Dan Rather explaining how he and KHOU invented modern hurricane coverage, Glee’s Chris Colfer recounting how a 10-year-old’s best and most critical book editor is his grandmother, and Stephen Colbert composing random euphemisms for his penis during a breakfast panel discussion were just some of the highlights of the recent BookExpo 2012.
Each year in the early summer, celebrities, publishers, educators, librarians, booksellers and more celebrities convene in New York to celebrate and sell books. Perhaps a bit like fashion week or Comic-Con for books, with almost as many media stars stopping by, BookExpo is the publishing industry chance to showcase their upcoming line of new books and authors while independent booksellers take stock of that coming book stock. And members of Houston’s writing and book selling community are always there in the literary thick of things.
“There’s been several good months in book selling. Borders closing didn’t destroy the world like everybody thought. Sales are up all along the front of the indy shops months after month.”
Upon their return home, CultureMap asked Inprint’s Rich Levy and Marilyn Jones, Brazos Bookstore manager Jeremy Ellis, and Blue Willow Bookshop owner and American Booksellers Association board member Valerie Koehler to give us their expert assessment, from a Texas perspective, of what the future holds for hometown book lovers.
Their findings? The state of the book-reading union is pretty good. A cautious sense of optimism pervaded this year’s BookExpo, according to Rich Levy.
Jeremy Ellis perhaps summed it up best, saying “There’s some optimism. There’s been several good months in book selling. Borders closing didn’t destroy the world like everybody thought. Sales are up all along the front of the indy shops months after month. I think people are celebrating the small victories every time they get them.”
More Grey copycats
None of the Houston contingent spotted any big trends in the coming crop of new titles due in the fall and winter; however, there definitely was a theme color at BookExpo this year: Grey, all fifty shades of it. In fact, this publishing phenomenon was the ironic inspiration for Colbert’s purple-prosed odes to his penis while hosting the Adult Book & Author Breakfast. (Colbert's new book, America Again: Re-becoming the Greatness We Never Weren't, available in October, however, is not Grey related.)
Our Houston book experts all said to expect lots of smutty novels similar to Fifty Shades of Grey in the coming months into next year because, as Koehler explains, “The publishers are all copycats. They always have been.”
While everyone was a bit amused and exasperated at the amount of Fifty Shades knockoffs the publishers offered at BookExpo, Ellis admits about the original, “We sell it. We’re not opposed to selling it. It’s not really our bailiwick. I’ve much better sexy books for you if you really want to read something. There’s a lot of good literature out there that will stimulate your mind, Etcetera. There’s better but who cares. If people are reading, Hazzah, people are reading. That makes the market livelier.”
Our Houston book experts all said to expect lots of smutty novels similar to Fifty Shades of Grey in the coming months into next year.
While no one we talked to would predict who might be the next breakout literary star or what will be the hit book for 2012 and 2013, there are several Texas writers getting notice. Levy and Jones noted the buzz around Houstonian Justin Cronin’s new book The Twelve, out in October. Cronin was in attendance and signing.
Ellis is excited about Flannery O’Connor Award winning writer Andrew Porter’s new novel, In Between Days. The book is set in Houston, specifically the Montrose/West U area. Porter will be in town on September 12 to read at Brazos.
Koehler is looking forward to The Cutting Season the second novel from former Houstonian, and daughter of 2009 mayoral candidate Gene Locke, Attica Locke.
Promoting Houston to publishers
Both Ellis and Koehler think the new biography of Ann Richards, Let the People In: The Life and Times of Ann Richards by Jan Reid is going to a must-read for Texans. Koehler says, “We’ve had some early reads on that and they have been very, very good,” and also finds it to be a bit of a “primer on Texas politics.”
Though BookExpo is usually the place for publishers to promote their books to the bookstores, sometimes there’s a need to promote Houston to the publishers, especially to make certain H-Town is a frequent stop when top authors are touring.
Both Ellis and Koehler think the new biography of Ann Richards, Let the People In: The Life and Times of Ann Richards by Jan Reid is going to a must-read for Texans.
According to Koehler, publishers occasionally forget the U.S consists of more than just two coasts and that there’s a very diverse population of readers in Texas, and Houston specifically, who are eager to meet their favorite writers, that “We’re not just cowboys here.” Koehler says that they “constantly are reminding them of our numbers and what we’re selling. We have a lot of readership here.”
Inprint already announced its 2012-2013 season before June, so Levy and Jones spent time at BookExpo getting ideas for the next season. But they also go armed with the audience numbers for recent Inprint events.
Levy says, “I think we noticed, more so this year than in the past, that they kind of are getting what we do and they’re acknowledging, the publishers in general, that Houston is maybe a good venue for them.”
Ellis says that one of his objectives is “to show that Houston matters as a place to go to and that authors should come here and there’s a book buying public, a literary scene, that’s happening here that they may not have a clear picture of yet. Part of my job is to tell people, ‘Come here. Look and see what happens here in Texas, what happens here in Houston.’”