BookExpo America (BEA) is the largest annual book trade book fair in the United States. It’s an opportunity for publishers to showcase upcoming books. Originally when the book fair started out in 1947, it was named the American Bookseller Association Convention and Trade Show. In 1994, it became BEA. In the early 2000s, I attended my first BEA event.
As a new acquisitions editor at a publishing company back in Minnesota, I was almost giddy when I got the invitation to not only attend the event and all the seminars included, but work in our booth too. Because of the large amount of books I received, I had to go to the post office and mail 54 pounds of books to my home address. You see, publishers eager to get the buzz going about their newest published books or upcoming titles, have book signings with authors who would either sign an advance reading copy (a galley of the book) or a copy of the actual book if already published. Not only did I have an opportunity to meet the author in person, I received a free copy of the book too. For a book lover like me, I was in pure heaven!
One of the highlights of the event was when I noted Richard Simmons (the fitness guru in the 1980’s who was famous for his Sweatin’ with the Oldies workouts) was going to be signing a copy of his newest book. I told my marketing director, Claire, I’d need to leave the booth in the middle of my shift in order to attend the book signing. She was humored by my fascination with the fitness guru with the tank top and short shorts. As we were setting up our booth, lots of people were walking by. As I was on the floor opening boxes of books, I heard my name. It was Claire saying, “Richard, there’s someone I’d like you to meet. Her name is Corrine.” I looked up and there he was…Richard Simmons in the flesh. I stood up to shake his hand. He gently took my hand and placed it up to his lips and kissed it and said this, “Corrine, your name should be Dream.” From then on, everyone at work referred to me as Dream Corrine.
Although I haven’t attended BEA in over a decade, I’ve kept tabs on the event and noticed some significant changes. For example, back when I attended BEA, I went to a seminar on e-books. There was only one e-reader available and it was incredibly clunky, heavy and it was difficult reading the screen. Pretty much the consensus was this isn’t going to catch on anytime soon. Also, back in the early 2000’s, self-publishing wasn’t talked about much. However, Stephen King, published his first self published book, The Plant, on the Internet in 2000 and cautioned that self-publishing would be one of the biggest nightmares for publishers.
Today’s BEA is much different than the BEA of the past that focused so much on traditional book publishers. In fact, self-publishing is taking center stage with events such as uPublishU where industry experts share how to bring your first book to market, engage readers and advance your publishing efforts and provide new opportunities to reach readers. There’s also an author marketplace where self-published authors can display and market their books.
I can’t wait to attend BEA next year where it will be held in New York City at the Javits Center on May 27-29, 2020. You never know who you will meet. Another Richard Simmons sighting? I can only dream about that.
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