Westchester Words: Education, Ed-Tech, and Publishing

Virtual Shows - Sign of the Times or a Permanent Change?

May 25, 2021 Westchester Publishing & Cev Bryerman Season 1 Episode 14
Westchester Words: Education, Ed-Tech, and Publishing
Virtual Shows - Sign of the Times or a Permanent Change?
Chapters
Westchester Words: Education, Ed-Tech, and Publishing
Virtual Shows - Sign of the Times or a Permanent Change?
May 25, 2021 Season 1 Episode 14
Westchester Publishing & Cev Bryerman

As we all start to emerge from the pandemic and people seriously consider meeting more in person than on Zoom, what will this mean for virtual events? Will virtual events still have a place in a post-pandemic society? Cev Bryerman, Publisher and Executive Vice President of Publishers Weekly shares his thoughts about what publishing industry events will look like in the months and years ahead.

Show Notes Transcript

As we all start to emerge from the pandemic and people seriously consider meeting more in person than on Zoom, what will this mean for virtual events? Will virtual events still have a place in a post-pandemic society? Cev Bryerman, Publisher and Executive Vice President of Publishers Weekly shares his thoughts about what publishing industry events will look like in the months and years ahead.

Nicole Tomassi:

Welcome to Westchester Words, ed-tech, education, and publishing. I'm Nicole Tomassi, and on this episode, I am welcoming back Cev Bryerman, Publisher of publishers weekly, and he will be discussing virtual events in the time of COVID. Cev, welcome back, and may I say, first of all, congratulations on your recent promotion!

Cev Bryerman:

Thank you very much. And I'm glad I'm back, Nicole, and I'm looking forward to talking about the world of virtual.

Nicole Tomassi:

Yes, the world of virtual. So actually, I guess we could kind of reach back a bit to the webinar that , um, our companies co-hosted a few weeks ago , uh, publishing now, 21 looking forward, and just about every panelist on there, three of which were publishers were talking about how conducting, you know , events has changed. You know, obviously, they can't attend things in person , such as the London Book Fair or Frankfurt and those sorts of things and how author events have also changed because of the inability to do in-person events right now. So what are your thoughts about all that and how did that all lead up to the U S book show?

Cev Bryerman:

COVID was a very difficult time for the past year and a half on having in-person meetings, whether it's a trade show, whether it's an author outreach at a bookstore, an author tour, all that kind of came to a silent , um , stop because there was no in-store opportunities, no social networking, no, no nothing could happen because of the virus. Um , so every publishing house, Publishers Weekly, had to pivot to create buzz about a forthcoming title, buzz about what is going on in the world of publishing, and the only way of communicating was to build quickly platforms that could connect audiences in different venues, just like the one we did with Westchester Publishing Services and PW, we talked about the COVID and the issue in publishing, and we brought together a thousand people, over 600 attended it live, to create a conversation about what other thinkers in the publishing world were thinking about and how they're dealing with the issues. Publishers did their own virtual tours online or author interviews online, u m, trade shows, u h, which, you know, due to COVID was not allowed to have gatherings, so they did virtual events throughout the day that the shows would have went on, whether th ey're, u h , n etworking sessions, whether th ere a r e p anels and discussions. So I think the industry adopted pretty, pretty well, same thing with bookstores and libraries, how they ad opted t o the virtual world by having online ordering, or doing th e t hings with the community to support the community. So I think, u m , t hrough the last year and a half ho uses, houses and publishers and authors and agents found a new way to conduct business, u m , w on't replace what we normally do because some people won't have that human interaction, but I think th e v irtual events, u h , h ave worked well. I think right now there's kind of Zoom saturation. Nobody really wants to be on a zoom call all day be cause w e 're d oing that for business. But I think the industry kind of pivoted pretty quickly to , to compensate, I think there's new tricks and new ideas that came out of it.

Nicole Tomassi:

So , um, how did you, you know, looking at all those trends that were taking place and how , um, everybody tried to use as creative approach as possible to pivot to a virtual environment, to do the business of book publishing, how did that , um, inspire Publishers Weekly to go ahead with the U S book show?

Cev Bryerman:

A very good question. Uh , you know, we've been playing with virtual events before we decided to make an announcement about the U S book show. Uh , we've learned a lot from learning about different platforms and the ability of different platforms. So we were pretty educated understanding the virtual world in terms of technology. When you have a great team of six people led by Krista Rafanello, who built virtual trade shows for a former employee, Library Journal and School Library Journal. Um, so we decided when BookExpo decided to retire their live event, there was a void in the industry and we felt as a company in a strategic move that we needed to fill that void. And the only way to do that void is not having a live event, but having a virtual event , um, to more about creating buzz and awareness and pre-sales for titles. So we went ahead and we interviewed a couple of vendors , um, to field, which was a good venue for us to use virtually what was simplistic to use. So , um, we went out and decided to do it. And so far as of today , um, we have 160 publishers signed up , um, several thousands of people coming to the show and , um, you know, it's in process. Every day we learn something new. Um, we realized that you need to have a big team behind you to do all the nuts and bolts of building a booth and getting customer support. And that's what we learned with , uh, the virtual event that publishers need some helping hands to help them create their booth. It's very simplistic, but when you get into the kind of the weeds of it, there's always a question to be asked. So it's a great move at PW, and we will do it for the future, but , um, it taught us a lot about the virtual world and what other projects we can come from that.

Nicole Tomassi:

Interesting. So , um, you know, you said that there's 160 publishers already signed up, and I would imagine that there's a lot of authors who are lined up for those different publishers. Can you kind of give us maybe a sneak peek of, you know, some of the content that visitors can expect when they attend?

Cev Bryerman:

Sure. Uh , we have some keynote speakers and more to be announced. We have no Elizabeth Warren and some other guests you can see on the , on the, on the website, we have 15 panels that are editors' picks. Um , they are selecting the books for the forthcoming season and that was done by call from submission that publishers submitted. So there'll be panels on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Um , the editors are having conversations with authors. There are other sponsored panels, whether it's indigenous or whether it's comics, graphic novels, there's content for librarians, panels with Sari Feldman, the former ALA president , uh, working with Andrew Albanese, our , our library editor to talk about , uh , issues with the libraries and creating a conversation. You know , on Thursday it's children's day with YA and middle grade, we're talking with key authors about the children's space. So it's more to create conversations with authors and panels and all that stuff is on our website, us book, show.com and give you a listing of three days events. So it's very rich in content and very strong keynote speakers that are being announced within the next week. Some of them are already up on the website. So it's great content for three days. And what's nice about this platform and in talking to other platforms, we have an agreement where that, that show usually ends, book expo on that Thursday, but we have the environment open 24/7 for three months after where people can come back to the show because we know that people can't be on zoom calls all day. They can pick and choose the ones they want to see. They can come back, go back and see the ones they enjoyed seeing . So it's kind of an open environment for three months, which I like about this platform. I'm using a platform called 6Connex um , it's a 3d virtual , uh , experience like most events are. So it's going to be , um , rich with a lot of content and people will come back throughout the three months if they missed anything the first three days of the show.

Nicole Tomassi:

That's really great. I mean, to have it open for about 90 days afterwards, so that, like you said, anybody who didn't have an opportunity to catch it live, at least they can , can capture the sessions with the , um, the author discussions or the different, you know, like the library talks and all that sort of thing. The one thing I didn't hear any mention of is bookstores. Is there something, you know, is there any, is there like a channel geared towards them, for instance, at this?

Cev Bryerman:

Good catch Nicole, yes. Uh , our three main audiences for this show is booksellers. We are reaching out to all the ABA bookstores and our own non- traditional bookstore . So there's definitely a couple of panels for bookselling . There's panels obviously for booksellers and librarians to see the pitches that the editors of forthcoming titles. So the main three prongs of the show are booksellers librarians and press , uh , for this go around. Um, cause we wanted, that's what we heard from publishers , um, that they want to be, the show wants to be more B2B with a hone on just creating buzz about books, because COVID definitely put a cramp into getting buzz about books with the elections that were going on, with all the social justice and diversity issues going on. Um, they had a hard time just getting books out to sell. So, and everything has been crammed into the fourth quarter or the first quarter of 2022. So really they wanted a, a show that's going to create buzz and hit those three prongs. As I said, booksellers librarians and press, and definitely an emphasis for booksellers, because that's one of our core niches for PW is besides libraries and presses and authors and agents.

Nicole Tomassi:

So, so I would imagine then that the author , sorry, is it the editors pick , sorry, not the authors picks, but that these picks are probably focused on titles that are releasing in the fall and beyond. Is that safe to say?

Cev Bryerman:

That's correct . Both new and forthcoming.

:

And I, you know, yeah. And I know certainly like in the, in the webinar discussion that took place with , um, Sourcebooks and Princeton university press and for legend times, they all hit on the fact that, you know, with everything that was going on over the past year or so that there's been a significant transition, you know, where it used to be that frontlist accounted for like two thirds of this , of their sales. Now it's almost reversed where backlist is two thirds of the sales and, you know, getting that attention for new titles and new authors has been really challenging. So I'm curious, how will the U S book show help to maybe give a little more attention to say a new title or new author?

Cev Bryerman:

Well, that's basically what the editors picks are, are forthcoming titles and new titles. Um , with the booths , um, the publishers are promoting their forthcoming titles. Um , Nicole, you picked up a very good point about backlist, and we do have a special two sessions , uh , at the show. One is on backlist, there's a special panel on backlist and then there's another special panel on frontlist that's being produced by our sponsors to cover, you know, the opportunities. And as you say, backlist is very important to publishers during COVID cause that's an evergreen product that constantly sells for them. But , um, the focus of the editor picks are all front list titles that we're selecting that are forthcoming into the next season. So you kind of get , um, a really good buzz about what book sellers librarians and press are going to key in on and thinking about and write about and promote about,

Nicole Tomassi:

Well, that's good. It's, it's, it's good that there's a space for everything and, and different channels , um , for it to be accessed from. So get the crystal ball out and shine it up. You know, what do you do you see virtual events such as the U S book show becoming a staple, even as we, you know, emerge from the pandemic and we are allowed to start having more in-person events. Do you see it as like being a component of an in-person event or do you see it standing on its own?

Cev Bryerman:

We will continue To do this as a virtual. We are thinking about having a component with a live event. I think people want both, if you look at London book fair, you know, it's , it's going to be spread out over a couple of days. I think Frankfurt is going to do a live and in person event. Cause that's in October. I know Bologna Book Fair, my last thing I read is a hundred percent virtual, but going forward, I think you're going to have a hybrid. I think you're going to have both virtual and in live events because you know, traveling to different countries and it's expensive for publishers . So I think there's going to be a hybrid model. We're definitely considering a hybrid model going forward for the US book fair, but anything we do, you know, it can be hybrid stuff. So I really think that , um, publishers and trade shows have figured out what the right mixture should be, but I, it will never replace , um, shows will never replace the networking opportunity in the conversations and to meet colleagues. And I think that's what people really would like is to have that type of , uh, of a venue so they can know, see their authors, have face in persons with their authors and agents and stuff. So I think that to me, for the future it's going to be a hybrid combination because people still do want to connect with each other, and that's what this industry is all about is connecting personally.

Nicole Tomassi:

Absolutely. I, I, I definitely can agree with that. I mean, you know, I, I did get to go to the last few book expos and , uh, it's definitely a great opportunity to connect with others and, and sometimes you just have those chance encounters, you know, with somebody and it can really lead to something completely unexpected in a good way. So , um, I think everybody likes a little bit of that serendipity that can come with an in-person event.

Cev Bryerman:

Well, that's how I launched PW Espanol out of Spain. I t was through a trade show a nd I met somebody that knew that we were doing P W an Arabic edition. And they were very interested in doing a P W Spain for the Latin American/Mexican market. And, u h, we came to a deal w ith a trade show and i t took us about six, seven, eight months to put the deal together. But now we're, on our 10th issue of Publishers Weekly Espanol i n Spanish, out of Seville. So out o f shows or even out of meetings, people do want to get, c ause there's always that conversation or an introduction t o hey you should talk. This person s hould t alk. And that's the beauty of kind of the in-person meetings and trade shows and gatherings, a nd even, you know, what programs, u h, you know, it's definitely l ook the O scars, y ou k now, the other night it was a totally different experience a nd you don't have the same, u h, energy, t he online, u m, you h ad t he different type of energy and connection at a live event.

Nicole Tomassi:

I couldn't agree more, but till we can do that, I think, you know, something like the U S book show is a good placeholder until, you know , until we can do something in person again. So here's crossing our fingers that the in-person events will be returning soon and until they do, you know , you definitely want to check out the U S book show. That website again is us book show.com . I should also add that Westchester publishing services will have a booth there. So if you are a publisher and you want to learn about the prepress services that we offer for editorial, and production, you definitely want to come by and , uh , have a little chat with us. So , uh, Cev, I want to thank you so much again, you are the first guest who's been back for a second round, so thank you for that. And for talking to me about the U S book show and looking forward to a successful event.

Cev Bryerman:

Well, I appreciate Nicole inviting me back. Maybe a third is a good , a good charm, right?

Speaker 4:

So maybe I'll be back after the book

Cev Bryerman:

Fair and say, Hey, you know, it works . These are the lessons that I learned from it, but I appreciate our relationship with Westchester publishing services. You guys have been a great partner over the zoom events that we've done. I think the last two years , um, I think , um, we all learned from our zoom event together that it's creating content for readers and readers will come. And as I said, in the last event, we had close to a thousand signups and over 500 coming live and staying on for a good portion. So I think we have a good partnership providing content. And that's what PW wants to do is provide good content,

Nicole Tomassi:

Agreed and, you know, Westchester publishing services. Um, we also, you know, get a lot of benefit out of our relationship with publishers weekly. It brings us to an audience who maybe isn't quite sure who we are or what we do. You know , we just want to help publishers get their content into the hands of their readers. That's, that's the piece we play in the publishing ecosystem. So it's, it is definitely a symbiotic relationship, and I'm glad to be working with you in this way, Cev, I hope to have you back for a victory lap after the U S book show, the mic is open!

Cev Bryerman:

We can always go back for it. We can always go back for a victory lap, and I can also talk about what we've learned the hard way. You know , there's always, we're always learning that there's always a risk to take, and we we've made some small errors as we develop this, but it's a learning curve. And I think you learn from your mistakes.

Nicole Tomassi:

I couldn't agree more. And I think that's a good note to end on. It becomes learning opportunities. It's not mistakes, it's learning opportunities. And if you think about it that way, you're always going to learn and grow. Uh , Kevin again, always great to have you here. Always great to talk with you and , um , listeners get over to us book show. And if you haven't bought your tickets, buy them . And if you're a publisher who wants to get a booth, can you still?

Cev Bryerman:

N o, we're sold out.

Nicole Tomassi:

Sold out, Ah, you missed your opportunity if you didn't do it! Um, so you can, you can watch this one and , uh , next time, you know, the next us book show, sign up for it then. Thank you for listening to this episode of Westchester words, we will be providing links to some of the information that Cev referenced in our conversation at our website, Westchester publishing services.com, where in addition to finding this episode, you can find previous episodes of the Westchester words podcast, along with bonus content that some of our guests have provided to us. You can also follow Westchester Words on your favorite streaming platform to be notified about new episodes when they become available and to listen to previous episodes. In the meantime, send us an email at Westchester words at Westchester, E D S V C s.com to share your thoughts or comments about today's discussion and tell us what content you'd like Westchester to cover in future episodes. Join us next time when we'll be discussing another topic of interest to the education ed tech and publishing industries. Until then stay safe, be well and stay tuned.