Going to Book Expo America (BEA) is always an amazing experience for us at Aaron’s Books. We really appreciate the chance to talk with other bookstore owners, attend education sessions to help us address some of our ongoing challenges, and visit the expo floor with thousands of others looking for information on the next great books. Plus it’s in New York City, which is a great added benefit.
Day One - Travel and Tourism. Not only did Sam and I go to NYC this year, but Aaron and Sam’s parents went as well. We took the train (who wants to drive in NYC?) and got there in time to walk through the theater district before going to the King Tut exhibit at the Discovery Center. What an amazing show; if you have a chance, make sure to go, and take the kids. Then we walked through Central Park and had a carriage ride before supper. I went to a crowded Random House event at the hotel in the evening and met some great mystery writers, as well as some of Sam’s Twitter pals. I’m always amazed at how well known @AaronsBooks is in the bookselling world. Our little shop rocks!
Day Two - Learning. Aaron & the grandparents caught the ferry for visits to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island where they thoroughly enjoyed the guided audio tours, while Sam and I went to work. The American Booksellers Association (which always goes the extra mile to support indie booksellers) organizes an education day at the start of BEA to allow all of us to gather and learn from each other about how to improve our own stores and how to work together to strengthen the indie bookseller world. I talked with other small stores about our unique challenges, was energized by some of the stories of unique funding streams that others have developed, and recommitted myself to fighting for Tax Fairness legislation in Pennsylvania. (Right now, big online sellers don’t collect sales tax. It’s up to the buyer to report their own taxes to the government, but of course no one does. If those sellers collected sales tax, it could mean $300 million a year or more for PA, plus it would eliminate their automatic 6% price advantage over actual stores, click here for more info.) After supper, everyone else crashed early except me, so I walked about 20 blocks around Manhattan, enjoying a taste of city life. We love being in Lititz, but it’s great to get that big city experience from time to time.
Day Three - Floor Day. Aaron and his travel assistants headed off to the Empire State Building & another audio tour (the thing he wanted to see most while in NYC), and Sam and I waded into the thrilling chaos that is the BEA Floor. It’s always amazing to see thousands of booksellers, librarians, authors, publishers and assorted book industry types wandering through the maze of tables and booths. Even with a map and a plan of attack, it was hard to get where we needed to go, partly because it’s so easy to get distracted (A giant bus in the hall, why yes it's C-Span! here’s a Mini Cooper painted with the Penguin logo; there are live chickens at Workman; where are Darth Vader and the Stormtroopers going?) and partly because there are so many people – many of whom are standing in long lines to get books signed. (The wait for Pelé was certainly longer than was worth it for me. Last year it was 3 hours for Neil Gaiman – probably an hour longer than I was willing to wait.) Even with all the crowds, I kept finding people who knew Aaron’s Books. Mostly it was through Sam’s tweets, but it was also through the good feedback from other authors who’ve been so good to come to Lititz to meet our readers, and from our Kid-Lit Festival last fall; which leads to one of the great stories of BEA: There was a children’s author breakfast Wednesday morning which is a highlight for many that attend BEA each year, attended by lots of booksellers, industry types, and authors, including Sarah, Duchess of York. One speaker at the breakfast was Mitali Perkins (author of BAMBOO PEOPLE and keynote speaker at our 2nd Kid-Lit Festival) who mentioned that she’d received a wonderful fan letter from Lancaster County and said she was certain the student had bought the book at Aaron’s Books! So now even more people around the bookselling world know us, including (former?) royalty. Neither Sam nor I was at the breakfast, but with Twitter use in full force, we knew about our great shout out in a matter of minutes! Sam attended a speed dating event with 22 children and YA book authors (including Mitali) and piqued their interest with info about our 2nd (and 3rd!) annual Kid-Lit Festival.
Aaron joined us after lunch (which was in a room of indie booksellers and the Indie Choice Award winning authors), and walked through the Children’s Publishing section of the Expo floor. He was “wined and dined” like a good book buyer should be, and picked up a book to two (or 5) for us to highlight when they come out later this year. He also spent some one on one time with a “real” Indonesian Tiger (did you know some children’s books are published on Rain Forest trees/paper and the Asian tiger population is dwindling because of this?). Aaron of course had to meet his “fans” at the ABA Lounge before heading home, and was even interviewed by Publisher’s Weekly for his picks of the show.
The best part of the trip is always putting what we learn and see into practice. We’ve already placed orders for a whole new classics collection, as well as some new to us non-fiction books! And Sam is slowly re-arranging some of our children’s and YA sections based on the discussions she had on Tuesday with other children’s booksellers.