Name-dropping the BEA

Denise was invited to a fancy dinner and party by her publisher, so we booked some flights and headed up to NYC for the BookExpo (BEA). I’d been in town for BEA before but never attended the actual show itself, which is publishing’s biggest annual event. People kept telling me that the show was smaller than it had been in previous years, but it looked huge to this newcomer.

A quick-recap:


* Denise was not invited with a +1 for her Simon & Schuster events, so I went to a party thrown by Crown in the company of our agents. I don’t do well at parties, lemme tell you. But I did talk to a young author who confessed that he was shocked, shocked I tell you, to discover that his publisher was not intending to do any sort of marketing for his debut lit fiction title with their imprint. “They’re not even taking out print ads,” he said with all sincerity. “The book’s coming out in two weeks. Do you have any advice?” Oh Jesus, I thought. Where do I f*cking begin?

* While I’m formulating an answer to this poor bastard’s question, cut to Denise, who is hobnobbing with her fellow authors, including Anjelica Huston, Cary Elwes, Marlo Thomas, Chris Matthews, Mary Higgins Clark, and Alice Hoffman. The highlight of her evening: She dances with S&S author, Dr. Funkadelic himself, George Clinton.

* Highlight of my evening: Crispy crab cakes at the Crown party.


* We hit the BEA show proper, visiting the booths of every publisher we’ve ever pubbed with, including Quirk Books. Denise’s pal Karen Abbott is interviewed by author and Amazon editor Neal Thompson while we linger outside the taping room. In the hall we run into actor Cary Elwes, who has a book coming this October from S&S. Gosh, he’s handsome and awfully chummy with Denise.

* At the S&S booth, Denise takes this photo with this noted author.


* Drinks later with Neal Thompson, Karen Abbott, and mystery writer Michael Koryta. A really nice guy.

* We go to the Amazon-sponsored party that night, and I see scads of authors (John Scalzi, Emily St. John Mandel, Chelsea Cain) I don’t have the nerve to talk to, and few I do (Megan Abbott, Matthew Thomas, and Courtney Maum). Meanwhile, on the outdoor patio, Denise is having an animated conversation with—who else?—but infernally handsome Cary Elwes. Highlight of her evening: Photos with Elwes and a warm farewell embrace from Westley himself.

* My highlight: When I empty my pockets at the end of the night, the contents consist of crumpled napkins and bamboo skewers. Amazon’s caterer is excellent. The meat on a stick was delicious.


* Back uptown at the Javits Center, we linger outside Amazon’s interview room for a glimpse of James Ellroy, the demon dog of crime fiction. While waiting, we meet Brad Meltzer and catch a peek at Carl Hiaasen. I have a thing for Ellroy’s books from way back, so I’m awed when we get a chance to meet. He compliments me on my haircut.


* On the floor of the show, we meet Brit author Rupert Thomson, who draws this lovely scene of Florence in the book he inscribes for us.


* Jonathan Maberry breezes through the S&S booth. I say nothing.

* I keep circling through the Digital Discovery Zone, hoping for a glimpse of Hugh Howey, and when I do see him, I am too scared to say a word. Denise propels me into the man’s conversation zone, and he ends up offering me a book and we chat about NC, books, the other Howie, and so on.

* Dinner with Denise’s editor. My highlight: realizing that I cannot get a bad burger in this town.

* * *

But seriously:

I love books. Always have. While I’ve become cynical over the years about publishing’s treatment of authors and their books, I was pleasantly surprised to find that in the presence of most of these authors I was like that kid again. Engaged and enthralled.

Yeah, I think it’s weird that publishers emphasize so many celebrity works these days, but it was fun to connect with those writers who seemed to be in it for the words.

I’m still thinking about that debut writer’s question. I babbled out a few ideas for him, but none were satisfying. More thoughts coming soon.