Chicken Soup for the Snark Soul

I think BookExpo America is a lot of fun. It's targeted to book sellers, but authors can go there to pitch books and do some networking. I brought a book proposal and got 15 names of acquisition editors interested in my book subject, which I then was able to share with a my eventual agent and get my non-fiction published.)If you go bring an extra suitcase. You can get a LOT of free books.

Do NOT go to BEA to pitch your book, I beg of you.

Sure, go to network (cause with 16,000 people there you're sure to meet just the right person) and go for free books (cause you're a buzzmaker and when you say "oh I loved this book" to your friends they go buy it) but do not go with the idea you'll pitch your book.

The people who staff the booths at BEA are NOT EDITORS. They are the sales and marketing folks, maybe some pr folks, and an author or two (thousand) signing books and meeting BOOKSELLERS.

The people with booths at BEA (cost for a booth is running 8 grand I think right now) want to meet booksellers. They want to write orders for books, and generate buzz for their current list.

And just to make sure we all know who's who, your badges are color coded.

People in booths at BEA barely want to meet agents let alone writers.

There are panel presentations that can give you some good ideas about how the industry works and what people think is the next big thing but unless you plan on pitching your project to an editor in a room full of people after s/he's made a presentation...the very thought makes me faint.

I remember last year at BEA I was waiting at a publisher's booth to meet with the acquisitions editor (the publisher isn't based in NYC so they'd asked to set up this meeting). I was standing around yapping with the sales manager when a fellow with an author badge walked up.

Of course he interrupted us thinking I was "just staff". Of course he proceeded to talk about his book, going so far as to pull out a three ring binder with the manuscript. The sales manager, to his eternal credit, did not cut this guy to shreds. He very kindly said no, this was not a topic they published at all. The author was very insistent that "Paul Smith" over at Smith Publishing told him this publisher was just the right place for his book. I think he said that twice. The sales manager (who ain't a highly paid successful guy for nuttin') reached over to the binder and said he'd be glad to pass the material along.

No! said the author, he'd only brought the one copy.

The only thing that saved this guy's life was that the acquisitions editor walked over and said she was free now and we went off to discuss my books on her list.

Now, I KNOW you'd never do this, and certainly the person who sent the email above didn't say to do this so everyone just ramp down.

The fact is this DOES happen all the time, and because it does, it poisons the well for everyone.

I pretty much blame good ol' Jack Canfield (whom I adore and have had many happy hours of conversation with in years past) for authors going to BEA. How he placed Chicken Soup for the Soul at BEA has taken on the patina of legend now. Trouble is Jack and Mark Victor Hansen went to BEA 20 years ago. It was a LOT different then, and they also struck out 160 times before hooking up with HCI.

Please please don't go to BEA with anything on your mind but learning. Leave your manuscript at home. And if you see Miss Snark in conversation with anyone, interrupt at your peril.


Unknown said...

Miss Snark,

I have finished my novel and am preparing to query... here's my issue:

I HAVE been published previously... numerous times. However, two such instances were in a gay eZine that specializes in... well... erotica.

However, the pieces I placed there are NOT erotica, though sex exists (briefly) in both. I also published another similar (barely sexed) story in a gay adult newspaper in Arizona.

Should I not include these published pieces in my query? Are they worth nothing, or, worse, negative something?

There was a query process, I was picked from hundreds of writers...

But I don't want to make the agent think I'm some sort of underbelly erotic author.

Please help!

Anonymous said...

Should published authors make it a point to go to BEA? Should I be worried that my publisher has never told me to go?

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Well this post makes me brave enough to ask a question. IF my book ever sees print, I won't be able to help market it much. I'm sick a lot. Long story. And no it wont get better. ... Assuming that after enough rewrites and enough submissions someone does want to publish it, will knowing I cannot help market kill the sale?

Anatidaeling said...

Anyone going to ALA (American Library Association) Midwinter Conference in New Orleans?

Anonymous said...

Miss Snark: just to clarify about authors and the BEA (yes, hit with with a clue stick if you wish!): I have a book coming out next week with a NY house--I made a commitment for the weekend of the BEA this year--should I click my heels, forget the BEA, enjoy my weekend, and continue writing and flaking the new book that's come out?

If I get your drift, it's my agent who should be there, working her list, and yes, talking about my book if the opportunity presents itself?

lady t said...

I've been to two BEAs and believe me,it's no place to get a publishing
deal,Miss Snark is a 1000% right.

BEAs are great fun-you get to see what's up and coming,grab some good ARCS(and I do mean grab,folks pratically sprint over to the piles of galleys set up in every publisher's booth),get some nice promotional items and do some meet n' greet.

The autograph signings are wonderful as well-I've met Michael Chabon,Philippa Gregory and Gregory Maguire that way(if only for a few brief moments). Too bad I won't be able to go to the next one but maybe by the time it comes back to NYC,I'll be ready,willing and lucky enough to run into Miss Snark:)

JD Rhoades said...

I will point out one other thing, though: if you're published, or about to be published, meeting and making nice with booksellers is not a bad thing. And easy to do, as most of them are pretty cool people who love books.

Rachel said...

My BEA strategy is just to go and HAVE FUN. Then again, who the hell am I? But anyway, as a book reader and fan I always have a fabulous time and am looking forward to my 5th BEA this year. Plus since it's in DC it'll be like a vacation and you can go have cupcakes at CakeLove.

I'm not really a writing professional, at least book wise, but I just have such a fabulous time and gorge on all the delicious books.

As for Justin - Erotica is really taking off, with publishers big and small. The big publishers are inching towards realizing the potential but places like Kensington (see recent Book Standard article), Cleis, Alyson, etc. are doing tons of gay erotica. Then again, you don't need an agent for those. I'll leave your other questions for Her Snarkiness to answer.

Anonymous said...

Miss Snark,

Thank you so kindly for your BEA comment. I was a book publicist for ten years (ten BEA's) and cannot express the horror of being interrupted with Newsweek, love that Malcolm, by an earnest aspiring author who had no idea what we published. Free books and public spectacle!

Sarah said...

Go to BEA. Walk into the trade show convention center and see just how many books are being hawked -- and that's only one season's worth.

I went to my first one last June and I nearly walked right out of Javits, that is how intimidating it was. BEA made Bouchercon look like a drop in the bucket.

With that many people around, just soak up what you can, pick up the freebies you want, attend a panel or two (BSP: I'm doing one, though details have yet to be worked out) and learn about the business.

But to hawk your book? Not a good place, per se.

Anonymous said...

As one of those marketing people in the booth at BEA, ALA, and others, I can say for a fact that your manuscript, synopsis, etc. never makes it back to the office.

If you do happen to speak to an editorial type, your BEST outcome is that they don't remember you or your book when it comes across your desk at another time (unsolicited, agented, whatever) If they do remember you, what they'll be remember is "That was the F*&&@ A*&$# that kept me from speaking to [insert name of influential bookseller, award committee member, etc. here.]"

Good luck everyone.

Anonymous said...

I'm a salesrep for a very major house that takes up a lot of floor space at BEA. We have no editors there, we have no publicity directors there. It's just us sales folks. Author wannabes are now like flies at a picnic: they're just endless, unstoppable and an aggravating nuisance. We try to be polite, but there's really nothing we can do for you, and by cornering us you prevent us from snagging the rare bookseller who shows up in the sea of authors, with whom we might discuss wonderful first novels and other make books on our upcoming lists.

Anonymous said...

Assuming that after enough rewrites and enough submissions someone does want to publish it, will knowing I cannot help market kill the sale?

I'd be interested to know this as well. While I am certainly willing to do anything in my power, if and when the time comes, to help market my work, I am terrifed of doing public appearances - not because I'm afraid of doing readings or shaking hands, but because I am quite violently allergic to most perfumes. I end up with brutal migraine headaches that render me quite useless. I suspect insisting that all signings, readings and other appearances be advertised as "fragrance-free" will not win me much admiration from either agents or publishers. Margaret Atwood has the right idea with her autograph robot machine.

Anonymous said...

Miss Snark:

Everyone's situation is different. I pitched a formerly independently published novel in the very large, very busy, booth of a major NY mass trade publisher at Expo '05. My book was taken, read, purchased and will come out under their house in February 2007. I went to the expo expecting to sell my book...and I did.

bacci said...

Miss Snark,

I am not able to register my husband for the Book Expo America, 2006, Washington DC. The form online http://www.bookexpoamerica.com/App/homepage.cfm?moduleid=323&appname=288&campaignid=21112&iUserCampaignID=21751059 requires a priority code. We do not have that. How then does one register for the BEA?

Would appreciate help with registration for the Book Expo America . Thanks v much.