Outside the Javits Center where Book Expo America is held every year (but last year).
See my past recaps: 2013, 2014, 2015
This year marks my fourth time attending Book Expo America. I've attended since 2013 except for last year, because it was held in Chicago and earlier in May, neither of which worked out for me. This year the event was back in NYC with a less colorful logo. Even so, I didn't expect to go back again, because I kept hearing about changing rules that discouraged bloggers, and I was sure I wouldn't be approved. I've gotten a press pass since the first year, and I dutifully applied again when the email came. However, I had no expectation that it would be a positive outcome. And I was right! I was denied a press pass and put the whole event out of my mind....until a few months later, when I got a follow-up email saying they were changing my status to approved. I'm still not sure why it was changed, but when it happened, I began to reconsider going to BEA.
2) The Exhibit Hall
Of course the main event of BEA is the exhibit hall floor at the Javits Center. As opposed to previous years, the floor was only open for two days (It's been whittled down from three to 2.5 to now 2), though some of the room events, such as the Adult Fiction Books Buzz Panel were held the day before. I'm guessing the event was shortened to make way for BookCon, which has only gotten bigger each year. There was no Blogger Con this year, though @Blogbound ran a separate event this year that sort of mirrored that, though I'm sad to say I didn't attend it.
The two days of BEA pretty much ran as usual, though lines and waiting times were visibly shorter than previous years. And even when I arrived late to a line, there were usually tickets left. The longest line I stood in was for Leigh Bardugo's Wonder Woman. In past years, I've arrived at the Javits by 7:30 am to get a spot in line to get on the floor by 9. But this year when I got there that early, the bag check wasn't even open and no one was yet in line. I've continued my trend of avoiding the Autographing Area as much as possible though it did appear they finally started making space over there for the early lines that form. Personally, I think the Autographing Area takes up a lot of time, and if I can snag a book a different way, I'll try to do that. The only author I broke that rule for this year was Megan Whalen Turner, whom I finally got a chance to meet this year!! I probably embarrassed myself completely, but it was all I could do not to fall at her feet.
3) The Events
One of my favorite parts of the BEA experience is attending publisher events, and I was lucky enough to attend several this year.
a) The Little Brown BYR Brunch - Held at the LB offices, this event included yummy food, mimosas, a 'speed dating' activity where staff talked about upcoming books they were excited about. Then Ryan Graudin talked about her next book Invictus, signed copies of the ARC and each table did a puzzle to reveal the main characters. BONUS - I rode in the elevator to the Little Brown offices with Al Franken, who was visiting the publisher as well (though not to attend the brunch).
b) Harlequin Teen Cocktail Party - This event was held a private room of a restaurant that included yummy Mexican food hors d'oeuvres, book themed cocktails and a cool balloon wall. A few authors also attended this event. I nearly lost my phone in the bathroom while I was here and freaked out for a while - but thankfully found it!
c) A book party launch for Kwame Alexander's latest book called Solo. Held at the Gibson guitar studios, this was one of the coolest book events I've attended. Kwame Alexander performed parts of his book (which is written in verse) alongside a musician who played guitar and sang. I just finished the book and the location and format of this event couldn't have matched the story better.
d) Big Honcho Media's Stay Gold Party - This was also an evening party at a private event room and boasted a photo booth and soft Stay Gold t-shirts. I had trouble seeing anyone at this party, because it was pretty much pitch black in there. But I enjoyed chatting with different bookish people and taking photos with various props.
e) Macmillan's Fierce Reads Party - (I didn't take a photo here, sadly) I really enjoyed the opportunity I had at this event to mingle with authors, bloggers and Fierce Reads staff. Both beloved authors those whose books are new to me. That is one of my favorite parts of BEA and this event epitomized it perfectly.
4) The Friends
I have zero clue how to gif. I'm pretty sure I posted this wrong.
Another favorite part of attending BEA is hanging out with all the bookish people I interact with online throughout the year. I've mentioned that the exhibit floors were a lot less crowded this year, well that's because a lot fewer bloggers attended. The event felt a lot less festive because of this, and I was a little sad about it all, as well as the lack of blogger hangouts that usually surround all the events. One night I even went to a movie by myself, which I've never done before, and I don't know that I would have had time to do in years past. I saw Everything, Everything and it was the most adorable thing ever! That isn't to say I had tons of free time. I spent less time walking around the city this year, and was busy for most of the 3.5 days I was there.
That said, not everyone was missing, and I had a great time with Sandie
Unfortunately, I was terrible of taking selfies or other pictures of me with people at BEA this year. I did get a good one of Kaz and friends, though.
5) The Loot (aka the Books)
Bookish buttons and some of the titles I picked up.
A look at BookCon
Crowds at BookCon
BookCon definitely had a much stronger "fan" feel than BEA. And I do think the event works well in conjunction with BEA. The question remains, though, where do the bloggers fit in the mix? I personally, like the professional feel of BEA, and would like to continue attending that event, but I did enjoy the few things I did at BookCon (though I was pretty exhausted by that point). Except for the one book drop I attended at BookCon, I'd already gotten all the titles I wanted, so it was nice to be able to go and enjoy some of the programming. I don't know how it would have felt if I had attended without going to BEA, and I don't think I'd pay to go down just to do BookCon. But I did enjoy it as part of my event experience.
Here are four things I did at BookCon:
1) I get the First in Line enewsletter, and they sent me an email the night before BookCon saying that if I showed them their email at the Random House booth, I could get a box of bookish items. All without standing in line! Well, there was quite a line of people who had these emails, so that wasn't exactly accurate. However, it was apparently shorter than the other line? In any case, it was worth it, because I loved the tote and beach towel I got. This perhaps illustrates that publishers still don't anticipate how many people attend BookCon.
2) I attended a book drop for a title I'd heard would only be dropped at BookCon. Only people who happened to be in the area, or had found out about the drop while at BEA, would have been quick enough to get a copy. Not every publisher did book drops, but it was possible to get some coveted arcs there. However, the overall event seemed more focused on meeting authors, panels and other fandom excitement.
3) BookCon had a lot more author focused events. I attended a "speed dating" program for 5 Epic Reads authors. They switched between tables of 10 people and pitched their books, then we could ask them whatever questions we wanted. Only 50 people got a seat, so it was limited. But I got to sit down and hear Megan Whalen Turner talk, which was amazing! Victoria Schwab was also at the table, and a few other authors whose books I'm now excited to read. Although BookCon was crowded and chaotic, I loved the more intimate feel of this event (though I had to get there over an hour early to get a spot).
4) I got to meet Benita who makes @BookBeaus, book sleeves that I'm completely obsessed with. And I bought a few. I like that BookCon had an area set up for bookish sellers.
Until next time (hopefully!)
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