Speaking of ReedPOP, BookCon, the festival of literary superstars that owes more to Comic-Con than to a book faire, was held as a one day event following this year’s BEA (Book Expo America) in Chicago. According to PW’s Claire Kirch, it was a hit:
The biggest complaint from attendees at this year’s BookCon literary fanfest was that it was too short. Held the day after BEA in Chicago’s McCormick Place, on May 14, attendees were thrilled to be in Chicago, and very happy with the venue, the programming, and the show’s logistics, but disappointed that this year’s event had been downsized to one day from last year’s two-day event. As for the participating publishers, many of whom had spent three days previously exhibiting at BEA, they were very satisfied with how the show went, but happy that for them it meant only one more day inside McCormick Place rather than two.
Based on pre-registration numbers, ReedPOP’s BookCon show manager Brien McDonald estimated that 7,000 attendees were at this year’s event. As in the two previous years in New York City, attendees skewed towards significantly more females than males, but the demographic was slightly older than last year, when large numbers of teenage girls turned out for Khloe Kardashian. The crowd this year appeared to be even more racially and ethnically diverse than last year’s crowd. There also seemed to be many more people from the Midwest and Canada, but fewer international attendees. Many of the East Coast attendees PW spoke to had attended BookCon in New York City.
This leaves the future of BEA, the book industry’s traditional trade show, and BookCon in a bit of a quandary. Next year BEA will be back at the Javits in NYC and held for two days, followed by a two day BookCon. It doesn’t take a genius to see that BEA could continue to shrink as the very purpose of a book-centered trade show blurs, and BookCon, which brings the excitement and one-on-one experiences of a comic-con to the book world, is a more modern and relevant format. BEA itself is now run by Brien McDonald, who ran the first BookCon in 2014, so the encroachment is on all sides.
I asked ReedPOP’s head Lance Fensterman about this recently, and he just gave a little laugh when I asked if BookCon would continue to grow while BEA shrank. While he wouldn’t comment on that idea, he did say that “We’ve learned that huge publishers will support BookCon. It will continue to grow and have real value to publishers and raises the profile of the reading world in the media.”
I take that as a “yes.” I’m also hearing that there may some “BookCon”ish events at this year’s New York Comic-Con.
It’s a con world, and we’re all just trying to get a badge for it.
Heidi MacDonald is the founder and editor in chief of The Beat. In the past, she worked for Disney, DC Comics, Fox and Publishers Weekly. She can be heard regularly on the More To Come Podcast. She likes coffee, cats and noble struggle.