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My First Time at BookExpo America

I had always looked upon the reports from BookExpo America in New York, the big Lollapalooza of the publishing world, with envy. So this year I filled out the RWA application for authors to sign at BEA. I had two books coming out, first The Sword Dancer pretty much right on the toes of the BEA conference and then The Lotus Palace a couple months later in September.  It seemed like a good year to push myself a bit promotion-wise. I also wanted to experience the conference as well as meet with my agent and editor while I was there. (And let’s be honest — the thought of a quickie vacation to NYC sounded pretty glamorous.)

I woke up on Thursday at 3:30am after going to bed at 2:00am to jump on a plane at 6:00am. I thought I was still dreaming when I set foot into the exhibit hall:

BEA

From my first glimpse, I got a sense of how HUGE the publishing world was, in the US and internationally, and the part of it I was familiar with, romance publishing, was just a teeny-tiny corner of it. There were more than twenty rows filled with anyone who’s anyone in publishing, from small specialty presses to huge publishing conglomerates. Even little outfits that printed stickers and bookmarks!

The Book Lover’s Experience

Of course, I visited a few big booths like Penguin and Harlequin which were centrally located and took up large areas of the exhibit floor.

HQN_booth

Booths could be as small as a little swap meet display or huge walk through spaces with counters and meeting areas

I spotted some friendly covers at the Harlequin booth including Ruby Sister Liz Talley’s upcoming book, His Uptown Girl.

liz_talley

I spent a lot of time wandering wide-eyed. I must admit, as a mommy I was very enthralled by the many children’s book publishers.

childrens_books

boynton

Sandra Boynton (Hippos Go Berserk) as an upcoming book titled “Frog Trouble”

Immediately, I knew this wasn’t an author event at all. Companies had their catalogs out for the year and marketing staff in spiffy suits were waiting to speak to big representatives and buyers. And by buyers, I don’t mean little ol’ me, the individual book buyer, enamored by Sandra Boynton’s upcoming book. I mean buyers from bookstores, libraries and chains.

Of course there were authors there, often times the big names that the publisher wanted to highlight like Sylvia Day, Amy Tan and Scott Turow. And celebrity authors with upcoming books like Buzz Aldrin, Jessica Lange and Julianne Moore.

julianne_moore

The book lover and reader in me was absolutely satisfied to wander around and touch ARCs and samples. The displays were amazing. And there were cool little tidbits like that Suzanne Collins of Hunger Games fame has an upcoming middle grade series. (Correction: Apparently this is a reprint or a new promotional campaign as these were written earlier. Thank you to Talia Quinn Daniels for pointing that out.)

suzanne_collins

As far as swag goes, I apparently was quite modest, grabbing a few books here and there for me and Little Sis, but I saw people hauling bags and bags of books. I procured a copy of Ronin’s Mistress, a historical mystery set in feudal  book by Laura Joh Rowland from the Mystery Writer’s of America booth and my big score was an ARC of Amy Tan’s upcoming book, The Valley of Amazement, her first in 8 years, which I only received because Lexie of the Poisoned Rationality blog was amazing and grabbed me a copy while I was breakfasting with my editor.

swag_pile

I also lined up to get autographed books from Ruby Sisters Elizabeth Langston and Hope Ramsey who were also signing at BEA.

The Author’s Experience

Even though BEA is not focused on authors meeting up with readers, the booksignings were very popular. Of course there were huge lines for the marquis authors–but every author that I saw who had a signing had a decent showing. At the RWA booth, they had the signing schedule posted and people would return every hour, knowing that there would be two new authors and two new books to grab.

elizabeth

Elizabeth Langston signing Whisper Falls at the Spencer Hill Press booth

hope

Hope Ramsay signing copies of The Last Chance Book Club at the RWA booth

BEA was also my first official signing for The Sword Dancer, which had released in print on May 21 and for ebook on June 1.

Jeannie Lin (me) signing The Sword Dancer at RWA booth

Jeannie Lin (me) signing The Sword Dancer at RWA booth

A huge plus was also getting to see and chat with my agent as well as my editor from Berkley. I say chat because we didn’t have a formal “meeting” and talk business. It was more about touching base and getting to know them. I find face time important when you’re going to be working with someone. It adds an extra dimension of trust and connectedness–call me old-fashioned. Plus, we were able to chit-chat about where the industry is going, what’s going to happen with mass market, and what they think of the “the death of historicals” discussion.

Lessons Learned

Make no mistake about it, BEA and NYC are expensive. If you’re a little noob like me, I think it’s more feasible if you are local on the east coast and can make the trip without relying on having to pay for a hotel or airfare. I invested in order to go this year, but I’m not certain I’d do it again unless there was a specific event such as a signing with a publisher.

A tip: If you’re planning on going as an author, you may want to contact your publisher early to let them know as they probably start planning their line-up quite a bit in advance.

I think the biggest benefit for me as an author was first and foremost to get an experience of what the conference was like and see how publishers promote their books and authors at a large scale event. For example, Harlequin’s booth focused on several of their lines, emphasizing the new look of their series books launching in August. Of the authors signing, a good portion of them were from Harlequin Teen. The “big book” that Harlequin was pushing was a literary fiction novel: The Returned by Jason Mott.

HQN_series

Also of the authors signing at Harlequin, a third were from the Harlequin TEEN division, definitely showing their emphasis on YA books in the upcoming year. There was also a big promo push of the Cosmo Red Hot reads with Sylvia Day as their launch author.

Though it may be difficult for an author to be highlighted at BEA by a large publisher, belonging organizations like RWA or MWA provide an opportunity for you to sign. If you write for a smaller publisher, there may also be more opportunities.

For authors who are indie publishing, you might be interested in the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) which had a booth and featured author signings as well.

ibpa

And I did get a bit of glamor at the Harlequin cocktail party, located on the rooftop lounge on the 31st floor of the Kimberly Hotel:

HQNparty

There, I was able to hob knob with executives and editors, sip on a cocktail or two and eat hors d’oeuvres off of little tasting spoons.

So after two whirlwind days, am I on my way to publishing fame, fortune and the big lights? Probably not. But I learned a lot, networked and rubbed elbows with people I wouldn’t have been able to meet otherwise, and was surrounded by publishing culture. And browsing the exhibit hall was like roaming the biggest bookstore in the world, making me One Happy Girl.

Have you ever been to BEA or wanted to go? If you’ve gone, what was your experience? What about other trade shows like the American Library Association (ALA)? If you’re curious about anything, let me know and I’ll try my best to answer!

42 responses to “My First Time at BookExpo America”

  1. Thanks for the insight into BEA. I’d never considered going because I thought it was more for agents and editors. Your blog gave me the insight that while it might not be mandatory for an author to go, it’s probably something every author should do at least once. I’m adding it to my bucket list – near the top.

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    • Jeannie Lin says:

      Hi Kathy!
      I think it’s definitely a bucket list item for any author/booklover. I would go as far to say it’s not even an editor/agent event, but more of marketing and sales. One of the perks of attending through RWA was that I just had to pay a reduced fee of $75 for the exhibitor’s badge. Otherwise, a 1-day pass for authors is around $180 and a 4-day pass over $300.

      There’s also a Power Readers event on Saturday that I didn’t stay for. That sounds like it’s more reader and author oriented and you can sign-up as a power reader just for that day and the price is lower. I think $49.

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  2. Vivi Andrews says:

    Fabulous post, Jeannie! Thank you for all the info on BEA. I’ve never gone but always been curious about it.

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  3. Liz Talley says:

    Great post, Jeannie! And thanks for including the one with my new release 🙂 First time I’d seen it on the actual shelf.

    I never knew much about BEA, so this was very informative. I think I might sign up to try it one year, especially since after my husband and I went to NYC for my 40th and he’s been dying to go back. Might be a great weekend for us if I can be selected as a signee. Loved all the pictures – thanks for sharing.

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    • Jeannie Lin says:

      Definitely make a vacation of it if you can. The RWA signing was a great opportunity–mostly giving me an excuse to go. My biggest expense was the hotel room!

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  4. Tamara Hogan says:

    Thanks for the report from BEA, Jeannie! I followed some of the tweets, but it’s always useful to get a first-hand report. Great pictures!

    Suzanne Collins’ new YA series is called The Underland Chronicles? Yay and ruh-roh. My Underbelly Chronicles series might get some extra/mistaken hits due to people entering partial search terms, but whoa, is the target reader base different! 😉

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    • Jeannie Lin says:

      The tweets always made me so jealous in previous years, so it was great to go and see for myself this time around.

      Uh oh—well, the people searching for Underland vs. Underbelly will probably figure it out soon enough. 🙂

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    • Actually, the Underland Chronicles isn’t new — Suzanne Collins wrote it before she went on to hugeness with the Hunger Games trilogy. My son read the books a few years ago. It’s a five book series and starts with Gregor the Overlander. Highly recommended, BTW. Maybe Suzanne Collins isn’t going to have anything new for a while, so they decided to give her older series a push?

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      • Jeannie Lin says:

        Ah good to know!
        And that actually makes sense as the same booth was also pushing Harry Potter reprints. I was all excited until I saw that it was the previous titles repackaged with new covers. 🙂

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      • Yep. Was just going to say this! 🙂 And I’d classify them as more Middle Grade than YA. My boys are loving them!

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  5. June Love says:

    Jeannie, thanks for your insight in BEA. I knew what it was, but in a not-really-kind-of-way. 🙂 Learning/seeing which authors the publishers are promoting and how they are promoting these authors would be interesting. And, beneficial.

    This is a great post!

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    • Jeannie Lin says:

      I think going to BEA really helped me put things into better perspective regarding the NY publishers and it’s exciting to see what books are being pimped out by all the different houses.

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  6. Elisa Beatty says:

    Wow–BEA looks amazing!!!

    And you and the other Rubies looked FABULOUS!!

    THE SWORD DANCER is waiting for me on my Kindle…as soon as I get my grading finished, I’ll be diving in.

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    • Jeannie Lin says:

      The Rubies had to scramble about, but we finally found each other.

      Ugh…grading. *teaching flashbacks* But hope you enjoy the read afterwards.

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  7. Fabulous info, Jeannie – thanks for sharing! BEA has popped up on my radar for the last several years, but I didn’t take it seriously (being a fairly new author with little print presence). I hope, some time down the road, to get to this expo – sounds like such fun.

    (And about your “mommy” moments looking at the children’s books…I’d be doing that too! LOL In fact, in your first photo, I believe I caught a glimpse of the “Highlights” booth and had a little fan girl moment. LOL)

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    • Jeannie Lin says:

      I too had a “Highlights” moment!

      I think if you’re a noob, but can make the most out of a networking opportunity and are local to NYC, then it’s a good event. I had some nice moments, like being able to thank the romance editor of Library Journal personally for reviewing my book in their June edition (she had just e-mailed me the day before so I didn’t feel so weird approaching her). And being able to sign was nice. I didn’t realize that there were less books on the floor this year and more readers (according to a DA post), so maybe that’s why all the signings had a good turnout. Even mine. 🙂

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  8. Elizabeth Langston says:

    I loved attending BEA and I’ll probably go again next year. My publisher wanted me there to get ARCs of WHISPER FALLS out for early buzz–so this was my first book signing and it was a lot of fun.

    Since my book is YA, we were especially looking to get the book into the hands of librarians and teachers. They made up the majority of my line–as well as a lot of YA book bloggers.

    The number of free books you can pick up is amazing. I came home with 20; my editor took home 103. I have new books/ARCs/stuff from Sylvia Day, Katie McGarry, Maria V Snyder, and Jennifer Armentrout. I never had to wait in line very long–because the coordinators really have that down to a science.

    As a reminder of how generous the publishing community is… I own the ultimate writing craft book called SECOND SIGHT. It’s written by an executive editor at Scholastic, Cheryl Klein (who edited Harry Potter books in America.) I sent her an email and asked if she’d autograph it. So she met me on Friday in the Scholastic booth, signed my book, and spent about 10 minutes talking to me and my editor about the state of the industry. It was a major highlight of my visit.

    BEA will be in New York for two more year, but after that, it moves. It’s in Chicago in 2016.

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    • Jeannie Lin says:

      Good info about 2016 – Chicago is much closer!

      The ALA conference was the other item on my list this year, but I had to bow out because of a scheduling conflict.

      And there definitely was a YA emphasis from what I could see, so great timing for you!

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  9. Sounds like such a cool time! I would definitely love to go to BEA one day, but at this point, it’s more of a ‘one day’ kind of dream. Thanks for sharing your experiences!

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  10. Rita Henuber says:

    Thanks for sharing the info and pics. BEA is still a mystery to me. I think I’d have to actually attend to get it sorted out.

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    • Jeannie Lin says:

      My write up is a 100 mph fly by. It’s HUGE and definitely a cool thing to see at least once. My Little Sis used to work in publishing and was very jealous I got to go. Now apparently the Frankfurt Book Fair just dwarfs BEA. And it was first established 500 years ago. Amazing! (See what useful things you learn at BEA cocktail parties?)

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  11. Thanks for telling us about BEA, Jeanie. It sounds like you had lots of fun. I’d love to go–if I could go for free. Right now, as an indie author, I don’t see a lot of benefit for my career.

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    • Jeannie Lin says:

      That was really the best part of signing with RWA – that the conference badge was discounted. Of course, I had to pay for hotel and other expenses so it was a costly trip.

      I’d say that for most authors, it’s not a career boost at all. It’s really a trade show, targeted at the marketing and sales side of the business.

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  12. I’ve only been once, years ago, when Harlequin paid for me to do a signing of my first book. It was a lot of fun signing it for people and milling around, but foremost on my mind was that I had to get back home in time for DD’s recital that night!

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  13. Gwyn says:

    I had no idea what BEA was when the sisters first mentioned it. Found the answer on Facebook, of all places. I really need to get out more. 😉

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  14. After reading your blog and seeing your pictures, Jeannie, I feel like I’ve been to BEA! Thanks for sharing your trip with us.

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