Once a year, the publishing industry goes all out to promote its upcoming fall books. The conference is in New York City and is called BookExpo America (BEA). For book lovers it is like DisneyLand and Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory all in one. I mean, really. Full sensory overload. This year I went despite having no paying job. This blog is my work and my passion and I decided this would be my one business trip of the year. Plus, I used to live in NYC and was excited to return and possibly revisit old haunts. At the very least, go to Lord & Taylor, my favorite department store in the world. Yes, I am that elusive creature—a book freak with a yen for fashion (even though I live in sweat pants).
Where to begin? First of all, the Javits Center is 4 city blocks long and 3 stories high. Initial numbers show that over 11,000 attendees visited the thousands of booths manned by over 19,000 publishing personnel. The event lasted 3 days. There were authors, agents, booksellers, librarians, editors, and book reviewers/bloggers (me!). Everyone has their own agenda. Authors are trying to get a publisher, agent or promote their book. Booksellers and librarians are looking for what will be hot this fall. Bloggers are doing the same thing but we have no money behind us—as in we don’t write orders for books. But we do want to read advance copies and the publishers share them because they want the publicity. So, while we’re not at the top of the pyramid we are on the publishing food chain.
In addition to the exhibits (publishers’ booths) there are panels and sessions ranging from author talks to industry issues and opportunities. I went to an entire day of book blogging sessions, which I’ll share in a later post. However, the main reason the majority of people are there is to get what are known as galleys, ARCs (advance readers copies) or proofs of upcoming books. This is where tenacity, patience and endurance kick in. Due to unscrupulous attendees who would grab multiple copies of a book for the sole purpose of selling it on eBay, the publishers are now much more careful about their copies. They bring a limited amount and do not leave them out on display but distribute them at predesignated times. In the case of really popular authors (John Grisham, David Baldacci, celebrities), tickets are issued. In almost all cases, you will stand in line, as if waiting to see the Mona Lisa and, possibly with a longer wait. The good news is that the publishers are well organized and friendly. Also, there is the opportunity to meet lots of new people while you’re standing around.
The whole event, while exhausting (seating is impossible to come by unless you’re placing a book order), is exciting. Friday I’ll share pictures and comments from some of the authors I saw. Until then, I’ll let these photos give you an idea of why this is the largest publishing conference in North America.