New York City--The most interesting piece of anecdotal information I picked up at this year's BookExpo America was from Paul Oliver in the Soho Press booth. Director of marketing and publicity Oliver was born and raised in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, where he eventually ran an independent bookstore that closed in 2010. He'd left in 2009 but remained interested in an enterprise he'd co-founded.
When I heard his brief bio, I figured he'd cry the blues over the fate of the indies. Quite the opposite. Now in publishing--"the second best thing" after owning a book shop, he said--he happily reported that indies seem to be doing better. Orders from them have been up at his pubbery in the past year.
Good news, indeed, if that's widely the case.
But let me admit straight off that I don't attend the annual Javits Center blow-out strictly from a desire to nail hard and fast industry stories. I go--well, yes, to get some sense of where books and publishing have been, are and are heading. I'm also there to run into whomever I run into at the booths or merely circulating.
Even more, I'm there for the giveaways. Not so much this year for the candy sitting in bowls all over the place, since I'm on a diet. Not so much for the totes, either, although I usually need to grab at least three to accommodate my haul.
This year's totes came courtesy of Abbeville, Booktv.org and Ellora's Cave Publishing. (The folks at this last spot specialize in erotic stuff, and why not?) The totes I toted may not have been the best. Elsewhere, there was an extremely commodious red one with side pockets, but the line for it was so long that I passed.
Only some of what's in the totes I collected is what I want to itemize. As I randomly pull objects out, I come upon:
1. All in All. Actor Stacy Keach's book (Lyons Press), with Alec Baldwin's introduction, about his "life on and off the stage." For some elusive reason, not many American actors write books--not like English actors, who do it constantly.
2. I took the out-sized Creative Editions catalog in order to remember Ogden Nash's beautifully illustrated (C. F. Payne) baseball reminiscence Lineup for Yesterday. It's listed here as is the baseball-card pack.
3. Playwright Amy Herzog was signing copies of the one-volume 4000 Miles/After the Revolution (TCG) plays with which she's been making a reputation for herself. She's only out of Yale College and Drama School for about a decade, believe it or don't. In my freebie, she penned, "Thank you! What a pleasure to meet you." Nice, huh?
4. When I reach into any of the three totes, the handiest catches are books. So here's Marion Winik's Highs in the Low Fifties (Skirt!). She's the ex-NPR talker, who pointed out she's written nine books now, and this one is about being divorced at 50. Undoubtedly, there's an audience out there for her.
5. Treb Heining got me one of the dachshund balloons at the GlassHouse Balloon Company booth. You pull the plastic critter behind you on a string, and it walks along on crepe legs and paper feet. Book tie-ins are the point, of course. I wasn't the only fool glomming onto one of these. Others dog balloons of different breeds, of course.
6. And speaking of Abbeville. After marketing and publicity manager Diana Griffin handed me my tote, we talked about the displayed second revision of Caravaggio. She noted that one of the reasons for not one but two revisions is that color reproduction continues improving.
7. Vivek J. Tiwary, looking for "inspiration" when contemplating a business career at a very young age, became aware of Brian Epstein. For those who don't know or have forgotten, Epstein's the Liverpool furniture store scion who took the Beatles out of a local rock club, The Cavern, and turned them into the legends they were and remain. Having worked at his passion for about 25 years, Tiwary has turned it into The Fifth Beatle, a graphic novel (Dark Horse) and soon-to-be-film. It's a tribute to a "visionary," Vivek states, and is he ardent when discussing his dream come true? You bet.
8. At See the Wishful Penny Books, the representative was excited--as well she should have been--about Classroom Teacher as Theater Director, part of materials the house has developed for school use. The idea is that theater can be used to educate kids not only to appreciate theater but for myriad other social skills.
9. When I reached, the long Mystery Writers of America desk, Charles Salzberg was signing copies of Swann Dives In, the newest in his Swann series. A Shamus Award nominee, Salzberg is (full disclosure) a friend, which only means it's always great to be chummy with a talented and prolific author.
10. Sorry to say I don't member which booth it was where Rihanna Paper Dolls caught my eye. Not competing for attention beside it, I noted, was Amanda Bynes Paper Dolls, but maybe soon.
11. Author Jennifer Pharr Davis with baby Charlotte strapped to her was signing copies of Called Again copies (Blue Ridge Hiking Company). Both mother and daughter looked to be thriving.
12. The PBS Distribution booth not only had covers of many (all?) their Masterpiece (Formerly Masterpiece Theater) DVDs, but the giveaways here were fat Downton Abbey ballpoint pens. I said my friends would be envious. "Then take two," one of the keepers insisted. I obliged.
13. I suppose the most outstanding book displayed was the collector's edition of photographer Sebastiao Salgado's Genesis (Taschen, $3000 before June 15, $4000 after). It's maybe three or four feet high, five feet wide when opened and was secured in a large Lucite box on a plinth.
14. I took tea at the Booksicals.com booth, where Master Davey and the Magic Tea House was the main push. Good tea, too, though I can't recall what the exotic flavor was called.
15. Lauren (The Devil Wears Prada) Weisberger knew a good thing when she wrote her bestseller. This may explain why she's now releasing Revenge Wears Prada (Simon & Schuster). While she signed my hardback(!) copy, I asked if Miuccia Prada was aware of the projects. She said she didn't know. I suggested she get someone to photograph the designer reading the book(s)--probably not the first time she's heard that.
16. The Cider Mill Press gang calls it "A Finger Puppet Parody Book." It's Little Penis, a 4½" x 4½" notion decidedly not meant for children--or maybe it is. A hole is die-cut throughout all of its thick pages where a short-pile fabric penis finger puppet pokes through. Nuff said?
17. At widbook, the e-book network booth, the boys from Brazil, where the company is based, signed me up to promote my own literary output to other signers-up. I'm plugging my amazon.com short story collection People Tell Me Things and two stories sold separately, "All Those Boys" and 'How I Confronted My Abandonment Issues."
Last but hardly least, book lovers need to know that BEA is open to the public today, June 1.
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