This past weekend, nearly thirty thousand people gathered in Los Angeles for the American publishing industry’s biggest trade show, BookExpo, or BEA for short. Roughly a thousand authors signed books, and two thousand exhibitors plied visitors with flyers, pencils, books, and other give-aways as well as tote bags to haul their goodies in.
The press reported that the show was poorly attended and lackluster compared with previous shows. Still, I found it worthwhile, in part because of the light crowd.
Without hordes of people demanding attention at every booth, I was able to talk with many authors and publishers. I was pleased to bump into two writer friends (Carleen Brice the Pajama Gardener, who had signed Orange Mint and Honey the night before, and Lisa Gardner, who was about to sign Say Goodbye). I got a load of books for myself. Much of my Christmas shopping for my nieces and nephews is now done. Most exciting, I got to meet my agent in person, and we had a long dinner topped off with yummy desserts at a restaurant that used to be a firehouse.
My highlights from the show:
- Biggest surprise seen on the exhibit floor: Gibson, the world’s tallest dog, who was there promoting his new book (He’s pictured at right with his vet.)
- Oddest book plot: Corpse of Freedom by Dax Garner and Lloyd Garner, in which a teenager digs up a corpse and, in the words of the book flyer, “befriends the carcass . . . [and] is mentored toward a new perspective on life”
- Most enthusiastic exhibitor: I stopped by the ManLove Romance booth and asked why male-male romances are written and read primarily by women. One of the women staffing the booth answered, “Because women like men!!! And in male-male romance, there are two of them!!!”
- Coolest product: The Booksaver, which acts as a prop under large hardcover books so that the pages don’t sag and tear away from the binding
- Booth with the most unusual give-aways: Ellora's Cave, which gave away condoms in many colors and beefcake calendars of its cover models
- Most over-the-top author bio: “— — is an educated filmmaker, author, adventurer, and creative mastermind. Known for his chiseled beauty as much as his gutsy attitude, — prefers to live by his own values—a lifestyle that often spills into his work and confounds his more uptight critics.”
- Most clueless exhibitor: I asked a woman at the Dorchester booth what they were looking for in science fiction and fantasy, and she told me they did not publish either. That would probably come as a surprise to well-known Dorchester spec fic writers such as Anne McCaffrey.[note added 4 June 2008: see comment from Dorchester's Erin Galloway below.]
- Most out-of-place exhibitor: a tooth-whitening booth
- Favorite give-away received: a fold-up book light
Next year's BEA will take place in New York City.