For those of you who've never attended BEA/BookExpo before, lemme 'splain. It's exhilarating. It's exhausting. It's big on a scale that is hard to imagine. This is the biggest of all possible big things in US publishing, and in some cases, international publishing. It would make me wince, and then cry, and then maybe hide in a corner to know how much money the biggest publishers throw at BEA. For example, I have a friend whose father owns a small, well-respected publishing house known for its literature in translation (mostly from Arabic) and with an emphasis on travel lit and Middle Eastern cultures. His single booth, about 15 feet long and maybe 6 feet deep, with one table and little carpeting, cost over $20,000. I don't want to know how much it costs publishers with multiple booths, with cushy carpeting, spanning rows and aisles of the Javits, with big drop-down signs hung from the ceiling that can be seen from anywhere on the tradeshow floor.
|Inside each women's stall|
|On the outside of each stall in the women's room|
|Stair ads and ceiling ads|
BookExpo is also a time for publishers to wine and dine their authors and in some lucky cases, their booksellers. This year I was very fortunate to inherit an invitation to Simon & Schuster's 90th anniversary party, which was huge and star-studded. I say"inherit" because the invitation came just one week before the party, meaning that somebody higher up on the bookseller food chain declined at the last minute and I got to step in. This is not a criticism; on the contrary, I was delighted to accept. Would I rather get an early invitation? Well, sure. But getting a late one is infinitely better than not getting one at all. I'm happy to fill in!
Though I don't have the photographic evidence to prove it, I got to meet Anjelica Huston, Hoda Kotb and Cary Elwes that night, along with the authors Rachel Renee Russell, Lisa Genova, and Kresley Cole. Dinner was in an amazing space--a converted Episcopal monastery--and while the food itself was forgettable (to put it charitably), the company was delightful. In addition to Genova and Cole, I had the incredibly charming Ian Chapman, former CEO and currently chief executive publisher of S&S UK, India, Australia, as a table mate.
|Rumor has it that the ceiling is four stories high|
|The ceiling really was gorgeous|
|That's Kresley Cole with me, with the minstrel balcony as a backdrop|
My celebrity encounters didn't end with the Simon & Schuster dinner. First thing the next morning, I was able to spend a moment with Anjelica Huston when she stopped by the American Booksellers Association meeting room to sign some books. She even agreed to post with Hannah and me (Hannah's the delightful manager of my store's children's department):
The day just kept on getting better when I arrived at a publisher meeting room a few minutes early for one of my appointments. In walked The Divine Jane Lynch. I didn't talk to her or anything, but I kept quoting her lines from Best In Show in my head while snapping a quick pic. She was only ten feet away. I was able to play it cool enough not to walk up and bother her, but I couldn't not take this picture:
Then there was the Celebration of Bookselling luncheon for indie booksellers. There was at least one author or illustrator at every table, and Anthony Marra, who wrote the terrific debut novel A Constellation of Vital Phenomena was at mine. I was very excited to note in the program that Rainbow Rowell was there to win the Indie Award for best YA novel, Eleanor and Park. I snapped a photo of her onstage (it's blurry), but I was utterly starstruck when Hannah and I went up to talk with her after the luncheon. I gushed a little bit, saying that I'd been reading her ever since Attachments came out, and then Rainbow and I both gushed together a little bit about how much we adore Alice from Reading Rambo. And then I swooned a little because she took a picture with Hannah and me:
|I know why there are so many songs about Rainbows|
The night before I took the train down to New York, I inherited another last minute invitation--this time to meet former Secretary of State (and, I hope, next President-to-be) Hillary Rodham Clinton. I received the email invitation one hour before the RSVP was due, and again, this is not a criticism. I was giddy with disbelief to be one of 100 indie booksellers who gathered to hear a short address about her new memoir and then have the chance to shake her hand and be in a photograph with her. I am thankful to all of those Republican indie booksellers (though I feel that there probably aren't many) who turned down the opportunity to attend so that my name worked its way up the invitation list.
I'm sorry, but I'm pretty sure that Bill Clinton, Al Gore, and Colin Powell aren't asked questions like #1.
Anyway, at the end, we all had about two seconds of face time with Ms Clinton and after our handshake, we were just turning to pose for the professional photographer when she glanced at my earrings, pushed a strand of my hair back, and asked, "Are those books?" I said yes, they were Jane Austen earrings and she said she liked them. (I can post the professional photo after S&S sends it out to us--they asked us to refrain from using our personal cameras during the meet & greet.)
That means that I've got one more celebrity to meet at BEA. You may have heard of her. Publishers Weekly refers to her as one of six "Go-To Book Bloggers." I'm speaking, naturally, of Alice from Reading Rambo. I'm utterly baffled at my lack of photographic evidence from our time together, but trust me, it was fun. We met up at the Peachtree booth where my DH and Carmen Agra Deedy were signing copies of The Cheshire Cheese Cat. Alice and I agreed that Carmen is worth keeping our options open for. And anyway, I don't have my own photo, but Alice does, so I'm copying it here:
|Photo credit here|
BEA 2015 will need to be at the top of its game if it wants to beat BEA 2014. And that's all I'm saying.