When I showed up at the Javits Center in Manhattan at about 8:15 this morning for BookExpoAmerica's uPublishU conference for self-publishing, I couldn't believe the throngs of people standing outside, surrounding the building, waiting to get in. Hundreds, maybe thousands, of people waited patiently to enter the building. What's this? I thought. Am I going to have to wait in that line too? Not a pleasant prospect after a 90-minute drive into the city. But no, I sailed through the doors, and made my way over to the registration area to sign in.
On my way I was again confronted by crowds of people lined up all over for something, perhaps waiting to get into the BEA conference floor? uPublishU? Many sat on the floor in peaceful anticipation of the day. Some blocked the path to get from one end of the center to the other. The line at Starbucks was so long it made me forget I even liked the stuff. I looked around in awe, taking in the scene. It was my second time at BEA. Ginormous banners hung from the ceiling touting famous authors: Jodi Piccoult, Lisa Scottoline, Pat O'Brien. And then I saw the banners for BookCon, and the mystery of the waiting masses was solved.
As explained on its website, BookCon is where storytelling and pop culture collide, the ultimate celebration of books, where your favorite stories come to life. It's also where readers have the opportunity to meet their favorite authors: John Grisham, Carl Hiassen, Veronica Roth, Jodi Piccoult, John Green, Bella Andre, and many others. All for $35. This was its debut at BEA, and it promised to be a phenomenal day. When I first heard about it I considered attending it instead of uPublishU, but remembered I was going to BEA to further my writing career, not feed my reading habit, and decided to stick with my original plan.
Once I got my bearings, I took a better look at the crowd and realized a few things: they were mostly teenagers, young adults, and enthusiastic about books. Many had dressed up as their favorite characters or sported clothing promoting their favorite books. Their infective enthusiasm and energy added a carnival-like element to uPublish U. The lines to get into their sessions reminded me of Disney World during Easter Week, but no one complained, in fact, they seemed happy to be there and thrilled to participate in the bookish events. They collected books throughout the day and sat down in the middle of everything to begin reading them. They were polite and seemingly oblivious to the self-publishing conference going on around them. We shared conference space, and they overwhelmed the uPublishU event, almost drowning out the keynote speaker while whooping it up in the room next door during their session with Rotten Tomatoes, where critics faced off with fans about Best and Worst Book-to-Film Adaptations.
As an author working on two novels with young heroines, this crowd filled me with encouragement and motivated me to continue my writing, finish the books, and get them out there. I saw the future of books today, and it's young, fresh, excited, and engaged. A hopeful sign for all of us.