I'm off at a conference this week, but last week was Book Expo America (BEA), the annual book-stravaganza for the publishing industry, held this year in New York, its frequent home.
This year was the third or fourth that I've attended BEA, first as a librarian, then as a blogger and finally this year as a bookseller. I had my fancy VIP badge and a tote I picked up right outside the subway, not to mention comfortable shoes and plenty of water. I love BEA for the networking, the panels and (yes) the opportunity to replenish my pile of galleys. Basically it's the highlight of the bookish year.
All of these things were present this year but this year's show had a slightly shrunken feel. Some of my favorite presses were absent- Europa Editions didn't have a booth, and neither (I think) did Melville House. I don't remember seeing New Directions but it's possible I missed them. I did see Other Press, NYRB Classics and Graywolf, along with City Lights, Akashic, Soho and the Big Five. The academic presses were there and I got a tote bag with cats on it from Baker & Taylor. There were at least two book-subscription-box companies present and lots of random things like coloring book companies, masseurs and more.
But it was noticeably smaller and it didn't seem as crowded as it usually does. I heard that BEA was limiting the number of blogger tickets but I noticed quite a few bloggers none the less. That's fine with me; someday I'll be back (again) as a blogger and I really believe the opportunity to attend BEA as a blogger does a lot to cement that person's relationship with the professional side of the industry and helps people who want to take on a more professional role within it, be that as an agent, author, bookseller, or bookstore owner. I have friends who started as bloggers who have gone on to one or more of those roles, as have I.
What did I accomplish? I went to a good panel on small presses and translations; I picked up some catalogs from a craft-book publisher to bring to my quilting retreat this weekend; found some great galleys (more on that in a later post) and caught up with friends and colleagues. I was at the Adult Author Breakfast on Wednesday with Stephen King, which was pretty exciting. But because of that ticket, which cost a pretty penny, I had to cancel my reservation at the Europa Editions breakfast, sadly for me the only chance to interact with them at BEA. Oh well, we can't do everything I guess.
I've never been to Book Con, a newish event tied to BEA and aimed at consumers. I don't bother with signings much at BEA although I did wait in line to get James Patterson to sign something for my father in law, who is a fan, and I got a crockpot cookbook signed by its author who is a legend in the annals of crockpot cooking. I spun a wheel and won a YA book I will probably not read from one of those subscription services. And I waited in line, with an author who hugged me when I told him I was a blogger, for a tote bag we both agreed looked cute from a distance but was actually kind of crappy when we got it in our hands. If you're going to put your name on something designed to hold books, maybe that bag shouldn't be see-through. It's just a thought.
Nevertheless I got a lot out of it and I'm glad I went. I always appreciate the opportunity and look forward to attending in the future.