Last week, thousands of publishing professionals, authors, librarians, bloggers, book sellers, and book buyers from around the world descended on Manhattan for the annual BookExpo America (BEA), the largest trade fair for books in the United States. Each year for three days, the Javits Center, on the west side of Manhattan, teems with “book people” of all varieties promoting new titles, selling international book rights, attending panel discussions, seeking autographs, hunting down free swag and advance reading copies, mingling with colleagues, and much more.
This year, Wolf Literary was rep’d by yours truly and the lovely Adriann Ranta. As foreign rights assistant and agent, respectively, our primary agenda was to meet with our foreign co-agents and with editors from various publishing houses. While there are many different reasons to attend BEA if you’re in the business of books, for this blog post, we thought we’d walk our readers through a day at the expo from an agent’s perspective.
Thursday, May 30
I arrived early to the Javits Center, New York City’s own modern-day Crystal Palace, to pick up my badge and to take a preliminary stroll through the convention center before our first meetings with foreign co-agents.
Oh hey promotion!! So my new job title would only last the duration of the book fair, but I dare say placing this badge around my neck added a kick to my step. (And because it’s so slim, sleek, and bendy, it didn’t disrupt my sleep tucked beneath my pillow later that night.) Notice the luxurious baby-pink silk ribbon with embossed silver lettering adorning the bottom of the badge, designating me as an IRC attendee. Y’all, not everyone gets this … but more on that later.
I entered the convention hall and started wandering. With over 1,000 exhibitors at BEA this year, there was a lot of ground to cover. The giant banners hanging from the ceiling served as my guide—an enormous Penguin my North Star. As I weaved my way through the crowds, it dawned on me that BEA is not only an exploration of books—it’s a podiatric adventure. Indeed, BEA could double as a floor-covering showcase; I walked upon so many unusual rugs! Some were shaggy, some had shorter pile, while others were very cushy—I swear at one booth I got double-bounced. But I digress.
After my first run through I was feeling a bit decaffeinated and I needed to refuel before heading into meetings. The coffee line was disheartening, but so it goes at BEA.
It was time to start the meetings with foreign co-agents, so I made my way upstairs to the International Rights Center (IRC)—recall that fancy ribbon!—a sprawling room of floor-to-ceiling glass walls with a fantastic panoramic view of the Hudson River. Well over a hundred tables were arranged throughout the room with agents, scouts, and other international publishing professionals coming and going to pitch, promote, and purchase translation rights.
We were meeting most of our co-agents in person for the first time, finally putting faces to names after months of emailing to discuss Wolf Literary’s various titles. There was a lot of information to cover in these short meetings—each about 30 minutes or less—so we quickly jumped into the WLS catalog to pitch our books. We also used these meetings to get a better sense of the book market in the foreign territories. It was fascinating to learn what types of books are selling and succeeding around the world, and which genres, themes, and subject matter are simply DOA. For instance, we learned that books about running are thriving in China and Taiwan (as is Anna Dressed in Blood—a bestseller!!), while erotica à la Fifty Shades of Grey is flying off the shelves in Turkey (much to the bewilderment of our Turkish co-agent).
No doubt, some fascinating books were presented at the IRC. I only wish I could have overheard the hardball pitch for this snowman-hand-puppet book.
After back-to-back meetings, it’s time again to refuel. Adriann and I left the IRC for the day, and I bought myself a $5 hot dog.
Next, we ventured back to the main halls of BEA to check out the booths of some of Wolf Literary’s soon-to-publish titles.
It’s always a pleasant surprise when one of your agency’s books is given serious booth real estate at BEA. So we were excited to see Ian Doescher’s William Shakespeare’s Star Wars featured front and center at the Quirk Books booth!
At the Macmillan booth, Kendare Blake’s forthcoming Antigoddess was also boldly featured—and in some pretty elite company, I might add.
Of course, everyone knows that, above all, the reason we attend BEA is for the free swag.
At the Scholastic booth, Adriann performed nothing short of a drug deal to get her hands on an ARC of the next installment in Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Cycle series, The Dream Thieves. There was slight-of-hand, there were code words, there was shrewd use of a tote bag.
Have you always dreamed of a set of throwback western L. Ron Hubbard playing cards? At BEA, dreams like yours come true.
What ho! Gigantic Lego creations at the DK booth!
Abrams folks were giving out free Wimpy Kid stickers at the entrance of the Javits Center, and they started to appear absolutely everywhere. Even on the women’s bathroom floor.
And thus it was time to leave Javits and head home. And by home I mean BEA after-parties. But those are stories for another time.
The Javits Center