BookCon Recap 2019

Another year, another BookCon! I actually bought my tickets pretty late this year because I wasn’t sure I wanted to go — it’s fun, but it’s just so many people, and it gets to be a lot. But I can’t live in New York and not attend BookCon, and I’m glad I went because I had a great time!

This year’s event was completely flipped from last year’s in that Saturday was the day that was pretty low key for me, and Sunday was the one where I was crazy busy. I actually didn’t show up on Saturday until after 11. I did a quick lap of the show floor, but was so quickly overwhelmed that I retreated to the panel area to read and hang out until Leigh Bardugo’s panel started.

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Leigh Bardugo is always delightful to hear talk about her books, and this particular panel was no exception. I’m afraid I don’t really have any interesting tidbits to share as I really can’t remember any at this point, but it was just a lot of fun and I can’t wait to read Ninth House.

After that, I went to a panel about worldbuilding titled “It’s My World, You’re Just Living In It,” but I haven’t read anything from any of the authors and wasn’t loving the panel, so I decided to sneak out a bit early so I could make it to the “New American Experience” panel. There were four panelists from different genres sharing their experiences as first or second generation Americans, and it was really interesting. Plus Alisha Rai was on it, and she’s always great to hear speak.

After that, I headed over to a panel called “We Need Diverse Books Presents: Intent Imprints,” which was about new imprints focused specifically in publishing diverse voices. I’m fascinated by the Rick Riordan Presents imprint, which publishes own voices mythology stories featuring cultures from around the world, and the editor for the imprint was on the panel, which is part of why I really wanted to go, but it wound up being so much more than I expected. I learned about a lot of new imprints that I’ve never heard of before but need to check out (Make Me a World, Salaam Reads, Kokila Books, and Denene Millner Books), and the panelists just had such an interesting conversation with each other. Plus Nic Stone did an amazing job moderating, which reminds me that I really need to read Odd One Out! I was expecting the panel to be interesting, but I wasn’t prepared to be quite so blown away by it, and the whole thing was just really exciting.

The last panel I went to for the day was titled “Audiobooks: Hear How It’s Done.” I did another audiobook panel last year, and I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of learning more about them. The whole process is just so fascinating, and the narrators’ skills and abilities to do different voices and accents are amazing. Plus I got tons of new audiobook recommendations. I think I’m most excited to listen to Beasts Made of Night by Tochi Onyebuchi after hearing him talk about what it was like to listen to the narrator give his book a Nigerian accent and really bring it to life for him, which is just so cool. This panel was pretty late in the day, but it was well worth sticking around for!

While that was technically my last event at BookCon proper on Saturday, there was a romance event at Books Are Magic afterwards that I of course had to go to. I was a bit late, and it sounds like that was a good thing because boy was that place packed. The bookstore was not at all prepared for that many people and frankly dropped the ball on holding that event. None of the authors had name tags so you couldn’t tell who they were unless you recognized their headshots, and none of the books were set out, they were all at the register, and there was just not enough space (or snacks and wine) for that many people. It’s amazing that there was such a great turnout for this event, but I really wish bookstores would stop underestimating romance readers.

I still had a good time because I met up with my book club and caught up with some other people I knew there, and I was lucky enough that Tessa Dare magically appeared next to me so that I didn’t have to hunt for her in the crowd since I had a stack of books for her to sign. I think she’s my favorite romance author, and I really couldn’t limit myself to one or two favorites, so I brought four, which she was nice enough to sign for me. But if I had been going on my own and hoping to meet people there, I think I would have been even more disappointed in the event than I already was.

Fortunately BookCon day two more than made up for my disappointment on Saturday with an amazing slew of romance programming. I really can’t express how happy it makes me to see romance featured there, especially as I start to gravitate away from YA novels, which are the main draw of BookCon.

The first panel was titled “New York, I Love You: Romance (Novels) ‘Made’ in Manhattan,” and it was so much fun. New Yorkers have lots of opinions about the city, and I really enjoyed hearing the authors share theirs. Plus it was really cool to hear them talk about their experiences in the city and what it was like writing books set in New York and how the fake New York created in movies has impacted books. Plus I really liked that there were two historical authors on the panel who had a different perspective of looking at the city when writing their books. It was a great panel, and a great start to the day!

The next panel was “Suffragettes, Sex Positivity, and Smashing the Patriarchy: Historical Romance as a Powerful Political Text,” and holy crap was I not prepared for that panel to be packed. It was standing room only! This panel had a much more serious tone than the first one, but it was still super fascinating. I really enjoyed hearing the authors dig a bit more into what it means to be writing historical romance and how they try to resist and subvert the things we see in the news every day with their writing.

Even though there was only 10 minutes between the historical romance panel and the next one I wanted to attend, I had a ticket to Daniel Jose Older’s signing line (which had started earlier) and wanted to scope it out and see how long it was since I wanted a signed copy of Dactyl Hill Squad, which is a middle grade book about dinosaurs and the Civil War. Fortunately for me, there was no line, so I was able to get my book signed quickly, let Older know what a great concept I think it is and how excited I am to read it, and head back in time to catch the next panel I wanted to go to. I couldn’t have asked for it to work out any better!

That next panel was the last romance one of the day, titled “When Millennials Met Romance: The Rom Com Phenom.” I was interested in this one given the rise of illustrated romcom covers in romance lately, plus I love a lot of the authors on the panel. Meg Cabot moderated and did a hilarious job with it, and again, it was interesting to hear more about what went into these books and how and why they choose to infuse so much comedy into their romances. It was also a packed panel, and a lot of fun!

The last panel I went to for the day was “A Mashup of Time, Space, and Media: NK Jemisin and Rebecca Roanhorse on Creating and Adapting Speculative Fiction.” I was so excited for this panel because I’m a huge fan of both authors and thought they could have a really interesting panel together, but I didn’t think the questions were that interesting, unfortunately. Parts of it were interesting, but overall I was a bit underwhelmed by the panel.

Since that panel ended at the same time as Rebecca Roanhorse’s signing and the Romance Candy Crush event started and I couldn’t be in three places at once, I snuck out of the panel a bit early to get in Roanhorse’s signing line so I could try to get through it quickly and head over to the Romance Candy Crush event. Fortunately it wasn’t too crazy and only took me 15 minutes to get through the line once it started (I’m embarrassed to say I did some mindless gushing to Roanhorse, but she was very nice and I really can’t wait for book three), but I went to the wrong part of the convention center, so I was closer to a half hour late to the romance event. Don’t worry, everything still worked out great!

I was not fully prepared for what the Romance Candy Crush event would be. I knew there’d be a bunch of authors and candy and that we’d get a couple of books, but when I checked in, they gave me a tote with vouchers for eight books and a signing poster like they did at KissCon. The authors were all set up at tables with a huge stack of books and a bunch of candy. I didn’t get a chance to nab photos, but fortunately Avon shared some on their Instagram. Click through to see what some of the different authors’ tables looked like.

So yeah, I was able to get eight different books to bring home, plus they were all signed, and I had all of the authors sign my poster, which is pretty cool. It’s a nice keepsake (and will match my KissCon one!), plus it gave me a good excuse to go up to different authors whose books I didn’t want (mostly because I already own signed copies!) or didn’t recognize and talk to them a bit. And of course, I had a big bag of candy, which did not survive the day, and I nabbed some awesome swag from Alisha Rai. I hung around until the end because why not, and the publishers let us grab extra books if there were any left, plus they brought out a box of Sarah McLean arcs, so I actually went home with 11 books plus two digital downloads. So much for only picking up one book this weekend!

 

Oh, also pictured in my haul is a digital download card from Audible! They were handing them out at BookCon when coming and going from the show floor, and I’m always happy to get a free audiobook.

Speaking of the booths, I spent very little time on the show floor. There were so many people and it was just such a madhouse, and I have no interest in fighting for arcs and swag. Plus I’m lucky that living in New York means a lot of these authors come through on tour fairly regularly, so this wasn’t my one opportunity to get books signed for most of the authors. So I mostly stuck to the panels, which makes for a much more chill BookCon experience, plus I think the panels are generally a lot of fun and really interesting, so it works out well for me.

So yeah, all in all I had an amazing weekend at BookCon! It was a lot of fun and I now have a huge stack of books that I don’t really have room for, but that I’m excited about nevertheless since I actually haven’t hear of or read a lot of these authors!

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