Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Victoria Strauss -- BEA Report

I meant to post this yesterday, but after the frenzy of getting ready for BEA and then three high-adrenaline days of being there, I needed a day to recover. Plus, I sustained an injury in the cause of bringing scam awareness to North America's largest book show--but more about that later.

Writer Beware's presence at BEA this year--courtesy of our new co-sponsor Mystery Writers of America, which kindly gave us space in their booth and let us raid their fridge for water and soda (thanks, Margery!)--was something of an experiment. Some of us had attended the show before in other capacities, but this was the first time that Writer Beware attended as a group.

Overall, we feel it was very much worth it. We brought handouts (my article, Writer Beware, and Ann's anti-scam handout, Excuse Me, How Much Did It Cost You?), business cards, and a brand-new Writer Beware brochure, and gave out a lot of each to the librarians, booksellers, aspiring authors, journalists, and others who stopped by the MWA booth. Many people were familiar with Writer Beware and its work, but many weren't, and it was great to get the word out and to make new connections.

Friends and fans of Writer Beware also stopped by to visit, some of whom we'd only previously met online; it was fun to put faces with familiar names. We had visits from a few non-fans as well. I got into a bit of an argument with a representative of one of the POD self-publishing services, who wanted to tell me how wrong I was about the viability of "traditional" publishing; and we were surprised (to say the least) to come face to face with a Ghost of Scams Past. I'll leave that story to Ann.

The Ghosts of Scams Present were also in evidence. As I mentioned in an earlier post, several BEA attendees were familiar to us from our complaint files, and some of them appeared to be doing brisk business at the show. Just a reminder of how important it is to educate not just writers, but the publishing industry, about the prevalence of literary fraud.

I won't attempt to punditize on the show, since so many other people are already doing so (GalleyCat provides a roundup), other than to say that although there was much pre-show prognostication about shrinking attendance numbers, the crowds seemed respectable. The aisles were busy on Friday and Saturday, with signings and special events drawing what appeared to be decent-sized crowds (including the one that gathered for an appearance by Captain Chesley Sullenberger to promote his upcoming book; he seemed both deeply dignified and profoundly out-of-place up on the stage in his pilot's uniform). Sunday was quieter, with Javits Center workers starting to roll up the carpets even before the official closing time of 3:00.

Disappointingly, freebies were in short supply, though we did score some nifty pens and travel clocks from Google (yes, I know. Taking clocks from the enemy. Have we no self-respect?) at its well-attended Saturday presentation.

One of my goals for the show was to see the Espresso Book Machine, which was being demoed at the Ingram booth. It's surprisingly compact, consisting of a big copier attached to a somewhat larger rectangular box where the copied pages are stacked, bound, and trimmed. The finished book pops out a slot at the bottom (I was able to flip through one while it was still warm). The box has clear sides, so you can see the whole process. A very, very cool machine! According to the enthusiastic spokesperson, the Espresso is currently installed in 15 locations (mostly bookstores), a number that is expected to increase to more than 100 over the next couple of years.

So what about that injury I mentioned in the first paragraph? As I was walking to Penn Station on Sunday, juggling my suitcase, computer bag, and purse, feeling tired but pleased with myself, I failed to pay attention to my feet, and tripped over a curb and fell flat on my face. My stuff went flying; my sandal ripped right off my foot. Contrary to popular mythology, New Yorkers are extremely helpful; people came rushing over to help me up and ask if I was all right. Bruised but fortunately not bleeding, I gathered my shredded dignity and limped on, and managed to make my train. Unfortunately, though, it wasn't just my pride that suffered. Today I look as if someone did the bastinado on my knees, both of which are swollen and black-and-blue. And my sandal, I fear, is completely ruined.

The things I do for Writer Beware.

14 comments:

BuffySquirrel said...

Ouch! That sounds like quite a fall.

Get well soon :).

Elizabeth K. Burton said...

Victoria,

I empathize--I tripped in a hotel parking lot at a convention once and landed literally on my nose. Close encounters of the pavement kind are most unpleasant.

I'm jealous--I so want to see an EBM, but BEA wasn't in the cards. How was the quality of the book you handled?

Victoria Strauss said...

Quality was great--four-color cover, B&W interior (with illustrations), nice paper. Certainly as good as any POD book I've seen, and nicer than some of the offset stuff on the shelves.

J. M. Strother said...

Too bad you couldn't set up in the FBI booth (still love that post!). Sorry about the spill you took.
~jon

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the report! As for nice New York-ers, here's my story: my husband and I were visiting several years back, and hovered over our map, trying to figure out where we were. A very nice man with a heavy Brooklyn accent asked if we needed help, then offered directions. When we thanked him, I was delighted by his response: "Forgettabout it!"

Glad your spill wasn't too serious.

Jenny said...

So sorry about the accident! Hope you heal up fast.

What did you think about the quality of the book the Expresso Book Machine produced? LightningSource/Ingram is offering the Expresso option to publishers, which is a sign, I think, that it is going to become major factor in the next couple years. LS's books are indistinguishable from book press books. Are the Expresso books?

Sheryl said...

{{{healing hugs}}}

glad all you lost was the sandal!

David Jace said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
David Jace said...

Wow, I'm glad you're ok! I'd really miss your writing if you'd been injured, and so would my students, cause I send them here!

"You can check out evil monsters of the writing world online at places such as Preditors and Editors (http://www.anotherealm.com/prededitors/ ) and WriterBeware.org (a watchdog group founded by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America). http://davidjace.blogspot.com/2009/06/advice-to-young-writers.html

sexywriter said...

Sorry you took such a spill, Victoria! I have always found New Yorkers to be some of the nicest people I've ever met, so I am not at all surprised so many rushed to your aid.

Jill Elaine Hughes

BuffySquirrel said...

I'm curious about these EBMs, but given that the Kindle still hasn't reached these shores, I'm not expecting to see one any time soon.

I did once see a book vending machine in a hotel. That was pretty neat.

behlerblog said...

Ah, Vic, so sorry to hear about your injuries. But I'm thrilled you and Ann passed out the scam info. Every year I go to the BEA and pass those particular booths, I want to rush in and scream, "run away!" to all the authors crowding around. You're definitely one of the good guys.

Different Time, Different Place Book Reviews said...

Thanks for all the work you do informing people about scam publishers. And thanks for the BEA report.

I've seen the Espresso Book Machine on a youtube video and thought the machine was pretty neat. I hope to see one in person someday.

Leslie said...

I am not jealous about your fall, but I am wayyyy jealous about BEA. Last year in LA was my first and probably last time attending since I moved (as an editor) from a book review journal to a scholarly journal. I adored BEA and learned so much about the book industry. I don't see how one could go to BEA and still take the self-publishing stuff seriously -- but I suppose we see and hear what we want to see and hear.