It was clear that not all publishers knew how to handle “consumer day” --the final day of BookExpo America held on Saturday to which the general public was invited--but many publishers had prepared author signings, giveaways and other promotions at their booths. An executive at one on the major publishers said that while she had been skeptical about bringing in the public, she was impressed by their passion and love of books. Her company was using consumer day to collect names and contact info for the readers who showed up at their booth.
Interviews with readers with green badges found that many came from beyond the tri-state region. Some “power readers” took overnight buses from Pittsburgh, came in Friday to stay at hotels in New Jersey, and got up at 4:30 to be at the Javits by 6 or 6:30. Neil Gaiman was a huge draw as were YA authors and the sheer “booktopia” of BEA. Some readers came last year and brought friends, but many more were at BEA for the first time. The youngest power reader PW found was a high school freshman from Pennsylvania, who convinced his parents to bring him. “I’m an avid reader, and I read at least a book a day,” said Nathaniel Siegel of Yardley, Pa. “It’s cool to see behind the scenes.” One of his reviews appeared on Maggie Stiefvater’s Facebook page and he’s getting an end cap at the local Barnes & Noble in Oxford Valley for “Nathan’s pics.”
Power readers found out that the public was invited from book blogs, twitter, e-mails to Comic-con attendees, and even a newspaper put out by a bank in Harlem. Although figures weren’t available Monday morning, lines were much longer than usual for day 3 of BEA when the doors opened at 9 a.m. and many exhibitors agreed the power readers gave the floor a boost of excitement .
Michelle Edline of Ocean View, N.J., was one of the people who stayed overnight. She came because of “books. It’s booktopia. I have to go. I’m here with my mom.” Her mother is active with book clubs; she is a writer and takes part in National Novel Writing Month. Brittany Spetko of Mt. Sinai, N.Y. learned about BEA from NetGalley, from whom she receives e-books (NetGalley used consumer day to update its “professional readers” on the newest changes to the service).
Shana Rieger of Virginia, said that this was her first year. “When I saw it was open to the public, I came. I follow ABA, BEA, and a lot of bookstores.” She got in line at 7 because she wanted the free books for the first thousand attendees. Suzanne Wendolski of Johnstown, N.Y., spent the night at a hotel in Yonkers. She came because she’s a “book lover,” who wanted to met Rebecca Donovan of the Breathing series in the Amazon Kids area.
Among independent publishers, SkyHorse was selling one children's picture book and two adult fiction books for $5. "We sold a couple dozen," Bill Wolfson of SkyHorse said, though he had lowered the price to $1. Graywolf's publicity manager Erin Kottke said the power readers “really knew their stuff.” A lot were Amazon Vine reviewers and bloggers, she said,"It was fun to put faces to names."
Caroline Casey, publicity manager at Coffee House Press, said she didn't see as many people as she'd thought would be the case dragging totes through the halls, but she said, they handed out catalogs. She said, "it's interesting to have face to face access to readers on the floor, but there's an element of Supermarket Sweep to it that has to be managed within the other bookstore, librarian, and media outreach we're doing at the same time."