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The future of BOOKED! and BookExpo

As the BookExpo Canada trade show wound up on Monday afternoon, Scott Temple, the show’s managing director, said that the BOOKED! consumer fest would definitely return in 2008 – but that it would incorporate lessons learned from the mixed results of this year’s show.

It was feast or famine at the inaugural BOOKED fest, with some marquee events – such as the Stephen King Libris presentation on Friday night – drawing strong crowds while others lured only single-digit attendance. As Temple says, the show “was a success in certain areas and was overextended in others.” As a result, next year’s lineup will likely include fewer events with a wider distribution of name authors – “top-notch events promoted properly,” as Temple said. (This year’s BOOKED included around 20 individual event, several of which were cancelled at late notice after planned school-group audiences fell through.)

As for the trade show, publishers had a mixed response throughout Sunday and Monday – some observed that crowds seemed lighter than last year, while others were pleased enough with the turnout at their booths. Official attendance figures have not yet been released, but Temple said he expects bookseller numbers to be comparable to last year’s (which were about 2,500).

As is often the case, some noted that while booksellers gladly lined up for galleys, there was little actual business done or meaningful back and forth – a concern Temple acknowledged. “People come out and get caught up in author signings,” he said, noting that next year show management would encourage both publishers and booksellers to set up show appointments well in advance. At the same time, he noted, “The business and the industry have changed…. The days of writing all your orders here at the show are gone.”

Throughout Monday, exhibitors were lining up their spaces for next year’s show, which is scheduled to run on June 14 and 15. Though there were anecdotal reports of publishers cutting back on their space for next year (and some, including Random House of Canada, Simon & Schuster Canada, and the Literary Press Group, had already cut back this year), Temple downplayed that, saying, “I can think of only two instances where space was reduced.”

As before, show owner Reed Exhibitions has struck an advisory panel composed of representatives from various sectors to plan next year’s show. “We’re looking for a whole new level of co-operation up here,” said Temple, who moved to Toronto from the U.S. last August to take over management of the show. The committee will likely meet for the first time in August, said Temple. He added that he hopes to explore more online promotion opportunities with the 2008 show, such as book blogs and podcasting.