Book Expo: It's About Relationships by Michelle Cavalier, Cavalier House Books
There is a reason BookExpo is the largest book industry event in North America – everyone goes! If there is a message I can get across to you that would be it!
This is not a show you can walk into blind. You will accomplish less than nothing that way. Our first BookExpo (when I was but a baby bookseller) was a complete failure. I was not yet working closely with any of my reps, wasn’t active in SIBA or the ABA, and had no idea what to expect. I basically just wandered around, probably got in other people’s way, waited in a lot of signing lines, and felt the show was not worth the capital and time outlay…and I didn’t go back for years.
Set goals and schedule meetings. The bulk of the work you do for this show happens before you leave. What areas are you struggling with? Not connecting with publicity? Getting too many damages? Coop plan not working for you? Reach out. As I said, the brilliance of BookExpo is that *everyone* goes, so you can get face time with exactly the right person. For me, this was indispensable. I got so many questions answered, relationships established, and headaches averted! It was bliss. Meeting with children’s publicists was game-changing for us. Not only did I get to meet and make numerous contacts, I got a lot of my questions about grids answered. Moving into the next season I can really optimize my outreach. But even more helpful to me was meeting with heads of wholesaling and specialty markets with many of the publishers our wholesale and distribution company works with. Looziana Book Co. is a new company and regional wholesale is definitely not the norm; we are often shuffled from one wrong department to the other on phone calls. I made so many valuable connections this week and saved myself a ton for time; that alone was worth the trip to NYC!
You should also probably know that your favorite author is going to appear at BookExpo. It doesn’t really matter who your favorite author is – they send everyone! I was told by someone at Hachette that they added Kira Jane Buxton to the lineup because indies have been showing Hollow Kingdom so much love! And you should have seen Madeline Miller’s line during the ABA signing! I didn’t get to meet too many authors (aforementioned meetings) and was really sad to miss out on Sarah Maclean’s signing (because I am a Fated Mates and romance nerd), but I did make sure to thank Jewell Parker Rhodes. Her books mean so much to me and I just wanted to let her know how much I appreciate her work and then she basically made me cry. This woman is a treasure! She ended our conversation saying “I want to come to your store! Take my card.” And then I died.
I’ve heard from a lot of people that they feel like they get more from attending their regional shows and the ABA’s Winter or Children’s Institutes. Fair enough, I don’t miss the SIBA Discovery Show and try to go to either Winter or Kids every year, but BookExpo isn’t about education in the way that those shows are. It’s about relationships. BookExpo very much feels like a show about leveraging your business up. From formal appointments with clear directives established by you to the Speed Dating rounds set up by ABA and the informal talks that happen at various events and mingles, BookExpo is a platform for moving your shop forward while getting a beat on the pulse of the industry as whole.