Book Expo America (BEA) is the largest annual book trade fair in the United States. Publishers from around the US and abroad are joined by agents, librarians, authors, retailers, and other industry professionals for almost a week every spring to showcase upcoming titles, make deals, and socialize with colleagues. BEA has been around since the 1940s and is truly a one-of-a-kind, in-depth look into the book-publishing world. In 2014, BookCon was added as the fan convention counterpart to the trade fair, and is usually held for 1-2 days after the end of BEA.
2016 marked little bee books’s second time exhibiting at both BEA and BookCon, and what a whirlwind it was! In 2015, we were on home turf at the Javits Center in New York City—but this year, we flew to Chicago to exhibit at McCormick Place (the largest convention center in the United States!)
May 9th and May 10th: Setting up
Exhibitors spend months arranging for everything they will need at the show. Booth parts need to arrive at the convention center, as well as the team that will actually set the booth up. Books, giveaways, materials, booth décor and more all need to be sent ahead of time as well, so that when you arrive, everything is waiting for you.
Exhibitors were finally allowed to hit the convention floor to start setting up on Monday, May 9th. There was a lot of commotion to say the least, because the floor was quite literally a construction zone—different teams constructing booths, vehicles delivering palettes of books and materials left and right, boxes everywhere, and exhibitor teams running around in sneakers. little bee books had about 50-70 boxes to unpack and arrange for the booth—most of which included Fall 2016 and Spring 2017 titles we wanted to show off, and hundreds of giveaways included tote bags, ARCs, and finished books.
May 11th to May 13th: BEA
Wednesday, May 11th was the first official day of the show. Exhibitors came in to the hall in the morning to put finishing touches on their booths before doors officially opened at 1 PM.
You could hear an actual roar when people started racing in at 1 pm. Many were jetting off to different booths to grab giveaways, ARCs, and signed copies that would probably run out in a matter of minutes. little bee books also offered lots of giveaways this year:
- On Wednesday, we handed out finished copies of Blast Back!: Ancient Egypt and Blast Back!: Ancient Greece, the first two titles in a humorous, nonfiction history series for kids ages 7-10
- On Thursday morning, we had an author signing for upcoming picture book Trainbots with author Miranda Paul. In less than hour, we gave away 160 signed copies of the book which, plus exclusive Trainbots tote bags. Miranda’s friends even came dressed up as Trainbots, and walked around the show taking photos with convention goers, encouraging them to stop by the booth.
- Thursday afternoon, we were super excited to give out ARCs of the first two titles in two new fantasy chapter book series, Ella and Owen and Tales of Sasha! Both series launch in Spring 2017, so this was truly an advanced sneak peek.
- On Friday, the real fun began, so to speak. In order to promote our new line of Sago Mini books (based on the popular apps for ages 2-4 from developer Sago Mini), we set up a selfie station with a huge plush of one of the books’ main characters, Harvey the dog! People stopped by to take photos with Harvey, as well as sign up for a giveaway of the first four books in the line and a set of small plush toys.
While a lot of the show is about giveaways and promoting specific titles, a lot of people (especially librarians, educators, and booksellers) stop by to ask generally about the company and what we have to offer. This is possibly one of the best parts of the show—finding a title (or titles!) you know someone is going to like, especially when they’re looking for something specific—like beautiful early concept board books, science/tech titles, and nature-themed books.
May 14th: BookCon
BookCon is like, but also very much not like BEA. There are a lot more kids around who come to look at our booth! We spent the day handing out our signature little bee books totes and buttons, as well as inviting people in to the booth to look at our books and grab coloring pages and activities for their little ones. A lot of adults stopped by to color pages too, and left them for us as presents!
We set up the Sago Mini selfie station again, which a lot of kids had fun with. We spent the day handing out Sago Mini tote bags, stickers, and pins, as well as inviting kids and their parents to play with the Sago Mini apps on iPads we set up.
All in all, it was a great show, and gave the little bee team members who attended the chance to get face time with librarians, educators, buyers, adults, and KIDS! We can’t wait for next year!!