At the end of May I had a whirlwind trip to New York. As the final part of winning Lulu’s Wrimo Accelerator competition, Kindling Ashes was featured in Lulu’s booth at Book Expo America.
I arrived on Wednesday 28th and since I didn’t have a ticket for the Thursday, spent most of the day wandering – Union Square, Chinatown, Little Italy. I’ve been to New York before so I tried to avoided too much rushing around to save energy for BEA. I did however make a point to visit the Strand – it’s a giant 2nd hand bookstore just south of Union Square. I spent a good hour in there getting lost in books, there’s some great bargains to be found as well as old books to ogle at.
I’d bought a ticket to the Children’s Author Breakfast so I turned up at the Javits Center at 8am for that on Friday. Jason Segel was predictably funny relating how he grew up with nightmares that a witch would eat his toes that inspired his debut kids’ book. It was also interesting to hear that Jeff Kinney is a computer programmer as well as author, and is opening his own indie bookstore (hello new item on bucket list).
Stepping into the exhibit hall for the first time is completely overwhelming. I just picked a direction and walked because I had no idea what else to do. There are so many stalls to look at, a whole autographing section at the back and lots of smaller stages around the edges of the room where they had panels. I wandered a little to get my bearings, planned out a few events to go to and then set off exploring for real.
I’ve recently been reading Sarah J. Maas’ Throne of Glass series so I was very excited to find her there. It took about two hours of queuing but I got a signed ARC of Heir of Fire! I’ve never had access to ARCs before (advance reader copies) – I’d never even heard of them until I started trying to get reviews for Kindling Ashes – but I like the concept a lot. I also went to a panel about worldbuilding and found Scott Westerfeld and his new book there! I’d seen it advertised online (it’s about a girl who gets a publishing contract after writing a novel for NaNoWriMo) but had no idea I’d be able to get it at BEA. The panel itself was interesting too, seeing how different authors approach worldbuilding and the varying amounts of planning they do.
I went to Lulu.com’s booth near the end of the day to record a couple of promotional videos (which I apologise for, I write instead of vlog for a reason) and then I headed back to hostel… but not for long! I went to Books of Wonder in the evening because Garth Nix and some other YA authors were signing there, and got my ARC of Clariel signed! I loved the Old Kingdom series when I was younger and this was the book I was most eager to get from BEA.
Saturday was even crazier than Friday, which I didn’t think was possible. But BEA opens to the public for one day of “BookCon” and as great as it is to see so many people excited about books and authors, you could hardly walk through the exhibition hall at the start because it was so crowded. I spent quite a lot of the day at UPublishU because of that. It’s a self-publishing conference going on at the same time as BEA. I signed some books at Lulu’s booth, got a professional headshot taken thanks to Kobo, went to a couple of talks. One panel about marketing a series was really informative. They had some massive indie authors there who discussed just how much it was picking one blade of grass at a time to get a following. You’re never going to get success overnight and even when you do have readers you have to keep working at the grassroots level. Also good tip: the importance of the page after the story ends!
I finally got to meet some of the other Wrimo Accelerator winners on Saturday! I’d missed them the day before because of being stuck in the Heir of Fire queue when we were meant to have lunch. We’d been in contact beforehand after winning the competition but it was great to put names to faces (and faces to books) finally.
In the evening a few of us met again, as well as some local NaNoers and Grant Faulkner (director of NaNoWriMo). Unfortunately I couldn’t stay long because I flew out of JFK at 10pm to get back to London on Sunday for work on Monday. It was a short trip, but the best experience. If you ever get the chance to attend BEA/Bookcon, or any other similar event like London Book Fair, please do – you won’t regret it. Personally, I’m looking forward to attending the YA Lit Con in London in July as part of LFCC. I’ve caught the bug now 🙂