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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Book Expo America 2011: A First Look

Me and Lev sign books
As I entered the Jacob Javits center in New York, I was amazed at how much BEA reminded me of the NY Comic Con. The layout of the aisles, the artfully designed booths, the frenetic buzz of conversations in the air, and the excitement of acquiring good swag and a free bag to put it in. Fans flowed into the hall, hopeful to get an autograph or two from their favorite writers. On closer inspection, the differences between the two events are obvious; this is a calmer, more cerebral crowd. Teachers, librarians, and book sellers have replaced the gamers, fan boys, Hollywood pitchmen, costumed teens, and just plain bizarre attention getters that I had normally come to associate with conventions at this center.
Lev (left), Edward (right)

The walk to Javits from Eighth Ave. was long and hot. There are no subways near the center. I was there to promote my first novel, AWAKENINGS. Alexis, my Tor Books publicist, met me in the lobby with a big smile and ushered me to the air-conditioned green room where I could rehydrate and crash on a couch before meeting the faithful throngs. My first thought was, would there even be throngs? Throngs had to be earned through blood sweat and tears. Why would anybody want my autograph? The book hasn’t come out yet -- no one has read it, no one’s reviewed it. Fellow author, Lev AC Rosen, who was promoting the steam punk thriller All Men of Genius, at least had a well formulated plan to start singing “Ain’t There Anyone Here for Lev” (A play on words of an old Jane Russell scene in “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes”) if our line was empty. I, on the other hand, had no plan action – no song from an old musical to while away my lonely blues. I was woefully unprepared.
Photos courtesy of Lev AC Rosen

Stocked up on sharpie pens, Alexis and Cassie ushered us behind the curtain to row 12 of the autograph line. Boxes of our novels were stacked and ready to distribute. Much to Lev’s and my surprise, there was indeed a long row of teachers and librarians (and a few plain-ole-vanilla fantasy fans) excited to get signed copies of our books. One woman said she had been waiting to get my book and it was the highlight of her trip. I asked her “why” since the book hadn’t even been reviewed yet -- she said it was strictly based on the description of the story. (I’m glad Paul and I came up with a stylish, but accurate, description of what was going on in the book.) Some were bloggers, who introduced themselves to us: Angela Leonard from Dark Faerie Tales, Tania from Literary Cravings and a few others (who did not hand me their business cards).

I only recently learned how important it was to interact with the fan-based community. In ye olden days (anytime before 1995) an author could just sit in his or her cave writing stories. Today, you need to be on Twitter collecting followers. You need a Website and a Facebook presence. You need a blog. You need to follow blogs and join fan communities and other groups. This is all great stuff, and no doubt, I could have a lot of fun with it, except, I have a day job in addition to trying to make my deadline on book two. Where was the time going to come from for a whole third job?

But I digress. The day was a huge success for both Lev and myself. We went through three boxes of Advanced Reader Copies (ARCs) and finished the signing 20 minutes early (because we ran out of books). I had some time before meeting my editor for lunch. I walked around and soaked in the energy and excitement of the expo. New stories were being shilled at every booth. Which would be the next Harry Potter, the next DaVinci Code?

My editor and I had lunch at a very pleasant Greek restaurant called Periyali on 20th Street, with mystery writer extraordinaire Hilary Davidson, author of The Damage Done, It's hard to describe Hilary because of the sheer shortage of words in the English vocabulary that mean superfantasticawesomealicious. She's a generous cornucopia of knowledge about how to promote your novel.

It was a trans-formative experience for me, but I was not the only one in transition that day. After lunch, I continued libations at two New York watering holes to bid fond farewell to two friends who were leaving New York to pursue new opportunities out west. They were happy for me as I was for them. My first BEA, an unqualified success, had come to an end. Can't wait for 2012.
Oh Yeah... and buy AWAKENINGS, available September 2011.


  1. I'm so happy you had a great time and it was great to meet you. Keep up the blogging and tweeting! : )