Book Expo America = Both Exhausting & Amazing!

I spent most of the past week at Book Expo America in New York City, and I’m still coming down from the high. Or is it resting up? Let’s say it’s a combination of the two.

I took the train to New York on Monday, getting into town in plenty of time to freshen up at my hotel, the Kimberly in midtown Manhattan. I’d stayed there twice before with Steve and the girls, and knew it was awesome. A nifty thing happened when I was checking in. A bobby walked by. You know, the British cop with the hat. He was followed by more British police officers. The desk clerk told me that not only were they really British, but they were from Scotland Yard! Can you be any safer than in a hotel filled with Scotland Yard officers?

The freshening up was so I could meet  Claudia, one of my husband’s colleagues in the NY office. We’d never met, but had exchanged e-mail about my BFF Charlaine Harris’s books, and I knew the office was near my hotel, so I’d asked if she wanted to get together for drinks. She did, and we had  great time that turned into dinner. Isn’t it great to meet somebody new and really get along with her? It was a lovely evening.

The next day was busy busy busy. I met Jodi Rosoff, the Ace Books publicist, downstairs at the Kimberly, and we were picked up by a car service car driven by the charming José. Then we headed for Charlaine’s hotel to get her on our way to the enormous Javits Center, where BEA was being held. As soon as we stepped inside the door, it was immediate sensory overload but in the best way possible. Picture an enormous hall filled with publisher booths and books on display and writers and people who love books as much as you do. It was just awesome!

We found the Mystery Writers of America booth, where Charlaine and I were scheduled to sign, then wandered around for an hour or so admiring forthcoming books and picking up swag. (I did try to control myself, honest! I only brought home three tote bags, about a dozen books, about the same number of comic books, some bookmarks and catalogs, and one pen. And the pen was a Rick Riordan pen for Valerie.) Then it was back to the MWA booth for Charlaine and me to sign copies of Wolfsbane and Mistletoe. I pause here for a moment to appreciate the unflagging energy of Margery Flax, who keeps the MWA running.

It was really gratifying to see the line of people wanting books. Now you’d think that getting a line for free books is no big deal, but there are so many authors at BEA and so many free books that it really is an accomplishment. We gave out 50 copies, and still ran out out of books before we ran out of people.

I can’t remember all the people we saw, but I know the list includes our agent Joshua Bilmes; writers Seanan McGuire (who gave us her new book), Darrell James (who gave me his new book), Ken Isaacson of the MWA board, and Sophie Littlefield; editors Ben LeRoy of Tyrus Books and Claire Eddy of Tor; and a quick glimpse of Temple Grandin.

Jodi, Charlaine, and I next headed off for an interview Charlaine was videotaping with Rome Quezada of the Science Fiction Book Club. The interview was at the Standard, an astoundingly trendy hotel in the Meatpacking District. How trendy? It has a bathtub right next to a full-length window, and that was in the bedroom. I particularly enjoyed the video installation in the elevator.

Next it was lunch at Dos Caminas, which serves the strongest strawberry margarita I’ve ever had. Well, I had half of. I had to give up in order to be sure I’d was able to walk afterward. I wanted to walk, because we headed back to the Javits to wander, admire books, and people watch. Among other encounters, Charlaine and I introduced ourselves to John Grace, who edits the audio editions of our anthologies for Brilliance Audio.

Finally our feet gave out, and we relaxed and gossiped…  I mean talked shop at Charlaine’s hotel until time to head for dinner with our editor Ginjer Buchanan at L’Ecole, which is the restaurant of the French Culinary Institute. May I say “YUM!”

We were still filled with energy, so changed into our clubbing clothes and hit a couple of the hotter dance spots in town. No, just kidding. I was worn slap out and was happy to be dropped off at the Kimberly to collapse.

The next morning Charlaine was one of the three honorees at a BEA breakfast, so I headed off to wander on my own, and ran into Seanan McGuire almost immediately. We joined forces to swag hunt…  I mean to explore the displays of forthcoming books. I understand there were plenty of show biz celebrities around–Jimmy Fallon, Kevin Sorbo, Diane Keaton, John Lithgow–but I managed to miss them all.

One speaker I did catch was Bill Willingham, who writes Fables, which is one of my favorite comics of all time. (You haven’t read it? Why not? It’s available in graphic novel format, so go get some.) He was talking mostly about his young adult novel Down the Mysterly River, which sounds like great fun. I’d hoped to get a copy during his signing a little later, but the line was as long as the Mysterly River, so I decided I would get one later on.

There were less formal encounters with Carrie Vaughn who I’d only met via e-mail, Harlan Coben who I’ve known for years, and Paula Munier who is actually from around here.

I know I didn’t see all there was to see, but I had enjoyed as much as I could stand, so I bid a fond farewell to the festivities and caught a cab to Bryant Park, where Charlaine was scheduled to be interviewed at the Reader’s Room. I’ll be honest here–Charlaine was only part of the draw. Oh, she’s a terrific speaker, but I have heard her before. What I was more interested in was hearing Melissa Marr doing the interviewing. Melissa is like Carrie, an anthology contributor I’d only “met” via e-mail, and I was looking forward to seeing her in person. That made the event a double treat, especially since she did a terrific interview. The gorgeous weather, the friendly Charlaine fans like Beth and Chris, and my new friend Claudia coming made it all just perfect.

After Charlaine signed a slew of books, and I got one signed by Melissa, Charlaine and I gave up on book stuff for a while and went shopping at Bloomingdales. Whee! It was great fun, even if we didn’t find the perfect necklace we were hunting for. We split up after that, with Charlaine going to get ready for a cocktail party hosted by People magazine and I was off to meet somebody else new.

A while back, I signed a TV option contract for the “Where are they now?” books with Rosalie Muskatt of Inwood Productions. Everybody knows how rarely these things come off–there’s so much good material floating around that the chances of any one project making it to fruition are microscopic. Still, having somebody intrigued enough by my work to want to make it into a series is pretty darned cool.

Rosalie is based in New York, and this was my first time to meet her. Even though I’d initiated the dinner meeting, I was a little nervous about it. I needn’t have been. She was charming and interesting and wonderfully enthusiastic. Now I really hope the project makes it because I’d love to see what Rosalie’s vision of Tilda would be.

After that, all that was left was to pack up and collapse again. The next morning I got up and headed back for Penn Station to take the train back home. (In Curse of the Kissing Cousins, Tilda takes the train to NYC, saying it’s the only civilized way to make the trip. I think she’s right.)

In looking at all I did and saw, I have a hard time believing I was only gone for four days. My head is still whirling. I keep thinking I should have some profound conclusions about where the industry is going, but I’m afraid I don’t. I just have a few observations:

  • Young adult books are still hot. I suppose that’s no surprise, given the success of the Rick Riordan books, the Harry Potter books, Twilight and its sequels, and the Hunger Games series. There seems to be plenty of excitement for Bill Willingham, too, given the length of his signing line.
  • Paranormal books are also still hot. That’s also not a surprise, given that Charlaine’s new book Dead Reckoning has been #1 on the New York Times best seller list for three weeks. But she’s got plenty of company: Melissa Marr, for one, whose first adult novel is out now.
  • There’s a lot of interest and activity in e-publishing, as I think everybody in the field realizes. Amazon’s foray into publishing their own books was much talked about. Nobody is quite sure how things are going to shake out in terms of the ratio of paper books to electronic books, but the feeling seems to be that there are a lot of opportunities for a lot of people.
  • Despite the talk of e-publishing, there are still plenty of paper publishers out there. There are the Big Six, of course, but some really excellent smaller publishers. In mystery alone, there’s Midnight Ink and Akashic among others.
  • Despite the truism that writing is a solitary occupation, it’s fascinating to see how many people are devoted to getting books to readers: agents, editors, publicists, cover artists, book designers, proof readers, marketing people, booksellers, librarians, readers for audio books, artists for comic books, and more.
So that’s my trip to BEA–it was exhausting and exhilarating all at once. There’s one last thing I came away with: I love being a part of the publishing world!
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8 Responses to Book Expo America = Both Exhausting & Amazing!

  1. My Journal says:

    Good influences. : )

  2. Ken Isaacson says:

    Toni,

    Great seeing you at BEA. Thanks for the appearance at the MWA booth. You and Charlaine helped get the show off to a terrific start!

  3. Lindsey Yadon says:

    Hi Toni,

    I’ve been watching some of this year’s BEA events on
    C-SPAN2 over the past couple of days … looks like a
    lot of fun! I don’t suppose they filmed any sessions
    where you or Charlaine were present? 🙂

    Lindsey

    • Toni Kelner says:

      Lindsey,

      It was a lot of fun–everybody was so enthused about books, which is wonderful to see.

      I think Charlaine’s breakfast was filmed, and her interviews with the Wall Street Journal and the Science Fiction Book Club definitely were. For the two of us signing, I think the best you’d find are photos.

      Toni

  4. Maria Lima says:

    I loved participating in BEA when it was in DC (once). So many books!! So many book people!! I hope to get there again one day. NY isn’t so far away. 🙂

    Glad you had a good time!
    – Maria

  5. Coco Ihle says:

    Toni, it was great reading about BEA. My agent, Dawn Dowdle, was there, too, and both your experiences and hers were fascinating to hear about. Thanks for sharing. Hope to see you at Bouchercon.

  6. Brenda says:

    Toni,

    Thanks for your fun and interesting description.

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