If you love books, then imagine being at the annual BookExpo at the Javits Center where books are hauled in by the truckload, where a nonstop lineup of authors speak and sign their new books, where fascinating panel discussions run in several conference rooms concurrently throughout all four days, where editors and publishers and publicists stand by displays of their books and try to maintain a brave smile hour after noisy hour.
On the down side, it’s pretty overwhelming. Attendance this year (the end of May) was 21,664 people. And…it’s at the Javits Center in NYC, a seedy, dysfunctional building that feels like a subterranean bunker.
As an author and book reviewer, I get the most from the panel discussions and educational sessions that run throughout the annual BookExpo. Leaders in the book business, like Otis Chandler, founder of GoodReads, serve on these panels.
And sometimes it’s uplifting to spend time with others who are passionate about books and who work, in one way or another, on behalf of books. The mantra these days: There will always be books!
But passion has its perils. I heard about one woman who bit the woman in line ahead of her when she saw there was only one free book left on the table. I believe this story because I find the most dangerous place to be in New York City is a line. Line abuse happens all the time and can involve more than verbal haranguing.
At the educational sessions, however, things were a lot less combative. Topics included everything from advanced Twitter and Facebook practices to the latest data on who’s buying e-books.
We learned that the top e-book readers are female fans of romance novels who average 44 years of age. Teenagers and young adults are the least likely to purchase e-books because they are so wired they have e-fatigue. Textbooks, therefore, are among the least purchased type of e-books.
And GoodReads’ founder Otis Chandler spoke about what gets the most attention at GoodReads. Note to authors and publicists: Giveaways are very popular among Chandler’s website users.
Good advice about making video
Another speaker was Hollywood filmmaker Steve Stockman. Stockman has a new book (published by Workman) about making video titled “Shoot Video that Doesn’t Suck.” Everyone who has a video recorder (nowadays, that’s almost anyone with a cell phone) can — and probably should — pay attention to what Stockman has to say. His argument is this: We all know what makes good video because most of us watch TV and see movies. However almost no one makes good video, so that means most of what’s posted never gets seen. Close to 100 percent of the top-viewed videos on YouTube were made by professionals.
Here are a few easy tips that will make a big difference in the quality of your video:
- Humans, says Stockman, are like animals. We key into motion and emotion.
- Think in shots. Instead of running the camera nonstop, break the shots into 20-second segments. Point, pause, frame your subject matter and shoot, then move on to the next shot.
- Don’t start shooting till you see the whites of your subject’s eyes.
- Use an external microphone. They cost as little as $25 at BestBuy.
- Your videos should be short. Promotional videos, such as book trailers, should run about 2.5 minutes. Ten minutes is a tedious lifetime.
- Video is a language that all of us have grown up with and understand. We know good video but most of us don’t speak it well. Pay experts, train yourself or ask for help rather than make something bad. People don’t watch bad video.
- Take your video work seriously but have fun with it.
- Tell a story with your video piece. Video doesn’t do facts well. Take a series of deliberately aimed shots. Keep them short and dramatic. Miss the eyes and you miss the story.
- For more info and a 3-minute how-to video, visit www.stevestockman.com.
Now, for the rant...
I mentioned that the BookExpo was at the Javits Center in NYC. The center bucks the expectation that business will be conducted within its confines. For instance, conference rooms are so deadly drab that they make better sleeping potions than they do arenas for heady discussion. But there are more serious failings:
- The center is no incubator of the kind of break-through interactions and discussions you want to see happening at an expensive trade conference. The air is poor and the lighting is bad and the noise from abutting speakers and construction work combine to thwart discussion and sap the energy. There are times when you can’t even hear the speaker.
- After a certain point in the afternoons, coffee is unavailable.
- Food lines are long. Expect waits of 15 or 20 minutes and do not expect to find a single empty chair in the dining area when you finally do have food in hand.
- Food is expensive. Vitamin Water costs $4.50 and it’s hard to find anything to eat under $10 or $12. Forget healthy eating.
- There seemed to be an arctic wind blowing.
- WiFi costs $30 a day. And don’t expect to be able to receive phone calls or email even if you have a smartphone.
- At a book expo, where attendance is predominately female, there are few women’s restrooms.
- Many people complained of feeling sick and exhausted. This situation may be due to poor air circulation.
- If you decide to attend one of the $40 breakfasts featuring celebrity author speakers, eat first. The orange juice looked orange but tasted like water. The bagels were the feel and consistency of Wonder Bread. Coffee wasn’t good either but many wouldn’t know that because the wait staff didn’t refill coffee, juice or water pitchers.
- There’s no logical or centrally positioned space that works as an organizing location for incoming participants. You must know a lot about what you intend to do or see in advance and then follow signs to get there.