I feel like I fell off the face of the planet for a bit and went to book nerd heaven. Seriously, I feel kind of jet-lagged. For this past three days, I’ve been getting up hella early to go down to the Jacob Javits Center, as I signed up to volunteer for BookExpo America. (Think Comic-Con but for writers and books.) I was signed up for all three days of the show floor being opened and I was positioned at Autographing. My job was to make sure the books and authors came out on time in their respected tables and to monitor the lines for said tables. Everything was timed, so I had to make sure authors began and ended on time to allow for an easy switch between the authors up next. I counted books and people, asked for personalized messages to write on post-it notes so that the author knew what to sign in their books as each person got to the front. This made the lines go a lot faster and allowed for a lot of people to actually get books and meet the author. Let’s just say by the end of the day, my brain was mush, my feet and legs ached, and I was tired. Sure, that was the downside of it all, but at the end of all three days, I say it was totally worth it. And here’s why.
People pay A LOT of money to come to BookExpo. Most who attend on Thursday and Friday are either publishers, people in publishing, librarians, school teachers, etc. Everyone is a professional of some sort and their professions all revolve around the English subject and reading. This year, the Expo decided to let everyday consumers into the Expo on Saturday. So essentially, Saturday was open to the public, who still had to pay about $50 to get in. Yet, being a BEA Staff member as I was, I was able to enjoy the Expo for free. Course, I had to work an eight-hour shift each day I was signed up to be there, but we do get 30-minute lunch breaks each day, as well as our very own 30-minute break to look and walk around. So, for about an hour, we got to experience the Expo like anyone who paid lots of money experienced it.
We got to briefly meet the authors and their publicists. Granted, we basically introduced ourselves as their slaves for the hour, in a way to let them know that if they need us to do anything, we’re here to help. Yet, most if not all of the authors and their publicists were super nice and really lovely to work with that we all didn’t mind (well, I didn’t mind. Idk about the other volunteers) grabbing a copy of their book and selling it to people so that they come into their lines to get their own copy themselves. And for first-time authors or authors whose lines were virtually nonexistent, we had to make sure we got people into those lines. Because there is nothing sad as seeing an author waiting to personalized a stack of their books with no one on their line. And these authors we got to meet ranges from debut authors to well known ones like Walter Dean Meyers, Rick Riordan and Sarah Dessen.
We got free books. Granted, not all of them were signed because we could only get on the lines for autographing when we were on our breaks or at the end of the author’s time after we closed the line (or if the line was nonexistent and we had another volunteer cover our line. All us volunteers helped each other out. So a lot of us did get books that we wanted signed because we covered each other’s shift). But once the author’s time was done and if their were extra books, those books would be placed in the back for us volunteers to shift through and take at the end of the day. The remaining books then were donated. So, in a way, we volunteers were paid in books. But if you’re a hardcore reader like me (and like every single volunteer), books are totally welcomed! I came home with over fifty books at the end of BookExpo 2013. And most of them were “Advanced Reader’s” copies, meaning that they haven’t come out in stores yet and won’t until the end of the year. So we get to read books in advanced! How cool is that?
Highlight though was meeting Sarah Dessen, even for the breifest moment. I had managed another line the previous day for another one of her publicist’s authors, so her publicist recognized me immediately and said to her we have an excellent worker managing her line. That made me smile. “Anything for Sarah Dessen,” I told them when Sarah thanked me once her time was up because we ran out of books. And I meant it. Sarah Dessen’s line that Saturday was top priority for us volunteers because our supervisor said so. That, and I’m a huge Sarah Dessen fan and have been reading her books for years. She’s been such an inspiration towards my own writing and you have no idea how good it felt to meet her and get a signed book. No idea! She also retweeted a picture blogger Emily Ellsworth posted on Twitter of a BEA volunteer sneaking a peak at her book before her line opened. Yep, that volunteer was me. (: