Seeing StarsMay 17, 2011
The Ghosts Among UsJune 4, 2011
Today was the last day of BEA—or BookExpo America, the North American publishing world’s annual, multi-day US conference. For this first-time attendee, it was an occasionally odd, but also illuminating, experience. BEA is primarily geared toward booksellers, so I knew going in that I was not the target audience, but I went anyway, to try to soak up as much information about the industry as possible.
By their very size and nature, events at the Javits Center are overwhelming, but despite feeling a little like Nemo, lost in an endless sea, I can honestly say that I learned a lot this past week. The marketing-related sessions included useful information about Twitter, Facebook, and building a platform for your books and brand. And thanks to the Editors’ Buzz panel, I discovered—and acquired advanced copies of—six new fiction titles that I’m really excited to read, including the baseball-themed The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach, and Naomi Benaron’s Running the Rift, the Bellwether Prize–winning novel about an aspiring Olympian caught in the middle of the Rwandan genocide of the 1990s.
There were other things I learned at BEA that I could’ve easily done without. Seriously, $3.90 for a bottle of water at the Javits Center? I know you have a monopoly, but c’mon, people. And though it doesn’t necessarily qualify as new knowledge, I once again discovered there is nothing quite like free stuff (in this case, books) to turn otherwise mild-mannered individuals into a heaving horde of wildebeest. Seeing an assembled group of librarians, booksellers, and other publishing folks go from calm, rational adults into stampeding monsters in a matter of seconds was enough to make me question whether Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was fiction or an anthropological study.
But at the end of the day (well, 3 1/2 days, but who’s counting), BEA left me hopeful. Although I’m probably delusional for feeling optimistic about the publishing industry at this particular moment in its history, this conference convinced me that there are still many people out there who are passionate about books (be they print, audio, or e-), and that these folks still hunger for—will always hunger for—stories, as long as they’re well-told.