Opinion from a Novice!
If you’ve ever been to a large trade show or showcase, you’ve experienced the flavor of BEA. Think For Sisters Only, the Black Family Reunion, The Stone Soul Picnic - all large gatherings of people who have a common purpose. When I attended these events – as an exhibitor and as an attendee – I knew what to expect – but, even as I packed my clothes and got on the bus to NY, I couldn’t stop asking myself “What’s in this for me?”
BEA is defined as the largest annual book trade fair in the United States. Nearly all significant book publishers in the U.S., and many from abroad, have booths and exhibits at BEA and use the fair as an opportunity to showcase upcoming titles, sell current books, and socialize with colleagues from other publishing houses. Authors, librarians, buyers for book retailers and avid readers attend the event.
When I arrived at the Jacob Javits Center and began to meet and network with other attendees, I decided to ask them “Why are you here?”. Some looked at me like I had grown a third eye so I explained that I planned to write an article about this, my first experience at BEA. I was perplexed when every one I asked responded “for free books” because I could have stayed home and downloaded any damn book I wanted – I didn’t need to travel to NY on a bus and spend several hundred dollars on a hotel room and food for “free books”. Surely there was something more to this!
Then I took the time to look thru the Official Book Directory and read the welcome by Steve Rosato, BEA Event Director, which read in part “There are a myriad of highlights from new authors and titles to be discovered, panels to learn from, and people to connect with and network. BEA is an event about books and authors. When books and authors thrive, that’s what makes everything possible for the entire publishing industry.”
As I continued to leaf through the directory, I realized just how much I had missed by not joining the “conversation on bookamerica.com/community” and that I should have known about and arranged to attend the event on Saturday, “Power Reader Day”! Most of all I wish I had spent less time pursuing free books and more time at panels on such topics as “Do Kindle Owners Really Read More”, “Future of ebooks and Ereaders”, All’s Fair? Book Reviews & All’s Fair? Book Reviews & the Missing Code of Ethics” and more. I should have visited the Power Reader Lounge, taken the time to find the African American pavilion and to attend several book readings.
This morning I was overjoyed when a veteran BEA attendee posted: “Deep down in my heart I believe people only attend BEA to try and find free books! Why don’t someone tell them this is FAR MORE THAN getting ARCS!”
Please understand - it was very nice to see Academy Award winner (The Help) Octavia Spencer as she handed out copies of her new children’s book (The Case of the Time-Capsule Bandit), to take a picture with disco songstress Gloria Gaynor as she signed a “sample” of her upcoming book (We will Survive), and it was certainly a bonus to be able to obtain enough copies of Terri McMillan’s upcoming release (Who Asked You?) to gift to each “Reading Diva”! I also enjoyed the “after events”! The chance to hear from author Brenda Jackson for the first time was enlightening; to meet author Lutisha Lovely and others at the Kensington Publishing Party was exciting; and to enjoy the ambiance of Londel’s Restaurant and speak with authors Trice Hickman, Renee Flagler, Victoria Christopher-Murray, Zane and many others was great!
But the next time I attend BEA, I plan to come home armed with a few books, a lot of business cards from the new networking contacts I made, and knowledge!