Book Expo: a survivor’s convention
The idea of publishing books as being “the lamp of learning” and selling them as being an invaluable service to the community may now be replaced by relentless hype and the quest for a fast buck. This may be a natural progression, but the Book Expo is bigger than ever, and in Los Angeles it was spread out over three separate floors, each destination at least a 15-minute walk. For those of us with several appointments with different publishers, it was quite a challenge.
You also tend to run into people you know on the floor, old friends and customers, delaying progress even further. While there was a significant lack of telltale blue badges (booksellers), many of my customers were on hand. A contingent of West Coast booksellers and librarians descended on the show as well. It was gratifying to see everybody and to rub shoulders with our client presses, but there was also something not unlike a postmortem investigation going on, too.
The economy has book people running scared, the first quarter of 2003 being a particular concern. Along with shrinking profit margins and limited sales growth potential for publishers large and small, the specter of returns has haunted the book business. Returns come in fast and furious, with seemingly no end in sight. Nobody can seem to tell me how this arcane process of book returns began, but it always looms not far away from a publisher’s balance sheet, ready to take a bite.
The issue of returns was brought up at the Membership Meeting in New York City last month. An attempt by me to figure out ways to limit returns, and have reps insulate themselves from them, went nowhere. Attendance was, to crib from Mark’s notes on the 5/4/03 meeting, “miserable”. NAIPR can be taken for granted to a certain extent, and we have achieved a lot with the web site, the FROF program, the guidelines for contracts with publishers, the brochures on commission selling, etc.; and these things are ongoing. However, it is a needed thing for the rank and file members to participate. This is YOUR organization! It serves a vital purpose for independent reps to have a voice in the book industry.
The next meeting is set for 12/7/03 in New York. That’s the 12th month of the year, not the 11th month, so let’s hear from YOU, dear reader: give us your invaluable insight into how NAIPR can move ahead as an organization and help its members even more. A Rep Hall of Fame? New publications? Seminars on such things as running a more profitable group? A social gathering where reps can mingle and inspire each other? We want to see everybody in attendance at our meetings, so please speak up and write your own thoughts about the state of sales reps in this country!
NAIPUR will be back at Book Expo next year in Chicago, and we are cautiously optimistic that things can turn around for the industry. The 2004 presidential election and great prospects for the future lie ahead, so let’s seize the moment and reclaim our organization as one that can do great things.
NAIPR admin PW
Since we began our one-line ad in PW’s weekly Resource Guide, under the heading “Representation,” we have had a number of inquiries, some of which have resulted in “Representation Opportunities” and therefore in new clients for rep groups. Effective with the first issue in July, we have expanded our ad to three lines in order to increase NAPIER’s visibility.These are not the most expensive of economic times, and it is the Board’s hope that we can attract even more publishers with this enlarged message.
The Freedom to Read Act
NAIPR joined its name to that of virtually every other group in the publishing industry supporting The Freedom to Read Act, a reaction against certain provisions of the Patriot Act, namely those who seek to “profile” people by their book-purchase and/or library-borrowing habits. Done just in time for BEA, our name should henceforth be on the long list of those organizations supporting reader privacy.