Gone are the days when we could wander aimlessly through the aisles of The Javits Center, collecting all the book swag we wanted. No longer can we map out a plan of who’ll stand in what line to get which books so we don’t miss out on all the BEA freebies.
Nope. This year, real life took over. We actually had to work at BEA. That’s Book Expo America, in case you didn’t know. It’s the largest trade publishing show in the US, where the industry gets together to show off their latest and upcoming titles, network, sell some stuff, and throw fabulous after parties with star authors. We’ve heard rumors and whispers of how much industry people hate BEA. We just didn’t get it until now.
The innocent joy of just wandering around was taken away and replaced with actual responsibilities. Maybe it’s better this way, having the perspective of both sides, getting an idea about how our lives in publishing have changed since we have moved from one end of the spectrum (student) to another (employee). And maybe we’re better off not grabbing as many books as we can carry into tote bags, but instead getting a smaller selection. Our bookshelves should thank us!
The air of disappointment lingers still. And not just because we were forced to grow up this year, but also that BEA had a different vibe. From our admittedly limited perspective, there just didn’t seem as much on offer as in previous years. Some exhibitors were even charging. $20 for a calendar that you’ve been giving away for free? Nope, not going to happen. Fewer galleys and ARCs and more signed posters? Perhaps that’s the effect of expanding BookCon (which we couldn’t attend with our BEA badges like last year). So maybe that’s it – the commercialization of it all.
Next year, BEA moves to Chicago, for whatever reason, as if NYC is no longer the publishing Mecca. But damn it, we’re going to go somehow and get our BEA mojo back!