Saturday, May 20, 2006

My visit to BookExpo America (BEA)

The 2006 BEA started yesterday and will end tomorrow. It is the biggest book/publishing event in the U.S, as far as I know.

An author badge or pass had been reserved for me, at no cost to me. Anyway, I debated whether I should actually go to this event. Like any such large gatherings, the individual gets lost somewhere in the middle; things tend to exist in plurality. And as a person who doesn't like to blend in with the crowd (if I can help it), I wondered if I would be comfortable.

But going to the BEA would provide an opportunity to chat with anyone who might be interested in my book. It would be a chance to see what others are creating. I decided to attend the event today, which is the date that I was available.

I knew that some authors were going to be autographing, and I checked to see if any of the authors I liked (authors of literary fiction) would be present. Quite unsurprisingly, none of my favorite authors would be present at the BEA. No matter, I was going, if only to witness the publishing industry's finest show.

The 2006 BEA was (and still is) at the Washington Convention Center, in DC. The space, of course, was huge, with people constantly dripping about. The BEA was a quite simply a market place--for books. When I saw the scene, it seemed like the market place back home, with people selling and buying. I found that I derived pleasure in just watching people. I accepted all the pamphlets and info sheet that people gave me, to promote their various books. I saw authors signing books. People took pictures. Interviews were being conducted. I saw people in various costumes, assuming the characters in the particular book they were promoting. One author invited the attendees to play chess with him, and if they beat him, they get a free copy book of his book. I thought that was an excellent way to engage others.

All manner of people were present, from kids to adults, from the white to the black. I visited all the halls, refusing, for the most part, to use my map, so that I would be more open to the scene around me. It was so overwhelming to be surround by so many books, with each book adding to its call the voice of its promoter. "Pick me, look at me." "No, look at me."

Everyone wore a tag. And some people (myself included) flipped their badges over, so you couldn't tell what pool of attendee they were from. Looking closely, I did notice that most of the people I saw with flipped badges had a yellow bar on the face of their badge. I suppose there was some politics involved in this market place still. Some people, by virtue of the badge they wore, were probably more susceptible to random call for conversations. Overall, it was a lively and friendly atmosphere. Some people (getting tired of the demands of standing and walking around for so long) sat on the floor and ate some food to restore some of their energy.

While I was there, I was also distracted by the phone conversations I was having with friends and family about my visit, about how grand this whole show was. It was nice to see this human side of publishing. It was nice to put faces to the publishing industry. All ranges of publishers were present, from the small to the giant, and all kinds of books, covering all kinds of topics, had their say in this show. It was nice to be in this place where members of the publishing industry seemed to co-exist, without conflict or frowns, without the critical and condescending attitude that often infects it.

The BEA was one of the items on the list of things I had scheduled for myself today. In the afternoon, I decided to go see where my book was displayed, which was at the BEA new title showcase. One of the workers at the BEA helped me to find where my book was. He picked it up and looked at it. Then he asked, "You wrote this?" with a certain sense of amazement. I answered, "Yes." He opened the book and then asked what it was about. As I was about to answer, with unique and interesting words, this now hackneyed question, he let the words of The Looming Fog answer his question; he did not really want me to answer, and his flipping through the book silenced me.

"Ha, it is in Nigeria," he said with interest. I nodded. And he smiled. I didn't know what his "ha" meant, but I was pleased that he didn't wait for me to tell him about the book before he opened it; he wanted to find out for himself. He handed me the book with what seemed like a congratulatory smile, and then he went to stand at his post. I looked at my book. My book, my infant. I positioned it back on the shelf. I took a picture of my book (and the adjacent books) as it rested on the shelf. I also took a picture of the market scene. As I stood there, admiring the presence of my book on the shelf, I felt happy. I had created something. I had given birth to something, and soon others would share in this creation.

I looked around one last time. Walking down the carpeted steps and smiling, I bade goodbye to the faces of the BEA.

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At 20/5/06 11:53 PM, Blogger Susan Abraham said...

Hi Rosemary,
About the book expo first of all.
You lucky, lucky thing!
And then to be seeing your book displayed for the first time, how very exciting. I'm sure you will remember this moment forever. I'm happy for you.

At 21/5/06 6:49 AM, Blogger Jude said...

Congratulations! I've had a look at what your novel is about and it looks really interesting. Good luck with it.

At 21/5/06 3:58 PM, Blogger Rosemary Esehagu said...

Hello, Jude, thanks for your thoughts. Good luck with your writing as well.

Susan, thanks. Yes, you are right; I don't think I'm going to forget that memory any time soon. Besides, I have this post to remind me. But you know what will be an even better memory? Seeing my book in a bookstore for the first time. I can't wait!

At 24/5/06 6:27 AM, Blogger Lotus Reads said...

Rosemary, how thrilling to be a part of this wonderful event and congratulations on having your book displayed there! Thanks so much for sharing your impressions of the BEA with us. The Canadian BookExpo starts next month, and boo hoo, even though I tried, I haven't been successful with getting a pass; they're pretty strict about restricting the event to the industry.


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