15 May 2016

I went to #bea16: Tales from a newbie

After years of seeing pictures and hearing stories about Book Expo America - the big industry trade show for publishing - I decided that I should try to go in 2016.  It would be moving back to Chicago for the first time in something like ten years meaning I could easily drive there.  So I'd just have to find a hotel and pony up the greenbacks for registration.

So I did.  Conveniently, Jenn of Jenn's Bookshelves and Michelle of That's What She Read had room for a tribute volunteer to crash on the hide-a-bed in their room.  So that's the hotel sorted.  And I used a Christmas gift to register for BEA.  My registration came out to over $300 because not only did I get the three-day pass but registered for BloggerCon (a same-site concurrent event for book bloggers) and the Adult Author Breakfast and ten ticketed signings (go big or go home, right?).  I passed on BookCon, that was going to be too many people in the convention center for my taste.

I had so much fun.  We wound up miscalculating on days and got an extra day in Chicago on Tuesday so we went to the Art Institute (I snagged some more prints for my rotating gallery).  We got real Chicago-style pizza.  We went to a party hosted by a literary agency at the Arts Building - in a beautiful interior courtyard - and another the next night at 360 Chicago at the top of the John Hancock Building hosted by Sourcebooks (that was wild).  And then we got to take the scenic route from McCormick Place to O'Hare because the freeway was completely backed up due to an accident - we got to see a part of south Chicago I'd never been in before, I'll say that much.

I bet you're still reading to hear about the books, right?  Well, I think for this post I'll stick primarily to what I saw or did at BEA.  I'll do another post highlighting books I'd been looking for at BEA and another about surprise books I hadn't expected to find.  Otherwise, this post is going to be hella long.

First off, I got to see so many of my favorite people who I only ever talk to online!  Meeting my roomies Jenn and Michelle only confirmed how awesome and lovely they are.  I kept (conveniently, because it was such a treat) running into Liberty who is always a sweetheart and also Rachel Manwill who got a tattoo at BEA (ok, not at BEA, she went to a tattoo artist elsewhere, but still, pretty rad).  I also got to chat with Rebecca, Amanda, Jeff, Yan, Clint, Jenn, Jessica, Kim, and Cassandra from my most favorite of bookternet sites, Book Riot - usually when we were all running from one place to another, of course, but I plan on seeing them all again at Book Riot Live.  I got to meet Candace (Beth Fish Reads) FINALLY! I ran across Kevin Smokler and I'm so excited for his new book, Brat Pack America, out this fall.  I finally got to meet Nathan Dunbar, who is quite a bit taller than I expected and that helped when we were tweeting in order to locate each other (congrats on the new gig), and Eric Smith, who was wearing his hat which helped me recognize him (because he didn't have a corgi on his person and that would have been weird but adorable).  And I finally, at the very end of the show, found the booksellers from Prairie Lights (my local indie), who I knew were there but hadn't come across them - I found them in the signing line for Berkeley Breathed at the Image booth because of course all the Iowa booksellers will all be there.

Second, I got to meet so many of the publicists and marketing staff that I email and tweet with about books and advance buzz and galleys.  This was really worth the price of the registration.  Getting to meet the Graywolf staff in person (Hi, Marisa!), seeing Pam Jafee from HarperCollins/Avon/whatever publisher hat she happens to be wearing at the time, meeting the Liveright people at Norton, and making friends with Mona from Other Press (and does she has a yummy French accent) - that was so, so awesome.  I sat down with the rep from Chooseco to talk about how much the kids at my store love Choose-Your-Own Adventure books.  I even managed to track down the elusive Erika Barmash - "elusive" because she had done a few huge events with Bloomsbury that week and I got lucky in that I finally wandered by the booth when she wasn't mobbed.

For my part, I should have made a Bloggess-style cutout of my Twitter avatar on a stick.  No one knows what I look like but they sure know who my cats are, particularly the stripy one napping on my knitting.

So that's the people I know...and there were A LOT of people in McCormick for BEA.  I was hearing from BEA alumni that there were fewer people present this year but that there was more space at McCormick than Javits in New York City.  This is insane to me!  There were so many people at this thing and then you stuff more of them (and more publisher/exhibitor booths since there were fewer of them this year, too) into a smaller space that is not as new...yikes!  If I go to BEA at Javits in NYC (and I'd like to, if only just to see what that's like) I'll definitely have to pack the hand sanitizer.  Eek!

I managed to catch a few panels.  I'll go into the Adult Author Breakfast and BEA Adult Editors' Buzz panels in a later post but suffice to say they had fantastic selections.  The What's New In YA? Panel was a gem - Lauren Oliver, Allyson Noel, Kendare Blake, and Melissa de la Cruz moderated by Veronica Roth.  Absolutely a scream and Kendare Blake's new book, Three Dark Crowns, sounds completely amazeballs.

I got pitched a variety of random books by authors, both on the fly and while stuck in a signing line.  A very nice lady caught Nathan and me and asked about getting her STEM book published (I wish her luck, she's got a lot of enthusiasm and STEM is big right now).  An odd person cornered me and kept trying figure out what kind of books I sold then walked off when I told him which bookstore I worked for (um, ok?).  I wound up with a postcard for some completely cracked-out sounding book about [insert slur here] shamans talking to a white lady in the desert (it's "true", apparently) - that wound up in the hotel garbage.  People will just walk down signing lines and pitch their book to anyone who can't get away.  You do you, but I would think that perhaps for the money one spends to get a pass to BEA one might be a tad more professional?  It just strikes me as odd.

The one thing that I was seemingly not prepared for, even though I'd heard stories, was how unbelievably rude attendees were to the reps and publishing staff.  I always tried to lead with a handshake, introduce myself, and then my twitter handle/blog (see above for why), and then ask politely after whatever galley or information I was trying to find.  I was registered as a bookseller so I always tried to be professional.  But the number of times I saw people try to take things that were marked "For Display Only" or "Do Not Take" or grabbed entire stacks of the same book or (and this was my favorite) tried to tell a rep in the middle of an author signing that they should just be able to "get" a galley without waiting in line....wow.  It wasn't even one type of attendee - I saw booksellers, bloggers, people with press passes, authors all doing it.  At the speed-dating event I attended (which was a pretty cool event), a woman at my table interrupted every rep during their pitch to ask how she could get free books from them.  Holy cow, so rude.  And I'll admit my eyes got a bit bigger than my brain and I grabbed stuff in passing but only if it was set out as an obvious galley drop.  (Ok, fine, I did beeline it to the galley table at the BEA Adult Editors' Buzz panel - I'll get to that in a subsequent post - but I only snagged one copy of each.)  Teen/YA Fantasy galley drops and in-booth signings were particularly insane.  I thought I was going to get murdered by a few YA bloggers because I was trying to get past the Bloomsbury booth during the run-up to the Sarah J. Maas cover reveal and all I wanted was to get to the Graywolf booth.  Yikes!  I had been hoping to snag a few titles for our kids' leads at the store but nope.

Overall, though, I had such a great time at BEA.  Most of it was exactly as I expected - which was a big, crazy industry show.  I definitely want to go again.  Unfortunately, not BloggerCon, which was a bust for me - not my blogging tribe.  But a repeat BEA trip is definitely in my future!

(And "First BEA Hoarding Compulsion" should be in the DSM-V - I took a picture of everything I came home with unpacked onto the couch and it's never going on the Internet because it makes me look completely insane.)

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