BEA 2013 – Less books, more readers?
Last year, I scheduled interviews and meetings and was exhausted by the end of the first day. This year, I decided to take a more leisurely approach. I met with a few editors, attended a couple of parties, and stood in line to get a couple of books signed for the tot (Lemony Snicket and the Lunch Lady).
BEA has seen a huge increase in YA interest. This may be due to the BEA Bloggercon attendees or it might just be representative of how much YA has grown as a area of publishing. There was a large digital presence including Kobo and Amazon but Barnes & Noble (and Nook Press) was conspicuously absent. I heard from many that there were fewer free galley copies but more readers and no one on the trade side really knew what to make of that. Was it because belts were tightening that there were fewer galleys? Maybe they were saved for Power Reader Day on Saturday? Maybe it was because galleys are having less of an effect? or that the general tradeshow audience of booksellers, librarians, and others aren’t as important as they are in the past? Verdict = unsure.
There was a strong indie author presence from the raft of self pubbed authors who had been picked up by publishing houses to the booth manned by CJ Lyons, Hugh Howey, Stephanie Bond, and the like. In terms of publishing gossip, there was more murmurs about S&S and HarperCollins pairing up to give them more power at the bargaining table, much like Random House and Penguin.
From everyone I heard that now is the time of experimentation, at least for genre publishing. I don’t speak to a lot of literary imprint individuals (actually none) and I’ve been told that the publishing business is markedly different for the hardcover and literary fiction titles so everything you read here is about genre publishing only.
Most of the publishing people I spoke to equated the mass market with digital books, meaning that digital books were replacing the mass market. Mass market orders are down significantly from every account whether it is traditional retailers or grocery stores or big box stores. I got a sense that no one is terribly upset about this but mostly because they feel like they are starting to get a handle on what the direction is for the future of their business (strongly digital for genre publishing).
I also heard from editors that they are going to want to see authors submit different stories because they want to explore niches and experiment with different content. I asked how they were going to get the word out about that and proposed that more publishers take direct submissions. I was told the problem with non agented submissions is the need for more editorial staff to sift through these.
Apparently some digital houses like Entangled is getting help from unpaid internships. I’m not sure if that is something that traditional publishers can employ or not but I do think that the reduction of “different” being seen by editors at the major houses has to do with authors wanting to skip the agenting process and go directly to the editors. It is easier to do this with digital imprints like Entangled, Carina, Samhain and, with increasing frequency, Omnific.
But I was heartened by what I heard from the editors. One editor wanted to see more gothics. Berkley Heat is putting out an m/m in print through its Heat line (SU Pacat’s Captive Prince reviewed here) and My Cowboy Heart by ZA Maxfield through Intermixx. Depending on the sales of those, I suspect traditional publishers beyond Harlequin’s Carina Press will be searching for more m/m fiction. Harlequin’s Kimani is going to be doing more Interracial romance and I was told to check out Kimberly Kaye Terri. We should expect to see more interracial romances throughout all the Harlequin lines as well.
Harlequin throws the best parties at nearly every conference and this year’s BEA was no different. Harlequin’s big news in 2013 was the launch of the Cosmo Hot Reads, a cross branded imprint designed to publish 2 novellas of thirty thousand words. The idea is that the stories will be modern (city based) and young. The launch author was Sylvia Day and her pictures were everywhere. Everywhere, you guys.
A full sized sampler of Lauren Dane’s Cake was included in a giveaway bag. I’m not a huge Dane fan and I’m not a great lover of novellas, but this one worked for me. I thought that there was a good mix of heat and romance in the short novella. Upcoming novellas include titles from HelenKay Dimon, Tawny Webber, and Sarah Morgan. I read the chapter excerpts from Dimon and Webber. Dimon’s sounds interesting and Webber sounds like an early Blaze (complete with four girls and a list of crazy things with a silly name).
My last meeting of BEA was an Amazon Roundtable. More on that tomorrow.
Well, I am.
Mainly because the “paperback” (actually mass market) section in my library is almost entirely stocked by donations from our incredibly generous patrons.
Not only does this save the library tons of money, but it also allows me to spot hot trends (e.g. in the romance genre, I was an “early collector” of paranormals, cowboys, and Amish stories because of what I would see coming across the donation carts) and actively look for more.
Unfortunately, DRM restrictions make it impossible for these same readers to donate their digital books to the library when they’re done reading them. :-(
And many of them can’t be purchased for library circulation at all.
Thanks for the report, Jane. I’m really encouraged to hear that publishers plan to target niche audiences. I used to love reading contemporary romance novels before they all went so mainstream it seemed as though there was only one and the rest done with mirrors. Although I do think that accepting agented manuscripts is a wise idea insofar that it serves as a vetting process, eliminating writing of dubious merit, I wonder how publishers will convey their needs to agents. Writers have heard it over and over again: “taste is subjective.” Taste, in this case, might not equate to what publishers want to market. So … how is this going to work?
Entangled has the right idea, IMHO. As a reader, I can always find something that I like from this publishing house. Its titles can get insanely quirky and still manage to adhere to formula. As an (aspiring) author, Entangled is my dream publisher (ah, a girl can hope …). Carina Press isn’t too shabby, either. :)
Thanks for the report. I was there Thursday and Saturday as a librarian. One of the YA authors I wanted to see on Thursday, ran out of books. The Harlequin giant author signing on Saturday ran out of books. And I heard from a colleague that the ticketed Jim Gaffigan line also ran out of books despite giving out tickets. I was a little disappointed. I wonder if it’s because like you said everyone is tightening their belts. I’m not surprised. But I am a little surprised that when I asked if the galleys I was looking for were on NetGalley, I got a couple of very puzzled looks and head shakes. It wasn’t reassuring. I am very happy with who I did end up meeting and what I went home with, just a little surprised over all the “shortages.”
Re submitting unagented stories to digital pubs, my employer Astraea Press also accepts unagented stories as well as agented.
I’ve wondered for a long time what the real impact of galleys on actual book sales is. I’m not convinced large print runs of ARCs really help an author’s books sales come release date or even that it’s the right kind of buzz. But I really have no proof to support either side. For YA and getting on that previously named NYT Children’s Chapter Book Hardcover list was all about the first week of sales so I imagine the galleys generate reviews and get people to pre-order. Combining that list to include paperback and e-book and remove the middle grade from YA has changed it a bit so that we’re not seeing 3-4 new names popping up each week that drop off and never come back.
I also think the expectations for authors to produce more books more frequently has grown a lot over the past couple years so there’s almost not enough time for galleys in some cases. I still get excited any time I have the opportunity to read a book I’m interested before it’s available to the general public, but from a business standpoint, it might be better to force me to wait and buy the book.
“I’ve wondered for a long time what the real impact of galleys on actual book sales is.”
I don’t know about physical galleys, but in the self-pub world, putting a title on NetGalley can help obtain the necessary Amazon/Goodreads reviews required to advertise on BookBub, and THAT gets the sales.