Michelle Dunn, author of Mosquito Marketing for Authors, wrote the following blog on the Book Marketing Network (http://bookmarket.ning.com):
There was so much talk about how this year's BEA was going to be smaller, less attended by industry vendors and visitors and so much less of a networking experience than previous years because of the smaller size. It is true that there was only one floor of the Javits Center this year and less people but I found that to be to my advantage. Less booths to visit, so more time talking to the folks I wanted to talk to, less crowds to get through and a much more relaxed atmosphere.
According to BookExpo America, there were 21,919 people that attended BookExpo this year, while there were over 29,000 industry professionals in attendance in 2009 and 20,000 in 2008.
I came prepared to meet publishers I had been published by, that I had met at other networking events and to speak to publishers who might be interested in my book ideas. I brought business cards I had made up especially for the BEA with pertinent information that publishers would be interested in (how many on my mailing lists, my platform information, etc), and a few press kits. I did well meeting and talking with publishers all day on Wednesday and found 4 publishers interested in my work that took my press kits and cards. I have already had 2 publishers call me about my book idea since I have been back! I landed my first book deal by attending the BEA so that was my goal this year as well.
I really enjoyed the BookExpo being smaller - less crowds, less waiting to talk to people you want to meet and talk to, and less walking! I received a newsletter that had a review of this year's BEA and they called it “boring” and said “that it was not a venue for doing business and that if you hear differently it is simply propaganda from the BEA folks”.
I am not affiliated with the BEA and in my opinion it WAS a venue for doing business and that is not at all propaganda for the BEA. I definitely found some publishers interested in my work and am sure I will get another book deal out of the contacts I made there. In my opinion if you go to the BEA with a clear goal, set up appointments and present yourself in a professional way you can make good contacts and do business attending the BEA. I have attended for the last 6 years and have always had good luck in gaining work and meeting and networking with people that I keep in touch with in the industry.
Some things I noticed at the expo this year were that some of the vendors were late in setting up their booths and when I tried to talk to them, they were too “busy” setting up and asked me to come back later. Others were so busy talking among themselves they would literally just ignore you while chatting or texting - or just walk away from the booth leaving it unmanned. This is fine, I take that to mean they are not serious and if that is how they approach their business, I am not interested in working with them anyway. So by doing this they really did me a favor and saved me from wasting time with them.
I was looking to talk to publishers of business books since that is what I write and in some cases the representatives that I approached at a publishers booth didn’t know who was in charge of the business books, or just didn’t know where they were but they weren’t worried about it. They would ask me to come back later or would just tell me that someone was there that was in charge of the business books but they didn’t know where they were and would walk away. I am still trying to figure out why they were there, maybe to get a day out of the office, or to network with other publishers, but certainly not to meet new authors or look for new talent.
This surprised me since the economy is still in the toilet and the publishing industry seems to be suffering but maybe not enough for them to focus and really try to get the most out of the Expo. On the other hand the folks in the digital publishing sector were outgoing, friendly and helpful. Maybe because they know this is the wave of the future. So, what did I learn from attending my 6th year at the BookExpo?
* It works! It is important to go to the expo with a clear purpose in mind and to be prepared. If you are going to look for a publisher (like I did) make sure you research BEFORE you go, bring relevant business cards and a few press kits. Know what your talking about and present yourself in a professional manner. You have to stand out and have a relevant book idea, as well as information about how you market, your platform and your previous writing experience.
* No matter what the size of the expo, it can be worthwhile. It was for me, the publishers that did not attend did not affect my purpose. I focused on business publishers, made sure I visited their booths, asked relevant questions and spoke to the editors and people that could help me get published.
* Do your research! Check out the publishers websites before the expo, be familiar with how they work. When they are talking with you make sure to mention that you have researched their company, talked to other authors that have worked with them and know their background. This is impressive and extremely helpful. The publishers and editors I spoke with were much more receptive to me, knowing that I had done my research.
* Stop in to say hello to anyone who is there that you know. Networking with these folks and just saying hello goes a long way. Especially if you have only corresponded by email, putting a face to the email is key in networking. For example, If you are a member of a writers association or subscribe to Writers Digest magazine, you would want to stop by and introduce yourself. I like meeting the folks that put out the magazines I read, and meeting the folks that run the writing associations I belong to and they do as well. Make an effort and it will come back to you in a positive way.
* Bring a helper. I have always brought an assistant with me to the book expo, I have this person carry extra business cards, my press kits and approach the next person I am going to speak with while I am finishing up with my current conversations. Having someone give an introduction about you, what you write and how successful you have been is a very professional way to present yourself and you have help carrying your materials and any books you pick up!
* In closing I want to say that the publishers I did speak with were very open and friendly, spent time talking with me to see if I was worth their time and could be an author that would write a book that was relevant to their company and asking about my platform,other writing and marketing experience.
Attending BookExpo was once again, a rewarding experience for me that will result in a paying job and hopefully in getting to know more people in the industry that I met at the expo and now email with and work with in the future.
John's Comments: First, the attendance of real people to do business with was much lower this year than last year. There were many attendees looking for free books who had not decision-making responsibilities.
Second, the bookseller contingent had to have been incredibly much lower (why else would BEA not release those numbers?). That didn't concern Michelle, since her focus was on publishers. For an author, BEA can still be a useful trade show to attend. For book publishers, that's not always the case.
Third, with a two-day show, there wasn't enough time for many publishers to hold all the meetings they would have wanted to under normal conditions. It takes time to hold meetings when negotiating rights sales.
Is BookExpo still worth attending? I'd say yes. Of course, my actions the past two years would say no, since I haven't attended the past two years. But I promise I will be there next year, if the show actually happens again.