Sunday, May 30, 2010

BEA 2010, my first report

I got back from NYC last night, after having an outstanding time at BEA and all of the events associated with the Book Blogger Convention. As expected, I left both energized and overwhelmed by all of the panels, meetings, and conversations with fellow book people. I'm not sure how many BEAs I've been to - this may be my 7th - but based on what I've seen at this particular show, the era of the blogger has officially arrived. There have been bloggers at past BEAs, but never before have I seen publishers actively pursuing and catering to bloggers as I did this time.

This is also the first year that my badge listed my historical fiction interests rather than my library affiliation (how did I not know that I was eligible for a free press pass before now?), and it made a huge difference. There was a lot of historical fiction at the show if you knew where to look, and the press badge helped considerably in that respect. I left the exhibit hall around 3pm Wednesday because my bag became too heavy and uncomfortable to carry; it was too full of books to lug around with me any longer. This meant, though, that I missed the late afternoon signings I'd planned to get to, and I never did make it back to visit some of the publishers' booths.

It wasn't my deliberate intention to do so, but although I did find great-sounding books at some of the larger booths, I concentrated on visiting small and independent presses - Unbridled, Counterpoint, Persea, Severn House, Overlook, Other Press, to name just a few - and seeing what relevant titles they'd be publishing in summer or fall. And every time, I found the representatives very receptive to queries. I came away with numerous catalogs, ARCs, and finished copies I hadn't heard of earlier and didn't even know would be available at BEA. I love this part of the show; there are some things you only learn about by being there.

I'm going to be posting about my book finds in stages because they'll be arriving home in stages. All of my signed titles came home with me on the plane, along with some others I got at The Strand, and the rest were sent back via UPS on Saturday. This means they won't even be leaving NY until Tuesday, so I'll have to live without them for a while.

These are the signed copies I stood in line for. The first and last are contemporary international mysteries, not historical fiction, but the settings and storylines interested me. Descriptions of the rest:

John Calu and David Hart's Trenton is a multi-period novel set in New Jersey, both during the Revolutionary War and today. John Hart, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence (and the ancestor of one of the authors), is the protagonist of the early section.

This is the third time I've met Deanna Raybourn at BEA, so of course I had to get a copy of her latest novel, an adventurous mystery set in 1850s Transylvania.

It was a pleasure to meet Mitchell James Kaplan at the Other Press booth. His novel of the Inquisition, By Fire, By Water, has been getting excellent reviews everywhere, and I'm eager to read it myself.

Rag and Bone is 5th in the Billy Boyle historical mystery series. I haven't yet read any, but one of my friends is a fan and suggested I give it a try.

The back cover of Peter Quinn's The Man Who Never Returned indicates that his series protagonist, Fintan Dunne, will be returning to solve NY's greatest unsolved mystery. There's high praise from high profile thriller writers on the back. Looks intriguing. And upon seeing my badge, and hearing me discuss the HNS with the author, the publicist at Overlook offered me a copy of a new Penny Vincenzi saga (WWII-era) coming out this fall. [Edited to say: the Quinn is set in the 1950s with references to the '30s.]

City of Dreams is a multi-period financial thriller, a history-mystery set at various times over the past 200-odd years. Other entries in this ongoing series have been set in New England, but this one's firmly planted in NYC.

And finally, Russian Winter is one of my top finds; somehow I missed seeing the signing on the BEA website, but I came across it randomly and got right in line. It combines history and romance in a literary novel that moves between post-WWII Russia to present-day Boston.

But enough about the books; after all, BEA is really about the people you meet by way of your literary interests. I didn't take pictures (and really should have) and only have time to list some of the highlights, but I really enjoyed meeting my fellow HNS reviews editors for lunch on Wednesday - what a blast that was! My husband Mark and I met up with my librarian friend Rachel Singer Gordon (who was there to do a signing for her new couponing book) for dinner on Tuesday. I got to chat with fellow historical fiction fan Suzanne McGee over lunch on Wednesday and enjoyed a wonderful Italian meal with blogger/reviews editor Andrea Connell (her brand new HF blog is the Queen's Quill review) on Thursday night. Mark's written up our culinary adventures in NYC at Greasy Spoons, his restaurant review blog.

I also caught up with Susan Holloway Scott just before the Book Blogger Convention reception on Thursday evening. The reception was awesome; imagine a room full of book bloggers, authors, and publicists, all meeting up and chatting about bookish things for two hours. Several of my fellow HF bloggers were there; I got to meet Allie of Hist-Fic Chick and Heather from The Maiden's Court in person, as well as many others interested in the genre.

I'm leaving a lot out, but it's hard to encapsulate two hours of meet-and-greet in what was going to be a short post. The number of publishers, authors, and independent publicists at the reception was very encouraging; it was a sign that the publishing world is taking this enthusiastic, growing segment seriously indeed. Contrary to the beliefs of some, we're not a bunch of losers writing about books from our basements in Terre Haute, but a vibrant and necessary part of the industry. (Full disclosure: I live just west of Terre Haute. I hope nobody has a problem with that.) It was a real pleasure to speak in person with so many people I'd known only through our blogs, Facebook, or Twitter. On the latter subject, it was just after BEA in 2009 that I first got a Twitter account, after sheepishly admitting to too many people that I didn't already have one. It is a big time-suck, as I suspected, but also a lot of fun.

More on the convention later on. For now I think I'll find a new book to read before heading to bed.


  1. I would love to meet Susan Holloway Scott and Deanna Raybourn!

    The Russian Winter is one that has caught my eye, and the more I hear about the Kaplan the more I want it!

    Looks like a good haul, and that you had a great time!

  2. Thanks for the report, Sarah. It sounds soooo exciting! More please, when you have time - for those of us who must live vicariously.

  3. It was great to meet you Sarah! Of the books you posted so far, I didn't pick up any of those. I have the Mitchell Kaplan one from a review tho - I think you will enjoy it. I wished I could have gotten it signed, but alas, it was not to be. Can't wait to see your next report!

  4. Anonymous10:22 AM

    I'm new to your blog. I found you through the twitter accounts of Marg and Violet.I adore the name of your blog!

    It looks like you had a great time at BEA. I'm curious to find out what the rest of the books you've gotten are.

    And I just had to add: You´ve been to the BEA 7 times? Wow!

  5. It was so great to meet you in person and chat historical fiction! You were able to grab a bunch of titles I missed, next year I'll be sure to check out what the small presses have to offer...or just stick by your side for a day at BEA! :)

  6. Thanks to everyone for your comments. I'll be posting more in the next few days, I hope, though I wish more of my books were here with me. It's too bad I wasn't able to fit more in my bag and suitcase!

    I've been enjoying your blog, Iris! I started going to BEA when the organizers began actively promoting the event to librarians (who were always eligible to attend, but some publishers felt it wasn't worth their while to cater to us, as they did to booksellers). This year, it wouldn't surprise me to hear that librarian attendance was down, because funding for libraries is down. On the other hand, blogger attendance was way, way up. I met other bloggers everywhere.

    I'm already looking forward to next year. We should have a historical fiction dinner or get-together one evening - wouldn't that be fun?

  7. I enjoyed meeting you at the 2010 BEA. I'm impressed that you've already got your post up. I enjoyed browsing the small and independant booths as well at the BEA. Just went through half of my catalogs and found so many books I HAVE TO read.

    I love historical fiction, and I am looking forward to spending more time looking around your blog. I'm off to write my own blog about BEA and BBC.

  8. I was pleased to meet you too! I've just added your blog to my Google Reader. Reading your story about the argument in the press room (which was zealously guarded, so I'm not sure how non-press could have easily gotten in anyway), it makes me realize there's still a lot of progress to be made.

  9. Sarah,
    I've been following you for quite a while and appreciate your reviews of historical fiction. I love getting the heads up on what is on the horizon in publishing.

    I enjoyed reading your post about BEA and all the great books you found. I hope you don't mind if I send you to my blog post about my experience at BEA this year. It's posted at (May 30th).

    I truly wish I could have been there for the Book Bloogers Day.

  10. Hi Carol, I appreciate your comments as well and just started following your blog. Also nice to see that you're in CT! (I'm originally from Newington, near Hartford.) I agree that the big red bag from McGraw Hill was an enormous help. I may have to bring it back with me next year. You picked up some interesting-sounding books. I'm usually so focused on genre fiction that I miss out on seeing what else is available.

  11. Sarah,
    And I'm originally from New Britain, so we were possibly neighbors if we were living in that neck of the woods at the same time.

    In your pile of books from BEA, I see, Rag and bone by James R. Benn, Connecticut author and librarian to boot. And what a coup, picking up the Martin book. Looking forward to hearing about the blogger convention.

    Now I'm off to read the latest James Grippando book, Money to Burn.

  12. Getting the chance to sit and chat with you was one of my high points, too, Sarah (even if it was in that grim underground food court!) I'm looking forward to your reports on that excellent haul of books. :)

  13. Carol - Small world indeed. I was born in New Britain, actually, and I didn't know that Benn was a librarian from CT. There's no bio on the ARC I got. Even more of a reason to read it.

    Susan - I know, the Javits doesn't get points in my book for great atmosphere either :)

  14. It was great meeting you at the BEA! You have an awesome blog.

  15. Thanks, Trisha! Your blog has a great name - I've been enjoying reading through it. I was glad to meet you also!