Episode 150: Epic BookExpo Recap — 2017 Edition

by Gabriela Pereira
published in Podcast

Hey there word nerds!

Welcome to the 2017 Epic BookExpo Recap episode. If you don’t already what BookExpo is, it’s the big industry trade show that takes place in the United States every year. This year, things at BookExpo were a little bit new and different so I wanted to give you a rundown of what’s new, what’s still the same, and what I think all these things say about the book industry as a whole.

In this episode, I give you an inside look at:

  • The new vibe at BookExpo, and why I’m really digging the new, smaller, industry focus.
  • What really happens at BookExpo and what this trade show is all about.
  • Why I attend BookExpo, and what I look for as I walk the show.

Plus a teaser about the types of books I was most excited to check out, and why.

There’s a new vibe BookExpo…

…and I LOVE it!

In general, the publisher booths were smaller, and overall the show felt less crowded. There were wider aisles and more open space, plus, it seemed like there were fewer book bloggers and general fans, and there was a stronger industry focus overall. I think BookExpo organizers may have been more selective in terms of which press passes they approved. Also, blogger passes were priced at a much higher premium this year, which I think cut down on the number of people attending the show just to get a lot of “free books.” (For the record, ARCs—or advance reader copies—are not “free books” but that’s a topic or another episode.)

Overall, this tighter industry focus made for a much less crowded and hectic show, and made it a much more pleasant and productive experience.

What happens at BookExpo, exactly?

BookExpo is an industry trade show where the focus is for publishers to connect with booksellers and librarians. Basically it’s about getting books into the hands of the readers, but this year the focus has shifted to emphasize more the industry avenues for how that happens, rather than having it be a more direct channel to the readers themselves (as with BookCon). At BookExpo, publishes showcase the books on their fall and winter lists, and connect with booksellers and librarians who might champion those books.

There were still plenty of signings and author events at the show this year, but again, it felt more contained and less sprawling and chaotic than years past. There were still ticketed author signings, though I noticed that several didn’t get “sold out” very early in the day.

Plus there seemed to be fewer signings going on overall. My guess is that with the author badge being the highest priced category, publishers may have been more selective about which authors to have at the show. I also didn’t see some of the familiar author faces I usually see just walking the show, again most likely because of this shift to more of an industry focus.

Finally, there were still many book reviewers and members of the press and I certainly saw reporters with video cameras filming some of the celebrity authors. I did notice, though, that many of these celebrities were on panels on the various stages, and I didn’t notice quite as many long lines for celebrity book signings. I did spot James Patterson signing books side-by-side with his wife, and got a signed copy of Princesses Wear Pants and a quick photo op with Today Show host Savannah Guthrie and her co-author Allison Oppenheim.


Why I Attend BookExpo

There are four main reasons why I try to attend BookExpo each year, but really they all have to do with this podcast. I attend BookExpo to…

  1. Discover new authors to feature on this show. At DIY MFA Radio, we try not to feature the same authors over and over because we want to showcase as many different voices as possible. This means I’m on a constant hunt for great interviews. With so many publishers all in one place at the same time, BookExpo allows me to connect with potential interview subjects (or their publicists) in a compressed amount of time.
  2. Reconnect with publicists whom I’ve worked with in the past. Like any business, publishing is all about building relationships, and from my perspective building relationships with publicists can be very important. I’m lucky to have some great contacts whose taste and insight I’ve grown to trust over the years, so now when they send me a pitch for an author (even an unknown debut) I know they’ve taken the time to vet that interview and make sure it’s a fit for my show. While I love scouting out new connections, it’s as important (if not more so) to nurture those existing relationships.
  3. Check out the trends and see which books publishers are really getting behind. This was perhaps the most difficult thing for me to do this year because of the compressed timeline. When I walk a show and do trendspotting, I like to take my time and let the overall vibe sink into my bones. Because this year’s show was shorter and I had limited time, I didn’t get to do my whole “trendspotting ritual” that I do each year. If I go back next year, my hope is to attend both BookExpo and BookCon.
  4. Collect nifty swag and other bits of marketing inspiration. I could do an entire podcast episode on swag. (Maybe I will for Patreon fans!) Overall, though, I like to see what other types of swag booths are handing out aside from ARCs, buttons, bookmarks, and all the things we would expect to see at a book industry trade show. You can also draw a lot of inferences from swag and freebies, like how much thought, energy, and money a marketing department has invested for promoting a particular book. The subtext of the swag is almost more interesting than the things themselves.


Links and Resources

Learn more about BookExpo and BookCon by visiting the websites. Next year’s dates will be May 31 & June 1 for BookExpo (with the conference portion opening on May 30) and June 2 & 3 for BookCon.

Also, you can check out videos from some of the BookCon panels via the links below.

Link to Episode 150

(Right-click to download.)

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