Updated: Oct 24, 2019
As a publishing student, one of the first things you realize is that industry events are some of the best ways to promote books. And BookExpo and BookCon are probably the most important events for the publishing world in the U.S.
Both of these events take place every year in New York City at the Javits Center. Typically, BookExpo starts at the end of May and is usually three days long (Wednesday, Thursday, Friday). Then, BookCon follows thereafter and is two days long (Saturday, Sunday). The main difference between these two events is who can attend them. BookExpo is meant for people who work in the publishing industry, which is why the event's tagline is "the business of book culture" since the event is really all business. BookCon on the other hand is a public event (anyone can attend) and is meant to be "a celebration of storytelling," meaning it focuses on bringing readers, authors, and publishers together through the thing they all love most - books.
Fortunately, I was able to attend both BookExpo and BookCon last year in 2018, so I wanted to post about my experience since both events are quickly approaching this year. Overall, attending BookExpo and BookCon was a wonderful experience. There were so many different takeaways from each event that I want to talk about them separately.
BookExpo was such a great opportunity for me because it was the first time where I was able to interact with the business I want to work in. The first panel I went to was the CEO of Barnes & Noble briefing everyone on the state of the industry and future trajectories. This was the opening keynote, and it was a great topic to begin the event because it had everyone thinking about why we were there.
After that, I walked the show floor, which was booth upon booth of publishers from all aspects of the publishing world - academic publishers, religious publishers, foreign publishers, and of course, the Big 5 publishers (Hachette Book Group, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin Random House, and Simon & Schuster).
Among the booths, there were also vendors for various publishing services. IngramSpark, a self-publishing service offered through Ingram, was one of those vendors. I was able to sit down with one of their employees and she taught me how to use their tool called Book Builder. After BookExpo, I was able to reconnect with her in Colorado, since that is where she is from, and I helped her beta test Book Builder to gave her feedback about its features. This is one example of how BookExpo is a great networking opportunity since she is now a professional connection I remain in contact with.
I also attended a lot of panels that all pertained to different aspects of the publishing industry. I went to a marketing panel, an editor's buzz panel where they discussed upcoming book releases, a young adult author panel, a panel about cookbooks, the list goes on and on. Since this was my first time there, I wanted to learn about everything and anything I could, so I tried to vary the talks I went to. Besides the panels, I also was able to meet authors and get my books signed. I met Tomi Adeyemi, Anna Godbersen, and Rena Rossner.
My favorite part about BookExpo were the author breakfasts. These were add-on events, which attendees have to pay for. There is an Adult Book & Author Breakfast and a Children's Book & Author Breakfast. Essentially, BookExpo organizes these breakfasts where they invite a panel of authors to speak about their upcoming books.
For the Adult Book & Author Breakfast, I saw Nick Offerman, Megan Mullally, Jill Lepore, Nicholas Sparks, Barbara Kingsolver, and Trevor Noah. For the Children's Book & Author Breakfast, I saw Jacqueline Woodson, Dave Eggers, Yuyi Morales, Meg Medina, and Viola Davis.
Left: Adult Book & Author Breakfast • Right: Children's Book & Author Breakfast
Overall, I never thought I would have the opportunity to interact with so many people from the publishing industry, but this was the greatest part about BookExpo because it is all about engaging with others be it agents, editors, marketers, authors, publishers, and even indie publishers. BookExpo was definitely a professional development experience, one that enhanced everything I had learned in the classroom by seeing it all happen in real life.
As for BookCon, it was a completely different experience because this is essentially where all the readers showed up. In a sense, it's similar to Comic Con in a way because book fans amassed in the thousands to meet their favorite authors, hear these authors speak, get their books signed, and buy books and other fun merchandise.
Many of the exhibitors at BookExpo stay for BookCon as well, but the overall atmosphere was different. BookCon is all about the fun and joy of reading. I could feel the fan energy throughout the entire Javits Center. That's not to say that BookExpo isn't fun or joyous, rather the main purpose of that event is business, and business is definitely what gets accomplished, whereas BookCon is a time to celebrate.
BookCon attendees waiting in line for the event to begin.
The biggest thing I did at BookCon was meet my favorite authors and get my books signed. I met Victoria Aveyard, Deborah Harkness, and Marie Lu. Most autographing sessions have long wait lines, so much of my time at the event was taken up by this, but it was still fun because you get to meet other book lovers while you wait.
I also was able to attend some panels. One in particular that was really interesting was about the Wattpad4 who are six female authors that write on an online writing platform called Wattpad. Many of their stories on Wattpad were published into actual books, and it was great to hear them all talk about their publishing journeys.
All in all, these were a few brief glimpses into my time at BookExpo and BookCon last year. The biggest takeaway from these events is that publishing is all about learning. In fact, publishing is a continuous learning process. As both a future publishing professional and an author, I always learn something new every day that pertains to the industry, and these events just magnify that on a larger scale.
If you're someone who works in publishing, BookExpo is an event you should consider attending if you can because you gain insights and knowledge and make great connections. If you're not someone who works in publishing but loves books, than you should consider going to BookCon if you can.
From what I can tell, BookExpo and BookCon have rebranded and are offering some new things for 2019. One of those things is called UnBound, which is a marketplace of special exhibitors that are selling bookish items at both events. If you're there, be sure to check that out. I won't be going this year, but I hope to return soon (maybe 2020).
Here are the 2019 dates for these events: