BookExpo America, also known as BEA, is an industry convention for publishing folk including marketing and sales people, editors, agents, and authors. The cost of attending is somewhat pricey, especially if you don’t live in New York City and need to add hotels, meals, and transportation to the bill. Nevertheless, don’t write this fantastic event off, because there’s a ton of benefit to be had for self-published and not-yet-published authors. Here are just a few.
BEA Is More than Just BEA
First, you need to know that BEA encompasses both a primary event and several concurrent events, including BEA Book Bloggers, uPublishU (for would-be authors and publishers), and the IDPF Digital Book Conference. Each requires an additional registration fee, but depending on your needs, these more targeted events might be worth it.
Each of the concurrent events run their own educational sessions, networking parties, and offer goodies particular to their audience. There’s so much going on that I don’t recommend signing up for more than one of these at a time—you’ll want to attend regular BEA events as well.
BEA Is More than Just Displays
If you could peek inside the Javits Center during BEA, you would see cavernous rooms filled with row upon row of display booths. Varying wildly in size, each display is designed by a publisher to highlight its catalog. Sometimes the publisher is just hoping to sell subsidiary rights (such as foreign translations) to other publisher attendees. But sometimes hot new books are featured, which means advance reader copies (ARCs) are given away or the authors themselves might be present to sign books. Some of the biggest authors give keynote presentations—this year’s roster included Chelsea Handler, Wally Lamb, Veronica Roth, and Neil Gaiman, among many others.
Authors present or no, publishers probably give away thousands of books throughout BEA. On the final day of the event—called Power Reader Day—the public is invited in for a small fee to grab up as many free books as they can carry. And the publishers even give out tote bags to help! This can create great buzz for a new title among enthusiastic book lovers, but it has the added benefit of reducing the amount of stuff publishers have to lug home. (You decide which benefit was the primary motivator!)
In addition to the huge list of authors signing books and publishers giving books away, BEA has an excellent educational component. Multiple tracks running throughout the event offer panels and presentations on everything from changes in the industry to best marketing practices to predictions on new trends.
But You Can Learn a Lot from Displays
Even if you do nothing but wander the convention floor, you can learn a lot at BEA.
If you are planning to start sending out query letters for your book, browsing the aisles at BEA can:
- help you identify which companies are publishing books like yours (and thus might be interested in your project)
- show you where your book fits in the current marketplace
- be a one-stop-shopping experience for finding recent comparative titles
- connect you directly with editors and agents who are also attending
On that last point, I should emphasize that there aren’t a ton of acquiring editors or agents present at BEA (and when they are, they tend to fly low to avoid getting mobbed by would-be authors). However, I talked with and overheard many publishing reps who said they accept unagented submissions, so there are clearly connections to be made.
If you intend to self-publish your book, BEA can likewise be an eye-opening experience because you can:
- learn about new resources for producing, distributing, and marketing your book
- get a better understanding of where your book fits in the current marketplace
- discover subsidiary rights opportunities with other publishers
- meet other authors with whom you can collaborate for broader exposure
In other words, no matter how you fit into the publishing industry, BEA has something to offer.
Here’s What I Learned
At BEA 2013, I spent a lot of time networking, learning about newly discovered publishers, and investigating new resources for my clients. I also managed to squeeze in a few interesting and useful educational sessions, the fruit of which I intend to highlight for you in a series of blog posts. In the coming months, look for these installments:
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Though in the past it has rotated locations across the country, next year Book Expo America will return to the Javits Center in New York City. Mark your calendars—the event runs from Wednesday, May 28, 2014 through Saturday, May 31, 2014. You can find out more about BEA at their official website, including videos and other coverage from the 2013 event.
Have you ever been to BEA? Considering it? Share your experiences or ask questions below!