My badge will say “Author” for the first time at Book Expo America (BEA). It’s a whole new experience for me and I wonder what the largest US book convention will have in store as I wear, nervously, this unfamiliar label. Every year for 21 years beginning with 1988, I was a faithful BEA trade show warrior, setting up the booth in a dingy tee and gym shorts and then transforming myself into “Trade-Show-Marianne,” donning my best biz attire and perpetual smile. It was an exhausting three-day annual ritual, hawking the books of those who employed me.
But this year will be different. I’ll be working the show for no one but me, talking about my own book, coming and going as I please. Will that make all the difference? Will it be easier to bury my taciturn tendencies, the introvert in me longing to escape to a quiet hallway after chatting up one person after another? (The better question, perhaps, is will anyone want to talk to me at all, besides my friends from the book world with whom I’ll reconnect?) Will my feet hurt any less after trolling the temporarily carpeted concrete floors looking for opportunities? Will I make any helpful connections at all? A book or travel blogger, perhaps? I’ve been away from the industry for five years now, and although much has changed, I suspect much will be the same: authors and books looking to find their audiences by doing the always necessary ritual dance of talking to endless “industry professionals” in the middle.