Light poured in through the glass ceiling of the Jacob Javits Center in New York City and shone on brightly colored banners. People hurried past us onto the show floor with empty luggage, like they were ready to stock up for the year. The longest queue I had ever seen sat under a large "AUTOGRAPHS" banner. The show floor spanned three levels, with aisles and aisles of vendors and sky-high banners. BookCon is in its fifth year now and was established in an effort to give a facelift to the long-running BookExpo America. Held annually, it is the largest book trade show located in the United States. It is a treat for bibliophiles and casual readers alike, and is fittingly summarized on their website as, "the event where storytelling and pop culture collide".
When my dear friend Lacey and I reached the show floor, it was a bit disorienting. We downloaded the app beforehand, but nothing could have prepared us for this. The biggest publishing houses showcase their current and upcoming titles, and many famous authors and celebrities attend (past guests have included Mindy Kaling, Rainbow Rowell, and Bill Clinton, to name a few). I was relieved that we didn't have any of the bigger panels or autograph sessions on our to-do list. This was my first time at BookCon. I wanted to go in with few expectations and no itinerary, and just enjoy the experience.
Video from pottermore.
We were able to get a sneak peek at the newest Harry Potter re-release, with all seven books on display. Headed to stores later this month, this newest edition marks the 20th anniversary of Harry Potter. The cover art is likely the most detailed of any Potter book we’ve seen yet, created by the wonderfully talented Brian Selznick. The award-winning illustrator was in attendance at BookCon this year and gave a special presentation on his work. As these editions are not yet available to the public, Selznick couldn’t sign them but did sign long poster prints of his cover art for attendees. At his Scholastic panel, he discussed his work and his favorite Harry Potter book (it’s Half-Blood Prince) with the audience while they snacked on complimentary golden snitch truffles and macarons.
In the Scholastic booth, under their enormous black and white "20 Years of Magic" banner, we were so happy to find their life-sized, 3D replica of the original Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone book cover! Nearby, they had constructed a “Muggle Wall”, and provided markers for guests to write blurbs about “what Harry Potter means to you”.
Lacey patiently waited in the sea of people jockeying to wield a Sharpie next. I waited my turn to write a love note on the wall. We debated returning later for our turn at the book cover photo op, but luckily for us, the line was moving very quickly!
When we walked up to Bonnier Publishing's booth we spotted a giant RuPaul paper doll standee (because how on Earth can you miss the Queen of Drag herself?) alongside a line stretching down the aisle. We stood and watched for a few moments before catching on to their giveaway, where the prize you won corresponded with wherever the spinning wheel landed.
Lacey and I are huge fans of the McElroy Brothers, a weekly comedy podcast, and we realized that Saw Bones,-- eldest brother Justin and his wife Sydnee's podcast- was on the prize wheel. We jumped in line as quickly as we could. Luckily for Lacey, she landed on the Saw Bones space! I, however, won a fidget spinner.
Just around the corner from Scholastic was Insight Editions' booth. We gushed over their ad in the program book just that morning announcing their debut of Harry Potter: A Pop-Up Guide to Hogwarts, which hits shelves October 23, 2018. When we asked the gentleman at the booth about it, he explained that the book was only there for Thursday and Friday during trade show portion of BookCon. He went on further to say the wrong advertisement was printed and the book was not to be seen by the public. Although we were disappointed, he had copies of the beautiful Game of Thrones pop-up book, created by the same illustrator and paper engineer, which we fingered through.
While looking through the rest of Insight Editions booth I saw this stunning little pink notepad that read Obliviate and is definitely the purchase I regret not making. They had a full line of Hogwarts house inspired stationary as well as Fantastic Beasts.
Everywhere we turned there was an interactive wall asking for feedback, a spinning wheel for freebies, or a smiling staff member asking for your email address in exchange for a chance to win a stellar giveaway. While navigating row after row, we were stopped by a BookCon staff to ask if we would allow them to photograph us for "Best Dressed of BookCon". We were delighted to, of course!
Overall, BookCon was an amazing experience and I cannot wait to attend again next year! A short list of things we'll remember for next year are:
1. Tote Bags.
Even though just about every booth offers a tote bag (as a giveaway or with a purchase) - BYOBag is highly recommended. We saw quite a few folks wheeling luggage around for all of their goodies (obviously these are BookExpo and BookCon veterans).
2. Lines, lines, lines!
We kept seeing lines and couldn't understand what they were for. Each booth had a line for their giveaway (usually a spinning wheel adorned with prizes). Expect to see an END OF LINE sign every few feet as each booth clearly marks where to go if you want to wait to see them.
3. Plan in advance.
I went this year with no plan on purpose but if you know someone you love is exhibiting check to see what they will have at their booth, is it worth the wait? Is an author you love doing autographs or photo ops? Use the app to be sure you get to do everything you want to do!
4. Bring water.
We were lucky enough to snag a water for free from a booth but be prepared for a lot of walking and talking.