A Piece of My Mind: Book Expo 2006
Bennet Pomerantz

It was the best of times, It was the worst of times.
   ~ Charles Dickens

The Book Expo America 2006 (BEA) came into the Washington, D.C. convention center with a whimper and not as big a bang that the Expo usually has had. To me, it was at home, since I live in the DC area. During the show, I slept in my own bed . . . it was convention miracle for me. So BEA was wonderful because it was LOCAL this year, but it was also a let-down.

To me, BEA is like a carnival side show. The booth people are like carnival barkers. The books are the thrills and chills of the event, replacing the roller coasters and side shows. Usually BEA is filled with an inner excitement. However, many like me didn't feel it this year. Like the song says, the thrill is gone. I say this because I have been going to this show for twenty years

The usual suspects were there . . . such Big named publishers like Simon & Schuster, Random House, Time Warner, William Morrow, Harper Collins and all their divisions showed up. Their booths filled the quarter of an aisle like they usually do. Still it seemed slow - even for the big names.

The show seemed less animated this year than in previous years. Of course, there were the feeding frenzies of special upcoming books or convention bags on Friday and Saturday. Most felt, as I did, a slowdown on Saturday afternoon, usually the busiest day of the show. The hype machines seem to have died to a dull roar

The authors were there, but not as many as there have been. The lines in the autograph section were shorter than normal. It seems some of the writers did not seem to have as much of the punch in their step. It felt like they were going through the motions. As I said and most felt, The Thrill is Gone!

The galley copies of books (if you do not know what a galley is-it is generally an uncorrected copy of an advanced copy of a book) were out there for the taking, like they usually are. They use to flow out like wine, now they trickle out during special feeding frenzies which made traffic jams on the convention floor. The standard galleys of the "name" authors were not put out as much this year, such as the new Sue Grafton book - a convention galley staple for ten years. This was, as someone told me, to promote the newer authors who needed a showcase. In the flashes of name author galleys (such as Meet the Press's Tim Russert, James Paterson, etc.), there were small throngs and gathering of crowds. After the galleys were gone, the crowds vanished into dust.

Small press publishers seem to have grown larger and larger at each convention. Most years, many of them were placed in a smaller hall. This year, many of the smaller press people have moved into the main hall. There was a smaller hall with small press and Children's press. However, that hall was not as full as normal

Even my beloved press room seemed sedate this year. In years past, the room was a hub of discussion, debate, and networking. People used to discuss the issues of publishing, the newest book or author. Most of the time, these discussions led to dinner, e-mails, and friendships. This year, most press members got their badges and never returned to the press room. The room seems like a ghost town. Even the promotion material were less than from years past.

The most impressive item of this show was the shipping department. Once you got your spoils (galleys, buttons, posters, bags, etc.), you needed to take it home. The convention was local and I still shipped four small boxes (30 pounds each box) mostly all on the last day

Before I forget, I must say thanks to those who said hello, shook my hand and said they enjoy my column...It's nice to know that you are being read. It does make one's day, even on a busy convention floor. And to the pregnant woman who said I won't remember her in my column, HI I remember you!

Well next year the convention will be held June 1-3, 2007 at the Jacob Javits Convention Center - New York City, NY . . . I hope it will be better. And YES, I will be there!

So, until next time keep reaching for the stars!

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About the Writer:

Bennet Pomerantz is a media review columnist in 175 newspapers with his weekly column AUDIOWORLD. His fiction and reviews have appeared in the pages of Affaire De Coeur, Gateways, Mystery Scene, Power Star, The Hot Corner, Washington Entertainment Magazine, and many others. He is also known for his review appearances on the MCN Forum. View his web site at Audioworld.