How I tackle BookExpo

Photo credit: Sandrine Sahakians at
There's something for writers and readers of all kinds of books at BookExpo, but what excites me the most is seeing new books that will be for sale months from now. At the Adult Editors' Buzz Panel, editors who rarely appear in public will pitch six books selected by American Booksellers Association judges as groundbreaking titles for the coming year, usually by new authors and some published by small presses. The editors pitch to an audience mostly of booksellers but I've talked to people from all segments of the industry. Unlike authors who appear in bookstores or on Book TV, who can be dull, their editors are prepared. They're pitching one book that represents their
Photo credit: Steve Kagan, Publishers Weekly
company and the quality of their list. A lot is riding on their performance. Each editor gives a five-minute pitch for the book they acquired and edited, a kind of live query letter of the book's story and author's background delivered with emotion and dramatic storytelling. Editors can see the effect of their pitches by the mad rush for galleys at the end. 
Some in the audience start making their way to the tables before the panel is finished afraid they'll run out. It's a rib-crushing crowd. The pushier they are, the more I gotta have those hard-to-get books!

Photo credit: Emma Wenner, Publishers Weekly
Next I'll make my way to the main floor of exhibits. In the past when I picked up my badge the day before, the convention space was like an aircraft hangar, dark and nearly empty of people, except for uniformed workers and the occasional beeping of a forklift moving pieces of booths into place. A few hours later when the show opened there were stadium-sized banners, a cheerful red or royal blue carpet, and rows and rows of publisher booths. It's a magical transformation to book lover heaven.

Here publishers pitch their bestseller bets to bookstore buyers and libraries. They pull you in with author autographing sessions, larger-than-life backlit displays of famous authors' faces and book covers that will sell by their clever titles and topics. It's an amazing show that gives me an idea of each publisher's list, company by company. I ask myself Why did the publisher publish this book? How is the topic presented as a book experience? If I catch an editor or sales rep at the right time, I can ask a question or two.

There's so much here. Many times I find myself wanting to be in two places at once. I get there early and stay the entire day. Chance encounters and conversations as I wait in line for author autographs, in open theaters for events and in Javits Center restaurants are enjoyable and insightful.  We are the devoted ones who show up and swap discoveries of good reads, the main thing we care about.