#BEA14 & #TheBookCon: Not Such a Great Marriage of Events

Post-Memorial Day weekend people in the publishing/book industry had to mentally and physically prepare to go into Jacob Javits Center with guns blazing for Book Expo of America. Book Expo took place from May 28th to May 31st, with the exhibition floor opening on May 29th for signings and events. This year I took a much more mellow approach than in previous years having worked the event and attended. I have to say this experience allowed me to get out of tunnel vision and get into the show more widely. I'd recommend this to anyone. Scope out the authors you're really interested in seeing or getting books from and go from there to panels or reviewing the exhibitors and what they're doing. Add that in by going to sit-down lunches with former coworkers and friends, viewing the entirety of the floor, attending panels all made it a much more full experience than standing in line after line after line or running all around trying to make attendees happy.

Book Expo (aka BEA)

Let's talk scale. I've been going to Book Expo every year that it's been in NYC since 2003. This probably accumulates to six or seven times and in the span of one decade it has changed considerably, and, in some aspects, for the better. The single exhibition floor was put in place a few years back and serves as a better way to move from booth to signing to panels on the main stages and so on rather than splitting the difference.

The panels, I must say, were a bit disjointed to me in that they seemed very cursory. Understandably one has 50-80 minutes to educate a crowd on a specific topic and the info is really industry specific, however, in panels such as How to Market Authors Who are Inaccessible or How to Better Tag your Metadata, if you're already familiar with this and do it in your day-to-day job you more than likely learned nothing too groundbreaking. Yet, for self-published authors, as it was good to see, this is information that can be significant to how to better establish your platform and understand what's being done on the production side of your book.

Some more technical events happened on Midtown Stage and I was glad to go to one with a co-worker with the head of Adobe InDesign on updates on how to utilize this software to make ePub files in the new Creative Cloud. More technical aspects of the digital world may have you better suited to register for IDPF which often runs a day or so before BEA in Javits on the lower level.

Pavilions can be hit or miss. One can assume that many of the digital vendors are in the Digital Zone when others are spread out in other areas of the exhibit hall. Same can be said for university presses (whose appearances in booths at BEA have been steadily dwindling due to budgets and wondering if the reach is as wide as it is for trade). Vanity presses like Month9Books made appearances on BookCon day but there were many smaller booths that weren't around or were overwhelmed by lines winding through and around their booths from some of the major trade publishers.

When we discuss organization during the event, publishers seem to have gotten hip to the ticket craze. Even in-booth signings have tickets requiring this traded in for a signed book/blad/ARC. Learning from the overwhelming response to Rainbow Rowell's appearance last year Macmillan had tickets for those who wanted a signed copy before her signing guaranteeing you a book and hopefully a shorter wait. Random House had initiated tickets last year and signs held high with author pictures in addition to the listed time of their signings for easy location and no drama or worries.

The autograph area is always somewhat of a zoo, especially for big names like Libba Bray, Ann M. Martin, RL Stine, Holly Black, Maggie Stiefvater, and others (yes, those are all YA authors and their lines were insane).

What else is of note is that more and more Book Expo seems to host additional celebrities in conjunction with established authors. Celebrities jumping into children's books or picture books, cookbooks, and memoir. Anjelica Huston and Neil Patrick Harris signed blads of their upcoming memoirs. Debi Mazar signed cookbooks with her husband Gabriele Corcos thanks to the popularity of their Cooking Channel show Extra Virgin. Dominique Ansel signed recipe cards and offered chocolatey treats for an ever-growing line for his "secrets" to his desserts. And Jason Segel co-authored a middle grade series with author Kirsten Miller for Nightmares a book based on a screenplay he wrote when he was 21. But the celebrities don't get all the love.

E. Lockhart's new novel We Were Liars cause chaos among bloggers and teens alike with the continued hype of this book. Ann M. Martin's return with a new series Rain/Reign had people of all ages lining up for a chance to see her. Carl Hiassan and David Mitchell, James Patterson and James Frey, Sylvia Day and so on.

While Book Expo is industry specific with bloggers, librarians, booksellers, distributors, media, and others in the industry attending it does reflect the overall excitement and intrigue of an industry that aims to please it's best customers.


This year BEA's Power Reader Day became BookCon. Sadly, BookCon was not worth the hype and what anyone who attended last year as a Power Reader remembers was stripped from BookCon customers.

BookCon (formerly Power Reader Day) opened BEA up to those who weren't in the industry but who were book lovers. It allowed them to get access to an event they wouldn't have been able to see and get freebies and learn more in the same breath. BookCon tix were for one day, May 31st which overlapped with the final day of BEA and they were $30 for adults, $5 for kids. And apparently, there was no cap on how many tickets were sold or how many attendees could fit into Javits.

But let me back up. Javits for BookCon was not the same as Javits for BEA attendees like myself. Oh no, BookCon was cordoned off into a section a bit over a third of the size of the entirety of Javits' main exhibition hall. Many publishers/exhibitors were cut off from BookCon and many, many more BookCon participants were not able to see the rest of BEA. Bulky security in red shirts and black pants loomed over those areas that drew a line between the two conventions. Yes, we were segregated.

I don't know if all exhibitors were made aware of this or not but of those that weren't they seemed surprised, especially with so many families around and potential for sales. In terms of the scope almost 10,000 (or more if reports get solidified) people came to BookCon and in a space significantly smaller than all of BEA this proved a hard maze to navigate through. And it most certainly felt like a safety hazard.

Lines for panels happening in conjunction with uPublishU were not lines but clusters of people positioned in front of a door to try and guarantee them a seat. Others at the Main Event Stage wove through the ground floor and around the registration desks. The line for BookCon attendees to get in was reminiscent of several cronut lines back-to-back. It was insane and the separation to get tickets for autographs in the autograph area was not clear.

As a BEA attendee I had access to BookCon but it did not go the opposite way, which caused much concern and irritation among those who originally purchased a one-day BEA ticket to have that magically changed to this new thing called "BookCon." Friends of mine in attendance for BookCon only insisted that they would not return to BookCon as is. And that they barely got anything due to the numerous lines making it hard to even browse. Another issue seemed to be that there were more publishers selling things rather than giving them away. In the PW BEA Edition organizers wanted to see how BookCon fared in order to decide if they'll have BEA/BookCon happen over 4 days with BEA going from May 28-30 and then BookCon from May 30-31. This, I imagine, would give anyone working these days in both areas reasons to curl up and rock themselves back to sanity.

There are many improvements to be made for BookCon and one I strongly suggest is not having it overlap with BEA if it means cordoning off an area for the attendees and scrunching so many people into a small(er) space. Also, monitor sales! Exhibitor attendance for BEA has gone done yet that doesn't mean attendee numbers should significantly rise!

A highlight for me of BookCon were the panels. Namely the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign that had a packed house of intrigued and supportive parties. However, BEA also had a panel held at the same time questioning why there wasn't more diversity with African Americans in publishing consisting of agents, editors, and entrepreneurs. In the BEA program there was a list of some, yet not all BookCon events meaning you had to get the BookCon material day of to discern what was happening. And the apps! The BEA app nor the BookCon app speak to each other making it hard for those who are BEA registrants to be able to see everything in one seamless page.

Oh, I could go on, but a blog post should be but so long. Next year BEA will be in NYC again before leaving after several years in my hometown to go to Chicago. I don't know if BEA will return to NYC or stay in Chicago for awhile, but what I sincerely hope is that if BookCon stays it becomes better organized for the safety and happiness of those who love books. The last thing anyone wants to do is antagonize book lovers because they are what keep the publishing industry going.