ATTENDEE REVIEW: BookCon and ALA annual conference

It’s Linz, and I’m about to go on vacation, so I’d rather write a sober review than read contracts.

Synopsis: As voracious readers, we love a good book event, and most of WRFB has been able to attend several BookCons (sadly, BookExpo is the brass ring we keep reaching for). But as lazy people, we love an event in our backyard, and Sam, Minda, and I were lucky enough to attend the American Library Association’s annual conference in D.C. this year.

What I drank: Uh I’m writing this on my lunch hour, so coffee (actually, it’s OwlCrate coffee, *so* on brand)

Thoughts: It’s a little hard to compare the events – BookCon is truly a fan event and marketing skews toward teens and young adults, where ALA is an industry event for librarians (who, and this may shock you, tend to not be 13- to 17-year-olds). However, both events feature author panels and signings, offer free ARCs, and do not specifically target, well, us; so, effectively, it’s a pretty level playing ground. (And both events had wildly buggy apps.) And we attended both in the same month, so they’re both pretty fresh in my mind.

Like I said, BookCon is for the fans, especially the YA crew, so you’re going to see some highly touted ARC drops (this year I managed to walk away with a copy of Slay by Brittany Morris and Cursed by Frank Miller and Thomas Wheeler). And BookCon has REALLY worked on crowd control and organization – for anyone who went in 2017, I accidentally wandered into the Warcross drop and a friend literally had to pull me out. I only saw one really bad crowd issue at one publisher, which is a GIANT improvement from previous years.

That being said, even if you were really on top of your ARC game, you really had to choose between which lines you were going to stand in for an hour and a half or if you were going to try and make a panel. So many lines. SO MANY LINES. I formed alliances in those lines only to have them broken in the next. And I definitely came home with fewer ARCs than past years; tons of books to BUY, but I’m not buying a book in NY and schlepping it home when I can pop over to one of my local bookstores and make them take my money. (And speaking of purchases, a LOT of this year’s con was taken up by vendors instead of publishers.)

All that being said, you can buy one-day badges instead of weekend, the badges are cheap, and there’s a TON of authors (and people can complain but the ticketing system is good). Kind of irritating that so many authors make you buy a book when you likely already have a copy.

I was twirling down the aisles, there was so much elbow room. People were CHILL. They were picking up ARCs, READING THE BACK, and then PUTTING THEM DOWN SOMETIMES. What an alt-universe of a con. You could actually talk to the reps at publishing tables and have an informative conversation. While there were a lot of industry-related booths, obviously there should be because this event is for the librarians, but there were still far more publishing houses being represented than BookCon. And since the DC convention center isn’t in a dining black hole like Javits, you could walk outside and get a decent lunch.

(Related to location, it changes for every conference, so everyone takes a turn at being inconvenienced/convenienced.)

My god the ARC choices. I’m both panicking and enthralled at the stacks I have right now. (And disclaimer that yes, some of the publishers prefer bloggers use NetGalley or another digital resource to apply for ARCs rather than take the hard copies. But A. we do use those resources, so we’re trying to only take copies of what we got rejected for and B. I am literally going to tweet what I’m done with and will pay out of pocket to send them to librarians.) And ARC lines…I think I was only in one for an unreasonable amount of time, and HILARIOUSLY it was because of the same publisher.

Really, it was just overall a more organized, calmer, friendlier event, AND on the last day, they give away the books on display that they weren’t handing out earlier, INCLUDING published books *pets cover of Patron Saints of Nothing*.

What I gave it:
BookCon: 3.5 stars
ALA: 4.5 stars

What I would pair it with: Whatever boxed nonsense is on sale because this is a mountain of future reviews to write.



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