Report from the New York Independent Book Fair Day 2

Yesterday was day 2 of the New York Independent and Small Press Book Fair, much more sparsely attended than the first day, probably because of the snow. The first panel I attended was an agent talking about how to pitch agents, whose tone I found extremely condescending and when she said "Remember the golden rule: show don't tell" I realized I wasn't in 8th grade anymore and left the room. However, later I conferred with my friend Jon who was in attendance and he said "Did you hear the questions being asked at the end? Condescending might have been the right way to go with these people." The second panel that I attended was on self-publishing, which I think was about summed up by from Booksurge (one of only two panelists) who citing some frighting statistics about how 70% of all books published don't earn out their advance and then said "Self publishing is more about a passion about your book than about making money." Fair enough. Of course, you can make money self-publishing, and he cited some counter-examples, but that's not the expected result.

One thing I noticed on both days of the fair was that, judging by the questions being asked, a lot of would-be authors, especially older ones, find themselves increasingly bewildered by the Internet. I feel for these people; Lauren at the publicity panel yesterday talked about how the most effective form of publicity is done online, and that more and more of book coverage is going on online, and the self-publishing panelists talked about how self-publishing didn't really exist before the Internet (which is not strictly true, as James Joyce and Walt Whitman knew, but it's true that there has been an explosion in self-publishing because of the Internet and that the Internet is today the primary distribution method for self-published books). It must be very confusing to people who spent most of their lives without the Internet to try and cast their lot in a world (publishing) in which the Internet is increasingly important.

Then I saw an excellent reading by Aaron Petrovich, whose novel The Session I bought.

Lastly, there was the literary quiz smackdown between the New York Review of Books and A Public Space, which looked something like this:

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In which the much more wizened (read: older) New York Review of Books team won a narrow victory over the spritely A Public Space folks. (A Public Space, if you're wondering, is a pretty excellent literary magazine.) Present at the gathering were some bloggers, who looked something like this:

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That's (left to right) Sarah Weinman, Ed Champion and Levi Asher, conferring on how they know the answers the contestants don't. The bloggers (myself included) spent most of the time heckling the contestants and at the end Ed officially challenged the winners to a bloggers vs. NYROB match-up. A good time was had by me.

Comments

From the Other End of the Table

Hi Eric,

Thanks for your reporting and coming out to, not one, but both days of the Book Fair.

We met briefly: I was (most likely) the youngest publisher / author / the one with the most visible tattoos in the building, at "thefictionist" vendor table.

I agree with the folks from Booksurge: that "Self publishing is more about a passion about your book than about making money." I don't mix business and pleasure at all: my books, my work is free for everyone. On the internet and on paper. Just my little philosophy.

What I was surprised by (and disappointed by) was the lack of 20-30 somethings being represented as independent publishers / authors. Where the hell are / were they? Yes, the internet is a great thing, absolutely revolutionary. To an extent. We got to stop hiding behind a keyboard though.

Hope you enjoy the copies.

Best,
thefictionist

New York Independent Book Fair

Hi Eric,

Loved your comments! I too attended the fair (but only on Saturday). As a publicist representing a book publicity agency, I attend book shows all over the world. This show was a true pleasure as I found the authors here, overall, highly sophisticated and passionate about their projects.

The publicity advice you talked about was dead on. The Internet is an enormous component of book publicity--and many of our clients, especially the older authors, are as you say "bewildered' by it.

Sorry I missed Sunday--I would have enjoyed your heckling!

Thanks for the comments, Eric.

Sandy Diaz
TCI-Smith Publicity
www.smithpublicity.com

I'm the BookSurge Panelist

Eric,

First, thanks for attending the panel on self-publishing. I had a great time and it was fun getting to know a lot of the attendees at the New York Independent and Small Press Book Fair. Kudos to Karin and her staff for putting on such a great show.

Second, I’d like to clarify that I am aware that people self-published before the internet. I think my statement was I don’t know how they did it before the internet. It must have been enormously difficult. I have a lot of admiration for those people who did. I hope you could tell I have a lot of passion for self-publishing. As I said, it’s the best decision I ever made. Is it easy making money in publishing? No (as demonstrated by the Jenkins Group Study that you found frightening). But I feel like if you do apply the same passion to the marketing end as you did to the writing, your chances of success increase markedly.

Third, I should also clarify that I am very much a “do what you love and the money will follow” kind of guy. Entering any kind of publishing arrangement should be done out of passion for the craft with an eye toward the business. If you sign with a traditional publishing house, make sure you partner with them to promote your book so you can be part of that 30% that does earn its advance back and much more. If you self-publish and you want to make a profit, invest your time, talent and money into the marketing. As I said, the way to stand out is to be the loudest person in the room and to be relentless.

My reason for giving the stats that scared you was not to scare you, but to give you insight into why it’s so difficult to get a traditional publishing deal. They are taking a huge risk when they sign somebody on and put their book on the market. The industry I’m a part of (POD) allows you to test market a title for traditional publishers and minimize their risk (if signing a publishing deal is your goal). Having a great manuscript with an impressive sales record and a following beats having just a great manuscript any day.

Again, it was a great event, and I appreciate the time you took to attend the panel. Good luck!

Richard