Reportage: ALA Midwinter Meeting 2013
Laura, Sandra and I headed up to Seattle on Saturday to check out the exhibits at the American Library Association's Midwinter Meeting.
This is a large conference and trade event for the library profession. I also saw a number of people with identification indicating that they were teachers or educators, authors, agents and, of course, bloggers (I didn't see as many as I expected, however--I suspect the smaller midwinter meeting doesn't attract as many people who travel just for exhibits). The Big Six publishers all have a presence, as do many of the smaller ones, such as Algonquin, Soho and a number of independents I wasn't familiar with. Notably missing was the Harlequin empire, which I understand only exhibits at the major ALA conference in the summer.
Here's a roundup of some observations from ALA--this is by no means exhaustive, as I was only able to spend a day and didn't attend any of the social activities. (Though we did get to hang out with Mindi for half a day, which is more awesome than any of the organized meet-ups.)
The vast majority of the books showcased were young adult and younger titles. We intentionally went on the "spotlight on adult fiction" day so we could see a diversity, but with the exception of some literary and women's fiction and a few key imprints or publishers, most were targeted at younger readers. I heard a number of librarians complain about this to exhibitors, which I though was interesting gossip. I was pretty disappointed that several publishers didn't even have their adult fiction catalogs available. I was also there wearing my educator hat, and was seeking non-fiction I could use in my communications classes, but only Wiley had much in the way of academic titles featured.
I was pretty shocked at how little romance was being pushed, since I know that it's the most popular genre and that libraries carry romance pretty heavily. I assume more of this is showcased to librarians at their larger annual meeting. Even in the YA exhibits, it definitely skewed toward the fantasy/science fiction/historical fantasy realm (fans of YA fantasy should be very, very happy this spring and summer) or Issue Books (eating disorders, cutting, incest).
Algonquin Young Readers (Soft Launch)
I had the opportunity to talk at length with the marketing director for Algonquin Books and am even more excited about their young reader imprint. These are definitely what I'd consider "literary" titles for middle grade and teen readers--and the sort of thing that young people who are turned off of the more commercial fiction that gets so much attention will likely embrace. They gave me review copies of both of their YA titles: If You Could Be Mine about a teenage lesbian in Iran and Somebody Up There Hates You which is about two teens in hospice care. (An aside, I was embarrassingly excited to discover that the author of the first book is also an American University alum--I am such a dork.) I was really struck by the cover design of both of these titles, which definitely allow the books to be easily marketed to a lot of different audiences--I think this is very wise.
The big book Penguin was pushing for spring is Rick Yancey's The 5th Wave, a post-apocalyptic alien invasion YA book. This is usually not my wheelhouse at all, but the editor of that book was there when we stopped by the Penguin booth and her enthusiasm for it was pretty contagious. She says it's her favorite book she's worked on and that it has a lot of the big "who am I" and "what do I stand for" sort of questions that made The Hunger Games so popular. It's out in May.
Penguin also had a display of the repackaged Sarah Dessen books, and I have to admit, seeing them all together really won me over to the new look. Some of her books are pretty old at this point, and with the new covers they look new again and I bet the new covers will help her books acquire a whole new generation of fans. Review copies of her new book, The Moon and More, were in hot demand, and I was ridiculously thrilled to get a copy. (My mother said I looked like my dog when she gets a tennis ball, whatever that means.)
Penguin also had several books, including Tara Sullivan's Golden Boy, that seemed perfect for that hard-to-please freshman boy audience. (We were taking special note of books that would appeal to the group on behalf of our friend Luke, whose classroom library is our special project.)
I also spoke to Flux at length and they have some very-intriguing titles coming out, including one they were providing a preview of, Some Quiet Place by Kelsey Sutton, out in July. This one definitely has a Maggie Stiefvater vibe in the preview, so I'm hoping that it's a good one. I'm not a huge paranormal reader, but most of their paranormal titles sounded very interesting--a bit higher concept that a lot of the same-old, same-old.
Also notable is that Flux' 2013 releases feature incredibly diverse characters while not being about difference in an explicit manner, and they were heavily promoting Dancing in the Dark, a novel about a ballet dancer from an orthodox Jewish family that was originally published in Australia. I'm most excited about Riptide by Linsey Scheibe--it sounds like it ticks most of my boxes: Sports! Dual narration! Ocean! I have an eARC of this one and I'm pretty intrigued.
The third publisher that I spoke to at length (I chatted with everyone, but some people were chattier than others) was Soho, which I was fairly unfamiliar with. Soho recently launched a teen imprint and have a number of young adult mystery/thriller-type novels coming out this summer and fall. I used to love reading crime fiction and mysteries, but many of them have gotten too violent and so many of them feature lots of gratuitous unnecessary sexual violence, so Soho's teen imprint has a lot of potential for me. What We Saw at Night by Jacqueline Mitchard is out already and I'm planning on getting my hands on a copy of that one soon. Laura picked up a sampler of their forthcoming titles that I'm excited to check out.
I was also very interested in a couple of Soho's adult novels, in particular Mike McCormack's Notes from a Coma, which is a short novel about the west of Ireland. I know I've mentioned several times that I lived in Ireland and went to graduate school there, but I'll read nearly anything that is an authentic depiction of that country--I love it. This book has the added bonus of footnotes, for which I have a deranged affection.
I kind of freaked out the lovely people at Bloomsbury because I was probably a little overly enthusiastic about my love for Something Like Normal. They were promoting a nice mix of books, including Lindsey Leavitt's Going Vintage (which all three of the people working at the booth were in agreement that they found "more charming" than Sean Griswold's Head) and Megan Miranda's Hysteria. They also talked up Robin Benway's Also Known As, which I hadn't heard of previously, but it's out in February and sounds like a YA Alias, which you know I'll be all over. I'm bummed they changed the cover from the original concept which was super Alias-y, since it featured several wigs.
Simon & Schuster
Unfortunately, Simon and Schuster was swamped the entire day, so I didn't really get a chance to hear much of what they had available beyond what I already knew about: The Book of Broken Hearts being one, and a lot of paranormal or mystery-type titles. I was thrilled to discover that Mistress of Spices author Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni has new book coming out, Oleander Girl (they had it as a featured title as part of "Spotlight on Adult Literature Day).
We had the hardest time at the Random House booth, they were either swamped or there was no one to be found. But, we heard they were releasing a novel-in-verse, The Language Inside, this year and that's always a big win for us, so we persevered. I was excited to learn about Starstruck, which is about early Hollywood and Burning, which features a character from the Gypsy community.
Amazon Children's Publishing
Amazon really pushed a book that's the first in a trilogy about a girl who voluntarily goes to a Hell-like otherworld as an Angelfall read-alike. Unfortunately, this book isn't referenced in that way in their materials nor on their website and they weren't giving out samplers or ARCs, so the name escapes me (Google tells me it's likely Sanctum by Sarah Fine). Basically, their books looked interesting, but it really wasn't a linger and chat about books sort of situation, which is kind of disappointing.
A lot of my other observations are more general.
- Ballet seems to be a "a thing" in YA at the moment, with seemingly every publisher having something which they described as "Black Swan meets <INSERT RANDOM THING>." Words cannot describe my discomfort with YA and Black Swan being commingled in that manner, but I'm kind of uptight.
- It seemed like there were fewer random prom dress covers on display, with a lot more artistic or illustrated covers (this makes me happy).
- Teen mysteries seem to be a full-fledged trend, with lots of references to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (again, no, no, no to this and YA in the same breath).
- Historical fiction seems to be on the rise, especially 1920s settings.
- Abrams, while having a smaller list, also has some of the more interesting 2013 releases. I'm definitely going to be paying closer attention to their books from now on.
- There are so many amazing-looking middle grade novels! I really have a hard time with books aimed at the age group, but I did pick up an ARC of Holly Black's Doll Bones, because it looked so delicious. (I was getting hungry at that point.)
- LIttle Brown/Hachette was tucked away in the corner so we didn't spend much time checking out their stuff. However, Laura was thrilled to get an ARC of Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick. Apparently, they'd had one left over from an early giveaway (or something along those lines). I was happy that we ended up over there when they had a stack of review copies of Kristin Callahan's Winterblaze--I've wanted to check out this series for awhile.
- Scholastic was mostly promoting younger books on Saturday as well as "issue-focused" fiction and non-fiction related to the Common Core. I was incredibly impressed with their resources for teachers and librarians. (Though not at all surprised.)
- Disney/Hyperion similarly was displaying largely middle grade and younger books so I didn't linger, but their adventure/fantasy books looked cool.
- We were thrilled to meet Gabrielle, who's been a long-time friend of Clear Eyes, Full Shelves and was our very first author interview. She was signing copies of Wicket Season and promoting verse day (she has a novel in verse coming out later this year). Her publisher, Lorimer, has a lot of great options for reluctant readers, so I'd check them out if you know of a young person fitting that description. I wish we'd gotten to chat more, but my phone is stupid and I kept missing her messages (and texts from other folks I was supposed to say hey to--sorry, all!). Next time!
- I did stop by Macmillan's adult fiction area and they have a lot of interesting stuff coming this year, especially what I'd consider literary and/or international thrillers/mysteries. I didn't visit their YA section because I was uncomfortable with what I perceived as some strange anti-blogger tweets from one of their reps staffing that part of their exhibit.
- On that same note, I had a lovely time chatting with a number of librarians at the show and perhaps it's because I was there as both an educator and as a blogger and was dressed professionally, but my experience was that everyone was very friendly and collegial and just excited about books and reading. So, despite that I was worried I would be treated hostilely due to some things I'd seen on Twitter the day before, I didn't experience that at all. Thank goodness. I love libraries and think librarians do amazing work!
- Sarah Skilton asked Laura if she knew Amy Spalding only because Laura was wearing an FNL shirt. Amy, you're living the dream.
- I was blown away by how many people got excited about the Friday Night Lights reference on our badges. Texas forever, y'all, Texas forever.