An Insider’s Look at the Biggest Book Conference of the Year—BookExpo!
By Friday, May 31, I’ve been on my feet for three days straight. The show floor is quieting down. It’s almost 3:00 pm. Soon, this madness will be over, and while at the moment, I want nothing more than to never see the inside of the Javits Center again, I also know that, in six months, I’ll be happily starting this whole thing all over again.
At Simon & Schuster, I serve as the BookExpo aficionado for the adult trade books side of the company. Beginning in January of each year, BookExpo slowly consumes my life. It starts with one email, followed by another, followed by another, followed by meetings, followed by a trip to our warehouse to count and label boxes, followed, five months later, by one Tuesday unpacking boxes on the show floor, followed by three days of wonderful organized chaos. And I love every minute of it. It gives me the opportunity to learn about amazing advanced titles, meet our wonderful authors, and talk about books with incredible booksellers and librarians. I couldn’t imagine a better way to spend the first week of summer—well, other than at the beach, but I digress. (Might I suggest BookExpo: Waikiki?)
BookExpo 2019 for Simon & Schuster was three days of ARC and swag giveaways, author signings, and panels. Here are some of my personal highlights:
Day 1: Wednesday, May 29
- On Wednesday, editor extraordinaire Jonathan Cox presented the incredible memoir How We Fight for Our Lives by Saeed Jones (on sale 10/8/19) during the Buzz Panel. The Buzz Panel is the place to learn about the biggest upcoming titles for Fall 2019, and having read How We Fight for Our Lives, I’m telling you, you need to preorder it right now. It is the truly haunting story of Saeed Jones’s journey as a black, gay man from the South fighting to carve out a place for himself in a world where many black, gay men die young.
- Also on Wednesday, the Gallery Books team showed up with Mike Rowe, of Dirty Jobs fame, to promote his upcoming memoir, The Way I Heard It (on sale 10/15/19). Over the next three days, Mike and I became good friends. While he might seem a bit flat at times, he’s really a great guy.
Okay, so I didn’t meet the real Mike Rowe, but the standee served as a great addition to our booth staff.
Day 2: Thursday, May 30
- On Thursday, we gave away Joy of Cooking aprons (the 90th anniversary edition of the book goes on sale 11/12/19). I ended up without one for myself. Also, the Scribner tote bags were gorgeous, and I didn’t get one of those either. They went SO fast. This is really the downside of working in the booth. You have to give all the cool things away…I want one of each!
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- Academy Award–winning actress Lupita Nyong’o and artist and filmmaker Vashti Harrison signed prints from their new children’s picture book, Sulwe (on sale 10/1/19). The star power in our booth was quite high at the time, and they both are just as stunning in person as one would expect.
- Alice Hoffman signed copies of her upcoming novel The World That We Knew (on sale 9/24/19), drawing such a long line that we had to cap it in fear of running out of books. (We started with 300 copies.) This was another of my favorite books in our booth this year. It combines Alice Hoffman’s signature magical realism (think Rules of Magic) with the harrowing backdrop of Nazi Germany during World War II (think Lilac Girls). And it is spectacular.
- We introduced Avid Reader Press’s first book to the world! Avid Reader Press is our newest imprint here at Simon & Schuster, and the author of its first book, Lisa Taddeo, was in the booth signing her book Three Women (on sale 7/9/19). If you’re launching an imprint, Three Women is a great book to lead with. It chronicles the lives of three American women and their sexual desires as told by a reporter who followed them for eight years. If you preorder only one book of feminist nonfiction this year, make it this one.
- We had balloon animal dogs for Jessie Sima’s picture book Spencer’s New Pet (on sale 8/27/19)!
Day 3: Friday, May 31
- We gave away 300 copies each of Lisa Jewell’s newest thriller, The Family Upstairs (on sale 10/29/19), and Christina Lauren’s latest romance, Twice in a Blue Moon (on sale 10/22/19), within eight minutes of the show floor opening on Friday, setting a new S&S record! I was slightly worried a few of my staff members were going to lose arms in the process.
Of course, if I were to go into detail about every amazing author in the booth, this post would be much too long, but I’ll drop some names just the same. I met Jennifer Weiner (Mrs. Everything, on sale now); Jason Reynolds (Look Both Ways, on sale 10/8/19); Nelson and Alex DeMille (The Deserter, on sale 10/22/19); Philippa Gregory (Tidelands, on sale 8/20/19); William Kent Krueger (This Tender Land, on sale 9/3/19); Mary Beth Keane (Ask Again, Yes, on sale now), and Frank Miller (Cursed, on sale 10/1/19).
To say the least, it was a star-studded week, and while my feet may take a while to recover from the time I spent on that show floor, I can also say I’ll happily be back in the booth next year. Come late May, if you work in any area of the publishing industry, BookExpo is the place to be, and I love being one of the ringleaders in the middle of the action.