BEA vs. Book Festivals

Before leaving for Book Expo America, I received an email from Jill at Rhapsody in Books, who wanted to know about the differences between festivals like the National Book Festival in Washington, D.C., and Book Expo America.

She’s full of great ideas, so I took her up on it.

BEA is a publishing industry-sponsored event to talk about the new fall releases, current releases, the state of the publishing industry, and an all around networking event for those in the publishing industry.

Local book festivals, like the one in D.C., are often supported through donations from organizations like newspapers, retailers, etc., and provide a venue through which people can hear authors talk about books, themselves, reading, etc.; meet their favorite authors; and buy books they normally would not have heard of whether new to the market or banging around bookstores for a few months.

I can’t tell you which event to attend or which event is right for you, but I can give you some guideline questions to answer and what I would recommend.

1. Do you want to meet the publicists, authors, publishers, etc., you’ve been working with?

BEA would be your best option for this because there are booths and you can set aside specific times to talk with these people and discuss books, upcoming releases, etc.  However, you can talk with authors for short spurts at book festivals as well, but if you want more one-on-one time, head to BEA.

2.  Interested in publishing trends on the horizon or learning more about e-readers, online publishing, e-publishing, etc.?

BEA will provide you with panels chock full of information, and in some cases, so much information that your head will hurt.  It depends on what you want out of your blog and where you see the future of your blog heading as to whether this information will be useful or important to you.

3.  Do you want to meet your favorite authors, chat with them, get signed books?

Either BEA or book festivals or even author signings can achieve these goals.  Just go with what suits you and your budget most.  If there are authors visiting your area that you love, see them.  If the authors you love don’t visit your area but go to BEA, get on a plane, train, or drive into NYC and see them.

4.  Are you going to get free books? (Someone had to ask it.)

In this case, you would want to attend BEA, rather than a book festival because more than likely you have to pay for the books.

5.  Want to meet with other book bloggers in real life?

Again, this depends on where you live and who you know that lives near you and blogs about books.  If you live in a well populated blogging community, your best option is to meet with them through a meet-up you agree to or at the local book festival because trying to find your blogging buddies in BEA without a plan is like looking for a contact lens beneath a million people’s shoes.

6.  Interested in what the publishing industry is really like?

You’re going to want to be at BEA, especially when tours of the offices are offered and you get to meet with publishing industry staffers to discuss how bloggers fit into the equation or how you can get a better working relationship with publishers.  However, if there is a large group touring these facilities, etc., it may be hard to glean out the information you are looking for specifically unless you have one-on-one time.

Regardless of what avenue you choose, just remember to make the most of these events for you and your blog.  I tend to be in awe of everything and do follow up emails with my questions.  Its good to remain in contact with everyone you meet, even if it is to just say how lovely it was to meet the person.

I attend both formats because I’m interested in the publishing industry and where its going, but I also like celebrating reading, which is what I believe book festivals focus on for the most part.

One drawback for me at BEA every year has been the lack of poetry discussion or promotion.  And since one of my goals for my blog is to raise interest in poetry, my job will be continuous until BEA starts talking poetry, though I was glad to see Graywolf Press in a booth this year and some of their poetry selections.

What are your thoughts on book festivals versus Book Expo America?


  1. This is great for me to know! I haven’t attended BEA yet and am seriously considering it for next year but have attended LA Times FOB. This looks like they are a lot different!
    Amused´s last blog post ..Life is About Choices

  2. Thanks for this post. I have wondered the same thing, so now I’m glad to see the distinction.
    .-= Aths´s last blog ..Look at what just arrived! – June 5, 2010 =-.

  3. I love book festivals, but enjoy BEA even more. There are some smaller trade shows that are worth attending too. You are so right – follow up is a must!
    .-= bermudaonion (Kathy)´s last blog ..BEA/NY Day 1 =-.

  4. To me, the book festivals are great if you want to see a particular author who is going to be there and to meet up with local bloggers. BEA is great if you want to meet up with bloggers from all over, see what’s going on in the industry, learn what new books are out there, and view the offerings from a wide assortment of publishers (which is fun even if you’re not taking the ARCs, and I didn’t in most cases). Thanks for this very informative post!
    .-= Anna´s last blog ..The BEA Post, or I Need Another Vacation to Recover From This Vacation! =-.

  5. Very interesting, I always wondered at the differences between the two as well. I’m glad I chose BEA over a festival, after reading your notes 🙂
    .-= Amy´s last blog ..Review: Say Everything by Scott Rosenberg =-.

    • I’m glad that the post is helpful. I really enjoy both types of events, but I really like BEA for the industry information.

  6. I’m so dense I didn’t even realize there was a difference! But all of that is good to know. At this point, I’d be happy to attend any freaking book event!
    .-= Sandy´s last blog ..The Heart Is Not a Size – Beth Kephart =-.

    • There are differences, but mind you I can only tell you about my experiences with the DC and Baltimore book festivals vs. BEA. I’d be happy to put you up on my couch if you want to attend the dc event!

  7. Everyone seemed to have a wonderful time. This post was helpful to bloggers like me who did not attend. Thanks a lot Serena

    • I’m so glad that the post helped. I wasn’t sure what to write about. I hope it helps people. I’m just lucky enough to live near one of the biggest book festivals in the country…so I only have to travel once per year to NYC.

  8. Great post! I knew you would do a wonderful job setting forth the similarities and differences. I particularly liked your image, “trying to find your blogging buddies in BEA without a plan is like looking for a contact lens beneath a million people’s shoes.”

    Very interesting about the small poetry representation at BEA. But if anyone could make an impact in changing that, surely you can!
    .-= rhapsodyinbooks´s last blog ..Review of “Sweet Misfortune” by Kevin Alan Milne =-.