Whew! Lemme just say that again. WHEW! What a week last week! I attended BookExpo and BookCon last week for the first time, and it was a wild ride.
The goal: reconnaissance. I was interested in having a booth there this year, but decided I should find out what I was getting into first.
The result: I learned so much from both events. However, I think next year I'll opt to only attend BookCon. More specifics on that later. First, lemme go briefly go thru my experience day by day.
Tuesday, May 30th (day before BookExpo starts): Hello, New York City! Whoa! Can we all just slow down a minute? No? Okay then.
So NYC threw me for a loop at first. It was my first time there, and it is not at all like it is in the movies. Everything is so loud and intense! So many people! I felt really uncomfortable for the first couple of hours, but then I remembered that I've contended with a city a lot like this before: London. Okay, no problem. I can do this. The hubs and I went out to dinner and then headed to Times Square, Rockefeller Center, etc. This was the only touristy stuff I ended up doing all all week.
Pro-Tip: If you plan to attend either BookExpo or BookCon, expect to be exhausted and not have a lot of time for sightseeing. A lot of the big attractions in NYC close around 5 or 6pm. Oh, and expect to spend a lot of $$$. Everything in NYC is expensive!
BookExpo Day 1: Not much to report here. I went to one seminar, which was about "the future of publishing." What that really meant is up and coming changes and technologies that may or may not shape the book industry. That had some interesting information about virtual reality and augmented reality, but I'm not yet sure if it's applicable/available to me as an author. I'm also not certain it's really going to take off. I mean, I might be totally wrong. Maybe one day we'll all be reading books with special glasses on our faces that make 3D images of the landscapes and scenes pop out of thin air. Then again, isn't that what our imaginations are for? I dunno, it kind of sounded like they were trying to reinvent the wheel.
That's the thing about BookExpo, it's primarily meant for publishing industry professionals (agents, publishers, bookstore owners, libraries, etc.) People with lots of money to invest in big things that may or may not work out. And then there's little me with my comparatively miniscule budget. If you go to BookExpo as a single author, be prepared for some of the ideas presented to be beyond your reach. I did glean one very interesting piece of information from that seminar on Day 1, however. The future of the publishing industry does not appear to be ebooks. Sales of those have been going down.
Above you can see just a sliver of what the convention center looked like. So many book banners!
BookExpo Day 2: Time to get busy! On Day 2 of Book Expo, I got up very early to attend an author breakfast, which was hosted by Whitney Cummings, who was hilarious whilst being painfully honest, and Stephen and Owen King made an appearance.
I'm not quite sure what I expected from this event, but it wasn't massively impressed. It was quite...highfalutin and prosey. I was hoping for more insights into the craft, but each author just talked for a bit about what their forthcoming books are going to be about. No surprise, Sleeping Beauties by Stephen and Owen King sounded the most interesting. Also, the breakfast...I know I'm a harsh critic here because I have such a strong relationship with food, but when I shell out a bunch of money for an event, I expect more than bagels, danishes, OJ, and coffee. That was all they offered. Rawr. For those of you who don't know, that's my "I'm hungry" noise.
Right, after that I went straight to a seminar on ebook marketing put on by GoodReads. And I have good news! They released the lesson as a blog entry as well. You can find that here if you want to read it. Granted, reading thru this isn't the same as hearing it presented (the presentation was better), but if you have any specific questions about it, feel free to let me know below in the comments. I Hermione'ed the crap out of the seminar I went to and took loads of notes.
I went to two other seminars that day too, one about fair use and copyright law and the other about building an author platform. Neither said anything that I didn't already know. Again, though, if you'd like to know more, hit me up in the comments below.
BookExpo Day 3: Last day of BookExpo! By this time, I'd made a few good contacts, and this morning was no different. I met some lovely people as I attended another author breakfast, this one focusing on YA and children's books. I enjoyed this one far more than the adult breakfast the day before. I'm sorry, you guys, but the adult breakfast on Day 2 was a little pretentious. This YA/children's one, though, so much nicer and warmer!
The breakfast was hosted by Savannah Guthrie (she hosts a popular morning TV show here in the US called the Today Show), and the other guests were Jennifer Weiner, Marieke Nijkamp, Jason Reynolds, and Isla Fisher (also an actress). Oh, and did I mention how many free books I'd gotten by this point? Yeah, loads! When we walked into breakfast that morning, there was an entire tote bag full of them for us! Hooray free books! I really loved listening to the guests that morning. I'd definitely attend the YA/children's breakfast again, unimpressive food or not.
Pro-tip: leave lots of space in your bags for books. The hubs took a bunch of my books in his bag for me, and mine was still overweight when we went to the airport, so I ended up carrying six pounds worth of books in my backpack with me to avoid a heavy bag charge.
There was also a delightfully geeky seminar later on that day about metadata. I don't want to get too into the details here, but one of the main takeaways from that was that your online book information should be carefully crafted to allow people to find your book easily. Example: my book Out of the Shadows is a steampunk fantasy story, but "steampunk fantasy" isn't used in my Amazon description at all. Mistake! I shall be correcting that ASAP! Work keywords like that organically into your Amazon (and GoodReads and Riffle and etc.) descriptions.
Finally, at the end of the day, I got to see Neil Patrick Harris and Lemony Snicket discuss A Series of Unfortunate Events and writing and all kinds of fun things.
I got a fabulous free hat! Don't act like you're not jealous! Anyway, the talk was so entertaining and lovely. Some of the best advice I heard there was don't talk down to children in writing. Teach them using entertainment (like the way Lemony Snicket did with some of the more complicated words in ASOUE). And always strive to entertain at all levels. You can slip in jokes that only the adults will get and of course include things that will make children laugh as well. I loved this session! And with that, BookExpo was over!
BookExpo final thoughts: As I said above, I don't think I'd attend BookExpo again either as a booth presenter or a regular attendee. While I did meet some lovely people and learned so many things and heard some great talks by authors, the price of the ticket was still insane. And the breakfasts were an extra cost on top of my ticket. The folks on the floor were for the most part not folks I could make much of a connection with because I don't own a shop, don't curate books for a library, and don't buy books in bulk. Unless the price came way down, I don't think I'd do BookExpo again.
Also, as I was going for reconnaissance, I can tell you the author booths in the area called the Author Market were...underwhelming. Below is a picture of the booths in the Author Market.
For me personally, I don't think those are worth the cost (over $1000). My biggest issue is that there are no dividers between the tables, though I know that's because the spaces and tables are so small, which I also don't like. There's not really a good way to stand out because it's a forest of signs and tables. And I don't personally think agents and publishers were coming over to the Author Market area to find the next big author. I think if you want to get in with those folks, you need to follow the traditional paths of querying and submitting your manuscript. Sorry, not trying to be judgy, but that's just the impression I got, and part of my goal was to get an idea of what the different table options were like. You can also get a 10'x10' booth at BookExpo, but that's over $3000. Yikes!
On a related note, I also don't think the New Title Showcase would be something I would go for either. Again, it's pretty pricey, and all the books are shelved on rack after rack of other books. It's a sea of random books in no particular order or arrangement. This goes double for the Ebook New Title Showcase. This was just a screen that you could click through if you wanted, and I didn't see anyone so much as glance at it. At least with the physical book displays there were people browsing. Might be something to consider if you're thinking about heading down any of these avenues. Right, that's everything I have for BookExpo. Onto BookCon!
BookCon Days 1 & 2: Get ready for a big change when the switch over to BookCon happens. BookExpo is all be-suited and business casual professionals networking and talking about the big publishing industry. BookCon is the everyday consumer events and a proper bookish playground! It was way more crowded than BookExpo and had way more stuff. Even a goat. You heard me. I said a goat...a goat in pajamas.
Seriously, BookCon is like the Disney World of books. Everyone is so nice and friendly and happy to be around so many other booklovers. I actually had to adjust between being inside the Con and outside. Inside the Con, you can just strike up a conversation with anyone about this book and gush about that character. Once I was back outside in the real world, I had to remember that I was no longer in the Book Land of Neverending Happiness. Even the authors seemed so much more warm and friendly, though that could have been their genres. The panels I attended were all YA/New Adult authors, and I think those genres in general are much more open and accepting anyway.
For one thing, during the Romance/New Adult panel, one of the audience members asked what tropes they (the authors) thought were played out. The answer was amazing!
"No tropes are played out."
I was so pleased about their encouragement. The authors in that panel advised to write what's right for the characters first and foremost. They addressed the "imposter syndrome" and how all writers deal with insecurity and the feelings of not being good enough and "who am I to be doing this?" They mentioned that it's hard to not play the comparison game. I enjoyed this panel way more than I expected to because they addressed so many of the issues that make me want to scream and bang my head against the computer and eat an entire pint of ice cream whilst crying.
The other panel, which was all about YA, was equally awesome. This blog entry is already super long, so let me just give you two bits of advice that I took away from it.
VE Schwab - The Harry Potter series is a good guide for figuring out the age appropriateness of your books, especially when you're talking with parents. Also, ask the parents what their children are reading when trying to figure out where your book or books might fit in with the children's tastes.
Susan Dennard - "If we've done our jobs right, the story will transcend age."
And then there was the Bookstagrammer meetup! I almost didn't go to this because I wasn't really sure what to expect, but I am so glad I did. Everyone was so kind and friendly and I made lots of new Bookstagrammer friends! And we just sat around and talked about books and Instagram. It was great!
So, yeah, even if you're not an author looking to have a booth at BookCon, if you love books, you should totally go to this event if you can. And speaking of being an author at BookCon...
I totally want to have a booth next year! The author booths (not part of the Author Market) that were set up in the back of the Con were great! They were well sized with dividers and the price seems way more worth it. I took the opportunity to meet some of my fellow authors back there and had such a great time!
I know it's hard to see most of the booths behind me in those pictures, but they're great. I am going to try my darndest to get a booth at BookCon next year because lemme tell you, those places were busy! And I would love to be a part of this little village of authors and merchandise creators that were back there. I cannot tell you how many awesome people I met!
Okay, so that's a very long but still a very high level overview of BookExpo and BookCon. I hope this helps any of you all who are thinking about attending in the future. Again, if you have any further questions for me, feel free to drop a line in the comments below, on my contact page, or on social media - @danafraedrich for Instagram, Tumblr, and Twitter. @WordsByDana for Facebook. Thanks for reading!