While the growth in the marketing and selling of books has undeniably and irreversibly been changed by digital media – chiefly by the presence and influence of a company I need not name – the resiliency of the publishing industry is nonetheless demonstrated by manifold developments. As BookExpo America, North America’s largest gathering of book trade professionals, prepares to descend upon Manhattan once again, it has been re-branded The Reimagined BookExpo (though the url to access detailed information about it remains www.bookexpoamerica.com) to reflect the evolving nature of the business, and while there will indeed be elements and presentations familiar to the global audience of publishers, writers, agents, booksellers and readers who attend the festivities unfolding at the Javits Center from May 30thto June 1st, there will thus, as always, be new wrinkles reflecting the ever-changing climate.
Perhaps most notable among these will be ‘The Vital Bookstore’, an interactive experience curated by Franklin Fixtures, a venture by bookstore display specialists Lisa and Dave Uhrik. Along with input from bookstore owners and experts, including Franklin designer Christine Hart, consultant Kate Whouley, and others, they are fashioning something designed to enable visitors to “learn the secrets of today’s most successful booksellers” by demonstrating the features they’ve created to ensure their bookstores remain thriving and growing in today’s fast-changing retail world. Lisa Uhrik explains that The Vital Bookstore is “like a puzzle that we’re all working on together to share innovative ideas and practical solutions to common problems,” and will feature four life-size walk-through vignettes: a café, a store with modern décor and sideline merchandising strategies, a traditional store with a classic library look and shelving designs, and a children’s store with special features to engage young readers. Visitors can explore the store three ways: taking a self-guided tour, examining fixtures, shelf talkers, and photos showcasing great ideas from large and small bookstores across the U.S.; taking a small-group guided tour for eight to 10; or joining one of numerous 30-minute dialogue sessions with bookstore owners and thought leaders on a variety of topics, such as Creating Store Sales in Non-Traditional Ways, Easy Merchandising Changes That Work, and Disaster Preparedness.
Uhrik further elaborates the utility of The Vital Bookstore in light of what booksellers must do to maintain and grow their businesses in the face of changing purchasing habits, by noting that “independent bookstores aren’t dying; their role is evolving; they’re becoming essential cornerstones of their communities.” Success, however, requires savvy and strategy. “If you don’t know why certain things are working in your store, you’re at risk of casting the good things aside,” says Uhrik, whereas “a well-designed store—or even a well-designed section remodel—makes a huge and immediate difference every time.” To demonstrate her theory, Uhrik polled 197 stores that have remodeled over the past decade about the effect of remodeling on the bottom line. What she found surprised and delighted her: 92% of the remodeled stores reported at least a 15% increase in sales following the remodel, and 56% reported at least a 40% sustained increase in sales. Almost all respondents said redesign had increased engagement and made it easier for staff to serve customers effectively and to interact with them. “We see The Vital Bookstore as an opportunity to stimulate dialogue, exchange ideas, and expand education for the people putting books in hands, hearts, and minds of readers of all ages,” says Uhrik. “We hope everyone who stops in will share their own best ideas. And we hope folks will leave saying, ‘Wow, I got practical ideas, exposure, and inspiration from that space. I can’t wait to continue the dialogue, and I’ll definitely be back next year!’”
Of course, one of the main draws annually for booksellers across the nation who descend upon Javits will be the opportunity for face-to-face interactions with the authors who create the products around which their businesses are built. While there are many off-site events around the city hosted by publishers and publishing industry organizations over the duration of BookExpo which enable people to meet at informal cocktail receptions, there are the customary panels and other events at the convention center where issues, ideas and topics of interest are discussed. Kicking things off will be the first-ever Grand Opening Keynote speech delivered by Barnes & Noble Chairman Len Riggio on May 30that 9:15 AM, where he will focus on the importance of ‘Brick and Mortar’ stores amidst the changing retail landscape. The following day will be highlighted by what might possibly become a regular Expo event – an address by a failed Democratic Presidential candidate with a book to sell. Last year ‘An Evening With Hillary Rodham Clinton’ saw the 2016 nominee finally take the stage at Javits seven months after the abortion of her election night rally there kept her away; on Thursday, May 31st‘An Evening With Bernie Sanders’ promises to be a more forward-looking affair, as the Vermont Senator will be addressing themes from his forthcoming book “Where We Go From Here”, which will be released immediately after the November midterm elections (a ticketed event, it takes place from 6:15-7:15 PM).
On the third and final day of June 1stthere will be two special events featuring authors in panel discussions. Described by BookExpo Event Director Brien McDonald as “one of the most anticipated events each year,” the Children’s Book & Author Breakfast, taking place from 8:00-9:30 AM, will include authors Jacqueline Woodson (Brown Girl Dreaming, The Dream of America, and The Day You Begin), Dave Eggers (What Can a Citizen Do?), Yuyi Morales (Dreamers) and Meg Medina (Merci Suárez Changes Gears) – as well as Award-winning actress Viola Davis – tackling some of the most relevant topics of the day, such as diversity, citizenship, immigration and inclusiveness. From 3:00-4:00 PM the Audio Publishers Association (APA) will hold an Author Tea talk, which will include New York Times bestselling writers Laini Taylor (Strange the Dreamer), Gayle Forman (If I Stay), Jason Fry (Star Wars: The Last Jedi), and actress Kathryn Hahn (My Wish for You), discussing their craft, creativity and inspiration, with a focus on how the audiobook landscape continues to grow in importance to the publishing industry. As Michele Cobb, Executive Director, Audio Publishers Association, notes “audiobooks experienced a huge boom in 2017 as the fastest growing segment in the digital publishing space. As audiobooks continue their rise, what better way to learn about the excitement of the format than to hear experiences from these four notable authors – all while enjoying a cup of tea!” (The APA Author Tea is a separately ticketed event.)
Needless to say, many other notable authors will be on hand at Javits. A by no means exhaustive list: Rick Riordan (Percy Jackson and the Olympians), J. C. Cervantes (The Storm Runner), Roshani Chokshi (Aru Shah and the End of Time), Lauren Oliver (Broken Things), Victoria Aveyard (Red Queenseries), Kendare Blake (Three Dark Crownsseries), Anna Godbersen (The Luxe series), Tahereh Mafi (Shatter Me series), Idi Zoboi (American Street), Veronica Chambers (Mama’s Girl), Adam Silvera (They Both Die at the End), Becky Albertalli (Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda), Megan Mullally (Will & Grace), Nick Offerman (Parks and Recreation), Trevor Noah (The Daily Show ), Barbara Kingsolver (The Poisonwood Bible), Nicholas Sparks (The Notebook), Jill Lepore (New York Burning), Alex Wagner (Futureface), Anne Wheaton (Piggy and Pug), Sean Spicer (The Briefing), Amanda Lovelace (The Princess Saves Herself in This One), Arfne Duncan (How Schools Work), Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (Dear Evan Hansen: The Novel), Charlamagne tha God (Black Privilege), Charlie Jane Anders (All the Birds in the Sky), Daniel José Older (Shadowshaper), Danielle Paige (Stealing Snow), Dhonielle Clayton (The Belles), D. L. Hughley (How Not To Get Shot), Martina McBride (Martina’s Kitchen Mix), Michael Beschloss (Presidents of War), Naomi Novik (Uprooted), N. K. Jemisin (The Obelisk Gate), Sylvia Day (Beyond Words), Emma Straub (The Vacationers), and Doris Kearns Goodwin (Leadership).
Expo organizer ReedPOP, who stages the event with the support of association partners including the Association of American Publishers (AAP), the American Booksellers Association (ABA) and the Association of Authors’ Representatives (AAR) has also announced “Publicists In-Booth Meet-Ups” designed to complement the interaction that occurs during the two ABA Publicist Speed-Dating sessions and allow Publicists from a wide array of Publishers to meet Booksellers. These focused chats will allow publicists and booksellers to plan mutually valuable Author events which are a major driver of in-store book sales and author engagement. Publicists taking part will be provided with details about each Bookstore that requests a meeting and will be able to decide which ones they want to take; the Meet-Up sessions will be on Friday, June 1st from 2:00-4:00 PM. Additionally, the Reimagined BookExpo will be hosting four curated Editors’ Hours sessions where booksellers can drop into exhibitors’ booths to chat with editors and discover new titles. This will allow booksellers to discover and understand the story behind the books directly from the editors and empowers them to recommend specific books to help enhance their communities; Editors’ Hours are as follows: Wednesday, 5/30: 11 AM – 12N; Thursday, 5/31: 11 AM – 1 PM & 1 PM – 2 PM; Friday, 6/1: 1 PM – 2 PM.
There will also be two CEO panels during the BookExpo 2018, highlighting some of the most influential voices in the industry on subjects of publishing trends and policy issues. The ‘Leadership Roundtable: Publishers on Publishing’ panel will feature executives Markus Dohle, CEO of Penguin Random House; Carolyn Reidy, President and CEO of Simon & Schuster; and John Sargent, CEO of Macmillan, on a panel moderated by Maria A. Pallante, President and CEO of Association of American Publishers; this event, event is open to all BookExpo attendees and exhibitors, will take place Thursday, May 31, 9:45–10:45 AM, Downtown Stage. ‘State of the Industry: Publishing and Copyright Policy’ will be moderated by Associated Press publishing reporter Hillel Italie, and will feature influential voices in copyright policy: Maria A. Pallante, President and CEO of the Association of American Publishers; Mary Rasenberger, Executive Director of the Authors Guild; and Keith Kupferschmid, CEO of the Copyright Alliance. This panel, taking place on Wednesday, May 30, 10:00–10:50 AM, 1E12, will address issues of copyright law as it relates to authors, publishers, and other aspects of the public interest in the evolving legal landscape in the courts, on Capitol Hill and in global digital commerce.