BEA 2013: Volunteers and Voices of Change

Volunteers Megan Bender (Summer Publishing Institute), Janea Brachfeld (M.S. in Publishing), and Chris Kottmeier (Summer Publishing Institute)
Volunteers Megan Bender (Summer Publishing Institute), Janea Brachfeld (M.S. in Publishing), and Chris Kottmeier (Summer Publishing Institute)

Students wearing neon green T-shirts with the slogan “Keep Calm and Read On” seemed to be everywhere last week at Book Expo America. There they were in the autograph area controlling crowds, at publishers’ booths helping with signings, at conference sessions, and at author breakfasts. Forty-nine Master of Science in Publishing: Digital and Print Media and 2013 Summer Publishing Institute students were roaming the massive BEA space at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center serving as volunteers and picking up industry knowledge—and plenty of great swag as well. Advanced reading copies anyone? ARCs were there for the picking from bestselling authors like David Baldacci, Scott Turow, Lisa Scottoline, Cassandra Clare, and more. All in all, getting the chance to volunteer at the largest book conference in America was a great treat for students and an awesome way to kick off a summer of studies—and reading!

For four M.S. in Publishing: Digital and Print Media students, BEA offered up a particularly special opportunity: the chance to appear on one of the prestigious BEA Conference panels. Alumnae Thea James (’12) and Teresa Ferraiolo (who just graduated from the program last month) and current students April Rim and Christian Scarlett represented NYU on a panel titled “ ‘Rising Industry Insiders: What Those New to the Publishing Industry Think About Its Future:’ Students in the NYU M.S. in Publishing Program Speak Out.” Faculty Member Peter Balis, Director of Digital Business Development at John Wiley & Sons, moderated this lively discussion, which was covered live by C-SPAN2. Being on C-SPAN2 was a real thrill for the students!

After talking about how they became involved in publishing (mostly through the M.S. in Publishing program), panelists answered questions on their preferred reading formats, how they consume content, how they discover books, suggestions for “older managers,” and what they are most excited about in publishing.

M.S. in Publishing panelists April Rim, Christian Scarlett, Teresa Ferraiolo ('13), and Thea James ('12)
M.S. in Publishing panelists April Rim, Christian Scarlett, Teresa Ferraiolo (’13), and Thea James (’12)

Format and Form:

Interestingly, all the panelists still read print books in varying degrees, though everybody has some access to a device. Thea James, who reads at least three books a week, joked: “It is impossible to purchase only print since I do live in an NYC apartment and eBooks are cheaper.” When the subject of Kindle Singles came up, there was a groundswell of support. Said Christian Scarlett: “I love Kindle Singles, to browse short and long form. I find them to be a new market.”


All the students said they browse bookstores (and, yes, buy on-the-spot rather than online later!), check out GoodReads, and read reviews such as in Publishers Weekly. Added April Rim: “I also receive recommendations via word-of-mouth. I learn what my friends and my mom are reading through social media.”

Advice to those “Older” Managers:

  • “Look at Twitter! Be open-minded and hire people skilled in social media. Combine ideas and leverage that combination.”
  • “Be strategic instead of spreading yourself too thin.”
  • “Consider authors who have connections to social media.”
  • “Look at folks outside of the publishing industry who may have skills such as website coding and analytics.”
  • “Know and understand the lingo and how important this can be (examples: hashtag and retweet). If everyone becomes familiar with the lingo, this can go a long way.”
  • “Find well-rounded employees: those who can write, use social media, use Adobe products, and who make a team effort. There are places and opportunities for people to help each other out in order to reach the end goal.”

Opportunities and the Future:

  • Bundling of print and digital editions
  • The new “binge viewing” model pioneered by Netflix. How can this best translate to books?
  • Cross-media opportunities like the TV show and book line Pretty Little Liars. (Said Teresa Ferraiolo: “The cast is active online; this gets the fans involved, and shows the importance of translating content across media.”

All were excited that people are reading in different formats, and encouraged that they see subway riders reading both print books and via electronic devices. “E-readers open up a new demographic of reader,” said Christian Scarlett.

Peter Balis ended the panel by thanking the students for their feedback and quoting author Sylvia Day: “I’ve worked with 12 different publishers and have worked with some of the best people in the industry. These people are repositories of information about books and the industry likes and dislikes, and you will need that vibrant community.” Balis then told the students that they are the vibrant community coming into the industry!

As the panel concluded, for some, it was time to head to one of those happy hours held all over BEA at the end of a long day of books, camaraderie, and neon green shirts. Just think: BEA 2014 is around the corner!

by Doris Alcivar


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