Here's how the Book Expo works. The Expo is held at the Javits Convention Center in New York. Historically, only people with a connection to the book industry can register to attend, with bookstore owners being the target audience since the objective of the event is for publishing houses to sell their books. My involvement with adult literacy programs has qualified me to go the last few years. This model is changing, though, and this year was the first at which "power readers" (i.e., people who want to go to the Expo just because they love to read) were permitted entry on the last day of the event. My registration fee for the three+ day event was $100, and I anted up an extra $30 to attend an author tea (more about that in a separate post). And what did I get for my $100? I can't give you all the specifics right now, as two boxes of books are en route from the Expo as I write, but suffice it to say that I walked away with over 125 pounds of books!
|Wendi, Lee and I in a rare down moment at the Expo|
Once you've made it through the initial mad dash, you can take a slightly more orderly approach to the rest of your day. Although there are lots of galleys to grab at the start of the day, some of the publishing houses have a set schedule as to when they put specific books out, and if you're not there within the first few minutes, your chances of getting the galley are pretty slim. Then there are the author signings, which take place both in publishing house booths and in the autographing section (which has 25+ authors signing at any given time.) For most of the authors, all you have to do to get the signed book is stand on line until it's your turn (subject to availability). For a few of the hottest names, though, you have to get a ticket. This year's ticketed authors included Richard Ford (Canada), who has the most incredible blue eyes, and Dennis Lehane (Live by Night). Tickets are handed out at 7:00 each morning, so you have to make a decision whether you care enough about the book to get to the Expo that much earlier. We generally arrived around 8:15 and were able to get tickets for the authors whose books we wanted most. This year I adopted a new strategy for the authors who were signing in the autograph area. If a popular author was signing from 10-11, people often start lining up around 9:30 and then stand in line over an hour to get their book. I decided to take my chances and hit the line at the end of the hour, when I often was able to waltz right up and get their signature. (I was closed out a couple of times, but no real tragedies.) This strategy is dicier for the in-booth signings, though, so if there was a book that I really wanted (like Lee Child's latest), I would line up extra early and bond with the other fans. As I scurried around the floor of the convention center, I would often ask people in long lines who they were waiting to meet, and sometimes they didn't know. I analogize it to food lines in Russia--I don't know what I'm standing in line for, but if other people are doing it, it must be something good. And I can understand the temptation to do that if you don't have a schedule setting out what you want to get. Luckily, Wendi's spreadsheets of galley hand-outs and signings helped keep me focused and on track.
|Me with Michael Bolton and Wendi|
The impact of e-reading on publishing was not nearly as evident as I expected it to be. Some publishing houses were making proofs available on Net Galley (http://www.netgalley.com/), but that was generally in addition to the paper copies that were being given out. Lee (who joined us for parts of the Expo) made an interesting--and funny--comment about people bemoaning the fact that people are not buying physical books as much as they did previously. He compared it to when Gutenberg created the printing press. People at the time might have said, "Hey, Gutenberg, what do you think you're doing? You are going to ruin the art of story telling with this new fangled invention of yours!" Of course, that wasn't what happened at all. So, too, the way that stories are shared is changing with the onslaught of Nooks and iPads and Kindles. But that doesn't mean that books are going away or that fewer people are reading. I love the feel of a book in my hands, but even I am beginning to understand the appeal of having lots of reading material at your fingertips in one device.
All in all, it was a fun, exciting, and exhausting few days. Once the dust has cleared and my boxes have arrived, I'll report back on some of the titles that I'm most looking forward to reading. In the meantime, though, I still have a backlog of titles from last year's Expo to finish, and with only 355 days until next year's Expo, I'm going to be busy!