Last week, we rocked Book Expo America (BEA) 2016 as our She Writes Press and BookSparks teams headed to Chicago (one of our favorite cities!). Here are some candid thoughts on the BEA whirlwind – author breakfasts, panels, events, drinks, awesome clients, media and bloggers- from our team.
Lauren Wise, Editorial Manager, dishes on her experience at BEA:
“As my first time at BEA, I was anxious to enter this three-day-long extravaganza known as a mini city playground for authors, publishers, booksellers, and distributors. In fact, as an editor and project manager for our publishing imprints She Writes Press and SparkPress, I was probably a little more excited than my publicity counterparts. I was in my element.
A lot of people called this year’s BEA, set in Chicago for the first time in 12 years, more intimate, with equal pros and cons. While it attracted more of the Midwest publishing scene, there was the downside of less major New York City publishers (the city that hosted BEA last year), and as a result, a smaller show. But the Big 5 can never be deterred, and along with a wealth of international presses, and a fascinating amount of small and indie presses, the showroom floor was staggering.
Some of the highlights from the publishing side include attending the IPPY Awards (The Independent Publishers Book Awards) with She Writes Press publisher Brooke Warner, on the top floor of The Willis Tower, formerly The Sears Tower. She Writes Press authors swept more than 15 awards and nominations—the room was buzzing about the press and its beautiful covers.
Throughout BEA, children’s books are clearly having a huge revival. They were a major component, from veteran to debut authors, the Children’s Author Breakfast, and the range of publishers focusing on children’s books. The motto for the influx of children’s books (and some YA, as well) was “Books change lives,” something that sparked nostalgia in at least my mind as I recalled my love for reading and books as a child and how it shaped my life and career. Obviously.
The Adult Author Breakfast was by far one of the most moving and inspirational events of BEA. Moderated by comedian Faith Salie who just published Approval Junkie in April, provided a good mix of comic relief with comments about the old days at the Book (S)expo where people used pick up lines like “I saw you from across the room…and I just want to blurb you.”
The event also featured Colson Whitehead, Louise Penny, and Sebastian Junger, each speaking about their path in publishing and the parts of their lives—and the world—that influenced their upcoming books. Whitehead’s book, The Underground Railroad, first took root in his mind 16 years ago as a novel about an escaped slave. A Great Reckoning from Louise Penny derived from her childhood, fear, and family—when she said the inspiration for the book’s protagonist was her husband, who suffers from advanced dementia, the compassion in the room was palpable. Junger’s book Tribes was a great way to end the event, with its roots in a Vanity Fair article about PTSD and finding a way back to communal feelings. For him, the contempt with which people hold their enemies is more dangerous to our country than ISIS. What he said about books will stick with me for quite some time:
“…We have lost the conversations humans have had for thousands of years around the campfire. Now we have that conversation through books. Books are sacred in society for the role they play.”
Lastly, a core concept that our publishing imprints were founded upon is finally breaking through the glass ceiling in the industry: there is not one way, or a right way, to publish. At an Authors Guild panel, three bestselling authors criticized the traditional publishing model. Two of the writers had started traditionally at major houses and moved to self publishing, feeling as though the publisher did not do enough for them, while the third is still at a major publisher, yet agrees with the fact that publishers “deliver less and less of what used to make traditional publishing worthwhile.”
The takeaway from the panel was that regardless of what you choose, self, hybrid or traditional publishing, you are ultimately the business and your work is your intellectual property—how seriously you take this is essential to any writer’s success.
One thing was made clear: the publishing industry, and its readership, isn’t in trouble—it’s just evolving, changing, and ultimately growing.”
A look inside #BEA16 from our Senior Publicist, Robert Soares:
“As a publicist, you learn quite quickly that BEA is all about the who’s who in book publishing. While some succumb to the pressure of fitting in and getting invited to all the fancy parties, it was refreshing to spend time with authors who are truly there because of the work and the art of it all. I admire our She Writes Press authors so much and seeing them interact with readers was a joy to witness. The best part about BEA was getting to meet with writers who genuinely love the craft and were excited to share that with others. It’s supremely inspiring.
I hadn’t yet met Ashley Royer in person and getting to do so at BEA was truly a treat. As a publicist in book publishing (and someone who takes part in creative writing occasionally) I have consistently been blown away by this girl who at 17-years-old has released her debut novel Remember to Forget through HarperCollins’ imprint, BlinkYA. Moved by her story, talent and family, I really began to understand her true impact as an author when Janay and I coordinated her event at Anderson’s BookShop in Chicago. Seeing Ashley through the eyes of her fans and readers brought the experiences working on her campaign full circle. This isn’t just a book, this is a movement and a community built by teens and pre-teens who have a remarkable passion for books and writing. I was nowhere near a bookstore event at 17…I was probably eating my feelings at PinkBerry.
I’ve always known our publisher Brooke Warner to be a brilliant trailblazer. I’ve been to several conferences and panels she’s spoken on and I have to say, BEA was the quintessential moment when I fully realized I was a witness to something groundbreaking. With the release of her new book Green-Light Your Book: How Writers Can Succeed in the New Era of Publishing Brooke spoke on two panels and each was followed with dozens and dozens of people in droves rushing to the She Writes Press booth to pick up a free copy of her new book. Seeing Brooke interact with authors starting out in their careers will always be a memorable moment from that week.”
#BEA16 from the eyes of our Marketing and Branding Manager, Janay Lampkin:
“When I was originally asked to attend BEA with the rest of the She Writes Press & BookSparks team I was so thrilled to be jumping on a plane to head to one of my favorite cities in the world, Chicago. I was so excited to get to put faces with names I’ve been working with for nearly two years – how wonderful!
From current clients to former bloggers and editors, I made sure to catch up with so many brilliant minds. Major shoutout to all of the amazing people that swung by our booth to snap a picture and chat about anticipated summer reads! Although our schedules were jam packed with client signings, bookstore readings and meetings, we were so excited to be able to carve out some time at the booth to really get to bond with the attending She Writes Press authors, BookSparks clients and loyal bloggers.
The creative energy in the conference center was incredible and it was so inspiring to see so many publishers, authors, editors, bloggers, and writers talking all things writing and reading. Lines of readers wrapped around the convention center for author signings, and the smell of coffee filled the air as everyone hustled and bustled around the McCormick Center for freebies and chances to network with prospective clients and partners.
Don’t worry, despite all of the crazy busy schedule that BEA brings, we made sure to hit the photo booth for a GIF session…
Did you attend BEA16 or BookCon? Tell us below!