BookExpo America: Initial Report

The two words that come to mind are “junior size.” With Macmillan off the floor altogether and even HarperCollins seeing reduced foot traffic, one wanders BookExpo’s floors in search of innovation, only to find one’s self subsumed in a heap of remainders. Perhaps BookExpo needs a reboot. The panel discussion is chintzy. The conversations are desperate. And everybody asks around for the remaining parties containing an open bar.

The most profound floor interview I have conducted so far was one with Clifford the Big Red Dog. He did not answer my questions about BookExpo’s future, despite my persistence. And regrettably he offered neither bark nor bite about the future of the publishing industry. I will be posting a YouTube clip later when it is possible to do so. But I keep thinking of BEA as a Big Red Dog. Perhaps shaggier and with less appeal than Clifford.

Some authors dress in desperate costumes. Others ask talk show producers how they can get on without a publicist. BookExpo feels very much like the live version of an issue of a monthly writing magazine. You’re just waiting to run into the human equivalent of some classified ad in the back hoping to scam you for some writing contest. I’m surprised there aren’t more people here with jars asking for tips.

I don’t even know why journalists are covering it. I don’t even know why I’m covering it really. I ran into Bella Stander this morning and, within our jocular exchange, she asked me why I was here. I told her that I was here to have fun. But it is difficult to get people excited when they are determined to remain so gloomy.

If BookExpo doesn’t do something fast, it will become some ossified corpse without even the consolation of a wake. But there is no Ronald D. Moore around to remind us why it is so important.

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