<$BlogRSDURL$> Spontaneous Things: Karina Sumner-Smith's Blog
Tuesday, June 15, 2004
Book Expo

Entering into this event, I had very little idea of what to expect. Books, yes. Publishers and booths and all sorts of chatting. But the details were hidden from me and I was nervous.

But, wearing my new, bright outfit and with spiffy new business cards in my bag, I hit the Convention Centre. I met Sarah outside and we managed to stumble into Julie and Genevieve right by the front doors. Bonus--because Julie could tell us where we needed to go, and from what I could tell the lobby was simply a mass of people. The mass turned out to be a gigantic line that wove its way wherever it wanted, and we squished our way past to get our badges. ... Our fancy author badges, no less. Mine read: Karina Sumner-Smith, Fitzhenry and Whiteside. AUTHOR. Yep, very nice.

What was perhaps even nicer was that these fancy author badges--with their bright red stripes across the bottom--allowed us to totally bypass the gigantic line. I expected to be stopped, but Security waved us on through. I was giddy with the power of the author badge!

Fitzhenry and Whiteside's booth turned out to be right near the top of the escalators, and Sarah and I hurried over to introduce ourselves and giggle over the big stack of Odysseys and the gorgeous Summoned posters that we were to sign. What happened next was something of a blur. Julie and Genevieve arrived at the booth, as did Francine and Jana and Ruth. It was 10:30 and the massive line was allowed up the stairs. The Odyssey authors started signing and giving books away, and people began to crowd around, jostling to get in line. I was a bit lost until Julie handed me a stack of posters with a cheerful, "Here! Give these out."

And I did. Stationing myself by the line, a little ways out from the booth itself, I offered posters to the people still streaming up the escalators. Some weren't interested, of course, and some just wanted copies of Odyssey, but a whole lot of people started coming up to get a copy. (I don't blame them--I couldn't resist the cover art, either.) But what felt absolutely fantastic was to grab the attention of someone who would have otherwise walked by, and tell them about the book, only to have them say, "This sounds amazing, when will it be out?" or "Oh, this is just what I was looking for!" And then to look at their badges and realize that they represented libraries and major bookstores and schools ... it was excellent.

Within an incredibly short time, all the copies of Odyssey had been claimed and so us Summoned authors (now with the addition of Michelle West, who'd arrived sometime during the chaos) began to sign copies of the poster for anyone interested. What a surreal moment. Can you have my autograph? Um ... sure. Of course!

After the signing, us authors were set loose on the rest of Book Expo. Posters in hand, we set out.

Now here's the thing about Book Expo: really, its for booksellers. The publishers' booths are rarely manned by anyone in the editorial staff; they're mostly sales people, all of whom want very much for you to be interested in their authors and their books. To make people interested, what publishers tend to do is make big announcements and then sit an author or two down and proceed to give away free books or ARCs to anyone who wants the author to sign a copy. Michelle described it perhaps most accurately when she said that authors are the dog and pony show that publishers trot out to attract attention. And it worked. Anyone signing anything meant an instant crowd. The bigger the name, the bigger the crowd. All this equals more free stuff.

So, officially, I'm not the person that publishers want to be giving their products away to. After all, I can't influence the buying of any store, large or small, nor do I have the power of an educator who can use specific novels in class or a librarian. But I'm there. And if I got into the various lines for the various authors with their various books, I got the free signed copies, too.

So I did. Many, many times. I have many, many free books, and quite a few other free things besides. (And seeing as I can't buy things for a store, I'll make up for the fact that I'm just an author by discussing here all of the free books that I enjoy reading.)

But, as I was wandering around, getting free books and looking and not-for-sale books and posters and whatnot, I still had those posters with me. As did Jana. And Sarah had her books. And we discovered that whenever people said, "Oh, you're a writer? What do you write?" some good and interesting things happened when we simply said, "Here, let me show you." My personal favourite was signing a copy of the Summoned to Destiny poster for Will Ferguson, co-author of books such as How to Be a Canadian. When I left, he'd returned to signing, leaving the Summoned poster in plain sight in the middle of the Random House booth.

As the afternoon wore on, publishers started bringing out the Big Guns: food and free liquor. They had cake, they had wine, they had nachos and vegetables and every imaginable kind of dip. (Not to mention the champagne, beer, water, cocktails, cheese, fruit, crackers...) People were calmer, chatting, and clumping together in impossible-to-walk-through groups. Though I was getting weary at that point, it was much fun.

But soon, despite the proliferation of snacks, it was clearly time for dinner, and clearly time for my aching self to leave. Let me just say, I love Book Expo. Despite the fact that by the time I left my feet hurt, my legs were seizing and my shoulders resented being used like pack animals--and had no problem telling me so--part of me was sad that it was over. Since I'd taken Monday off so I could attend my convocation, I seriously considered waking up early, ignoring the page proofs that I had to edit, and rushing downtown to attend a few more hours (before, of course, rushing back home to change, rushing to York and doing that whole graduation thing).

Sense won out ... this time.

Posted by Karina Sumner-Smith at 12:45 PM


That sounds like so much fun! Glad you had such a great time!!!

-Jim (currently stifling waves of envy :-)

By Anonymous Anonymous, at 8:06 AM  

Sounds like your Book Expo was even more fun than mine. Of course, I didn't have the shiny author badge, merely the dull, gray peon badge. But what the hey, it got me in the door.


By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:44 PM  

Oh, I had such a great time! There was more that I wish I could have done, of course--all those lovely networking opportunities, etc.--but there was only so much I could handle in one day. Your Book Expo sounded great, too, Trey (and I remain envious of your connetion to Sean Stewart--I so love his work). At the time, Julie said to us that the American book expo was about four times the size of the one in Toronto. Now *that* would be something to see!

By Blogger Karina, at 11:06 PM  

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