BookExpo America 2012
Last week, I promised to post about what I learned at BookExpo America. Full disclosure: This was my first year attending, so I had no concept of how quickly the day gets away from you when you’re navigating the immense Javits Center in Manhattan—charging from booth to booth in the morning and limping through them by the afternoon. If you ever go to BEA, be smarter about your shoe choice than I was.
A feeling hits you when you first open the front doors (all of which were plastered with Dean Koontz posters this year) and step into the convention center. There you stand in the entryway, with its registration tables that resemble airport ticket counters. Everywhere around you are people whose life’s work is your life’s work: books.
But it isn’t until you go upstairs that you realize just how expansive the book industry really is. As far as the eye can see are publisher booths, autographing tables, workshops, and tech demonstrations—675,000 square feet of them, to be exact. Yes, you read that right—over half a million square feet of literary mayhem. It’s more ground than anyone can cover in a day. And there’s more than just display copies and advance galleys—even C-SPAN 2 and its Campaign 2012 tour bus were in the building. Most encouraging was the vast number of new exhibitors.
A whole world of schmoozing unfolds on the exhibition floor. Editors sit down with agents, publicists sit down with authors, etc. Business cards fly from hand to hand, and they sometimes function as currency if you want certain publishers’ catalogs. But nothing, and I mean nothing, beats the author presence. There were all kinds of celebrities on deck Wednesday, and that’s saying nothing of the celebrities in attendance on Tuesday and Thursday. On the day I attended, there were author signings for Joyce Carol Oates, Jane Seymour, Ian McEwan, Ina Garten, Rachael Ray, a host of popular YA authors, and many others.
I had grandiose plans for the day and accomplished precious few of them. There simply wasn’t time. I had hoped to go to the Lois Lowry breakfast and the Neil Young/Patti Smith lunch event, but scheduling was not on my side. I did, however, walk the floor with several of my colleagues and collect catalogs from the competition. I dodged thousands of publishing executives, fellow editors, librarians, booksellers, packagers, designers, layout artists, publicists, agents, authors, book bloggers, and fans as I traveled from booth to booth. As I went, I amassed a modest stack of advance review copies from various publishers. (A word to the wise: Be selective when picking up freebies at an event like this. If your timing is good, you’ll find that they flow pretty freely, but remember that you have to lug them around all day.)
My most important lesson from BEA, however, came today when I was back in the office. One of our executives told me that it was a good year to go to the expo for the first time, as last year’s vibe was pretty subdued. After all, Border’s was on the brink of closure back then, and e-book publishing was still somewhat nebulous territory. That energy that hit me when I opened the doors to the Javits Center was the current of an industry renewed.
So there are still homes for good manuscripts in the traditional publishing sphere. I’ll keep doing what I can here on Julie’s blog to help polish your prospective pieces. Who knows? Maybe one day you’ll be at BEA doing a signing of your own.