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Book Fairs in the Media Age

authors, publicity, marketing, booksThe publishing world is late to modern-day marketing. Perhaps the Miami Book Fair will begin to make up for that when live coverage of its events stream on PBS in a few weeks.

Sure, some authors are individually quite media-savvy, and use social media well. Some such as John Green, create YouTube videos that are lively and engaging. And others know the value of a platform.

But television has been harder to come by for authors. Of course, C-Span often broadcasts author appearances, and authors can show up on Charlie Rose from time to time and even, if they’re lucky, on the John Stewart or Stephen Colbert shows.

In general, though, television coverage of book events is rare here (France, by contrast, has two primetime book discussion shows). That’s why PBS coverage of the Miami Book Fair is worth noting. Any opportunity for publicity is good, but treating books and book fairs as entertainment, rather than something stodgy and homework-y, is better.

As Elizabeth Jensen writes in her story for the New York Times article linked to above, “The book industry has not ‘always been as aggressive about creating a media opportunity around their business,’ said Rich Fahle, the executive producer of the PBS coverage, who previously worked on Book TV’s introduction and at Borders, the book retailer.”

That’s putting it mildly.

The coverage doesn’t take in the entire fair, which runs Nov. 16-23, but it’s a start. Most authors might not be too media-savvy, in terms of appearing before a camera, but they have a lot to say. And if we show people enjoying books, enjoying authors, enjoying being involved with books in a way that makes reading and engagement with books something worthy of our attention, that helps everyone.

And if bookstores and authors can use the coverage for their own sites, that’s good, too: any way we can enliven the publishing industry helps authors as well as readers.

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