I’ve never been a fan of massive conventions — I’d attended NYCC only once before and hated it because there were simply too many people. I thought conventions were purely for tv shows, comic books, superhero movies, etc. As I began contemplating a career as a writer and in publishing, I learned about all the conventions and trade shows that happen every year. I’ve yet to finish my novel, but I can only imagine how thrilling it must be to meet people who enjoy your writing. Then, I decided I wanted to work for a publisher in some capacity and get to work behind the scenes of a convention. It might not feel as glamorous as I thought it would, but I do get this flutter of excitement once those doors open. Attending industry trade shows is a right of passage in the publishing industry. Personally, I feel like that’s when you know that you’ve hit the big time.
The first time that I attended BookCon was in 2015. My older sister bought weekend tickets for me for college graduation. I remember feeling nervous and unsure of where to go or what to do. It was only my second time inside of the Javitt Center. I invited a friend to come with me and we collected almost no free books because we didn’t realize that there was a process to an event such as this. We attended a couple of panels but mostly walked around the showroom floor for most of the day. I had no idea about the treasure trove that is BookCon. So many free books, waiting to be swiped! My favorite day was always Sunday because that’s the day that publishers really want to get rid of most of the books they brought to sell, if any are leftover. W.W. Norton typically had major deals happening and then right at the end would just say “Please, take them.” I now know the pains of having to pack up unsold stock and having it shipped someplace – most often back to the office. One year, I even got to shadow my sister as she performed her talent management duties, escorting Veronica Roth around the convention — getting her to signings, panels, interviews, basically anywhere she needed to be during the day. It was kind of fun, but also kind of not. Because your job is to remain sort of invisible, but also always attentive. I liked being in the underbelly of Javitt Center, but I can’t say that the gig was my favorite. I don’t know how she does it every year! It’s sad to see these events go because she and her husband enjoy doing it and they make a little extra money at the same time.
Every year since then, my entire family has attended BookCon and then I started working with Out of Print / Penguin Random House and I was on the inside of such a glorious industry event — Book Expo/Book Con! BookCon 2018, I remember standing outside of the OOP merchandise booth, turning to my mom and saying “By this time next year, I’m going to be working in publishing and I will have to work at this event.” By September 2018, I interviewed with HR for Penguin Random House and two weeks after starting my new sales role, I attended NYComicCon professionally. I learned more about the products sold by Out of Print by merchandising our booth than I could have by spending everyday in the office. I learned how to read the sku’s, how our sizing works, about our most popular styles and product categories. It gave me an opportunity to learn more about my colleagues and their interests outside of the office. While my sales role means I work most directly with business owners and buyers for a business, the conventions gave me the chance to interact with more of our direct customer base — the people that shop our retail site, scour the sales we offer, and search high and low for certain styles. It’s definitely overwhelming, but in talking to customers you learn more about what they are looking for from the brand. The OOP founders are two of the nicest people and it honestly warms my heart when people come up to the booth and really can’t believe that they are conversing with the founders themselves. I love those moments.
I’ll miss those moments.
My hope is that this isn’t goodbye, forever, but perhaps just an “I’ll see you again real soon”.