Last week’s Book Expo America (BEA) marked my second time flying to New York City to attend this gathering of readers, publishers, bloggers, and publishing industry innovators for a three-day extravaganza of All Things Book. If you’re not familiar with BEA, think ginormous summer camp for book lovers. Piles of books. Authors galore, from James Patterson and Nathan Lane to Doctor Ruth. Thousands of eager readers.
There’s so much to see and do, it’s easy to get overloaded. For me, BEA and other such author events are charged with excitement and anxiety, especially at the start. Did I bring enough business cards? How can I tote all these books without getting back strain? Can I overcome brain overload to make my best connections with people? Plus, my only pair of comfy shoes, an absolute necessity at BEA, reduces fashionistas to tears. But once at the venue, I get my bearings, charge ahead, and come away happily renewed.
To help you experience BEA from the comfort of your armchair, I divided the Expo into three functions according to the people it attracts and opportunities it offers: Book Lovers, Knowledge Seekers, and Networkers.
Are these categories quantifiable and scientific? No! Can they overlap? Of course! Do they give you an overview of this and similar amazing events? I hope so!
1. Book Lover
Snag as many books and author autographs as humanly possible.
Bulging tote bags filled with books. Social media selfies showing them with famous authors.
BEA has books on every corner…paperbacks, hard copies, 3-D, and e-books. You can’t walk more than a few steps without bumping into stacks of books that are yours for the taking at publishers’ booths and hundreds of happy authors autographing their novels
I found a WWII mystery for my dad and cute picture books for my nieces. Most books don’t cost anything. They’re free, given away as Advance Review Copies (ARCs) to adoring readers who will generate that pre-launch buzz to pump up sales once the book is officially published.
Veteran Expo book lovers will tell you to bring an empty suitcase, check it at the venue, and fill it with books when your stash gets too heavy to carry.
No worries if your bag is filled. There’s also a postal facility at the Javits Center for shipping books home.
While BEA targets those in the business of writing, it morphs into Book Con on the weekend, an event open to the public. Here, book lovers by the thousand find their next new book to be signed by their favorite authors.
2. Knowledge Seeker
Learn about the craft and business of writing and publishing.
BEA workshop schedule tucked in pockets or on mobile devices, often with notepad or tablet for recording notes.
BEA offers concurrent learning sessions in different tracks, like marketing, publishing, reading content, and technology, that are facilitated by thought leaders. Depending on your interests, you can stay in one track for the entire time or mix it up to pop into any 50-minute session. I stayed with tech and marketing tracks and will be sharing tips in the coming weeks that I learned.
The Middle-Grade Author Buzz was awesome. I was introduced to four outstanding novels for middle-graders coming out this fall, PLUS, I snagged free ARC copies of each. But that’s another blog post!
Learning also takes place informally on the exhibit hall, which is in a HUGE space, easily the size of two or three football fields, and is separate from conference sessions. For instance, I want to reformat my print versions of the Sweet T Tales with hard covers and titles on their spines, so my books can be shelved in libraries and my local Indie bookstore. I spent 15 minutes with the patient sales manager from Ingram Spark (IS). He broke down the print-on-demand process and cleared up several questions I couldn’t figure out earlier from the IS website.
Make new contacts and meet as many people as possible.
Bulging pockets of business cards or mobile app to digitally exchange contacts. Usually huddled in small conversation groups everywhere.
Once the show is over and the shuttle bus battles Manhattan traffic to get you to the hotel, there is no time to rest --- even though you’re tired and your feet are swollen. Whether you’re solo, meeting friends, or connecting with new BEA acquaintances, there’s so much to see and do in New York! Rest assured you’ll run on adrenaline that offsets any sleep deprivation. All in all, the entire experience is one of the best parts of a book lover's life!
Photos: Cat Michaels and BEA 2015
Please join the conversation in the comment section.
Which of the three Expo goers best describes your style?
What additional suggestions or resources can you share for making the most of a book event?
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