Reed Exhibitions is planning an expanded BookCon—its consumer-facing book event, launched in 2014—and a more focused BookExpo America next year. For starters, BEA is now being called BookExpo, and Brien McDonald, event director for BookExpo and BookCon, said the name is being changed for a few reasons: “Our brand is evolving and we need a name and logo to take us into the future. Having ‘America’ in our name regionalized the show; we’re a global event anchored in the publishing mecca of New York City and the destination for all book industry professionals.”
In addition, McDonald said that the new BookExpo name and logo create more symmetry with BookCon and help with Reed’s efforts to have a more cohesive approach to the BookExpo-BookCon brand. Indeed, he sees BookExpo and BookCon as a joint show, with the former offering a premier trade experience and the latter providing publishers with the opportunity to introduce their books and authors to readers.
In presentations made to publishers and other exhibitors, Reed said that it is making the changes to keep BookExpo relevant in a changing market. Speaking specifically about changes to BookExpo, McDonald said that, based on its research, Reed needs to “bring the show back to its core,” which he identified as facilitating interactions between publishers and their customers, as well as showcasing authors to professional book buyers and the media. To achieve that goal, Reed has made two significant changes: reducing the number of days the show floor will be open, from two and a half to two, and capping the number of nonpublisher attendees (the professional trade audience) to 6,000, a number that at some past events has been as high as 10,000.
According to McDonald, the focus will be on drawing more book buyers, including booksellers, librarians, and buyers from a range of specialty retailers. Through a more rigorous application process, Reed will limit the numbers of bloggers, independent authors, and consultants. “We are not trying to be exclusionary,” McDonald said. “We are trying to ensure that we have the people in the aisles that our exhibitors want to meet with.”
To encourage more booksellers to attend BookExpo, which is back at New York City’s Javits Center in 2017, Reed is subsidizing rooms at New York’s Row Hotel, so that ABA members will pay only $200 per night. The organizer will also continue past programs that it has offered for librarians and other retailers. The goal, McDonald emphasized, is to create a show floor that provides publishers more opportunities to interact with book buyers and to give publishers more time to arrange for book buyers to meet with authors.
In other efforts to better focus the show, Reed has decided to not hold the conferences that had run in conjunction with BEA, such as the Book Bloggers and IDPF events, and it will not hold UPublishU, BEA’s conference for self-published authors. Reed will still offer the Authors Market for self-published authors as well as some other programs, McDonald said.
The trade floor will be open Thursday, June 1, and Friday, June 2, with a revamped conference program set for Wednesday, May 31. The Wednesday event will include a new Global Market Forum that will feature publishing executives from four or five countries discussing market opportunities in their respective nations. Conversations with business leaders are in the works, and the ABA’s Celebration of Bookselling luncheon will move to May 31. Other events to be held that day are publishing speed dating and publisher pitch sessions, as well as the adult Buzz Panel. “Wednesday will be critical for setting the tone for the rest of the show,” McDonald said.
BookCon will run Saturday, June 3, and Sunday, June 4, and McDonald expects 25,000 consumers to attend. While the one-day BookCon in Chicago this year drew about 8,000 readers, the two-day BookCon in New York in 2015 had 18,000 consumer attendees. Reed is making some tweaks to BookCon to create more interactions between authors, fans, and the media. To date, BookCon has been dominated by what Reed calls “millennial females,” but the organizer hopes to broaden that audience in 2017.
One highlight will be a Family Headquarters section on the show floor that will feature interactive events for children and their parents. Reed also plans to bring in more celebrity and bestselling authors to BookCon who will appeal to a range of readers. “We have a solid core with the YA readers and now we want to expand to other genres,” McDonald said.
BookCon’s bookselling efforts will also be improved. Reed will sell its own ReedPop merchandise from the ReedPop Supply Store, and it is looking for a bookselling partner to sell books. The BookCon autographing area will be arranged so that consumers can buy books from authors as they wait in line.
McDonald believes that by reinventing BookExpo and continuing to grow BookCon, Reed is creating a unique combination where publishers can participate in the country’s premier trade event while also directly exposing their books and authors to readers.