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BookExpo America 2012: It's a Wrap!
Huge Industry Trade Show Flush with Good News for Self-Publishers


By Steve Piacente, self-published author of Bella and Bootlicker

As an Indie author, I walk away from New York City and the largest book industry trade show in North America feeling pretty good.

The mood was positive, and there was plenty of room for both independently and traditionally published authors. Of course the Javits Center offers 675,000 square feet of exhibit space. Vendors peddling everything from books and e-publishing services to reading glasses and cover art filled nearly every inch.

While harmony prevailed, I see the Indie rebellion gaining momentum. Technology has enabled self-published authors to reach directly to prospective readers with no agents or established publishing houses in between. Authors are taking advantage, and some are breaking through.

BEA itself has recognized this and catered to the movement. There were important education sessions for self-publishers on how to use apps like Facebook, Pinterest and Goodreads. Indie authors had booths in pretty good real estate under the banner, "Writer's Row." There was an entire day devoted to bloggers. On another front, the American Booksellers Association has launched a campaign to reaffirm the importance of independent bookstores. Learn more here.

Here are a few more takeaways, plus some helpful resources.

  • There was too much for anyone to take in during the three-day show. Thankfully, there are videos. Watch and learn at the BEA homepage.
  • While the tools to reach readers and to self-publish have become astonishingly easy, remember the old axiom - content is king. A weak, flawed or poorly edited book isn't going anywhere.
  • Along those lines, vendors are lined up waiting to sell you all sorts of services, from digital publishing to marketing to an audio version of your book. The pitches have become very slick. Remember that your first obligation is to the reader, meaning that your first investment should go toward hiring a solid, professional editor.
  • One of my most satisfying moments each day came each morning at 8 a.m., when I saw crowds queued up behind the doors waiting for the show to open at 9. People still like to read. They're excited to meet authors.
  • Social media tools are critical. Every self-published author should have a vibrant website and a presence on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads. But never forget the importance of meeting readers face to face. Shaking hands and explaining your story to a real person has more lasting impact than the tenuous connections you make in cyberspace.
  • Some favorite quotes:
    • Broadcaster Lynn Sherr: "Indies matter. This is not a question but a statement."
    • Pulitzer prize winner Richard Russo: "I associate reading with paper. If I read too long on a screen I become a little bit grumpy."
    • Wall Street Journal reporter Katie Rosman on her first contact with Pinterest: "You're way too small a company for me to ever write about."
    • Goodreads Author Program Manager Patrick Brown on self-published authors: "The only distinction we make is whether you've joined Goodreads. To me, an author is an author."

Finally, BEA reported an 18 percent growth over 2011, which translated to 200 new companies occupying 20,000 square feet of floor space.

One more sign that things are moving in the right direction.