Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Why Fewer Galley’s at BEA is a Good Thing

I’ve spent the last two weeks talking with executives at a dozen of the largest publishers in BookExpo about the upcoming show and the vision for where the show is going for 2010. The response has been all over the publishing map, some publishers are extremely excited, ready to partner and re-imagine the show together. Other publishers are at the other end of the spectrum, still working on re-imagining there own business and the industry gathering, is just not a priority to them in this climate. It’s been an extremely interesting PowerPoint armed road show for me and it will continue for the next few weeks.

A consistent message I’ve heard is of course that of cutting back on everything; personnel, booths, authors, and yes, the advance reading copies (ARC’s) that the publishers plan to give out at the show. Economic conditions sometimes force us to make choices that we would not otherwise make, but that might be good for us nonetheless. For the first time, because of technology and other influences, we are actually empowered to begin measuring how to give out ARC's, in fact it's a necessity. This is all about leveraging change to our advantage. Less ARC's at BEA is a condition of a changing economy and tightening budgets, but marks a strategic shift for publishers. I think the shift away from "blind" ARC handouts could prove to be one simple step in changing the approach publishers have to how the engage the industry at BEA.

The goal was never to give out as many ARC’s to as many people as possible at BEA, but somehow, to some, but not all publishers, that’s what it become. To some publishers a measure of success was the sheer number galley’s they gave out. It reminds me of a conversation with a publisher after BEA when I asked if the show was a success for them. They answered it was because they gave out all of the catalogs they brought. What if half those catalogs were lost in transit to the show?

Marketing is no longer carpet bombing, its precision strikes, we all know this. The goal should be getting the right ARC to the right attendee to influence that tastemaker be them a librarian, lit blogger, bookseller, mass retailer, rights professional or any of the other segments of the industry represented at BookExpo. The dramatic shift in budgets may force that change in strategy and execution for the better.

Less ARC’s means less carpet bombing and with the right approach more precision marketing and segmentation. What if a bookseller/librarian/media member got to hear an author speak on a stage or in a publisher’s booth. On the way out the publisher could scan the individuals badge, have a conversation and then mail (or better yet, email) the ARC of first few chapters to the individual? Lower cost, higher probability for success.

The truth is, the professionals, the influencers, the people in the aisles to publishers wish to reach, sway, influence and build buzz with are not collecting ARC’s, in fact the opposite, many want as few things to take home with them. They want the right book(s) not the most books. Sure some need quantity to take back to the store or the branch to share, but that is the exception and can easily be arranged.

Less galley’s means influencing the influencers in ways more effective and measurable than simply calling it success because the publisher gave them all out. It means saving money, increasing interaction, putting the author at the front of the transaction and actually building the buzz, not just handing out the swag.

Lass ARC’s at BEA can be a good thing and represents a new opportunity based on new options and new ways of being able to conduct our business.



Fran Toolan said...

sorry for the totally self-serving comment. But, one way to deliver less physical ARCs and still get them into the hands of the "influencers", is to help promote a system like NetGalley for distribution of electronic ARC's.

Anonymous said...

I would love to read about BEA and the galley question. But I can't concentrate when the entry is so poorly written (comma splices everywhere; FEWER ARCs, not LESS) and there is a punctuation error of the worst kind in the post's title. "Galley's"? No. "Galleys." It is not possessive.

I know I sound incredibly cranky but as a booklover who has to put up with this kind of ignorance practically everywhere else, I just can't take it on a blog about books.

Anonymous said...

I concur with the comments from the 'Anonymous' poster from 4/15. You are promoting Book Expo. One would assume that most people who read this blog are literate. To that end, it might be worth it to take the time to have someone proofread Mr. Fensterman's 'content'. The amount of typos and the misuse of grammar throughout the blog make the show's management look ridiculous.

Lance Fensterman said...

Message received dear anonymous posters. Spelling and grammar has never been a strength of mine and frankly, probably never will be (hence why I hand sold books and didn’t attempt to write them) but I can take better care of getting help editing. Sorry the message was lost due to my ham fisted (catch phrase of the week,!) delivery.


Anonymous said...

Typical comments from an industry so wrapped up in traditional business models that some have trouble with the message because of the delivery method. Who cares if there is an extra comma or grammar mistake. At least he is giving an honest and open opinion from a position that intersects with a large number of people related to the book world.

Most of these posts are probably written from a Blackberry while exiting the subway anyhow.

Torsten Adair said...

I've been attending BookExpos consistently since the NYC show in 2002. Hardly anyone scanned my badge, and I am one of those people who makes a point of walking every aisle of the show, and talks to at least fifty publishers to find out what's interesting.

I take home at least one box of books and related merchandise. It all gets read, and some of it gets passed on to others.

The email community BEA set up a few years ago... I got very little information from the subjects I was interested in, and quite a bit of generic emails from micro-presses (those that buy ten ISBNs at a time, and rarely publish ten titles).

I want to know what's interesting in the categories I'm interested in. If a publisher has one title out of 20 or 200 that I might be interested in, I want to know about it. I do not want to thumb through a catalog which will get discarded.

So, BEA, if you want to change, encourage publishers to hypertext every page of their catalogs. Place them in one big website where I can type in keywords, and download PDFs of each title's information. Push titles to me. Set up forums or blogs where I can network and communicate with others in the industry (like PW Beat). In other words, take Publishers Weekly, but put ALL the books out there online, with links back to the publishers' websites.

I don't read electronic ARCs. My limit for electronic reading is about five pages, and most of that is on my Palm Treo.

I concur with Anonymous. The title should read "Why Fewer Galley's a Good Thing".

Anonymous said...

Lance--thank you for your gracious response. BTW, Scott Fitzgerald--among many others--was a horrible speller too!

However, I respectfully disagree with the other anon poster. If you care about the message, you care about how it's delivered. Grammar and punctuation work for a reason. If you don't think they're important, though, I doubt I can convince you.

Back on topic: I am one who thinks that hard-copy galleys are still a good thing. If people start getting e-galleys then we will just have books-as-spam, and no one will care, or read them. Even in the new millenium, sometimes you need a thing to hold.

maybe the giveaway could be an opening chapter or section, with a link for a free download of the whole thing.

batgirl was a librarian said...

I just can't imagine attending BEA, having my interest in a book piqued, and then told that I could expect to receive a copy in the mail or (worse!) online. (I don't see myself ever reading a book online. Period.) In light of the current economic climate, while I would understand the absence of the MOUNTAINS of book displays at each booth, ARCs and galleys should be available for publishers to hand out as they hand-sell. Otherwise, in my opinion, it's lose/lose...neither side has the opportunity to do their job well. Perhaps, with an eye toward the bottom line, the publishers could refrain from the deluge of promotional tote bags ever-present at BEA. That would be a huge savings. (I don't mind bringing my own bag!)

Kelly said...

I am a bit disappointed to hear that there will be fewer galleys at BEA this year. One of the reasons my library sends me to BEA is so that I can come back and share everything I learn not only with our staff and patrons, but with other librarians in my area (the Chicago suburbs). Any ARC I bring back makes the rounds and is ultimately read by quite a few people. It saddens me that I'll have less to share this year.