Monday, June 01, 2009

Tales from Book Industry Exhibiting

Tales from Book Industry Exhibiting

By Walter Haan,

The BookExpo America (BEA) annual book show just ended yesterday. A three day show used by book publishers to showcase upcoming titles, attendance was down 14% from the last time the show was held in New York City a few years ago. Major publishers such as Random House reduced their visibility at the show and bookstores cut the number of staff members they sent. Not for the first time, Southfarm Press didn't attend.

Why? I know you needn't ask. The economy, new technologies, new opportunities to sell on the Internet, even wholesale using electronic catalogues and new opportunities to network on the Internet. In addition, many stores that now sell books are not bookstores and I don't just mean the big box stores such as Walmart and Target. A wild bird feed store that carries children's books just recently expressed interest in our children's title, The Macaroon Moon (

There used to be a Military Book Show held in conjunction with BookExpo America and Southfarm Press would attend that show instead of the BEA. I think the last show was in either 2001 or 2002, again in New York City, on the Intrepid, the World War II aircraft carrier museum. We found the Military Book Show to be useful for sales and networking. Author Erhard Konerding (Vietnam Air War: 25 Rarely Told Stories) worked that last show with me.

Other years when the BEA was held in New York City, Southfarm Press would exhibit in the Small Press section which was cheaper than in the sections where the larger publishers held court. One year the Small Press section was on an aisle that led to celebrity book signings. I'll never forget the stampedes I witnessed down that aisle by booksellers (bookstore owners and their staffs) when one of these signings were announced. Hard to do business in a cattle stampede.

At one book trade show I was exhibiting at in Atlantic City, I was hit in the ribs by a woman behind me swinging her purse at me. I thought it was an accident so didn't say anything. But whammo, I was hit again. I turned to confront her.

"I'm hitting you," she said. Turned out she wanted me to give her the book samples I was exhibiting as it was the last day of the show and she figured I didn't want to go to the trouble of packing them up. As I valued my life, I let her take what she wanted.

One year at a BEA, I sat down to eat my box lunch, and at the same table was a young man. We struck up a conversation. It turned out he was a billboard advertising executive in the Midwest and was there hawking a religious book/gimmick that God had told him to bring to the BEA.

My wife, Wanda, caught a distinquished looking gentlemen stealing one of our books on display at a small press show, again in New York City. She made him pay up.

What it all means is that book publishers, especially small book publishers such as Southfarm Press, have to continue to be creative especially now in this challenging economic environment. The government is not going to bail us out.

Now that we all own a piece of General Motors, I mean Government Motors, shouldn't we all be receiving company cars?--Copyright 2009 by Walter Haan,