Book Expo America 2015, a convention for members of the publishing industry, took place on Wednesday, May 27 through Friday, May 29. Authors, booksellers, bloggers, educators, and more gather to network, attend panels and signings, and pick up lots and lots of free books. BookCon was started last year as a continuation of the event but open to the public and more geared to the interests of non-professionals in the world of books. This year’s BEA event was very special for us, since it was the largest gathering of DG writers to date! Here are some of our impressions of the event:
Last year I went to BookCon, and I’ve been benefitting from Kayla’s BEA haul for seven years, but this was my first time going to BEA myself. Overall, I loved the experience. There’s just something about being surrounded by so many people who are as passionate about books as you are, that makes you never want to leave (though after three days of waking up at 5 am, trekking around the Javits center, and lugging books, I was ready to take a break for another year).
There are always some issues that could be improved on regarding the way the event is run. Last year I wrote about prioritizing when events are at the same time. My biggest concern this year was the number of hugely-popular authors and pop culture stars who were not ticketed and were stuck in in-booth signing, rather than in the larger autographing area. Attendees lined up over an hour early for people like Kunal Nayyar (Raj on CBS’s The Big Bang Theory), Felicia Day (the ultimate geekette), and author Libba Bray. The lines blocked access to the other vendors, and sometimes were so long that the books ran out before the end of the line. There were also authors in the autographing area, which was designed to accommodate ridiculous hordes of book nerds, that had no line except for the occasional pity signing. It would have made a lot more sense for the big name people, especially the TV stars, to take their place on the autograph floor.
No matter how extreme the lines were, though, every author I met was worth the wait. Plus, making friends while passing time in line is one of my favorite parts of the con. My overall favorite experience of the con is hard to narrow down so I’ll pick two. First, there was meeting Kunal Nayyar, who is at least as sweet in real life as he is in the show. When I got to the front of the line, he said very humbly and sincerely, “Thank you for being here.” My other favorite part was when the Geekettes got coffee with author Leanna Renee Hieber, which I’m sure you will hear all about in a later post. It was so nice to sit down and really chat with an author in a small group, after a day full of waiting in hour-long lines to only say a few words in the time it takes to sign a name.
This was my second year going to both BEA and BookCon. I wrote my very first article for DG on last year’s event. This year was different from last year in a number of ways. One difference was that they didn’t open the floor until 1:00pm on Wednesday instead of in the morning. While I would have been okay with the late start if it meant more sleep, they started giving tickets for the ticketed author signings at 10:00am. This meant that we had to get up really early to drive into the city anyway and then sit in line for three hours after grabbing our tickets. Once we finally got through the doors though, the wait was worth it. I felt much less overwhelmed than I did last year, since now I knew what to expect. I was even able to do some planning in advance to make sure I grabbed every book I wanted. I was much more discerning than last year, too, and managed to come home with only 44 books, only a few of which I probably won’t read.
The crowds weren’t too bad for BEA, and I found that if you were strategic about what you wanted and when to start lining up, you could get to the front of the line for your top priorities. The crowds for BookCon, on the other hand, were quite intimidating, so I wound up avoiding all of the big names on Saturday and spent most of the day sitting in panels. Highlights for me from this week include getting a selfie with Maggie Stiefvater, meeting Felicia Day, getting a special message in a bottle from Alexandra Bracken, and hearing some brilliant authors speak in a panel on diversity in publishing.
Since BookCon was the first con I’ve ever been to, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. I was very confused at first, but once I was able to figure out where I was supposed to go and where things were located, I was able to enjoy myself more. Unfortunately, I missed the panel I really wanted to attend, which was about needing diversity in books. But I did get to attend a panel about being an artist in the digital age. Although I hadn’t heard of any of the artists that spoke, their speeches about creativity and pursuing what you’re passionate about really kept me thinking after the panel was finished.
The way the exhibitors were set up was also pleasing to me. Their positioning and shapes made it easy to walk around without bumping into crowds of people and the close proximity of the booths allowed for customers to literally be looking at something all the time. I tried to enter as many raffles and contests as I could (because who doesn’t love free stuff), and I only bought The Wrath and the Dawn from the book store. Once I saw how crowded the autograph section was, I decided to forgo my autographing plans.
While I found my first con to be enjoyable and worth my money, I was surprised by the lack of diversity in the kinds of books that were being sold. I was hoping to see art books and plays, but the books I stumbled upon seemed to only be fiction, non-fiction, or children’s books.
Book Expo America was fairly awesome this year. The autographing area was inconveniently far away from everything else, but that is the only thing remotely negative about my personal experience. I learned that I basically need to go buy everything Leigh Bardugo has ever written right now, that Felicia Day is genuinely the most wonderful person on the face of the earth, and that a group of porcupines is called a prickle. BookCon made me very cranky because of how inconvenient it was to get in. The highlight of BookCon for me was the inclusion of diversity in every panel, at every booth, and in the attendees. I loved seeing Maggie Stiefvater and the Marissa Meyer and Leigh Bardugo panel. Feminism abounded.
Having this be my second BEA was really awesome. Running around, I was much less overwhelmed and picked up much fewer books, and ones that I’m incredibly interested in reading. I picked up some really interesting finds, including the sequel to Holly Black and Cassandra Claire’s The Iron Trial, which was highly unexpected. Meeting Felicia Day and Norton Juster was AWESOME. I actually recognized authors this time around, and am already halfway done with a book. So pumped! BookCon was interesting — I missed the lines at the beginning of the day, which was great, and the few panels I went to were really interesting; one of which was about the upcoming Room film, which I am quite interested in watching. Now I am off to read and sleep!
The highlight of Bookcon 2015 for me were the amazing panels. Comics Are Awesome with Jeff Smith, Ben Hatke, Jennifer L, Holm and Raina Telgemeier shared their experiences being banned which received many cheers from the fans. Mixed Me: Discussion with Taye Diggs and Shane Evans was truly a treat. Taye Diggs wrote Mixed Me for his son who is a child of a mixed marriage. Taye Diggs wanted his son and all the other children like him to have a book they could read and see something of themselves. Shane Evans played guitar and made up a song on the spot that involved some great audience participation. At Rainbow Rowell in Conversation with Rachel Fershleiser, the discussion took lots of interesting turns, but fun fact, Rainbow is her real name and she told a really cute story to prove her point. The last panel of the day for me was Leigh Bardugo and Marissa Meyer: Truth or Dare. Well, just from the title you can tell this one was going to be hilarious and it certainly didn’t disappoint. Leigh Bardugo had to rap dialogue from one of her books and Marissa Meyer had to sing the Lunar National Anthem, which of course had to be made up on the spot and was sung to Oh Christmas Tree. Improv was definitely the word of the day because there were some really great questions and just as many amazing answers that included a sing along.
This week, attending BEA and BookCon, I really enjoyed myself (and spending time with the other Geekettes). I’m really excited to read all the books I got, too. The most memorable part of my week (other than meeting Mindy Kaling) would be two of the panels I attended. The first panel was called Reality Bites. Patrick Ness who was on this panel stated that Twilight was the worst book ever written. He said it’s our guilty thoughts and wishes that should never be put down on paper. Now if you know me, you know I am a fan of Twilight. Without defending Twilight in terms of what Ness said in his panel, I will just refer to what Leigh Bardugo said in her panel, Truth or Dare with Marissa Meyer and Leigh Bardugo, when asked what she thinks about adults reading young adult books. What she had to say I think directly applies to the comment made by Patrick Ness and that is, the people who have a problem with a genre usually have a problem with young adult or romance. She pointed out that the main consumers and writers of those genres are women, and no one should feel ashamed to read what they love. We shouldn’t write books more directed to what boys like but instead teach boys that it’s okay to like the same things that girls do. And then she dropped the metaphorical mic. And then I was almost crying. So if there’s one thing I will remember from BookCon and BEA it’s those two panels and how the first one made me feel guilty for liking Twilight and the second panel shut that down. So now I’m going to read all of Leigh Bardugo’s books, only one of which is among the sixty I brought home this week. Oops.
This year was my first time attending both BEA and BookCon, and as much as it was overwhelming and exhausting and I think I injured my shoulder from carrying around too many books, I absolutely loved it. I was texting friends saying things like “I think I’ve died and gone to book heaven” because of how happy I was at BEA. I was only present for Thursday and Friday of BEA and Saturday of BookCon, but each day had their own highlights. On Thursday, Kayla and I interviewed Lev Grossman, author of The Magicians trilogy (full interview post to come later this week). On Friday we met Felicia Day, and after much persistence I scored a copy of Leigh Bardugo’s upcoming novel Six of Crows. On Saturday I went to the amazing We Need Diverse Books panel, and right after it got a signed copy of Daniel Jose Older’s upcoming book.
Yes, I found the crowds at BookCon to be a little overwhelming, and there were failures in organization such as one author who was supposed to be doing autographing but wasn’t provided any books to sign. And by the end of three days of walking the floor of Javits, I was utterly exhausted. But all in all, I really had an amazing time, and I hope I’m able to go next year because BEA is truly something special. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go sort through my piles of books and try to figure out what I’m going to be reading first!
Were any of you at BEA or BookCon this year? Do you wish you were? What parts of BEA and BookCon do you hope to hear about from us in the coming weeks? Let us know in the comments!