With the Covid-19 pandemic forcing the cancellation of the 2020 editions of BookExpo and BookCon, event organizer ReedPop has joined the growing ranks of companies taking the virtual route to connect their different constituencies in the online world. For ReedPop, that means scheduling six days of free programming that it will make available on Facebook and other social media platforms.
Though Reed had initially moved the in-person BookExpo and BookCon from their original dates in late May to late July, the virtual programs will run this week, with BookExpo Online events set for May 26–29 and BookConline programs planned for May 30–31. “Our goal for these virtual editions of BookExpo and BookCon is to fill the void that this virus has left by decimating face-to-face events and book tours,” says Jenny Martin, event manager for BookExpo and BookCon. “We are aiming to support the industry and readers the best way that we can during these unprecedented and difficult times. We are in a unique position to be able to do this because of our relationships with our customers and our attendees.”
All panels are open to the general public, and Martin says many publishers are planning to have ARC and galley giveaways for both BookExpo and BookCon. In addition, Reed is providing links to Bookshop for consumers interested in buying books.
BookExpo Online will kick off with Librarians’ Day on Tuesday, May 26. The day will begin with a panel of library leaders, organized by PW, who will take stock of how libraries are handling the pandemic thus far and how the public library might change in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis. The conversation will be led by PW columnist Sari Feldman, former executive director of the Cuyahoga County Public Library in Ohio and past president of the American Library Association and the Public Library Association.
Scheduled to join Feldman are Kacie Armstrong, director of the Euclid (Ohio) Public Library; R. David Lankes, director of the University of South Carolina’s School of Information Science; Lisa Rosenblum, director of the King County (Wash.) Library System; and Ramiro S. Salazar, director of the San Antonio Public Library.
Other panels set for May 26 include “Audiobooks and Consumer Behavior,” at which Audio Publishers Association executive director Michele Cobb will discuss the newest trends in the booming audiobook market, and “Pivoting Through Crisis: A Global Pandemic’s Impact on the Future of Library Services,” which will be moderated by Veronda Pitchford and will examine how libraries are adapting to new demands for their services caused by Covid-19.
Reed will follow Librarians’ Day with author dinners on May 27 and 28. The two panels will feature all the authors who were set to appear on BookExpo’s traditional authors breakfasts. “We are really excited that 98% of our originally programmed authors are still on board to participate in the virtual show, as well as some new ones who would not have been available prior to all of this,” Martin says.
Both former breakfasts will now take place 5:30–7 p.m. ET, to allow interested industry members from across the country to participate. The adult author dinner, set for May 27, will feature poet laureate Joy Harjo, Carmen Maria Machado, Rep. Ilhan Omar, and Rebecca Roanhorse discussing their forthcoming works and initiatives with MSNBC political analyst and SiriusXM radio personality Zerlina Maxwell. The children’s author dinner will be held May 28 and will bring together Judy Blume, Misty Copeland, Raj Haldar, Marie Lu, Kwame Mbalia, and Natalie Portman.
BookExpo Online will conclude with Buzz Day on May 29. Adult, young adult, and middle grade editors’ buzz panels are planned, along with new picture book and new graphic novel showcases. The editors’ buzz panels will be presented in an updated format that brings together a discussion between editor and author for each featured title. The adult buzz panel will feature editors from Crown, Flatiron, Knopf, William Morrow, Putnam, and Simon & Schuster discussing upcoming books with their authors. Editors from First Second, Levine Querido, Random House Graphic, Razorbill, and Tor Teen will be on hand talking to authors about new titles due out over the next several months on the YA panel. And the middle grade buzz panel will feature editors from Atheneum Books for Young Readers; Crown Book for Young Readers; Farrar, Straus and Giroux Books for Young Readers; Scholastic Press; and Viking Books for Young Readers.
The sixth Buzz Day panel is the ninth annual book club speed dating event, set for 1–3 p.m. ET. Carol Fitzgerald, founder of ReadingGroupGuides, will host the event, which will feature representatives from 25 publishers. Each will share selections from their publishing houses in a speed-dating format designed to give booksellers, librarians, and book group leaders an inside look at new and upcoming titles that book groups will want to know about. (Advance sign-up is required.)
Participating publishers are And Other Stories, Blair, Coffee House, David R. Godine, Dundurn, Europa, Forest Avenue, Grove Atlantic, Hachette, Harlequin, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, House of Anansi, Liveright, Morrow, Norton, Random House, Scribe, Simon & Schuster, Soho Press, Sourcebooks, Tin House, Tor, Turner, Unbound, World Editions.
BookConline 2020 will offer fans a virtual gathering place to interact with a variety of authors. The two-day event will feature a full slate of q&as and panel discussions with nearly 100 bestselling and debut authors including Judy Blume, Cassandra Clare, Zoraida Cordova, Mike Curato, Jenny Han, Jodi Picoult, and Nic Stone discussing topics such as the new age of superheroes, LGBTQ characters in YA and middle grade literature, and social justice.
All BookExpo Online programming will be viewable on the BookExpo Facebook page, and all BookConline programming will be viewable on the BookCon Facebook page and BookCon Facebook group. Reed will archive all presentations on YouTube. Martin says Reed’s BookCon virtual author series events have had more than 30,000 views on Facebook and drew another 4,000 views on BookExpo’s page. She expects views for the virtual events to top those numbers.
Even before results from the week are in, Martin says virtual events will be part of future BookExpos and BookCons. “This virus is going to change our landscape. We will adapt to fit the new world, as will our customers. Things may look a lot different, but people will still love to read, and great content will spread across media platforms to delight consumers. As long as that’s true, we are committed to serving this industry. We embarked on a path to reinvent this show before Covid-19, and in some ways this has reinforced the path to value.”