October 18, 2011

I started sending out these newsletters maybe 10 years ago to sales reps at Random House, when they were our distributors. Then continued with Publishers Group West reps when they took over distribution. (The first day I went to PGW officers in Berkeley, as I was pulling up, the Stones' "Gimme Shelter" came on the radio. Good omen.)

As time has passed, I added other-than-book people to the mailing list and now there are maybe 600. Some book people, some not. This one is for my book family. Can we talk?

Frankfurt Book Fair (Frankfurter Buchmesse)
I'm in Frankfurt for the international Book Fair. I've been coming for about 20 years. At first, it was fun to have our books translated, but as years have passed, it's become a nice part of our income. I meet with publishers and agents from other countries. This year from Germany, France, Spain, Italy, Korea, China, Poland, Australia, South Africa, as well as Canada and the US. I've made friends with a lot of these people, so it's more than just business. I stay in the old spa town of Bad Homburg, about a 20-minute train ride from the Fair. I did a lot of blogging from Germany:

This year I showed everyone press proofs for our new book on tiny homes (pub date Feb '12) and the response was inspiring. Many people turned through all 224 pages, one after the other. Once they started, they kept going. People get it. We're bumping up the press run from 10,000 to 15,000 copies (in Hong Kong) due to the initial reaction. See:

The Fair is gigantic. Think of BEA times 10 (or more). 7,500 exhibitors; 280,000 visitors, of which 150,000 are trade visitors; 5 main gigantic halls, with bus service running between. The first year I came, I was in heaven. In between appointments I criss-crossed every aisle in every hall. Every year, I end up buying a lot of books (although this year v. few).

Book people, I encourage you to go, at least once in your lifetime. It's a bit intimidating, but SO worth the effort. There's so much going on in the rest of the world outside the US; exciting, enriching, inspiring to be in the midst of it all.

The LitAg or Literary Agents Centre, powerpoint of the Buchmesse; this year bigger than ever. See:

That said, here are 3 mini-rants:
1. The Buchmesse's website, as well as their app (downloaded on smart phones) both suck. They may run a good show, but their digital skills are medieval. I've never been able to complete purchase of my ticket online without having to email the website. The app is disappointing. Its search faculty is lame. It should have a layout of each hall, which it doesn't. Hey, get some programmers from California (or Amazon). And wireless internet access for non-exhibitors is $25 for 90 minutes, $55 for one day.

2. The seminar "Tools of Change For Publishing," which included American digital uber-gurus, was $1000 to $1400 for a 1-day seminar on Tuesday. Are they kidding? (I just checked it out more fully, and the fee for all 3 days was from $1795 to $2395.) A friend who attended Tuesday said there were maybe 1000 people. That's a million $$ in a day, at the lowest rate! Publishers are desperate about ebooks and the fast-changing landscape and these guys are sticking it to them. How about picketing them along with Wall Street?

3. 3rd rant (and discovery). The Bookseller (which I'd never seen before) is the English trade publication, and it's perceptive, witty, and informative (though expensive). It made me realize how drab, dull, and boring is our very own Publishers Weekly. The Bookseller is a breath of fresh air, an exciting read, especially after the unimaginativeness of PW. The layout, style, writing and newsworthiness are on a much higher level. American publishing deserves way better than PW (which at least had some weekly soul when Sarah Nelson was editor). A wake-up call from London, which -- I get reminded every so often -- is the motherland of the English language.

Now to some GOOD stuff:

Books I am buying:

Life 75 Years, The Very Best of Life. Stunning book of photos. (I loved Life; it had a lot of influence on my style of book design.) A bargain at $23.00

Photo Box by Robert Koch, Abrams - Contrasto. 250 photos by the greats: Ansel Adams, Richard Avedon, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Frank, Annie Leibovitz, Helmut Newton, others. About $8 used.

Portraitfolio, a tiny handmade book by Belgian artist Leen Van Hulst.

I love her drawings. She made 20 of these and was selling each for 18 Euros.

Walker Evans: America. Out-of-print, got it for $33.00. Spare, lean, pure black and whites of people and rural poverty in the Great Depression, and obviously the inspiration for Robert Frank's 1950s book The Americans. Evans teamed up with writer James Agee to produce the masterpiece Let us Now Praise Famous Men in 1941.

This was a hit at the Fair. I was drawn to it and wanted to type a bit, but there were too many people there.

Unique books I didn't buy (too expensive):
Crooks Like Us by Peter Doyle, unique photo book from Australia. Here's part of an Amazon review: "...forensic photography archive of...Sydney (police)...1920's mugshots. Black and white look-the-camera-right-in-the-eye photos of criminals...caught and booked. Pickpockets, whores, grifters, murderers, small time losers, dope fiends, counterfeiters...astonishing...unintentional beauty...A friend who saw the book said most of the subjects look like...people you'd see in a GQ or VOGUE fashion spread." It's about $100.
Black Tattoo Art, one of a series of outstanding tattoo books from German publisher Edition Reuss. Elegant and/or powerful tattoos. $100 new and used, I'll pass, but I'd love to have it.

Gestatte Schreinerei Pfeiffer, restaurant in Bad Homburg with 100s of carpenters' tools on walls

Book I read on the plane on my iPad
The Affair: A Reacher Novel, by Lee Childs. A good one, Childs doesn't disappoint as he backtracks chronologically to Reacher in the Army. Reacher is one tough motha. Ebooks are super for travel.

Our plans post-Tiny House book
1. First, I'll do some kind of slide show tour. So far planned: San Francisco, Berkeley, Pt. Reyes Station, Mendocino, Pt. Arena, LA, Portland, Seattle, British Columbia (Victoria, Hornby Island, Vancouver), Brooklyn, NYC, Toronto, others TBD. Suggestions welcome.

2. Next book most likely will be on nomadic living: wheels (vans, campers, busses, housecars, trailers) and water (sailboats, houseboats). We already have a ton of info. Eventually a 2nd book of tiny homes.

3. We're contemplating a pocket book version of Stretching (has been done in Germany and Spain with great success, and has not harmed sales of full-size version). Thinking of a scaled-down Stretching as an ebook. Stretches on yr. smartphone. Rick Gordon did a beautiful job making a (Kindle & iPad) ebook out of our Marathon-You Can Do It!, so we're off to a good start. Going to consult with authors Bob and Jean Anderson.

4. We're upgrading StretchWare: The Software That Reminds You To Stretch, for Mac Lion and the latest Windows.

5. Trying to determine which of our books would work in e-form. Not sure about graphic-rich building books. We've got a lot of, er, "content," but what about context? The print world has moved along pretty fast for me (having started with hot lead, i.e. linotype, in late '50s).

Antique Books on display at Buchmesse

This one was $29,500 Euros ($45,000)! See:

So Long, Steve
He may have suffered fools badly, but he left us with a legacy of elegance. The cover of this future blockbuster book -- on display at Frankfurt -- included. (I just got smallest MacBook Air. Jeez, is it beautiful!)

Over and out from the Frankfurt Airport


Sorry this is so long, I don't have the time to make it shorter (per Mark Twain).