Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Festivals (Part ???) - BEA

Okay, for the moment I'm skipping through Malice Domestic and World Horror Con to download about BEA ("The Premier Event Serving the Book Publishing Industry".) Let's pretend I'm doing it this way because I'm being organized and taking the trade shows together as a category instead of because I just haven't gotten around to writing about the other two.

PLA (see entry below) and BEA do have a tremendous lot in common (I say this mostly because they are the only two trade shows I've ever been to and they seemed similar to me. Well, and also, both took place in cities that are important to my second book, The Price - Boston and Washington, D.C. - and so I was able to do a lot of good research).

These shows are huge. HUGE. There were apparently 10,000 people at PLA and I'm sure there must have been at least as many at BEA. Publishers and distributors set up generic corporate booths in rows of aisles and aisles and aisles and aisles across a massive convention hall (there were 4500 distinct booths in one hall alone, which gives you some idea), and booksellers and librarians and authors wander the aisles doing business, taking meetings and grabbing bagload after bagload of free books, ARCs and SWAG.

I ditched the high-heeled boots instantly because this was three days straight of walking and talking. The first day was completely overwhelming - so many people you could barely get around in the aisles, so many booksellers and librarians to talk to, so many authors to meet. I wasn't the only one with a completely glazed look in my eyes within an hour. Where do you even start?

Luckily, and this is going to be a theme in my convention reports, Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America, made me and all of their other charges feel completely at home and looked after. Marcia Talley, Verna Suit, Donna Andrews, Sandy Parshall and the rest of the Chesapeake Chapter of Sisters in Crime ran an always-hopping booth that was like a combination lounge and oasis for members and dazed convention-goers alike.

The MWA booth was as organized and professional as it was inviting, thanks to the amazing Margery Flax and Maria Lima, and the classy NY presence of MWA VP Reed Farrel Coleman. I could venture out into the fray, journey the miles of booths and always find safe haven, not to mention ice for my endless Diet Cokes!, back with SinC and MWA.

The first two days I signed ARCs of The Harrowing in two different sessions and met and chatted with probably hundreds of great booksellers and librarians. It was fun to hang out with my fellow St. Martin's authors, the always-riotous Donna Andrews and Julia Spencer Fleming and meet the delightful Sherrilyn Kenyon, and talk some business with the St. Martin's family. I also had great conversations with the inspiring Paula Guran and Sarah Weinman.

By the second day I realized that BEA is like Sundance, the Park City film festival (without all that snow). That is, in terms of working it - all you have to do is relax and walk around and just run into the people you need to run into. Really, it works. Reviewers, booksellers, your publishers, extraordinary friends you haven't seen in ten years - they're all there in a very contained space and you will drift into them if you just go with the flow.

I have dozens and dozens of buyers reading THE HARROWING right now. I had dozens of requests for bookstore and festival appearances. I got a much clearer picture of where I want to tour, and in what order. I made so many new friends, and got reunited with very dear old ones. I got much more of a sense of how completely crazy this new Author Life is going to be.

Bottom line - invaluable and unmissable.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go sort out my SWAG.




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