BEA to BookCon: What’s the Difference?

Discontent is brewing, and for once it has nothing to do with the constant snow.

For those of us who love books and/or are involved in the publishing industry in some way, BookExpoAmerica (BEA) is the mothership. It’s a place for discovery–booksellers, librarians, and book bloggers get to find out what titles are forthcoming; and it’s a place for networking within the industry and meeting writers. Last year I attended as a writer. I signed copies of THE TRAJECTORY OF DREAMS on one day, and I took the train back up to NY for their Power Reader Day with a friend. I had a great time, met some fabulous people, and I was able to lay hands on some ARCs that I had an interest in, the vast majority of which I reviewed on Amazon and/or Goodreads or talked about here on the site or on Twitter or Facebook.

This year I bought a ticket to the Power Reader Day only because I don’t have a book fresh out or forthcoming this year. That was a few weeks ago. Today, out of the blue, an email arrived in my inbox telling me that Power Reader Day doesn’t exist anymore. Instead, my Power Reader Day ticket is being converted to a BookCon ticket.

Emma-Watson-Shock-LookWhat? That was . . . abrupt.

The email didn’t really have much information about the difference. Power Reader Day no longer exists on the BEA website. But on the BookCon website, it very clearly states that the BookCon is separate event entirely from BEA, and while you can attend BookCon if you have a BEA ticket, you can cannot enter BEA with a BookCon ticket. But still, not much information about what is different at BookCon versus BEA.

There’s buzz about it on Twitter, but a lot of people seem unconcerned . . . as long as BookCon is not any different than BEA and what we were expecting from Power Reader Day.

Not to be a downer, but BookCon doesn’t really sound like BEA’s Power Reader Day at all:

[Lance] Fensterman [the guy in charge] said BookCon will have little resemblance to the “power reader” events that BEA ran on the final day of the trade show for the past two years. “It will be a whole new ball game,” Fensterman explained, adding that ReedPop will use its experience building events that appeal to a younger, non-trade demographic–specifically those between the ages of 20 and 35–in crafting BookCon.

Uh, well, okay. Leaving out the part where BookCon basically blows off those over the age of 35, what exactly does all that mean? Neither BEA nor BookCon seem to be answering any questions on Twitter, but an AP article says it will “include panel discussions, podcasts, interviews and quiz shows” and another article [first link] says “publishers will be allowed to give away, and sell, titles from their booths, and from the autographing areas.”

BEA has traditionally had panel discussions and autograph opportunities, but selling booksscully to attendees? Yeah, there has always been a component of sales (both librarians and booksellers placing orders and vendors who sell used books and book/reading-related trinkets), but the big draw has always been free ARCs and free book copies available in the signing areas.* While publishers will be “allowed” to offer giveaways, it sounds as though there’s a bigger emphasis on sales. Eh, that’s not what I go to BEA for. If I want to buy books, I’ll buy books where I normally do–either at independent book stores or online. All the podcasts, interviews, and quiz shows in the world don’t make it worth my while to travel to NY simply to buy books at a convention.

The headliners so far for BookCon–Amy Poehler, Martin Short, John Grisham, and Stan Lee–well, it’s a nice touch, but I didn’t even go to the panel discussions last year at BEA. I had too much fun on the floor looking at all the glorious books that were coming out. And not for nothing, but the only writer in there is Grisham. The BookCon website says there are other authors to be signed. All in all, BookCon sounds quite different from BEA’s Power Reader Day, and the fact that they randomly announced the change weeks after I bought my ticket (months after others bought their tickets) feels a bit, well, wrong.**

I hope I’m wrong about BookCon, and it’s every bit as wonderful as BEA’s Power Reader Day. I also hope that BookCon and BEA clear things up about the differences. Because right now it’s looking a little bait and switch-y.


UPDATE (3/27/14): A rep from BookCon that I’ve been emailing with is adamant that BookCon will be just like BEA but without the “business-to-business” booths. It’s supposed to be a “greatly expanded” experience. I was offered a refund on my ticket, but it sounds as though there’s not a snowball’s chance in hell that Power Reader Day tickets (those bought before the announcement yesterday) will be honored at BEA. That’s a shame. I plan to keep my ticket to BookCon in the hopes that my experience will be as fabulous and wondrous as the rep says it will.

Reaction from others about BookCon/BEA:

*Now, I know that there’s been some friction between librarians/book sellers and book bloggers/readers when it comes to those free copies. The first year book bloggers were allowed into BEA, there were quite a few complaints about how bloggers gobbled up free copies to the degree that librarians and book sellers weren’t able to obtain the things they wanted/needed. Last year there were a few titles that had a limited number of copies, but it seemed like it was done by design. Overall, it seemed like there were an overabundance of ARCs, and everyone got what they needed. I didn’t hear any complaints about it last year, at least.

**I’m hoping the BEA people honor the tickets of everyone who bought Power Reader tickets prior to the announcement today. It only seems fair, especially since it seems as though they’ve set themselves up for a great deal of liability by giving those who bought tickets something far, far different from what was purchased.

19 Responses

  1. I totally agree. BookCon is an event I would not purchase tickets to attend. I’m still trying to figure out what my next step is, but it’s not attending BookCon, whatever it is.

    1. Right now, I’m still planning to attend…mostly out of curiosity and because it’s not a huge ordeal for me to get to NYC. But I am developing a Plan B of things to do in NY that day. Based on what’s been said in press releases and interviews, etc, I’m not particularly optimistic.

  2. Thanks for the info. Vastly disappointed in the switch! Went to both Power Reader Days and only went to 1 panel (Neil Gaiman). Most of day was spent wandering the show floor, talking to authors, getting autographed books, picking up free ARCs, sharing my discoveries with friends online… Sounds like maybe the publishers didn’t like the “general public” taking up their time. Hadn’t bought a ticket yet and not sure I want to do a NYCC-lite day of waiting in lines for panels.

    1. I’m not particularly optimistic about how all this will play out–cons are not my thing as a consumer, and I’m outside the target demographic. But hey, at least there are a million other things to do in Manhattan. I’m trying to find the bright side in all of this.

  3. Those of us in the Goodreads BEA group are discussing it–trying to pool our resources and knowledge and puzzle out what’s going on. This seems like such a colossal crazy boat though. I really think ReedPop needs to not announce these sudden changes MONTHS after they open registration. It would cause a whole lot less discontent (for instance if they never offered the Power Reader Pass at reg this year, and instead only had BookCon avail, no one would have gone into the process expecting one thing and being hoodwinked into another).

    1. The BookCon reps have been working overtime to convince people who bought Power Reader tickets that they won’t be losing anything, but it’s VERY carefully worded. I’m with you, Lexie–it’s a real problem to announce changes after opening registration. BookCon is going to have to blow me and everyone else away–by not only offering up EXACTLY what we all loved about BEA but providing even more. Otherwise, I suspect there will be grudges held because of all the drama the BookCon/Power Reader debacle caused. That’s a big order.

      1. Ah see and now there’s the hitch – the reps have been giving my friends and I different information. One said that it was completely separate another said that it would be the same as Power Reader Day a completely other person said if you bought your Power Reader Day pass before the announcement you’d have the perks granted to you…

        Though as you said there isn’t as much buzz as I thought there would be. I’m not sure if that’s because for those who would generate the buzz its not effecting us (bloggers that is). We all signed up for our BEA pass and there’s no hitches there so for a lot us its outside our scope. Truthfully if some of my group mates hadn’t brought it up I wouldn’t have even known about the change. I had some…bad experiences with Power Readers in the last two years and I’ve attempted to minimize contact with them as a result.

        1. I just put in a request to join the BEA GR group, so we can discuss further there, but my concern is that most people just don’t understand what’s happening. I would put my money on BookCon being completely separate, with few to zero booths by publishers (which pubs will want to pay for and set up TWO booths?), and very few to zero free books. There will be panels, promoted booths (advertising), books for sale, and more movie tie-ins, because that’s the ComicCon base (and this event is being run by ComicCon people).

          I, too, have been amazed at how few people are freaking out. I have quite a few friends who’ve been discussing this issue privately, but I haven’t seen as much buzz on Twitter as I would expect. Again, I think people don’t entirely get what’s going on, but it’s abundantly clear from the very sneaky wording that ticket holders now have ZERO access to BEA and ZERO promise that they will get any of the features from BEA.

          1. I look forward to seeing you in the group Melanie 🙂 (make sure to say hi!)

            From what we’ve gathered (which there’s more details in the thread in the group) – some of the publishers will be “inside” the “BookCon” area and some will not be but will have “Satellite” booths set up (or at least have that option).

            honestly this feels more like the ALA set-up – where publishers can (and will) have free books/ARCs available, but they’ll also have the majority of their stock for sale (hopefully for a discounted price…) for signings and author appearances.

        2. You’re probably right–there would have been a lot more of an uproar if the book blogging community as a whole would have gotten hosed in the switch, or if there weren’t a bit of animosity in the mix.

          It’s irksome to know that reps are giving out differing info. There’s a lot at stake for BookCon here, so I’m sure they’re trying to tell people what they want to hear. I do wonder if this is the start of taking BEA back to its original format, for book sellers/librarians only. I’m keeping my eye on any other changes this year and next.

          1. Thanks, Lexie!

            My friends and I are all MG authors. Some of us live in the NYC area, and the BEA Power Reader pass was a great way for us to participate and network for a single day (along with our kids, in many cases).

            Now, we’re left scrambling to figure out which tickets to get, and whether or not our kids can come with us. We do have a group blog (Kidliterati), but we don’t consider ourselves “professional bloggers,” so it’s pretty darn confusing. None of us would have purchased a BookCon ticket, so this bait and switch tactic does not bode well for what we’ll see when we get there.

          2. This being my 7th BEA (and having attended back before Bloggers were attending) I can definitely see why ReedPop would want to move back to the bookseller/librarians as their focus. I’m sure you’ve seen the posts across the last few years of the discontent between the various attendees groupings (really the only time we all agreed was with the wariness of the Power Readers and a small percent of their group’s bad behavior).

            This is a bit par for the course for BEA. When they changed the rules for bloggers it was a sudden shift, when they announced the Power Readers Day it was a last minute addition, when BEA Bloggers was officially taken over by them it was a sudden announcement. A lot of their problems would be solved if they didn’t open registration so early, or if they restricted certain levels until they made their announcements.

  4. I also find myself going more out of curiosity. I was just stunned that they changed it right in the middle, which makes it seem like they did it last minute. I can understand the friction between consumers and the professionals. I’ve gone twice before as a blogger and it can be hard to spot booths with items for consumers and those for professionals.

    I also expected a bit more from the first few guest announced. You would think they’d want to have some big bookish names to draw people in. Only one published author ? I’ve read a few Grisham novels, I wouldn’t consider him in the 20-35 year old market they seem to want to get.

    1. While I would like to see fewer celebrities and more authors, I tend not to go to panel discussions anyway. My main fangirl moment last was getting a book signed by Maile Meloy. There are a few authors on the 2014 BEA list I would go out of my way for to get an autograph, but none on the BookCon list.

      I have a lot of concerns about BookCon. The latest is that I’m hearing quite a few publishing houses, both small and large, are opting to only have booths inside the BEA area. They’re already hitting book bloggers within BEA, so perhaps a few thousand BookCon participants aren’t going to be enough of a draw to justify the expense of an extra $1000 to have a booth in both sections. It’s a shame–one of my favorite finds last year was a novel put out by Cinco Puntos. I would be really surprised if they or a press like Tin House will be doing booths in the BookCon area.

  5. I am super wicked annoyed at this bait and switch. I am a librarian. I could have signed up for BEA earlier in the week. But teachers and librarians really talked up BEA to my teen daughter, and she really wanted to go, so I signed all of us (including my son) for Power Reader Day, got a hotel, etc. If I had known it was BookCon, I never would have signed them up. I’m probably going to go anyway because the tickets are paid for, and the kids are (sort of) excited, but I am not at all impressed with what I have seen so far or the way it it is being handled. Even my daughter is a little skeptical of the email she received with the very vague, sneaky, slimy wording about the switch. And there is very little on the BEA web site. It’s almost as though PowerReader Day never existed. As a matter of fact, I found this blog while trying to figure out what the heck is gong on. The powers-that-be are being very quiet.

    We go to ComicCon and have a great time, but that is not at all what we are looking for in our BEA experience. I’m guessing we’ll spend a short time there, come out disappointed, and spend the rest of the weekend having fun in NYC. I hope I am pleasantly surprised, but the way this whole thing has been handled makes me very wary.

    1. It’s hard to be positive in the wake of the announcement and subsequent news about what this BookCon will be. An all white male panel on children’s books? A majority of guest stars who aren’t writers? Yeah, no thanks. I suspect the BookCon folks are going to have a lot irate people on their hands after the con, when it doesn’t deliver the BEA/Power Reader experience people are expecting.

      Like you, I’ve got a Plan B for my time in New York.

      1. Yeah, what’s the deal with all the big name non-authors (or non-prolific authors) anyway? Think how many semi-popular authors they could pay for with what they are probably paying Tina Fey! I love hearing authors I’ve never heard of at events like this. When I hear authors speak, I am much more likely to buy their books, so I think authors and publishers might be missing out big with this approach.

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