We recently spoke to Steve Rosato, the new Event Director of BookExpo America, about the changes planned for the show, which has traditionally focused on serving independent retailers.  Although Rosato has worked on BookExpo for show organizer Reed Exhibitions for a number of years, he just recently ascended to the Event Director role, replacing Lance Fensterman, who moved up to run Reed’s pop culture group (see “Reed’s Pop Culture Group Grows”). 


What changes will people see this year at BookExpo?

As in the world of publishing, there are going to be a lot of fairly significant changes.  The biggest and probably most obvious is that BookExpo is moving to a mid-week format.  In the history of the show, the timing had always been traditionally the first full weekend after Memorial Day.  The reason for that was book stores were typically closed on the weekends and Memorial Day was always very slow.  That’s anachronistic.  Bookstores are just much busier on weekends.  We worked with the ABA who’s one of our more important constituents as far as participation in the show.  They felt very strongly that the new schedule served their stores better.  They could be more focused on business; they could send more people to the show. 


Another part of that is just the rights side of our business, which a lot of the international folks are clearly there to do.  If you’re ever at BookExpo in the International Rights Center and you’re there on a Friday, it was always a pretty busy and happening place.  If you got there on Saturday it was a lot quieter and on Sunday it was really quiet.  It’s just a lot easier to engage the scouts and agents when they’re doing business in New York during the week as opposed to having them give up a weekend.


We are going to be partnering with the International Digital Publishers Forum to locate their event at Book Expo this year.  We’re tremendously excited about that.  They’re the leading organization for e-publishing and digital publishing issues, setting standards.  They have quite a variety of constituents, whether it’s to advise people, the content providers, or software programmers that represent their membership.  They are critical to e-publishing going forward, the standards they set as well as the education.  Their program had always taken place about three to four weeks before BookExpo in New York.  It just made a lot of sense to bring that under the roof of BookExpo.  This gives a much bigger platform to their sponsors and participants on the BookExpo show floor.  


Another huge change is the fact that the ABA will be in-house.  All their programming and stuff will be taking place at Javits as opposed to off-site.  It’s always been critical because a lot of the buzz panels and things that go on at BookExpo really set the tone and the buzz for show.  It was a challenge to get the ABA from their off-site into Javits for when that stuff happened--we sort of played around with when the buzz panels occurred. 


It’s just really key to set the tone for the show when people are talking about the true buzzes before the show itself opens up.  We’re tremendously excited to have the ABA back in house again for all their programming.  ABA members are also happy to have a hotel in Manhattan.  Brooklyn was great and it was a different experience but when time is that valuable it certainly makes it easier that you’re spending less time going back and forth. 


You’ve sort of alluded to some of the changes in constituency that you’re seeing, digital books being a growing area.  The show originally grew out of serving independent retailers.  Those other constituencies have expanded a lot in recent years.  How would you describe the constituencies now for the BEA show?

BEA’s always been the big tent, with a lot of stuff going on.  Independents remain probably one of our most critical audiences, just for their ability to break out smaller books and authors, their knowledge of the industry, their value to publishers. 


We’re very happy to engage all the major chains.  Barnes & Noble, Borders, Books-a-Million, Amazon, Books Are Fun, are all significant constituents of the BEA. 


Something that’s been an increasing constituency for us over the years and really reached a critical mass two years ago is the librarian/educators.  They buy a lot of books, they’re on the front line of literacy and when people get hooked on reading.  It was also a matter of probably educating publishers that they were there.  We always got librarians that came to a certain extent to BEA regionally and enjoyed it.  They weren’t necessarily as engaged or welcome so we created a little bit of programming that serves their interests. 


A lot of it we do for the booksellers, whether it’s the buzz panels or graphic novels or any of the genre-specific stuff.  We also do include a few very specific programs that are directed at librarians.  We expect to get somewhere around three to four thousand librarians at this year’s show.


What about the digital constituencies?
Digital had its ups and downs at BookExpo but we had a new media zone last year and it served really nicely to give folks a little bit of a spotlight on the show floor.  We’re looking for the content providers, companies like Overdrive, the device companies that come in.  We’ve already gotten a tremendous response.  Several companies from China look to be coming in that we’re talking to this week with our announcement that the digital book zone is going to be sponsored by IDPF.  We haven’t even really begun our marketing efforts in that area too earnestly.  We’re encouraged that people have actually heard about it before we’ve even gotten the word out. 


I also should probably include press and bloggers, a very active constituency for Book Expo.  As press coverage seems to be shrinking in newspapers, at least with book sections disappearing or being folded into other sections and not being stand-alone any more, we have very aggressively gone after bloggers in particular who are more and more sort of picking up the mantle, where people are finding out about books and authors and what’s coming out and what’s new.  The press office on the Book Expo show floor is new.  It’s actually always been in another part of the building, in a meeting room or someplace nearby.  We’ve moved it directly onto the BEA show floor.  We’ve expanded it, we’re going to have free wi-fi in there, and we’re looking to give bloggers a place where they can work and get their stories out, and a place that’s very close to the action.  We like the idea that it’s close to one of the author stages. 


I neglected to mention that we now have three author stages for some of our programming that’s going to be happening on the show floor. 


For the retailer who’s in the pop culture categories, comics, games, anime, what will BEA have for them this year?

We’ll certainly have some genre-specific programming.  We look forward to a lot of publishers that do carry that category.  Until I have a finalized conference program—we may end up having three or four sessions or we may have one or two.  We haven’t even confirmed all our author submissions yet for who’s participating.  We just went through that process last week and we’re waiting to finalize the breakfasts and lunches before we start programming the author stage events.  I’ll know a little bit more probably in another two weeks.