BEA 2016: What the Heck Is This?

May 18, 2016 Author Events, BEA 2016 34

Happy Wednesday Bookworms!

One week ago today I was a bundle of butterflies heading off to my first BEA. In case you missed the world’s gushiest post about how cool people from the internet can be, you can check it out HERE. If you already read the schmoop and are like, “but Katie, what did you actually do?” I shall now answer all of your questions. I know what they are, because I can read your minds. If I were you I’d be making a tin foil hat about now, because if there’s one person I don’t want rooting around in my brain, it’s me. (I cannot actually read minds, thank heaven. Wouldn’t that be the worst superpower?!) What follows are the whats and wherefores regarding what actually happens at BEA.

Expo Wandering: Alright, you guys. The majority of BEA is a ginormous expo floor. All the major publishers in the land along with lots and lots of cool less giant publishers have booths showcasing their wares. All the wares are books and book related products. Are you hearing the choir of angels yet? Since BEA is a trade show, most of the publishers are looking to drum up business with influential folks like booksellers and librarians and important Bookternet people. (Luckily “importance” is difficult to quantify when it comes to the internet, so occasionally stooges like me are allowed in. Insert maniacal laugh.) Thus, they give out a lot of free samples in the form of ARCs. ARCs (pronounced like Noah’s Ark, not like the acronym A-R-C, a thing I learned whilst at BEA… I wonder how many times I said that to people?) are early proofs of upcoming books. That’s right. Free Books. It is effing magical. Bloggers tend to get kind of a bad rep for being grabby and entitled when it comes to ARCs, but I assure you, I conducted myself with the utmost professionalism. If squeals of delight and unabashed enthusiasm can be considered professional.

Photo Courtesy of Florinda of 3 R's Blog

Photo Courtesy of Florinda Pendley Vasquez of The 3 R’s Blog (Thank you for giving me permission to use your photo! I got a lot of pics of feet and carpet!)

Panels: As cool as the expo floor is, my inner introvert got overwhelmed from time to time. Sensory overload is a thing that happens. Plus, when you’re lugging a tote full of books (or half full even, seriously, three books in a bag get heavy after a while) you start to get kind of tired and sore. Which is why it’s super cool that there are panels. Because panels have chairs. Sometimes a panel is a bunch of people pitching books. Sometimes it’s a bunch of authors discussing a thing. Sometimes Robyn Carr and Susan Elizabeth Phillips tease each other about being old and banter about the ridiculous things they put their characters through. It’s a treat, I’ll tell you what.

Author Signings: If you’re someone who is extraordinarily organized like Julie from JulzReads, you’ve got a game plan and a schedule so you can get all the books signed by all the authors. If you’re someone like me, you walk past a line and tap someone on the shoulder to find out who is doing the signing. I don’t have the best history with author signings, anyway. I mean, there was that time that I scared Jo Baker back across the Atlantic and that time Danielle Fishel was probably offended to find out that people think I look a little bit like her. Stacey from Unruly Reader has serious author signing game. She had heartfelt stories for each author explaining what their work meant to her. I did things like tell Colson Whitehead that I live in Richard Pryor’s hometown. I mean, how can an author respond to that kind of a statement? WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU, KATIE? (In my defense, he did ask me where I was from and Richard Pryor was the first Peoria factoid that came to mind. Well, second, but I didn’t want to have to explain the Vaudeville joke, so.) Luckily, Jennifer Close had the good grace to compliment my penguin cardigan so I didn’t have to come up with anything to say to her, and Faith Salie neglected to point out that my blog’s title isn’t strictly a pun when I awkwardly tried to explain it. I shouldn’t be allowed out in public.

That's me with Paul and George wearing the penguin cardigan. It really is rather adorable.

That’s me with Paul and George wearing the penguin cardigan. It really is rather adorable.

Speed Dating for Book Groups: I heard about this event through that glorious Facebook group of book bloggers I mentioned in my last post, and it was so much fun. Wandering around and getting free books is great, but the pace is somewhat frantic and you don’t always have a lot of time or desire to slow down long enough to give the back of the book a good long look. The Speed Dating event was like having a friend tell you all about the cool new things they’ve been reading. I landed at a rather sedate table of mostly librarians, so they were all far more dignified than I was. Thankfully, Debra from Algonquin assured me that once one stopped caring about one’s nerdiness one becomes cool by accident. Also, Laura from St. Martin’s Press was really excited to see how jazzed I was about Lev Grossman’s new release (it’s actually a re-release of his first novel, so it’s sort of time capsule-y. Eeep!) I was pretty good about limiting the books I took throughout the conference… Until Speed Dating. Everything sounded really good, you guys!

And now you know what the deal is with BEA. And that I can’t actually read minds. And that I live in Richard Pryor’s hometown. This has been an incredibly informative post, no? Make me feel less weird. Have you ever made a fool of yourself in front of an author?

34 Responses to “BEA 2016: What the Heck Is This?”

  1. Heather

    You are too adorable for words.

    And no. I’ve only met Neil Gaiman and I couldn’t talk. I was ferklempt, which was really REALLY lucky for him. I TOUCHED HIS COAT KATIE. The man HUGGED ME. I was lost.

    • Words For Worms

      Right? Except I kind of felt like they were looking at me expectantly and I was usually following Stacey’s heartfelt stories so I was like “fill the space Katie. Say a thing. Anything.”

  2. Megan M.

    I completely freeze up when around notable people, even people I don’t personally care much about, so I’m sure I would have blurted out some very awkward things. Hearing about Colson Whitehead always makes me remember the time that the library system I worked for asked us to vote for which author we would like to have come speak, and of the choices, I voted for Colson Whitehead because he was the cutest. There is a serious shortage of male eye candy in the library system – well, mine anyway!

    I had NO IDEA it was supposed to be like “ark.” We could have been surprised and mildly embarrassed together.

  3. Shannon @ River City Reading

    I’m amazed that you can even talk to people when they’re signing your books because I mostly clam up and just smile like a fool. I got a ton of pictures of feet and random things, too! I always try to remind myself to take pictures of what is actually AROUND me, but no.

    • Words For Worms

      I mean, they just sort of look at you expectantly and I’m like “Hi, can you make it out to Katie” and then sometimes they’d ask ME something. I was at the very very end of Colson Whitehead’s line. I felt like a cheater because I got a ticket but the line was sooooo long I was like “NOPE.” But at the very end of his signing there was no more line and I still had my ticket and then… Richard Pryor.

    • Words For Worms

      It was such a great concept and it was at the end of the show. There were a couple of galleys I’d missed out on in the chaos of the floor that I was able to pick up there too, so it was extra fabulous.

  4. Leah @ Books Speak Volumes

    This post is all kinds of adorable. I’m basically incapable of saying anything more than “hi, I loved x book” when meeting authors, so I’m very proud of you for making conversation!

  5. mwgerard

    One time David Sedaris gave me a chocolate cupcake. Another time, I helped him with his laundry. True story.

    • Words For Worms

      I love David Sedaris! I have so much more personal investment in his work than any of the authors I met at BEA that I’m sure it would have been EVEN WORSE and I would have ended up in one of his essays about annoying things readers do at signings.

  6. florinda3rs

    If you want authors to talk to you at a signing, use an unusual name–a fake one if necessary (although mine is not). Almost all of them commented about mine “I’ve never heard that name before!” (and there is a VERY remote possibility that Jay McInerney might put a character named Florinda in his next novel).

    And you’re more than welcome for the photo! I went upstairs to the food court overlooking the floor and got a few decent shots from there.

    • Words For Worms

      I should totally do that! I mean, if authors can have pen names, readers can have signing names, right? I’m going to have to think on this…

      • florinda3rs

        I have a Starbucks name so I don’t have to spell mine out every time.

  7. Sarah Says Read

    I have yet to meet an author but I am positive you’re better at it than I will be. I know I won’t have anything interesting to say or ask, I just know it.

    • Words For Worms

      I bet you’d be awesome at meeting authors. You’d probably be like Stacey with insightful stories and/or witty banter. I simply cannot imagine any other version of Sarah.

  8. Catherine

    This post is hilarious and perfectly sums up how I feel around authors. I never do anything more than gush about how much I like their books, but not in any insightful way, just “I LOVE YOUR BOOKS!”

    • Words For Worms

      LOL, oh, I did plenty of that too. The thing was, most of the authors I met I’d only read one (or none) of their books so I didn’t have a full blown gush fest. If I ever met Rainbow Rowell or Diana Gabaldon or David Sedaris I’m sure I’d just stare at them way too intently…

  9. Jenny @ Reading the End

    I cannot meet authors, it is not good for me to do that. This is what I have learned. I mean, I would probably be okay meeting them in real life, but meeting them at a thing where they’re there to meet readers — no. I am too dumb, I would never say anything smart, the power imbalance is too steep, and I cannot take the pressure. I shrieked something so idiotic at Neil Gaiman that I immediately afterward gave up author signings forever.

    • Words For Worms

      I want to hear the Neil Gaiman story. Nay, I NEED to hear the Neil Gaiman story. I MUST know the “idiotic” thing you shrieked. Was it about how creepy button eyes are? Because Coraline haunts me.

  10. Rhiannon (@writerrhiannon)

    Loved this post! I was going to go to BEA this year (for my 1st time) but didn’t want to go to Chicago. I want to go to NYC! So maybe next year… Btw, I like the vaudeville Peoria factoid better than the Richard Pryor reference but even better is the fact that feminist activist Betty Friedan grew up there! I grew up in teeny tiny towns around Galesburg and thought Peoria was big city living!

    • Words For Worms

      Yes! Betty Friedan’s house is actually pretty close to mine, I drive past it every day. And Galesburg?! My college roomie and her optometrist husband just opened a practice there. The world is so very small.

    • Words For Worms

      Oh! Also! I just finished a book about Vaudeville (which I looooooooved- The Tumbling Turner Sisters? If it comes your way, snap it up!) When I write up my review my only complaint will be the lack of “Will it play in Peoria?” Reference. For heaven’s sake, the characters stop in Galesburg and Champagne, HOW did we not get a mention?!

      • writerrhiannon

        Ok. I will be on the lookout for TTTS! Tag me in your review if you tweet it so I don’t miss it. And please let me know if you see any bloggers doing giveaways for it.

  11. Kelly

    OMG that is exactly me at book signings. I’ve been to so many and I think I have yet to get through one without saying/doing something ridiculous. I see people walk up to authors and say the most insightful things and I’m like HOW? TELL ME YOUR SECRET!

    • Words For Worms

      Authors have got to be kind of used to this level of awkward, right? I mean, readers as a whole aren’t typically known for their extroversion and conversational prowess…

  12. Beth F

    I love the speed dating session! And (as my friends attest) I usually have no trouble blabbing on and on, but I often have nothing clever to say when I finally make to the front of the line for a signing.

    • Words For Worms

      Right? I’m fine with the banter in line (if I’m standing with someone I know, complete strangers I’m terrible with) but then it’s just words falling out of my face when I’m in front of an author.

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