Me and BEA

June 5 and 6 – Jacob Javits Center, NY

Spoiler alert: Throwing yourself into the Book Expo America trade show is a lot like throwing yourself into a mosh pit.  Maybe you’ll come out better for the experience.  Hope!  Hope hard!

Understand first that Jacob Javitz, in Manhattan, is a mammoth exhibition hall.  It’s not meant for the faint of heart.  But I’d brought my bar-code admission ticket, the lines were manageable after rush hour, and I received my ID and lanyard in record time. 

I didn’t attend the entire four day conference. I didn’t get to see any of the special events, or break-out sessions or panel discussions. I just trolled aisle after aisle of publisher displays, marveled at the number of books being promoted, signed, or simply piled up for the taking.  Stood in line at Harlequin, Wiley, Penguin, Simon & Schuster, RWA and smaller publishers like the lovely Shadow Mountain Publishing booth and Ellora’s Cave.  I got bling: a vampire first-aid kit for EC, a whoopee cushion for James Patterson’s new middle-school series, and more tote bags than I need (but who’s complaining?).  Oh, and also the Ellora’s Cave 2012 calendar, autographed by the ManWars-worthy studs, uhm, models (like, are those biceps real? Really?).  After the intense experience that is BEA, I would say: 1) the publishing industry is alive and well, 2) publishers are adjusting as quickly as they can to the digital content revolution,  3) it’s still all about the fun of reading, and 4) don’t sit on a chair in a publisher’s booth without getting permission (practice your “pity-me” smile).

One of the best experiences was my chat with Robert Barrett, co-founder of Autography (http://www.autography.com/).  This platform allows an author to digitally sign an e-book.  Whether at an in-person event or remotely, the author can personalize their e-book for the reader.  He showed up later on at a book signing, offering a the book as a digital download free, with a photo of the author as well as her autograph.  Autography can also work as a publisher platform (but really, take a look at the website, it’s very “next hot app” stuff).

More fun were the enhanced barcodes (which I haven’t figured out yet) on books like The Book of Burger by Rachel Ray.  They promise enhanced digital content.  One of the YA books being promoted offered geographical and historical backstory to the main content.  If I could remember the title, I’d point you to it (are you getting now just how busy those two days were?).  Also, the bling!  Don’t forget the bling.

What’s not fun?  Standing in line for a hot title or celebrity author and finding they’re signing postcards.  Or excerpts.  Honest.   More than once, I saw more the line melt when the signing started and word got passed down.  Sweetheart, there are better books available than what you’re offering right now.  Yes, I know there are possible explanations, but it stings.  It really does.

Using two days out of four, one day was given to writer-centric pursuits, and the other to reading, reading and more reading.  Which is why going a second day, and with a friend, changes a person from a well-behaved professional into a raving lunatic fan: 

I’ll be posting book reviews of my faves in a later post.

If you have the chance to go to BEA, make sure your shoes are sturdy, cards are in your back pocket, your phone is set on stun and your wallet crammed with cash.  Next year, I want a third day, to explore the advances in digital publishing.  Especially since almost everything that was seen this year will be “old” in twelve months.