Ladies and gentlemen, I give you BookCon 2016:
This Saturday was the first BookCon I’ve ever attended, because it just so happened to be in my home city of Chicago this year! It was also my first ever ReedPop event (in case you don’t know, ReedPop is the company that runs ComicCon and PAX). I’ve been to 2 other cons in the past: LeakyCon 2012 and NerdCon 2015. I say this because it will be relevant later when I reflect on the BookCon experience.
BookCon was the last day of a 4-day convention. The first 3 days, BEA (Book Expo America), are mostly for professionals in the publishing industry, librarians, teachers, etc. I totally would have gone to BEA (I’m an English teacher), but it being Wed-Fri and me living 5 hours from home at the moment was not very convenient for taking off all those days. So I went to BookCon on Saturday – the day for fans.
Just to give you a sampling of the line-up of authors at BookCon, here is a quick list: James Dashner, Cassandra Claire, Veronica Roth, Amie Kaufman, Dav Pilkey, David Levithan, Raina Telgemeier, Gene Luen Yang, Jenny Han, Jennifer Niven, Nikola Yoon, Kate DiCamillo, Meg Cabot, Marissa Meyer, Maggie Stiefvater, Pierce Brown, Ransom Riggs, Sabaa Tahir, Sherman Alexie, Sarah J. Maas, Victoria Aveyard…and A TON more. So like, basically everyone popular in YA lit right now except maybe John Green (check the full list here).
Taking into consideration the names listed above and what I knew about ReedPop events, BookCon was pretty much what I expected: a lot of waiting in lines, a lot of crazy fans, and a lot of advertising. But there are up-sides to BookCon when compared to ComicCon: 1. They don’t make you pay extra for autographs (though most signings require you to purchase a book and frown on bringing your own) and 2. free stuff. Lots of free books. After BookCon, social media is riddled with giant book hauls. I have no such giant haul. Here is how my day went:
After making it to McCormick place at 8 AM, I lined up to see if I could get a wristband for a signing. The line spanned McCormick place and traveled well into the hotel complex across the bridge (if you know the place, you know how crazy that is). But I managed to run into a college buddy of mine and her friend, so I hopped in line with them (casual). I successfully secured a wristband because I wanted to see an author who wasn’t one of the bigger names (Raina Telgemeier). At this point I was separated from my college buddy and her friend who went for different wristbands (ndb, we all had our own plans). By 9 AM, I was in another line to actually get onto the show floor (which opened at 10 AM). That looked like this:
Gooood times. Unfortunately, I made no line friends, because none of the people around me seemed like making line friends. Ok, cool, whatever, I’ll just wait here quietly.
Then the floor opened and everyone went bananas. My strategy was simple: avoid the crowds. The result of this strategy is illustrated by my haul of free books:
As you can see, it does not compare to the mountains you may have seen from other people. This was the result of wanting to enjoy myself and stay away from the mass chaos at other booths giving away the hot new YA titles. If there was a crowd, I turned and walked in the other direction. That being said, the free books I did get are pretty cool, and I am happy with them. The other consolation I’m telling myself about not getting ANY of the desirable books is that I’m going to be a librarian. I’m going to get so many more (and better) opportunities for these things in the future: like BEA, which from what I heard was WAY more chill because there were less people and of course, less fans (not that professionals aren’t also fans, but you know what I mean). I’m also in the middle of a move, and getting more books would be not so good…plus I don’t actually know how I could have carried anything more, because with all the other swag I got, I was literally sore in the morning from slugging around all the tote bags. Speaking of which:
I got a lot of free totes. In my wanderings, I also stopped over at the Litographs booth. Litographs is attempting to make the longest ever human tattoo chain, which is eventually going to be the entire novel of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. Basically you take a picture of your tattoo and they will get them all in order (via your assigned number) and post them here. My section comes toward the end of Through the Looking Glass:
Cool, no? So eventually (about 2 hours of wandering later), I went to some signings. I purchased 2 books and got them signed, which I was excited about. The first was I Hate Fairyland by Scottie Young, and the second was Smile by Raina Telgemeier:
It was a complete coincidence that they are both comics/graphic novels; I didn’t even know Scottie Young was going to be there, so that was pretty cool! Then I wandered more. Other stuff I managed to pick up were some free previews of books that are being released later this year:
These included Raina Telgemeier’s new book Ghosts, David Arnold’s new book Kids of Appetite, a first comic in a series based on Cartoon Network’s “Over the Garden Wall” (which is great, btw), and of course, the new Chamber of Secrets illustrated edition coming out in October. Which leads me to one of my favorite sections of BookCon, the Harry Potter stuff (duh):
Scholastic had a coloring wall (I colored a Ravenclaw eagle!) and a “Muggle Wall” asking what HP means to you – I wrote “The reason I’m going to be a librarian!” I also ran into the awesome Jackson Bird and company at the Harry Potter Alliance booth, and they let me snap a very blurry and unfortunate selfie with them (I was wearing one of their special edition Azkabanned Books t-shirts!). Additionally, I met up with a fellow MuggleNet staff member for a bit after this and grabbed a very expensive hot dog with her. This marked the first time I ever met someone from my internet life IRL! It was super cool.
And then, at last, at the end of the day (3:30 by now), I got to meet Hannah Hart, whose new book Buffering: Tales of a Life Fully Loaded comes out in October. I watched her panel (for which there was NO LINE! People don’t go to BookCon to see YouTubers, apparently). But then directly after I got to wait in a long line to have a quick meet-and-greet with her. She was super amazing. This was definitely a great part of my day:
That was pretty much it for the actual con, and oddly enough, my favorite part of the day was what came after BookCon: meeting up with another WordPress book blogger! Carrianne from Carrianne’s Cuppa & Critiques was the first blogger I’ve met IRL! She and I and her friend Jess all went out for Mexican after the con, and this was actually the best. Carrianne is awesome online and IRL, and I’m so glad we got to meet up (we didn’t take a picture…why didn’t we take a picture?). She’s also studying library science and living in the Chicago area, so we are basically best friends.
There you have it. A super tiring day well spent. What did I think overall? Well, hearken back to the first paragraph. BookCon was totally different than any of the other cons I’ve attended. I wasn’t surprised by this because I knew what to expect, but I’ve decided that cons like LeakyCon and NerdCon are much more my style. Why? They are about community and togetherness and meeting new friends…whereas BookCon was about OMG-how-many-famous-authors-can-I-meet-OMG-how-many-free-books-can-I-get-OMG-OMG-OMG. There was a sort of materialistic every-man-for-himself mentality at BookCon which shaped my experience. I don’t mind going to cons alone because I love meeting new people, but the people I stood by in lines at BookCon were not the line-friend-making type. I would have enjoyed myself better if I had made more line friends. That’s the kind of thing that happens at cons like LeakyCon and NerdCon, but at BookCon, where everyone is worried about getting in line early to make sure they get into this or that event or receive this or that giveaway, that kind of community building is hard, if not impossible. It is what it is. BookCon accomplishes its purpose of getting people excited about authors and new releases, and I can’t criticize them for that. It was a very exciting event. I’ll end with pics of the rest of the free swag I picked up at BookCon: