Heading Off to BEA

Josie Leavitt - May 26, 2015

It’s that time of year again, when hordes of the publishing world descend on the Javits Center in New York City for the annual BookExpo America show. Booksellers, authors, illustrators, publishers and a host of others involved in the trade will flock to the west side of Manhattan in hopes of finding that one special sideline their store needs, or the book that will make the fourth quarter. This show is about possibility. And it’s virtually impossible to see the entire show floor with a discerning eye alone, let alone attend lunches or educational session. This year Elizabeth and I are heading down together, something staffing has not always allowed. We are eager for the show and look forward to reporting from NYC during the week.
How we buy books now is different than when I first started going to BEA. Eighteen years ago I went to my first BEA and I’m fairly certain it was held in Chicago. It was important to go to the trade show because access to the fall books wasn’t as abundant as it is now. Back in the day, I’d walk the aisles of the pleasantly crowded show floor with a notebook (no easy iPhone photos to help remember), making note of all the new books I thought I’d want to bring into the store. Now, by the time the show comes around, we’ve all seen, if not ordered, a lot of the books, especially the big books of the fall season.
The reasons for going to BEA are different in 2015. So much of BookExpo now is meeting people and less about seeing the books (and with the crush of people on the show floor, it’s almost impossible to actually see the books). Meeting with reps is always good, but it’s especially fun to see these folks off the show floor. The ABFE Art Auction to Benefit Free Speech in Children’s Books is a delightful way to get to know folks. There are a lot of chances to mingle with old friends and talk the retail year thus far, meeting favorite authors and illustrators, and of course, bidding on fabulous art.
I always try to have a goal or two (or five, but I try to keep it realistic these days) for BEA. This year I want to connect with publicists and make face-to-face contact. Sometimes being in northern Vermont can feel very far from the decision-makers in the publishing world. This year the ABA has made it easy by setting a Meet the Publicists Speed dating. In blocks of 12 minutes we get to meet five different publicists from different houses. This kind of access is wonderful. A chance to really convey the store’s enthusiasm for author events with the folks who create tours is a great opportunity.
So, off we go to the big city! What are your goals for this year’s BEA?

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