While everyone else was off gallavanting at RT, I headed to Book Expo America in Washington D.C. this past weekend. I’ve never been to a BEA so I didn’t know what to expect. Honestly, I wasn’t at all prepared!
Book Expo America, for those who don’t know, is the largest booksellers, librarians, publishers expo in the US. It’s a yearly deal that allows publishers to highlight their product and convince booksellers and librarians to feature the next big author, to carry their books, etc. But more than just books, there are also vendors selling different programs to help improve your business, selling gadgets and gifts and calendars and more. Google was there promoting Google books. Microsoft was there promoting their new program (similar to Google books). There were map companies and international studies and cookbooks and…well, there was everything you can imagine and some things you probably wouldn’t! In total there was well over 2,000 vendors there. No, I didn’t misplace any zeros. Two thousand vendors. Everyone wanting their product to stand out in your mind.
The thing that BEA drove home to me is how truly competitive the publishing world is. There were hundreds of publishers I’d never heard of. Many that had just opened, some that had been in business for years. I was there this year as a bookseller, as part of My Bookstore and More, so I got to hear a lot of sales pitches. Next year, I’ll be there representing Samhain, so I’ll be the one giving those pitches!
I’m going to post pictures in a later post, but walking into BEA is a bit of an overwhelming experience. Where to start, what to do, who to see. There are a good 30 authors signing at the same time in the traditional autograph area (the area set aside for just autographing, time slots ran from 1/2 hour for an author to several hours). Then there are any number of authors signing in the booth (vendor) areas at any one time. For example, on Saturday Harlequin had 13 authors signing at one time. Just at their booth. That’s not including any of the authors signing at any one of the other 2000 booths! In other words, you could spend your whole time running around trying to get books signed the whole time. And keep in mind, all the books are free, at the signings. And no need to bring tote bags, there’s a vendor shoving one in your hands every two steps.
Walking through the vendors, many of the publishers have stacks of ARCs sitting out to take, as well. So there are books to grab there and at the signings. And I talked to a lot of vendors who weren’t giving out free books to just everyone, but since I was a bookseller and expressed interest in their product, they gave me samples. I was on the hunt for different ideas for My Bookstore and More, so I talked to everyone from manga to young adult to children’s, trying to get a feel for various products.
The first day, Josh and I spent the morning walking the booths and the late afternoon in the traditional autographing area. At noon we stood in line at the Harlequin booth to get 13 of the 30 or so authors who participated in the Thriller anthology to sign. We each got a copy of the hardcover and a T-shirt! The authors were fun to talk to. Alex Kava and F. Paul Wilson (who I also got a different signed book from the next day) were very personable. We talked about selling ARCs on Ebay, because I asked that they not personalize my book (a lucky blog reader will win a copy next week) but I said, “I promise not to sell it on Ebay.” I used this line quite a bit throughout the conference, lol. It earned me quite a few laughs and opened up some interesting conversations. I learned that Alex Kava and F. Paul Wilson had had a side bet going as to when the first ARC would appear on Ebay.
As a rule, the authors I spoke to took Ebay and ARCs in stride. A few got a little adament against it, but by and large they agreed that it was the way of things and treated it in a humerous manner. Eric Van Lustbader said he looked at people who bought ARCs as one more reader he’s reached. There was one man, I don’t know who he was, who was standing to the side and entered into one of my conversations, and seemed to want death to all who sell ARCs on Ebay (him and PC Cast, eh?) but his was by and large not the widely held view. Most authors were bemused by the whole thing.
On an interesting side note, I was getting a copy of Magic Study by Maria Snyder (the sequel to Poison Study) and her editor was sitting with her at the signing. When I mentioned that I promised not to sell it on Ebay (after all, it doesn’t release until October!) her editor laughed and noted that I must read blogs. Turns out she’s PC Cast’s editor. Ahahahaha. She had a very sheepish grin on her face as she told me this. I got a kick out of that. She also gave me an ARC of a Red Dress Ink book that she edited (Girls Guide to Witchcraft by Mindy Klasky, also an October release) so at least my charming personality *snicker* netted me something (actually, it netted me quite a few extra books and more conversation).
It was an interesting look at other author’s views of the business of selling ARCs. I think we’re an insular community–romance and online–and I got to talk to many authors from different genres, fantasy (Elizabeth Haydon) and thrillers and mystery and more. Though I got the impression they don’t love the practice, I didn’t see the passion and railing against it, in the way I have online in the past weeks. What I saw was authors who are resigned to it as a part of the process of publishing their book. I appreciated the chance to move outside this community and get a feel for other’s viewpoints.
more to come on my BEA experience tomorrow…