If you have been regularly attending the largest professional publishing event in North America, Book Expo America, you are likely used to the last day of the event opening up to the general public. It is normally at this time that most of the executives and senior staff flee, leaving the interns and hired help to man the booths, giving away free swag. Starting in 2015, the public will no longer be invited to BEA.
Back in 2013, Book Expo America started a program that opened its door for one day to the general public. In 2014, it renamed and restructured Consumer Day as BookCon, making it a publishing-meets-pop culture event aimed at reaching a broad swath of readers. Authors loved this aspect of the event, because it gave them a chance to meet with their most loyal fans and signed many autographs. But while that consumer-friendly day “exceeded our wildest expectations,” says BEA Event Director Steve Rosato, selling 10,000 tickets before organizers had to draw the line, it mixed with the professional days like oil and water.
Staring in 2015 BEA will be held Wednesday, May 27, through Friday, May 29, while BookCon will be held Saturday and Sunday, May 30 and 31. Many of the top publishers and authors will likely stay the few extra days in New York to meet with the fans and professional companies that exist to market their services to libraries can take the chance to tear down their booths and flee for their lives.
I like the fact that there will be some separation between the best publishing event for professionals and the general public. It remains to be seen if BookCon can launch as a separate event successfully or not. The BookCon site compares their festival with the likes of Celebration X, PAX East and Comic-con. I seriously doubt they will even come remotely close to the cultural impact those other events have.