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#BEA16 BookExpo 2016 in Chicago: The Good, the Bad, and the Game Changers

Home from BookExpo, ready to put my feet up and start reading. But first, the debrief.

Jerusha started working as my assistant on ghost projects
back in high school, then started a freelance editing firm
to fund her global adventures
Plot Whispering with the Rabid Badger
Combining my 20+ years of publishing and ghostwriting experience with Jerusha's uncanny style of developmental editing, we've come up with a method of 3-D outlining that elevates story, solidifies structure, and focuses strategy. As a team, we’ve worked this pragmatic magic on novels, nonfiction, and screenplays (including an Oscar nominee) for Big 5 publishers, agents, and indies. We had a blast doing a crash course and Plot Whispering demo Thursday on the UPubU stage. Here's the podcast.

Indie Author Fringe Fest

Orna Ross, founder of the Alliance of Independent Authors continues to move mountains on behalf of the indie author community. When I attended my first BEA in 1999, self-publishing was called “vanity” and their was an unquestioning subservience to the omnipotent gatekeepers. When I attended BEA in New York two years ago, the indie symposium was relegated to the far reaches of a basement ghetto. This year in Chicago, the UPubU stage was smack on the exhibit floor with everybody else. There’s a lot BEA could do to improve indie author inclusion, but this was a start, and Orna took it a giant leap forward with Indie Author Fringe Fest, which ran concurrent with BookCon today and will live on in podcasts. The Indie Author Fringe Fest adjacent to this year’s London Book Fair had 100K unique visitors. Do the math.

On the way to the airport, the driver gave us a crash course in Chicago history, which made me love it even more.
BEA is like the Giant Reflective Bean
It’s healthy for industry neighbors—strangers and friends—to come together every once in a while and take a good look at ourselves, even if it is a slightly distorted reflection.

I see London, I see France.

I attended my very first BEA in Los Angeles in 1999 with Claire Kirch and the team from Spinster's Ink, the feminist press publishing my second novel. It was such a trip to hang out with Claire, who's now the Midwest correspondent for PW, and talk books and kids and life in general over too much wine and curry fries at Kitty O'Shea's. I also connected with fabulous Jessica Bell—author, musician, cover designer, and editor of Vine Leaves  Literary Journal—who here from Greece, who introduced me to her super cool cohorts, author Dawn Ius and six-month-manuscript guru Amie McCracken.

Swag and Silliness
The freebies were fewer, but still fun. Good for laughs: a Trump impersonator and the occasional registration snafu.

My top three freebies. Thanks, y'all!
They offer what's best for them, not what works for you.
It's best to bring your own.
Old School Author Contracts = Hotel Shampoo/Conditioner
It was hard to stay in my chair during "Rethinking the Standard Publishing Agreement: A Symposium" moderated by Mary Rasenberger, executive director of Authors Guild. Grove CEO and Publisher Morgan Entrekin was a calm presence, his chin in his hand, saying he’ll revert rights “nine times out of ten” if the author comes to him. Literary lawyer Jonathan Lyons extropaciously insofar as herewith mamberson clavitz habius pilsner, as lawyers are wont to do. And Hachette CEO Michael Pietsch was programmed like Teddy Ruxpin to repeat the party line I’ve been hearing for two decades since my first novel was published.

Condensed version: authors should be grateful for any crumbs of love they get from a publisher, and if you’re not a 1% blockbuster, well, don’t quit your day job. The old-think and magical math was interspersed with utter BS like “we don’t just sit on books” as rationale for refusing rights reversion. I mean, after all, it's not like the entire industry is based on authors' ability to spin straw into gold. Here's PW's take on it, summing up with understatement of the year: "This will be a long process."

In a world where skeevy bastards prey on aspiring authors...
Here There Be Monsters
Even with tremendous strides forward in services for indie authors (scroll down for the game changers), there are still malevolent forces ((coughauthorhousecough)) who exist to syphon money from wannabe writers. After the Plot Whispering sesh, I spoke with several authors who were led like lambs to the mint sauce by editors with zero editing skills, cover designers who plugged stock photos into hackneyed templates, and giant companies who promised the Twilit, Da Vinci Coded universe and delivered scat. It’s particularly distressing to see venerable publishing institutions participating in that. Here's a great post from self-publishing watchdog, David Gaughran.

Where was everyone?
I don’t attend BEA every year, but I take it for granted that certain people will always, always be there, and a lot of them weren’t at BEA16. A lot of folks were saying it was because it was the location, and maybe some of the New York editors and agents would have popped by if it had been in New York, but I attended BEA in Chicago earlier in my career and the energy was totally different. Instead of talking about the great jazz band at last nights party and getting shwasted with one's agent, I heard people on the shuttles and in a dark corners at Kitty O’Shea’s debating a bigger issue: Is BEA becoming irrelevant?
If you ever wanted to put your face in Santa's underwear.

Another fun freebie: iPhone egg amp from Random House
This is one of the most exciting book marketing tools I’ve seen in a long time, because it takes the wheel-spinning out of social media and sets up a low cost, super easy way to do previews and giveaways. Bookgrabbr enables authors, publishers, or PR folk to offer a sample of a book on social media, and to read the sample, the reader has to share the post. The agility and analytics appear to be everything I would hope for in my sticky little dreams, including the ability to share 100% of the book.

It's a time-honored truth: The best way to sell books is giving books away. Right now, my options are: sell my soul to Amazon for 90 days (eff that), Smashwords coupon (ain't nobody got time), BookBub (if you've got an extra bucket of money under your desk), and a few other not-so-silver-bullets. Most of my backlist books have earned what I call "ambassador status"; I've been well paid for the time I spent writing the book, so it's most important job now is leading readers to my new work. And Bookgrabbr looks like a fantastic way to introduce a new book.

I can't wait to try Bookgrabbr. I'll post an update here once I've given it a shakedown cruise or two. If it works as well as I think it will, I'll utilize the H-E-double-hockey-sticks outta this thing in the coming year.

Ingram’s acquisition of
Indie authors—and hybrid authors like me—will be able to host sales of our books on our own websites with all the functionality of Amazon widgets (or so they say) when becomes fully functional, which will be within six months, the Ingram rep assured me. I came away from a meet up with Ingram’s Lindsay Jenkins completely jazzed about taking my indie endeavors to the next level.


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