What an amazing thing Book Expo America is! While I was only in New York for a little more than two days last week, “special” is really only one adjective. As an author, the trip was very successful. As a tourist, it was too short. As a consumer, well, I’ve had better experiences, but lessons learned…
I have a lot of stories to tell, but I won’t make you slog through one really long post. Since this IS an author site, today I will write about my one day at the Javits Center, home base for BEA 2014. Next time, I’ll tell you about the travel experience in the Big City.
What is Book Expo America?
A quick introduction if you’re not in the book business: Book Expo America (BEA) started as the annual conference of the American Booksellers Association, the group that organizes and lobbies for independent bookshops across the country. The conference still offers dozens of educational sessions and panel discussions focused on the book business from the perspective of the booksellers and librarians who attend.
Publishers attend and exhibit at BEA to connect their catalogs with the humans who place orders and offer recommendations to their customers about what to read next. Authors and literary agents attend to sell their current book and make deals for their next projects. This year, even independent, self-publishing authors had a portion of the trade show floor to call their own.
Back in the 1980s and 1990s, ABA battled for the survival of independent mom-and-pop bookstores against the corporate Goliaths: Barnes & Noble and Borders. Absent some context, I suppose you could say they won: Borders is gone, Barnes & Noble fights rumors of its impending doom, and ABA membership is actually up this year!
Of course, the corporate bookshops weren’t really slain by the independents, but by another Goliath that once dubbed itself “Earth’s Biggest Bookstore,” Amazon.com. While not an ABA member, Amazon had a big presence at BEA through its CreateSpace and children’s publishing subsidiaries. A newer acquisition, Goodreads, also gave authors tips in using its author program.
But I digress… enough exposition! Not here to pontificate on the state of publishing. Here’s the action part!
So how did the signing go?
Glad you asked — It went great! Carole Jelen and I were among the 750+ authors scheduled to sign books during the show. At 10:30 in the morning, a half hour before our scheduled signing, I signed in at the Author Green Room. No, it was not like an airline club room with mahogany-paneled walls and attendants for our every needs — though the couches were pretty nice. I was given my choice of Sharpies to sign with, and offered coffee or tea.
As it happened, the two representatives from BenBella Books who scored us the signing appeared shortly after I got there, so I had someone to hang out with until Carole got there. Let me say before I go too much further that everyone we’ve worked with at BenBella has been nothing less than terrific in shepherding this project through. If you ever get a chance to publish with them, take it!
Just before the appointed hour arrived, the BEA Signings manager gathered us all up for a walk to our tables. Carole and I walked down to Table 11 not sure what to expect, but when we opened the curtain to greet our public, I think we were both a little surprised to see a long line of autograph seekers waiting for us! A line that kept coming for the full 30 minutes!
We met booksellers, librarians, and writers in a variety of genres. People kept telling us how much they needed our book. Even the author signing next to us told us he wanted one! The time just flew by.
Time to Celebrate
We close out Build Your Author Platform with a whole chapter reminding you that the writing life is supposed to be fun; that after the hard work of writing your book and working on your platform, you need to celebrate the achievement and have a party.
With that in mind, we gathered that evening at the Times Square Intercontinental Hotel (right across the street from the legendary Birdland jazz club), with many of Carole’s friends and associates in the publishing industry for a bit of champagne and conversation. It was great fun, and I’m happy to say that I largely behaved myself. OK, it’s true I could hardly stop showing off the wonderful review we’d gotten that morning from big time tech columnist Andy Ihnatko, but that was pretty much the extent of my bad behavior. You can find more pictures from the signing and party on my Facebook page.
Many of us hoped the night would peak with a viewing of the semi-natural event locals call “Manhattanhenge,” but the overcast skies spoiled that. Such is life…
All in all, it was a spectacular day, especially for an introverted nerd like me. Every writer should have one (or many) like it. Many Thanks to everyone I crossed paths with!
Were you among the people we met at BEA? Have you hosted a great (or even not-so-great) book signing event? Feel free to share a story in the comments.