special-events hall has its own line-control plan,” he says.
To achieve this, the logistics and layout of BookCon have
changed. BookCon is on the same floor (the third) as BEA, and
the space allotted to BookCon has been expanded by 35%. When
BEA concludes on Friday night, the area of the floor that was
housed by BEA-only booths will close, and the rest of the floor
will remain open for BookCon on Saturday and Sunday. This year,
the downtown stage will be housed in the BookCon area.
Essentially all of the BookCon programming happens away
from publishers’ booths. The celebrity-filled panels and big
marquee events will take place in the special events hall, while
less glossy affairs will take place in the smaller panel rooms.
Another crucial change is that there will be a designated autographing area reserved for panelists. Only authors on panels will
have the opportunity to autograph in this area, though signings
will still take place at the booths for other authors. McDonald
believes this setup gives fans “the best of all worlds,” meaning
that there is the opportunity for readers to come face-to-face with authors, as well as a Comic-Con-level of excitement
with big marquee events and a celebration of the entire book-fan community.
Also new this year is the integration of organized bookselling.
BookCon has partnered with Word, who will have a designated
area to sell books next to the BookCon autographing area.
Although Word has been a retail partner at Comic-Con, its
events director, Molly Templeton, says that “a lot of [BookCon]
is still a mystery.” Word has also partnered with at least one
publisher, Penguin Random House, and will be the bookseller
at the Penguin Truck and at the booth. More partnerships with
independent bookstores are afoot—something that both
ReedPop and the ABA fully support.
Oren Teicher, CEO of ABA, says, “We certainly encouraged
publishers who are participating in BookCon to reach out to an
indie store to partner to sell books at BookCon. Obviously it’s
what stores do and do well. But it also provides another oppor-
tunity to showcase indie bookstores.” To this end, the ABA
teamed up with BookCon to create large display panels that have
lists of all 2,000 member stores throughout the country. “From
our point of view,” says Teicher, “BookCon provides a great
opportunity to remind thousands of enthusiastic readers about
thriving indie bookstores and what they do best.”
How are publishers feeling about the new BookCon? While
most were sanguine, others tempered their optimism. Liz Perl,
Simon & Schuster executive v-p and chief marketing officer, gets
the message about books and pop culture. Perl notes that her
company had a very good experience last year and is excited
about Atria’s Keywords Press’s panel featuring You Tube sensa-
tions who have become authors slated for Sunday at BookCon.
Nevertheless she is aware of the limitations of the pop mantra,
saying, “BookCon is not the place to break out a debut artist,
but we tried to strike a balance.” The booth is where attendees
will find authors “whose primary career is writing,” states Perl,
“lest it become like Comic-Con.” Unlike the fall focus of BEA,
BookCon’s focus is books that are available now, raising creative
and logistical challenges for publishers. At the S&S booth, read-
ers will have an opportunity to learn about forthcoming books.
Perl believes that “readers welcome the chance to be ahead of
the pack in knowing about—and getting their hands on some
ARCs of—what is coming out in the fall.”
Christine Ball, v-p and associate publisher for Putnam and
Dutton, was also was pleased with the 2014 BookCon experi-
ence, specifically the sell-out panel with Jonathan Tropper, Tina
Fey, and Jason Batemen. She sees the now-versus-fall issue as
“an interesting challenge—a good one that requires a little more
creativity with what we’re doing in the booth.” Putnam/Dutton
will have signage and posters that serve both industry profes-
sionals and consumers, with upcoming and current titles.
Ball is more concerned about the extra burden of five days
of programming, with its demands on staffing and selling
books. She explains that although Word is Putnam and Dutton’s
bookseller partner, it is Penguin staff who will be making
recommendations and physically handling sales at the booth
and the Penguin truck. In spite of her concerns, Ball says, “I’m
hopeful that this is increasingly going to be a way for us to
connect with our consumers, which is more important.”
A spokesperson from one of Penguin Random House’s divisions,
who preferred to remain unnamed, notes that a number of more
literary panels that were proposed to McDonald and his team were
turned down because they lacked mass appeal. However, this
spokesperson also adds that “BookCon is giving readers what they
want, and publishers are happy to accommodate.”
Jimmy Franco, senior director of publicity at Hachette’s
Grand Central division, has a glass-is-half-full attitude about
BookCon. “Last year, it really struck us that there was some-
thing there and people were really excited about it,” he says.
“Quite honestly, I didn’t expect to see that enthusiasm from
consumers. I’m not surprised that it has been pumped up to two
days. I think it’s going to be exciting for all of us.” Among
GCP’s highlights is a panel, “Inside the Mystery Writers
Studio,” featuring blockbuster authors Brad Meltzer, James
Patterson, and Nelson DeMille; the panel will be moderated by
Michael Koryta. “The sense I got from Brien [McDonald] was,
bring it on,” Franco notes. “We can’t be more pleased with the
cooperation we’ve gotten from Brien and that whole crew.
Everything we wanted to do, we’re doing. I think it’s going to
be a great show.” ;
Liz Hartman owns Hartman-on-Hudson, a marketing consulting firm for
the publishing and arts industries. She is also editor of the PW Show Daily