1 Comment »

June 15th, 2014

By Philip Turner in: Books & Writing; Philip Turner Book Productions; Publishing & Bookselling

One More BEA in the Books—2014 Edition

I’ve noticed we live now in an age of reunions, with various landmarks in our lives regularly memorialized. There are invitations to school reunions, throw-back Thursdays in our social networks (aka #tbt), and much (re)greeting and (re-)meeting at occasions related to our professions. Most recent among these for me was Book Expo America (BEA), held in NYC May 28-31 at the Javits Center.

I’ve been attending the annual book convention most years since 1978, when I got started in the book business with Undercover Books, the bookstore chain I ran with my siblings and our parents until 1985, when I came to NY and began working in publishing. Over the past ten years BEA has almost always been held in NY, though in earlier decades the book industry held its trade show in Chicago, New Orleans, Atlanta, Las Vegas, Dallas, Anaheim, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C. For a long time the event was called ABA, until the American Booksellers Association, the trade group of indie booksellers that ran it, sold the show to Reed Exhibitions, a corporation that runs such conventions. The regular meetings with many of the same people over many years accounts in part for the warmth and chumminess that makes the book business such a special field to work in.

A hunger for human connections, for friends new and old, in business and in our lives, has long been part of human nature, and I believe it’s increasing. Our society is in the third decade of the Internet, with more and more virtuality in our lives all the time, so true human contact is welcomed, especially with the economic stresses so many live with, leading us to crave actually seeing old friends and establish new relationships, giving us a chance to speak of our latest enterprises and tell our personal stories, while listening to those of our friends and counterparts. I think this appetite for the actual is also responsible for the growth I’ve noticed in the field of educational conferences—public events that have thematic programming, and often quite interesting public speakers, who may speak on their own, often with projected slides, or as part of panels with multiple speakers in conversation.

I think this also helps explain why a company for which I consult, ExpertFile.com has made a good business for itself the past few years. I began working with them after I met CEO Peter Evans at Digital Book World in 2011, when they were known as SpeakerFile. One of the areas in which they’d established themselves was to help meeting planners connect with the right speakers for each event, sort of like an eHarmony for the conference industry. In their name change ExpertFile identifies the gaining of expertise as a great need of modern professionals. They still work in the conference area, but now concentrate on helping organizations amplify and promote their in-house talent through online expert centers created with ExpertFile’s unique software, enabling members of the media, businesspeople, and conference organizers to discover these uniquely talented people. During BEA, I was tweeting tech stories from the floor that I found compelling, like this one.

Another intriguing company, new to me, if not entirely new in the market, was Mediander, which describes itself as creating “a knowledge engine, and power[ing] contextual discovery.” I was reminded in what they’re doing of Small Demons, the now-shuttered company that emphasized keyword indexing and mapping of publishers’ titles. I look forward to seeing what Mediander does in months to come. 

I note that during the recession, while so many industries floundered or sunk, conferences (like Aspen Institute, TED, TEDx, and Digital Book World flourished). Though O’Reilly and F&W Media shuttered Tools of Change after 2013, they still run a bunch of other conferences. By contrast, it must be said that the convention business—with events like BEA, where attendees still stroll aisles of booths set up by exhibitors—is relatively weak. BEA is trying to affiliate itself with more programmed events, but at its core it’s still been a trade show with floor exhibits mounted mostly by, in our case, publishers. Significantly, in 2013, and again this year, BEA has on its last day opened the show to the reading and bookbuying public—fans of authors—an inevitable evolution that I endorse. This latter part of BEA is now called BookCon, and Shelf Awareness reports that next year Reed will extend the the convention by a day, into Sunday with a second day of BookCon. This move, mixing an industry show with a consumer show, echoes ComicCon, a very successful show in Reed’s line-up. This year BookCon seemed to go very well, with more than 10,000 members of the reading public buying tickets and attending, as you’ll see from some photos below.

I’m going to reserve most of my book and publisher commentary for the captions accompanying the pictures below, most of them taken by Kyle Gallup, my wife, a painter, and Managing Editor of Philip Turner Book Productions.

Before that, I’ll say I’ve already read and enjoyed one book I got at Book Expo, Harvey Araton’s newspaper novel, Cold Type, which I made my #FridayReads this past weekend. I also want to add an observation that despite the continuing struggles of book publishing, it was actually quite an upbeat convention. Business has stabilized since the depths of the recession, and people are tired of feeling lousy, and talking as if the earth’s going to swallow us all. And, business has definitely gotten better in some areas. Also, many bookpeople I know were heartened this year by the fact that Amazon is taking it on the chin in many quarters of the press and in public opinion for their quarrel with Hachette over wholesale discount policies that the Seattle company is reportedly trying to dictate to the publisher. I don’t know when or how the standoff will end, but it makes many bookpeople, including me, feel good, or a bit better, to see the shine on Amazon’s reputation get tarnished a bit. With that, I’ll say I enjoyed I seeing many old friends, and making new ones at this year’s BEA. If you there were, dear reader, and we somehow didn’t bump in to each other, I hope you had a good convention, and I hope to see you next year. Here are many of the pictures Kyle and I took:

No Comments »

July 5th, 2013

By Philip Turner in: Books & Writing; Publishing & Bookselling

#FridayReads, July 5–Amy Grace Loyd’s “The Affairs of Others,” & Jaime Joyce’s Longform Report, “Burn”

IMG_0733IMG_0734#FridayReads, July 5–The Affairs of Others, Amy Grace Loyd’s novel of domestic manners set in a Brooklyn widow’s small apartment house where residents become much more to her–and readers–than mere tenants. I made this part of my #FridayReads last week, and continued enjoying it this holiday week, finishing the book a couple days ago. I relished Loyd’s mesmerizing sentences, many of which begged to be read out loud, with a plot that I knew from the Editor’s Buzz panel at BEA would explore the the sensual and erotic. There was great restraint in the writing, and characters I came to really care for, like the resident of the top floor, Mr. Coughlan, a longtime ferryboat captain in NY Harbor. I have lived in a NYC apartment building for more than 20 years with lots of strange neighbors, so the subplots and side characters in the book were very real to me, and remain so having finished it. No spoiler here, but I’ll say it ends, as great works of art sometimes do, with a memorable meal. The novel by Loyd, who is the fiction editor of byliner.com, will be out in early September.

I’ve now moved on to read the timely piece of narrative nonfiction, “Burn” by reporter Jaime Joyce. It’s on the 1990 Dude Fire in Arizona, where professional firefighters and inmates from a nearby prison risked their lives in confronting the dangerous blaze. “Burn” is published on a new website collecting longform journalism called The Big Roundtable, where I am a reader participating in their process of selecting new stories.  The Big Roundtable is the brainchild, in part, of Michael Shapiro, a professor at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism, and an author whose book, Solomon’s Sword: Two Families and the Children the State Took Away, I edited some years ago.

3 Comments »

June 28th, 2013

By Philip Turner in: Books & Writing; Philip Turner's Books & Writing

#FridayReads, June 28–Valerie Plame & Sarah Lovett’s “Blowback,” & Amy Grace Loyd’s “The Affairs of Others”

Working my way through my BEA piles for this week’s #FridayReads: Blowback by Valerie Plame & Sarah Lovett; quite a good, pacy thriller setting an American female operative amid a covert operation to apprehend a villainous underworld puppetmaster  who’s selling clandestine nukes to dangerous international players, and killing off the operative’s sources. Coming out in October from Blue Rider Press, this is Plame’s first novel, after her 2007 Fair Game: My Life as a Spy, My Betrayal by the White House. That book was heavily redacted by the Bush-era CIA, and though it had a well-reported Afterword by national security reporter Laura Rozen, the many blacked-out passages inevitably left readers in the dark. Because I had worked on her husband Ambassador Joseph Wilson’s 2003 book, The Politics of Truth: Insider the Lies that Led to War and Betrayed My Wife’s CIA Identity, which with Fair Game had formed the basis of the Naomi Watts and Sean Penn 2009 movie of the same name, I was of course interested to read Valerie’s latest book. I had hoped it would be good, and happily have found that her first thriller, written with Sarah Lovett, has an intriguing plot with lots of surprising twists and great insight in to, and empathy for, the complex and sometimes troubled lives of undercover agents, women and men. No redactions this time around!IMG_0657IMG_0656IMG_0655

Have moved on to read The Affairs of Others, Amy Grace Loyd’s novel of modern manners set in a Brooklyn widow’s apartment house, with fascinating cross-currents among her and her tenants. Elegant and smooth sentence-making, with a plot that I know from the BEA Buzz Editors’ panel presentation on the book is going to soon turn toward the sensual and erotic. Knowing that’s to come, it’s all the more notable for its restraint in the first 70 pages. It’s worth adding that I live in a New York apartment building with lots of strange neighbors, so the subplots and side characters in the book are starkly real. The novel by Loyd, who is the fiction editor of byliner.com, will be out in early September.

IMG_0660IMG_0661

2 Comments »

June 20th, 2013

By Philip Turner in: Books & Writing; Media, Blogging, Internet; Publishing & Bookselling

Serendipity During Book Expo America

IMG_0109

One of the things I love about BEA is the prospect of serendipitous meetings. One spontaneous encounter I had during the convention at the beginning of June was when I bumped in to a friend, the literary agent Laura Nolan, who was on the floor at the Javits Center with her author client Dagmara Dominczyk, whose first novel, The Lullaby of Polish Girls, is out from Speigel & Grau this month. We got to talking, and soon Dagmara’s publicist from Random House took this picture of the three of us with my digital camera. Here Dagmara is in the center, between me and Laura.

Her novel has drawn lavish praise from fellow writers and Dominczyk was the subject of a NY Times Style section profile last Sunday, centered on her recent reading at WORD bookstore in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint neighborhood, an historically Polish enclave, an event that became a homecoming for the novelist.

When I read the Times story about the reading at WORD I was relieved to find one of the least snarky pieces I’ve read in the Style section. I find that part of the paper has a pronounced predilection for snark and sarcasm, and I often avoid it entirely.  (See the recent story on tech change agent Rachel Sklar, which framed her new entreprise that seeks to “change the ratio” of women in tech, as her “trying” to become an entrepreneur). Even while the article on Dagmara likened the attractive author and her sisters to the Gabor sisters of the 1960s, and highlighted her marriage to actor Patrick Wilson, it didn’t stint on informing readers that Dagmara, 36, had attended LaGuardia HS, the Manhattan high school of the performing arts, and moved to Greenpoint with her sister where she wrote her novel, after she got her first really good movie role.

LaGuardia happens to be where my teenage son Ewan will be a senior in the fall, also in the drama department, but that’s not the only coincidence I found in the story: Dagmara’s big break came when she got a lead role in the 2002 version of “The Count of Monte Cristo”  This is a genre–the swashbuckler–that I love.  Additionally, I  am about to begin offering to publishers a terrific proposal for a new anthology of swashbuckling fiction.  It will naturally include selections from Alexandre Dumas, whose own father is the subject of Tom Reiss’s 2012 Pulitzer-winning biography, Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal and the Real Count of Monte Cristo. It is kind of an eternally sturdy genre.  Cultural consumers always seem ready to take in and enjoy a new swashbuckling book or film.  In the proposed anthology, editor Lawrence Ellsworth will include a new Dumas translation of his own, along with pieces by Rafael Sabatini (author of Captain Blood and Scaramouche); Johnston McCulley (creator of Zorro), Anthony Hope (Prisoner of Zenda); Baroness Orczy (The Scarlet Pimpernel); Arthur Conan Doyle, and about 15 great and ripe-to-be remembered writers.

All that from a meeting on the convention floor! It’s things like this that keep the book business fun.

Here are the great advance comments that Dagmara’s book has received, from Emma Straub and Adriana Trigiani, who introduced Dagmara at WORD.

“The Lullaby of Polish Girls is a striking and vivid debut novel, absolutely buzzing with energy. Dagmara Dominczyk’s freshly observed story about the intertwined lives of three friends is both sexy and sensitive, with a raw, openhearted center. Dominczyk’s love for her complicated characters is apparent from the first page to the last, and by the novel’s end the reader cares for them just as deeply.”—Emma Straub, author of Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures

“The Lullaby of Polish Girls will make you swoon. Dagmara Dominczyk has written a glorious debut novel inspired by her own emigration from Poland to Brooklyn with depth, intensity, humor, and grace. Dagmara is a natural-born storyteller. I’m crazy about this book, and I know you will be too.”—Adriana Trigiani, author of The Shoemaker’s Wife

I wish Laura and Dagmara much success with the book. imgres

No Comments »

September 28th, 2012

By Philip Turner in: Books & Writing; Music, Bands & Radio

#FridayReads, Sept. 28–Chris Bohjalian’s,”The Night Stranger” & Neil Young’s “Waging Heavy Peace”

#FridayReads, Sept. 28–The Night Stranger, Chris Bohjalian’s unusual haunted house novel, set in a town much like Franconia, New Hampshire, where I went to college. What does it mean that the number of passengers who died in a crashed airliner–thirty-nine–is the same as the number of bolts in a mysterious basement door? Though about mortality and  hidden things, the novel is told with an oddly calm narration that is all the more unsettling for it.

Also, just picking up Waging Heavy Peace, Neil Young’s long look back on nearly seven decades of living and music-making, a rock memoir written in a calm tone of voice and in a pensive and thoughtful frame of mind. With Neil so much a part of my life and musical DNA, I’d really been looking forward to this book, especially after hearing him in conversation with Patti Smith at BEA last June, and now that’s in my hands, I couldn’t be happier to be reading it, with the voice of Neil coming through on every page.

9 Comments »

June 11th, 2012

By Philip Turner in: Books & Writing; Canada; Music, Bands & Radio; Publishing & Bookselling

Neil Young to Patti Smith: Don’t Chase the Rabbit

June 12 Update: Happy to have had this post linked to by music writer Chad Childers, with the websites of radio stations like Kool 100 FM in Abilene, TX, and 98.3 FM in Twin Falls, ID, picking up his piece. It looks as if Childers’ piece is being syndicated on the Web. Childers reports on the conversation between Patti and Neil, quoting from my post below, and properly attributing it to this site. Childers also recently reported on a great performance by the Canadian band City and Colour, led by Dallas Green, who at this year’s Bonnaroo festival ended their performance with a scintillating performance of Neil’s, “Like a Hurricane,” which you can listen to via this link.

The BEA conversation between Patti Smith and Neil Young was one of the most anticipated events of this year’s convention, and I had previewed it with this blog post a few weeks ago, with a recollection of hearing Neil live when I was only fourteen years old. It turned out that last Wednesday’s program was not only a highlight of the convention, but a life highlight. The two artists shared a comfortable rapport and their dialogue reached a serious level about how songs are written, art is created, and artists and audiences connect in a reciprocal space where creative work flows.

Patti’s first remark, at seeing dozens of photographers below the stage snapping pictures of them was lighthearted: “I feel like Sophia Loren at the Milan airport.” Referring to Neil’s new album “Americana” and his forthcoming book–and her new album “Banga,” which David Shanks of Putnam, Neil’s publisher, had cited in his introduction–Patti said “all the things that one creates comes from the same soul, the same heart, the same hopes.” She asked Neil about a song he’d retitled for the new album, a cover of “She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain,” which he’s retitled “Jesus’ Chariot.” He chuckled and attributed this to “the folk process” and new understanding of the song he gained through working with it, in which he now sees an unknown composer’s long-submerged intimations of “the Second Coming and the end of time.” Patti marveled at how a song we’ve sung “since we were little kids by rote, with no emotion” is totally reimagined by Neil and Crazy Horse.

After about fifteen minutes, the event organizers finally remedied a low-volume mic that Neil had been equipped with, or that his serape was perhaps masking, which until then had left the more than one thousand bookpeople in attendance uneasy and dissatisfied, leading one person to call out “May we have more volume on Neil’s mic.”

Much of the rest of the talk has already been reported well and comprehensively, by John Mutter in Shelf Awareness, Claire Kirch in Publishers Weekly, and Bob Minzesheimer in USA TODAY, and yet even with bad audio at the outset these two consummate and uncompromising artists engaged in such a full and wide-ranging converation that there are a few aspects of it I want to emphasize in this space.

  • The first concerns Neil’s father, Scott Young. Judging by Patti’s first question on Waging Heavy Peace–about how his dad happened to call young Neil by the nickname “Windy”–Scott is an important figure in the book, and well he should be. It is too little known in this country that long before Neil became a musician and creative force, Scott was a prominent sportswriter and author in Canada, publishing bestselling books of fiction, nonfiction, and YA titles, and a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame (tantamount to a baseball writer in the States being inducted into Cooperstown). The book of his that I’ve read and treasure the most is Neil and Me, a heartfelt, double portrait that offers a mea culpa for the divorce and family break-up his constant travel as a working journalist caused, at least in part. Listening to Neil’s “Helpless” I hear echoes of that family pain. It’s a beautifully written book, as revealing as anything written about Neil, with the exception of Jimmy McDonough’s comprehensive Shakey. I recommend it highly.
  • The next was the discussion between Patti and Neil over the writing of “Ohio,” and how the song came forth from Neil unbidden as a spontaneous response to the cataclysmic events at Kent State. He explained how CSN&Y got into the studio within days to record it, and how they rushed acetate copies of it out to radio statios so disk jockeys could respond to the shock and outrage provoked among their listeners by the campus killings. Neil described this as “the social networking of the time” and added “you could only get seven or eight plays off” the acetates, which degraded quickly. The ephemeral quality of the recording materials prompted an unlikely association in my mind, but an apt one, I think.

I was reminded me of the samizdat editions that writers in the Soviet bloc produced of their work during the Cold War. Without access to printing presses, they would roll multiple sheets of carbon paper into their typewriters, and with each key struck they hammered another ringing blow for creative expression. The medium had limitations, however. A Czech writer and publisher I met in Prague in 1991–post-Cold War–Vladmir Pistorius of Mlada Fronta Publishers, showed me his samizdat editions and explained that a rebel author could only put about five sheets of carbon paper in their typewriter, inter-leaved with as many sheets of typing paper, because each succeeding copy became more faint and less readable. It was humbling then to see what writers had done to create and share their work.

The writing, production, and perforce distribution of “Ohio” also reminded me of the genre of the “instant paperback,” like the Watergate Hearings books published by mass-market publishers back in the day, Norton’s edition of the 9/11 Commission in more recent years, or The United States v. I. Lewis Libby, which I pulled together with reporter Murray Waas at Union Square Press in 2007, after Scooter Libby’s trial in the leaking of Valerie Plame’s CIA identity. Neil and his bandmates were responding authentically and spontaneously to events around them, and meeting their audience in the public square, much as publishers have long tried to do for their readers.

  • The last point is Neil’s discussion of how he never forces the writing of a song. Patti observed that Neil’s songs, “even ones produced from pain . . . seem so effortless, like they just came out of the wind, maybe that’s why your dad called you ‘Windy.’”

Neil answered, “Well, they do come that way. I don’t try to think of them. I wait till they come. A metaphor may be that if you’re trying to catch a rabbit, you don’t wait right by the hole. . . And then the rabbit comes out of the hole, he looks around. You start talking to the rabbit, but you’re not looking at it. Ultimately, the rabbit is friendly and the song is born. The idea is, he’s free to come, free to go. Who would want to intimidate or disrespect the source of the rabbit? And in that way if the song happens, it happens. If it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen. It doesn’t matter. That’s why I’ll write a lot of material and why I’ll suddenly not write any material. There’s no reason to write, it has to come to me, if it doesn’t come to me, I don’t want to have anything to do with it, I don’t want to see it, I don’t want to look for it. I really hate things that people work on. There’s nothing about music that should be working on it. There’s no reason to be something you’re not. Or trying to be somebody that you think is good.”

I am more eager than ever to read Neil’s book when Blue Rider Press publishes it in October. Patti and Neil seemed like old friends, to each other, and to us in the audience. It was a treat to hear them in conversation, a BEA moment I’ll treasure forever.  If you couldn’t be there I hope this report and the photos will make it come alive for you, and if you were in the hall, I hope I’ve lent some useful perspective on such a special occasion.

No Comments »

June 10th, 2012

By Philip Turner in: Books & Writing; Music, Bands & Radio; Philip Turner's Books & Writing; Urban Life & New York City

Dumpstaphunk & Chaka Khan in a Funky Groove at PGW’s BEA Party


Each year during BEA book distributor Publishers Group West (PGW), and a number of their client publishers, throw one of the book convention’s best parties, with a tradition of live music over the years (John Wesley Harding, for one) and good venues (Chicago’s Green Dolphin, for instance). Last year they booked the superb soul singer Lee Fields, and this year longtime PGWers Elise Cannon–and I learned during this year’s party, Sean Shoemaker–really outdid themselves. The party was at the Highline Ballroom, a new state-of-the-art club with great sound and a terrific lighting system in Chelsea on 16th Street near Tenth Avenue. The acts they booked this time occupied a solid groove in funk and R&B, just right for a dance-ready crowd that’d been working the Javits convention floor for two days and craving some serious fun.

The opener was a Brooklyn outfit called The Pimps of Joytime, a five-piece that featured three percussionists–a conga player, a drummer seated not behind his bandmates, but right amid them, and a woman who played wood blocks and all manner of solid sounding and scarped objects, and sang too–along with a bassist who doubled on keyboards and synths, and guitarist and lead vocalist/front-man Brian J. Though Brooklyn-based, they plowed a very New Orleans-Little Feat-Caribbean groove and were a terrific warm-up for the evening, really enjoyable enough to be a headliner on another bill, duties they were scheduled to handle Saturday night June 9 at NYC’s Bowery Ballroom.

After a brief intermission that saw the stage get made over for a different sort of ensemble, the headliners hit the boards. This was Dumpstaphunk, also a five-piece, one that includes two nephews of R&B royalty–Ivan Neville on organ and vocals, whose uncle is Aaron Neville, and Ian Neville on lead guitar, whose uncle is Art Neville. In addition, they uniquely feature a two-bass attack with Nick Daniels and Tony Hall. On drums is Nikkie Glaspie, a powerful young woman who also sang from behind her kit.

Their repertoire’s solidly rooted in the delta and New Orleans, spiced with an edgy social conscience and song titles like “Turn This Thing Around,” Everybody Wants Some,” and “Livin’ Ina World Gone Mad.” They exhibited great stage presence, with Tony Hall, who also played a Fender Stratocaster on some songs, regularly engaging the audience, while Ivan also introduced some songs from behind his wide keyboard. I was fascinated that the pairing of Hall and Daniels, already unique for comprising a two-bass section, featured five-string instruments, rather than the standard four-string basses. In this band, it’s clear that the bass is very much of a lead instrument.

A highlight arrived with word from the stage that a special guest was in the house, and I heard murmurs among fellow audience members as to who it might be. Soon we heard an invitation shouted out to “Miss Chaka Khan” to come take the stage. The audience response was a huge rush of enthusiasm for “the queen of funk.” She instantly showed herself to be an incredibly dynamic performer, as Dumpstaphunk, which had already been playing at a high level, raised their performance to a pinnacle for the rest of the night. The crowd on the dance floor, eager all night to work out, was going like blazes now. Chaka Khan played the most believable and scintillating air guitar I’ve ever seen, or “heard,” as I hope the photos with this post will attest.

After one song with Chaka Khan, Dumpstaphunk played a couple more numbers, and left the stage full of thanks and bows to the audience, while the crowd gave the love right back. In fact, this seemed to be one night when an encore was really not in the cards, as several minutes of hooting and foot-stomping had not produced a return of the band. Finally, they re-emerged from backstage, playing one more song to close out the evening, with Tony Hall gesturing to us and raising his hands high in calling forth participation from the exhausted and still dancing crowd. When I saw friends on the floor at Javits the next morning, we all agreed it had been one of the best PGW parties ever.



No Comments »

June 8th, 2012

By Philip Turner in: Books & Writing; Philip Turner's Books & Writing; Publishing & Bookselling

Greeting Japanese Visitors at BEA, June 7

A few weeks ago, publishing friend, Kay Ohara–who like me, once worked for the Japanese publisher Kodansha–emailed me with this question: “I’m playing the role of tour guide for a group of Japanese booksellers/publishers. Their main interest is e-books . . . I was hoping you can give us a chance to ask what you’ve seen happening in the US book industry? Any time you can spare on June 7 at Javits?”

I happily agreed, made a note in my calendar, and forgot about it until yesterday when I got a text from Kay. “Are you at Javits? The delegation is having lunch right now. I wanted to know if you can meet with us in an hour or so.” Delegation–hmm? I thought. Fortunately, I wasn’t booked and we agreed to meet near the Bowker booth, at an entrance to the convention floor. I figured from there we could go find a few chairs outside in the food court, and I would try to answer their questions.

When I arrived, I saw that the group was much larger than I’d imagined, almost twenty men and women. Where was I going to take them? How would they hear me? What would I say to them? Luckily, I remembered that Kay is an excellent interpreter, so at least I had that going for me. Also lucky was the fact that next to the Bowker booth is a wide, common area, sort of a pass-through between two parts of the convention floor, with a kind of garage door and iron pillars to one side. I sized up the setting and moving with my back to this barrier, encouraged them to gather round in a semi-circle in front of me. I nodded to Kay and told her I’d offer them a quick rundown of my bookselling and publishing career, so they would understand my perspective on the business, after which I’d take their questions. I gave them my background in brief two-minute bursts, with Kay translating each segment–from Undercover Books, through the eight publishers I’ve worked for as an editor, with a special emphasis on my five years from 1992-97 with Kodansha America–when with my colleague Minato Asakawa, we created the Kodansha Globe series, devoted to cross-cultural titles, and the many Japanese and American colleagues I had then, such as Asakawa-san, Chikako Noma, daughter of the company’s president, and the late and dearly missed Leslie Pockell–on up through to my present days as curator and writer of this blog, independent editor, author representative, and consultant to such publishing enterprises as Speakerfile.

As Kay–who nowadays works as a publishing reporter for Japanese publications–had mentioned, their questions were largely about ebooks and I explained how they’ve reshaped and are continuing to reshape the U.S. book market. They asked me about author advances, and how the emergence of ebooks have affected them (on average, lowered them, I said); how print runs have been affected (ditto); and whether the majority of four-color printing for U.S. publishers is still being done in China (not sure, was my candid reply). At one point during the discussion, while Kay was interpreting something I’d said, I noticed several in the group were taking pictures of me. I took out my digital camera and began taking pictures of them, in a quick, panoramic continuum. The gallery of photos below is the spontaneous result.

Before we were finished, I distributed a handful of the 4×6 black&white postcard that Kyle and I’d had printed as a handout for BEA, and a fistful of my business cards. Soon, they were giving me their cards too, and we enjoyed a few minutes of very mannerly bowing and high-spirited exchanges of reciprocal good wishes for one another, with Kay providing introductions. The half-hour I spent with these foreign guests was a happy and diverting interlude on the final afternoon of BEA, a cross-cultural exchange I’m very glad I had the chance to be a part of, thanks to Kay Ohara, and her delightful “delegation.”