Lite Event: BookCon 2014

BookCon is an annual event designed for book-loving consumers. It’s part of Book Expo America, which is the publishing industry event that immediately preceded it. It’s organized by ReedPOP, who also runs ComicCon and other events.

BookCon is big, diverse and fun. However, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the activities if you don’t plan ahead. A good strategy is to check the agenda the day before and select the events you’re interested in. What kinds of events are there to choose from? Here’s a sampling of what was offered:

  • over 200 exhibitors to visit
  • lots of autographing sessions
  • tons of giveaways (books and swag)
  • panel discussions
  • opportunities to interact with authors, publishers and celebrities
  • a speed dating event for book lovers
  • several children’s events

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There were so many interesting panels, it was difficult to choose. The first one I attended was Humans of New York, a fascinating discussion with Brandon Stanton, the creator of the popular blog with the same name on Tumblr. He was interviewed by David Karp, the founder and CEO of Tumblr.

Karp, who told us that Humans of New York is his favorite blog, asked him about his move to New York City four years ago and the evolution of his street photography. Stanton shared the process he went through to get to where he is today. He talked about the many mistakes and failures he had along the way, and how they all helped him improve his craft. He emphasized that it’s very important to keep at it and do a little bit every day, no matter how small. The cumulative effect of all those small efforts will eventually add up to something significant.

He was asked how he decides who to approach for a photograph and he stated that the process has changed over time. Initially, it was visual — he sought out the big personality. Now he approaches people he thinks he can talk to. He did a mock interview on stage with an audience member and demonstrated what takes place during an actual encounter. His goal is to get strangers to open up and create intimacy.

As a self-described artist, journalist and storyteller, he said he turned his blog into a book because he wanted to open up his work to a different audience. He’s also producing a second book called Small Humans where he photographs children.

I have to admit that while I had heard of Humans of New York, I was not familiar with it, so I learned a lot from the discussion and found it very inspiring. I visited Stanton’s website after I got home, and was amazed at his work. His blog (and book) is definitely a great place to check out our fellow New Yorkers.

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The second panel I attended was called The Evolution of a Book Cover. Although I’m not an author yet, I was curious about this subject. It was led by Art Directors Helen Yentus of Riverhead Books, who designed the cover for Boy, Snow, Bird and Oliver Munday of Pantheon who designed the cover for Without Their Permission, both very popular books.

They spoke about their careers and how they got to their current positions. They also spoke about the creative process involved in designing a book cover and what makes it iconic. Each of them told us about the evolution of their respective book covers, showed us early versions and described the changes that led to the final version. They also shared that creating a book cover that meets everyone’s high expectations can be very challenging.

At the end of the panel discussion, to my happy surprise, free copies of both books were given out. I got a copy of Without Their Permission, which I hope to read soon.

I also spent some time visiting the exhibitors. I totally underestimated how much time this would take, however. With over 200 exhibitors, this activity alone could easily take all day. It’s definitely worth it though, so be sure to allow enough time for it. You’ll meet lots of people and get tons of goodies.

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If you’re a fellow book lover, BookCon is an event you don’t want to miss. Here are a few tips for attending next year’s event:

  • check the agenda the day before and decide what you’d like to do
  • get a good night’s sleep the day before
  • eat a good breakfast the day of
  • arrive as early as possible
  • wear comfortable shoes
  • bring a backpack (the swag gets heavy)
  • bring your own water
  • have fun!

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