their one-issue focus. You quietly make bets on which ones next year will have switched down to kayak-tables, and which ones will have capsized or paddled right on off the floor after looking so good for a moment in those “ignite” sessions that all the conferences copy each other on.  

Speaking of conferences, there’s a new entry this week, one brought to you by the people behind our Ether host here, Publishing Perspectives.

Reaching Readers confabThe Reaching Readers marketing conference, well worth your consideration if you’re in the city, is on Tuesday at Scholastic’s headquarters in New York—a far more hospitable location than the site of the annual BEA sprawl.


Reaching Readers (Twitter hashtag #ReachingReaders) has half-day tickets available for those who can’t stand to place one more full conference day on their schedules.

May Run IDBF Square 336x280Followers of Publishing Perspectives can also get a considerable discount ($130) on the International Digital Publishing Forum’s (IDPF) Digital Book Conference at BEA, using code DB13EMEM at registration. I’ll be doing live coverage from that one: Follow Twitter hashtag #DigitalBook13 starting Wednesday at 8:45 a.m.ET, 1245 GMT (1345 BST). And just as fans of world-class tennis have become accustomed to tweeting to each other during a tie-beaker—”Switch over, Rafa just moved to @TennisChannel”—the slightly wild-eyed BEA-going folks of publishing have, over time, accommodated the stark inconveniences of the Jacob Javits Center.  

Until you’ve been there, it’s hard to imagine how anything in Manhattan can be convenient to nothing. The Javits is convenient to nothing. They have to bus ’em in.

Longtime BEA-goers approach this week with a combination of dread and relief. Relief because it marks the end of an increasingly long and dense season of big events. Dread because their schedules of meetings and demos and receptions and coffees are a multi-colored dog’s dinner on their calendars.

31 May 2013 BEA shot from 2012 - in the aisles - BookExpo America photo

From BookExpo America 2012

The business is very tired. Nowhere is that more evident each year than at BEA. Brightly colored carpet separating one Big Sixer’s turf from another never supplies enough energy to keep the swarm from coveting the many chairs they can’t sit in: those are reserved for the people with meetings and organizers. Buyer-types. Distributor-types.

And here is a newly developed aspect that’s becoming even more evident this year, as the BEA administration intensifies its promotion of Saturday: the day BEA is not for industry insiders but for the public. I’ll let show manager Steve Rosato’s folks speak for themselves here. This is from their press release:

BookExpo America (BEA), the leading book industry event in North America which has long been a trade only gathering for industry professionals, will open its doors to the public on the last day of this year’s show.  Convention officials note that they invited the public to attend the annual event in a limited capacity in 2012 and based on the success of this initial experiment decided to significantly expand their effort and outreach in 2013.

Until last year, only people connected to the business in one way or another (including us journalists who cover them) were at BEA. Back to Table of Contents  

BEA’s Authorial Irony

Certainly, when the public staggers down 11th Avenue and arrives at the Javits on the weekend, those readers are there for the authors and the books. That’s to be expected.

BEA Power Reader 2013In fact, we like them being excited about the authors and books, let’s remember — to everybody’s surprise, these are the customers. Who knew?

The members of the public who attend the show will be identified as Power Readers and, upon check in, will receive a Power Reader badge along with tips on how to navigate the book convention.  Power Reader tickets to BEA are available for Saturday, June1st and cost $49.

  The “Power Readers” are treated well, too.

Organizers note that the first 1000 Power Readers to arrive at BEA will also receive a complimentary gift bag with an assortment of books compliments of Macmillan Publishers. The show floor at BEA includes publisher booths which offer previews of authors and book titles that have just been published as well as news of books that will be published in the near future. BEA offers all book lovers an opportunity to get a rare “behind-the-scenes” look at the book industry as well as a chance to meet authors and get a sense of what’s to come.


And, of course, for readers, authors are the stars. See how BEA speaks to the Power Readers on their own page about autographs:

With close to 500 authors signing in the Autographing Area, you can be sure that you will meet (and possibly get a photo with) one of your favorites! Autographing, located in the rear of the Exhibit Hall, features new and favorite authors for you to meet face-to-face and get autographs from. Be sure to check back as more autographing sessions are added!

From BookExpo America 2012

From BookExpo America 2012

The irony? This industry, now accused by so many entrepreneurial authors of having treated its writers so shabbily for so long, has always lined up, itself, for those same autographs.

Not the public, not the Power Readers of last year and this year.


No, the in-industry bookstore reps flocking to BEA have been standing in those endless lines for autographs and—although this is supposedly no longer allowed—carting their booty of signed books around in roll-aboards.  

You have to admit, there’s something interesting about an industry that traditionally has wanted to pay its authors only 25 percent of their own earnings but will line up for those authors’ autographs like they’re rock stars.

Almost as many contradictions as booths in this business.

Back to Table of Contents


BEA’s Ring of Fire. No, Those Are Conferences.

The trend toward surrounding the trade show with conferences has been in place for a while.

31 May 2013 BEA shot from 2012 - main floor - BookExpo America photo

From BookExpo America 2012

Just because I know you’d like to go cross-eyed for a moment, let me give you this quick list of conferences going down between now and Saturday at the far-flung Javits:

See what I mean? Those aren’t BEA, proper. Those are conferences in and around BEA in the Javits complex, and they don’t even include the Reaching Readers conference, which is a day earlier than the others and off-site.

This is an industry conferencing itself into the ground. These events are among the few rituals left that offer a sense of stability, progress, perspective in a time of upheaval.

Back to Table of Contents


BEA’s Shirt­less Men Kiss­ing Dig­i­tal Women

Among other telling trends: This Digital Discovery Zone way of marketing space at these events has become a dependable feature, although it’s been relegated to the “backlot” of the show space both in New York and in London.

BEA Digital Disvoery ZoneReed Exhibitions, which also produces the London Book Fair, offers this grouping to companies that want to place their booths in the company of fellow digi-campers. At BEA, you’ll find Amazon’s CreateSpace there with a busy schedule of events, along with Bowker, Brilliance Audio, Samsung Electronics, INscribe Digital, Cine-Books, and others.

And Shirtless Men Kissing Beautiful Women.

31 May 2013 Ellora's Cave front pageWhile at BEA, keep an informal running tab in your mind on how many booths and displays and events and book covers and authors and totes—God, the totes—are based in one aspect or another of romance. “It’s selling! It’s selling!” Desperate times call for sleazy measures.  

At BEA, you can call those Shirtless Men “Cavemen” without offending them. That’s what they’re called at Romanticon in October. You’ll find their lair right at the top of the escalator. Long-established e-first Ellora’s Cave has brought its “romantica,” erotic romance, out of the closet of past year’s booths and into the glassy light of the Javits lobby. Back to Table of Contents


BEA 2013: How Did All This Start Up?

At BookExpo in 2008, it was big news when [Amazon’s] Jeff Bezos invited [Simon & Schuster’s] Carolyn Reidy onstage to announce their agreement to digitize several thousand books in the Simon & Schuster backlist. Only four years ago, we were still debating “windowing” eBooks—delaying their release by months to protect the sales of hardcover editions.

Brian O'Leary

Brian O’Leary

In Your community here, Brian O’Leary responds to Safari’s Liz Daly’s article at Medium, Starting up in publishing. O’Leary writes:

For those who were part of this eBook “revolution”, those memories have grown distant. And as Daly points out, the market for digital startups has contracted quite a bit since those heady first days.

Daly does indeed write that, and beautifully:

I’m going to give you a winning formula for founding a successful publishing startup: go back in time and start it in 2008. If for some reason that’s not possible, it’s not going to be easy.

This is not the greatest news for those little startups’ booths and tables at BEA, the inner tubes and swimming-pool floats bobbing along in the swells created by the big publishers’ blunderbust. Daly:

Publishers are risk-averse and have no sense of the timescale in which startups operate. A big Midtown publisher is not going all-in on your product, and if you’re a little guy negotiating with a major, you’re probably not talking to a person who can write big checks. (How many publishing startups do you know who say that they’ve got “the big six” signed up? They are lying — and an NDA doesn’t count.)

Liz Daly

Liz Daly

Her truth comes with good advice (you small-boothers out there in the Digital Discovery Zone getting this?):

Spec work and delays are the deaths of publishing startups. Get publishers to fund something — anything. Low-level but forward-thinking employees can often scratch together modest amounts for pilots. If you can get them to pay money you are also guaranteeing that they’ll pay attention. You need both to succeed.

Each time I see one of these talk-fast-and-show-a-lot-of-slides “startup showcase” affairs—IDPF’s is called a Solution Provider Showcase—I feel for the startup folks. Traditional publishing hasn’t understood them well, nor have they always taken the trouble to learn the depths of the old industry they want to woo.

O’Leary, however, is more optimistic:

The landscape for digital content changed a lot when Amazon introduced the Kindle, but in the last five years we’ve also seen the growth of alternate platforms like WordPress and Smashwords, with tools that democratize access to content creation, management and dissemination. The next opportunities may well involve more than serving the digital needs of an existing order. We could find ways to create new paths.

You know how we’ll know when we’re getting closer? No more Digital Discovery Zone. All of BEA’s showboats, big as well as small, will have sailed—cursing like sailors on Twitter, of course—into the warmer waters of new media. Back to Table of Contents


Why They Keep Telling You To Turn It Off

Media is always with me, always trying to snag my attention and siphon away as much as possible to sell to advertisers. It feels like it’s evolved from a cute little pet into a frighteningly efficient parasite.

James A. Pearson

James A. Pearson

James A. Pearson, who lives in Uganda and the States, has an essay at The Morning News, headlined From Here You Can See Everything at The Morning News.

It may put you in mind of the many gurus of inspi-vational writing craft who like to tell you that in order to get more done, you should watch less television. “Productivity engineers” and “lifestyle designers” and “career facilitators” like to present this advice as big-time wisdom. To me, this seems like almost laughably obvious advice.

(I watch little TV. Most of it is tennis. And I work while it’s on with the sound off, because I can hear Maria Shriekapova without audio from wherever she’s playing in the world.)

Pearson, however, can wipe that sneer right off my face when he gets at some stats in his piece.

In 2009, according to the media research company eMarketer, the average U.S. adult consumed about 10 hours and 32 minutes of media per day. (That’s including multitasking, so if you spend an hour browsing on your iPad while watching TV, that counts as two hours.) By 2012 that total was up over an hour to 11:39 per day. That’s almost eight hours more per week, per person. Now multiply that by America.

All right, then. Maybe we do need to say the obvious to authors who wonder why they’re not more productive.

Pearson, however, has richer worries in mind.

I always binge on media when I’m in America. But this time it feels different. Media feels encroaching, circling, kind of predatory. It feels like it’s bingeing back.

Willpower by Baumeister and TierneyThe research he mentions on willpower, by the way, is featured in the book Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength by Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney. The book has been covered well at the New York Times by Harvard’s Steven Pinker, in The Sugary Secret of Self-Control.

Pearson’s description of the research is this:

Our willpower gets tired, like a muscle, so when we use it a lot in the course of a day we end up hardly being able to use it at all by day’s end. It seems to follow that, faced with media’s stronger, more regular seductions, we’re bound to give in earlier and more often. Perhaps this helps explain why the ends of long American workdays often feature alcohol, dessert, and hours of consumer media.



What should be occurring to authors who are having trouble getting away from the TV set to put in their daily word count is that their readers are, perhaps, in even greater trouble…and how is the publishing community to get those readers away from televised and other media long enough to enjoy some books? Pearson:

Think about normal adult American life: After working, spending, and consuming media, how many hours do we really have left? Of course it will never get all of our spare time. But it captures more of our hours every year.

Back to Table of Contents



If you have a publishing conference in the offing, let me know about it via my contact page, and I’ll be happy to consider including it in my site’s listing and in columns as I have the chance. Here’s a look at conferences coming in the near term.  Please note that a listing here is not my endorsement of a conference or other event, but an informational inclusion.

Reaching Readers confabMay 28 New York City: Reaching Readers: Book Marketing Conference 2013 is a production of our Ether-eal host here, Publishing Perspectives and the Frankfurt Academy. Regular price is $415 for the day that features expert commentary from folks including Ketchum’s Nancy Martira, Scholastic’s Morgan Baden, Wiley’s Jeanenne Ray, Edelman’s Steve Rubel, and many more. There are half-day (morning or afternoon) tickets available for $179, with details here(Hashtag: #ReachingReaders)

May 29-30 New York City IDPF Digital Book Conference at BookExpo America (BEA): “IDPF (International Digital Publishing Forum) Digital Book 2013 at BEA is a two-day conference focused on all the key issues we face in advancing publishing in an increasingly digital world.  In-depth sessions will analyze key opportunities and pitfalls, highlighting compelling business strategies and actionable solutions.” Note the addition of Goodreads co-founder Otis Chandler with a keynote update after Amazon’s acquisition of the service.

Readers of Publishing Perspectives can also get a considerable discount ($130) on the International Digital Publishing Forum’s (IDPF) Digital Book Conference at BEA, using code DB13EMEM at registration. I’ll be doing live coverage from that one: Follow Twitter hashtag #DigitalBook13.

May 29 New York City: Publishers Launch BEA is May’s installment of the series of daylong conferences programmed by Mike Shatzkin of Idea Logical and Michael Cader of Publishers Lunch. Speakers on tap so far include agent Brian DeFiore, Enders Analysis’ Benedict Evans, Trident Media’s Robert Gottlieb, Aerbook’s Ron Martinez, consultant Peter McCarthy, Hachette’s Ken Michaels, and more.

BEA Bloggers ConferenceMay 29 New York City BEA Bloggers Conference at BookExpo America (BEA): “Attend BEA Bloggers Conference to learn, be inspired, and connect with book bloggers, authors, and publishing industry professionals. You will benefit from a jam-packed day of education, extreme networking, and the passion and fun that surrounds book blogging. Session topics include: blogging in today’s world, critical reviews, making money with your blog, creating community, and how publishers and bloggers work together.”

BEA 2013 againMay 29-June 1 New York City BookExpo America (BEA): “BEA continues to evolve each year by adding new and exciting features to keep pace with the industry and in direct response to customer feedback to ensure you get the best return on investment by participating in North America’s premier publishing event.” (Hashtag: #BEA13)

uPublishUJune 1 New York City uPublishU at BEA: “Are you ready to take the leap and transform your manuscript to a published book and/or ebook? Aspiring writers and authors will learn from industry experts tips and tactics and all about the tools and technology to help them self-publish a print book or an ebook.”

Jackson Hole Writers ConferenceJune 27-29 Jackson Hole, Wyoming: Jackson Hole Writers Conference: “Each year distinguished speakers, editors and agents join our resident faculty to deliver a weekend of active and engaging dialogue, collaboration and the opportunity for all of us to raise the stakes on our work.Manuscript critiques are an important part of our conference, providing a way for you to discuss your work one-on-one with experienced writers, editors and agents.” The program also features a pre-conference writing workshop.

June 7-8 Free Word Centre, London: The Literary Conference 2013: “New speakers added to the line-up include TLS’s acting Fiction Editor Toby Lichtig, ground-breaking German self-publishing company Epubli’s Barbara Thiele, Founder of Riot Communications Preena Gadher, The Reading Agency’s Partnerships Manager Sandeep Mahal, author web and design expert Kristen Harrison of The Curved House, plus John Mitchinson of Unbound and the BBC’s Head of Partnership Development Bill Thompson.” Back to Table of Contents


Last Gas: When Lit­er­a­ture Succeeds


Teach your children that there is such a thing as right, and good, and truth—and that fighting for those things is a worthy enterprise.

James Scott Bell

James Scott Bell

Our good colleague and friend James Scott Bell is unabashed in his praise for William Manchester’s The Last Lion. In his Memorial Day meditation, Of Miracles, Sacrifice and Story, he calls the opening of the first volume (of three), “my favorite of any book—fiction or non-fiction—I’ve ever read.”

That’s very high praise from a man whose life and work are so immersed as Bell’s in writing and author education.


He’s seized by Manchester’s opening account of the Dunkirk flotilla of 933 water craft, including some 700 “little ships of Dunkirk”—citizen fishing boats and ferries that moved into world-changing operation 73 years ago. They rescued more than 338,000 British and French soldiers off the beach in a nine-day operation, May 26 to June 4, a feat that’s hard, indeed, not to call miraculous. The Last Lion by William ManchesterBell quotes Manchester:

Then, from the streams and estuaries of Kent and Dover, a strange fleet appeared: trawlers and tugs, scows and fishing sloops, lifeboats and pleasure craft, smacks and coasters, the island ferry Gracie Fields; Tom Sopwith’s America’s cup challenger Endeavor; even the London fire brigade’s fire-float Massey Shaw–all of them manned by civilian volunteers: English fathers, sailing to rescue England’s exhausted and bleeding sons .

Beyond the jaw-dropping accomplishment of these civilian saviors who somehow managed Operation Dynamo, of course, the Dunkirk story—a “masterpiece of human grit on a grand and inspiring scale,” as Bell rightly calls it—holds an all but unique edge to it in our cultural memory, because these were civilians plunging into radical danger.

We absolutely must recall our uniformed service people and their support personnel of all lines of duty in these moments of remembrance.

But there is for those of us in “civvies,” a special resonance in the fact that history-pivoting roles were played at Dunkirk by citizens. “The World Turned Upside Down,” as another war’s song has it, and the rescuers were the very people the soldiers had been sent to protect.


I’m glad that Bell repeats this masterful line: “English fathers, sailing to rescue England’s exhausted and bleeding sons.”

Book Review The Last LionAnd I want to call your attention to how smartly he takes what Manchester’s writings offer, completed in the third volume by Paul Reid. Reid’s own account of being asked by Manchester to finish the trilogy opens that last book, Defender of the Realm.

As fond of film as anybody in Los Angeles, Bell recommends a family viewing of William Wyler’s 1942 Mrs. Miniver (Greer Garson, Walter Pidgeon), based on Jan Struther’s book of the same title.

Then talk about sacrifice. Sacrifice is the most humanizing of our actions, for we must fight against our instinct for self-preservation to do it. Yet in such action we become more than the dust of the earth. Our search for meaning gains a foothold and we step upward toward “the better angels of our nature.”

Bell’s column is strengthened not only by his understanding of sacrifice but also of powerful writing, as provided in this instance by Manchester and later by Reid. I like to think that we can refer to the better goals of legitimate literature, as well as sacrifice, when he writes:

It is transformational. As long as we remember it.

Back to Table of Contents


Porter Anderson is a Fellow with the National Critics Institute, a 32-year journalist with several newspapers and three networks of CNN, as well as a producer posted to the Rome headquarters of the United Nations’ World Food Programme. This column, Ether for Authors, appears here at Publishing Perspectives on Mondays. Anderson’s Writing on the Ether is read on Thursdays at, and he is a regular contributor to His all-new London on the Ether for The Bookseller was inaugurated during the London Book Fair. More about him is at

Main image / iStockphoto: MCPix

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson was for more than a decade a senior producer and anchor with, CNN International, and CNN USA. As an arts critic (Fellow, National Critics Institute), he was with The Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, and the Tampa Tribune, now the Tampa Bay Times. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.