This is pure awesome.
For the first time in 8 years, I’m not at the London Book Fair. While it is strange not walking the aisles at Earl’s Court, it is also a relief. At this point, I just can’t do another LBF, or any book publishing convention. There are a few things I’m just flat out tired of experiencing.
- Companies that don’t know how to exhibit. There is nothing more annoying that walking up to a booth (or “stand” as they like to call them in Europe) and not being noticed. You feign interest as you browse the books they have on the shelf, waiting for someone, one of them, to come over and ask if you have questions or if you are there to see anyone. Nope. Standard procedure is to pretend you are not there.
- Guards at the “Big” publishing companies. You know them. They are the publishing house employees whose job it is to filter you from publishing executives. No way are you going to just walk up to a booth and meet with someone. Nope, you have to face the person whose job it is to keep the riff raff away as they look at you and say, “do you have an appointment?”. When you say you don’t, but that you were hoping to just speak with someone for 15 minutes about what you’ve traveled thousands of miles to communicate, they look at you like you’ve just thrown up in public. They glance at the (ahem) paper diary book in front of them flipping the pages furiously while sighing and mentioning that everyone is completely booked up. Meanwhile, you can see that the person you want to talk to is just shootin’ the breeze with their fellow employees a few feet from where you stand.
- The high cost of convention food/drink. You’ve got 10 minutes between appointments, and your mouth feels like the Sahara Desert. There’s no time to run outside to find a corner store. You have to go to one of the approved food vendors on the show floor where you find that the 8 ounce box of water you so desire is 4 Pounds British Sterling (almost $8 US). No choice. You do it, and regret every gulp.
- Aisle walkers who are oblivious to anyone else around them. These are the people who are walking the hall with the luggage on wheels. They’re walking right down the middle of the aisle about 3 steps slower than anyone else. You always find these people just when you are 5 minutes late to your appointment, and they just won’t get out of your way. So, you walk behind them, going just as slow as they do, waiting for an opportunity to pass to their left or right so you can get to your meeting. If you’re lucky, you’ll encounter no less than 5 of these people on your way.
- No shows. You’ve spent weeks making appointments. A flurry of emails have confirmed every last detail. Date, time, booth number, and contact person. You show up, not only on time, but a couple of minutes early, and all you find is an empty booth. No one is there. Oh, they’ve been there alright. You can see that morning’s used coffee cup. Business cards from the meetings they bothered to show up to. Maybe even an appointment book with your appointment etched so neatly inside. But your contact is a no show, and you’ve just wasted 30 minutes, not to mention all the money it took to get you there.
- The permanently distracted. These are the folks who you’ve come to meet, but they aren’t interested in what you are saying, or anything else about you. They’re watching everyone else pass by. They waive at their friends that stroll past the booth. They do their “shout outs” to old colleagues. They stop you in mind sentence and say, “oh, sorry, just a moment” and they dash over to slap a guy on the back and let out a big guffaw about something completely uninteresting. 2 minutes, and they run back to you apologizing. Meanwhile, you are in mid-product pitch, and they’ve heard nothing of it.
I could go on and on.
So, instead of sitting in an over-priced hotel with bad Wi-Fi right now, I’m at home, enjoying the fact that I’m no where near Earl’s Court.
Farewell London Book Fair.
And yes, I’m taking appointments for Frankfurt.
The Abrams booth at Book Expo America ’10.
I’ll give them an “A” for creativity, but really, what the heck is that thing? Wikipedia calls it a Typewriter. I mean, I know what a laptop looks like, and I still have a PC keyboard laying around someplace, but what is that big black thing with the paper sticking out of the top? What do you do with it?
What message does this send? A visual like this says one thing – we’re out of touch. Again, I can’t fault them for trying to stand out, but stand out they do, with a big piece of hardware that most people haven’t seen or used in decades. It’s fitting.
Since I’m in the business of paying royalties, not collecting them, I’ll refrain from a lot of comment on the whole royalty advance issue and whether there’s any rhyme or reason to it all. The discussion is interesting though, and a few folks are collecting their thoughts on the matter. Bookends, LLC attempt to answer the age-old question, “what’s the story with earning out royalties?”. The Sunday NYT book review section recently published an essay “About that book advance…“, which brought this thorough author perspective response from Mike Shatzkin. Finally, Evan Schnittman of OUP comments from the publisher side of the tracks.
I’m heading to London on Friday for my annual trek to the London Book Fair. Besides the normal business meeting schedule, I’ve got plans to attend the following seminars:
- Strategies for digital publishing in a time of uncertainty (4/19 – Cromwell Room)
- Getting the best out of your digital deal: Commercial and legal issues (4/20 – Thames Room)
- Introducing the dedicated digital reading device to the UK consumer (4/20 – Cromwell Room)
- “Where’s the Money” Digital Keynote (4/21 – Cromwell Room)
LBF is a more managable event than, say, the monster Frankfurt Book Fair. Rather than being spread across 8 buildings, LBF fits comfortably inside Earl’s Court. This years fair runs from 4/20 through 4/22.
I’m looking forward to my trip to NYC tomorrow. This will be my third time attending O’Reilly’s Tools of Change for Publishing conference. Each one has been a worthwhile experience. I’m especially looking forward to this year since I’ll be participating in a panel on digital rights along with a few other folks in the industry. Of course, I’ll be ready for those impromptu meet-ups that often happen at these things. you never know who you’ll bump into!