If you are nuts about books, interested in the future of publishing, get excited about meeting authors — new and established — then Book Expo America is the place for you. Perhaps the largest publishing trade show in the country, this year’s event was held in the heart of book country, New York City. The “gi-normous” Jacob Javits Center rolled out the red carpet, literally and figuratively, to welcome stars like Barbra Streisand (above), Condoleezza Rice, Jon Stewart, John Grisham, “Morning Joe” hosts Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski (below), and many more. One caveat: as a trade show, attendees must be a published author, have a friend in the publishing business, know a published author, have a town librarian you can tagalong with, or somehow satisfy the criteria outlined on the registration form. (For details, check out the Book Expo website).
Those who attended this year’s expo, entered the Javits Center’s immense lobby to be greeted by a billboard-size poster promoting Grisham’s new release, Theodore Boone: Kid Lawyer. Another poster announced Debbie Macomber’s new book, Hannah’s List. A large schedule of lectures seemed to cover every aspect of book publishing, from a roundtable discussion on “The Value of a Book,” to what’s new in the Young Adult book world featuring industry leaders.
On the main floor, there were lavishly decorated booths manned by friendly publicists pushing new books, e-book technology, or the self-publishing business. Some of the bigger companies, like Simon & Schuster, Scholastic, or Harlequin had multiple booths in order to accommodate a multitude of imprints and dozens of new releases.
Throughout the day, authors from all genres were accessible in the autograph areas of the expo, signing books and talking with fans. Book lovers had the opportunity to have a personal, one on one chat. It’s the conversation with an author that most readers long to experience. Over 25 tables are set up as the author lineup changes by the hour; they started at 9 a.m., and went until 5 p.m. Attendees lined up for the author they wanted to meet, and left with a signed book. As one attendee said “OMG…it’s like Disneyworld for book lovers.”
Some of the big name authors at this year’s expo included Streisand, who was promoting her designing book, Rice, the former Secretary of State in the Bush Administration, promoting her autobiography to be published in October, the Daily Show‘s Jon Stewart, Grisham, and the Duchess of York, Sarah Ferguson, promoting her books for children. Also present were Kathy Kinney (The Drew Carey Show, photo, left) and Cindy Ratzlaff, talking about their new book, Queen of Your Own Life. New titles included Sex for Grownups: Dr. Dorree Reveals the Truths, Lies, and Must-Tries for Great Sex After 50 and Taking Woodstock by Elliot Tiber who chronicled his participation in the great Woodstock concert of the 1960’s as featured in the movie of the same name.
There were many freebies: posters, book marks, pens, mini reading lights, pieces of chocolate or mints, and anything else that could be used to publicize a new product. And still more books. It’s the best of marketing. Attendees left with a mini-library and plenty of tote bags to hold the largesse. About those tote bags: it’s not unusual to collect over 30 tote bags, many that are works of art. A few years ago, one bag featured a colored pencil drawing of the Brooklyn Bridge, another “must have” featured Harry Potter when his latest was being released by Scholastic. It’s a status to get the humongous McGraw-Hill weekend tote, or the large heavy papered bag featuring two adorable cats. Needed—a tote bag to carry the tote bags!
While there was plenty to snack on in the first floor food court or at the snack stands, there’s nothing like a hot dog with mustard and sauerkraut out in the fresh air. They’re just outside the revolving doors. There it was possible to take a breather, sort through goodies, and regroup before heading back in for the rest of the afternoon.
Some seminars spoke to the future of book publishing and the way books would be promoted. A representative from Google outlined plans to offer a search engine strictly for books, providing author information, reviews, and excerpts. The room was SRO. During another part of the day, a paper company promoted their quality book paper that would not yellow over time like cheaper products.
While there is no going back to a world without the Internet, there will always be legions of fans that want the experience of having an old-fashioned, in person conversation with a writer, and leaving euphoric because of the new book they’ve just acquired.
The Book Expo America is scheduled to be in New York City for the next two years. The dates for the 2011 event have already been announced. They are Tuesday, May 24 through Thursday, May 26.
MJ Hanley-Goff has been an attendee of the Book Expo for the past two years, and in 2007 had her own booth to publicize The Bench, her self-published novel. She is now preparing The BEA – The Unofficial Guide for those who are attending it for the first time. “Time is of the essence,” says Hanley-Goff, “and my experience will help BEA newbies make the most of their day.” For more information, contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.