Thursday, May 3, 2012

Interview With Steven Rosato, Event Director of Book Expo America

This June I will be attending Book Expo America in New York City. I have been going to them since 1990. My first one was in Las Vegas. My most memorable one was in 2000, in Chicago, when I met the woman I would eventually marry. It is the big annual gathering of the book industry – tens of thousands of authors, editors, marketers, editors, publishers, literary agents, book packagers, printers, and others gather for several days. It’s a lot of walking and talking, but it is also a lot of fun and a great opportunity to connect with people in the business. If you’re thinking of going, check out Below is an interview with the man who is running the big show, Steven Rosato.

1.      Steven, how will this year's Book Expo differ from previous years?  I think the changes for BEA like the industry are happening faster.  The biggest and most obvious change will be allowing consumers into BEA for the last day.  Their badge will dub them Power Readers and it will be strictly limited to 1,000 people.  It sounds like a lot of people, but it will be a pretty exclusive ticket.  Especially when you consider there will still be 7k to 8k booksellers, librarians and retailers there doing business on the last day.  BEA typically gets 12k to 13k attendees over the 3 days plus another 10k to 12k industry personnel that participate.  Also BEA is making a huge investment and effort to stream events live or on demand via the web.  This is a huge project and it will totally change what is possible at BEA in a positive way.   

2.     What's the buzz so far leading up to the big show? BEA has always been fortunate in the authors that get submitted ranging from the literary to the celebrity.  This year is one of the strongest line-ups we have seen in years – ranging from Stephen Colbert, Barbara Kingsolver, Jo Nesbo, Junot Diaz to Neil Young and Chris Colfer, Walter Dean Myers, John Green, Kadir Nelson,  Lois Lowry, Kirstie Alley, J.R. Moehringer, Michael Chabon and Zadie Smith – WOW.  Plus Russia is our Global Market Forum feature country and they will be bringing more than 50 authors, including some of the best contemporary authors in Russia today.   That is not even considering the Buzz Panels – so there is a lot to take at BEA this year for sure. 

3.      Are you seeing a change in the type of people attending BEA -- such as more authors than in the past?   BEA has always gotten a lot of authors – typically 700+.  That has held steady, but we do see more Museum Stores and Specialty Retailers, which has been something that BEA has actively pursued.  Something that is new that is more of an evolution is the technology companies that are attending in greater numbers as well publishing staff with tech responsibilities.  Also there has been an influx from obvious newer key players like Apple and Google and more people coming from Amazon.  

4.      Who are some of the newer exhibitors that previously hadn't had a booth? It is hard to name a few – there are usually 150+ new companies that come into BEA in a given year.  It will probably approach 200 new companies this year with more than usual with gift, game, toy or stationery type products.  

5.      For publishers or distributors who opt out of a booth, what argument did you make to them for staying in the show? We did not make an argument or challenge them, we focused on what does BEA need to deliver that provides a value that is critical to their business.  It was more about bringing in more retailers and non-traditional booksellers that they could not see elsewhere, creating more opportunities for their authors and titles and making sure they participated in a way that made sense.  There were companies that were spending far too much on BEA and it would never be worth what they were spending – but that included a lot of car service, a custom made booth and giving away tons of galleys.  The way companies are participating now is a lot smarter and they execute better which makes the value much easier to quantify.  Our mission is to deliver value for both exhibitors and attendees.

6.      How necessary is it to attend the show and walk the floor?  BEA is the largest publishing event in the largest publishing market in the world.  Virtually 90+% of the retail book market is represented by BEA attendees and 95% of the publishing trade market is represented by BEA exhibitors – if you are in the publishing business there is no other alternative for what you can accomplish at BEA if you are in any part of the trade publishing business.

7.      How can one make the best use of their time while attending the show -- what options are available to them?  Plan your time and make appointments far in advance.  People can get away with setting up a booth and depending on the traffic that walks by or happens upon them but that is a huge risk.  That goes for attendees or exhibitors –plan in advance and that guarantees you will get what you need out of the show and any thing else is above and beyond taking a good investment and making it great.  The best option for planning is the BEA Show Planner – there are too many things going to attempt to navigate when you arrive.  Plan for the events and programs that are most important to you and you will get far more out of BEA or any event you go to.

8.      How are you employing technology or social media into the show?  This could be a veryyyyyyyy long answer.  I will say Social Media is huge for BEA.  My blog has been a terrific source for pushing out information and announcements – it is such a direct connection and we can do things almost instantaneously.  We have created distinct communities for niche audiences like Museum Store Buyers and a Book Bloggers.  Twitter is a critical communications channel.  The key is for Social – we have gotten much smarter and have distinct strategies for each platform.  We have been playing with Pinterest and now TOUT (15 second video clips) and finding useful ways to help get our message out in a way that more people can receive it.  It is definitely helping drive registrations for us as well.  Technology is also huge.  We have re-invented our video program and will stream events live from BEA this year, there will be a cool chat feature and buy buttons.  We re-did our BEA Show Planner which was a big investment but will make BEA easier to navigate and the BEA Mobile app is gaining wide acceptance – nearly 25% of the people at BEA were active users in 2011.  We expect that to continue to increase dramatically.  It is just another tool that makes BEA easy for exhibitors and attendees.

9.      How does a conference servicing the book publishing industry differ from other shows that you have seen or been a part of?  BEA’s program can be viewed in 3 distinctive channels – author events are much more promotional and almost entertainment, yet they are the richest part of the show in terms of delivering great content.  There is the BEA Program – which is much more nuts and bolts of the industry, providing trends and also solutions that will make people more valuable to their organizations.  We are focused for 2012 with tracks for Marketing, Sales, International and very hands on for providing solutions in areas like how to use social media like Advanced Facebook, Driving Brand Traffic using Pinterest, Building a Social Library and much more.  Lastly BEA has partnered with industry experts to deliver relevant content from the ABA, LIMA (the Licensing Association) and especially the IDPF & PublishersLaunch.   I don’t that BEA is that different, but I feel like BEA puts together such a great program across the board – we make the industry better as whole by getting thought leaders to tackle real issues for the industry.  

Seeking A Job In The Book Publishing Industry?
If you're planning on securing a job in the publishing industry, consider the following suggestions from Andrea Chambers, director of the Center for Publishing at the NYU School of Continuing and Professional Studies (NYU-SCPS). To get a foothold in the publishing industry, Chambers recommends the
following five tips:
1.      Network. Joining media-related associations, attending publishing conferences and meeting industry professionals can lead you to where the jobs are.

2.      Blog and tweet. Have opinions? Engage with the world through social media. By sharing your opinions, you build your name, reputation and brand - all of which can help you to get the attention of industry recruiters.

3.      Learn. Enroll in a practice-based degree, certificate or summer intensive program, such as those offered by the NYU-SCPS Center for Publishing (

4.      Volunteer at publishing-related organizations that stress literacy and reading. Giving your time allows you to learn, obtain valuable skills and build your resume - all of which make you more employable.

5.      Read! That may sound simple, but you have to read widely to understand the industry in which you want to work.

Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels more important when discussed in the third-person.

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