June 3, 2013

Who won BEA?


Grumpy cat is popular.

Grumpy Cat did.

Not actually having stepped foot in the Jacob Javits Center, site of this year’s Book Expo America, from afar the book industry’s premier event resembled nothing so much as a literary thunderdome — a scrum of galleys, totebags and buzz panels.

The cream always rises to the surface, however, and this year the clear victor of BEA was internet celebrity, Grumpy Cat.

The subject of not one, but two Wall Street Journal features, Grumpy Cat laid waste to the other contenders — Ann Romney, baker of “Mitt’s Meatloaf Cakes”, Guy Kawasaki, self-publishing proselytizer, and Hannah Kent‘s Burial Rites, Hachette’s Iceland thriller, which even had Karen Torres, Hachette vice president, promising “This will be a best-seller. I PROMISE you. Money back guaranteed” — for sheer hubris, they all came in second to Grumpy Cat’s own Grumpy Cat: A Grumpy Book.

The cat was popular. Apparently people waited more than two hours for a photo-op, and extra security guards were called in to control the overexcited crowd.

With a face that launched a thousand memes, not only did Grumpy Cat draw huge lines of fans, but Katherine Rosman writes in the Wall Street Journal that unlike most of the hordes at BEA, the cat has an agent, Mr. Lashes, and a movie deal.

“Mr. Lashes, 34 years old, is an agent for Internet cats. When an ironic photograph of a feline becomes Internet famous, Mr. Lashes contacts the pet owner and offers to help strategize ways to prolong, protect and monetize…Grumpy Cat, the Arizona sourpuss, is Mr. Lashes’s star client. The cat is having a mini-Mickey moment. “

As an antidote to what Boris Kachka at Vulture called the “creeping TEDism” at BEA, where Guy Kawasaki told his audience to “spend at least two hours a day working toward your goal of 10,000 social-network pals, some of whom might eventually kickstart you to bestsellerdom”, perhaps some hysteria over a cat was the least obnoxious part of the whole four days.

In any case, publishers better start looking for the most meme-ready animal on the internet if they want any hope of a headline in 2014.



Ariel Bogle is a former publicist at Melville House.