Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Is BEA Reinventing Itself?

Lance Fensterman's blog post this morning came to my attention as I was writing this. It seems interesting to me that the people running the show are concluding that the show needs to change even as it is changing right before our eyes.

The industry is in transition - duh. The economy is down - duh. The internet is changing everything - duh, duh, duh.

BEA is a giant Sales Conference, why not just acknowledge it and take advantage of the venue to use it that way?

The past two months have been among the most interesting and exhilarating in my professional career. Via twitter, we have tapped into the collective energies of a whole new community of book enthusiasts who have never had a formal role in the industry before. Call them "lit-bloggers", call them "Social Media hounds", call them "twitterers", call them whatever you want, but they are a true force that just might #savepublishing! They have energy and enthusiasm about books and publishing at a time when all of the pundits are projecting doom and gloom.

For us, the signals of this new energy started with the planning of our Follow the Reader Blog at We had the fortunate opportunity to hire Kat Meyer (@katmeyer) and Charlotte Abbott (@charabbott) - a self described odd couple - to be our writers. Kat and Charlotte independently are conduits to both new-school and old-school publishing ideas. And, together on Twitter, have created a weekly conversation, called #followreader, which discusses issues related to the new publishing paradigms - that are literally being created before our eyes.

Independent of Follow the Reader, Kat took on the responsibility to organize a party for all these folks, called the BEATweetup, which has absolutely taken on a life of its own. We jumped on the opportunity immediately to help sponsor this after working with Kat on a similar adventure at the Tools of Change conference last February. The RSVPs for this party are now well over 300, and it seems like its a mini-BEA all by itself. In all deference to my friends at PGW, I think there is a new sheriff in town when it comes to BEA parties!

The latest signal came when we decided to offer some of our booth space over to "lit-bloggers" as a way to have them meet some publishers and some of their fans. What started out as a parody of the "author signings" so prevalent at every BEA, our "blogger signing" idea has threatened to overwhelm Firebrand's entire presence at the show. Three weeks ago, I leaned over to a colleague and said that I thought we would be doing well if 10 bloggers decided to take us up on our offer. Now we have 44 and we have a waiting list.

I would contend that these signals indicate that the show has already started to reinvent itself - without any help from the organizers. It is no longer (and hasn't been for several years) a show about selling books, as much as it has turned into a giant sales conference.

What is changing the most in our industry is the way that consumers are influenced to buy books (in whatever format). They are influenced by personal recommendations from people they trust. (Charlotte did a great job of describing this changing landscape in her post the other day). Publishers still need sales people to go into all of the traditional channels, but they ALSO need to coopt the 'new influencers'.

The BEA is the perfect mechanism to do this. Publishers should take note of all that will be going on next week and meet as many of these influencers as possible. Throughout the course of the year, they should cultivate these relationships, so that next year, BEA will have a strong and positive direction.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Blogger Signing

(An update to this post 5/20/09: For a complete listing, please see the Follow the Reader Blog entry or simply click here. There are now 44 bloggers registered!)

As of Friday afternoon, we have 26 Bloggers signed up for our signings at booth 4077, including:



Book Reviews by Jess
Beth Fish Reads
Booking Mama
Janicu's book blog
Jenn's Bookshelf
Literary License
Reading the Past
Reviewer X
Book Club Girl
Books on the Nightstand
Books on the Nightstand
Follow the Reader
Follow the Reader
Café Literati
Literary Kicks
Maw Books
The Olive Reader
She is Too Fond of Books
Smart Bitches Trashy Books
The Book Maven
Stephanie’s Written Word
Wands and Worlds

This is a great start. We'll be publishing the schedule next week. If you see any of your favorite bloggers NOT on this list, please have them get in touch with me at fran [at] firebrandtech [dot] com

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Blogger Signings at BEA

Because of our interest in the professional reading community, we decided to try something new and fun this year at BEA.

We are going to holding "Blogger Signings" at our booth (#4077). "Blogger Signings" is a bit tongue-in-cheek, as it is meant as a parody to the many "Author Signings" that are hosted either by BEA directly, or by individual publishers in their booths each year.

People that review books and blog about them are enjoying a significantly growing voice in influencing book buyers. And those that blog about the industry in general are having a strong influence on the rate of change our industry is undergoing. Many book bloggers enjoy a very strong following for their work, while others are not as well known.

Our hope is that we will get most of the bloggers who were already planning on attending BEA to sign up and be at our booth for an appointed time during the show. We will publicize the schedule of all who do sign up via Twitter and Blog posts, so that their 'fans' can come and get their 'autograph'. We'll even have a decidedly low-tech easel up at the booth identifying the times when bloggers will be present.

For bloggers interested in participating, please email me at fran [at] firebrandtech [dot] com. I'll send you some information about what is next. Several have already expressed interest, and now we're making it formal.

We will be giving away two (2) Sony Readers at the show. Every blogger that comes to the booth (to sign autographs) is eligible for a chance to win one of them. Every person who comes to the booth to visit a blogger is eligible to take a chance to win the second one.

As added encouragement, our bloggers on the Follow the Reader blog, Kat Meyer (@katmeyer) and Charlotte Abbott (@charabbott) will be on hand. Kat and Charlotte will be interviewing bloggers during a few of the time slots, and those interviews will be posted on the Follow the Reader site, (like the post today with Colleen Lindsay, and the one the other day with Bethanne Patrick).

We're hoping that all publishers take note of this so that their publicity people can meet the people they work with virtually, in person.

We're looking forward to a great show. Between this, and the BEATweetup, the online community will certainly be getting together for some fun in person. Hope to see you all there.