Book Expos – boring? Anything but! Jen and Max prowled the floor at Book Expo America (BEA 2014) at the Javits Center just for you! That’s right. They were just there for YOU. They had no fun on their own.
Max: BEA was, well, beautiful. No really, BEA was a pleasure to go to. It’s a great show. Being my second time in attendance, the immense showroom was no longer quite as daunting compared to my first time last year. Having already been, we also knew what to expect so it was easier to cut through directly to places we wanted to check out. We came a day later; on Thursday. It was such a smarter move.
Jen: Last year we showed up on Wednesday and it was dead. Most of the booths hadn’t set up yet and it seemed like everyone was annoyed we were there. The website for Book Expo is really hard to navigate, and if you try to access it on a phone it insists you download the mobile app which is not compatible with Blackberry (which I had last year) or windows (which I have now). The lack of good, accessible information last year sent us on several wild goose chases led by staff and security who ranged from well-meaning to downright grumpy. This year we knew better.
M: Last year we were not let into the main showroom on Wednesday, despite it being “Press Day”. Like Jen said, it was dead and a bit of a mess. This year was so much better. As with last year, the variety of large presses and smaller imprints was enormous. Some products and services that were there last year were notably missing this time around, which I suppose is the nature of the beast, but there was little disappointment there; it doesn’t necessarily mean they failed. While the huge number of booths was overwhelming on our first try, this year our experience lead to a more productive Con all the way around. Last year I was less discerning about who we talked to; we wanted it all. This year we were on a more direct mission for you guys–finding engaging books and graphic novels with striking art or concepts for kids and teenagers, adult graphic novels, smart fiction, and some interesting products.
J: Speaking of products, we purposefully skipped over the “sales floor” where new products and book remainders (full books that hadn’t sold in bookstores) were clumped together. We knew we wanted to focus on the books themselves and that while some of the products are cool, they’re not nearly as interesting to us or to you as the upcoming titles themselves!
M: There was probably some stuff that was cool, but we needed to keep it simple. There is so much stuff at Book Expo it’s hard to stay focused! However, I had a much easier time finding the sophisticated and edgier fare I was looking for this time; because once you saw it, you saw it everywhere. Lots of publishers we’re familiar with like NorthSouth, Simply Read, Chronicle Books, Boom!Studios, New York Review Books, and Candlewick Press gave good showings as we expected. Meeting with JR*Comics was a blast. We have three BEA first volume copies of their three main graphic novels as well as posters so expect a giveaway soon!
J: While Max interviewed J.R. Han, I wandered the showroom floor a bit to get my bearings and check out some booths on my own. Book Expo actually takes up as much if not more of the Javits Center than NYCC, which to me means maps are almost entirely useless. I found the Disney publishing booth, found some cool postcards and pins (that you’ll all have chances to win soon!) and thanked the gods for the autographing alley in the back of the center. Since most of the “celebs” were in the back, so were most of the crowds, which made the show floor pretty easy to navigate.
M: Day one was mostly about keeping a sharp eye out for books and publishers that had edgy art, took risks, and had overall higher quality titles. Candlewick Press in particular has a new series coming out titled The Princess in Black which is an early reader series featuring a young princess who is also a superhero as well as Quest, a sequel to Aaron Becker’s inspiring Journey which I recommended last summer. Knowing where some of our favorite selections came from last year made it easy to bee-line for booths with books we knew we would love again. One of the newer booths that caught my eye was the sleek station for Other Press. Their bookshelves were chock-full of Advanced Reader Copies, and the rep who was there was excited to talk to us about the upcoming titles, most if not all of them translated foreign fiction and short story collections.
J: My favorite publishers were Insight editions, (which makes amazing nerdy books in really high quality format–including an upcoming title all about Captain America), Disney publishing, and FlameTree Press which is based in England and produces amazing metallic journals, and compendiums on popular topics in pop culture. For the most part, we made our way up one aisle and down the other, across about half the main show floor, talking to interesting people and stopping to rest in very comfy bean bag chairs (see Yogibos, which I am madly in love with and have featured twice on the site now…). I stopped at the snack cart and spent five dollars on a bottle of soda because I was ill-prepared. Day one wrapped up around dinner time, when we headed back to the train station and rested our weary feet (and rifled through our bags of goodies like kids on Halloween!).
On Friday, we were well rested and we had a game plan! We stopped at the Oyster Books food truck outside, which was handing out free water and snacks, as well as tote bags and bookmarks. We talked to them about their website, which is like a netflix for ebooks and audio books.
M: Oyster Books impressed me with their food truck and awesome graphic and logo design. Never underestimate a good logo! Another really impressive stand was for Liberty Graphics Tees, a company based out of Maine selling all-American products. Liberty Graphics uses water-based ink to print their t-shirts, which means they will last longer and won’t fade or fray in the wash. The company’s newest line features the cover art of classic Robert McCloskey books such as ‘Blueberries For Sal’ and ‘Make Way For Ducklings’.
J: Inside, the show floor was more packed than it had been the day before–it seemed as though more celebrities had shown up for signings, and lines were around corners and had to be wrangled by staffers with signs. Our maps still didn’t really come in handy because there was just too much to see to waste time trying to figure out where we were. We started on the opposite side of the show floor from where we had been the day before and employed the same snake-in-the-grass method that had worked the day before. AND we came prepared with a lunch box full of snacks. No severely overpriced drinks on Friday. We were very lucky to find a few signings at booths we liked (I met Tracy Letts, who wrote the insanely popular play-turned-film, August: Osage County, completely by accident.) and either waited our turn or set notices on our phones to return when the author was available.
M: Wrong on the no overpriced drinks on Friday: I bought an overpriced smoothie! Actually it wasn’t that overpriced, cause fruit. And we did eat fruit snacks on the floor; cause we’re five. Show standouts that were new to me on Friday were for the most part from smaller independent publishers; the London-based publisher Nobrow had some amazing graphic novels and illustrated pieces, and their children’s line Flying Eye Books really stunned me with their artists. Other children’s books that caught my attention were the French publisher Auzou, NYC based Enchanted Lion Books, and the new NJ imprint Blue Apple Books. We spent a decent amount of time chatting with Michael Neugebauer, President of Minedition, about the die-cast fairy tale books they offer that bring to mind animator Lotte Reingner. He also showed us some of the art prints from Lisbeth Zwerger he was going to release to the public after the show, and talked to us about his favorite illustrators.
J: I would say a lot of our success was due to experience. Last year we didn’t know where to start. This year we knew the lingo, we knew not to waste time trying to anticipate, because there is honestly so much going on that it’s impossible to see everything. My method this year was to bulldoze our way through the showfloor and be careful not to expect too much. I do wish we had made some time to go over the panels and check out a few of them. I always love learning something new from experts in the field, and now that BEA doesn’t completely overwhelm me I think it’s reasonable to fit a few in the schedule. Next year I fully plan to add panels to our itinerary. We did get to sit in on one panel about world-building, featuring YA authors Michael Grant (Animorphs) and Scott Westerfield (Uglies)–but that was completely by accident and only because it was in the main show floor.
M: Overall, I did not miss much, we saw a lot of what we thought everyone would enjoy, and I agree, I would have liked to have been able to attend more panels and Bookcon for everyone, which we had to miss, as well as meet Catbug from Bravest Warrior’s voice actor Sam Lavagnino who was scheduled to do a meet and greet at digital kid’s library service Farfaria’s booth. Overall had a great time otherwise!
J: I’m sure that we could plan our Book Expo trip down to the minute as there are signings and giveaways going on literally every second throughout the weekend, but my favorite parts were when we tripped upon things that were amazing. The last thing I got to do before we left Friday evening was to interview Tanielle, who a hip-hop artist and YA author with an awesome new title coming out soon. The book is called Broken, and I am so excited to read and report back to all of you about it. It’s a good thing we sat down with her when we did, because I got super sick (perhaps a case of convention flu?) and that was the end of our Book Expo.
M: Despite our trip being cut short, I had a blast; can’t wait to see what next year will bring and can’t wait to get reading to review and showcase our finds for you in more detail! For more pictures from the con, check our Facebook page. And keep an eye out for giveaways, videos, and more!