Dan at the BEA:
A small-potatoes author takes on a big-potatoes event
Although I was constantly giddy and laughing most of the time, the Book Expo America is no joke for someone like me. It’s a place where a young writer can get swallowed up faster than Penguin’s BEA booth during Marie Lu’s signing of “Prodigy.”
To give you a sense of perspective, I waited about an hour and a half to get a signed copy of “Prodigy.”
And the glorious BEA only comes once a year, so I knew I couldn’t waste the opportunity.
For those unfamiliar with the BEA, it’s like Christmas (or a beefed-up Hanukkah if you’re Jewish, like me), a Barnes and Noble shopping spree, and a trip to Disneyland all wrapped up in a three-day extravaganza.
Publishers for all over the world, big and small, come to showcase their upcoming books for the next year, handing out free advance copies—a lot of them signed by the authors—to the lucky attendees. By doing this, they hope to drum up some buzz for their upcoming titles.
It’s also a place where all of the literary bigwigs—on both the creative and business side of books—get together to make things happen.
I am no bigwig.
I’m not sure I’m even a wig (Although, as you can see from the BEA picture below, I could probably use a wig.)
(Special note: this was me when I found out how big Jennifer L. Armentrout’s signing line was. The same company that publishes “Half-Blood” publishes my novel, so I have a vested interest in Jennifer’s unbelievable success.)
But still, I followed my dreams and was lucky enough to find a publisher who believes in me after working my butt off every day for many, many years. If you could flip the above photo around, you would see that I no longer have a butt.
My book “Masters of the Veil” (Which you probably haven’t heard of. Until just now of course. Huzzah!) was published by the wonderful Spencer Hill Press in March, and they provided me with my golden ticket.
So the story begins when I get to the BEA with stars in my eyes and flies in my wallet.
First thing I did was the heavy lifting for the Spencer Hill Press booth. And while I was there, I got to finally meet the other Spencer Hill authors.
No doubt many of you have heard of Spencer Hill’s superstar, Jennifer L. Armentrout, bestselling author of “Half-Blood” and “Obsidian.”
Well this was the first time I was meeting our wunderauthor in person. Sure I’ve emailed her and gone to support her on her live Internet chats, but still, I was nervous.
And she couldn’t have been nicer. After a big hug we were laughing and joking around; I even got to poke fun at her newfound fame.
It was great.
And I also got to meet the insanely cool Emily White. She wrote a novel called “Elemental” that you’ve probably also heard of. Emily and myself hung out for most of the BEA and we were old chums quick enough.
(Emily White on right. Lisa Amowitz ((super author of “Breaking Glass”)) on left.)
Everyone at the SHP booth, including my incomparable editor, Kate Kaynak was too cool for words.
I felt like family.
(And speaking of family. My father attended the BEA with me. He’s the REALLY bald one. He took off work and spent four days in the city with me. My father is my hero and we had the greatest bonding experience of my lifetime. He was book crazed and ended up with about 150 galley copies. Like I said, he’s my hero.)
So the real BEA started the next morning and, considering the fact that I was literally too excited to sleep, I was up bright and early.
There were 22 bloggers staying at my hotel and I got to have breakfast with most of them each morning. Some of the bloggers I consider friends (Melissa from “I Swim For Oceans” and Jenny from “Supernatural Snark”) even showed up from other hotels to join me in starting the day off with some peppery eggs and frozen cups of Yoplait.
As a small potatoes (I guess fingerling potatoes is probably appropriate) author, I really wanted to try my best to make some connections at the BEA. So beforehand, I reached out to a few famous authors to see if they want to have breakfast with me.
Okay, with us.
I really didn’t expect anything, but Dan Wells, the Hugo nominated author of “Partials” came to breakfast that first morning.
Yeah. HUGO nominated.
He was awesome. And he wore an awesome hat.
(Left to right: Me, Emily White, Dan Wells, Kevin J. Anderson ((who has written over FORTY bestsellers. Holy crap was that cool)) and Dan’s awesome hat that he wore to breakfast)
Oh, and quick side note. Marie Lu responded to my earlier request and came to breakfast the next morning. I sat next to her and did my best impression of someone not star-struck. I even flirted a bit: if drooling incessantly can be considered flirting.
I’m going to count it :)
So after that first breakfast, we all entered the palace of literary wonder that was the Jacob K. Javitz center. This building—a place that is so big that it hosts an annual boat show—was floor to ceiling with so many books and book related paraphernalia that it made the Library of Congress look like the clearance rack at Half-Price books.
I felt like Aladdin going into the cave of wonders.
But the BEA is even better than cave of wonders, because this cave lets you take the wonders home.
I had a big decision to make: should I get as many ARCs as I can? Hording up a new collection for the following year. Or should I try and make connections and broaden my network? Since I needed to make the most of the opportunity.
Over the next three days, I learned the secret to small-potato networking at the BEA.
Standing in long lines for the same ARC allowed me to make some really great new friends. I stood next to #1 New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Weiner for an ARC and chatted with her for a bit. She asked for my card.
HUH-WHAT?!I met tons of YA book bloggers, librarians, distributors and book buyers all by standing in line. We talked about the book we were waiting for, what the other person did, if this was their first BEA, and how we felt about eBooks. But we also talked about hobbies, family, sports, Pokémon, and generally anything to make our wait more pleasant.
The great thing was that it seemed like the people around me were always eager to talk. I had my fancy author badge on, and people were genuinely curious about my work. And even when they found out that I was nobody super important, they still were eager to know more about my books.
How cool is that?
Even though I was pretty much a guy gently strumming his guitar on the street corner, I felt like a rock star.
That’s the amazing thing that I learned about the book crowd. They believe that even though someone might be a small potato now, that potato might one day become one of those big, fat, oven-baked spuds, smothered in cheese, sour cream, and crunchy bacon bits.
It just takes the right encouragement to help them grow.
Most of the time I left each line with a business card, a precious new autographed book, and a big smile on my face.
So over those three wonderful days, I did and learned a lot. I learned that some of the best connections can be made in the places least expected. I learned that just because the line is small doesn’t mean that the author isn’t fantastic. And most importantly, I learned that you can’t sweet-talk your way to a coveted ARC before it’s put on the table.
Long live the BEA and I can’t wait to go return next year!
(Macmillan’s Booth. One of my favorites at the conference. They usually had small lines and great books.)
(Spencer Hill Press’ Booth. There was ALWAYS traffic. Huzzah for Independent Publishers!)
(Me at my signing. We ran out of two cases of books!)
(Me with some of my favorite bloggers. Left to right: Jenny from Supernatural Snark. Melissa from I Swim For Oceans, and Danny from Bewitched Bookworms)