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The "Standard of Ur" from ancient Mesopotamia

The "Standard of Ur" from ancient Mesopotamia

03 June 2008

Book Expo America 2008

This past weekend, nearly thirty thousand people gathered in Los Angeles for the American publishing industry’s biggest trade show, BookExpo, or BEA for short. Roughly a thousand authors signed books, and two thousand exhibitors plied visitors with flyers, pencils, books, and other give-aways as well as tote bags to haul their goodies in.

The press reported that the show was poorly attended and lackluster compared with previous shows. Still, I found it worthwhile, in part because of the light crowd.

Without hordes of people demanding attention at every booth, I was able to talk with many authors and publishers. I was pleased to bump into two writer friends (Carleen Brice the Pajama Gardener, who had signed Orange Mint and Honey the night before, and Lisa Gardner, who was about to sign Say Goodbye). I got a load of books for myself. Much of my Christmas shopping for my nieces and nephews is now done. Most exciting, I got to meet my agent in person, and we had a long dinner topped off with yummy desserts at a restaurant that used to be a firehouse.

My highlights from the show:
  • Biggest surprise seen on the exhibit floor: Gibson, the world’s tallest dog, who was there promoting his new book (He’s pictured at right with his vet.)
  • Oddest book plot: Corpse of Freedom by Dax Garner and Lloyd Garner, in which a teenager digs up a corpse and, in the words of the book flyer, “befriends the carcass . . . [and] is mentored toward a new perspective on life”
  • Most enthusiastic exhibitor: I stopped by the ManLove Romance booth and asked why male-male romances are written and read primarily by women. One of the women staffing the booth answered, “Because women like men!!! And in male-male romance, there are two of them!!!”
  • Coolest product: The Booksaver, which acts as a prop under large hardcover books so that the pages don’t sag and tear away from the binding
  • Booth with the most unusual give-aways: Ellora's Cave, which gave away condoms in many colors and beefcake calendars of its cover models
  • Most over-the-top author bio: “— — is an educated filmmaker, author, adventurer, and creative mastermind. Known for his chiseled beauty as much as his gutsy attitude, — prefers to live by his own values—a lifestyle that often spills into his work and confounds his more uptight critics.”
  • Most clueless exhibitor: I asked a woman at the Dorchester booth what they were looking for in science fiction and fantasy, and she told me they did not publish either. That would probably come as a surprise to well-known Dorchester spec fic writers such as Anne McCaffrey.[note added 4 June 2008: see comment from Dorchester's Erin Galloway below.]
  • Most out-of-place exhibitor: a tooth-whitening booth
  • Favorite give-away received: a fold-up book light

Next year's BEA will take place in New York City.


Travis Erwin said...

That is some dog and I'd hate to be stuck in the elevator with that guy whose bio you posted. Bet he's a real social dynamo.

Shauna Roberts said...

TRAVIS, I so much wanted to get my picture taken with that dog, but he had to go off to some event. Ditto on the author . . . . although I have to admit that he is as good looking as he thinks he is and I stood there for several listening to him talk about his book even though I had no interest in it.

Charles Gramlich said...

Yes, indeed, what a dog. Kjelgaard should have written a book called "Tall dog."

I did not know that the majority of the male to male erotica is written and read by women. That seems strange to me.

Lisa said...

Shauna, I've been reading lots of posts about BEA and I suppose because I've had to attend and man booths for lots of circus-like trade shows and in my own industry I really hate them, so I can relate to your sentiment that poorly attended is much better when you're one of the attendees.

What a dog! What an ego maniacal bio! Ditto on the male to male erotica, which probably makes sense since I don't really have much desire to read even hetero erotica.

Sounds like all in all, it was fun.

Shauna Roberts said...

CHARLES, I'm going to guess it has something to do with the big divergence between what most women find sexy and what most men do. In romances and erotica, the characters are people with unmet emotional needs, and the plot involves the development of a relationship between the characters that meets those needs. That development usually involves talking, including mushy talk, and the subtext includes building trust and mutual dependency and fulfilling each other's desires. The description in sex scenes includes the emotional reaction. In contrast, porn is heavily visual and tends to focus on pictures of bodies and parts of bodies, their size, and the mechanics of sex (tab A inserts into slot B, C, or D). Subtext is more likely to involve inequality of roles (boss–secretary) or position (who's on top?) or who "wins" (gets what they want).

That's my guess why romance and erotica appeal more to women readers and women writers (even when the couple is two men) and why porn appeals more to men readers and writers. You yourself made a comment on your blog today that you don't like sex mixed with plot in a book, while porn often leaves me cold because I don't know who the people are or what their relationship is.

That said, women seem unanimously to find the cover of Farrah's new book sexy, even though it just shows a body part without even a face.

Shauna Roberts said...

LISA, yes, I had a fun time, especially since I wasn't there on a client's behalf needing to score specific info. I could wander as I liked, take any free book that caught my interest, and rest whenever I wanted.

Shauna Roberts said...

Oops. I take back what I said about Farrah's book cover. I checked and it does show the guy's face. I just never noticed it.

steve on the slow train said...

Shauna, I appreciate your distiction between porn and erotica. It makes a lot of sense to me but it doesn't completely explain the fact that gay romances are often written by heterosexual women. N.L. Gassert, one of the original Dickens Challengers, was such a writer, but I thought she was an anomaly until now. I guess I'll have to take the writers at their word.

P.S. My WIP has one sex scene, which is definitely in the romance/erotica category. But as a heterosexual man, I don't have any urge to write a lesbian romance.

Carleen Brice said...

Shauna, This was a great wrap-up! You were kind not to mention the long trek we took for lunch. :)

Shauna Roberts said...

STEVE, I'm sure you're right that the answer is far more complicated that my guess. The other woman in the ManLove booth seemed taken aback by the first woman's explanation (" . . . two of them!") and said writing male-male romance gave her more freedom in creating her characters. She gave as an example that a rough-edged character might come off harsh and unlikable as female but be liked by readers if male. That explanation seems incomplete too.

CARLEEN, I was so glad you spotted that restaurant and we did not have to walk another several blocks to get to the restaurant district we were aiming for! I was cussing myself all day for not wearing stockings and getting blisters on my feet.

Rae Ann Parker said...

It sounds like an interesting day. And how nice that you saw Lisa Gardner.

cs harris said...

I've been hearing a lot about the BEA, since Harper Collins was giving away stacks of our ARCs there, so it was neat to read your peek at the action. I've never been to one.

By the way, I liked your above distillation of a romance so much that I copied it and printed it off!

Anonymous said...

Hello Shauna,
I came across your blog today and I think there may have been a miscommunication when you were at the Dorchester Publishing booth. I believe you probably asked about submitting material. At this time, Dorchester does not acquire or publish any new Science Fiction or Fantasy. Dorchester is the distributor for Wildside Press, which does reprints of established authors, such as Anne McCaffrey and Robert E. Howard among others. If you are interested in contacting Wildside Press, you may do so here:
~Erin Galloway, Dorchester Marketing & Publicity Coordinator

Shauna Roberts said...

RAE ANN, yes, it was quite a day. I had many interesting conversations with other writers, and it was cool to see Lisa Gardner again.

CANDICE, I didn't get to the Harper Collins booth and so missed out on your ARC. Shoot! I'm glad my definition of romance was useful.

ERIN, thanks so much for stopping by and clarifying the situation at Dorchester. I had not realized that your pure fantasy and science fiction books were Wildside Press books. What about the science fiction and fantasy that Dorchester markets in its romance line (with authors such as Susan Grant and Christine Feehan)? Are those Dorchester books or Wildside Press books?

Anonymous said...

All Paranormal, Fantasy and Futuristic Romances are acquired by Dorchester itself. Of course, all of these books are marketed as Romance as that is the strongest element within each book. We are hopeful that readers who enjoy Science Fiction, Fantasy and Romance will find something to enjoy in our books. We like to think of our Fantasy Romance as appealing to the readers who wanted to see more of the relationship between Tolkien's Aragorn and Arwen.

Steve Malley said...

The man-man romance thing reminded me of the way so many guys are into woman-woman, er, 'romance'.

A friend of mine put it almost the same way: "I like women, and there's, like, *two* of them!"

Wonder how the tooth-whitening folkss did...

Shauna Roberts said...

ERIN, thanks for your further explanation. Writers are always trying to get a handle on how publishers see their lines.

STEVE, the tooth-whiteners had a steady stream of customers. I would have had it done myself if I hadn't recently read a newspaper story about the possible dangers of storefront tooth-whitening operations.

WH said...

To be surrounded by so many books and authors .... I am JEALOUS -:) (And what an amazing "tall" dog LOL.)

Michele said...

This is a great round-up of the BEA, Shauna! I had every intention of going this year, but a family member's health crisis has pretty much consumed my family's focus this past month or so. One year, I'll make it to BEA, though! And I'll definitely be at RWA in SF. :-)


Farrah Rochon said...

What a fun wrap-up of BEA. I'm so happy you got to go, and that you finally met your agent face-to-face, Shauna.

:::waving::: to Erin at Dorchester, who does such a fantastic job in the PR department.

Lana Gramlich said...

OMG! That dog is sick (as in too much!) A tooth whitening booth...really? *LOL* Personally I find thick crowds highly overrated. Glad you had a good time. :)

Barbara Martin said...

Is that dog a Great Dane? I never knew they got that big!

Thank you for the overall description of the BEA.

Shauna Roberts said...

BILLY, for a book lover, BEA was wonderful. One could easily collect hundreds of free new books, some of which hadn't been released yet and many of them signed. As for the dog, imagine his food bills. Yikes!

MICHELE, hope things improve for your family. We'll have lots of fun at RWA next month, I guarantee!

FARRAH, thanks!

LANA, I really dislike crowds too, but conferences judge their success by number of attendees. I was delighted to have the hall so empty. There were even more free books available at last year's American Library Association conference in New Orleans, but the crowds were so thick I had trouble getting to the booths to pick them up.

BARBARA, yes, it was a Harlequin Great Dane. According to my sister-in-law (hi, D., if you're reading this!), Great Danes come in three color variants. I had never seen a spotted one before and thought it was a Dalmatian mix.