BTRIPP (btripp) wrote,

Lots and lots and lots of books ...

On a tip from the "Chicagoans" board, I heard about the Association of Writers & Writing Programs 2012 Conference down at the Hilton this past week, and the Bookfair, which was open to the public on the last day. As I'd never heard of the organization, or the conference, I had no idea of what to expect. Sure, back when I was in the publishing biz with Eschaton Books I'd attended a lot of book-related conferences, so I had an idea of what might be happening with this, but I was VERY surprised. I'd expected that there might be a few dozen presses more-or-less filling up the main Hilton basement expo space (much like the SES show), but this was HUGE! Not only was the main expo room packed full with exhibits (most being just 8' tables), but it spilled over into two additional halls. I didn't think to "ballpark" the numbers there (and I didn't get an exhibit guide), but there were hundreds of exhibitors ... something that I was mentally unprepared for. I'd been told that there were likely to be a lot of free books, as most of the publishers preferred to just give away the copies they'd brought rather than to ship them back home, but it's a good thing that I wasn't counting on that, as I'm guessing (at least at the mid-day timeslot that I was there) there were only maybe 2-5% of the exhibitors with freebie books (that's not to say that I couldn't have walked out of there with a hundred or more pins, which it seemed that every other table was offering).

Speaking of swag, I found one thing rather surprising: several (maybe a half-dozen) booths had imprinted matches as either give-aways or "bonuses" (free if you bought something or signed up for the mailing list, etc.). I found this very odd on a couple of levels, first of all, smoking has become such a pariah activity that you'd think it would have been more "PC" to have been passing out ad-imprinted condoms, and secondly ... duh: FIRE!? I'm sitting in my office surrounding with 2,000+ books the last thing I need in here is an open flame. The concept of passing out matches at a book expo had all sorts of Farenheit 451 over-tones. I must admit, one place had very cool matches, however ... these were hand-made from match boxes (10/$1 at the dollar store) which had been painted gold (except the striking surface) and then had a miniature version of one the publisher's book covers on one side, and their logo and contact info on the other. This is an idea I may have to steal at some point!.

Of course, given what I've noted here previously about the book biz, the sheer volume of stuff on display was staggering. Especially, considering this was pretty much all "creative writing" on various levels. And poetry. If the statistical average of how many copies of a book published in the US will sell is 500 ... you have to figure that the books on display here are on "the long tail" on the downside of that. I was discussing this with one fellow manning a local press' booth, and he agreed that hitting that average figure would be doing very well indeed for most of the books exhibited. Of course, the "Writing Programs" in the association's name is the key piece here ... I'm guessing that at least half (and, with "affiliated" presses, maybe as much as 3/4) of the exhibitors were universities hawking their Creative Writing programs, on the undergrad, grad, and MFA/Doctoral levels, and the books being featured were from their presses, where the "market" is less of a concern (price the stuff at "text book rates", assign it to a few classes, and you're good to go).

Anyway, on one level I felt very much "at home" with the crowd, on another I was wanting to scream "what do you people think you're doing?" when things rubbed against my mental scars. I ended up walking out with nothing other than two buttons I'd picked up for The Girls from the Poetry Foundation (a local institution) commemorating their 100th anniversary ... having long since learned that the odds of my actually reading a "literary collection" picked up for free at a book fair closely approximates zero, and I don't have shelf space for "random acquisitions".

Oh, by the way ... you can click on the pics for MUCH larger versions if you want to get a better look at the teeming hundreds checking out the expo (and pardon the crap quality of the images, they were taken with my phone which is pretty useless in most indoor situations, but I end up "looking like Batman" if I start carrying multiple tech items on my belt).

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