After checking in at my hotel, I headed straight over to the convention center (about a 15-minute walk). First stop: the press room to get my press badge. The walk from the entrance doors of the convention center to the press room was about as long as the walk to the convention center from my hotel. It's a huge, sprawling building. Now I see why people recommend comfortable shoes.
Since the main exhibition spaces don't open up until tomorrow, I had just a few of the educational programs to pick from this afternoon. It's a good thing I didn't have much on my schedule, though, because I spent a fair amount of time being lost within that cavernous building.
First, I was planning to check out the Amazon.com program, but apparently it was cancelled...or I was just lost again. Anyway, I ended up at a panel discussion called "Print," which turned out to be a collection of book editors from local publications, including David Ulin of the L.A. Times. This was a fascinating panel discussion. When the moderator asked why print publications still have book coverage, Ulin explained it's because books are such an important part of our culture. Book coverage should be protected not because it's profitable but because it's an important service to the community. I'm not sure anyone in the audience actually believed this answer, but we were all happy to hear it, especially in light of the recent decline in book coverage in the major newspapers.
Interestingly, Ulin revealed that he receives over 1,000 books per week for review. Self-published books are immediately weeded out of the pack because too many are "so unsuitable," according to Ulin. Self-help, inspirational, business, health, and fitness books are also ignored. That still leaves a huge quantity of books from which to choose a lucky few for review. Ulin estimates that about 15% of the books reviewed in the L.A. Times are "no brainers" that will always be reviewed (like the latest Salman Rushdie or Philip Roth). By the way, the cover review of the book section of the L.A. Times this Sunday with be Salman Rushdie's The Enchantress of Florence. You heard it here first (though I'm sure you're not surprised).
Next up was a panel discussion about new publicity opportunities for books. A couple marketers from big publishers described recent experiences with creative marketing. For example, the Doubleday rep described the trailers for three imaginary porn movies starring the protagonist of Snuff, Chuck Palahniuk's new book about a porn star. The trailers resulted in approximately 135,000 views on YouTube before YouTube was forced to implement age restrictions based on the racy content. Snuff is also benefitting from Palahniuk's new MySpace page. Are these tactics working? Apparently so. Snuff has enjoyed a 50% increase in sales during the first week over Palahniuk's last novel Rant. Other panelists described their "small potatoes marketing efforts," including FaceBook widgets, bonus material for fans, fan websites, author events in bookstores, and literary blogs.
My last program of the day was put on by Tim Spalding, the founder of LibraryThing.com. I love LibraryThing, and I'm very familiar with the site, so I didn't expect to learn much. Mainly, I wanted to see Tim Spalding in person. Tim's basic point during the presentation was that LibraryThing creates a rich online culture about books that publishers and booksellers should be emulating in order to get people more excited about books. Makes sense to me.
To end my first day at BEA, I decided to take the shuttle back from the convention center to my hotel so I could experience L.A. traffic first hand. The distance that I walked in 15 minutes earlier in the afternoon took 30 minutes to cover in the shuttle. L.A. traffic at rush hour is worse than anything I've seen outside of Mexico City (and I'm from a city notorious for bad traffic).
Check back tomorrow for Day 2 of BookExpo America.