Book Expo 2011: Come one, come all!

This year's Book Expo of America (BEA) brought back memories for those of us who'd attended years prior.  While last year was truncated both in size and scope and also in terms of what publishers offered, this year sought to improve upon that with many giveaways and choices and even a joint convention with the Book Bloggers Convention at Jacob Javits Center in midtown Manhattan. It wasn't as humid as last year but the sun was in full effect which made for a lovely week for visitors and natives to enjoy this event pre-Memorial Day weekend. Last year some notable trade publishers did not have booths. But this year they came back full force. When talking to one of the publicists with Scholastic she mentioned that a big complaint was that they did not have giveaways last year except for author signings in the autograph area, but this year they had a huge booth in the Children's pavilion and had many giveaways including a new book by Maggie Stiefvater (The Scorpio Races) along with galleys of the last book in her Wolves of Mercy Falls series, Forever, and Wonderstruck a new book from Brian Selznick with a lovely, durable tote to accompany the galley.

Hachette Publishers had many giveaways as did HarperCollinsMacmillan, Random House, Gray Wolf Press, Harlequin, Cleis Press, and Penguin. Authors in high demand and with huge lines included Colson Whitehead, Chuck Palahniuk, Tom Perotta, Ally Condie, Melissa Marr, Rick Riordan, and Scott Westerfeld among many others including celebrities with books out (or due out) like Duff MacGrath, Tyra Banks (yes, Tyra is in the book mix now), Julianne Moore, Diane Keaton, Jane Lynch, Michael Moore, and the list goes on and on again.

Tuesday was a mad house with ARCs (advanced reader copies) everywhere! At 9am sharp the masses tend to divide and conquer and get their hands on items that they hope will keep them from standing on a massive line later on in the day. In speaking with many people on lines that you, inevitably, stand on it's always interesting to talk to attendees about their excitement in meeting established authors or being introduced to new ones that they end up loving. These ARCs do a great job to promote debut authors and familiar ones while entertaining readers to no end with the amount they can get their hands on.

While last year's main "theme" was Books in a Digital World it wasn't the main element in panel discussions as it was last year. This year Book Expo was held in conjunction with the Book Bloggers Expo and BlogWorld in addition to the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF) conference. Press who registered for Book Expo were able to get into some of the other events held at Jacob Javits Center that week. There was a section devoted completely to the rise and growing efficiency of digital publishing for books and the many companies offering services in conversion and distribution.

Self-publishing is also on the rise. I conducted an interview with actress and new author Tanya Wright on her new book Butterfly Rising published with CreateSpace (a self-publishing sector of Amazon) and author Maria Murnane (Perfect on Paper), and CreateSpace sr. marketing manager, Aaron Rosenstein, about what CreateSpace offers as a newer face in the self-publishing world and how it really caters to authors giving them back control of their work. Amazon has also grown in the publishing world with their own publishing imprints as their awards to find breakthrough authors has set them on track to publish many beyond those voted on by Amazon members/visitors. Amazon conducted many signings at their publishing booth and had a strong presence at Book Expo via CreateSpace.

The New Title Showcase is where many self-published authors with more familiar services like iUniverse, Xlibris, and AuthorNotes had their books displayed, but sometimes these get lost in the crowd when it comes to being exposed to a new audience. This is where CreateSpace has more pull in its connection to a stronghold in the publishing and book buying world. Especially since they had a booth to display their authors and their titles rather than having their work lumped together on shelves making the choices akin to being in a bookstore for readers. And when you're on a schedule you may not have time to search through New Titles in the hopes that something may catch your eye when there are so many publishers, authors, galleys, and booths vying for your attention on the main floor.

Many of the Author Stages talked about anticipated upcoming books, ebooks, and also conversations with authors about their process and what's next. There were many "buzz panels" where editors talked about upcoming books they were excited about, many of which had galleys available and were being pushed from new YA series to "The American The Kite Runner" and so on.

Wednesday was just as busy but probably a bit more subdued in the fact that many people got key finds on Tuesday. I was able to navigate and got to meet some wonderful authors. Tayari Jones' new book Silver Sparrow came out last Tuesday and she signed copies of the hard cover.

Laini Taylor was around signing ARCs of her new book with Little, Brown Young Readers Daughter of Smoke & Bone where about a thousand copies were available. Tom Perotta signed for more than his designated time and was kind to each and every person in line who patiently awaited his signature on his new look at a world post-Rapture (perfect timing no?), The Leftovers.

Thursday is always the more relaxed day in that many people use this time to recover from standing in lines and carrying hefty totes full of galleys and new titles. There was less of a rush on Thursday and the doors closed at 3pm allowing exhibitors to clean up and pack up and attendees to prepare shipping and perhaps even enjoy the city.

The week of Book Expo in New York also marks New York Book Week and that means...after-parties! On Monday I went to the Teen YA Carnival in SoHo with author Shana Silver and heard a nice discussion with David Levithan, Kody Keplinger, and Torrey Maldonado among others on writing teen angst though this discussion turned more into their background and how that's helped their process in writing for a YA audience. There were some giveaways and a lot of books to get signed by these authors and others including Malinda Lo!

Tuesday's big after-party was in SoHo where many went to the Bookrageous BEA Bash at Lolita Bar where many authors such as Scott Westerfield, Lev Grossman, and Catherynne M. Valente were. There were numerous author talks in the afternoon and evenings and various events not listed in the New York Book Week guide attendees received along with the list of exhibitors, author signings, and coupon book for deals around the city during the week.

On Wednesday my friend Bonnie and I attended the first ever Goodreads Book Club event at Housing Works where Jennifer Egan's Pulitzer Prize winning book, A Visit from the Goon Squad, is the pick. Ms. Egan signed copies of her books and chatted with the audience while we were entertained by teenage band Care Bears on Fire. Good times. (All proceeds from this event go to Housing Works' mission of supporting AIDS research and individuals with AIDS).

Thursday, more events, but Anna and I attended Scholastic's ThisIsTeen event at the Scholastic store where Libba BrayMeg Cabot, and Maggie Stiefvater briefly spoke on their writing methods and about their new titles. For Ms. Bray Beauty Queens has already gotten a lot of buzz and was recently listed as one of the "must" on Entertainment Weekly's 10 Must List. 

The rapport with the authors was one of camraderie and comedy and it was a pleasure to hear them speak and then engage with them as they signed copies of their books as well as ARCs that may have been made available at Book Expo or to bloggers/press.

By week's end I believe I collected less books than I did last year. And having learned from years past I made sure to have a wheely suitcase along with me to prevent me from having a sore back and shoulders for days. Though, my feet are a whole other story.

I've met many wonderful authors and fellow book lovers/bloggers at Book Expo and am connecting with people more and more via Twitter each day based on our experiences.

For book lovers Book Expo is similar to Willy Wonka's chocolate factory and us being Charlie or one of the other kids having the golden ticket. But I'll go with Charlie cause he was in awe and so appreciative of what he was able to be a part of. As book lovers, book sellers, publishing professionals, authors, publicists, bloggers, and so on we all come together at this huge event to learn more about authors, the book world, and the tomes we love or may grow to love. We post and report and review to share knowledge of what we deem good or bad and no matter what we're constantly entertained by what's out there for us to consume.

Here's looking forward to another Book Expo in New York next year. It'll be the first week of June, which hopefully means more sunny skies and brilliant evenings.