BookExpo America (BEA): Day 1 by Jami Kelmenson
BookExpo America (BEA), the largest annual book trade fair in the United States, runs through this Saturday. Special correspondent Jami Kelmenson – a freelance writer, blogger, and first time attendee – is reporting for us from the floor. Catch up on her first post, covering her goals and expectations for the fair, here.
The printed book was alive and well at Day 1 of BEA. Whew, what a relief as the sessions today were mostly targeted to independent booksellers who were looking for ways to survive in the world of Amazon.com. Here are some of the highlights:
On Print vs. E-books:
While the case was made for integrating formats (“it’s not e-book versus traditional book, it’s both”) at today’s “BEA Keynote: Shaping The Future Of The Book,” Jane Friedman, CEO of Open Road Integrated Media made a compelling argument for letting the consumers decide how they want to read a book. Listening to readers is key, because they’re the ones in charge. And what they want, apparently, is a relationship with writers. It’s up to independent booksellers to deliver this through their channels including website, social media, newsletter, blogs and tweeting. Only then, can they stay relevant and ensure their own futures.
Ones to Watch:
The BEA Editor’s Buzz panel touted the “books that readers and media will be buzzing about…as editors share their excitement and passion for six of the Fall’s biggest potential breakout releases.” Two of these releases—both debut novels—caught my attention:
The Facades by Eric Lundgren (The Overlook Press, September 2013)
Editor Liese Mayer painted a picture of the Midwestern town of Trude as “invisible” and “broken.” Trude serves as the backdrop for a thrilling story of a man trying to solve his wife’s disappearance, but to do so, he must “descend into Trude’s underworld and confront the menacing and bizarre citizens of his hometown.” More so, he needs to confront his own self-deception.
I like novels where the place serves as a character – Snow Falling on Cedars and The Shipping News come to mind. But mostly, it was the conviction with which Ms. Mayer described Mr. Lundgren’s writing, as “making worlds seems like they were opening up,” “creating a hunger for more” and “seducing readers” with an “organic energy” that sounded appealing in a noirish sort of way. She is so convinced of Mr. Lundgren’s breakout appeal, that the publisher already signed him for a second book.
The Affairs of Others by Amy Grace Lloyd (Picador, August, 2013)
To the extent that you can judge a book by its cover, this one is evocative of Girl With a Pearl Earring meets the Rear Window movie poster. Editor Anna deVries used her own experience of living in NYC—where there are some things we know about our neighbors and some things we don’t—as an entrée into Ms. Lloyd’s novel about the owner of a small Brooklyn apartment building. Still grieving over her husband’s death five years ago, she chooses her tenants based on their ability to respect her privacy. This “psychologically astute story keeps you engaged due to the force of its main character’s voice” as it reveals “the intensity and intimacy of grief” and “the painful reality of sexual violence.” Somehow, it all leads to “life’s joys rediscovered,” because every good novel needs a triumphant ending.
Again, a strong sense of place in this one, and because that place—a NYC apartment building—is one I’m pretty intimate with, I look forward to reading it in the comfort of my living room, which, if you’ve ever seen a Manhattan studio apartment, is also my bedroom and dining area. If it’s good, I can always leave it at my neighbors’ doors and hope they don’t take it the wrong way.
A Preview of Day 2
Tomorrow at BEA the real fun begins when the famed Exhibitor Hall opens! I got a preview of what this will probably be like today after the Editor’s panel when attendees rushed the tables to get free copies of the six buzz books featured like women at a Victoria’s Secrets sample sale. Watching this scene of controlled mayhem, there was no doubt for me that people want books. And for the foreseeable future, they still want them in print. It just wouldn’t be the same had they been rushing e-books, would it?
What books have you liked in which the place served as a character?
Jami Kelmenson is a freelance writer and blogger living and loving in New York City. She is currently seeking representation for her first novel, Crossing Paths. Read of her ongoing tales of travel, life, love and the pursuit of getting published in NYC at her blog, www.jamikellywriter.tumblr.com.
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