It’s early June and I have bruises on my shoulders from carrying tote bags full of books–it must be BookExpo season! This year’s BookExpo was a bit different than it has been the last few years, and not just because they dropped the “America” from their name (note: Dear BookExpo, you will always be BEA in my heart because “I’m going to BE just sounds weird).
BookExpo returned to New York after a brief stopover in Chicago last year (making this NYer quite happy) which, from casual observation, seemed to result in an increased amount of booth staffing from most publishers. Last year we were hard pressed to find anyone available to answer questions in many of the large (often NY based) publisher booths, but this year there was staff in abundance–something I greatly appreciated.
The most stark difference between BookExpo 2017 and BEA2016 and 2015 was the overall attendance. Or perhaps more accurately, the demographics of those in attendance. In what appears to be an attempt to head back to its trade show roots, registration this year was more limited–bloggers were subject to a more stringent screening process, and the price for blogger tickets was significantly increased resulting in a noticeably smaller attendance from that community. Again, just from my casual observations, there did not seem to be nearly as many bloggers as had been at the show in the last few years, and there was definitely a much lower turnout from the younger YA blogging community. The fact that I was able to get on the signing lines for Lauren Oliver, Maggie Stiefvater, Marie Lu, and other very popular YA authors without needing to line up hours in advance was honestly quite a shock. As was the lack of line insanity at the Harlequin booth for that matter.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not falling in on either side of the “should bloggers be welcomed at BookExpo” debate. Personally I see the pluses and minuses of both. I’m a blogger, I’ve loved the years I’ve been able to attend BEA as a blogger. But this was my 7th BookExpo and been able to observe some of the changes that have happened over the last few years. I’ve attended as a Power Reader (the pre-BookCon open to the public day), a blogger, and as a bookseller. I’ve gone to quiet low-key expos, and others where I saw people get trampled for ARCs.
The BookExpo experience in recent years has varied widely and I will say the environment this year may have been one of my favorites. There was still a presence from the blogging/fan community which, I personally think, adds a level of energy and excitement that you don’t always get from the straight trade show customer. BUT the limited level of this presence made it a much more casual and friendly environment. Publishers weren’t playing line police all day and thus could take a minute to chat and actually make eye contact with the people in their space. You didn’t have to worry about spending hours in line waiting for the signing line you were interested in to form. Even super popular authors had manageable signings, which was wonderful. The lines for ARCs and Galley Drops were also (mostly) more manageable and I was able to snag some real gems–books from my favorite authors and some new-to-me that I’m super excited to read.
To the Publishers who make BookExpo possible, thank you for all the wonderful books!
To the Authors who take the time to meet their fans, you are THE BEST and your fans adore you for it.
To My Fellow Attendees, line friends are the best friends. I loved chatting with you, helping each other out on the lines, and generally helping to make the Expo more fun for all of us. See you next year.
To The People Selling ARCs, Totes and other freebies you got at the Expo, you should be ashamed of yourself. If you took something with the sole intent on profiting via Ebay–you are a tool and I hope you get caught and banned from future events. Yes, LIBRARIAN CHICK who bragged about getting the last Little House tote and putting it up on Ebay while we were waiting on a line together, I’m talking to you. You suck.