I’ve been to BEA 10 years in a row and every year I think, “Should I go? Can I afford to go? Can my store do without me?” And every year the year, the answer is yes, yes and yes.
BEA is a special event that leaves me fulfilled and excited as a bookseller in a way that nothing else can. I’m excited to see my bookseller, author, and illustrator friends again, always a highlight for me. I often forget, as I toil in isolation, that there are other booksellers who are facing exactly the same problems I am. This is why I love the roundtable discussions. This year, the children’s bookselling roundtable takes place on Tuesday from 2:30-4 (see the BEA Planning blog post for a full schedule of children’s-bookselling-related events). Getting a room full of children’s booksellers together is a powerful thing, and I always leave the discussion lighter, more hopeful, and inspired.
The ABC Not-a-Dinner and (Mostly) Silent Auction evening is another yearly treat. The speakers are always wonderful (this year: Michael Buckley MCs, and David Wiesner gives the keynote talk), and for the past couple of years, the ABC has unveiled the E.B. White Read-Aloud awards live at the ceremony instead of announcing them beforehand, which adds some fun suspense and jubilant celebration in the moment. As for the auction, the artwork available for bidding is truly outstanding. This year there are about 140 pieces, with 60 more to be auctioned online (this will be great for booksellers who can’t make it to BookExpo this year). One of my pre-BEA planning sessions is figuring out what my budget is for the silent auction. This year I’ll be hard-pressed to stay within budget. But as I bid, I’ll remind myself that the auction is a benefit for the ABC. That means I can justify bidding on something by, say, Marla Frazee or Peter Sís, knowing that my funds are going into programming that will benefit my store. (Note to self: see if accountant goes for this.)
Wednesday and Thursday are days for the show floor, looking at books and sidelines and stopping by some author autographing sessions. I will be zipping along in my rented scooter (I wasn’t kidding about that in my last post; it was the only way my doctor would let me come to BEA) to look at the vendors. I am hoping to make the scooter work for me because my feet won’t hurt and I can really look at things. Of course, I’ll probably be cruising sloooowly rather than zipping, since the show floor is packed at the Javits Center and people probably won’t want me rolling over their toes. I apologize in advance for the hip checks and poor turn control; I haven’t gotten my license yet.
Honestly, BEA never gets old. Every educational session imparts important facts that can make your store run more smoothly and more profitably. Every interaction with colleagues, whether at an author breakfast or in the hall, can lead to great ideas. The chance to meet new authors and speak with their publicists is always a pleasure.
As for leaving my store for almost five days, it’s actually good for the staff to not have the bosses around or readily reachable. They prove again how very capable they are and I know they are not only doing a great job, but taking more ownership. This works out great because when I come back all fired up, ready to share, they’re full of great ideas, too.
So, as you get ready to travel to NYC, remember the real joy of BEA: each other. Plus, swag.