Tuesday, June 2, 2015

My Book Expo 2015

I attended Book Expo America at the Javits Center in New York from May 27-29; I qualified for a press pass, signed up for Blogger Con, and was off to the races.

Blogger Con took place on Wednesday, May 27, and consisted of a series of panels on different topics of blogging. Actually, the three panels I attended (and I'm counting the keynote) mostly just talked about how you should make a podcast and go on YouTube to promote yourself and your blog. As you might be able to tell I was not impressed with the content of the panels I attended. I think they were aimed at the beginning blogger and didn't include information I found especially useful or insightful. I did not think the panel format worked well for the keynote. The speakers spent about 1/3 of the designated time introducing themselves, and from there it was about how they hit the big time with their blogs and launched nice careers for themselves. It was inspiring to a point, but only to a point.

On one panel, a book marketer talked about how she expects the future of book blogging to include more sponsorships à la every other kind of product-based blogging (food, travel, children, sewing, etc.) which depresses me and also makes me wonder.  My favorite sewing blogs have relationships with things like zipper companies and fabric designers and thread makers. Leaving aside how self-serving this prediction is, apart from galleys and paid posts, what else can the publishing industry buy us? And who wants to read a bunch of commercials? A couple of pals who happen to work at one of my favorite presses took me out to lunch on my birthday. So, apple strudel?

I think in the future I would love to see a "where do we go from here" type of panel, or series of panels, for experienced bloggers, or bloggers experiencing burnout (Hi!), or for bloggers who are trying to do something with their blogs besides make money off of Amazon. A panel on niche bloggers that is not about YA blogging would also be of interest to myself, and perhaps others. After all, bloggers blog about science fiction, about literary fiction, about faith-based fiction, about nonfiction, about audiobooks, about cookbooks, etc. etc. It was my impression that YA bloggers were over-represented on panels.

I decided to bag the afternoon sessions of Blogger Con to get a head start on the exhibit floor and from the number of blogger badges I saw I think I was not the only one. Unlike many years, the exhibits opened up mid-day instead of on the first morning. I liked this because I could get all fueled up with a nice lunch before starting The Great Galley Troll. I am kidding, guys. Being very picky this year I took home a record 7 books, but all books I know I will read, so quality trumps quantity as it should.

This year the special guest was the nation of China, which set up large and impressive booths in the key entrance area of the exhibit floor. Here you can see some young women performing a tea ceremony:

And here is a picture of part of the booth, with bamboo trees decorating the aisles.

I attended one author signing, at the Europa Editions booth for Jennifer Tseng and her book Mayumi and the Sea of Happiness, and one panel presentation, on "10 Years of Independent Thinking," a celebration of Europa's tenth anniversary and discussion of small publishing moderated by Europa's editor in chief Michael Reynolds. This was a fascinating talk on the independent publishing industry with an agent, an author (Tseng), a bookseller and a publisher talking about what defines an independent publisher and what helps them to grow. Bookseller support is crucial and the willingness to take risks on books that might be a little out-there for larger houses are among the elements essential to small-pub success.

I wish I could have come back on Friday or stayed later on Thursday (I left around lunchtime Thursday) but one of my uncles passed away the previous weekend and I had to head back up to Boston for his funeral. One of my blogger friends had my back, though, and scored me a galley of Elena Ferrante's upcoming book, The Story of the Lost Child. Thank you Natalie, you're the best!

And other books I picked up?
  • The Meursault Investigation, by Kamel Daoud (out now from Other Press)
  • Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist, by Sunil Yapa (January 2016 from Lee Boudreaux Books, a new literary imprint from Little, Brown)
  • The Wake, by Paul Kingsnorth (September 2015 from Graywolf and longlisted for the Man Booker Prize already)
  • The Unexpected Inheritance of Inspector Chopra, by Vaseem Khan (September 2015 from Red Hook Books)
  • Twain & Stanley Enter Paradise, posthumously by Oscar Hijuelos (November 2015 from Grand Central)
  • The Man Who Spoke Snakish, by Andrus Kvirahk (November 2015 from Black Cat)
Next year BEA will be in Chicago so I won't be attending unless I'm working in the book industry by then. But I had a great time and I'm glad that I took advantage of the opportunity to attend in New York. Now back to my reading!