My boss, associate publisher Sue Pines, and I flew out to L.A. Friday morning, dropped off our luggage at the hotel, and headed for the fair. We spent most of that day walking the floor of the two halls, taking note of trends and bumping into celebrities such as the eternally tanned George Hamilton and Baba Wawa herself.
It was hard to ignore the distinct absence of attendees. I've never seen the aisles so free of people. In a way it made it a more pleasant experience because we didn't have to fight crowds and could see so much more in a shorter time span. But then I wondered what the poor attendance meant. Nobody wants to fly all the way to L.A.? Technology is making trade shows obsolete? Nobody can afford the trip? As you can imagine, many bloggers are today pondering the same questions and some are predicting the complete end of the show in the near future.
I'm quite certain that many publishers are asking why they spent as much money as they did to have a presence there when there were more people there trying to sell to them and nobody buying anything. To all of them, I say this: Give it another year. Attendance is always up when it's in New York (although, maybe most of them are still Manhattan editors and very few are librarians and booksellers).
Despite all this, I think it was worth our while to go. We got to spend time with our authors and "wow" them with the magnitude of the show. We connected with our colleagues at other publishers. We got direct feedback on our books from customers and experts. We got to meet our new PR agency and watch them educate our authors about media appearances. We saw famous people (and some not-so-famous penguins) and came back energized and refreshed. I'm willing to keep going if everyone else promises to do the same. Okay?