Book Con! The Good, The Not So Good, and The Confusing

Happy Tuesday, everyone! This weekend I went to Book Con. It was fun, it was tiring, and it was my first time at this convention. Not sure what took me so long. I’ve been to pretty much every other convention that held in the area. But, with no further ado, here’s what I thought about the experience. The awesome, the not so awesome, and the things that baffled me just a little bit.

This felt like a young convention. Book Con has been around for a number of years now, and had some truly amazing authors headlining the event. Yet it still felt like a newer convention, like the organizers, staff, and booths didn’t really know what they wanted out of it or how to use the time and space to their fullest advantage.

Being a veteran of Comic-con and AnimeNext, the difference between booths ran by veterans of other conventions versus those who only attend Book Con each year was palpable. The aisle filled with comic book publishers really had their shit down. Most importantly, they were good booksellers. They actively approached you, they knew what you were looking for after only a couple of sentences, they didn’t need to look on the back of the book for the price, and they didn’t look like they were fighting their POS systems. Hell, I even saw the staff cover each others booths for bathroom and lunch breaks.

The rest of the hall? Well, some of the big publisher’s booths worked like a well oiled machine. Despite long lines the Harlequin booth ran smoothly with nothing but happy faces all weekend. There were plenty of booths I spent a lot of time with, learning about upcoming books and some titles that were available for sale I’d never heard of and picked up immediately. (Zombie apocalypse starting at a Star Trek convention? Sign me up for that!).

But some booths looked like they were in a sea of total chaos. I didn’t actually visit the Penguin booth, of which I have heard less than stellar reviews. I wasn’t willing to dive into the sea of people and give myself a panic attack due to my claustrophobia. All weekend that booth was just a sea of people, with visibly exasperated staff, security, and patrons.

Giveaways were also handled a bit oddly, at least compared to what I normally find at conventions. Booths that simply had books and merchandise on display and free to take ran pretty smoothly – no crazy lines, no pushing or shoving. Booths that announced specific times for giveaways were swamped with people, sometimes pushing and shoving, and neither staff nor patrons looked like they were having a very good time of it.

The panels, as panels often are, were spot on. There is nothing quite like listening to an author talk about their own works. I’ve picked up books I never normally would have purchased after listening to author interviews or seeing them at panels. Panel topics were also very diverse. There were BookTube panels, panels features YA authors, panels with adult sci-fi and fantasy authors, and, hands down my favorite, the Welcome to Night Vale crew (an awesome podcast + novel series for those who aren’t familiar with them).

I couldn’t help but feel that many publishers didn’t use the event to their full advantage. Some confusing choices were made at times, and I couldn’t help but feel that things weren’t thought all the way through. First, I would have loved to have some of the huge publishers to branch out a bit and give their subsidiaries their own booths, but staying near each other for ease’s sake. For example, I would have been thrilled if Yen Press and Orbit Books were given their own tables instead of just having their names written on the sides of the Hachette Book Group booth. Fans could find what they were looking for much more easily and the publishers, while spending more money on floor space, could have easily made that cash back in spades. Had Tor been given its own table they could have pushed the Fantasy First promotion they’ve been doing all year with some giveaways of older fantasy titles.

Sadly, I found none of this. To be honest, it was a little difficult to find any books or booths that were promoting adult literature at all. Most of the science fiction and fantasy that was promoted was all well within the Young Adult genre. There were more panels available with adult speculative fiction authors than there were booths promoting their work. Honestly, I felt a little shut out at times. I had to go to the booth Strand set up to find the Cory Doctorow book I was looking for. There also wasn’t any manga or light novels! I know that was probably a strategic move on the publisher’s part. AnimeNext is this weekend, and there’s only so many conventions staff can plan, set up, and attend before total burnout. But this brings up another topic.

I expected to see a lot of companies with booths that just weren’t there. I fully expected to see a Barnes & Nobles section promoting Nooks and company merchandise, but there was no such table to be seen. I figured Amazon would also have a table, especially considering the brand new store they opened only a few weeks ago in NYC. Again, they were nowhere to be found. A couple of magazines were there – National Geographic and the Smithsonian – but no others. I mean, I had to walk past the New Yorker headquarters to get to the Javits Center. It’s not like many of these companies had to go very far to set up and staff the event.

As I stated earlier, while fun, this felt like a young convention, like it was just not quite where it wanted to be yet. I can’t help but be reminded of some of the early AnimeNext conventions. There were great panels and they had some awesome booths, but the show floor was tiny and less populated by industry professionals than one would expect. Of course, this year Studio Trigger and the Yuri on Ice team (as long as my information is correct) are flying in from Japan, highlighting just how much more expansive the event has become in the last few years.

I sort of feel that the convention wasn’t exactly aimed at me, and I’m a little saddened by this. There was a lot of young adult authors and events, but fewer for books aimed at adults in all genres. I had to do a little digging to find the people and genres I was most interested in, and I’m very happy I did.

In all, I had a good time, even if some of the booths or entire genres of literature I was looking for weren’t there. Being surrounded by so many other people who love books just as much as I do is an awesome experience. If you get a chance to attend Book Con, or any other convention, I highly recommend the experience.

About author

Kathleen Townsend

Kate writes things, reads things, and writes about things she reads. She’s had a few short stories published, and works as a freelance editor. Favorite genres include epic & high fantasy, science fiction, time travel stories, video game related tales, light novels, and manga.

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