On May 31st, booknerds and YA fangirls alike converged on the Javits Center in NYC to oooooh and squee over panels, autograph signings and publisher booths at the inaugural BookCon. And for their very first time out, it was a madhouse. Scoring John Green mere days from the theater release of The Fault in Our Stars probably helped. Every teenager girl who owns an Okay? Okay. or Pizza John shirt was there to represent.
Here are just a few pics of the convention floor. I will say that I wasn't particularly interested in that area. I hear tell that there were a ton of publishers giving out free totes and books, but it was near impossible to determine where this was happening. From my experience, it seemed like most of the publishers were selling books and it appeared that most of the genres were teen vampire or religious (neither of which I'm all that interested in).
Shortly after we arrived, I attempted to queue to have Ann M. Martin sign my copy of Mary Anne Saves the Day. She was supposed to start signing at 10am, however at 10:20, the line still hadn't even so much as inched along. I also was astounded as I overheard a group of girls behind me go "so, what did Ann M. Martin write?" They had confirmed to BookCon employees several times that they meant to be in the Ann M. Martin line... so I'm not quite sure why they were there. But alriiiiiiight. At this time, I decided that we were cutting it awfully close to the Veronica Roth/Alex London panel and I would get much more out of hearing an author speak than getting a book signed. So I hightailed it downstairs. I wonder what those girls behind me had to say to Ann M. Martin... and what they had her sign.
The Veronica Roth and Alex London panel was really good. Both authors are funny, personable and really seem to want to make something that will get teenagers excited about reading. We received a sneak peek of Roth's much-anticipated follow up to the Divergent series- a chronicling of Four's experience from growing up in Abnegation to his time in Dauntless. I was not previously aware of Alex London, but I have added his series (Proxy) to my must-read list. After the panel, I decided to walk the floor a little bit more. I was really surprised that there wasn't more book merchandise. I figured I'd be able to score some cool mugs, tote bags, etc relating to the classics. Hell, I was even expecting to pay for these items. But there really was nothing of this nature. I actually didn't purchase a thing at BookCon... besides lunch. I hit up lunch in the convention center as the cafeteria was overlooking the main panel room. I wanted to keep an eye on when others were lining up for The Big Show... aka The John Green panel. Although the rule was that you couldn't line up for a panel earlier than an hour before the start time, a mob began to form about 2.5 hours before the panel was scheduled to start. And because I'm a sheep, I joined the mob. After 2 hours of standing essentially cheek-to-cheek with hundreds of sweating, irritated strangers, we finally were let into the panel. It was dicey there for a bit. Stampedes of teenagers totally forgot to be awesome and for awhile, I was nervous that they would cancel the panel entirely due to safety concerns. But, somehow everyone finally remembered to be awesome and I miraculously got a seat.
The panel was incredible. In attendance was John Green, Nat Wolff (Isaac in the TFiOS movie), Josh Boone (TFiOS director), the two screenwriters and two executives from Fox. John was, as always, humble, funny and self-deprecating. We got some great insight into the process involved in taking TFiOS from a beloved book to, what I suspect will be, the blockbuster of the summer.
I was informed that BookCon will be held in NYC again next year and in Chicago for 2016. I had a great time and am definitely looking forward to attending again next year, but I have some suggestions for the production team of this convention:
More organization It was hard to tell what was happening when. Lines were messy and therefore it was hard to tell who was waiting in line for what. The autograph section was a particularly good example of this nonsense. You had a small portion of each line and then the rest of the line had to queue up somewhere else.
More security You booked a huge name like John Green, but it doesn't sound like you were at all prepared for the madness that obsessed teenagers bring with them. The security guards were trying to yell instructions at 300 eager teenagers by yelling. Buy a megaphone.
Ticket big-name events I am not quite sure that the people who booked John Green even know who he was or the following he has. I'm assuming the bookers were 75 years old who don't know how to use the internet. I was informed that the John Grisham panel was ticketed, but John Green's panel was not. Requiring tickets for the John Green panel would've saved us all from a chaotic and potentially dangerous situation.
Consistency in the question-asking process at panels At the Veronica Roth panel, each attendee was asked to write their question on an index card. BookCon staff than collected the cards and at the end of the panel, they selected questions at random to read to the authors. However, for the John Green panel, it was a free-for-all. They said "...and now anyone who would like to ask the panel a question, come on up to the mic!" And most of you can only imagine the kind of madness that ensued. And then, it wasn't even the BookCon security team that got the situation in-hand. It was John Green himself who stopped everyone from making a mad dash to the front of the room.
Scheduling of popular authors I heard from many people that all of the most popular authors seemed to be scheduled for an event around the same time. Staggering the bigger names would allow for more attendees to have a better opportunity to see their favorite authors.
Merchandising You would've made a killing if you had cutesy t-shirts, tote bags, mugs, buttons, etc with quotes and images from classic literature. People love that crap. And by people, I mean me. Let me give you my hard-earned money for that crap.
Grumpy Cat I know that Grumpy Cat just released a book or something... but the crowd waiting to see her (yes, I learned that Grumpy Cat has an innie) really messed up the traffic flow on the rest of the convention floor. You pretty much spent your precious time between panels trying to navigate around the people waiting in line to see Grumpy Cat. I heard she bit someone... GOOD!
Stick to your rules If you can't line up for a panel until an hour before the start time, enforce that rule. It's not fair that people who were following the rules (not me) got aced out of an event because of the people who blatantly ignored the rules (totally me). But even the people who are trying to be good will decide to ignore the rules if they realize that everyone else is ignoring them and therefore more likely to get to attend that event if they don't.
*Update: And some chick watched my kid for the day so I could attend BookCon. I found her waiting outside the local clinic and figured "hey, she looks... alive. Good enough for me!". Thanks Robyn!