I am pleased to report that while Book Expo America 2009 seemed slightly sluggish for others, it was a downright success for UNC Press. With over 1500 exhibitors at the Jacob K. Javits Center in New York City this past weekend, UNC Press was a standout among the crowd–and who wouldn’t want to know what we were up to with a signed portrait of B.B. King sitting proudly on our table? We saw large amounts of interest for many of our titles, especially Give My Poor Heart Ease: Voices of the Mississippi Blues, by Bill Ferris, which boasts B.B. on its cover.
Many who walked by our booth literally stopped dead in their tracks to watch Ferris’s Misissippi blues documentary (playing on a flatscreen TV) and to listen intently to the powerful music.
Many New Yorkers were also drawn to the Tar Heels themselves. One Fantasic Ride: The Inside Story of Carolina Basketball’s 2009 Championship Season, by Adam Lucas, intrigued many BEA visitors–many, not surprisingly, being UNC alums. One booth visitor chanted, “GO TAR HEELS!” and informed us that he was the head of the alumni chapter for UNC’s Kenan-Flagler Business School–hopefully he spreads the word in an email blast.
Jill McCorkle, Long Story Short: Flash Fiction by 65 of North Carolina’s Finest Writers contributor, stopped by the booth to say hello and even signed our display copy! She was attending to promote her current book being published with Algonquin Books. We had so much enthusiasm for Long Story Short that it mysteriously–and miraculously–walked right off our table! Hey, we aren’t upset! Better to have interest than be ignored. Stabbed in the Back, by Dr. Nortin Hadler, was also a show favorite.
It was obvious, however, even for a BEA first-timer like myself, that something was looming. Many fellow university presses say that they will not return next year and were discouraged by the lack of traffic at their booths. With ebooks on the rise and Kindles hanging over our heads, many see a change in the world of publishing in the very near future.
So far though, our future is bright. We met many media and business contacts that praised UNC Press’s new titles (and past ones, too) and even sought us out among the (very large) crowd. Overall, it seems that while BEA was bittersweet for many, it was sugary sweet for UNC Press.
P.S. Congrats to City Lights Books in San Francisco, the lucky winner of the signed B. B. King portrait! We hope you hang it proudly!