One of the things about the publishing industry that I most enjoy is traveling to conferences and meetings and spending time engaging in conversation with fellow publishing professionals, learning from their experiences, sharing information that is mutually beneficial, and observing what others are doing so that I might embrace new opportunities.
In the past month or so, I have been fortunate enough to spend a couple of weeks in New York City; a week for sales conferences and meetings, and a week for BookExpo America (BEA). The two trips differed in many respects and yet shared the traits listed above that I so appreciate. Discussing our 2013 Fall/Winter list with our sales reps and buyers allows one to delve into the forthcoming titles and engage with people who share an interest in discussing what a book is about and for which target audiences a particular book is best suited. I do not view these meetings as sales events (even though that is quite blatantly what they are) but more as opportunities to meet people who ultimately have the direct contact with readers from which we, as publishers, are somewhat withdrawn. My goal is, obviously, to convince a buyer or sales rep to support what we are doing by buying and selling our books. At the same time, my goal is also to energize these same people about our books in ways beyond simply the bottom line of sales. I want them to like our books, to know our books, to feel connected to what we publish in a more meaningful way. Getting buyers and sales reps to that stage is where the real challenge lies.
Less than two weeks later, I was back in the big city. Attending and displaying at BEA is a joy in and of itself. We have all trotted out the time-worn line, the weary look that says we’re hard-bitten, long-time attendees of this great trade show. But when I stop and really think about it or take a step back while I am there, the BEA doesn’t deserve that treatment; it is, quite simply, a lot of fun. Putting so many book people—whether publishers, readers, booksellers, librarians, or service-providers—in the same room and filling it with books creates an invigorating and rejuvenating environment. I walk into the show room on that first morning and once the crowds start filing in, I realize once again just how fortunate we are to provide people with the enjoyment that we all derive from reading books. As the show progresses and you meet people new and familiar, you find yourself discussing so many different topics, all of which are, at the heart of them, designed to push forward and find new and better ways of doing what we do. BEA is a trade show, but it is so much more, too. Submissions are taken, deals struck, sales made, serendipitous interactions occur, and by the end of it all, my notebook is full of reminders, promises, and ideas of which I hope to take advantage.
So, while at the time the travel seemed long, the time away from home unending, looking back, those two short weeks have done far more than they even promised. That time has once again recharged my batteries, given me a million ideas to ponder, introduced me to new people who I look forward to creating long-lasting relationships with, and sent me back to Nebraska ready to take on the challenges of marketing our incredible list of titles to the larger world.-Martyn