Backgrounder

The U.S. Book Show is a new book fair created by Publishers Weekly to serve the bookselling and book publishing industry. The three-day show debuts virtually May 25 – 27, 2021. Publishers Weekly set its sights on crafting a meeting place for publishing professionals and book buyers, with an emphasis on serving the interests of librarians and booksellers.

To accomplish that formidable mission, Publishers Weekly, with nearly 150 years’ expertise and leadership in the U.S. and global book publishing industry, determined to do what it does best: build prepublication “buzz about books” and “connect the community.”

Vision for the Inaugural U.S. Book Show

For its inaugural show, all eyes are on Fall 2021 books. Editors’ Picks panels across a dozen categories feature Publishers Weekly editors in conversation with the editors of the selected “big books.” An editorial call from Publishers Weekly yielded nearly 1,000 pitches from publishing houses large and small. PW editors spent weeks sifting through the pitches for titles in nine adult, children’s and comic book categories, aiming to select one or two gems per category.

Meet the Author events, keynote speeches, Galleys-to-Grab promotions and professional development panels appeal to booksellers, librarians, publishers and literary agents. Admission pricing was set to encourage everyone in the industry to attend. The virtual show is limited to five hours per day to allow time for virtual parties and additional networking.

Early enthusiasm for exhibitor booth options, available on a sliding scale, bodes well for exhibit halls packed with a range of vendors, from small presses to midsize imprints, university presses, distributors, library data providers and the largest publishers.

The PW Show Daily anchors the show, publishing news, listing panels and events, providing a venue for publishers to promote their forthcoming titles and generally tying all the fair events together. Publishers Weekly will also donate a portion of the proceeds of the show to a nonprofit partner.

The Publishers Weekly Bookstore of the Year and Sales Representative of the Year awards ceremony will be hosted at the show, emceed by Milliot. The annual bookstore awards were instituted in 1992 with the sales rep awards added in 1998.

The event-management platform 6Connex is hosting the virtual show. Burst Marketing and its seasoned producers are to facilitate live streaming of the events, some of which will be produced in New York City studio space.

A Brief History of Annual U.S.-Based Book Shows

Bringing booksellers and publishers together at an annual U.S.-based industry event has a storied history.

The yearly meetings of the American Booksellers Association (ABA) officially began in 1947, although Publishers Weekly documents annual get-togethers of booksellers beginning in at least 1901. Publishers hawked their forthcoming books and wrote purchase orders at the annual shows. Booksellers remained the shows’ target market for decades, until librarians were invited in, thanks in part to their purchasing power.

The show was held in Washington, D.C. until 1970, when it began traveling to various cities, including Los Angeles, Chicago, Las Vegas, Miami and what would become its final home, New York City.

Reed Expositions bought a 49% share of the show in 1994, acquiring 100% share in 1995, when it was renamed BookExpo America, or BEA. Reed changed the name again, in 2016, to just BookExpo.

“Reed execs felt that shortening the name of the fair would expand its geographic appeal,” noted Jim Milliot, editorial director of Publishers Weekly, in a farewell tribute to BookExpo in December 2020.

In fact, Reed Elsevier, Reed Expo’s sister company, owned Publishers Weekly as part of its stable of magazines from 1977 to 2010, when Reed divested itself of its print properties. In 2018 – 2019, Publishers Weekly teamed up with BookExpo to co-present the New York Rights Fair, targeted to literary and film agents.

While at its height ABA and BookExpo America attendance never reached the draw of European book shows such as the Frankfurt Book Fair (286,000 attendees in 2017, according to Wikipedia), BookExpo saw global acceptance from the publishing community. In its 2002 iteration at the Javits Center in New York, BEA saw more than 30,000 attendees, including approximately 7,000 booksellers and librarians. By 2018, BookExpo in the same venue saw 7,800 total attendees.

The demise of the show provided an opening for Publishers Weekly to step in. The U.S. Book Show will be held virtually in 2021 and assessed after the fact for future possibilities.

According to Jim Milliot, “An annual book show supports networking and one-to-one connection with publishers, agents, booksellers and librarians. Learning about forthcoming big fall titles has always been a staple of past May book shows. With the launch of the U.S. Book Show, Publishers Weekly is continuing the tradition.”

About Publishers Weekly

Publishers Weekly is the international news platform of the book publishing industry. Founded in 1872 and published weekly since then, the magazine boasts 1.23 million social media followers; publishes 10 e-newsletters, BookLife (a website and semimonthly supplement), Publishers Weekly en Español (in partnership with Lantia), two blogs, podcasts, a mobile edition, digital editions, and apps; and features a thriving website that reaches 14 million unique visitors annually. In conjunction with the Sharjah Book Fair, the magazine is also published in an Arabic edition.

In the last 10 years, Publishers Weekly has launched several events for the international publishing community, including the New York Rights Fair, which was held in conjunction with BookExpo in New York; PubTechConnect, a series of high-level conversations about the convergence of technology and publishing, cosponsored by NYU School of Professional Studies Center for Publishing; and Global Kids Connect, an occasional conference held with BolognaFiere.

In 2020, in response to the pandemic restrictions on in-person events, Publishers Weekly launched Books on Tap, a sponsored networking event with authors; Library Lounge LIVE, a regular panel discussion on library topics; and the U.S. Selfies, an awards program for self-published authors, produced in conjunction with BookBrunch and based on the U.K. Selfies awards. PW Star Watch, an annual event to promote up-and-coming talent in the publishing industry, celebrated its sixth year with a virtual event in September 2020.

Publishers Weekly is headquartered in New York’s Chelsea neighborhood and is privately owned.

For media inquiries, contact Christi Cassidy, +1-917-217-4269, ccassidy@publishersweekly.com.

Resources and References

U.S. Book Show: https://usbookshow.com/

Publishers Weekly: https://www.publishersweekly.com/

6Connex: https://www.6connex.com/

“BookExpo and BookCon Are No More,” by Jim Milliot, Publishers Weekly, December 1, 2020. https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/bea/article/85023-bookexpo-bookcon-closed.html

“Letter from the Editor: Farewell to BEA,” by Jim Milliot, Publishers Weekly, December 7, 2020. https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/bea/article/85071-letter-from-the-editor-farewell-to-bookexpo.html

“Photographs and Memories: Remembering BookExpo, in Pictures,” compiled by Jim Milliot, with research assistance from Nathalie Mairena. Publishers Weekly, December 14, 2020 https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/publisher-news/article/85125-photographs-and-memories-remembering-bookexpo-in-pictures.html

“BookExpo Announces Final Attendance for 2002.” BookWeb, May 9, 2002. https://www.bookweb.org/news/bookexpo-america-announces-final-attendance-2002

“Event Attendees Rose 2% at BookExpo; BookCon Attendance Held at 20,000,” by Jim Milliot, Publishers Weekly, June 20, 2018 https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/bea/article/77295-event-attendees-rose-2-at-bookexpo-bookcon-attendance-held-at-20-000.html

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