THE BIG STACK. It didn’t fall over, which I thought was impressive.
Another year, another BEA. Although not quite the same as it was last year: indeed, the gods of commerce have spoken and decreed that, lo, BEA shall be 2.5 days and BookCon shall have a full 2 all unto itself! Tremble before ReedPop!
(Having had a pretty miserable time at the BookCon/BEA overlap day last year, I wasn’t about to drop additional money to get in this year – but also, five days of book-related shenanigans might be a bit much, even for me. So if you’ve got BookCon stories, please share!)
The first day dawned as it always does: with the excitement of Christmas morning. I jetted over to the Javits Center early to pick up my badge and some Blogger Conference breakfast – but I once again didn’t actually stay for the programming. I think the thing is, I don’t consider myself a book blogger: I happen to review and write about books on a blog. Blogger, it would seem, has turned into something a little more communal and a little more about culture – whereas I’m pretty much doing straight recaps and reviews and the occasional long-form essay. But I don’t need to explain myself, because at 1pm the floor opened! I would’ve left the conference anyway!
As it was, I came back from work and hit the floor around 2:30pm. I knew I’d have to get over to the HarperCollins blogger presentation (at the Fox News building and full of swag, my goodness). Not too much that I was looking to get that day (although I was disappointed to’ve missed out on a couple good gets that hadn’t been widely publicized), mostly just doing recon – and important recon it was. Because, you see, the floor felt… different this year. Perhaps it was because of the global titan in our midst, taking up a massive amount of space and attention. Also, China had this enormous pavilion of open space and beautiful white walls that stretched from about 1000 to 2000 along the floor.
Yes, friends, I’m talking about a different giant: Penguin Random House. This was the first year that the merged giant shared floorspace and wowza. The booth might as well have had its own ecosystem, it was so large and self-contained. On Thursday, I spent over half of my day at just that booth. I don’t know if it’s because PRH did a bang-up job of getting the authors out this year or if it’s because they really have the best list for 2015 – but I was pretty much thanking an author for signing my book and then jumping into a queue for the next signing. I escaped for the Sloane Crosley signing at Macmillan and managed to wander about for a little around 1pm… but when I finally left on Thursday at 3pm (braving the lines for the Night Vale signing and the lottery for the Franzen ARC felt unnecessarily stressful), I think I’d barely passed through S&S or HarperCollins.
But the stack I came away with was impressive, no matter how you slice it. I was a little more discerning this year, targeting books very specifically and coming away with nearly all of them. (Again, curse you PRH for your unclear schedule and random galley drops. They were the only major publisher not to put a schedule online [so far as I could find, anyway] in the days before the event and the schedule they printed out was missing stuff. Just because you’re the biggest doesn’t mean you can be lazy about this stuff – Macmillan and Harper and Hachette had great social media presence this year, albeit with smaller offerings.) I felt good about what I got, although I did feel as though it was stacked inordinately towards Thursday and so, on Friday, I dropped by in the morning to snag a few last things (including a long-overdue HI! with Chris Holm)… and then turned the badge over to Dani.
I didn’t rightly know what BEA was before this year. I’d heard floating references that piqued my interest, so early this year Drew decreed that I’d have to at least see what the fuss was about. Wednesday and Thursday I basically drooled over the 4 tote-bags’ worth of books Drew brought back.
So Friday morning, I donned the badge (got more than one comment about how Drew is such a cool name for a girl….oops), got very lost at first, but then once I got my bearings I was delighted to be immersed in the magical/scary kingdom that is the Javitz.
Drew had picked up copies of everything that I’d desperately wanted, so I committed myself to wandering. I swung by Graywolf where I’d hoped to snag a copy of The Argonauts. They were all out, but Erin Kottke (a friend of RB!) was kind enough to recommend another pick (a book about NASA – yes please). I strolled past Grove Atlantic and struck up a conversation with one of the gents there about how much I wanted to read H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald – and was overjoyed where he sneakily offered me a copy. I dedicated my last sweep of the floor to grabbing a few things that I’d never heard of, and headed out. I was there for maybe an hour total, which mostly gave me admiration for the die-hard, make-a-schedule, know-what-the-hell-is-going-on BEA-ers who surrounded me.
So, happily, we compared our hauls (thanks, btw, to Lauren Groff for signing the galley of Fates and Furies to me and Dani – that was sweet) and showed off our new totes and rested. BookCon attendees, go forth and godspeed – even 2.5 days of BEA is enough to wear a body out.
And hey, friends who I saw at BEA: it was awesome to see you. And friends who I missed at BEA: I’m sorry I missed you! Crazy times, right? I wish we could all get together in the real world when it isn’t so mad… but maybe this is more fun anyway 😉