My first BookExpo America happened this past Friday, May 29, and they are moving it to Chicago next year! So, this might be my one and only BEA.
My first impression upon approaching the Javits Center was, “This is no where near overwhelming as so many people had told me.” (My experience with Javits is mostly ComicCon with 151,000 unique attendees in 2014; BEA had about 11,000 last year.)
Around 9:15 a.m, I entered the building:
The exhibits floor was actually not that empty and by 9:30, there were definitely a lot of people excited about meeting authors and getting their books signed. Long lines for John Grisham and other authors. I learned that there’s the thing called “the Galley Drop:” You stand in line for a specific ARC give-away at a certain hour. Brian Selznick’s Marvels had more than one galley drop times!
Of course, the Expo is not really for “common book fans.” It’s where a lot of business meetings were taking place amongst industry professionals and deals got made. I acted as a fan briefly but devoted most of my day scouting possibilities and finding ways to bridge the Chinese and American children’s publishing worlds.
It was definitely thrilling to meet Marie Lu and to tell her how much my students and I have enjoyed all her work: The Legend trilogy and the new Young Elites. So looking forward to The Rose Society this fall!
Most of my day was spent on going through the China Pavilion where this year’s Honored Guests, dozens of Chinese Publishing companies, displayed their wares and where special events featuring editors, authors, and publishers took place. The space was set up beautifully, if a bit sterile, but I imagine that most display must have felt quite impenetrable to American buyers, with little or no English explanation of what they are seeing.
By sheer good luck, I discovered some middle grade titles that capture contemporary Chinese life that could be introduced to American young readers. This promising series: Colourful Ravens: Original Stories in Chinese, features fiction around 120 to 145 pages long, with colorful illustrations and high production value, is from the 21st Century Publishing House. I talked to the editor of the series and the company’s Rights manager and can’t wait to read through their entire output this summer!
Another memorable event was the dialog between two young writers, Xu Ze Chen, author of Running Through Beijing and Dale Peck, author of Sprout, moderated by Eric Abrahamsen, a translator from Seattle currently living in Beijing and the publisher of Paper-Republic.org (website and print magazine for translators of Chinese literature.) The audience who were not fluent in both languages were given headsets, tuned to the correct language channel, and two interpreters simultaneously provided accurate translation for the audience AND for the two authors. This allowed for the two of them to have a completely seamless and meaningful conversation mostly about contemporary Beijing, generational gap, writing for a perceived audience, and the time-sink that is self-promotion, etc. even with the language barrier. It’s a beautiful thing to behold!
I also attended an off-site meeting with a newly established Children’s Publisher in China and will report when there are concrete things to cover.
Overall, a superbly productive day!