Sunday, May 21, 2006

What I Did on my Vacation (from blogging)

My four days without posting were not a vacation in any other way, I can assure you. For publishing people such as myself, there is an annual ritual that takes place on a weekend towards the end of May. You have lots of meetings, punish your back and feet by standing all day, get your photo taken with Dora the Explorer or the Topaz Man, smile til your face hurts, say "wow, Dr. Ruth is here again," and go all kissy-poo with everyone you've ever worked with in the industry: this is the extravaganza known as BookExpo America.

If the aisles look a little empty in the photo above, it's because I didn't have time to take pictures until the very end when most people had already bailed!
I think trade shows are quite weird, really. They seem to have insinuated themselves into every industry as a necessary way of doing business, even though 90% of the business that is done is probably between people who already know each other and don't really need a blue-and-white-curtained, concrete-floored venue in which to duplicate conversations they've probably already had on the phone or in each other's offices. And it's expensive: The tiniest publisher who takes a basic 10' x 10' booth with a table, a chair and a piece of carpet pays almost $4000 for that space and furniture alone. Bigger publishers who have custom booths have costs for the space, shipping, carpentry and services that easily come to $30,000 or more per year, and that doesn't even count all the t-shirts, tote-bags, buttons, candy, pens, hats, giant foam fingers, and oh yeah, sample books that they give away. And then there are the expenses of all the people who attend-- I haven't added all mine up yet, but I think it will be around $1200 even though other people paid for most of my cab rides and meals.
Anyway, the reason publishers spend all this money is to introduce new books that are being published, so of course I put my Madame X hat on for a while and went hunting for things that might interest my readers! Here's a few that you might want to look for in the coming months:

How about Flipping Houses for Dummies? I like how it's right between "Sex" and "Personal Finance."

This "1000 Best" series offers some bargain-hunting topics, as well as careers and real estate. Though it's hard to tell from the photo, once again the money-related books were right above a whole shelf of sex books.

The Home Buyer's Checklist book could have been handy for me these last few months...

The Little Book of Value Investing probably won't do as well as The Little Book that Beats the Market, but something tells me we'll see a lot more "Little Book" spinoffs in the pipeline. And Seven Years to Seven Figures... catchy title, could work.

Speaking of catchy titles, how about 202 Ways to Make Big Bucks and Stop Mooching off Your Parents! The perfect graduation gift!

Here's one that I think the world could live without:

Chicken Soup for the Shopper's Soul?!? What will it be next, Chicken Soup for the Real Estate Speculator's Soul? Chicken Soup for the Adjustable Rate Mortgage-holder's Soul? Chicken Soup for the Check-Bouncer's Soul?
Nothing would really surprise me any more. Every time I go to this trade show, I am convinced that for every stupid, weird or arcane topic, there are already at least a dozen books about it, plus a dozen more that someone is really excited about publishing this fall. And all this is in addition to the thousands of new books being published about topics that are actually popular-- the photos above barely scratch the surface of all the personal finance-related books I saw. Every year, I find this show more and more exhausting-- not just because I'm getting too old to drink and party and still be able to say "this is a great book" all day, but because there's just too much to see and absorb and it's hard to find the books that are actually worth getting excited about.

But there are a few things that are new and different each year. This year's BookExpo was held in Washington, DC, after many years of rotating mostly between Chicago, New York and Los Angeles. It was actually a nice place to have it, as the convention center is located quite close to downtown restaurants, the train station and Reagan Airport, as well as several hotels. And the convention center also came with a special bonus that only my female readers will truly appreciate:

Yes, the bathrooms offered "complimentary feminine products," as one of my colleagues very delicately put it, rather than the machines that make you pay 25 cents each. The bowls were always well stocked, so I guess everyone was so impressed by this generosity that they returned the goodwill by not stealing whole handfuls.

Well, that's it for my report from the book world... I'm glad to be back home!


Dawn said...

Welcome Back!
I like the "269 tips on sex...", hehe, are there really that many tips?

. said...

Ha ha ha! This great post provided me with a much needed laugh. I love the Chicken Soup book. I saw that and thought, "What the f???"

Anonymous said...

Random question: Have you stopped listing Blogs of Intrest?

mapgirl said...

They do say, "Don't judge a book by it's cover." I wonder if that Chicken Soup book might be full of cheerful admonishments?

Cap said...

very neat post, it's like being at the Expo, minus all the walking.

optioned unarmed said...

I bet that if it was men that menstruated instead of women, free products in public restrooms would be the norm, not the exception.

the "flipping houses for dummies" book title makes me sick.