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Today I had the pleasure to attend Book Expo America (BEA), the largest book conference in America. Geared toward publishing professionals, booksellers and educators, BEA is probably the only opportunity you’ll have to see the number of men come anywhere close to the number of women in publishing. (Seriously. There were men there. And they like BOOKS.)
Though this wasn’t my first time around the BEA dance floor, I am reminded about a few things every year. Here are the highlights (and lessons relearned) today!
1.) Pounding the Javits Center hurts. A lot. Today’s heels means tomorrow will be spent in flip flops. As in other years though, I am sure that by the time Thursday comes around, everybody will be in sneakers and jeans, and they will be much more selective about the amount of swag they want to carry.
2.) About swag. It’s heavy. Free ARCs (advanced reader copies) freaking rock! At the next pub party, you get to talk about all the books you’ve read that the general public won’t even get to touch, let alone finish reading, for another two to six months. But they are still made of paper (at this point), and so by the third day, you become a little more picky about what swag you want to carry out with you. Book with a three page sex scene between woman and monkey, yes. (It’s literary fiction, it actually looks quite good!) Book that’s being handed out at self-publishing booth, perhaps not. (Lesson here — less free books handed out on Tuesday, so if you are a self-published author at BEA, go then. Less competition for bag space, and generally more excitement for the free.)
3.) Industry panels. Today’s panels were all about social media. Authors, aspiring authors, publishers — it comes down to Nike’s infamous slogan — just do it. (It was perhaps said more eloquently than that. But another thing I’ve learned about panels is that brevity is key. Especially when chances are, your topic is going to overlap with another panel your audience sat through just an hour or two before.)
4.) It’s still kind of odd to approach your favorite authors for signings. At BEA, authors are like celebrities, but more accessible and with a slightly more awkward following. In fact, last year, my colleague and I said to Jonathan Lethem as he signed our books, “we are extremely awkward.” That, of course, made things even more awkward.
5.) It’s becoming increasingly difficult to remember who you’ve met in real life, and who you recognize from their Twitter handle. Is that an editor I’ve met before at a lunch? Or someone who happens to tweet very frequently in my feed? Oh wait, I must know them from Twitter because I’ve seen pictures of their cats! And speaking of Twitter, now as the speaker you can see in real time if your audience thinks your panel sucks. Talk about pressure!
6.) Book parties. Book nerds know how to party. We really do. Last year, I managed to rip a hole in my shirt at a tweet-up. A tweet-up! So far, my shirts remain intact. But BEA is young. There are still two more days of swag collecting, Twitter stalking and pub partying.
I’m exhausted! But it’s true guys — BEA is like Christmas in May. (If you habitually go to happy hours during Christmas.)
To say that Twitter has become pretty pervasive is an understatement. All sorts of people have Twitter handles (this blog included — @litdrift) and in response a whole slew of custom-built applications have sprung up to cater to the masses. To me, these services should be judged not on how innovative they are, or how they enhance the Twitter experience or any of that baloney. Instead, they should strictly be ranked by how clever their names are. Here are a few applications that have risen to the challenge and selected monikers that 1) stick to the avian theme that Twitter has cultivated or 2) incorporate some delicious wordplay. Read more »
By Alex Lam on Thursday, January 21, 2010 - Comments Off
Does it matter to you who's behind the pen?
I spent a lot of time on the couch and in front of the TV this past week and not because I’m unemployed (as was the case not so long ago). A week into being a happy working person again, I catch some mystery thing that “could be meningitis, could be the swine flu, or maybe pneumonia” (thanks, Doc – lots of help). As I struggled to recover what turned out to be one major asskicker of a flu, my stiff neck always managed to keep the remote just out of reach and I caught a helluva lot of commercials. Now, it’s been some time since I’ve viewed TV commercials in their natural form (despite my love for the ad world) – like most, I only ever see them because I had to catch something on Hulu or needed to YouTube an ad that was actually hilarious and needed to be watched again.
It’s not a secret or even a great observation to say that advertisers and marketers have borrowed from the art industry. Billboards, print ads, et cetera – that’s photography and graphic arts – things we can easily still call art in its most commercial form. Jingles are (let’s not forget) the work of a composer and maybe even a lyricist. And what about the snazzy slogans and zingy one-liners? Writing good copy takes a true talent with words – encompassing a product or service’s purpose and core in a single sentence is not an easy task.
So if advertising has already “taken” photography and fine arts from the art industry, is it that strange that poetry would one day find itself lurking in the ad world’s dark, dirty cells? Read more »
So, judging a book by its cover is like cardinal sin numero uno, right? We’re in an era when people often find books NOT because of their quality but because they have a pretty cover or they have a long enough title that it matches one of their google search terms. So I should be fighting against the valorization of pretty book covers, right?
Yipes, wrong, I guess. My design nerdery means that I actually love to browse all the book covers in the bookstore. I did some graphic design in college and led my own campaign against ugly flyers. That’s how seriously I take design. This love of all things pretty, well-designed, well-composed, with nice typography means that I’m totally digging this list of the best book covers from 2009 from The Book Design Review blog. My favorites from the list below the fold:
Even when he was designing bugspray ads, Dr. Seuss' creativity seeped in to his work
We all secretly believe that we’re geniuses. Come on. Yes we do. The problem is that the rest of the world doesn’t always acknowledge our brilliance, and as a result many of us have been forced into taking menial jobs, where we push our creativity deep down inside ourselves, hiding it away so we can get through the day. The thing about creativity though is that, much like severe heartburn, it’s not easily suppressed; I’ve always believed that if you are truly, inherently creative, your weirdness will come bubbling out into whatever job you have, whether you want it to or not.
The perfect example of this is Dr. Seuss. During the Great Depression, Seuss supported himself and his young wife by drawing advertisements for companies like General Electric, Ford, Standard Oil and NBC. We’re not talking about selling the Eight-Nozzled Elephant-Toted Boom Blitzer here; Seuss’ early ads were for more “practical” things like Ajax Cups, General Electric Convenience Outlets, Essomarine Oil, and Flit Insect Repellent. And yet, despite the mundane nature of these products, Seuss produced some incredibly creative ads, pieces that displayed just as much imagination as his later, more famous work. For example, in one of his more surreal inserts, a man roasting in the pits of hell informs Satan that if he really wanted to turn up the heat down there, he should contact GE and install electricity, while in another ad, a colorful parade of germs declare “Down With Ajax Cups” as they march into a common drinking glass. Despite it’s decidedly odd nature, Seuss’ work was quite popular; his ads for Flit Insect Repellent, which contained images of people being menaced by sinister, whimsical insects, became a cultural phenomenon long before he was famous for writing children’s books.
Peggy's Job + Joan's Wardrobe = Mad Men Daydream Happiness
I am the daughter of an Ad Man. Product loyalty to company clients dictated the brands of my youth (I still hesitate to buy Crest Toothpaste even if it’s on sale because it was Colgate’s biggest competitor back when it was my father’s client). While I recognize that we are two steps away from a world where our dreams are interrupted by commercial breaks, I have also developed a bit of taste for the innovative lengths companies have taken to make their brands known and remembered. Though we’re likely about a century and a human rights movement shy of having our subconscious being the latest vehicle for advertising, we’ve also come quite a long way from our simple magazine and television ads. If you do recall (and I am talking to you, David Simon), these mediums of entertainment were created solely to keep you seated between commercial breaks.
I’ve heard great things about The Wire. In fact, I’ve only heard great things about The Wire. And while I’ve heard nothing but great things, I don’t watch it because it requires me to pay beyond basic cable. That’s right. I’m not paying extra for HBO. Don’t get me wrong, HBO is fantastic – that sense of freedom both the creators and the viewers feel without the constraints of commercials? My God. Curse! Have sex! Throw a friend into a wood chipper! You can do it and you can do it graphically because there are no sponsors breathing down your neck about how their product will look popping up right after you’ve viewed a candid conversation about teabagging. Read more »