Archive for June, 2010

BEA 2010 and brushes with fame…

Posted in Workin' 9 to 5 with tags , on June 1, 2010 by talesofanunfinishedmom

Living in San Francisco, I don’t get too many opportunities to bump into celebrities. In fact, in the 15 years I’ve lived here, I can count on one hand how many celebrities I’ve actually seen.

That all seems to change when I go to New York.  New York is a hot bed of celebrities, which is no surprise. It’s an amazingly wonderful and huge city where even the most famous can be a chameleon on any given day.

Where do I see all these celebrities you ask? Well, sometimes it’s in restaurants or chance meetings on the street — even one time in an elevator. However, the most concentrated locale that attracts celebrities that I actually run into is the annual Book Expo America — or BEA, as the publishing insiders refer to it.

Having been in publishing for many more years than I care to admit, I have to say, it’s not a very glamorous industry. That may come as a surprise to many who actually think we’re all rolling in the dough (ha!), hobnobbing with famous authors all of the time (sometimes),  and enjoying four hour lunches on the company’s expense account (more like two hours and occasionally).  In fact, on any given day, most of us are toiling away — working long hours, dealing with unhappy authors, and trying to manage the multitude of processes and pieces  (with small budgets) that go into publishing and marketing a book.

And, most of us love what we do. But, glamorous? Not so much.  

However, once a year, our industry gathers for the annual BEA. This huge show which draws thousands of people (more than 20,000 attended this year) from all over the world allows publishers an opportunity to showcase all of their big books for the upcoming Fall season and recently published blockbusters. Nonfiction, fiction, children’s titles, religious books, even foreign language publishers have a place at this energetic show. It’s a great opportunity for booksellers, librarians, publicists, and want-to-be authors to connect with publishers. (*Note: For wanna be authors, it’s generally not a fabulous idea to try to sell your book to an unsuspecting staff member in the publisher’s booth unless you’re pretty certain you’ve got the next hot thing – but, more on that later.)

Much has changed over the years. So many of the  independent bookseller buyers that used to roam the halls and visit the numerous publisher booths have diminished due to the Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Borders of the world putting them out of business. And, the days of publishers giving away hoards of advanced proofs to anyone and everyone making their way through the booths has changed as well. It used to be that if you hit the floor early enough, you were guaranteed to pack your tote bag with all of the hot new releases. You might break the bank on the shipping costs to get all of those advance proofs back to your home or office but for the most part, it was well worth it.

These days, with publishers consolidating, laying off, and generally trying to be fiscally conscious in our ever uncertain and changing environment, free advance proofs have  become a bit of a relic. That is, unless you can prove you are a legitimate bookseller, librarian, or member of the press – OR, are willing to wait in a line for 45+ minutes. Then you’re in luck.

I have never waited in line to obtain an advanced proof or other giveaway or to meet a famous author. Until this year, that is.

As I alluded to earlier in the post, BEA is a hot bed of celebrity action. It seems that no matter how famous someone is in their given profession – sports, music, acting, politics – they ALWAYS want to write a book. It’s a given.  And, many of them come to BEA to promote said book or simply to perform – cuz you know, someday they might want to write a book.

This year was no different. Starting with the keynote delivered by Barbara Streisand, the laughs over pastries as John Stewart provided hilarious anecdotes during breakfast, and many other celebrities and celebrity authors sandwiched in between, the show was crawling with them.

This year was an exciting one for me. I got an opportunity to see famed television journalist Bob Woodruff – simply walked right past him– locked eyes — and didn’t even register until my publicist colleague started bouncing up and down saying “OMG, that’s that journalist…Bob what’s his name…omg…”. He looked terrific, have to say. I saw Pele and Kristian Alfonso, who has played Hope on the famed Days of Our Lives for years. She looked pretty amazing.

I also got an opportunity to meet Louis Gossett, Jr. who just published his own memoir with my publishing house and did a signing in our booth. The name of his book An Actor and a Gentleman is right on the money. He could not have been more gracious when I met him – such a lovely man. (For those of you who are old enough to remember him from An Officer and a Gentleman, he was nothing like the character he portrayed, Gunnery Sargent Emil Foley).

Heading into BEA, I hadn’t been thinking much about meeting celebrities. I knew Louis Gossett Jr. would be signing in our booth so I looked forward to hopefully meeting him but other than that, I was more focused on my work responsibilities. I had forgotten how fun this show can be!

At some point during my first morning in the booth, a colleague rushed up to myself and one of our sales reps and asked how old we were. A bit of an unusual query but we answered obediently. It was then that she informed us that a heart throb from our earlier years was making an appearance at 11:30am in the Simon & Schuster booth. Now, for many of you potentially reading this, this will probably not mean a thing. But, for anyone who remembers the famed “Jessie’s Girl” pop hit or Dr. Noah Drake from General Hospital, you know who I’m talking about. And, you know it’s kind of a big deal. And you KNOW I waited on my first ever line for 45 minutes to get this:

Rick Springfield - looking good!

 I may have also gotten a signed CD to boot. Which, I’m sorry to say, isn’t all that good. But, who cares, right? And, yes, he’s written a memoir too. Like I said, everyone wants to be published at some point.

Which, brings me back to an earlier point about accosting unsuspecting booth staff with your brilliant book idea. Occasionally, there is a brilliant idea or author discovered at BEA. But, mostly you get queries such as this one (and of course as you’re trying to get out of the booth and head to an appointment):

Want-to-be author (to me): I would like to talk with someone about being represented.

Me: Do you mean you need an agent?

Want-to-be author: No, I want to be represented by a publisher.

Me: Oh, ok.  What is your book?

Want-to-be author: It’s about shoes. (Looking at me dead seriously.)

Me: Um, Ok. What about shoes? Is it fiction? Non-fiction? We only publish non-fiction.

Want-to-be author: It’s a memoir about my shoe collection.

As a very funny man who I met on the shuttle bus said, “She better be one darn good writer.”

And there you have it – BEA 2010. Over and out.