Book Expo America (BEA) and BookCon are in the books (har har) for 2019. As expected, it was a packed event full of advanced reader copies, authors and publishers, lots of amazing booth designs, and loads of non-book items to consider and take home.
With the event behind us, I want to take a moment to reflect on what BEA and BookCon are for authors and publishers. Every time I see (or create) a post about some big industry event, I have this sense that the author is bragging. Is pointing to how vital and important these events are. But not really explaining why.
Let’s face it; attending an event like BEA or BookCon in New York City can be a costly endeavor. So why should independent authors and publishers go there?
Why BEA and BookCon?
If you’re an author, creator, or publisher in the USA, BEA and BookCon are the largest events of the year. And with the introduction of UnBound (more on that later) the five-day long event offers a huge taste of what the industry offers. That cross-section of retail, industry, craft, and marketing makes BEA and BookCon something anyone in the writing and publishing world can appreciate.
Book Expo America
The first part of the event, BEA is built to be an industry event for large publishers to release ARCs (advance reader copies) of their upcoming releases. Along with the biggest publishers dominating the show floor on those first days, small publishing companies and businesses that offer services (like printing, book design, marketing) have the opportunity to network and connect.
That does not mean there aren’t any authors at BEA.
In fact, the majority of the people we spoke to at the Lulu Booth on those first days were authors. Some were independent authors who had self-published and were there to promote their work and learn from the various sessions. Others were unpublished authors ready to take that plunge and learning.
The takeaway here is that, if you are a publisher or creator, BEA may have less foot traffic but will offer plenty of time to find and speak with vendors. In particular, BEA is useful for authors who have already started down their publishing path and want to expand or improve. You might discover a service or an option you didn’t even know existed before!
The newest addition to BEA and BookCon, UnBound is a standalone, adjacent exposition of non-book merchandise. That might sound simply like a marketplace or fair, but the reality is that these merchants are here specifically to market to this audience.
On my first walk through the UnBound side of the event, I thought ‘this is awesome! Stationary and notebooks and board game companies!’ As I made my way back to the Lulu Booth, I thought more about how interesting it is that UnBound essentially shows authors and creators the value of diversifying.
Which is nothing new to me. I just wrote a post last week about how important it is to avoid relying on any one channel or product. UnBound goes to show just how vital is it in the modern book industry to think beyond the book.
Bookstores already host board game sections, pens, and notebooks, and really any kind of merchandise a writer or reader might want. Of everything I saw at the event over those five days, the diversity of materials in UnBound strikes me as the most important.
Finally, Saturday morning brings the last and perhaps the grandest part of the event: BookCon. Here is a convention dedicated to everyone’s shared love of literature and writing. The grounds mass to meet their favorite authors, to get low-priced copies of new books, and to pack up their bags with free swag.
The convention is an opportunity for anyone to come together and really celebrate books. Here’s where I’ll stop ruminating on the purpose of this event and why there’s so much to be positive about for authors and publishers. Instead, let’s just let these pics from Lulu staff at BookCon speak for themselves:
Paul is the Senior Copywriter at Lulu, writing weekly blog posts and helping guide content for the company’s marketing. When he’s not deeply entrenched in the publishing and print-on-demand world, he likes to hike the scenic North Carolina landscape, read, sample the fanciest micro-brewed beer, and collect fountain pens. Paul is a dog person, but considers himself cat tolerant.