What a week…
The past few years applying to BEA was like trying to get refugee status or something. They wanted everything except my grandmother’s phone number. I understood the point: lots of people were stocking up on ARCs and selling them- even advertising them prior to actually getting them. Couple of years ago there was a woman who brought her kids to a trade show just to help her snag extra copies to sell. Heck, a woman was just caught trying to sell Leigh Bardugo’s ARC on eBay for $200 the same day it was given out!!! So, yeah- I get it…
…so you can imagine my surprise when my application was rejected.
That took a moment to process. I’d been attending since 2010, and had even been a VIP Attendee; the only one I missed was that one time they went to Chicago. And now I wouldn’t be attending this year’s either.
When I contacted them via the handy link they provided to inquire what the issue might be- had I possibly neglected to provide some info, etc- I got the stock response: “…it’s our event… we reserve the right to refuse anyone… all decisions are final… blahblahblah.” Not what I asked, but whatever, yo. And hey- they still invited me to register for BookCon!
*sigh* Aiight… I haven’t been to BookCon since they initially rolled it out- and lemme tell you, that first one was probably how the term “shitshow” got coined. It’s been a few years, so how bad could it possibly be now? (More on that in another blog) And it was relatively cheap, so- what the hell? I’d still have the week off beforehand.
By Wednesday I’d remembered something: when I first started attending BEA in 2010 they also had onsite registration at the Javitz Center. Then a friend of mine also advised me to try it, so I trekked out to the Javitz and wouldn’t ya know- I got right in with no problem!!! Yep- after giving me a bunch of bullshit online they let me sign up on the spot anyways. Only difference was the $50 I would’ve saved via Online Early Registration.
A few of the usual YA publishers were set up in the atrium looking to snag your attention before you got caught up in all the madness.
I’m not the only one who’ll tell you the quality of BEA has declined the last few years. This one was stark in its degradation: fewer small/indie/self publishers, less swag, even fewer author booths & signing sessions from the big guys. I didn’t bother with any of the panels, sessions or lectures- there really wasn’t any new information to pick up from them. A big problem was the layout of the floor. What used to be a strict, linear structure was jumbled and cross-combined: 1200 & 1300 numbered booth in the 1400 rows, etc.
It didn’t help that an entire wing of was taken up by something called UnBound: vendors selling all the knickknacks & chotchke you see in bookstores- mugs, pens, candles, etc.
Most of the usual suspects were present- Hachette, Penguin, Simon & Shuster, Macmillian, Shadow Mountain, Sourcebooks, Black Stone- but I was surprised to see this spot by Granity Studios, Kobe Bryant’s indie. The books looked really interesting.
Some of the smaller vendors like Vesuvian were off on the side, but never seemed to be around. Went by their booth three times to check them out- and no one was there! Not a good look, fellas.
Best moment came when I was trying to find the line to stand in for an ARC drop only to discover George Takei was signing previews of his memoir graphic novel about his time in American Concentration Camps during WWII. Got to shake his hand (twice) and chat with him for about a minute & a half! (apologies for that to everyone in line)
Second best moment came at the end of a long, kinda disappointing day. Hachette reissued a book from just a few years ago- think I still have the ARC- complete with the same campaign: free beer! Granted- they were Coronas, but at that point you take what you can get! In fact, a few spots were doing it: mimosas, fruit & veggie snacks and whatnot.
All in all, it was memorable only for what it lacked in comparison to previous years.