A Piece of My Mind : Zen and the Art of Hype
Bennet Pomerantz

During the first weekend of June this year, I joined the throng of writers, authors, artists, publishers, editors, store owners, booksellers, PR people at the Javits center in Manhattan to attend Book Expo 2005. So, as a public service to the writers and budding author who didn't go and wanted to, I will give you an inside look at the biggest book show in the USA.

When you go to the expo as an author (which I am sorry to say, I never have been. I always have been press-sorry!) the view is different, I wish I could tell you the hype inside the booths. I never have felt it as an author. Not that I haven't been an author, just never been to the expo as an author. Well maybe one day soon! I can only relay it from my viewpoint. If any of my readers was there, I would enjoy hearing their viewpoint as well.

You need to know this!

The expo is like a media circus . . . you need to plan where you are going and what you will be seeing, or you will miss something or someone. Having been a long-time vet of the expo experience I advise: you need a plan or a mission. My missions were four fold -one, to get information for my other columns . . . two, to talk with First time novelist Alfred Martino about his new book Pinned (the interview appears in next month's column)  Three , to see and chat with old industry friends like Oasis Audio's Paul Rush, Listening Library's Tim Ditlow, Audio Partner's Janet Benson (who remarked "I never change" and dear lady I don't!), Blackstone Audio's Craig Black, Brilliance Audio's Eileen Hutton (More about her later!), and many many others. And finally, to ask fellow authors and writers to submit their comments to the second annual "When do you consider yourself a writer?" column . The first one was in January 2005, and here is the link to see the last when did you consider yourself a writer column. More on that later!


For first time writers, this expo may see like a dismaying place when you see it. I remember the first time Jeanne Evans did the expo. She asked me "What did the expo seem like?" Now Jeanne is a veteran of Science Fiction conventions and writer's workshops, so I compared it to a SF convention. I said "It's like a LARGE dealers room." She smiled , said that she could handle that and I thought nothing more of it. When she and I arrived on the smaller "dealers room " floor in Chicago's McCormick Place ( this was a few years ago) , she was awe-struck and overwhelmed. I saw the look of panic in her eyes. I think it was the twelve-foot Barney eclipsing the back corner of the room.

There are many galley books with publication dates of September, October, etc., so this expo was a book lover's feast. Many publishers had gimmicks that their booth had to lure you over . . . like taking your picture with Batman, Curious George, Pink Panther, Darth Vader and the storm troopers (I have pictures available on request!), actors (like John Shea, Jack Klugman), authors & writers (Frank Miller, Alex Cord, John Lithgow, Harvey Pekar, Walter Mosley) as well tarot reading, food tasting, buttons, pins, bumper sticks, condoms, etc. Its hell man, when the Storm Troopers want to carry you away . . . OKAY, take me to George Lucas!

There were the long lines to see guests from Spike Lee and Tab Hunter to the great Jim Dale (more on him later) intermixing with known and unknown authors having their books signed. The galleys from the new Sue Grafton novel to the chapter book of Jack Klugman's book Tony and Me (about him and Tony Randall) looked great. It seemed like Christmas in June for a book lover.

And there is Louise! (Sorry if I digress here folks..But this has been long coming) Louise Snead, the head, neck, editor and publisher of Affaire De Coeur magazine, and I finally met. I have been working as an audio reviewer (my column "Movies of Your Mind") for this woman since 1988. Not to knock Carol who runs this ship, but Louise has a special place in my heart. Writers should have a love for an editor and publisher who cares what you write and cares about you the person. In meeting her I found a new respect. In some ways, I owe her a lot.  Writers do know when you have a special relationship with your editor/publisher, enjoy it - it doesn't always happen this way. Thanks Louise!

One of the most memorable and nicest people I met during the expo was actor and audio narrator Jim Dale. I have to especially thank Eileen Hutton from Brilliance Audio for being busy and unable to speak to me, so I could speak to this busy man for FEW MINUTES! Dale is all over the audio map this book season from the Audie winner Peter and the Star Catchers from Brilliance to Random House/Listening Library (Around the World in 80 Days and the latest Harry Potter opus). In a candid moment, I said to him "I watched Hot Lead and Cold Feet ( an old Disney western from the late 70s in which he starred with Don Knotts and Karen Valentine) with my nephew" . He smiled and said "Worst film ever!" I knew I had spoken to the charming and very real Jim Dale. We exchanged business cards (A normal convention activity) and said we'd do an interview in the future. Jim, when you read this, the interview is in the works!

Gizmos and Readers

Also at the convention were great gizmos to use with books. Items like THE BOOK HUG, which is a book stand for any size book . . . I loved it... you should get one. And then there were book plates, stickers and magnifiers.

I must tell you the amazing thing, I did meet a few loyal readers of this column who did say hello. These writers were attending the Book Expo America/Writer's Digest Books Writer's Conference. I was great feeling to know that this column is read and liked. THANKS!

So after three days and walking all over the place. I was POOPED! The hype machine was in full blossom over that weekend.

Did I achieve my goals? In some ways YES, there were people I missed, but the timing wasn't right...like I am sorry I could not catch up with young adult author and Full Cast Audio's President Bruce Coville (maybe in DC?) However I did get a lot of information for my future columns including this one. A friend remarked, "Did I have a good time?" I replied with wry smile ," I always have fun when the circus comes to town."

And I did get some authors and writers to submit their short pieces for the second annual "When do you consider yourself a writer?" column. And now, more writers are being asked (THIS MEANS YOU!)  I am seeking a paragraph (not a novel for television) on this subject from all writers of any shape and size. It don't matter if you write business books, technical writing, first time author or dare I say it , short story writer. Put your comments (NO ATTACHMENTS PLEASE!!!!) in an e-mail addressed to [email protected] with the word WRITER in the subject line. I hope to have some big name surprises in this one.

And next year, I won't travel out of town to Book Expo . . . it's coming here! Well to Washington D.C. Convention center anyway on May 19-21, 2006! For me, it's home court advantage, so I can sleep in my own bed every night and not have to get a hotel room. And anyone wants to meet me for lunch or dinner plans, let me know NOW! I am booking early and I do know all the best places to eat around the convention center . . . and NO, there isn't room at my house!

Til next time, Reach for the Stars!

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About the Writer:

Bennet Pomerantz is a media review columnist in 175 newspapers with his weekly column AUDIOWORLD. His fiction and reviews have appeared in the pages of Affaire De Coeur, Gateways, Mystery Scene, Power Star, The Hot Corner, Washington Entertainment Magazine, and many others. He is also known for his review appearances on the MCN Forum. View his web site at Audioworld.