After a one-day consumer show in Chicago in 2016, BookCon returned to New York City this weekend and also resumed being a two-day consumer show. A total of approximately 20,000 people--skewing towards females aged 18-30--filled the Javits Convention Center on Saturday and Sunday, meeting authors and picking up swag. This year's show was 10% larger than the last BookCon held at the Javits, BookCon 2015, which drew 18,000 people. The first BookCon was held in 2014, and last year's BookCon was in Chicago.
While some publishers sold books, others gave them away. A few publishers also gave away galleys left over from BookExpo.
Sourcebooks marketing manager Valerie Pierce said that this year's BookCon marked the first one where the publisher sold books and other items (like t-shirts ant tote bags), instead of just giving things away. “Selling books and merchandise allows us to interact more with readers,” she said.
Lara Starr, senior publicist at Chronicle Books, said BookCon offered a way to " interact with readers." She went on: "It's a wonderful thing. I've seen groups of young girls, people on dates, families. It's been great."
Publishers PW spoke to preferred BookCon in its two-day format, with Scholastic v-p of trade publicity Tracy van Straaten explaining that it allowed the children's book publisher more time to promote authors and products to consumers. For Scholastic, top items included its 25th anniversary celebration of R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps series and 20th anniversary of Dav Pilkey’s Captain Underpants series.
The first person in line on Saturday morning, Tiffany Chapman, 26, from Jamestown, N.Y., said that she and two friends arrived at 3 a.m., five hours before the doors to the building opened. She was most excited to see Cassandra Clare. Others PW spoke to cited their desire to see YA authors like Leigh Bardugo, Marissa Meyer, Sarah Dessen, and Rainbow Rowell.
Due to a family emergency earlier in the week, Dan Brown, who was scheduled to take to the Main Stage on Saturday morning, was unable to attend the show. In his absence, Margaret Atwood and Clare--who both wrote novels that were recently adapted for television--turned out to be the hits of the show, with tickets for their autographing quickly selling out Saturday morning.
Several BookCon attendees expressed surprise that neither author’s presentation--Atwood on Saturday and Clare on Sunday--was booked in the Main Stage area, but instead took place in large meeting rooms. The events attracted standing-room-only crowds, with people turned away at the door after the rooms reached full capacity.
Atwood, the author of The Handmaid’s Tale, and Bruce Miller, the showrunner for Hulu (which adapted Handmaid's Tale for television), discussed the story in print and on screen before a crowd of more than 500. Much of their talk, moderated by Huffington Post culture reporter Madeleine Crum, centered on the inspiration driving both creatives, at different moments in time. Atwood talked about conceptualizing the book (which was published in 1985) over 30 years ago; Miller discussed the prescience of the novel today.
Disclosing that she was born in 1939, “which was a bad year,” Atwood cited the historical, cultural, and literary inspirations for her in writing The Handmaid’s Tale, saying, “I read a lot of history books. I read a lot of prison memoirs: Gulag memoirs, concentration camp memoirs.”
Noting the topical nature of the tale, Miller said that the television script was written “long before the [presidential debates] began, [and] we were filming on election eve and election day” in Toronto. Miller pointed out that, unlike the book, the television series is “an ongoing machine.” It has just been renewed for a second season. Miller urged the audience to read The Handmaid’s Tale before watching the show, as “lots of things in the show are a reward for reading the book.”
BookCon 2018 will be held at Javits in New York CIty on June 2–3, following BookExpo 2018, which will be held May 30–June 1.