Monday, April 20, 2009

Are Trade Book Fairs Dead? My LBF Panel

I just completed my panel at the London Book Fair on the subject of marketing translated and other “difficult” books (pictured here is the our rapt audience). My piece of the chat was to focus on face to face marketing, and specifically how book fairs can be used as a marketing tool (or how they should or could be used anyway). I learned by watching DC’s John Cunningham on panels that leading with a bold statement is always more compelling than speaking in general terms. So for my turn at the mic, I firmly pronounced the death of trade book fairs as an entity. Now, based on the bustle around me here at the Fair as I type this, they aren’t dead yet, but I do think trade book fairs need to morph and adapt or we will be raising a toast to them over a hole in the ground remembering when they were relevant.

At New York Comic Con we hosted about 5,000 professionals which consisted of librarians, booksellers, comic creators, publishers, rights professionals, licensing agents, comic retailers, etc. In our post show research when asked why they attended NYCC, the number one answer was to meet talent and get autographs (followed by networking with peers and conducting meetings). The most prolific online reviewer at Amazon.com has written over 5,000 book reviews, yet they are not a “trade professional". Trade people are fans, fans are taking on characteristics of trade professionals. The traditional lines of who is “the public” and who is “the trade" are blurring as fast as the channels used to publicize new books to readers are fragmenting. BookExpo must be in the middle of that entire transition with a proposition that solves our customers business needs.

I apologize for the rant, but sitting on the panel this afternoon and discussing new forms of marketing with my fellow panelists ( Chad W. Post of Open Letter Books/Three Percent, Abby Blachly of LibraryThing, Bob Stein of Institute for the Future of the Book and Mark Thwaite of Independent Foreign Fiction Prize and ReadySteadyBook.com) it drove home with me just how BEA must continue to evolve as a platform the same way all other forms of marketing are. Library Thing’s early reviewer program is a great example of the line between trade and fan blurring. The program offers ARC’s from publishers to Library Thing members and assure the match is appropriate (if the ARC is a book of military history and the member has 90% romance books in his/her collection, they won’t give that member the ARC). For the reader it’s a huge coup to get an advance copy of something. Abby noted that on many occasions the member then blogs the title to share it with friends. Chad mentioned that when Open Letter participated in the program, a third of the people that received the Open Letter ARC signed up for Open Letter’s subscription program and blogged about the book.

Non trade people, acting like trade people and building buzz. Trade book fairs aren't dead but they could a little of that energy that non trade thinking brings.

-L





4 comments:

CBE said...

If BEA is serious about an attendee set that is truly quality over quantity then it would benefit BEA (and any trade fair really) to determine who the quality attendees are. While the people you mention make big books bigger, that can make a small book that might never get sold be a great seller. Glad to see BEA doing that!

CBE said...

If BEA is serious about an attendee set that is truly quality over quantity then it would benefit BEA (and any trade fair really) to determine who the quality attendees are. While the people you mention make big books bigger, that can make a small book that might never get sold be a great seller. Glad to see BEA doing that!

Chris Kerr said...

BEA will survive if and when it evolves to a Frankfurt model which embraces retailers, publishers, rights acquirers/sellers, reviewing publics AND THE PUBLIC. The costs of preparing promotion, bringing staff and authors are only defensible if the Fair exploits its resources to impact the ultimate consumer as well as all of the middle folks. BEA hasn't been a bookseller show for more than a decade. I can count on one hand the number of retail stores who will be attending this year, and most of them will be there as day-trippers.

Trade Show Supplies said...

Great info! keep up the good work!