Just got back last night from Book Expo in New York. To say this trade show was different from a comic book convention would be a major understatement. All the attendees were adult, professional, extremely well-dressed (glad I thought ahead and brought some decent clothes to wear!), and really, really sedate. No wide-eyed fanboys running up to the booth, telling me how awesome they thought our publications were. (Okay, there were a couple, but they were generally other exhibitors, and equally nattily attired.) Everywhere I looked, people were sipping wine, sitting at small tables conducting meetings, and actually reading books. Despite the very large crowds, it wasn’t hard to talk over the noise like it is at, say, Comicon International.
This was a trade show, not a con. There wasn’t any actual selling; we just displayed our wares to the book buyers, librarians, and educators who attended the three-day event (it was actually longer than three days, but the exhibits were only open from Friday-Sunday).
Our circulation director Bob Brodsky got there early to get our booth set-up (I had a family commitment that kept me from getting there until after it started), and he certainly did his part to keep me from getting lost in Manhattan. Ditto for George Khoury, who took me on a mini-tour of the city, so I could get my first actual visit to both Midtown Comics and Jim Hanley’s Universe, despite years of doing business with them both. (Every comics store in the country should look to these two as examples of the right way to do comics retailing.) And Write Now’s Danny Fingeroth was around to liven things up during the slow moments.
The general vibe over where we were was very positive toward graphic novels and comics. The attendees seemed to be really interested in what we and other publishers had to offer, even if they weren’t totally “up” on what every item was. The acceptance seems to be there, and I’m confident we’ll see the comics medium make even greater inroads into the mainstream in years to come.
Diamond did a fine job of coordinating everything (we sublet part of Diamond’s colossal chunk of exhibit space for our TwoMorrows stuff), and making sure all our stuff was there. The reps from Diamond Book Distributors are top-notch, true professionals, and they coordinated meetings for us with various reps from the “outside world”. Our “how-to” books seemed to be of particular interest to the buyers for the Nati. Association of College Bookstores, and a lot of librarians picked up our color catalog, expressing interest in stocking their shelves with our kinds of books.
It was particular fun talking to John Gallagher of “Buzzboy” and Jimmy Gownley of “Amelia Rules”, who were set up right across the aisle from us at the KIDS LOVE COMICS booth; they’re two very generous guys who offered me some much needed advice when I was deciding if and what to produce for Free Comic Book Day this past year. Support their books, folks!
And I can’t say enough about New York City. Other than the heat, it was a great stay. Everyone there is really friendly, polite, and helpful; most can apparently spot a subway-challenged tourist from a distance, and several people stepped up to help keep me from ending up on the wrong train.
All in all, it was a very successful event (we’ll know just how successful in the months to come, as some of this legwork hopefully starts to pay off in sales increases). Next up is the American Library Association conference in Washington DC at the end of June.