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Catnip State of Mind: Book Expo and New York Rights Fair

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Catnip State of Mind: Book Expo, New York Rights Fair, BookCon

New York was the place to be last week for a trifecta of book events. It was where I ended my 30-day digital detox for better or worse. I’ll share the upshot in another post this week, but I’d relish another 30 days alone with a pile of books from Book Expo and no WIFI this time. If you must have a kitty fix, scroll down to the end of this post.

When I forgot the pass code to my iPhone last week and no hack worked to re-set it, I knew I needed more time off. It’s been an intense but insightful time of processing, and writing. After two days of being locked out, I gave up and found balm for the digital soul at the Apple store in Grand Central Station.


New pass code in place, I headed down to the Metropolitan Pavilion for the inaugural New York Rights Fair, a publishing trade show dedicated to international rights, licensing and distribution of content. They are the official rights show for Book Expo 18 at the Javits Center. The two events ran concurrently from May 30 to June 1, 2018 and are geared for professionals in the author community. The Book Expo, previously known as Book Expo America or BEA, expanded its public offering, BookCon on the weekend of May 2nd. The following opinions are my own and this post is not sponsored in any form.

new york_rights_fair_George_Slowik

The NY Rights Fair is presented by Publishers Weekly, the international news platform for the book industry, founded in 1872, BolognaFiere and PubMatch, the leading online rights platform.

All tickets including my press pass were honored at both venues. Shuttles ran between the event location in Chelsea and the Javits Center. It’s too soon to say what will happen next year but the consensus of those I asked, found the shuttle inconvenient. It’s a distance of about 10 minutes depending on traffic and the benefits of two locations may outweigh the negatives. Attracting global booksellers for foreign rights is key for industry growth in New York. The closest alternative to the competing London Book Fair in April. I know agents will go to one or the other but not both.

The publishing industry has changed drastically since I began blogging 10 years ago. Frankly, much has changed since I published my first book last year and anyone in the author community must continue to innovate to survive. The trend for using Bloggers and influencers to amplify author reach is growing. I’m optimistic for new growth in the areas of audio books, streaming film and TV and global rights. As the collective digital fatigue deepens, the joys of reading a physical book are growing, ironically with the YA audience. My experience with recent publishing research and attending the two book fair had a deep impact on the many hats I wear including author. Expect exciting changes at Cat Wisdom 101.


I half-dreaded attending the Book Expo. In the past, I found the scale of the space, the crowds and noise overwhelming, but with fewer vendors it was easier to navigate this year. The NY Rights Fair paved the way to less stress with a familiar venue (Cat Camp 2017). There are elevators but I like the wide open staircase for quick access (and exercise) at the multi-story venue. It’s a mix of antique charm with modern tech capabilities. The gorgeous wood floors add to a relaxed vibe of the warm and inviting space. It helped having friendly international exhibitors with joie de vivre. The moment the day ended at 5 pm, the French contingent cracked open wine and trays of nibbles. Yes to la dolce vita! The continental charm continued with the Italians and their stunning space bursting with live begonias and palms. No surprise since one of the presenters is BolognaFiere, a leading European show organizers and owner of the Bologna Children’s Book Fair.

Most convention spaces are soul-sucking, skin and eye-drying exhausting. Anything to create wholeness and balance is a win win. This venue is lovely but I could envision branded yoga mats and balance balls to work out tight muscles from jet lag. Maybe a vendor welcome swag bag of noise-cancelling headphone, eye mask, aromatherapy roll-on for headachy temples and a meditation app. for a quick re-boot and refresh. How about 5 -minute chair massage for free before or after editor meetings. Let the intentional negotiations begin.


The roster of 70 panelists with impressive global klout wowed the audience with high caliber programming and panels.


What I love about books and the author community is what I love about cats: passionate people. There is no substitute for face-to-face meetings and interaction with book lovers. While in New York, I must have spoken to over hundred people and I learned something from each one. From an excited lit major from the mid-west on her first trip to New York, to publisher and booksellers small and large, complaining or perky sales folks, assistants, bloggers, writers, serious book nerds, jaded editors, young and older rights agents, happy but exhausted librarians, exasperated old school literary agents wondering if they can keep up with the changes. It’s hard to sell anything. We had a great day. It’s been slow. LOVE that. It picked up yesterday. Where did you get that bag? How did you know?! How can we use hashtags? Changes in author contracts #metoo. A hundred stories. I shared only one.

#NYRF18 cocktail reception. Lower right: George Slowick Jr.

It was wonderful to connect with fellow Finns and Canadians but equally inspiring to speak with attendees across the globe. What we all share is the love of books. So many books, so little time. Being a book cover junkie, I wish I’d had time to attend all the panels and the symposium at the Parson’s School of Design and their book fair collaboration. View the juried awards for excellence in book design.

Welcome to the reimagined Book Expo. Yes, it’s that big. And what a great title for a book. I wonder if any book with enough money and marketing muscle behind it, be a #1 bestseller. Absolutely. And unknown books do get discovered and become word of mouth phenomenons. Yes. They are unicorns but miracles do happen.


Harry Potter was the most mentioned book on the inter-active wall. Twenty years of magic, indeed.


Books, books everywhere but not that many cat books. At least not ones that stopped me in my tracks.


Programming highlights included a wide range of topics of panels and round-table discussions on diversity and inclusion.


Book Expo ended on Friday at 5 PM. Some packed up early while others lingered. As an empath, the collective fatigue, sore feet and backs was palpable, but so was the exhilaration of beauty and possibility. There was something to thrill everyone. For me, the design must wow as much as the content. That means begging to be stroked, picked up and cracked open. What makes you want to to pick up a book?

Until next time, keep reading, writing, buying books, sharing social media love for books and leaving author reviews on Amazon, Barnes And Noble, Goodreads etc.


A few of the catalogs I picked up. I brought home two bags of books (not shown) and several bags. Every vendor/bookseller has bags to hand out made of plastic, paper to pricier cloth. Every year there is an opportunity for clever marketing. The prized bags are doled out selectively. My favorite this year is the “Read and Live” canvas tote from LitHub featuring a young Joan Didion. It’s one of the best literary hubs with in ages. At the rights fair no one seemed to have any bags. Kudos to Quarto for digging up the black cotton “Creativity begins with you” bag for my armful of paper. Ditto the lovely Finns and Swedes from FILI, who provided a perfect pen when I lost mine. They patiently explained how The Finnish Literature Exchange provides grants for translation while I tested my rusty Finnish. Who knew? Sometimes, a little kindness goes a long way.

My professional Cat Writer’s Association membership garnered a press pass. It’s a legitimate organization but strangers often respond with surprise or a quizzical smile when they hear the association exists. When I met Publisher’s Weekly president, George Slowik at a cocktail party last week he introduced himself as George. He was very jovial and must have assumed I knew he was the NY Rights Fair co-founder. I had no idea who he was and just tuned into his energy. I felt the fatigue of his very long day and a back ache. We both were feeling back pain and I motioned to move to the wall where I showed him a lower back exercise. We chatted amiably and when I squint to read the name on his badge, but it’s not clear. We joke about how badges are always hard to read. Without a trace of ego he says, “I’m the president of Publisher’s Weekly.”

Mortified but without skipping a beat I say, “Of course you are.” He seems amused and I felt like an idiot but an honest idiot. At least I didn’t shove a business card in his face, ask a favor or generally suck up like someone else did later.

He bends over to read the name of the media outlet printed on my press pass. “Cat Writers’?”

Here we go again. He’s never heard of it. I imagine an arched brow. “Yes, it’s real. The pet industry is about hit 7o billion annually.”

He nods. He gets it. We talk about changes in the digital landscape, social media and then the event planner shows up. Allen Lau, a presenter and co-founder of Wattpad walks over to say thank you and bye. We chat for another couple minutes and the party is over. The room empties. It’s only when I upload the images from the day, I notice George is in three of them.


Black Cat magazine 1898-June

You know I can’t leave without posting at least one cat image. Hello June, welcome to summer.


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