between the New York–based houses and everyone else. Though
the Big Five trade publishers were all in attendance, they
brought fewer people and held fewer parties in a bid to keep
expenses in check. Two big publishers, Houghton Mifflin
Harcourt and Rodale, did not take booths at the show. Penguin
Random House brought more than 100 people to Chicago,
including CEO Markus Dohle, who said he was firm in his belief
that the industry needs an annual trade show—as long as the
event provides the opportunity for publishers to engage with
One reason BEA officials moved the show out of New York
was to make it easier, and cheaper, for booksellers outside of the
Northeast to attend, and from that standpoint the move was a
success. ABA CEO Oren Teicher reported that 65% of the booksellers in Chicago had not been to BEA in at least two years.
Although overall bookseller attendance was down by about 5%
from 2015, Teicher said the strong showing from booksellers in
the heartland and from other regions “validates the whole idea
of moving the show around.” He added: “We are a national
business, and our members are everywhere. It’s not that we don’t
love New York, but it is expensive.”
Another positive aspect of moving to Chicago was the condi-
tion of the convention center itself. The facilities at McCormack
Place far surpassed the dingy and antiquated Javits Center,
where BEA is held when it is in New York. One change that
seems to have people confused is the 1 p.m. start on the opening
day. This was the second year BEA had a late opening, but it
still caught many by surprise. Ellen Adler, publisher of New
Press, wasn’t aware that the show floor didn’t open until 1 p.m.,
so when she arrived a few minutes before the official opening she
became a bit panicked at the sight of a largely vacant exhibit area.
“I thought, this is the end of our industry,” she said. Relief set in
once book buyers began arriving after the doors were opened.
This year’s BEA took place shortly after five large trade publishers posted generally soft first-quarter financial results. Many
industry members said what the market could use is a hot book,
and there were a number of titles that publishers were promoting that could fit the bill. Among the titles booksellers
thought held promise were Colson Whitehead’s The Underground
Railroad, The Nix by Nathan Hill, Commonwealth by Ann
Patchett, and The Girls by Emma Cline.
Children’s books that drew high marks from booksellers included
a number of young adult titles such as Heartless by Marissa Meyer,
Caraval by Stephanie Garber, Gemina by Jay Kristoff and Amie
Kaufman, and Sharon Cameron’s The Forgetting. Outside of the
young adult category, Lucy by Randy Cecil drew praise from some
booksellers, as did We Found a Hat by Jon Klassen.
Though final figures were not available at press time Friday,
BEA officials acknowledged that attendance would be down
from 2015—for one thing, the size of the show floor was about
20% smaller than in New York last year. The lower attendance,
however, did not faze many of the attendees. “There may be
fewer people, but it made it easier to get things done,” Start
Publishing president Jarred G. Weisfeld said. Todd Stocke, v-p
and editorial director of Sourcebooks, took a similar stance about
attendance. “The quantity of traffic is down, but quality is up
[Friday] and across the whole show.”
Next year, BEA moves back to New York, but there will be
a new twist. The full event will run from May 31 to June 4. The
final two days—Saturday and Sunday—will be dedicated to
BookCon (which was held on Saturday, May 14, in Chicago this
year), and the first three days will be the traditional trade show.
But because of issues in getting access to the exhibition hall at
Javits, the show floor will only be open on Thursday and Friday.
Wednesday will be geared toward educational conferences and
other programming that BEA will develop in the coming year.
—Jim Milliot, with contributions from PW’s BEA reporters
To read more of PW’s extensive coverage of this year’s BEA, go to
American Booksellers Association CEO Oren Teicher praised the
selection of Chicago as the site for this year’s BEA.
Louise Penny was one of four speakers at Thursday’s adult
author breakfast, where she discussed her forthcoming novel, A