In the face of a struggling industry, New York City—and Brooklyn especially—celebrated books, publishing and the written word all weekend, kicking off Thursday with four days of the annual Book Expo America at the Jacob Javits Center in Manhattan, followed closely by a Thursday evening literary mingle with the Brooklyn BP at Borough Hall, during which the official line-up for the Brooklyn Book Festival was announced.
Aside from an open bar and an always impressive spread of goodies, Markowitz’ literary mingle boasted industry big wigs, publishers, editors and writers—including Brooklyn Book Festival-confirmed author Colson Whitehead.
“Again this year, tens of thousands of book lovers of all ages will come together in Brooklyn—the Creative Capital of New York City and, I believe, America—to meet their favorite authors, purchase books and celebrate the written word,” said BP Markowitz. “The epicenter of literary America is right here in Brooklyn, and the Brooklyn Book Festival has established itself as a major literary destination in the United States and around the globe.”
The Brooklyn Book Festival—which will be held on Sunday, September 13—will feature such top authors as Dorothy Allison, Jonathan Ames, Paul Auster, Sherman Alexi, Jonathan Lethem, Thurston Moore and many more.
From all the way at Borough Hall to back-to-back book booths at the Javits Center, New York City was all a literary twitter, talking about the past, present and future state of books, publishing and print media in the digital age. With panel discussions, author interviews, industry workshops and lectures on subjects ranging from how to pitch a book idea to marketing material digitally to integrating kindle and e-books into ones publishing repertoire—“Giving It Away: When Free eBooks Make Sense and When They Don’t,” “Red Hot Readers: Market Adoption of Mobile eReading Devices” and “Jumping Off a Cliff: How Publishers Can Succeed Online Where Others Failed”, to name a few—CEO of Book Expo America Lance Fensterman explained the mission of the expo as “content and connectivity…a concrete way to connect through content, in all of its various forms.”
Though this year’s expo was significantly smaller than those in the past—exhibitor registration was down nearly 15 per cent, while the size and scope dwindled a whopping 21 per cent—the more intimate setting was designed to provide publishers, authors, booksellers and media personnel with a more focused and fine-tuned experience.
“We are really just trying to keep books available, as available as possible, putting them out in all formats and places, and what better place to do that than here?” said Rick Joyce of Perseus Books, who endeavored upon a 48-hour book project, entitled Book: The Sequel—an anthology of solicited titles and first sentences to fictitious sequels to classic novels—to be compiled, edited and released in physical and digital formats, at the Expo. Book: The Sequel, according to Joyce, is meant to illustrate that, though publishing is certainly changing, these changes can be good and should be embraced as opportunities for growth in and of the industry. However, the concept of the 48-hour book project also functions on a different level: a PR marketing strategy—much like authors walking around the convention grounds wearing sandwich boards, soliciting publishers as if searching for a date; people dressed in get-ups and crazy costumes, free book giveaways (although there were noticeably fewer of those than in the past).
Not everyone at the Expo, however, was as optimistic about the shifting landscape of publishing as Joyce. Though most exhibitors were pleased to participate, some were disappointed at the lack of books being ordered en masse by booksellers, which, according to a BEA veteran, was the founding purpose of the expo.
“Nobody is buying books this year,” said one attendee, who works as a publicist. “It used to be what this whole thing was about. Sellers would come and place orders, but now, it’s not happening.”
However, even booksellers and publishers who could not manage to secure a spot at the expo this year did not forgo the opportunity to walk around the convention floor, peruse new titles, meet, greet and rub elbows with other big wigs from the industry—and get some serious free stuff in the process.