by Bob Minzesheimer)
Actors Neil Patrick Harris, Lena Dunham and Amy Poehler will be among more than 750 authors at BookExpo America, the annual publishing convention that begins Wednesday with a new effort to add pop-culture glitz to the book world.
Celebrities touting their memoirs include Harris (Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography, Oct. 14), Dunham (Not That Kind of Girl, Oct. 7), and Poehler (as yet untitled, Oct. 28).
Other boldfaced speakers include Anjelica Huston (Watch Me, Nov. 11), Alan Cumming (Not My Father's Son, Oct. 7) and Martin Short (I Must Say, Nov. 4).
The four-day expo, which is more about marketing and networking than literature, draws 20,000 people who work in publishing.
In addition, as many as 10,000 readers, who've paid $30 ($5 for kids), are expected for the final day, Saturday's BookCon, modeled on ComicCon and other fan fests. Publishers Weekly dubs BookCon "the new cool kid in town."
It features previews and discussions of two film adaptations: The Fault in Our Stars (out June 6) with author John Green and director Josh Boone, and This Is Where I Leave You (Sept. 12), with author Jonathan Tropper and co-stars Tina Fey and Jason Bateman.
"I love the idea of opening the show to the public," says James Patterson, who's on a kids' best sellers panel with Jeff Kinney, Rick Riordan, Rachel Renee Russell and Daniel Handler.
Handler, who writes and appears as Lemony Snicket, calls it a "gathering of book nerds who should not be ostracized any more than sci-fi and comic-book nerds."
Dozens of other panels will discuss topics such as "Where Are the People of Color in Children's Books?" and "Dystopian Futures: Are They Science-Fact-or-Fiction?"
Not on the official program but sure to come up is the battle between Amazon and Hachette, which owns Little, Brown and Grand Central publishers.
In a fight over pricing, Amazon has not explained why it's delaying shipment of and stopped pre-orders for Hachette books.
Patterson, among the authors affected, says, "Amazon says it's all about serving readers, but how is this in the interest of readers or authors?" Amazon declined comment.
Also new this year as part of the convention's "Digital Zone" is an area called "Startup Alley," exhibiting 18 finalists in a contest for the best digital innovations in reading and publishing.
The setting is the Javits Convention Center, which fills six blocks on the west side of Manhattan. Think of a boat or car show, but with books instead of vehicles and authors instead of models in swimsuits.
The convention's media partners include USA TODAY, National Public Radio and The New York Times.