Book Expo 2018: What’s Trending for Independent Publishers

Javits Conference Center, where Book Expo 2018 took place!

A few weeks ago, I attended Book Expo 2018 in New York City.  It was my first visit in two years, having missed the Chicago show of 2017, and I was struck by the size and quiet on the floor.  The Expo may not have the same value as it used to for traditional, mainstream publishing. However, in the continuously emerging indie publishing industry there is a lot to see and learn.  Here are some of the things I brought back to share with the indie world—authors, publishers, and those who serve them.

1.BISC Book Expo 2018 Bar Codes:  I recently heard from some book professionals that it was imperative to have a price in the bar code on the back of a book.  I took the question to the highest authority on the subject at the BISG (Book Industry Study Group).  His answer was that the bar code is the identifier for the book, generated off of the ISBN and nothing else should be displayed in or on it. He mentioned that there is discussion in the industry about not putting prices on books at all.  What other product comes with a price engraved on itself?

2Independent Publishers Group Logo Book Expo 2018Distribution:  POD (Print-on-Demand) is used by many businesses in the indie publishing world, but this method often makes distribution to brick-and-mortar stores difficult to achieve.  I spoke with several different distributors at Book Expo 2018, including IngramSpark (a POD distributor) to find out how an indie publisher might be able to work with them.  In general, distributors are looking for publishers who release at least ten titles per year.  While there are exceptions to every rule, the increase in small publishers has encouraged companies to be more efficient and choosy about which ones they represent.  A few distributors to mention are: NBN; Consortium; Independent Publishers Group; and Baker and Taylor.

3. Fulfillment Options: Many indie publishing companies are selling books through multiple channels.  IngramSpark/POD is one channel, but you can also order copies in quantity and set them up for fulfillment by a third party.  One of these is Amazon Advantage.  The shopping cart on your site can link to your Amazon Advantage account, which allows you to have copies stored at an Amazon warehouse.  Customers will click the “buy” link on your site and Amazon will fulfill the order behind the scenes. You can still sell on Amazon through the POD channel, and also set up an Advantage account to sell direct.  Amazon Advantage also allows you to utilize many advertising opportunities that can help move copies.

Check back in the coming weeks as I go through my notes from Book Expo 2018 and bring you more insight into what’s going on in the indie publishing world!

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Book Expo: How to make deja-vu new again

I have been attending Book Expo America for a long time, never in the capacity of a show-goer, but always as someone representing a publisher—big or small.  When I started out working in book publishing, we went all out with parties, huge booths, and galley giveaways in the thousands.  It was crazy.

Different publishers had different rules for the staff on the floor too, like no sitting down and to look excited and friendly.  Don’t let any important booksellers or media get by without a handshake, a pitch, and a smile.  Don’t accept unsolicited manuscripts and if pressed, refer potential authors to the editor on duty (who might duck out at that opportune moment).

For the most part, the show has had its fair share of ups and downs, but there are some things that really stood out for me this year and made the experience somewhat new again:

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1. The number one thing that made an impact for me this year is that I took someone from my office to the show who had never been there before.  Not only was she excited right up until the day of the show, but she doggedly went to stand in line for Lemony Snicket, Jim Carrey, Ann Romney, R.L. Stine, Snooki from “Jersey Shore,” and Chelsea Handler. She grabbed the swag, like free totes and after the first hour proudly sported an assortment over her arm.  Starstruck and thrilled are the two best words to describe how she seemed to experience the event.  An avid reader and book person, for her this was like heaven on earth.  How fun for me to see the show through her eyes!

2. Saudi Arabia, China, Mexico and other foreign entities have taken over where other domestic publishers have taken to cost-cutting and smaller booths.  Those banners were impressive, even though I did a double take, expecting to see the words Simon and Schuster across the sky.

3. Prospective authors are very different than they used to be. With the business of self-publishing booming, there are less people meekly approaching the booths.  There is definitely a stronger sense of esteem and affirmation—and “I have as much right to be here as anyone else” vibe, which is as it should be.

BEA4. Fewer familiar faces of booksellers and of course, a dearth of book editors.  There are a couple of things happening here.  One is I’m getting older and new people are replacing the old, and two the traditional world of book reviewing and “book media” is still downwardly adjusting for the digital market.  It is as hard as ever to get reviewed in print, but online opportunities continue to grow.

Things are always changing and for me this year the key was definitely to go into the show with an attitude of interest and anticipation.  It is fun to see old friends and co-workers and it is still exciting to be in the midst of an industry that in the face of all the challenges still boasts an underlying passion for its product.

Thank you to the Book Expo team.  See you next year!

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