NYC/BEA/BBC Wrap-Up, Part 3

15 Jun

I woke up early on Tuesday to help my mom get to the train station and to drop my suitcase off with my cousin. Turns out, putting 20 books in a piece of luggage makes it REALLY heavy. I helped my mom lug the bag into Penn Station, and departed for Javitts as soon as she was settled. She tried to move the bag and rightly decided to get Red Cap service. (I followed her lead on my trip home and got help bringing my bags down to the train too. They also let you get seated early, which is great, to avoid the rush of people when you’ve got heavy suitcases to maneuver).

I showed up at Javitts expecting my quietest and most educational day of the conference and I was right. I attended the opening plenary session, “A CEO Panel on The Value of The Book,” which was incredibly interesting, though it turned a bit into a bitch fest about the future of the publishing industry in the eBook shadow. The panel included: Bob Miller, Group Publisher, Workman; Esther Newberg, Executive Vice President, International Creative Management; Skip Prichard, Chief Executive Officer, Ingram; David Shanks, Chief Executive Officer, Penguin Group; Oren Teicher, Chief Executive Officer, American Booksellers Association (ABA); and Scott Turow, Author and Incoming President, Authors Guild. The overall mood of the session was simultaneously optimistic and troubled. There was the ever-present question of books as commodity and how the publishers, authors and agents can adapt to a changing landscape. Teicher of ABA made a great point that booksellers (and I would add bloggers to this statement as well) are simply curators of books; it doesn’t matter to them what format they come in, so long as bookstores can figure out how to adapt equally to the eBook revolution. And while most of the panelists agreed that eBooks are a revolution, one of the panelists — I can’t remember who but it was one of the publishing CEOs — made a point that, right now, eBooks only account for 10% of the publishing landscape. Sure, that number is growing, but it’s still only 10% and, as of this moment, eBooks are not more profitable nor easier to produce than paper books. In fact, they’re more expensive and more labor intensive to produce. But they are the future of publishing, at least in part, and the publishers are trying to adapt the old ways.

One idea that I really loved and thought was worthy of adoption by US publishers came from Turow, who mentioned that he’d just met with his Italian publisher and they had the idea of bundling multiple formats of a book together. So that when you buy a hardcover, you also receive a code to download the eBook for free. That felt like a lightbulb moment for me, because wanting multiple formats of a book is something I really struggle with. For example, my mom bought Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War by Karl Marlantes on her nook, which means that I can borrow it from her via the LendMe feature, but it’s a book I think I’d like to own in hardcover as well. I’ll probably read the eBook version, but why should I have to choose? Packaging those formats together seems like a logical way to encourage purchases of both book formats, eBook and paper (either hardcover or trade paperback).

After the plenary session, I hustled my way up to Random House to meet Kate, one of my sorority sisters, for lunch and a tour of the RH offices. She’s the Executive Assistant to the President and Publisher of Random House, so clearly has a very important job. Keep in mind I was also there on release day for The Girl That Kicked the Hornet’s Nest which is published domestically by RH. While the building was not as nuts as I was expecting (maybe because Larssen isn’t exactly doing press tours or visiting the publishing house — too soon?), the lobby was adorned with posters of the cover. I got to meet the Publisher, Gina Centrello, who was very sweet but also, I’m sure insanely busy. We took a tour of the building, after Kate oh-so-casually gestured to her very full bookcases and shelves and said to take whatever I wanted. Funnily enough, most of what she had, I already owned! I’m a good book buying consumer after all. Then we went around the corner and had some of the most incredible Thai food I’ve ever had in probably the smallest restaurant I’ve ever been in. Among other things, we discussed the industry, BEA and my decision to go to graduate school. Overall a great visit, and it was great to catch up with her.

I jumped back on the Subway to get back to Javitts in time for the 7 x 20 x 21 panel, which is in its 2nd year at BEA, but the format goes like this: 7 presenters get 20 PowerPoint slides, each displayed for 21 seconds. Each of the presenters were unique and interesting (you can find a great article about the panel on the Publisher’s Weekly site here), and I took something great from each of them. One thing that I found most intriguing — and blame this on both my Classics Challenge that’s floundering a bit and on the fact that my certificate is in the education field — is the idea of “teaching literature backwards” presented by Ed Nawotka, editor-in-chief of PublishingPerspectives.com. So that instead of starting with King Lear, for example, you start with something contemporary, like this summer’s break out The Passage, and work your way backward to Stephen King’s The Stand and eventually get to King Lear. In this way, students see the direct influence of classic, seemingly irrelevant, literature on current, popular fiction. Essentially, give them something they want to read and inspire them to want to find out what inspired it. Fantastic concept, don’t you think? One other thing to note from the panel was the presentation by author Justin Taylor and agent Eva Talmadge who are co-editing the new book The Word Made Flesh, about the rise in popularity of literary tattoos. Their PowerPoint slides were, of course, photos of literary tattoos. (The photo above is not from the book or the presentation, but from Contrariwise, a website dedicated to literary tattoos).

After that, I hit the much-anticipated BEA Adult Editor’s Buzz panel. And was completely blown away. Of the six books that were presented, I genuinely now want to read all of them.

Room by Emma Donoghue — Synopsis (from Powell’s):

To five-year-old Jack, Room is the entire world. It is where he was born and grew up; it’s where he lives with his Ma as they learn and read and eat and sleep and play. At night, his Ma shuts him safely in the wardrobe, where he is meant to be asleep when Old Nick visits.

Room is home to Jack, but to Ma, it is the prison where Old Nick has held her captive for seven years. Through determination, ingenuity, and fierce motherly love, Ma has created a life for Jack. But she knows it’s not enough…not for her or for him. She devises a bold escape plan, one that relies on her young son’s bravery and a lot of luck. What she does not realize is just how unprepared she is for the plan to actually work.

Told entirely in the language of the energetic, pragmatic five-year-old Jack, ROOM is a celebration of resilience and the limitless bond between parent and child, a brilliantly executed novel about what it means to journey from one world to another.

West of Here by Jonathan Evison — Synopsis (from Goodreads):

Set in the mythical town of Port Bonita, on Washington’s rugged Pacific coast–with part of the narrative focused on the town’s founders circa 1890, and another part set in 2006 revolving around the lives of their descendants–West of Here is part romance, part adventure, and a total reminiscence on the American experience as we’ve lived it via books and film and TV. In essence, it’s about the footprints of time, about the human spirit, both individual and collective, and about the echo of human life, how something that happens in one generation keeps reverberating through all the years that follow.

Juliet by Anne Fortier — Synopsis (from Powell’s):

Twenty-five-year-old Julie Jacobs is heartbroken over the death of her beloved aunt Rose. But the shock goes even deeper when she learns that the woman who has been like a mother to her has left her entire estate to Julie’s twin sister. The only thing Julie receives is a key–one carried by her mother on the day she herself died–to a safety-deposit box in Siena, Italy. This key sends Julie on a journey that will change her life forever–a journey into the troubled past of her ancestor Giulietta Tolomei. In 1340, still reeling from the slaughter of her parents, Giulietta was smuggled into Siena, where she met a young man named Romeo. Their ill-fated love turned medieval Siena upside-down and went on to inspire generations of poets and artists, the story reaching its pinnacle in Shakespeare’s famous tragedy.

But six centuries have a way of catching up to the present, and Julie gradually begins to discover that here, in this ancient city, the past and present are hard to tell apart. The deeper she delves into the history of Romeo and Giulietta, and the closer she gets to the treasure they allegedly left behind, the greater the danger surrounding her–superstitions, ancient hostilities, and personal vendettas. As Julie crosses paths with the descendants of the families involved in the unforgettable blood feud, she begins to fear that the notorious curse–A plague on both your houses –is still at work, and that she is destined to be its next target. Only someone like Romeo, it seems, could save her from this dreaded fate, but his story ended long ago. Or did it?

Bad Science by Ben Goldacre — Synopsis (from Amazon):

Have you ever wondered how one day the media can assert that alcohol is bad for us and the next unashamedly run a story touting the benefits of daily alcohol consumption? Or how a drug that is pulled off the market for causing heart attacks ever got approved in the first place? How can average readers, who aren’t medical doctors or Ph.D.s in biochemistry, tell what they should be paying attention to and what’s, well, just more bullshit?

Ben Goldacre has made a point of exposing quack doctors and nutritionists, bogus credentialing programs, and biased scientific studies. But he has also taken the media to task for its willingness to throw facts and proof out the window in its quest to sell more copies. Now Goldacre is taking on America and its bad science in this revised version of his runaway U.K. bestseller. But he’s not here just to tell you what’s wrong. Goldacre is here to teach you how to evaluate placebo effects, double-blind studies, and sample size, so that you can recognize bad science when you see it. You’re about to feel a whole lot better.

The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore by Benjamin Hale — Synopsis (from Amazon):

Bruno Littlemore is quite unlike any chimpanzee in the world. Precocious, self-conscious and preternaturally gifted, young Bruno, born and raised in a habitat at the local zoo, falls under the care of a university primatologist named Lydia Littlemore. Learning of Bruno’s ability to speak, Lydia takes Bruno into her home to oversee his education and nurture his passion for painting. But for all of his gifts, the chimpanzee has a rough time caging his more primal urges. His untimely outbursts ultimately cost Lydia her job, and send the unlikely pair on the road in what proves to be one of the most unforgettable journeys — and most affecting love stories — in recent literature. Like its protagonist, this novel is big, loud, abrasive, witty, perverse, earnest and amazingly accomplished. The Evolution of Bruno Littlemore goes beyond satire by showing us not what it means, but what it feels like be human — to love and lose, learn, aspire, grasp, and, in the end, to fail.

The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee — Synopsis (from Amazon):

The Emperor of All Maladies is a magnificently written “biography” of cancer–from its origins to the epic battle to cure, control, and conquer it.

I’m particularly excited by Room, West of Here and The Emperor of All Maladies. After the panel, there were a limited number of galleys available right outside the door, and the mad rush to snag copies was absolutely unreal. I managed to get Bruno Littlemore and Juliet, and over the course of BEA, I picked up Room and West of Here, both signed. And the first thing I did when I got home? Contact Scribner for a review copy of The Emperor of All Maladies. Chuck Adams, the Algonquin editor who presented West of Here, said about the book, that in his 40 years in the business, it was the best book he’s read. And he was the editor for heavy hitters like Water for Elephants. High praise indeed. Similar praise came from Cary Goldstein, the editor for Bruno Littlemore, who said that he’d waited for a year and a half for something to cross his desk that he felt was worthwhile to acquire, seeing as he only acquires one book a year for Hachette’s imprint Twelve (for the number of books they publish in a year — one a month). He also said about the infamous love scene between chimp and human, “It’s not bestiality, it’s love.”

Outside the Buzz panel and after fighting for copies of each of these awesome books, I ran into Kate, who was on her way to a Young to Publishing event, a group that she chairs for professionals new to publishing. I decided to skip the Opening Night Keynote with Barbra Streisand and headed down with Kate to The Frying Pan, which is basically a bar on a boat — yes, as cool and swaying as it sounds — where I met some very nice and smart people. On the walk to the event, I asked Kate about The Passage which is being published by Random House, and she refused to tell me what genre it falls in or even really what it’s about. In her words, it’s “genre-less.” Because, as she said, “I can tell you what it’s about and you won’t want to read it. Vampires and post-apocalyptic stuff. But its so much more than that. You have to read it. I’ll send you a copy.” Turns out she didn’t need to send me anything. I was able to get a galley signed by Justin Cronin the next day on the floor.

Coming up:

  • My last two days at BEA
  • BBC
  • And my review of The Passage (finally!)
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One Response to “NYC/BEA/BBC Wrap-Up, Part 3”

  1. Miss Remmers June 15, 2010 at 2:18 pm #

    Your recap is so in-depth! Mine are mostly pictures as I don’t remember a WHOLE lot about what actually went on! Haha!

    I have an award for you: http://www.missremmersreview.com/2010/06/award-61510.html

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