Sunday, 1 June 2014

Book Expo America 2014: The Reaction Post

I'll be posting some recaps later because a LOT happened and I'm not going to put you through some gigantic post right away. So, this is just because I had some feelings.

Blogger Con

This year, BEA refused to sell 3 day passes for some reason that made sense only to them and the cheapest ticket option was to get the Blogger Con pass. I bought it with no intention of going, but I had some friends doing panels and I was intrigued and wanted to pick up my badge before getting somewhere at 1 anyway. 

Maureen Johnson gave the keynote speech, so that was amazing as could be expected. She covered a lot of topics and told a lot of great stories and shared pictures of her dog. It was awesome and I laughed a lot.

The first and only panel I went to was a 101 Blog Design panel (because I'm hopeless at design, some friends wanted to go, and my friend was on the panel). I think having these two different sets were great and it was pretty informative. I knew more than I thought I did, but it was a good set up. It seemed that the morning sessions were great and well set up and the afternoon sessions...were problematic. But I wasn't there so *shrug*

BEA:

For about as long as I've been in the blogging community, I've heard about bad blogging behavior. I never doubted it existed, but I always figured it wasn't just bloggers. I didn't see anything last year or hear any horrendous stories, so I hoped maybe things were exaggerated. Or maybe those people were no longer around.

Wrong.

However, I was right in thinking it wasn't just bloggers.

The first public BEA event I went to was the YA Buzz Panel. I showed up late, but a lovely friend saved me a seat in the very front. When the panel ended and all the books talked about were set out on a table across the room, I watched grown adults run across the room to get books. Literally, RUN ACROSS THE ROOM. It was like watching some kind of feeding frenzy among starving animals. The table was mobbed, at least three people deep, as long as I was in the room. People acting as if these books would never be available during the conference, or even - dare I say - on their release dates. Librarians, teachers, bloggers, booksellers, authors - genuinely, I have NO idea who comprised that mob but it was terrifying for me. I only wanted 3 of the books, having owned one and not wanting a sequel. I was able to grab the first okay, but after that, I had to instruct people to pass books back because nobody could get away from the table and therefore nobody could get toward the table. It was hard to believe I was surrounded by adults who would act this fanatic and not think through things they could do to make it easier. I practically ran out of the room and was kind of in shock for the rest of the day.

The next morning, I had an early signing. I was less excited about getting the book and more excited about seeing my friends, honestly. I got on the line at 9:10 and the line continued filling in. After a few minutes, three women walked over to join the two in front of me. I was having none of it and made it clear by my actions that I was not allowing this. Then we were moved over to the barrier-ed official autographing area and were at the very end, which was roped off. Then a fourth woman came around the barrier, apparently also part of this group. I spent the next 15 minutes listening to these women ask each other what books they had gotten in the 20 minutes before they got on the line and the response being they weren't actually sure, even when asked the title. They had duplicates amongst themselves, but immediately knew who they were passing it on to. They talked about trying to get an extra ARC or two from the signing line we were in for friends not there. They talked about spreadsheets and getting all their information from an official BEA employee. 

The women came to accept I wasn't budging and allowing them together, but as we moved forward, began commenting on how they act when they're alone in a signing line like I was. And while it was a relatively safe environment, I'm generally not a fan of people I don't know pointing out that I'm alone for some crazy reason.

Having spent 40 minutes surrounded by this by time I got off the line, I felt kinda gross. This actually HAPPENS at BEA. People blindly grab every ARC they see. They try to get duplicates on SIGNING LINES that people line up for way in advance so they can meet the authors as well. They do everything in their power to get as many books as possible, what the book's about be damned. And now I was seeing it everywhere. People grabbing books they knew nothing about because it was there. Bloggers, librarians, teachers. 

I'm ALL FOR learning about books at a conference and becoming interested. That happened to me several times! But I never grabbed a book just to grab it. I got a sense of what it was about, or remembered it was one I was intrigued by, but hadn't thought about when putting together my plans. Sometimes, if it was quiet enough, a publicist talked about a book to me. I'm genuinely excited about every book in my pile, to the point where I'm not even sure where to begin. And the idea that people, especially those who are clearly experienced at being at BEA, wouldn't even think of doing that, baffles me. 

On the flipside, this year I got to see more bloggers and publicists and authors than ever before. I grabbed more books than I thought I'd actually be able to, but I still had several 30+ minute conversations with publicists and chatted with authors. I met several bloggers I'd been hoping to meet. I took some selfies with friends (all on their phones, sadly). I had a lot of instances of someone else recognizing me first and approaching me which was equal parts wonderful, incredible, and a little bit terrifying (Not because I don't like people/don't want people knowing who I am. I just go on the assumption that most people don't care/can't tell based on photos). It was a pretty social con for me, which is what I always hope for. 

So while general behavior wise, this year was MUCH worse than what I saw last year, I still enjoyed this year more overall. 

BookCon:

This was a clusterfuck.

I wasn't supposed to bold that sentence, but when I saw I hadn't clicked the un-bold properly, I decided to roll with it. Because it deserves to be said.

I started my morning in a breakfast, then went straight to the #WeNeedDiverseBooks panel. We got there just before it started and then I got a little lost trying to find it, so when I got to the door, they were turning people away. Fortunately, the lady saw me waving to catch someone's attention and let me in, where I then sat on the floor. I saw a couple of others sneak in after the panel started when they must've stopped policing.

It was an incredible panel. Awesome and inspiring and I teared up a lot. Everyone on that panel and in that room was so passionate about this cause. The question session was mostly taken up by people who wanted to thank those on the panel. I loved it so.

I got in a quick hello to some panelists I knew, then had to flee quickly as they were mobbed with people. I was thinking I'd escape upstairs to this one signing in the autographing area, then see if I could hop on a couple others' I knew were happening at the same time.

It. Was. A. Mess.

I walked in and within feet met this wall of people. There were thousands of BookCon goers shoved into less than 1/3 of the Javitz exhibit space. For those who haven't been, the Javitz has three exhibit floors. One hall that's really detached and not used at BEA, the main and biggest floor, then this extra, smaller floor area that kind of feels like later addition. This smaller space is where they shoved 9,000 Book Con members, many publishing employees, and BEA goers who wanted to have a normal extra BEA day.

They had in-booth signings and these booths were where the BEA staff had been lining up people for autographing tables, so now there was lines on each sides to get to booths, lines on each side for autographing tables, and a small sliver for people trying to walk. I tried weaving through aisles that ultimately took me to this solid block of people in line for Libba Bray.

I fled for the safety of the BEA side after getting through my signing. I knew the publicist working it and nearly asked her if she would let me flee through the curtains behind the autographing table and around. Later, I heard people were getting punched, elbowed, and scratched in the face in some lines. I didn't go back until around 1:30, at which point it seemed a majority of people had gone to wait for/attend panels downstairs or left all together. It was still kind of terrifying, but manageable.

But I heard horror stories, besides the mob I witnessed. More stories of people grabbing anything, the violence, security being called for line management, confusion over ticketed signings, some signings becoming ticketed later on, EMTs blocking off areas. And there was no reason for it. Power Readers last year, which was basically BEA, was perfectly fine. The floor was a little more crowded, but since everyone could access almost everything, it was spread out and not that different. There was NO reason for this horrific chance. You cannot force 4 times the amount of people into 1/3 the space and assume things will be fine. That's such bullshit and I'm angry on behalf of those who bought these passes and on the behalf of myself and other BEA attendees who basically couldn't do anything, even though BEA is a trade show and many people paid a LOT more than $30 to only really experience 2 days (or 3 if they made Blogger Con/the Wednesday business stuff). And knowing they may want to expand it next year makes me terrified.

BookCon was a failure and let nobody tell you otherwise.


So. It was a pretty mixed bag for me. BookCon nearly destroyed all the enjoyment I had for BEA itself, but I'm recovering and trying to remember the good. And there was a lot of it that I'll talk about in my recap post. Basically, this BEA was more like what I'd always hoped for, but the surrounding events weren't as great.

--Julie

5 comments:

  1. I'm with you on Book Con. Not sure who thought you could jam 9000 plus people (and some BEA attendees ) in a 3rd of Javits Center. If Book Con happens again next year I'll stick to Thursday or Friday for BEA. I'm all for allowing the public in and letting them experience the similar things BEA attendees do, but you have to limit the # of people allowed in. This was Comic Con crowd #s in less space. There must have been a lot of disappointed people. If I was an author in the autograph area I would have been worried. Plus there were kids there who must have been feeling like a boat in the rapids as people tried to make their way around. I was glad I could go to the other areas of BEA but I was glad to finally leave by 1pm. Tim

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  2. That sounds insane. I have never been to BEA or anything similar, but stories like this are what scare the everloving crap out of me and keep me from having the courage to try to attend.

    Lisa @Just Another Rabid Reader

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  3. I keep reading the same reports of BookCon. I really wanted to go this year, but there is a part of me that is glad I didn't since the third day sounded like a complete waste if you were on the BEA side. Those crowds to get to the autographing tables terrifies me! I watched a video on YT and it was madness! I probably would have escaped to a corner, cried, and then left.

    Angie @ Pinkindle

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  4. Great recap - I was there and bid not see the "bloggers behaving badly", but had seen in past years the grabbers and immature acting. Bummer it was that way this year as well.

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  5. I heard about the mania and rudeness that happened in previous years too, but thankfully didn't experience it this year when I was there-- almost everyone I came across was nice.

    I do agree that BookCon was an absolute insanity ground, and the third day of BEA signings were a disappointment, just because books kept running out, or signings weren't extended for the rest of the attendees standing for hours in line to meet the authors.

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