BookExpo wrapped up its reconfigured three-day run on June 2 at New York City’s Javits Center. For the 2017 event, BookExpo organizer ReedPop limited exhibiting hours to Thursday and Friday, with Wednesday, May 31, dedicated to educational panels, the Adult Book Editors Buzz Panel, and ABA’s Celebration of Bookselling. (BookCon followed BookExpo at Javits, June 3–4).
Crowds at the educational sessions were big, if not huge.The Celebration of Bookselling had a good turnout to honor ABA Indies Choice winners, as well as the winner of the new Joyce Meskis Free Speech Award (Media Coalition attorney Michael Bamberger) and PW Bookstore of the Year Wild Rumpus and Rep of the Year Anne DeCourcey of HarperCollins. The most enthusiastic Wednesday session was the crowded adult editors panel. After presentations by six editors, booksellers stormed the back of the room to pick up copies of the books discussed during the talk.
Thursday’s big event was the 6 p.m. appearance by Hillary Clinton, who talked about her upcoming, as-yet-unnamed book, from Simon & Schuster, and about reading and politics with Wild author Cheryl Strayed. The sold-out event attracted about 1,000 BookExpo attendees, who heard Clinton describe her new collection of personal essays as “a really unvarnished view of what I think happened [in the election].”
While Clinton’s fall book is likely to be one of the biggest of 2017, booksellers were high on a number of titles from established and new authors. Among the new names generating excitement was A.J. Finn, the pseudonym of publishing veteran (and HarperCollins v-p and executive editor) Dan Mallory. A buzz panel selection, Finn’s The Woman in the Window was acquired by William Morrow just before the 2016 Frankfurt Book Fair for a rumored seven figures.
Another buzz panel selection being talked up on the show floor was Gabriel Tallent’s debut, My Absolute Darling, due out in August from Riverhead. Anne Holman, co-owner of the King’s English bookstore in Salt Lake City, said everyone at her store is discussing the novel, which they’re comparing to Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life.
Among the books at the show being compared to The Handmaid’s Tale (and there were a few), one stood out: Leni Zumas’s Red Clocks. The novel, to be released by Little, Brown in January, is set in a near-future America where abortion is illegal.
Books by three heavy hitters were being stuffed into numerous tote bags: Jeffrey Eugenides’s Fresh Complaint (FSG, Oct.), Nicole Krauss’s Forest Dark (Harper, Sept.), and Jennifer Egan’s Manhattan Beach (Scribner, Oct.). Fresh Complaint, Eugenides’s first story collection, was written over 30 years, according to FSG publicity director Jeff Seroy. As Seroy put it, the collection allows fans of the Pulitzer Prize winner to dip in and out of his work: “It’s like having Eugenides tapas, instead of a full-course meal.”
Children’s book publishers were highlighting titles for all ages and interests. On the picture book side, HarperCollins was offering Good Day, Good Night (Oct.), an unpublished manuscript by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Loren Long, that is a companion to Brown’s Goodnight Moon. Another lead title for the house is Shel Silverstein’s Runny Babbit Returns (Sept.), a sequel to the posthumously published Runny Babbit. At Chronicle, Her Right Foot marks Dave Eggers’s debut on the publisher’s list; the picture book about the Statue of Liberty is illustrated by Shawn Harris.
Middle graders can look forward to the 12th Wimpy Kid book, The Getaway, due from Abrams’s Amulet imprint on November 7. The Purloining of Prince Oleomargarine is a never-before-published story by Mark Twain, finished by Philip Stead and illustrated by the author and Erin Stead, due in October from Doubleday. Candlewick was highlighting Mira Bartók’s The Wonderling, the first in a middle grade fantasy series with a Dickensian scope. At Little, Brown, big titles for the season include The Magic Misfits (Nov.) by actor Neil Patrick Harris.
For teens, the big news at Knopf is the first volume in Philip Pullman’s long-awaited Book of Dust series; La Belle Sauvage pubs in October with a 500,000-copy first printing. Other major YA titles include All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater (Scholastic Press, Oct.); Marieke Nijkamp’s Before I Let Go (Sourcebooks Fire, Jan. 2018); Dhonielle Clayton’s The Belles, out from Disney-Hyperion in early 2018; E. Lockhart’s Genuine Fraud (Delacorte, Sept.); Kristin Cashore’s Jane, Unlimited (Penguin/Dawson, Sept.); The Renegades by Marissa Meyer; and Warcross by Marie Lu (Putnam, Sept.).
Several publishers noted an ongoing interest in nonfiction across age groups. Dutton publisher Julie Strauss-Gabel was talking up HelloFlo: The Guide, Period by Naama Bloom, founder and CEO of HelloFlo, and Glynnis MacNicol, cofounder of TheLi.st. Though Strauss-Gabel’s list mainly features fiction, she has seen a larger trend of more nonfiction for young readers.
Disney, meanwhile, is continuing to find success pairing big-name authors with big-name properties: among them, Jason Reynolds’s Miles Morales: Spider-Man; Drew Daywalt and Matt Myers’s Star Wars tie-in, BB-8 on the Run; and Matt de la Peña’s picture book Miguel and the Grand Harmony, illustrated by Ana Ramírez, based on Pixar’s forthcoming Coco.
No official attendance figures for BookExpo were available at press time, but the event had a smaller feel than previous shows at Javits. Some of that was by design, as Reed did away with concurrent events such as the book bloggers’ convention and the IDPF annual conference. At a Wednesday morning panel, ReedPop head Lance Fensterman reiterated that the company is looking to transform BookExpo into a more relevant show for today’s market by making it a vibrant, focused, high-level event for professionals and pairing it with BookCon, which gives publishers “a huge platform to reach readers directly.”
BookExpo certainly has evolved over time, and many industry members still believe it serves a purpose, even though writing orders is no longer a major component of the show. “If we came here just for bookseller foot traffic it wouldn’t be worth it,” said the head of a midsize publisher, who added that he had 20 meetings over the two days the show floor was open, as well as discussions with other publishers about what is going on in the market.
Penguin Random House CEO Markus Dohle also remains pro-BookExpo. “We need to have an event where the whole publishing community can come together,” he said.