I like that Wordpress always greets me with "Howdy, Alex!" So I'm going to start off with a hearty, "Howdy, folks!" because that's how we souls from the American West roll. Book Expo America was this past week and, needless to say, I'm still recovering. It's an intense experience as a publishing professional--my department (School & Library Marketing) doesn't do a whole lot with BEA, but it's such a huge event in the publishing world and the stress and planning for the different events inevitably trickles out from Publicity to everyone else. To give you some sense of the work load involved in any kind of conference planning, you have to know that in addition to the parties that have to be organized and planned (and the materials that need to be made for said parties like cover posters, prints, etc.), you have to put together itineraries for authors, plan visits into the office, order books, set up booths, organize signings. That's the very tip of the iceberg.
As an author, BEA is mostly just fun. :)
My favorite part of BEA is always, always, ALWAYS running into people I know. I love seeing friends from my old job, from my publishing course, and author buddies that I've never had the chance to meet in-person. I love meeting bloggers and finally putting faces to Twitter handles and blog names. It's basically a lovefest all around. I also FINALLY got to meet the people who have been working on The Darkest Minds for the past year--believe me, when I tell you that I won the publisher lottery, I mean it.
BEA started on Monday for me with BEA Day of Dialog. It's an event that's sponsored by School Library Journal, hence it fell under our S&L umbrella. We got to Javits around 7 AM for set up, and proceeded to wander around the bowels of the building until we finally found the room we were looking for. Can I say here, just this once, how truly awful the Javits Center is? The location, the layout, the airflow--EVERYTHING. AWFUL. ALWAYS. FOREVER.
Ahem. Anyway, Day of Dialog is an event for Librarians and trade reviewers. Most of the publishers set up tables with galleys and F&Gs (F&G = folded & gathered = advanced picture book copies that are unbound) and promo materials. Throughout the day are panels and publisher presentations of upcoming titles they're excited about. I think my favorite panel ended up being the first one--when I, like James Dashner, finally learned that Eoin Colfer's name is not actually pronounced "e-oine," but "Owen." Let me follow that up with a swift #duhalex
DoD will live forever in my memory mostly because of how freezing the room was. Guys, at one point I actually thought to myself, "Now I know what it would feel like to die on Everest." My mom and brother were coming back to NYC from Massachusetts for that one night, so I had brought an overnight bag to stay with them at their hotel (which was within walking distance of my office), and, no joke, we were using the extra clothes like blankets.
I worked our booth on Tuesday and Wednesday, mostly trying to control autographing lines. We're one of the publishers that uses their booths mostly for signings, so I never had to brave the autographing stalls (until Thursday!). I had about a million people try to ask me questions about our adult authors, to which I started shrugging and pointed them in the vague direction of someone who looked like they worked on the adult side of things. One highlight of Tuesday for me was watching some conference-goers stroll up and ask our company's (incredibly handsome and cool) CEO where the bathroom was.
My author funtimes started on Tuesday night, with the legendary, infamous Disney*Hyperion author dinner. Good. Lord. First of all, it was at an insanely gorgeous, delicious restaurant. Secondly, I got to hang out with the incredible D*H team. Do you know how to make an author feel very loved and special? You love up on their books, you ask them questions, you talk about their characters, you try to steal secrets about sequels. I can't even tell you how close I came to crying at one point when one of the Sales reps started telling me how much she loved the book and how hard she was fighting for it at her accounts. The House of the Mouse is the place to be.
I was really, really, really nervous for this dinner--I've been to so many on the work side, but I've never attended one as an actual guest. So aside from meeting everyone and hoping that I was going to make a good impression, I went into this dinner also knowing that all ten or so authors had been asked to get up and speak about their books for a few minutes in front of a room full of booksellers and media types. From the second I got to the hotel where we were all meeting, I pretty much zipped over to Dan Krokos and Tamara Ireland Stone, and we all kind of huddled together in a corner and freaked out quietly. My poor, poor Table 2 knew how nervous I was while I was waiting for my turn (I spoke 8th), and by the time I finally got up there, everyone else had NAILED their speeches. You have to know, too, that part of what makes the night so fun is that many of the authors have been coming for years (like Eoin Colfer and Mo Willems) and they basically just roast one another, Hyperion, White Plains, Rick Riordan--seriously, nothing is sacred. It's hilarious, but a little intimidating to jump in your first time out. Like Rachel Cohn said: next year. I will get the boys next year!
Anyway, here's a fun fact for you: I cannot talk about myself or my books to save my life. It's one of the few times the crippling shyness I had as a kid really comes out to play. I worry about boring people, coming off as totally into myself, about being funny, about what they'll think of me killing off 98% of America's population of young people, etc. I'm generally fine speaking in front of groups and giving presentations, but it's hard to have a room's attention focused fully on me (it's one of the reasons I don't like birthday parties, weird as it sounds). At one point, one of my fellow Table 2-ers wisely advised me to pretend like I was talking about someone else's book when I got up there. The only problem with that was that, after my editor introduced me, I got up and started talking like an NPR lady. Seriously. My voice actually lowered a full octave. The whole time my brain was screaming what are you doing what are you doing what are you doooooing?!. But I made it through! I talked about the college road trip I took with my dad, about exploring what it was like for me, as a teen, to grow up in the wake of a national tragedy (this being September 11th), about the feral kids at Waffle House, and I hope--I HOPE--I actually conveyed what the story is about. As much as I love The Darkest Minds it tends to defy being summed up in two or three sentences.
Wednesday was the blogger party! Guys. Again, how can I even express how awesome you are?! I secretly loved being all, "To Chambers and the Hudson River!" to the cab driver when I got in--the drive down was so worth it to see your faces and check out the amazing view of Manhattan. Thank you, thank you, thank you for inviting me!
(Also: where did you get those delish lemon cookies?!)
Now, as you may or may not know, I have two critique partners: Anna, who lives in NYC and I get to see on a regular basis (♥) and Sarah, who, unfortunately, lives on the opposite coast. Because Sarah's incredible book Throne of Glass is hitting shelves this fall, it mean she was going to be in town for BEA--and pretty much any time I get to spend hanging out with her is time I love. Let us pause, for a mo' to appreciate her awesome book trailer:
I dashed into the Apocalypsies Meet and Greet on Tuesday to say hi (where I also saw another favorite author of mine, Veronica Rossi [who I shamelessly complained about writing sequels to]). I didn't really get to hang out with her until the blogger party on Wednesday--and, BONUS! I finally got to meet Kat Zhang, who is pretty much just as incredible and adorable as you'd imagine. Her debut, WHAT'S LEFT OF ME, is my first read from my BEA grabs and I'm loving it to pieces so far.
Thursday was my "Author Alex" Day. It started bright and early with my signing at 9:30 AM. Just like last year, my morning got off to a bit of a rough start. I woke up late, my contacts refused to go in without doing that whole, "HAHA TRY IT AGAIN, WE'LL JUST KEEP BURNING YOUR EYEBALLS!" routine, I couldn't get my hair to keep a curl, I couldn't get my hair to go straight, so it just sort of... hung there. I wish I had had the time to go get a hair cut earlier in the week, but that's life. Thank god I moved out of the East Village, because I was actually able to hail a cab this year at 8:30 without bursting into tears (unlike last year, which found me weeping at the corner of 14th street and First Ave). Naturally, traffic was awful and I had to sprint into Javits to meet my editor, Emily, on time. We made it to the Green Room/Staging Area that I could not find for the LIFE of me last year, and the signing went off without a hitch. Thank you again to everyone who came out to see me and my wild ass hair.
But I have amazing friends, and amazing readers, and an amazing editor and the whole hour flew by. Look who were #1 and #2 in line!
Thursday was also the day that Hyperion arranged to have its authors shoot author videos at a real, fancy pants studio. I wish I had thought to bring my phone into the room to snap a picture, but, alas, I shall have to ~paint a picture with words~
So the whole room was set up, including a green screen behind me. I sat on a chair facing Nellie, a Marketing Manager from Hyperion, and the whole filming crew. My chair was tilted toward Nellie, but I was supposed to turn slightly and look directly into the camera whenever I spoke. Before we had gone in, Nellie had briefly talked to me about what kinds of questions she would be asking and told me to try to think of a short way to pitch TDM's plot (brain: nooooooooo DO NOT ASK THIS OF ME).
(Also, I totally didn't bring a hair brush with me. Crazy hair is captured always and forever for the internet's enjoyment.)
All I can say is poor, poor Nellie. The whole thing was like pulling teeth, and I pretty much just wanted to die to put the poor women and crew out of their misery hearing me stumble and fumble over words. At one point, I was repeating things line-by-line after her, because I couldn't, for whatever reason, make the ears --> brain --> mouth connection with what they were trying to coach me with. We got through two questions through sheer tenacity on their part. As I told Editor Emily later, I think I just psyched myself out. It's sort of like when you're taking a timed test, and you know that you've messed something up and you get so upset and flustered it just builds and builds. It also doesn't help that I work in marketing, so I really wanted to talk things through from a marketing perspective with her. The film crew and Nellie were incredible and so patient with me, but I walked away feeling like I had blown it. I didn't feel better about the whole thing until later, when I got on twitter:
Lloyd's cookies WERE pretty amazing. I maybe pulled a Grandma move and packed one or two in my purse...
Anyway, my BEA #3 was amazing. AMAZING in every sense of the word, and exhausting, and a total blur. It's hard for me to believe that after almost two years (!) many, many people now have The Darkest Minds galleys in their hot little hands, and I'm already getting feedback on Twitter and reviews on GoodReads. Y'all are fast readers! If you didn't make it to BEA and you're interested in a galley, I did grab a few extras to give out in contests and the like, so stay tuned!