BEA is a magical event, where folks in the publishing industry gather to share their love of books to be published, authors come to meet an sign these books, books are handed out like candy (That last part is my favorite).
I love BEA. I love a celebration of books and writing. I love being around others who celebrate books and writing.
I really enjoy seeing other people’s BEA haul photos. Every one as different as a snowflake, which shows there are diverse attendees as well as diverse book offerings, if not diverse speakers at Bookcon.
So it pains me to complain, but that won’t stop me (I can’t complain, but sometimes I still do). Last year I attended only on ‘Power Readers’ day and I felt like a second class citizen, though attendees had access to the full show. Being there on the last day came across as the mark of someone not serious about books. This year I attended ‘real’ BEA as well as the new ‘Bookcon’, which at the very least meant I was spared having to wear a badge with John Grisham’s picture, with the label ‘adult’. The lack of diversity on the panels has been well covered, examples here and here, leading to the addition of a well attended diversity panel. Pretty uncool…
However, on the day, there a few more offensive things:
1. The segregation of the Bookcon attendees from the BEA attendees. I’d love to hear the reasons for that decision, but I can say from speaking to other attendees, it came across as: the book loving general public isn’t good enough to interact with those in the trade. Hello, these people are your customers. They buy the books, they discuss the books in book clubs, they rave to their friends. They aren’t the great unwashed.
2. Complete lack of preparedness for the number of attendees
From the size of Bookcon corralled area, to the Bookcon employees/volunteers, to the size of the rooms, no one knew how to handle the crowd, especially how to handle long lines. I pitied the volunteers at the main doors having to explain over and over to Bookcon attendees that they had to use a different door. The attendees stared with a lack of comprehension, because was it was comprehensible. There were times when in was simply impossible to move. While standing trying to plot the next move, the woman next to me said: this is the line for Grumpy Cat. We’ve in it since 10:30 am. Her facial expression resembled Grumpy Cat’s and it said: I will be cut you, bitch, if you think you’re getting in front of us in this line. I made a hasty move away. In fact, I traversed over to the main, almost crowd free, BEA floor to recover.
Here are some suggestions: ticket the events you know will be popular. The Macmillian panels were all ticketed, and there were maybe 50 people at them. You really should anticipate the interest in Grumpy Cat, Amy Pohler and John Green. To see Amy, There is no excuse for some of the heartbroken tweets I saw from tweens and their parents, devastated at waiting two hours to see John Green, but couldn’t get in.
I’m joking. I would have loved to meet Grumpy Cat, but one must make prioritization decisions. The line for Grumpy’s noon appearance started forming around 10am. The opportunity cost was too great. Sorry, Grumpy. Catch you some other time.
I realize this post is whiny. I’m just frustrated that would could have been an outstanding day was marred. However, the enthusiasm for books is real, the volume of people who wanted to celebrate books and writing is real and that we have an opportunity to do so is real. For that we should be happy.
In the end, perhaps my favorite experience of BEA / Bookcon was walking in Saturday morning behind a Mom and her three daughters, ages 10 – 15ish. One of girls started skipping with enthusiasm, announcing: we’re here! we’re here! Another generation of book lovers has arrived.
Got to go. I’ve got some reading to do..