So I made it through Book Expo and The Book Con in New York. It was a great week and great experience … but I have to admit, I was anxious leading up to the trip, simply because I didn’t know what to expect. I’m not yet confident as a children’s book author. I know what I want to accomplish, and I wrote a book simply because I wanted to give tribute to Benjamin, while including a clear message about special kids. I’m not someone who has been working on my craft for years, attempting to strengthen and perfect it. But I know now that I want to – to acclimate to the industry, make some contacts, and continually work on the writing and the storytelling, and understanding what makes readers want to engage and turn the page.
I thought in this post I would give a few highlights and a few learnings to keep with me for next year.
These are the things that really moved and inspired me:
-as soon as I sat in the cab at JFK to head to the expo, the very first ad on the mini TV screen in the back was for Benjamin Steakhouse – I have never heard of Benjamin Steakhouse nor do I think it sounds like a typical name for a steakhouse … but there it was. My first sign that this is where I was meant to be.
-I really enjoyed the three book signings I did, one in the official autographing area – I need to give a big thank you to the StoryBook Genius team who worked so diligently on getting readers to want a copy of my book! SBG was prepared, books were beautiful, and the marketing materials were attractive and compelling.
-I met Sharon M. Draper who wrote a book called “Out of my Mind” back in 2010 – it’s about a young girl with CP who can’t communicate but she can hear, understand and retain EVERYTHING. She feels stuck in her body until she learns to use a communication device. Two days before this trip, one of the 1st grade teachers at Munhall mentioned this book to me and told me how her class was reading this book. Then there Mrs. Draper was … signing copies of this special book that is eight years old. Sign #2 that this was where I was meant to be.
-My goal has always just been to share Ben with others – I heard from many educators and librarians who were collecting books to take back to their classroom or schools. Now Ben’s story will be (hopefully) impacting others in classrooms nationwide.
Things I learned for my next trip to Book Expo:
-take business cards – It is a networking opportunity and a place to meet others in the industry and absorb as much as you can.
-plan, plan and more planning – I did okay here but if you want to catch certain authors, certain sessions or get specific ARCs then it’s best to know exactly what you need to do and have a plan or schedule for the day.
-critical … wear comfortable shoes – I read this in blogs when I was researching ‘best tips’ and it’s not a lie – a lot of walking on floors that don’t have much padding – comfortable shoes are a must!
-a strong plan to get all of your FREE books back home – for some this may mean shipping. For others it may mean bringing an extra suitcase specifically for your haul of new books. For me, it meant wearing home my ‘bigger clothes’ such as my sneakers and sweater/jacket to allow extra carrying space in my luggage.
-make 'making connections and increasing social engagement' a goal … Many authors and publishers have thousands of followers they engage with on social media – right now, I have somewhere in the neighborhoods of 176 on Instagram, 140 on twitter, and 279 on facebook. This has been a small area of struggle, but it’s so important as a central element of marketing.
And, just for fun ... the Book Expo is truly a high-profile event attended by many well-known folks. Some I saw include James Patterson, Bill Clinton, Viola Davis, Sally Field, Megan Mullally, Nick Offerman, Sean Spicer, Chris Colfer, Eva Chen, Martina McBride and Dr. Ruth.