Monday, June 2, 2014

Book Con: Hit or miss?

When I first attended BEA in 2010, there was controversy on blogger attendance.  Why, people wanted to know, were these people allowed to attend an industry event? Book Expo is for professionals.  Librarians to find out what books were coming out, book buyers to place orders and Publishers to conduct business.  There was worry about bloggers being able to gain access to something that only industry professional were able to before.  And of course, there was a lot of talk about bad blogger behavior.  As time went on, bloggers gained respect and proved themselves by showing how serious they were about reading, promoting books, gaining exposure for new authors, and simply just showing their love of stories.  Along with the change in how book bloggers were seen, the population seemed to change at BEA.  When I first attended a few years ago, I dreaded telling people I met I was a blogger.  I was afraid to see the subtle cringe or the dismissive attitude.  Now it's much different.  I meet book bloggers on almost every line along with librarians and book sellers.

In 2013, the last day of BEA was also Power Reader day.  Avid readers were able to gain access to the Javits Center and partake in the joy of autograph signings and visiting booths.  It seemed to me, that the tickets were limited and only accessible by people who were immersed in the reading culture.  There were mixed feelings about their appearance and a mixed bag of stories about their behavior.  Sound familiar?

This year, 2014, Saturday was Book Con.  Attendees of Book Con could go to the autograph lines and a designated area of the show floor.  Also included were various panels that showcased popular authors such as Holly Black, Cassandra Clare and John Green.  The lines and crowds were comparable to NY Comic Con (which ironically I stopped attending several years ago due to the crowds and lack of organization).  It was difficult to navigate on the Book Con side of the show floor amidst the strollers, large backpacks hitting me in the face and elbows in my side.  I chose not to brave the crowds to go into the autograph area.  My 5'2" friend was jostled and pushed so much on one line, her husband told her to find safety while he took her place.   Several Book Con attendees wanted to know how I managed to get a BEA badge that let me in for the entire show.  Many were incredulous that "...all you had to do was have a blog."  Their words, not mine.  I have to tell you, I felt a bit insulted.

Security was busy at Book Con.
Tweets were plenty from both sides. Bloggers were unhappy and frustrated with the crowds and behavior of Book Con attendees.  Book Con attendees were outraged they couldn't go past the security to the other side of BEA.  (Security did a great job, by the way!)  I realized that it was indeed, more like chaotic, crazy Comic Con than busy, hectic Book Expo.

Did I hate it?  Yes.  Was I unhappy? Yes. But I always try to play devil's advocate and wonder if I'm being unfair.  Is the way that the bloggers and other BEA attendees felt about Book Con an echo of how industry insiders felt about us in years past?  Is this just yet another change with the conference dynamics?  Do we just have to realize that Book Con is a separate entity and adjust accordingly?  Do we have to wait several years before Book Con attendees are integrated into the landscape of BEA like bloggers eventually became an accepted population?

The thing is, I feel as Bloggers, most of us were aware that we were attending a professional event.  We policed ourselves and wrote posts expressing unhappiness with bad blogger behavior and gave professional advice on etiquette as well as tips on attending an overwhelming trade show and travelling to and within NYC.

Autographing area at Book Con.  I did not venture in.
I admit that Book Expo had a great idea to utilize the vendors that were already at the Javits center, authors who may already have been available and the whole vibe of a bookish platform.  I just read that 10,000 tickets were sold for Book Con.  I myself saw the excitement of teens who were seeing Maggie Stiefvater and Rick Riordan.  I love the fact that so many people love books and reading.  But I couldn't help but feel like like the old friend being passed over for the new, exciting friend.  BEA suddenly shifted its focus to Book Con and left us BEA'ers in the dust and swallowed by the unruly crowds.  Perhaps the organizers need to be clear how different Book Con is.  Perhaps they thought they were being clear and we just weren't prepared.  Perhaps they didn't foresee the chaos that ensued.  It was clearly a separate entitity that I myself wasn't expecting, a definite convention more akin to Comic Con or the Auto Show that the Javits produces.

I am pretty sure that 2015 is the last year that BEA will be in NY and I don't know what will happen when the show relocates.  Maybe bloggers and other industry insiders who weren't feeling Book Con will be able to prepare themselves better.  I've already heard a number of people say they will not come on Book Con days.

Whatever anyone decides to do, Book Con was obviously a success (for the organizers of the event).  I think that many people in the book blogging community, myself included, hope that the organizers of BEA will listen to feedback on both sides and work accordingly to bring harmony to the event.

What do you think?  Am I being too harsh?   Maybe I'm not thinking of something that you are.  I would love to hear your point of view.  


Unknown said...

I did not attend BEA this year, but you are correct, I have seen an abundance of unhappiness in the blogging world over Book Con. I was not aware that any part of BEA was available to public. I went to RT signing this year, and while there were things I did not like, I will have to congratulate the way they handled crowds and big authors. Thank you for your input!

Danielle said...

I felt the same way about bookcon. I realized it was just like it was with bloggers. It's something different. I didn't particularly enjoy the BookCon side but my friends who just attended BookCon and have never been to BEA actually really enjoyed it. (But they don't know how crazy it was compared to BEA). Hopefully next year they really separate the two events.

Kate @Midnight Book Girl said...

Excellent post, Pam! I love the idea of Book Con- it could lead to so much cool bookish items (book cover posters, coffee mugs with favorite quotes, homemade book inventions) that I as a consumer would want. But that's why I don't think it will gel with BEA- one is about exposure and mutual benefits (books and authors get attention, reviewers get advanced book copies and chances to meet the authors we will then swoon about online), and one is about making money. I think if Book Con follows immediately on the heels of, rather than concurrently with, BEA, everyone wins.

The chaos on the floor was crazy- and dangerous. I personally witnessed your good friend get pushed around like a human pinball. The autograph area would have been a disaster if a fire or fight had broken out. I only briefly glimpsed the hell that was the signing lines before scrapping all my original plans.

I'm not dissing all the Book Con people- this was a new event and they didn't know any better. I actually met some very nice people that were attending- a mother and daughter sat with us at lunch and it was awesome hearing a young tween rave about her love for The Fault in Our Stars. It's exactly the kind of event that I would have wanted to attend before I discovered the world of book blogging. But I think even a lot of the Book Con people were put off by the noise and overcrowding.

Of course, I also saw some very rude and inconsiderate behavior from Book Con attendees- but there's always going to be some bad apples, and there does tend to be a mob mentality when it comes to such a huge crowd of people. I felt very Us vs. Them- and I didn't feel proud of that. I lucked out though, I met some very nice bloggers and industry people to hang out with and picked up a bunch of great galley drops. I avoided most of the craziness. But I think I would be a lot more upset if I'd had my heart set on the autograph area.

Kimberly @ Midnight Book Girl said...

Love your comments! I completely agree that it was like BEA died and Book Con took over on Saturday. Like Kate said, I think it's a great idea, but they don't need to run concurrently. I also strongly believe they either need to cap tickets or open the whole floor because there was just too many people.

I don't regret going though, mostly because I stayed out of the way. Also I got to chuckle over the 3+ hour Grumpy Cat line.

Alexia561 said...

Sounds like it was both unsafe and no fun! I wasn't able to attend this year, but really hope that they learn their lesson so next year isn't as crazy. Couldn't have been much fun for people attending for the first time if they couldn't move. :(

cindysloveofbooks said...

Great post Pam. I heard it was worse then a zoo there on Saturday. I probably won't go to the Con days next year.

I remember going to BEA in 2011 and what you said about bloggers back then was true. We were looked at badly and gradually we were accepted. Now will the book con people be so lucky? That I'm not sure about.

I think they really over sold on the tickets and perhaps they need to limit that amount like they did with the power readers. I am thrilled that so many people wanted to go for their love of books but I have to admit I was a little worried when I heard about all the pushing and shoving.

I really think they need to listen to what is being said from all parties and decide from there. Perhaps run the book con after BEA and not during BEA.

Midnyte Reader said...

@Lenore-I was at RT as well and the signing was a bit crazy, but nothing like Book Con!

@Danielle-I can see why the Book Con people enjoyed it. The panels were awesome. I do hope they delineate it more next year.

@Kate-Your comments are great. You are so right about how they are different events. One about exposure, one about making money. I think we got a little spoiled, but on the other hand, I do think there are a lot of ways to improve things.

@Kim-I think they run concurrently because the booths are already there. It's kind of a money saving thing.

@Alexia-No, Book Con wasn't fun for me. I do hope they improve for next year.

@Cindy-It would be nice if Book Con was run separately and apart from BEA, but then I think that BEA people would feel like they were missing something.

Melissas Eclectic Bookshelf said...

You are definitely not being too harsh! BookCon was beyond mishandled!

Unknown said...

I agree, you definitely tried to stay neutral. BookCon was just not handled well at all. Managerially, it was a total flunk. BookConners were very poorly informed on what they could and could not do -- I can't count the amount of times I had to explain that, yes, you can take the book, it is free. And I've only been to BEA twice. And having gone as a 'Power Reader' in the past, I can say that it is incredibly hectic and though the staff do the best they can, it's hard to help thousands of people at a time.

Other than the BookCon app, which looked damn good, I'm all for BookCon being a separate event, at least until it can handle the sheer volume of attendees and begin to re-integrate into BEA.

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