For 73 years, the book industry had a tradition. Each year, book stores, publishers, literary agents, publicists, writers, editors, and the media would cluster to highlight and discuss hot books, trends, and upcoming titles. They were literate people who treasured the written word. Then corona came and knocked the event into the ashes of history.
My first gathering, at the time, called the ABA because it was put on by the American Booksellers Association, was in 1990. It was held in Las Vegas. It was just 23, my first time in Sin City. That was a lot of fun. The event would be renamed shortly thereafter, when Reed Exhibitions took the event over.
What started humbly in 1957 peaked around the turn of this century, when some 40,000 attendees filled the convention floor for what used to be a spectacle event. Then the Internet grew stronger, Amazon took the industry by storm, e-books flourished, and Border’s closed down. The Great Recession knocked out some indie bookstores, the news media started to transition from print to digital, and things just changed for the book world. Book Expo America has been in decline for a good decade or so. Now it is no more.
I attended many shows over the years, including ones in New York City, Chicago, Washington DC, and Los Angeles. I even met my wife at one, in 2000, in Chicago. I will always have fond memories of the show, one that used to draw celebrities, best-selling authors, and those who wanted to be both.
Book Expo America did not just get cancelled for 2020. Reed Exhibitions recently announced the current incarnation will be no longer. What takes place next is anyone’s guess, but there is a desire – maybe even a need – to have the industry get together and share in a love of books. People need to connect – to match a face with an email address, to share stories, exchange ideas, impart knowledge, and engage in a way that is not just transactional.
Books, compared to most products, are people-centric. Books touch us so deeply. So can the people who write, edit, publish, market, and sell them.
I presented a workshop at BEA to industry professionals and authors about book publicity, in 2018 and 2019, the final two years of the show’s existence. It is hard to believe that it is all ancient history. But the book world is healthy and as the world recovers from corona, hopefully a new tradition can be launched in 2021 that lasts a long, long time.
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Brian Feinblum, the founder of BookMarketingBuzzBlog, can be reached at email@example.com. You can – and should -- follow him on Twitter @theprexpert. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog ©2021. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Westchester with his wife, two kids, and Ferris, a black lab rescue dog. His writings are often featured in The Writer and IBPA’s The Independent. This was named one of the best book marketing blogs by BookBaby http://blog.bookbaby.com/2013/09/the-best-book-marketing-blogs and recognized by Feedspot in 2018 as one of the top book marketing blogs. Also named by WinningWriters.com as a "best resource.” He recently hosted a panel on book publicity for Book Expo America. For more information, please consult: linkedin.com/in/brianfeinblum.
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