Once again, the morning after BookExpo ended for booksellers, the Jacob Javits Convention Center welcomed consumers to BookCon, a weekend literary extravaganza that one attendee called a Disneyland for booklovers.
A total of about 20,000 people attended the event that ran on Saturday and Sunday, meeting authors, buying books and sidelines, picking up literary swag and other freebies, and even, for about 1,200 of them, hearing former U.S. President Bill Clinton talk about the presidency in fact and in fiction.
While the demographics of the show, as always, skewed towards women between 18-30, there were more females both younger than 18 and older than 30 this year, and more men. ReedPOP president Lance Fensterman, noting that the gender ratio was 80:20 in previous years, estimated that this year, the ratio seemed to be more like 70:30. The crowd was noticeably heavier on Saturday than on Sunday, and most of the people PW queried hailed from the Mid-Atlantic region, although there were some from New England as well as the South.
One mother, Madeleine Collazo, there with her 20-year-old daughter, Brianna, said that it’s become a tradition for the two to come to BookCon from the Bronx. The two prefer, she said, to come on Saturday because it’s “more rowdy,” while Sunday draws more families. Also, she said, “We get a lot more books and ARCs on Saturday than on Sunday” because the publishers run out of popular items long before the end of the first day. “It’s good to come here and see how Brianna’s reading tastes change every year, and to see the expression of her happiness when she meets the author,” Collazo said.
Saturday’s first arrivals at Javits were Hayley Oliviera and Cassidy Guinada, both 19-years-old from Long Island, who camped outside Javits at 3:30 a.m. for their second BookCon experience. “We wanted to get into everything we wanted,” Guinada explained. She was especially interested in the “Shadowhunters Army” booth which contained books and swag inspired by YA author Cassandra Clare’s Shadowhunter Chronicles series of urban fantasy novels. The pair, as well as most of the other attendees PW interviewed -- both male and female -- mentioned Clare as the author they were most excited to see at BookCon. Clare’s fans filled the Main Stage area on Saturday, listening raptly as she dished on her life, her friends, the writing process, and her travels, as well as the characters she’s created in four overlapping series. She promised that in the next novel in the Dark Artifices series, Queen of Air and Darkness (Dec.), “there will be a lot of change” for the characters, who will take readers to new places, and that the novel will be structured differently from her previous writings.
While one attendee, Roger Maloney, from New York City, said he was excited to see Congressman John Lewis on Saturday, he was even more excited to see YA author Tomi Adeyemi, whose debut novel, Children of Blood and Bone, was published earlier this spring. “I like to check out new authors,” he said, “I think Adeyemi is going to be the next J.K. Rowling. Her book has the same feel as Harry Potter.” He wasn’t the only attendee to think that: many people PW spoke to mentioned their excitement to see Adeyemi, who appeared with other YA authors on several panels that drew crowds of fans. She signed books in the autographing area Saturday and Sunday.
The highlight of the show for many, of course, was Clinton’s joint appearance in the Main Stage area with James Patterson, his collaborator on the thriller, The President is Missing, which was officially launched at this sold-out event. During the hour, moderated by Washington, D.C. superlawyer Robert Barnett, Clinton described the writing process with Patterson as his being “an apprentice” to the bestselling and prolific author, though he provided authenticity to the details in the novel. Clinton, who admitted to being a big fan of thrillers, especially of Patterson's 2017 novel, The Black Book, said that he hoped that the duo succeeded in “using a fictional vehicle to convey the factual” about what it’s really like to be president of the U.S. and how a “responsible White House” would respond to a crisis.
Comparing the conclusion of The President Is Missing to that of the Black Panther movie, Clinton noted that “the good guys are not perfect and the bad guys are not all bad. By the end of the book, people won’t want [a female assassin] to be hurt.”
Barnett drew laughs when he asked the two if the title was “wishful thinking.” While Donald Trump’s name was never mentioned by any of the speakers, many of the comments made by both Clinton and Patterson could be taken as swipes at the current administration and its policies.
Discussing his experiences as President, and how there is always pressure on the President to “act tough” against foreign powers, Clinton pointed out that the President can issue orders –such as bombing other countries -- that result in the deaths of innocent people and thus must resist acting impulsively and rashly. “When you give someone the power of the presidency,” he said, “Unintended death is part of the job description. Once you give that order, you can’t bring those people back to life.”
Patterson said, “Not to be political here, but people have to be careful whom they elect to be President. It’s such a hugely important job. I think we’ve forgotten how important it really is."