On My Way to B-E-A, aka BookExpo America #BEA13

Okay, so, BookExpo America, in all its grandeur complete with internal capitalization, is taking place in New York City right now. Why am I going, you might wonder?
At the moment my latest “big book” is only in “e” — the print version doesn’t come out until August and as far as I can tell my publisher, Hachette, doesn’t actually plan to have me do anything other than show up and shake the hands of a few publicists who work on the book. (If you’re new to following me, the book is Slow Surrender, the first in a “BDSM billionaire” romance trilogy, and if you’re REALLY new, yes, that’s a genre now.)
So I’m not going to autograph books since they don’t exist yet. When it comes to Hachette, literally the most important thing for me is to make a nice impression on the people who are working to make my book a success. Hm. Maybe I should bring them flowers? Wait, that might be creepy. Never mind.
I also run a small publishing house called Circlet Press. BookExpo America is my one chance per year to connect in person with the folks at my distributor, whose offices are in California. I usually have an appointment to go over sales numbers and strategize. This year it seems I and my main contact there have been too busy to actually make the appointment. I’ll show up and chat, though. Half the time the most valuable conversations come at random times, not at sit-down meetings anyway. I’ll see what’s up with them and get an idea of what the next year will be like.
The truth is that Circlet’s business to the physical bookstores has become less and less relevant. As sales of physical books have dwindled, sales of ebooks have skyrocketed. And when I say dwindled to almost nothing, I’m not exaggerating. Example…
We put a huge amount of money and effort into the sales last year of FANTASTIC EROTICA, which was a big success both publicity-wise and editorially, but in the independent bookstores? Bleah. We sent a beautifully printed sampler in the “white box” to every ABA bookseller. We pimped it at last year’s BEA. We provided the sales reps with quotes from a starred review in Publishers Weekly. You want to know how many copies were ordered by independent bookstores? 34. Thirty-four. (And meanwhile, Barnes & Noble took zero.)
In the end, we spent around $4,000 in publicity on the book, almost all of which was focused on the bookstores. All total over a thousand copies of the book went out, almost all to wholesalers. Even if most of them sell through, that was $4 per copy we had to spend to reach that level of coverage in the marketplace. Printing was around $3 a book. The book has a $20 price on it. The vast majority of those sales are to wholesalers who take 55%. So they’re getting $11 per book. My distributor takes a cut of the net about equal to about $2.50 a book. So $13.50 of the cover price is going to those guys, leaving $6.50. If we spent $4 per book on publicity and $3 per book on printing… we’re now losing 50 cents on each sale!
I expect the book will break even because eventually we will sell more copies, amortizing the cost of the publicity over a greater number. The result will be a wash.
You can see why I’m not enthused about the bookstore market. Meanwhile, every ebook sale is pretty much pure profit.
So, why am I going to BEA this year? It’s still a great time to network, make contacts, and learn.
I’ll be trying to get to some of the sessions offered on ebook metadata, meet my colleagues who are writing books I’m interested in, and shake hands with more editors whom I might work with in the future. And I’ll meet people I might not expect, learn about trends in the industry I might not have known, if I hadn’t been there to see with my own eyes. I will get to pick the brains of people with experiences and datapoints different from mine. I will check in with my colleagues in SFWA and RWA. Even without a specific agenda or publicity event to do, I feel it’s important for me to be there.
Here’s a really rough writeup of the many things I might catch, after a cursory look through the schedules. I had trouble finding decent info on the autographings online. The BEA website is terrible. The list of autographings does not include in-booth appearances and it requires you to click on each author’s name to find out what book they are signing and what genre they are in. Very hard to discover people you don’t already know about that way.
THURSDAY
9:30 am – 10:20am Room 1E16 Who Updates the Metadata?
10 am autographing Table 8 DL King
11am – 12:20 Room 1E12 Making Your Metadata Rock
11am – 12noon Pam Rosenthal/Molly Weatherfield, signing at Cleis 1231A
12 noon SCB
1pm-2pm Laura Antoniou signing at Cleis book 1231A
2p-2:30 Room 1E07 Future of Ebooks
2pm – 3pm Pam Rosenthal/Molly Weatherfield signing at table 10
2:30 Meet author IJ Miller (appointment)
2:30-3:30 Laura Antoniou signing table 19
3:30-4:20 How to Measure Digital Marketing Success 1E07
6:30-10:30pm BenBella Books bowling party at The Gutter in Brooklyn
FRIDAY
Remember to pick up Kobo party invite at booth #1067
9:30am – 10am Claudia Christian signing table 20
9:30 – 10:30 am Amanda Havard signing tbale 3
10-10:50 am Twitter Master Class room 1E08
10-10:30 Alethea Kontis signing table 25
10am – 11am Sylvia Day signing table 18
11am Smaug totebags handed out at Booth 1657
11:30 SCB
12n-2pm Tristan Taormino signs at the Cleis Booth
1-2pm Heather graham signs table 4
2pm another chance for Smaug tote bags at booth 1657
2:30 – 3pm MJ Rose signs at table 9
2:30-3:30 Tristan Taormino signs at table 10
2:30-3:30 Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling sign table 24
8pm Kobo Party at 3Ten Lounge
SATURDAY
I’m not going back on Saturday. I’m going to the Bronx Zoo and the Yankee Stadium instead. 🙂

2 Comments

  1. Hi Cecilia!
    Just wanted to mention that you don’t need physical books to sign autographs for your readers. Authorgraph is a free service that enables authors to sign e-books.
    I’m also at BEA and hopefully our paths will cross but if not please email me if you have any questions about the service.
    Regards,
    Evan Jacobs, Founder
    Authorgraph

    1. Hi Evan! Thanks. Yes, I know about Authorgraph and Kindlegraph. Unfortunately, it’s up to Hachette to arrange autographing in their booth and they really aren’t interested in having people line up with their e-readers. And BookExpo America currently has no way to participate in their autographing program unless you have a pile of free physical books to give away.

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