Counting the Memorial Day weekend, I has been NINE days away from my day job. [Good gravy, my mind still hasn’t rebooted completely.  “…I have been…”]

This week, my days were spent either sleeping or wandering Javits to discover what’s new in book publishing, and to immerse myself in BookCon, a fan-driven event designed to breathe life into a withering trade show.

I might have a show-and-tell later of some titles, but for now, some random thoughts:

  • BookExpo America, the trade show component, is slowly withering away.  Sure, the booths are lively, and there is lots of business being done, but it’s quite evident…   Gone are the days when the children publishers and small press hopefuls were placed on the lower level.  Ignoring the Chinese pavilion, I did the entire show floor in one day (with hours to spare).  In the past, it would take me two days, with some power walking in the mediocre aisles.
  • This is also evident in the shipping area.  What once were endless tables of boxes crammed full of freebies waiting to be shipped home, now it’s rather sedate.  Partly because publishers have shifted to digital copies and cut back on promotions. Which might have cut back on attendance. I would justify the out-of-pocket cost by balancing it with the free books I got.
  • The China Pavilion (AKA BookExpoChina) saved Reed’s keister.  China rented a huge chunk of show floor to showcase their publishers (as well as numerous banners and on-site advertising). It was so vast, it was quite peaceful, almost like a zen garden. It could easily have filled Hall 3-E by itself. In addition to the publisher displays, China also had a large museum exhibition at the main entrance of the convention center.

    BEA 2015 show floor
    This is the entire top floor of Javits, just like NYCC. Note the large pink zone which denotes the China pavilion.
  • There were quite a few national pavilions scattered throughout the show floor.  Italy, Spain, Romania!, UK, a few UAEs, but nothing quite as epic as China.  Except for Saudi Arabia, which is a regular attendee and has a nice display.
  • BookCon Sunday seemed rather sedate.  Saturday, all of the ticketed events rapidly “sold out”.  Sunday, there were wristbands available for most of those panels.
  • Had BookCon not been held, the Big Five publishers would not have had a major presence on the show floor.  A few years ago, they were all in Hall 1-A, which were appointment-only meeting rooms. Those still exist at this show, but they were converted to event spaces during BookCon.  One year, Random House’s entire presence on the show floor was a simple singing booth. A few desks, the schedule, that was it.
  • Subtract China, subtract the big publisher exhibits, subtract the event stages and the food vendors, and the entire show COULD fit in the basement of Halls 1-ABC.  Or the North Pavilion.
  • Some major publishers did not attend.  I noticed Taschen’s absence, which usually has a large display.
  • There needs to be a centralized calendar for signing and events. Many publishers do not promote their booth signings online (either via the BEA website, or their own PR). I’d like to see a BEA blog just to promote the signings (and book giveaways).  Also, how hard is it for a publisher to send a calendar file to Reed? Or to log into their exhibitor account and add the dates and times?
  • The Big Five publishers (the conglomerates) can’t really display titles, since there isn’t enough space.  (They will find space, at the American Library Association conference at the end of this month.)  Everything is monitor displays with covers on rotation, and periodic author signings and book giveaways. Unless a client publisher had a nearby booth (such as National Geographic), those clients didn’t get any consideration from the distributing publisher.
  • I’d like to see the Big Five decentralize their displays.  Instead of the big tent model, why not follow Consortium’s lead and have each imprint or house in a booth? Have a meeting space nearby for talks, but create a “land” of related clients.  Consider Penguin Random House: Penguin has about 20 imprints. Crown has 22 imprints.  Knopf, about 8 (but major imprints). Random House Publishing…about 15.  Plus Random House Kids, and 38 client publishers. 100+ booths.  Probably 30,000 square feet of space would feature everything, and create a lot of excitement and buzz!
  • DC, Archie, Kodansha, Titan, Dark Horse, Legendary, Vertical (all distributed via Penguin Random House) should sponsor a joint comics booth, similar to what Diamond offers to their clients.  They DEFINITELY should host events, and this year was a wasted opportunity by DC to launch their “DC You” branding to a diverse audience (We Need Diverse Books…). Were any of the DC book execs here this year? Did they see (and hear) the crowds of teen girls? Random promoted the “Lois Lane” YA novel, while Marvel has a winner with the Black Widow novel. (That panel was packed!)
  • Next year, BookExpo and BookCon will be in Chicago, which might increase attendance, as it’s not too far from New York City, and regional attendees will bolster attendance. After that? Who knows? If ReedPOP promotes the show effectively, we could see major crowds at BookCon Chicago.
  • I haven’t had a chance to scan Google News and social media regarding BookCon. That will determine if it becomes a big event.
  • Chicago will offer three days of BookExpo, and ONE day of BookCon, May 11-14, 2016. Located in the West Hall of McCormick Place, half of the space will be reserved for BookCon. (For those who are curious, the Microsoft Ignite event will overlap on the calendar, taking over the rest of the convention center.) (And no dates yet for C2E2.)
  • Reed Exhibitions has already run their draw for 2016.  You can view the current map here.  Lots of space left! (The turquoise squares below.  $5000 for a 10’x10′ booth.BEA 2016 initial map
  • Did any of our readers attend?  Would you attend?

4 COMMENTS

  1. Very interesting stuff. I’m very fascinated by this whole Book-Expo-trade-show-and-Book-Con-fan-festival endeavor, so thanks for this analysis:

    A few thoughts or follow-up questions:

    “Had BookCon not been held, the Big Five publishers would not have had a major presence on the show floor.”

    Is this a confirmed truth–as in, actual statements from these “Big Five publishers” to the effect that “if BookCon did not exist, I would have reduced my show presence with a smaller booth, fewer staff, etc.?”–or is this an educated guess based on prior observation and experience? If the former, that would seem to be another big deal validation for BookCon, another measure of its success.

    “Next year, BookExpo and BookCon will be in Chicago, which might increase attendance, as it’s not too far from New York City, and regional attendees will bolster attendance.”

    Is a Chicago vs. New York location that much more likely to be an attendance booster? Point taken about that site being more convenient to Midwest regional attendees, but there is surely a set of Northeastern regional attendees who might not make the trip. Perhaps more impactful, I imagine some of these New York based big publishers might at least consider reducing the scope of their participation if only to be able to send fewer staff, and that’s gotta have some impacts to attendance. Anyway, didn’t Book Expo used to exhibit in Chicago for a while before it alighted in New York for these past years? Is there any historical trend on Chicago-vs.-anywhere-else attendance or exhibitor data that might make for interesting predictions for next year? (Taking into account the general ebbs and flows of any industry, separate from trade show geography, that might also be at place, of course…)

  2. Hi, Tommy!
    Regarding an actual statement? Nope, nothing official or publicly known. It’s all based on observation.
    2011 had the meeting rooms on the show floor.
    https://www.comicsbeat.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/BEA-20111.jpg
    2010 was when the meeting rooms were downstairs in 1-A and the smaller panel rooms.
    http://www.thebookseller.com/blogs/robust-bea-hums-after-mid-week-move
    2012 was the first “power reader” initiative.
    2013 it ramped up a bit, 2014 was the first Book Con.

    As for Chicago… it’s a direct flight from NYC. 2.5 hours.
    As for reluctance of publishers travelling… There is none.
    They do it (at least) twice a year for the American Library Association conferences, held in Chicago and elsewhere. (Consider also specialized library and educational conferences, as well as regional book festivals.)
    Here is the historical data for the annual (big) conference:
    http://www.ala.org/conferencesevents/past/pastannualconferences
    Note that there hasn’t been a show in NYC since 1996.
    Eastern seaboard, Chicago, San Francisco have the best attendance.

  3. Via http://www.exhibitionaudits.org, I found some audited data.
    2014 18702 NYC
    2013 19132
    2012 19960
    2011 19950
    2010 21028
    2009 18042 NYC (through 2015)
    2008 17851 L.A.
    2007 29045 NYC
    2006 23555 DC
    2005 28953 NYC

    2004 Chicago
    2003 LA
    2002 NYC
    2001 Chicago
    2000 Chicago
    1999 LA

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