Friday, April 1, 2011

Bologna 2011

The fair is over and the assembled hordes have departed. This was my 30th and, in one word, this fair was noteworthy for its efficiency. I don't know the official attendance numbers, but I do know attendance was way down. Usually the parking lots are full, here they were seldom more than half filled. The restaurant in Hall 29 was closed for the first time in my experience. And the halls were not so crowded that the walk between appointments was a constantly shifting slalom run. But everywhere I looked—all day long, all week—people were sitting across from each other at tables looking at and talking about books. The people who actually do the buying and selling of rights were doing their work, steadily and efficiently. The rest of the bodies that crowd these parking lots, restaurants, and halls are students, supernumeraries, and tourists. The economy has made this a leaner affair, but, I suspect, not less productive.

Generally when an editor is buying, i.e. acquiring rights, she goes to the other publisher's booth. Those who are selling, i.e. licensing rights, are pretty much chained to their own booth, where the books are at hand. This year I roamed the halls, taking appointments here, there, and everywhere. This is my preferred mode and I was able to do so because the namelos list is still small enough to be a movable feast. Next year, however, I will need to spend a large chunk of time anchored to a booth (shared with Lemniscaat), with a shelf of namelos titles behind me.

Two years ago, I was very much a voice crying in the wilderness. Last year, I was more like Dennis Kucinich in the 2008 race for the Democratic nomination for President, i.e. a necessary voice that nobody thought stood a chance in hell of making it to the general election. This year everybody is aware of ebooks and apps and print-on-demand, and the Tools of Change pre-conference was packed. I heard mixed reports about the TOC conference, but a lot of senior executives felt it was necessary to be there. The fair itself is still overwhelmingly print oriented, but the digital pulse is steady and strong and the patient is alert. In my cursory search, I spotted only three booths that were exclusively digital (i.e. no print offerings), but everybody has a digital initiative and spoke about what they were doing with energy and excitement. As for namelos, the agents, scouts, publishers, and authors I met with were as interested in our business model as in the titles we are publishing. The publishing "space" and conversation has expanded to include namelos. We're still on the lunatic fringe, but not quite so far out.

No comments:

Post a Comment

I look forward to your comments and I reserve the option not to make them public.