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BookExpo America – Part 3: Books Not on My Radar, Publishers and Bookish Goodies

McCormick BEA Twitter

source: BEA Twitter

BookExpo America lasted three days for me so I figured three posts would be best. Last post about BEA 2016, I promise!

So, as you might gather BookExpo is about meeting up with bloggers (post one) and it’s also about meeting authors and ridiculous lines for books (post two). But it’s also about getting a chance to find out about new books from smaller, independent publishers, if that’s your jam, and it’s mine.

There are five big players in the book publishing world: Penguin Random House, Hachette, Harper Collins, Macmillan and Simon and Schuster. Most books I have read over the years have been published by these companies and their booths were hopping, especially Penguin last week. They have some big authors and well received books coming out. I did frequent their booths but I also made sure that I visited some I’ve come to love over the years. As an avid reader I would find an author or genre I really liked and return for more. As a blogger-reader (especially in the last year or so) I’ve noticed that my reading tastes and preferences have opened up to smaller, independent publishers, so I wanted to see what they have on the horizon. Maybe you will too.

Faber & Faber

A lovely Publicity and Marketing manager for the U.S. contacted me pre-BEA to see if I would visit their booth. They are originally from the UK and an independent publishing house but have since been bought by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, which is part of Macmillan. She was very kind and we chatted quite a bit and I always ask publishers to pitch me their favorites this year as well as something in the Short Story genre. Yuki Chan in Bronte Country (April 12) by Mick Jackson and Cold Hand in Mine :Stories (originally published in 1975 but coming to the US Aug 9) by Robert Aickman were two I picked up.

Graywolf Press

I picked up: Swallowed By The Cold: Stories (May 17) by Jensen Beach,  Grief Is The Thing With Feathers by Max Porter (originally published by Faber & Faber last year but is here on June 7th) and So Much For That Winter: Novellas (June 21) by Dorthe Nors.

Grove Atlantic

Freeman’s: Family is an anthology of stories on the topic of families by multiple authors out in August, Christodora is a novel by Tim Murphy releasing in August, Perfume River is a novel by Robert Olen Butler due out in September and History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund is not due out until January 2017.

Algonquin Books

Algonquin Books was extremely kind to me two years ago in New York and I met up with the same two lovelies again this year. However, they were a little bit protective of what they would give out. Not that I didn’t already have enough, but I really have enjoyed many of their books and did get pitched two: Wrecked by Maria Padian (Oct. and a YA novel) and Cruel Beautiful World by Caroline Leavitt (also Oct.) at Book Group Speed Dating.

Other Press

I was steered into an author signing for Among the Living by Jonathan Rabb (Oct) and pitched Constellation (May) by Adrien Bosc and The Honeymoon (May) by Dinitia Smith at Book Group Speed Dating.


The littler publishers are near one another as well as all the literary goodness booths.

Literary Hub handed out the best Joan Didion totes and I could hear my friend (who IS her biggest fan) yell at me from work to grab one. She will be very pleased.

Obvious State is my new favorite design studio. I immediately went home and bought all of these prints and note cards below. It was “The Black Cat” short story by Poe and original artwork that did me in at the booth:

Out Of Print (naturally a favorite of many) sold $25 gift cards valued at $50. I may or may not be using it all for myself.

Litographs gave out Alice in Wonderland temporary tattoos and had The World’s Longest Tattoo Chain. And their shirts, totes and prints are so lovely. I couldn’t make up my mind so I walked away.


So this sounds like a complete love fest and it really was. What was a little disappointing/ needed some improvements?

  • Houghton Mifflin Harcourt didn’t attend. They are an educational publisher as well as a trade publisher and have offices in Illinois. I like to visit them as well as Scholastic, Candlewick Press and other youth/educational booths. I was surprised they didn’t make it.
  • I heard from some bloggers that the Blogger Conference was once again a let-down. I didn’t say anything at first and when they described what they did for most of the day, I was quickly reminded of my experience two years ago. Somehow they need to get this right, especially what they are charging for it.
  • Book Group Speed Dating. I posted on the Facebook BEA Blogger page about this event and made sure to sign up when I got the email notification from BEA. It was one of my favorite events two years ago and this time it was just ok. They had more people than seats, many of the books pitched were unavailable (several said they didn’t show up-what?) and some people behaved very badly. They were grabbing books before publishers even made it to the table and were rude. I didn’t love many of the books pitched. Maybe next time they can review proper attendee etiquette at the start. And my friend Julie rubbed it in that she attended Penguin’s happy hour at the same time, so I was a little jealous. 😉
  • The BEA app was blah. My little chicken scratch notes did a better job of organizing my days.

Well, friends it was a great experience overall. Next year it is back in New York and I hear they are having Book Con as two days instead of one (something I passed on both times). It’s unlikely I will make it there for 2017 and truly hope it’s not another 12 years before it returns to Sweet Home Chicago.

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5 thoughts on “BookExpo America – Part 3: Books Not on My Radar, Publishers and Bookish Goodies

  1. Love this! Speed Dating did seem like a bit of a hot mess, but this was my first year so I had nothing to compare it to. And I completely agree about the app! I hope that improves for people next year. As for the rest of this post, genius idea to give props to the presses. Graywolf is one of my favorites.

  2. There are some really good small and medium sized presses out there. I always look forward to seeing what they’re doing because it is often a little off the mainstream.

  3. I have also experienced a change in what I like and am willing to read since becoming a book reviewer/blogger. I think when you read THAT many books in a year you really have to branch out and expand your comfort zone.

  4. You are on the money with the Speed Dating and the BEA app. BEA sent me the obligatory- what did you think survey and I let go on it- that app was from 2001, if even then.

    As for smaller publishers I love Graywolf and have for years. They don’t always get it right but they do enough literary fiction that I love to make it worth my while. Same for Algonquin. I’m glad you got Caroline Leavitt’s new book- I loved her last one.

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