Here’s how this story goes – once upon a time there was a girl. She was a pretty ordinary girl, her only real extraordinary feature being her vast book collection. One year, because of an author the girl admired very very keenly, the girl found out about an event called Book Expo America, and decided to attend. The girl was gobsmacked; who knew such a wonderful place existed? Who knew they would just give you books to read and review?
That year the girl walked away with one certainty–she would return.
And return she did…for another 8 years.
Its important to understand something about me right off the bat, when I find something I like I obsess over it. Things that most people consider “hobbies” become my entire focus until there’s only me, the thing and my undying will to enjoy it until I can’t.
When I first started attending BEA I had no blog, no clue and thought of it like a vacation. I used to relish the idea of creating color coded spreadsheet schedules. I gloried in the rush back and forth to lines. I valued every ARC I received. Its morphed into something else in the almost decade I’ve been attending however. Its become such a chore for me, both professionally and personally, that I had to take an honest look at things and ask myself “Why?”
Reports of aggressive behavior, rude attendees and ARC selling soar year to year even as a lot of us more veteran attendee bloggers notice the show’s lack of care. Not just towards us…though you can find a multitude of blogs detailing what happened a few years back when they decided to reject all bloggers en masse for no reason (including my own recap). But towards the industry itself. Last year the movement “We Need Diverse Books” took flight because of BEA’s lack of diversity (which is still pretty crappy). Publishers murmur and mutter about the horrifying pricing pyramid for booths while booksellers bemoan how marginalized the show has made them feel.
Next year BEA moves to Chicago. After spending the last half a dozen years firmly planted in New York City at the Jacob Javits Center, the showrunners decided to return to the nomadic roots of yore and test out going venue to venue each year, much like ALA Annual and Midwinter does. They reason that the publishing landscape is changing, its not just centered in NYC anymore so they should grow too (source: the BEAN, the official blog for BEA by show runner Steven Rosato).
I don’t know about any of that (BEA has long had a policy of “transparency at our discretion”), but what I do know is I’m taking next year off. Putting aside my own feelings of jadedness, the expense is just not sustainable. Right now its a hotel stay and local train ride (roughly $600 w/food & such included). Next year it will be a hotel stay plus airfare plus shipping things home (early estimates price this around $1100).
I made some wonderful friends at BEA, including my co-blogger Tasch. I’ve met authors and celebrities I wouldn’t ordinarily get the chance to, while finding out about books I would have overlooked. Maybe in a few years when it returns to NYC I’ll change my mind, but its time for me to move on while the happier memories outshine the tarnished ones still.