Book Expo America Splashes into L A

Book Expo America, the US publishing industry’s annual gathering of all people and things "Bookish," took place this year at its Los Angeles venue. Once again, the event amazed with its number of authors, agents, publishers, celebrities and others gathered in one place.

Stephen Baldwin confers with fellow author

Star energy was definitely present: among the usual players were Stephen Baldwin, William Shatner, and Country Music legend Marty Stuart. Baldwin was signing galleys of his latest novel, and Shatner was autographing hard covers of his St. Martin’s Press memoir "Up Till Now" and causing a waiting line that spread across at least one half of the Los Angeles Convention Center’s main exhibit hall. Stuart- a platinum- and gold-album winning performer, was promoting his soon-to-break Sourcebooks title "Country Music: the Masters," while also gathering strength for his upcoming tour in France.

Country Music legend Marty Stuart signs posters celebrating his new book

Random House author John Zogby, President and CEO of Zogby International, presented the results of on online survey he’d conducted that queried some 8,218 adults about their book buying habits. His new book titled "The Way We’ll Be: The Zogby Report," presents these findings, including a confirmation that 82% of these readers would prefer to curl up with a printed book vs. using an electronic reading device. Interesting!

"The study showed that there are, basically, four meta-movements in society right now," Zogby said, "People are less inclined toward fantasy, and are in need of authenticity. There is a more introspective way of viewing life, i.e., ‘meaning’ vs. ‘things.’"

So, once a book choice is made, how do most Americans make their purchase? 77% of Zogby’s population uses Amazon.com, 76% buys through chain bookstores, 49% through independent bookstores, and 29% through warehouse stores. Interestingly, 47% choose hard cover, 26% trade paper.

Author Jess McCann signs her book "You Lost Him at Hello"

Always generating new ideas to inform and inspire, Mark Victor Hansen of Chicken Soup for the Soul fame announced his new publishing outfit, Hansen House. The new company strives to fulfill Hansen’s vision of revolutionizing writing and the publishing industry. I found spokesperson GinaRose Kimball in the pressroom and twisted her elbow for a statement. Hansen’s new company’s tagline ("Publishing the planet to fortify our future") is a strong reflection of his new personal goal.

"Mark’s focused on issues of longevity right now," Kimball told me "He says he wants to live to be 126." When I asked about that particular chronological age, she deferred and invited me to come to the booth to ask Hansen, myself. My visits to the booth, however, did not net a meeting, but I did meet with HCI’s Director of Sales to the Mass Market, Sean Geary, who delighted me with conversation about the company’s new titles.

Author Matthew M.F. Mitchell promotes his upcoming title "Maybe Baby"

I was also privileged to meet new author Matthew M.F. Miller who has a new book "Maybe Baby: Parenthood is Only a Conception Away" coming out in the fall by way of Health Communications, Inc. Miller is a well-known blogger on all things "conception." We spoke about the experience he and his wife have shared by way of trying to conceive- and how and why he wrote the book.

"This is a love story," Miller explained. "Infertility treatment almost always falls to the woman. I wanted to express what my wife was going through, and I wanted to take an active role." Interestingly, Miller explained, most doctors don’t recognize that men want to take part. "Our doctor didn’t know what to do with me when we first met with her," he quipped. "At first, she asked me to wait outside. She’d never had a husband come along before." Miller worked hard to make his nonfiction book "read like a novel," and also do justice to their experience in the hopes of helping the journey be a little bit easier for other couples.

Savvy Jess McCann was at BEA through Health Communications, Inc., too, promoting her first book "You Lost Him at Hello." McCann uses her background in sales to help women with dating.

"I was teaching classes in selling," she told me, "and was using comparisons to the world of dating." And then it dawned on her that the opposite was quite effective. The rest is history: a book even better than "The Rules" for those of us who want to get out there and meet the man of our dreams. I predict that by the end of this year, McCann will be out on the road, giving seminars on this hot topic- in fact, I’m already dubbing her "the Suzie Ormond of dating."

Fun Andrews McMeel Publishing author Lisa Alcalay Klug was on hand to promote her new book "Cool Jew: The Ultimate Guide for Every Member of the Tribe." The New York Times contributing author says the idea for this light-hearted treatment of faith hit her some two years ago when a piece about her faith appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle the day Christmas and Hanukah coincided. The book is a labor of love which boasts some 400 hand-selected images, as well illustrations by Amos Goldbaum who the author met and hired in a very San Francisco kinda way- through Craig’s List.

San Francisco favorite Dan Harder was on hand, too, and we spoke a bit about his latest projects. Seems he’s invented a new form of poetry called "zipper" which can be read from any angle. His new book "Askew" features the new form and has been a very big hit overseas in France. He’s even been called upon to write an opera, which will run June 12 in Mill Valley, California. Unrelated- but just as cool- Harder’s children’s book "Colliding with Chris" has been set to music composed by Nat Stookey. Watch for more great things from this amazing writer.

And more of San Francisco, author and attorney Larry Sager was on hand again this year signing his "No Guns, No Knives, No Personal Checks: The Tales of a San Francisco Cab Driver," the 2007 Ben Franklin Award winner for Best First Book.

Author Bo Bengtson and his dog, Annie

Of course, my favorite dog appearances did not disappoint this year. BowTie Press had their pet rescue greyhound, "Annie," on hand. Annie is the twelve-year-old daughter of the whippet depicted with their author Bo Bengtson in his author picture appearing in his recent book "Best in Show." Bengtson has 50 years of experience judging dog shows, and he sums up in this recent publication released in February.

As for other four-legged creatures delighting those of us at the Los Angeles Convention Center, there was even a "Carl" dog stand-in on hand for children- and big children, like me- to ooh and aaah over.

Only at BEA…

Berrett Koehler author B. J. Gallagher was on hand signing copies of her books "A Peacock Among Penguins" and "Yes Lives in the Land of No." Both are books to inspire those who seek to approach work in the business world from a slightly different angle. BK will launch an exciting title by Kathy Caprino shortly entitled "Break Down Breakthrough: the Professional Woman’s Guide to Having a Life of Passion, Power and Purpose." Look for it in the fall.

"Carl Dog" stand-in

My new author story for this year’s BEA involves writer Dolores Mitchell-Tullous who traveled from Georgia with her publisher Trevy A. McDonald to push her labor of love out into the children’s bookselling marketplace. Her book, "ABC’s of Character," arose not only from a perceived need, but also from unusual life circumstances.

"I had a daughter who was a surprise," Mitchell-Tullous told me. Her pregnancy took her out of the workforce and put her on a park bench, semi-retired. "I was sitting in a park one day, watching over my daughter," she explained, "when two little children started fighting over a toy. I just said to myself, ‘I wish somebody would address that." The rest, of course, is history: Mitchell-Tullous wrote a story. But there is also an element of synchronicity at work here: after penning the book, Mitchell-Toullos found publisher McDonald when the publisher called her after discovering she’d erroneously cross-copyrighted her own uncle’s work with Mitchell-Tullous’ latest project. Turns out the ladies are actually cousins (!), brought together by delightful accident.

But, for those of you who have read my prior stories from BEA, you know that in the world of authorship there are no accidents. We’ll look to see where this tiny acorn will land and become a mighty oak.

 

M. D. Caprario is a writer and editor who covers the world of entertainment:  books, film, television, people. 

Text and photos copyright2008 M D Caprario

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