This year, a friend convinced me to attend BookCon in NYC with her. For weeks leading up to the event, I was frantically combing Twitter, YouTube, Goodreads, and any other website with a large bookish community, trying to research what to expect for BookCon and for any drops/publisher events going on. After all, I was sold on attending with the promise of free books and I wanted to make the best of both my time and money. Yet, even with three weeks worth of research, spreadsheeting, and planning under my belt, nothing could have prepared me for my first BookCon experience.
On the first day, my friend and I arrive about an hour early because we weren’t sure if there was going to be a gigantic line outline the Javits and I’d heard people were arriving as early as 6AM. It turns out, everyone’s actually allowed into the Javit’s by that time and you can just kind of wander the halls and everywhere except for the show floor area where all the publishers are.
As we wandered inside, the FierceReads table was set up outside the show floor and a decent line of about 20 people had already formed. Neither of us actually knew what the line was for, but there was also a table of big-name YA titles being set up and for some reason, we decided that those were books they’d be passing out. About 15 minutes before 10, the people running the booth started passing out flyers with a Grisha-verse personality quiz and we were told that the line was for the King of Scars sampler by Leigh Bardugo. My friend, being a Grisha-verse fan, stayed. Me, having only read Shadow and Bone, did not, and instead booked it to the queueing halls for the show floor with another woman.
Only having arrived to the queue halls did I truly realize how massive this con was. By the time I had left the FierceReads line, there were a solid 40-60 people in line, which I’d thought was a lot. That line was utterly demolished by the number of people in the queue halls. I don’t have the most accurate sense of scale, but it could roughly be compared to two football fields worth of people. Being the idiot who got sidetracked by lines unknown, I ended up in the very back.
The day before, I’d found out HarperCollins had a drop right at 10 for The City of Brass and The Poppy War, both of which had been on my radar for a while. Being the naive first-timer I was, I figured that the majority of con attendees would be YA fans and wouldn’t be interested in adult fantasy novels. Girl was I wrong. By the time I’d reached the HarperCollins booth, the line for the drop had already stretched past two more booths and I’d barely joined the line when a volunteer came by to let us know they’d run out of books. Barely five minutes had passed since the con officially began. It was at that moment I realized how cutthroat galley drop lines would be.
Having already failed to acquire my #1 priority at the con, I was able to wander the booth floors in a state of shock and wonder. Despite seeing the show floor from the windows outside, I hadn’t realized how big it felt wandering the booths. However, with the bustle of people and stands and shouting, the show floor area felt almost overwhelming.
I quickly ran into my friend, who’d managed to get her hands on a King of Scars sampler, and she and a couple people she’d met in line dragged me over to take selfies with a person dressed as a reaper in exchange for A Reaper at the Gates sampler. Immediately after, we said goodbye to her new friends and went to line up for the Crazy Rich Asians drop. Once again, neither of us had quite grasped how crazy the lines would be for the next two days and we were greeted with a long line snaking its way around and behind several booths. Luckily, we made it in time to for tickets and both snagged (signed!!) copies. This was also where we got our first glimpse of the insane OwlCrate line.
The next several hours were simply a blur. Did a technically have an incredibly detailed schedule listed out of my calendar that would theoretically dictate my day minute by minute? Yes. Did I follow it at all? Absolutely not. I wandered from stand to stand, giveaway to giveaway, my calendar occasionally letting me know a panel I’d thought I was interested in was starting soon. Did I heed any of these alerts? Not at all. Occasionally, I would remember an activity I was interested in would start and would race to join the line, and once even help form the line.
By 2:30, I’d amassed an unexpectedly large collection of books and was prepared to start the signings I’d signed up for: Noami Novik, Brandon Sanderson, and hopefully, Seth Dickinson. When I’d originally gotten tickets for Naomi Novik, it was listed with a promise of receiving an ARC of Spinning Silver. Checking Twitter, I was greeted with the unpleasant surprise that only the first 48 people in line would receive ARCs, while everyone would only get samplers. I rushed over to the autographing room ASAP (15 minutes before the signing began) but one look at the line told me I was definitely not among the first 48.
On the other hand, I was a lot closer to the top 48 than I’d thought. Close enough that I passed by the person who was the lucky #48. As I was about to reach the first bend where you could buy copies of her other books, the most miraculous thing happened. A group of people in front of me had started arguing with the Strand employees that because the tickets had promised a copy of Spinning Silver, everyone in line should get a copy, not just the first 48. At first, I thought they were simply belligerent fans as I’d already accepted that I wouldn’t be getting the ARC and had thankfully brought a copy of His Majesty’s Dragon to get signed. However, they kept arguing and arguing and eventually, whispers started being passed down that they were going to be giving everyone copies! When one of the employees reappeared with a rolling crate of books, a small cheer arose from the line. Eventually, I reached the front and Noami was super friendly and nice as she signed my two books.
While standing in line, I got talking with the woman in front of me, who turned out to work in the publishing industry. She told me a lot about BEA and some of the inner workings of the publishing industry, which was fascinating. Eventually, I’d brought up that I’d wanted The City of Brass and The Poppy War from the drop this morning, but was too late to the line. To my surprise, she offered me her copy, which her friend was in line for to get signed! She even texted her friend to changed the name to be personalized to me instead! I was blown away by her kindness. After seeing how vicious people could get over books, it was incredible to see how others could be so kind in sharing the books they loved.
The next autographing stop was the line for Seth Dickinson and SL Huang. Not going to lie, Seth was largely the reason I decided to attend in the first place. The Traitor Baru Cormorant is easily one of my favorite books of all times, so naturally I’d brought my copy to be signed. it’s sequel, The Monster Baru Cormorant, is coming out this fall, and though I’d seen no announcement of ARCs, there was a tiny part of me that secretly pined for an appearance. Suddenly, as I neared the first bend, one of the women helping out started pulling beautiful gorgeous copies Monster, stacking them up next to Seth’s signing area. Asking if I could buy one told me that they were first come first serve and a quick glance at the line in front of me told me there was no way copies would remain by the time I reached the front. For the second time that day, my heart was crushed with disappointment. If only I’d been faster, if only I hadn’t gotten distracted.
And yet again, a miracle happened. After watching the second to last copy be given out, there were still several people in front of me. Yet, none of them seemed to take the last copy, even though many were holding copies of Traitor and were clearly fans. When I reached the front, I half-jokingly asked if there were any copies left, hiding under the table. Seth told me that the one standing there was the last one, and his own personal ARC. Apparently, he hadn’t seen a physical copy of his own book until today. Suddenly, he told me I could have it if he could get another copy. Turning to who I presume to be his publishers, he asked if he could get an ARC of his own book, which was replied with somewhat incredulous nods. At this point, my hands were quite literally shaking; I couldn’t quite believe this was happening. As we talked and he signed my copy of Traitor, I thought this entire experience was a joke until he grabbed and signed the copy of Monster too. I remember him jokingly complaining that he couldn’t find a good place to sign it because the first three pages were missing and it didn’t come with a title page and asking if I really wanted it because there might be typos. This experience was easily the highlight of my entire BookCon 2018 trip.
S.L. Huang happened to be signing at the same table, and by the time I’d reached her, my adrenaline levels were through the roof. She’d also been passing out ARCs of her new book Zero Sum Game, which she’d run out of right before me. Since I’d gotten her book on NetGalley the day before, I wasn’t as concerned. I kind of rambled at her and how much her MC reminded me of the Number Man from Worm while she signed a bookmark for me instead.
Out of the Seth Dickinson/SL Huang line, I immediately went over to the massive Brandon Sanderson line, which was dwarfed only by the Cassandra Clare line. I’d completely forgotten he wrote YA novels and that Mistborn was popular with the YA crowd, so the size of the line came to somewhat of a shock to me. Of course, the events that had happened right before didn’t help. The moment I got in line, I was calling my friend, incoherently babbling to her about what had happened and how I’d gotten my unicorn ARC. Sanderson’s line itself was largely uneventful, though I fear I may have embarrassed myself in front of him telling him how much I loved The Emperor’s Soul and how much I liked how he wrote magic systems. Objective complete, I did get my copy of Mistborn signed.
By the time I got out of the Sanderson line, it was about 18:00, the end of Day 1. I met up with my friend and together we rushed to our Airbnb to drop off all of our books and rush to dinner and to watch Kinky Boots. While I may have gone a little overboard with the giveaways, Day 1 was a great first BookCon experience.
Day 2 of BookCon was, in many ways, a lot less hectic. I had a feel of the convention, I knew where everything was, my experiences from the day gave me a better idea of how to plan my day. My first objective for that day was getting Vicious by VE Schwab signed, and hopefully snagging an ARC of City of Ghosts as well. I figured the most likely way I was going to get that done was at the I Read YA Meet Up, which was conveniently located in the back wall of the show floor, where wandering con attendees were unlikely to stumble upon. Even though it was at 11, I had nothing urgent leading up to that so I figured I may as well line up as early as possible.
Turns out that was the right move, because by the time I arrived at 10:02, the line had already wrapped around two different booths. I stood (sat) in line for an hour, talking to the people around me, before we eventually were ushered into a small curtained room where VE Schwab, Scott Westerfeld, and Kody Keplinger were sitting, books waiting to be signed. I’m not going to lie, I love VE Schwab’s books and I read a lot of Scott Westerfeld’s books in middle school, but I’d never heard of Kody Keplinger until that meet up. This made for a VERY awkward author interaction. With the other two authors, I chatted or fangirled with them as they signed books, but with Kody, I may have just said hi then stood there in awkward silence as she signed a book I probably wouldn’t read for me. On the other hand, I did end up giving her book to my friend, who’s much more likely to read it.
Afterwards, I met up with my friend, then just wandered the con for a bit, occasionally partaking in an activity or two. I didn’t have planned since I’d hit most of the activities I’d wanted to do the day before. I bought a book or two for friends and generally stayed relaxed. This lasted until my friend asked me to get a ticket for the EpicReads 3pm ARC drop. From what I’d learned yesterday, because of the activity’s popularity (turns out a lot of people wanted What If Its Us), the booth started ticketing at 2pm. Which, of course, means the line started at 1pm. Unofficially.
You would think that since the booth had already run this activity three times, they would know how popular it was and therefor, how early people would try to stand in line. I got there around 13:10 and there was already a small group of people hovering the booth, waiting to see when they’d begin the line. Every 5 minutes or so, an EpicReads volunteer would yell at them and try to shoo them away, telling them that the line wouldn’t start until 15 minutes before the ticketing. Naturally, no one listened. The group of hovering people slowly got larger and larger until I think the volunteer gave up and told us we could queue in the middle of the walkway (??!!) if we really wanted to. Which we did. By 15 minutes before ticketing, the line had stretched from the 2300s aisle to the 1400s aisle. It was easily the biggest line I’d seen at the con yet. Large enough, in fact, that security had to be called to figure out how they would handle such a large crowd of people. When they did officially declare a line, it was the line we had formed.
Frankly, I thought this was handled quite terribly. Firstly, EpicReads only had a finite number of tickets, a known quantity. By refusing to acknowledge the existence of an official line, there was no way for people queueing to know when EpicReads would run out of tickets, so they would simply keep queueing. There was no one holding a line closed sign to let others know they had run out of tickets and standing in line would be a waste of time. IMO, it would be much easier to let people line up when they want and simply have an area away from other booths dedicated to queuing people who wanted to queue an hour early.
At least, however, the EpicReads drop had an unofficial line. Immediately after getting the ticket for the EpicReads drop, I immediately went over to PenguinTeen to wait in line for their Secret 2019 ARC drop. Also an hour early. By the time I’d arrived, there was already a pretty long line snaking around the back of their booth where they’d lined people up for previous drops. However, there was also a massive group of people hovering the front of the booth as well. Like before, the volunteers were trying, with little success, to get people to come back 15 minutes before the drop would start. By 15 minutes before the drop, the crowd had gotten so big it was almost impossible to get out of. For some reason, the volunteers were still trying to get people to leave. The drop actually got delayed because security had to be called. Apparently, we’d become a fire hazard. The moment a volunteer carrying the ‘line begins’ sign was spotted, I was caught in the craziest mob of people I’d ever experienced. To me, I felt like I was in one of the NYC Black Friday mobs sprinting to get the latest iPhone at Best Buy. Eventually, I did find the end and made it in before the line closed. The ARC was 4 Dead Queens, by Astrid Scholte. Was it worth? Maybe not. But I’d put far too much effort into getting that damn ARC to not get it.
Overall, BookCon 2018 was a great experience, mad rushes and all. Attempting to come prepared and having somewhat of a schedule was useful, but the experience was certainly something else. I received plenty of books to add to my TBR list, many of which will hopefully get reviewed sometime in the near future. If not for Broadway, I also would have made back almost all the money I’d spent from the books I’d recieved. If possible, I would definitely want to come again.
- Seth Dickinson giving me the last (LAST!!!!) copy of The Monster Baru Cormorant, even after the previous copy had been given out to the person 4-5 peoples before me in line
- Geeking out with (at?) S.L. Huang over her MC in Zero Sum Game
- Meeting a person in the Naomi Novik signing line who was kind enough to give me their copy of City of Brass
- Watching the group in front of me in the Naomi Novik line successfully argue their way into giving everyone with tickets a copy of Spinning Silver and not just the first 48
- MEETING VE SCHWAB AND BRANDON SANDERSON AND GETTING BOOKS SIGNED
- Being the 6th person in gigantic line for the EpicReads ticket drop (not even the actual drop), which spanned from the 2300s row to the 1400s row and had a flock of security people watching it
- Participating in the crazy Penguin Teen Mystery 2019 ARC drop mob and getting the ARC (4 Dead Queens). I almost shed blood but hell was it worth it.
My Final Haul (Posters/bookmarks not included)