This past weekend publishers, authors, booksellers, librarians, bloggers and more descended on the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York City for the annual BookExpo America (BEA) conference. You might have heard of the BEA as a place to meet your favorite authors, attend a book signing, and receive quite literally enough free books to fill a suitcase. While this may be true, the BEA is also the leading book industry event in North America and it’s the place to discover new titles, learn about book industry trends, network with industry professionals, and, yes, get advanced reader copies of books and author autographs.
This year, bestselling authors such as Rick Riordan (PERCY JACKSON series) and Lauren Weisberger (THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA) were there to sign their latest creations. Actor and comedian Jim Carrey made two appearances to promote his new children’s book, and Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi signed her forthcoming pregnancy book, BABY BUMPS; while the queens of the kitchen, Giada De Laurentiis and Paula Deen, stumped for their latest cookbooks. Even Internet sensation Grumpy Cat was at the BEA to promote her book from Chronicle — GRUMPY CAT: A GRUMPY BOOK.
Each morning of the three-day event kicked off with a bang: a ticketed author breakfast hosted by Chelsea Handler on Thursday, Octavia Spencer on Friday, and Chris Matthews Saturday. All day the convention autographing area was packed with booksellers and fans eager to get a glimpse of their favorite writers and a chance to receive an autographed copy of their latest work. The exhibition floor was jam-packed with 1,000-plus exhibitors primed to discuss their upcoming titles or services. Simultaneously throughout the day, three staging areas rotated through various talks, presentations, and panels. One of the most popular of these featured comedian Jim Gaffigan, who did a Q&A and signed copies of his book DAD IS FAT. The stages were also home to the first-ever publishing hack-a-thon, where the winning team received $10,000 and the chance to pitch their idea to Ari Emanuel, co-CEO of William Morris Endeavor. This year’s winning concept was a platform called Evoke that helps readers browse books based on the emotions of the characters within.
Beyond the exhibition hall, the BEA also held various programming sessions. The topics ranged from eBook pricing to better utilizing social media to remainder buying. In addition to that, the show staged a Global Market Forum, which focused on publishing in Mexico and offered sessions on subjects including financing translation services and the shift of the Spanish language market. In conjunction with that, there were conferences on self-publishing, the digital book transition and one specific to book blogging, whose keynote was given by Will Schwalbe, author of THE END OF YOUR LIFE BOOKCLUB. Other popular events included a panel on creating the ultimate book club experience presented by Wally Lamb and Elizabeth Gilbert, and a talk by Neil Gaiman called “Why Fiction is Dangerous.”
Overall this year’s BEA was a great place to be if you are passionate about books, anxious to make contact with the latest authors and interested in the overall state of the book publishing industry. While the booths are put away now and the halls are empty once again, I am already looking forward to being a part of this great event next year.
Zola Books, Booth #1139