June 3, 2013

One Librarian’s Take on Book Expo America

They have these huge green stickers on the floor in front of different booths, boldly proclaiming “BEA Loves Librarians”.  Do they?  I think the convention itself is fond of us, I’m not sure about some of the publishers.  I was made a VIP.  I still don’t know why.  I got a free three-day ticket to the show, access to a special VIP area that gave out popcorn and tea, and given a scavenger hunt giveaway entry form (get 15 booths to initial your paper and have a chance to win an IPad mini.)

A representative from a booth I will not name looked down at my badge, frowned with her nose wrinkled and asked me how a librarian could be a VIP.  I cheerfully told her I had no clue.  Maybe I was selected at random.  Maybe I filled out a survey last time I went.  Maybe I tweeted about BEA once.

I did get a bunch of people doing the eye-flick to the badge and relegating me to non-importance.  I would say it was my imagination, but some reps actually straightened up and then slumped.  Oh, just a librarian.  Librarians only buy one book at a time.  I like to think of myself as representing about 5,000 readers, though.

Library Journal hosted a librarian lounge, with hummus and crackers, authors signing at the booth and more.

All the booths were trying to entice visitors.  Some went the old fashioned way with bowls of candy and pens, many gave away bags to hold all the ARCs, and some had some unique enticements, up to and including open bars.  I stood in line for a signing at Capstone and was treated to cupcakes, chocolate covered strawberries and champagne.    I declined the champagne.  There was one booth that had balloon pets, and it was odd to see people dragging these along behind them.

Besides authors signing at the publisher booths, there was a whole autographing area, with row upon row of authors signing books.  Celebrity authors were only available by obtaining a free ticket to control numbers.  Line wranglers holding up either a book or a sign kept the huge crowds of people snaking in lines around booths and corners going along like a preschool class going to lunch.

I really enjoyed the Book Buzz sessions and the Library shout and share.  I think my favorite of all was seeing the guys from Unshelved, Gene Ambaum and Bill Barnes, give a talk about surviving the public- it was hilarious.  I asked about using one of their cartoons for my book.  He said anyone interested could do so for a standard fee, just email them. I’m not sure if I can afford it but I would love to do that.

Things I learned:

  • Don’t walk from Grand Central to Javitts in 90 degree weather
  • get to the Expo at 9 am- grab all the freebies, then start circling the big publishers like a patient shark to get all the great ARCs
  • plan plan plan, and then accept serendipity
  • don’t take every free thing you see
  • bring a backpack to carry the load of books
  • avoid eating at the hall if possible (small caesar salad- $8.25)
  • VIPs are not so much VI when it comes to the international rights area, even if you just need to use the bathroom
  • not everything on display is free for the taking- always ask
  • keep track of the time so that you can make the long trek over to the conference rooms
  • bring water with you and stay hydrated

I borrowed my husband’s IPhone to help me navigate the city (he also enjoyed tracking me by the GPS feature- it was like I was in a spy movie).  One of the Apps he has on his phone is something like a pedometer. It said I walked about 6 and a half miles both days.  Whew!

Would I go again?  Yes.  Is it extremely beneficial to Librarians?  Not really, but the Expo is a way to learn what trends and hot picks are out there, interact with publishers and authors, and generally surround yourselves with people who enjoy books.  I wish that there had been more representation of Sci-Fi and Fantasy there.  Baen wasn’t there.  Tor was not really represented at the Macmillan booth.  DAW wasn’t shown much at the Penguin booth.  SFWA had a booth (I missed seeing Jim Hines).  I had two bags worth of books for my library and friends, but nothing that I could really squee over. I was only there Thursday and Friday, and so missed Neil Gaiman- did they give out ARCs for Ocean at the End of the Lane?  Perhaps my genre of choice was under-represented because there are other outlets of promotion like World SF Cons, Dragon-Con, Comic-Cons and so forth.

One thought on “Book Expo America”

  1. I’m glad you had fun & got some stuff. It is nice being around people who love books, but I wish they had higher regard for librarians. You touch so many people that become part of the book buying public, particularly the much coveted YA market. Bravo for you jumping out of your comfort zone & going to such a large event also!

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