Book Expo America is something out of a publishing student’s dreams. Tara Slagle, one of our fellow students, and currently an intern for literary agent Linda Epstein, wrote a wonderful piece about her experience at BEA on The Blabbermouth Blog. Here is the complete post:

Inside Scoop: Dish from a Literary Agent Intern – BOOK EXPO AMERICA!

I had been looking forward to BEA for several months preceding it in the way that children look forward to Christmas. In my mind, it was going to be a magical place where authors and celebrities talked about books and chatted with their fans, publishing professionals applauded the efforts of their authors and their colleagues, and books rained down from the ceiling (in the least violent way possible, of course). Naturally, my fantastical imaginings were not exactly right, but they weren’t entirely wrong, either.

Upon first entering the Javits Center, I was blown away by the décor: huge banners advertising books and writers hung from the ceiling and were plastered to the walls, and colorful carpet sporting the BEA logo acted as a red carpet leading to the exhibition hall. It was a beautiful sight for a book lover like myself. Little did I know that the entrance hall would pale in comparison to the exhibition hall where all the publishers had set up their booths. But I’ll come back to that.

The first thing I did was attend the Author Breakfast. Here, guests were able to enjoy breakfast while listening to a panel of authors discuss their new or upcoming books. On this particular day, the authors were Anjelica Huston, Tavis Smiley, Lisa Scottoline, and Neil Patrick Harris, who was also the “master of ceremonies.” Hearing them talk about their books and how their ideas came to be so passionately was an incredible experience. Despite that half of the panel were primarily actors, each of them had a nearly tangible love for books. Their passion was inspiring because it proved how significant books are and how they connect us all.

This was proved over and over again throughout the day. At the Young Adult Editor’s Buzz, five editors discussed their favorite book of the upcoming season with fervor. Their excitement and fierce love for these books was obvious. They did a great job convincing everyone in attendance that they needed to read these books. When the panelists had finished speaking, a mob of people swarmed to the table where free Advanced Reader Copies (ARCs) of all five books had been laid out for the taking. Everyone was trying so hard to get to the books that I literally got stuck in the crowd and was unable to move for several minutes. Eventually I fought my way out, with the books I wanted stowed in my bag to keep others from snatching them away. Talk about a passionate group of people.

Once recovered, Linda and I hit the exhibition hall. Each publisher had their own section complete with bookshelves full of their new and popular titles on display. The larger publishers (i.e. Random House, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Simon & Schuster, Penguin—oddly separate from Random House—Hachette, Scholastic, and a few others) had banners hanging over their sections, making them easier to find. Most publishers had free ARCs, bookmarks, tote bags, pens, and other paraphernalia to give away. (I must admit that I collected so many books, my shoulders were sore the next day.) At different times during the day, some publishers had an author or two signing books in their sections. Most autographing, however, took place in a designated section at the back of the hall. There were also three stages set up in the hall for various events.

Needless to say, the hall was teeming with people. From what I saw, most of the employees from the publishing houses appeared to spend the majority of their time greeting people, enthusiastically supporting their house’s books, or schmoozing with other members of the industry. With so many people present, BEA is the perfect opportunity to make new professional acquaintances or meet with people outside of the NYC bubble. Everyone is so excited about books that it’s very easy to connect with others.

Overall, my first BEA was a wonderful experience. Being surrounded by book lovers, I realized how many other people out there share my passion for reading and the art of writing. And the best part was that everyone was so nice. It’s a great environment to be in, and I’m really excited for the next time I get to attend—hopefully as a full member of the industry. I hope all of you have the chance to attend at some point!

Here’s a list of tips based on what I learned on my first day that many of you may find helpful for when you get to attend:

  • Wear comfortable shoes. Walking/standing all day is tiring no matter where you are, and your adrenaline can only keep you going for so long.
  • Bring water and snacks. Again, it’s tiring being on your feet all day, and you’re going to need to be hydrated and nourished to keep going.
  • Bring a rolling suitcase. Collecting free books and other swag is great, but it gets really heavy.
  • Wear layers. The convention center gets hot with so many people, but when you’re sitting in a room for, say, a panel, the air conditioning gets cold.
  • Bring plenty of business cards. You’ll meet a ton of people, and you want them to remember you and be able to contact you after your wonderful conversations.
  • Bring your camera (or make sure your phone is charged). There’s so much to see (including famous people!) that, if you’re like me, you’ll want to take pictures, so come prepared.
  • Get coffee before you get there. The line for Starbucks was extremely long throughout the day; don’t waste your already stretched-thin time waiting on line.

– Tara Slagle

One of the best moments for me at BEA (other than seeing John Green on Saturday) was listening to the panel on Friday hosted by the Women’s National Book Association and moderated by Professor Soares. The panel focused on how social media affects the young adult book market. You can read about the details of the panel from a previous blog post here. It was such a treat to listen to the publisher and discoverer of the Harry Potter series, Arthur A. Levine. Also on the panel was author Alaya Dawn Johnson, author Carolyn Mackler, Cheryl Kleinexecutive editor at Arthur A. Levine Books, Jeffrey Yamaguchidirector of digital marketing at Abrams Books, and Jennifer Swan, librarian and department chair of Little Red School House and Elizabeth Irwin High School.

It was very interesting to hear the multiple perspectives about how different authors and publishers approach social media and digital marketing. The general consensus was that authors need only to use the social media that they are comfortable with. Using social media should be enjoyable by the author and not a horrible chore. However, it is still beneficial when authors have a little knowledge about some type of social media. That way, the marketing department can guide the author to the right social media path. 

Another interesting, and important, perspective of Book Expo America is from the authors. Kelly Light, children’s author and illustrator of Louise Loves Art (HarperCollins), wrote a great post about her experience at BEA. Check it out on her blog here.

– Andrea St. Aubin