Looking Back at Book Expo 09
Good crowds, CEO Oblivion and a book called Stitches
By all accounts BEA was supposed to be a dismal failure. Various pundits were predicting that no one would show and that the Javits Center would be a ghost town on Saturday morning. Suffice it to say we had a fairly good turnout and there was much to talk about in the book business and, there was a lot more focus on digital media than there should have been.
The ABA sessions on Thursday featured some great moments and some not-so-great. Tina Brown's CEO panel was hyperfocused on a technology that involves ONE percent of the publishing industry but has become the belly button focal point. Instead of asking why these CEOs are still pouring millions of dollars into advances, or what can be done to incorporate smarter technology in creating good books time was wasted on digital. Tina's other foul ball came when she asked the publishers how they planned to fight Google's digital initiatives. Apparently she didnt read the news about any lawsuits.
Surprisingly, after the CEO panel, we still had a full house for the first Editor's Buzz Panel. There were some ok presentations for books that sounded like good reads but they faded quickly from memory when Bob Weil from W.W. Norton gave his presentation on Stitches by David Small. This book is a brilliantly painful and beautifully rewarding graphic novel about the childhood of a celebrated childrens book illustrator. If this book does'nt sweep up major awards it will be an injustice.
The First Graphic Novels Buzz Panel
It wasnt really supposed to be a buzz panel in the way BEA normally presents them but the Hot Fall Graphic Novels for Libraries(and Retailers) turned out to be a great set up for some really great books. Four librarians had to plow through hundreds of submissions to identify those graphic novels which hold a great deal of promise for the fall. In the end there were 16 great books for Kids, Tweens, Teens and, Adults.
Four of the titles selected are serious contenders for the book award season: Little Mouse Gets Ready by Jeff Smith(TOON Books), Crogan's March by Chris Schwiezer(Oni Press), Smile (a Dental Drama)by Raina Telgemeier(Scholastic) and Stitches by David Small(W.W. Norton). Putting this panel together was a great deal of fun and the librarians who jumped into the challenge were fantastic. Eva Volin, Christian Zabriskie, Barbara Moon and Jesse Karp had a lot of reading to plow through and they are librarians who really know that these graphic novels represent a cultural shift in American literacy.
In the end, BEA went much better than a lot of folks had anticipated and people throughout the convention were talking about a graphic novel called Stitches like it was the best book on the planet. Kudos to Courtney Muller and the rest of the Reed Exhibits team. I am sure there were some sleepless nights leading up to the show but it all worked out quite nicely.
See you next year!
John Shableski works for Diamond Book Distributors where his focus is on the independent book seller, library and educational markets. He has been a panelist, moderator and program coordinator for Book Expo America, New York Comic Con and Miami Book Fair International. He has also been named as a judge for the 2009 Eisner Awards at San Diego Comic Con and a member of the Book Expo Advisory Committee. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org