Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Better Know A Conference: BEA


This week in Better Know a Conference: BEA, or Book Expo America.

BEA is the premier American trade show for commercial book publishers. I've been to the last four conferences, and honestly, it's overwhelming: thousands of industry professionals, publishers, librarians, and members of the media congregate to network, meet authors, sign books/have books signed, attend panels, buy/trade finshed books/advance copies, and get a look at the forthcoming titles from trade publishers all across the spectrum (and country).

Everyone from the Big Six publishers to small literary houses to academic presses will be present, so there's quite literally something for everyone. This year's conference is taking place from Monday, May 23rd to Thursday, May 26th at the Jacob Javits Center in New York City.

The Pros

· BEA is the event for trade publishers in the United States, so everyone who's anyone is usually there. (Think of it as our version of the London or Frankfurt Book Fairs.) Fancy publishers, famous authors, and members of the media (now including bloggers—see below!) will be milling about, so the opportunities to meet celebrities and/or network are pretty much endless.

· This year the BlogWorld and New Media Expo will be co-locating with BEA, so attendees will be able to learn about everything from monetization to social media marketing techniques. Welcome to the publishing world of tomorrow!

· A number of concurrent events—including a day-long "DIY" panel on publishing and self-publishing for aspiring authors on Saturday, May 21st and a book blogger convention on Friday, May 27th—will round out the Expo. Will I be at said book blogger convention? You'll have to go to find out!

· For those of you writing children's books, BEA will be featuring programming by children's book professionals, including the ABA's ABC Children's Book Group and the Children's Book Council.

The Cons

· The major con: you have to have some connection to the industry to attend. BEA uses a system of badge categories—ranging in price from $80 to $310 for three-day passes—for everyone from authors to retailers. If you don't have a direct connection to the industry, you can register as a friend or family member of an attendee, so long as they've already registered and you accompany them to the conference.

· Unlike other conferences I've profiled, BEA isn't focused on up-and-coming authors or the public, but is more centered around established authors and industry insiders. This means that there are no one-on-ones with agents, no conferences with editors, and virtually no chance of showcasing your work. You might get lucky and meet an agent or editor willing to look at your mss, but the chances are pretty much zero. Leave your most recent book at home.

· As is the case with all conferences (and New York City conferences in particular), BEA is expensive. Travel, lodging, conference fees, and souvenirs could easily set you back over $1,000, even if you only stick around for the three main days of the conference (Tuesday, May 24th; Wednesday, May 25th; and Thursday, May 26th).

· BEA is enormous, extraordinarily busy, and can easily overwhelm even the stoutest heart. This is definitely not a conference for rookies (as I quickly learned at my first BEA, which was also my first book conference ever).

Some DOs and DON'Ts

· DO wear comfortable clothes, including shoes. The Javits Center is enormous (which means a lot of walking) and is relatively far from subway stations (which means a lot of walking). For a break from walking, try the author signing pavilion for a lot of standing.

Also, the end of May in New York City is usually hot and humid. Pack accordingly!

· DON'T bring manuscripts to the conference. Don't even do this at conferences that are aimed at connecting writers with agents and editors. Which BEA is not. So don't do it.

PS: Really.

· DO bring a couple of canvas or collapsible nylon bags. They'll have them at the conference, but you're going to be taking home a lot of books (even as we progress further and further into the Digital Future of Publishing). Also buttons. Oh, and bookmarks. And pens. You get the idea.

· DON'T be intimidated. Sure, there are a lot of people. Sure, none of them are going to be interested in your writing right off the bat. So what? Chat up people manning the publisher booths, befriend librarians, make small talk with a couple of authors. I've said it before and I'll say it again: you never know when a connection might come in handy.

· Lastly, DO have a game plan. There's way too much to see and do for you to see and do it all, so make sure you review the schedule of events. You don't want to miss getting a book signed by Your Favorite Author or hearing a panel presentation on That Topic You've Had Questions About Forever.

That's it for this installment, folks. Questions and suggestions in the comments!


  1. Great primer for this conference. I have been interested in attending more writing conferences. I appreciate this.

  2. Very helpful post! There's a chance I may be attending, so I'll keep your pointers in mind.

  3. Thanks! I had no idea what to expect when I signed up. I guess I won't need that rolling luggage cart for all of my ARCs. Maybe I'll just tuck a couple in my bag. I'm also going to the Book Bloggers convention. Should be interesting.

  4. Hi Laurie,

    ARCs are a different ballgame than MSS! If you have ARCs to distribute/trade, it might not be a bad idea to bring a few (I admit a rolling luggage cart might be a bit much).

    All best & thanks for reading,


  5. always more to learn and you are a good source for that. Thank you.

    blessings to you.