Today I had the pleasure to attend Book Expo America (BEA), the largest book conference in America. Geared toward publishing professionals, booksellers and educators, BEA is probably the only opportunity you’ll have to see the number of men come anywhere close to the number of women in publishing. (Seriously. There were men there. And they like BOOKS.)
Though this wasn’t my first time around the BEA dance floor, I am reminded about a few things every year. Here are the highlights (and lessons relearned) today!
1.) Pounding the Javits Center hurts. A lot. Today’s heels means tomorrow will be spent in flip flops. As in other years though, I am sure that by the time Thursday comes around, everybody will be in sneakers and jeans, and they will be much more selective about the amount of swag they want to carry.
2.) About swag. It’s heavy. Free ARCs (advanced reader copies) freaking rock! At the next pub party, you get to talk about all the books you’ve read that the general public won’t even get to touch, let alone finish reading, for another two to six months. But they are still made of paper (at this point), and so by the third day, you become a little more picky about what swag you want to carry out with you. Book with a three page sex scene between woman and monkey, yes. (It’s literary fiction, it actually looks quite good!) Book that’s being handed out at self-publishing booth, perhaps not. (Lesson here — less free books handed out on Tuesday, so if you are a self-published author at BEA, go then. Less competition for bag space, and generally more excitement for the free.)
3.) Industry panels. Today’s panels were all about social media. Authors, aspiring authors, publishers — it comes down to Nike’s infamous slogan — just do it. (It was perhaps said more eloquently than that. But another thing I’ve learned about panels is that brevity is key. Especially when chances are, your topic is going to overlap with another panel your audience sat through just an hour or two before.)
4.) It’s still kind of odd to approach your favorite authors for signings. At BEA, authors are like celebrities, but more accessible and with a slightly more awkward following. In fact, last year, my colleague and I said to Jonathan Lethem as he signed our books, “we are extremely awkward.” That, of course, made things even more awkward.
5.) It’s becoming increasingly difficult to remember who you’ve met in real life, and who you recognize from their Twitter handle. Is that an editor I’ve met before at a lunch? Or someone who happens to tweet very frequently in my feed? Oh wait, I must know them from Twitter because I’ve seen pictures of their cats! And speaking of Twitter, now as the speaker you can see in real time if your audience thinks your panel sucks. Talk about pressure!
6.) Book parties. Book nerds know how to party. We really do. Last year, I managed to rip a hole in my shirt at a tweet-up. A tweet-up! So far, my shirts remain intact. But BEA is young. There are still two more days of swag collecting, Twitter stalking and pub partying.
I’m exhausted! But it’s true guys — BEA is like Christmas in May. (If you habitually go to happy hours during Christmas.)