Monday, June 11, 2012

BEA 2012 Part 2: Let's walk the floor

The first year (2010) I attended BookExpo America, I had no plan. I was just walking the floor in awe of all the shiny book displays. I'm still in awe, but I will never attend BEA without a game plan. It took several hours over the course of three days to plot my time on the show floor. The amount of author signings over the three days is mind-blogging. But I knew the first autograph on my list was Jennifer Weiner (above). I missed out on her autograph at BEA Bloggers.

Once the exhibit hall opened, the crush of people raced to the tables. It's comical. I've said it before, and I will say it again. You would think some of these people hadn't seen a book in years. The books disappear as quickly as they are put out. You could get hurt if you're not careful. But I made a beeline for the Simon & Schuster booth. I wanted Jennifer Weiner's autograph, and if I didn't get there early the line would stretch to Jersey.  When my turn came up another woman was kind enough to take a photo and I got to ask Jennifer Weiner how you really pronounce her last name. I've heard it pronounced several ways.

Here is a hint....

This ain't it!!!

Going forward, I'm going to talk about the panels and author signings, in no particular order, that stood out the most.

From right: authors Tonya Hurley, Liz Norris, Melissa Marr, Bethany Griffin, Jenny Han, and Siobhan Vivian at The Ongoing Evolution of YA fiction talk. Not all of their books are my cup of tea. I gathered they were mostly paranormal. Occasionally, I will read books like that. I was interested in what they had to say.  The greatest piece of advice came from Melissa Marr, "If it's not your passion, don't waste your time." That can apply to just about everything in life. Do what you love, or it just isn't worth it.

E-books: Do you love them or hate them? I'm indifferent. I will always love the physical book, but I'm coming around to liking e-books. I bring this up because I attended a panel that was all about the enhanced e-book Gift by Andrea Buchanan. The author pitched the idea to Open Road Media as an e-book to start and then a shift to a print book. It sounds radical, but it's actually a great idea. Buchanan's book includes music, links, and special fonts. What is so special about the text? It disappears and reappears in several passages. Word of mouth was generated online through video game websites, facebook, and ads placed on entertainment websites. The only drawback to this project is that the e-reading experience is different based on your device. With iBooks, the software used to build the book, you get all of the enhancements but on a Kindle, Kobo, or Sony e-reader the experience is different. The software isn't as compatible on other devices. You might not get all of the features of the enhanced version. Anyway you slice it, what Andrea Buchanan and Open Road Media did is the wave of the future.

As usual, the Young Adult Editors Buzz was PACKED. I didn't get a seat until about 25 minutes in. I don't know why but most of the books discussed were paranormal or had some paranormal elements. Why? What happened to contemporary YA books? When will this trend end? Not every book has to be the next Twilight. The books discussed at the panel were Skinny by Donna Cooner, Skylark by Megan Spooner, Colin Fischer by Ashley Edward Miller and Zack Stentz, Crewel by Gennifer Albin, and What's Left of Me by Kat Zhang. Five books and only two (Skinny and Colin Fischer) were contemporary. I hope the market changes soon. I'm not against all paranormal, I just love books based in reality. Now at the end of the panel, there were copies of all of the books available. BUT OH MY GOD!!!! It was a free-for-all with the books. People were just grabbing the books. The poor marketing people behind the table looked scared. I managed to get Skinny and Colin Fischer. On Thursday, I did get What's Left of Me, more for the cover than the story.

Isn't that a gorgeous cover?  The cover sold me more than the summary. I believe it's about two souls living in the body of one girl. Sounds a little complicated to me, but I'm giving it a chance purely because of the cover.

The line for Elin Hilderbrand started about 45 minutes before the actual signing. I happened to be strolling the floor and saw the line start to form. I wanted her new book Summerland, so I decided to wait. Now, I have a bone to pick with her publisher. A lot of us on line saw her show up about 20 minutes before the "scheduled start." I thought great maybe she will start early. Some authors and publishers were doing that when they saw the size of the lines. That didn't happen here, not that there is anything wrong with that. She posed for pictures in the booth with that banner you see in the background. The problem I have is she left just before the "scheduled" start of 3:00 p.m. Initially, some of us, myself included, thought the fault rested with Elin Hilderbrand. Kind of like she was too good to do this. We were wrong. The publishers sent her away because the new time for the signing was 3:30 p.m. REALLY?!?!?!!? All of the signage and online had the signing scheduled for 3:00 p.m. I'm not saying they don't have the right to change the time, but it is down right rude not to tell the people who had already been waiting for more than 40 minutes that the time had changed. We had to hear it from people walking by.

Also, Elin Hilderbrand's appearance was an in-booth signing. Those of you who have been to BEA know that those in-booth signings can border on ridiculous. There isn't much space to wait on line and allow people to walk through the booths. We were moved twice from opposite ends of the booth, meaning we also had to prevent others walking by from cutting the line. I think something needs to change. Really, really, really popular authors or celebrities should not be doing in-booth signings. Maybe the layout could change, giving more space to the autograph area or they need to cut down the number of author appearances. Something has to give. Justin Cronin, Libba Bray, Veronica Roth, Tim Gunn, Rachael Ray, Kirstie Alley, Michael Koryta, and Dan Rather (to name a few) all had in-booth signings. I think that's just wrong. There are already thousands of people in the building, and having popular authors or celebrities sign in-booth creates too much traffic in the aisles.

Dan Rather's speech on Thursday was great. He managed to give a small snippet on his career. He was very engaging. He got a little choked up when he spoke about reporting on the civil rights era. He couldn't understand how law enforcement could turn high-pressure water hoses on people, especially women and children. He even spoke about all the presidents he's interviewed during his CBS tenure. He had the highest praise for Lyndon Johnson and measured his words when speaking about George W. Bush's presidency. A story on Bush's military service or lack thereof eventually led to CBS firing Rather. I also got Rather's latest book signed and I shook his hand, which was the highlight of the week for me.

All in all, I had a great week. I will gladly do it again next year.

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