It’s all Dan Blank’s fault.
Dan’s an entrepreneur and heads a company called We Grow Media. Last year he wrote about experiences on the floor of the enormous Book Expo America (BEA) in his newsletter. New York, of course, where BEA usually takes place, is also the hub of the publishing industry in America. Dan’s blog post illustrated the way in which this one trade show connects readers, book buyers and sellers, authors, publishers large and small, and many ancillary enterprises — brokers of foreign and movie rights, video producers, etc.
Blush: A Mennonite Girl Meets a Glittering World reaches its first birthday in September. Since the shelf life of every book seems to get shorter as more and more books are being published, I figured this is the year to go. When I learned that my publisher wasn’t going to invest in an expensive booth (hence the only way I would have to participate in the book signings would be to send 100 copies at my own expense), I decided to go it alone. Not as an author but as a blogger (mostly for the discount offered but also to bring the event more to human scale –from thousands to perhaps 300 people).
I’ve had a special interest in New York City ever since our son Anthony moved there, married there, and invited us to live there for a year to take care of grandson Owen. And I have always dreamed of doing book talks in the city of books. So I began to wonder what kind of week I could put together that featured the BEA in the center but also included book talks, museum and park time, and then top off the week with this kind of time:
Tip #1 How to go without going broke:
- The standard Early-bird admission for BEA was $349. I chose to add the Blogger’s conference which for some reason made the four days cheaper ($145). I also learned later that if you join the Authors Guild for $90, you can get into BEA for $104.
- My week in the city cost mileage to the train station, Amtrak and subway tickets ($325), badge ($175, including one special event), and some meals ($100)
- I took ten books with me and sold or gave away all of them (profit of $80)
- So the business part of the trip cost a little more than $500.
- I had a time share to use which meant no hotel, breakfast, or dinner bills, a huge savings (other people use AirBnB or couch crashing to save that major expense)
Tip #2 Select a manageable goal and prepare for a totally unmanageable environment:
- I decided to make strengthening relationships my primary goal. I made three totally new friends, found numerous online friends, (Viki Noe and Porter Anderson), reconnected with other people had I met before (Jane Friedman and Sue William Silverman), and collected a pack of business cards. The best place to make new friends was the first day at the blogger conference. I still need to sort through the cards and see if some of the people I met want to stay in touch.
- A secondary goal was to report on the conference. In other words, writing these words to you was on my mind from the beginning. I know that some of you are authors, some are readers, and some of you are readers-in-the-process of becoming authors. How could I be helpful to you? I did a little tweeting while there and also enjoyed following other conference tweets (you can read them at #BEA14 on Twitter). Bloggers are still using that hashtag, and following it will give you a great overview of the many experiences people had there.
- Thirdly, I decided to treat the event like any other spectacle and to “go on the rides.” I picked up swag for Owen and Julia, children’s books and toys that were giveaways. I didn’t go as one of the thousands of “fan girls” to drool over John Green or Benedict Cumberbatch or Neil Patrick Harris or Hugh Howey. I did catch glimpses of many stars, but chose not to stand in any long lines for their autographs. Here’s a great post about the BEA and celebrities from fellow blogger Alison. I also got my own “stash” by going to book signings:
Tip #3 Expect Serendipity:
- Serendipity found us in the first hours of our trip, before the BEA began. I’ve already told that story. But the “small world” stories continued even in the huge arena in the middle of BEA. I tried to make a list of people I wanted to meet in advance of BEA so that I could make coffee dates. I had several of these. But it didn’t occur to me that I might run into a former student, Gayatri Patnaik, who is now an executive editor at Beacon Press. We had a delightful conversation, the first in twenty-five years.
- Serendipity also led me back to Dan Blank, the original culprit who drew me to BEA. Dan spent much of his time walking the floor with his client and mutual friend Miranda Beverly-Whittemore. I had arranged a meet-up with them, appropriately next to the Starbucks, a place Dan often uses for his office:
- Neither Dan nor Miranda could have predicted that Bittersweet would hit #20 on the NYTimes Bestseller list just at the peak of BEA. But it was not bitter, it was SWEET to celebrate with them. I’ve reviewed the book online and have been along for the ride as they together went all out to create experiences for readers prior to the book’s release. Did these two suddenly-famous people snub the “little people” who followed along? Not at all! They walked the halls talking to all their friends and introducing them to each other. That’s how I got to meet a fellow fan of Bittersweet, Erin Cosenza, the Read-at-Home-Mama.
Have I convinced you to try BEA next year? What else would you like to know before you decide? Or what else would you like to share from your own conference experiences, BEA or others?