Flesk’s BEA Experience

This years Book Expo America was held at the Los Angeles convention center. It ran from May 30 to June 1, 2008. This was my second year as an exhibitor and my third time at the show. I was set up again with my distributor, SCB Distributors. I liked the proximity of the show to my distributor and our place of business, although I missed the public transportation and restaurants in NYC. I would like to cover a few topics in my write-up of the show. As I spent ninety-five percent of my time behind my booth, my thoughts will revolve around my experience as an exhibitor, and not that of an attendee.

Friday was exceptionally busy. The day flew by, as I rarely had a break. William Stout was at our booth for a few hours. He brought the original art for his quarter scale Mastodon painting, which will be featured in his upcoming William Stout: Prehistoric Life Murals book, coming this fall. The art must have been close to four feet tall. The piece was incredible to see in person.

Saturday was slower, but still a steady stream of people came by. Sunday was very slow (not just our booth, but the entire show in general) and gave me a chance to visit my neighbors and see what they are offering. This seemed to be the first chance exhibitors had the time to enjoy the show as patrons, as it seemed many people walking around had exhibitor badges.

One of my favorite things to do at the BEA is to pick up catalogs from publishers who inspire me. I started with Chronicle Books who were right behind us, and wow, they have some great titles coming out. Their entire book line has some of the best cover designs and aesthetically are very attractive, in my opinion. I found myself picking up titles I had no interest in purchasing, like books on cooking, knitting, and babies just because of the cover. Someone’s doing their job right. With my being an avid surfer, the new Kelly Slater book with an introduction by Jack Johnson will be a must buy for me.

The four publisher’s, who I believe are putting out the most amazing visual books are National Geographic, Insight Editions, Rizolli (the Pirelli Calendar book is stunning), and Abrams. All four of them produce absolutely beautiful art and photography books. I was thrilled to discover that Abrams is coming out with a new book on J.C. Leyendecker. It’s about time Leyendecker gets the attention he deserves, and knowing Abrams quality, this will be a true treasure in my collection. Also, the new Jack Kirby book looks amazing. More and more mainstream publishers are putting out books on artists previously relegated to fanzines. Good times!

In the two short years I have been an exhibitor at this show, one topic of discussion is always in the air. Is the BEA worth the time and expense to set up at? It’s not cheap, then add traveling expenses, and lost time at the office. It’s really hard to get an immediate sense of how it helps the business. Unlike the shows open to the public where you actually sell the product as well as promote your company, you can count your money after the show and immediately have a sense if the whole thing was worth it or not. With BEA, for me, it’s about promoting the company, artists, and product line, making business deals, gaining contacts, and scoping out the competition for inspiration. These are all great and fun things to do, and necessary to have a successful company. But, is the BEA a viable expense that is justified through increased sales directly related to the show? Can the expenses for BEA be redirected to other marketing ideas and be just as, or more successful?

I left the show feeling good about the experience. I received much positive feedback and excitement about all of our current and upcoming books. Ultimately, I’m glad I was there. I do hope to eventually find out if it was worth the costs involved. Only time will tell. And, being patient will help.

John Fleskes
Flesk Publications