Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Book Expo of America Impressions

Takeaway Feeling at Book Expo - Reinvigorated, Excited About Books
Everywhere I looked people shared the passion and love of books and memories of reading. Author Dennis Lehane mentioned on a panel how he will always remember the first book he read. I think it was Smokey the Bear.

He also shared how his book Mystic River he didn’t think would become a best seller because it was a sad book. Of course, it did, but that humbleness was what the audience loved about him. And we all clamored to have his new book, The Given Day autographed, just one of the many book treasures I picked up at the Expo.

Azar Nafisi, author of Reading Lolita in Tehran shared how books allow you to live in the imagination and how vital this space is to freedom of the individual and to a country. She shared how in Iran that Desdemona was edited out of Othello because they thought it would depress the people and that Olive Oil was edited out of Popeye because of her apparent low morals. These forms of censorship stifled the imagination and the experience of the story itself.

I left her panel wanting to celebrate the right and priveldge to read, something that shouldn't be taken for granted.

Marketing Impressions:

1. The average publisher featured 2-4 books at the show. They probably gave away an average of five hundred books per title. That’s a huge expense.

2. Some publishers featured book samplers. These included sample chapters of a book by a known author. Or included collected bodies of work. For instance, I picked up Paris Review’s sampler of interviews with authors.

3. Most publishers had giveaways in addition to books. These included: beautiful color catalogs, totes, book marks, clever candy, cookies, or magnet type promos around the theme of the book. Some had hats and t-shirts.

4. Authors autographed books at their publisher’s booth, or shared a booth with another author. Many signed books following a panel or signed books at the designated autographing area. Authors like the publishers participated in the huge free book frenzy of Book Expo. It’s the nature of the expo, but I suspect that that will change in the future.

5. Booths for authors
The writers’ row area which was in the secondary hall of the show had several booths for authors. Many authors teamed up to share booth costs. They gave away book marks and were quite selective about who they gave a free book to compared to the larger publishers.

6. Sharing of booths by independent publishers
Various university and literary presses teamed up and shared booths. But they still gave away a ton of books.

7. What seemed hot and different?
a) Graphic novels were very big at the show both from U.S. publishers and Asian publishers.

b) Environmental books and environmentally conscious book giveaways. Along these lines I did check out Amazon’s Kindle Device. Of course, I looked up my novel Jen-Zen and the One Shoe Diaries and that was fun. I liked using the device. It was easy to navigate and a treat to use. I think devices like this will continue to play a larger role in the future as we as a society become more conscious of our carbon footprint.

MediaMensch Meets Marcus Smith, new CEO of SMI Motorsports

This week begins a new chapter for NASCAR and Motorsports as Marcus Smith, takes over as the CEO of the company founded by his father and chairman, Bruton Smith and fills the shoes of legendary promoter and former CEO, Humpy Wheeler.

Today at Lowes Motor Speedway Club, we had a chance to be part of a press luncheon to meet and greet Marcus. Marcus grew up in the business at his father's side and told some great stories of learning the business from the "outside". As a young man, he was a champion "Weedwhacker" who could trim your hair with precision. He also had to opportunity to take part in some other stadium "maintenance" activities such as chasing the pigeons away with shotguns. That was the "sunburn" part of his career.

After college, Marcus had the opportunity to learn about the business from the "inside" moving around from department to department and gaining responsibilities as he grew in his job.

His vision for the future of his organization was to keep SMI a place where the employees and fans had fun each day. At the heart of the sport is entertainment and the future challenges are allowing the fans to have access to the drivers in the face of increasing media and sponsorship demands.

Marcus is currently on a "listening" and learning tour of SMI and seems to be doing the things that a good leader must do, surround yourself with great people, provide direction, and then get out of their way.

Many interesting events are coming to Lowes Motor Speedway and the other tracks owned by SMI. Last week, SMI bought Kentucky Motor Speedway, and on September 11, 2008 will be opening the "Bellagio" of drag racing strips called the ZMAX Dragway. (Can you tell he owns the Las Vegas Speedway too!).

As far the the challenge of filling seats due to $4.00 gas prices, SMI will be working to package its tickets to keep that experience affordable to its core fan base. One statistic, I learned today was the their average fan to Lowes Motor Speedway travels 400 miles each way on average and stays for multiple days. It is the one sport, where you can really bring your friends and family and have a life long memory.

We also had a great time at our lunch table getting to know a "Motorsports Historian" and a few other executives who surround Marcus Smith and will be playing key roles in the day to day execution of his vision.

MediaMensch looks forward to deepening our relationship with NASCAR, NHRA and Motorsports owners, teams, drivers, sponsors and especially the fans!.

Welcome Marcus! We look forward to your 50 year plan!