Anyone training for a marathon should consider three days at BookExpo America for building endurance. By the end of day 2, every muscle and joint in my body aches. But it’s so worth it to spend three days surrounded by books and book people.
I spent the first part of the day in meetings with publishers to talk about the Cybils. I had some great conversations with some really interesting people. One of the best things about BEA is having the chance to talk to people who are passionate about books, children’s and YA literature.
After that, I had some time to walk the floor. Here are some of the things I saw:
The tenth generation Lassie made an appearance in support of the book, Man’s Best Hero: True Stories of Great American Dogs by Ace Collins.
Lassie poses for his photo shoot
It was impossible to walk by the Ellora’s Cave booth and not notice these guys:
Author Michelle Knudsen was signing her new YA book, Evil Librarian. Here we are sporting cool devil horns:
Books I got today that I’m excited to read: Love is a Drug by Alaya Dawn Johnson, Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld, Sky Raiders (Five Kingdoms book 1) by Brandon Mull, House of Purple Cedar by Tim Tingle, The Zoo at the Edge of the World by Eric Kahn Gale, Thursdays with the Crown by Jessica Day George, Evil Librarian by Michelle Knudsen. Thanks to my husband Nick for getting some of these for me!
I also attended two panel sessions. “The Craft Of Writing And World Building” was an interesting session on worldbuilding in fiction, featuring:
- Brandon Mull, Five Kingdoms Series,
- Scott Westerfeld, Afterworlds,
- Kiera Cass, The One,
- Heather Demetrios, Exquisite Captive,
- Michael Grant, Messenger of Fear
I tried to take notes, but there was so much good stuff that I had trouble capturing it all. Here are some highlights of what I did manage to get:
- Michael Grant is an improviser, not a planner. He prefers to start with sketching the barest minimum and building from there, so as not to box himself in.
- Scott Westerfeld said that you don’t have to write paranormal or fantasy to do worldbuilding. Afterworlds is about the book world we know and love, including BEA. He said that worldbuilding is about the slow accretion of little details.
- Brandon Mull said that a big part of how to make a fantasy novel make sense is to have rules. If anyone can do anything it doesn’t make sense. There have to be limits on magic.
- Heather Demetrios said that you have to follow rules in fantasy. Have to have structure. If anything goes, it’s hard for the reader to care.
- Scott Westerfeld starts with what he wants to happen, and then builds a world around that. With Afterworlds he wanted a fantasy world that parallels the world of writing, so the novel within a novel is about ghosts that only stay in the world as long as someone remembers them and tells their story.
- Kiera Cass starts with characters and then builds the world around them.
I also attended “A Conversation on Digital Strategies for Tapping the YA Market,” which was about marketing books online for authors and publishers. The panel was moderated by Manuela Soares, Pace University, and included:
- Alaya Dawn Johnson, Author, The Summer Prince and Love is a Drug
- Arthur A. Levine, Publisher Arthur A. Levine Books (Scholastic)
- Carolyn Mackler, Author
- Cheryl B. Klein, Editor, Arthur A. Levine Books (Scholastic)
- Jeffrey Yamaguchi, Director of Digital Marketing, Abrams Books
- Jennifer Hubert Swan, Reading Rants
This was a wide-ranging session that covered a lot of ground, but here are a few points:
- All the speakers indicated that in many cases, they are not reaching teens directly, and instead most of their audience is adults. For some, this is a change; Jennifer used to have a lot of teens commenting on her blog, but now most of her audience is adults. But they are reaching passionate people who will help spread the word, so in many cases they’re reaching teens more indirectly.
- When you do connect with teens, authentic connections are very important; teens are looking for people to be real.
- Two major themes: community and word of mouth. That hasn’t changed, but the way those happen has changed.