There were some noticeable changes in the publishing industry that were in full-view this past week at BookExpo 2017, the largest publishing conference in the US held in New York City from June 1-2. New York has been the traditional home of this annual event whose name through the years has evolved from American Bookseller Association (ABA) conference to BookExpo America to now just BookExpo. The shortened name coincides with the truncating of the number of days when business between industry professionals (booksellers, librarians, publishers, distributors, service providers and authors) is conducted (from 4 days decades ago to 3 in subsequent years to only 2 days this year.)
No Welcome Mat for Indies at BookExpo 2017
This seems a conference in decline from a reported 20,000 attendees in 2015 to a mere 7,500 people this year. What was especially noticeable at BookExpo 2017 was the obvious shift away from the limited programming that BookExpo did in the past related to indie authors and self-publishers. To refocus BookExpo back to traditional publishing, the indies had to go.
Prior to the event, there was some outcry from author associations on behalf of indies for this obvious slight. Author tickets to BookExpo 2017 were very expensive compared to publishers and booksellers. Instead, indie authors were encouraged to take part in BookCon which is a ComicCon-type show geared toward fan fiction and young adult content that runs for two days following BookExpo. BookCon’s estimated attendance was a remarkable 20,000 people most of whom were in the under 20 demographic and stood in long lines waiting to see their favorite authors like Margaret Atwood, Cassandra Clare, Leigh Bardugo, Marissa Meyer, Sarah Dessen, and Rainbow Rowell. The crowds rallied around these traditionally published authors with many of their publishers giving away their books. Some indie publishers did report that they successfully sold copies for the first time, which was a good way to offset the huge exhibit expenses. Hopefully, this trend to sell rather than give away books will take hold next year.
Young Readers Flocked to BookCon
As an exhibitor and speaker at both BookExpo 2017 and BookCon, I must say I was inspired to witness the energy and passion of the hordes of young readers packing the aisles at BookCon. But as a publishing professional who has attended BookExpo for several decades, it was disheartening to see the obvious shrinking of the largest B2B publishing event in the US. I believe that a factor in the decline is that even though self-publishing is on the rise these shows haven’t cracked how to fit indies into either show. Because of this, I recommend that either BookExpo or BookCon think about offering educational programs for indie authors and small publishers, not as sideline seminars, but as part of the main event. There are plenty of indie authors who can draw crowds.
The Authors Guild Honors a Self-Publishing Platform
Another shift in the publishing universe happened on May 24, 2017, when the 105-year Authors Guild, an advocacy organization representing some 9,000 member authors bestowed its “Distinguished Service Award” to legendary and iconic authors Toni Morrison, James Patterson and to the self-publishing platform IngramSpark. This represented the first time that the organization steeped in traditional publishing had recognized any vendor much less one that serves indie authors and publishers. As Porter Anderson, editor-in-chief reported in Publishing Perspectives: “The award to Ingram Content Group’s four-year-old IngramSpark self-publishing platform stands out in a different context, a sign of a new era’s maturity in the guild and in the writerly community it serves.”
Obviously, this was a huge honor for myself and the team at IngramSpark. But I think, the award is an acknowledgment that self-publishing and indie authorship is a respectable and smart choice for many in bringing their books to readers and to the marketplace. And as I said in my acceptance speech when accepting the award: “We're happy to play a role in the continued growth of the self-publishing industry and to see it thriving."
To read Porter’s full article, go to https://publishingperspectives.com/2017/05/authors-guild-morrison-patterson-ingramspark-awards/
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