My Day at the LATFOB

IMG_0290 I had a great time at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books today. It was held at USC for the first time, and that was a little disorienting…but in a good way. Most of the bookstores booths were  in the same spot, year after year, at UCLA. But at USC, I didn't know where any of them were…so wandering the campus was more fun because I "found" the bookstores as I went along.  I think I ended up visiting more booths and buying more books as a result. My haul included guidebooks for San Francisco (research for Monk) and signed copies of books by Steve Martin, Kelli Stanley, Tom Franklin, and Laura Lippman.

My general sense was that there were fewer people attending the fest at USC than there were past years at UCLA, but that might just be because the festival was more spread out and less crammed together. 

There was one definite improvement over UCLA — the author "green room" was much swankier and more comfortable. Even the food was better.

I chatted with Gary Phillips, Kelli Stanley, Denise Hamilton, Mark Haskell Smith, Aimee Bender, agent Ken Sherman, LA Times Magazine editor Nancie Clare, and lots of other authors before I got together with my fellow panelists Don Winslow, John Vorhaus and Thomas Perry for lunch.

Tom and I had a long talk about JUSTIFIED, and what makes Elmore Leonard so special, and the appeal of amiable bad guys. We also talked about the fates of the TV pilot scripts for BUTCHER'S BOY (for Fox) and JANE WHITEFIELD (for CBS). We talked about some of the books Tom abandoned before finishing…and about the new stuff he has coming.

I went all fan-boy over Don Winslow when he joined us… I think his book SAVAGES is the best book I've read so far this year. I loved it and grilled him on some of his daring creative choices.

Then it was time to head off to our panel. 

She actually didn't know how to get to our room, but luckily I did, so I ended up guiding our guide. The panel went great. Don, John, and Thomas were terrific and not only were they very funny, but they shared some very good insights into the writing process (I used some of what I learned from them at lunch during our personal conversations as the jumping off point for some of our panel discussions). Afterwards, we had good signing and headed back to the green room to eat more food. (That's John, Don, me and Tom in the picture)

After gorging ourselves, Don, Thomas and I went to Mystery Ink's booth for another signing and talk shop.

All-in-all, it was a fine day. 


3 thoughts on “My Day at the LATFOB”

  1. That’s awesome. Just…awesome. lol. Bless her heart…bless your heart!! I love it when you post those videos. They definitely brighten the day, and down here in Arkansas (with all the flooding), I appreciate anything that brightens the day. 🙂
    The Prisoner

  2. The woman in the video was just engaging in some word play with you, Lee. She knew who you were, and who Monk is, but she was going to just keep pretending not to get it because that’s her thing, her way of adding humor and making the other person lose their seriousness. It’s annoying until you get it that no matter what you say, she won’t let you win, that you have to let her win in order to escape!

  3. Simon & Shuster have announced their first quarter results and it’s all over the internet because of their stellar results with digital sales: here’s how the figures break down:
    First, the bad news:
    Revenues (total sales) came in at $155 million versus $152 million for Q1 of 2010: not encouraging, there’s almost no growth at all.
    Operating Income Before Depreciation and Amortization (OIBDA) came in at $7 million versus $2 million for Q1 2010: so the cost-cutting continued and is showing some small results for the bottom line.
    Operating Income (earnings before interest and taxes) came in at $5 million versus $1 million in Q1 2010: well, at least it’s a positive, if an anemic, result.
    Depreciation and Amortization came in at $2 million versus $1 million for Q1 2010: these are positive numbers that increase the bottom line: but it’s just peanuts.
    No Capital Expenditures this Q1, and only $1 million in Q1 2010: nil expansion.
    Total Assets fell to $1.017 billion from $1.126 billion in Q1 2010: as print book sales fall, obviously the resources to create them become of less value.
    Now for the good news:
    In terms of Total Revenue, or total sales, S&S admitted they had lower print book sales, but did not give details. Instead, they hastened to add that they experienced strong growth in digital sales. Sales of digital content came in at $28 million in Q1 more than doubling last year’s first quarter sales. This, of course, is a splendid result and a real achievement. It shows that top management is grappling successfully with the digital world, and it suggests, for the first time, that just because sales of print books are in decline, that doesn’t mean print publishes can’t adapt and prosper. In fact, it’s just the opposite: the lower prices of ebooks mean that millions more copies of books will be sold, so that Total Revenues for print publishers who adapt are very likely to increase substantially just as the income of good writers will.
    Another way to look at the digital sales figure is as a percentage of total publishing revenue: sales of digital content for S&S represented about 18% of total sales compared to just 8% in Q1 of 2010. Wow, huge growth. This suggests, of course, that ebook sales are very likely to reach 50% of total sales within a very few years.
    However, on balance:
    Still, the bottom line for S&S in Q1 2011 is that Operating Income only came in at $5 million. That’s positive and good, and they may have cut costs down as much as they have to, to go on to greater prosperity. But $5 million is, not very much, especially for a company that lists the value of its assets at over a billion. So they aren’t spinning cartwheels at head office, they’re just sighing with relief that the bleeding has stopped. And a point in their favor is that the next three quarters of 2011 are likely to be more profitable, so if digital sales continue to skyrocket, S&S might become a happy place to work at, again. And I hope so.
    Oh, if you’d like to hear how the S&S exec VP of digital is creating new digital offerings, here’s the link:
    At first, she snowed me under with detail, but then I started to get it!


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