Despite uncertainty about how big a draw an afternoon opening would be, a line had already formed more than an hour before the one o'clock opening of the show floor. Many in line had attended blogger programming earlier in the day. A few authors, including a children's writer from New Zealand, were there to scope out an industry in flux. "The business has changed so much I just wanted to reacquaint myself," said Neal Ochsner, who took a multi-year writing hiatus after publishing with Zebra and Houghton Mifflin.
Bookseller excitement was high, even though many were unaware of this year's late start and had planned to come to the Javits much earlier in the day. Pam Cady, manager of the general book department at University Book Store in Seattle, said, "I'm super excited this year. After Winter Institute, which was great, I wanted another fix." Still, she found the afternoon opening "weird."
"Personally I would have preferred a full day today and a half-day Friday," ånoted Karen Mizzi, who runs The Movieplace, an online book business from her home in Amityville, N.Y. "I'm geared up more when it's a full day. [BEA] is like a marathon."
The booths closest to the doorways were packed when the doors first opened. But as the day progressed the entire show floor filled. Chronicle Books was one of the publishers that saw "a huge amount of traffic," when the floor opened and stayed full, according to senior publicist Lara Starr. The press gave out a number of totes and ARCS within the first half hour, and was pleased to report it had its first book stolen almost immediately.
For Penguin Random House, this marked the first time that the two companies had a combined booth. In the past few years Random House has taken a smaller space geared to autographings. PRH director of retail marketing Patty Berg called this year's large booth with four autographing tables and lots of ARC giveaways "a throwback" to the past. Given the crowd drawn to the booth, it seemed to be working.
Some publishers like Johnny Byrd of Cinco Puntos Press, were less concerned about the late start than who will be left on Friday afternoon. Others, like one publisher who asked to remain anonymous, said, "[BookCon] is the tail wagging the dog. If I had my druthers, I'd only be here for BookCon."
Given the mixed sentiment, perhaps literary agent Wendy Strothman of Strothman Agency summed up the mood of the show best as "cautiously optimistic." She noted, "No shoes have dropped yet."