BookCon Rant – Never Again

Posted on 06/01/2014 in Events / 86 Comments

bookconThis is just something I need to get off my chest before I can get to the awesomeness that is BEA in a whole other post.  Out with the bad and in with the good, I say.  So I am expelling all my anger into this blog post in hopes that it’s out, I’ve said my piece and I can focus on all the great stuff about last week. BookCon was horrible.  It was the worst bookish experience of my life.  Maybe that’s not saying much because my bookish experiences have been rather pleasant so the bar isn’t really all that low to begin with, but BookCon set a new low that I don’t think any other event/panel/insertyourbookeventhere will ever be able to match.


Let’s talk about that for a second.  You can’t squeeze ten pounds of shit into a five pound bag.  You know what happens?  The bag bursts.  According to the Show Daily, a magazine printed for BEA attendees, “BookCon executives were expecting close to 10,000 readers to attend the new 2014 event.”  Whether this means they sold 10,000 BookCon tickets in addition to BEA passes or in combination of, I don’t know, because the number I heard before seeing that article in the Daily was 8,000.  It’s easy to believe the higher number, however, when they continued to sell tickets at the door after the event was opened to the public and very full on Saturday morning. Update: It has been brought to my attention that security and volunteer staffers were not even made aware of how many tickets were sold or how many attendees to expect. 

Above is an example of the hordes of attendees near the signing area.

Author Signings

In combination with the capacity issues were author signing problems.  I proactively went to find a line for Libba Bray’s The Diviners signing (11am) at 10:15am, knowing that if I didn’t get there early, it was very well likely I would miss out on the book due to limited quantities (I mean, duh).  First off, there were So. Many. People. that I had a hard time finding where she was signing (in part my fault because I had forgotten which table she was at), since the aisle was unwalkable due to all the people crowding the signing area.  When I did find it, I lurked out of the aisles, next to one of the donation booths, because the volunteer staff refused to start a line, telling us to come back at 10:55am for her 11am signing. Folks, that is how you miss out on books and how staff members piss off readers who paid to be there that day. We were also threatened with “If I see your face over here for the Libba Bray signing any time before 5 minutes to, you will not get a book”, as well as with the fire marshal coming over to shut the whole thing down if we did not disperse.  Problem: we couldn’t disperse because they were still letting people through the doors and those people were coming to the signing area.  It was like a horrible mosh pit without any good music to justify being there.  At least at concerts, the music is probably redeeming my mosh pit experience. All anyone wanted was be told where they could line up for the author signings.  That’s all.  People like organization.  They thrive on it, not chaos.  BookCon was complete chaos because without queues to line everyone up, no one knew where to go and what time to be there to make sure they didn’t miss their chance at the book they wanted.  If the fire lanes were blocked, it wasn’t the Con-goers faults; it was the executives’ for selling too many fucking tickets for the convention hall.  Asshats.

The Libba Bray Signing

The singular reason I subjected myself to BookCon was to score a signed copy of The Diviners by Libba Bray, one half the reason for all this madness at Table 12 to begin with.  Libba Bray was not a ticketed event.  But eventually, they delayed her signing and a volunteer staff member (the same one who threatened us with no books if we didn’t move) came out with a set of sticky notes and a pen, and began making tickets for people so they could leave and come back when the chaos had died down. And while handing out tickets, attendees began converging on her like a wild throng and I saw several tickets get ripped out of other attendees’ hands, as people desperately tried to get them for the signing.  It was madness…but it was literally their only recourse left (you know, other than Just. Fucking. Lining. People. Up.) to get everyone to go away, so if you didn’t have a ticket, you weren’t getting into her line.  Several people who showed up around 11:30 were very upset by this, because of course, they didn’t get there in time for tickets.  Because it wasn’t a ticketed event!  Even if it should have been from Day 1. It took me 45 minutes to get through her line.  Asshats.

 Above a volunteer staff hands out ad-hoc tickets to Libba Bray

  I think the executives at BookCon acted very greedy and didn’t take any consideration for the safety of the attendees.  Fire exits and lanes were blocked.  If there had been a fire where I was at during the Libba Bray signing, I am positive we’d all have died right there because the crowd was literally too large, with more pouring in, to make any kind of escape.  We were, for all intents and purposes, trapped.  The staff members were rude and unhelpful, and it’s hard to even blame them for that when they were so clearly understaffed for an event of that magnitude. I will never attend BookCon again.  They can KMA.

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Jennifer is both a book nerd and professional photographer. That means she lives in the fantasy world all the time, whether of her making, or someone else's. She collects books like the Duggar family collects kids, and began waiting for her Hogwarts letter at the tender age of 33.

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86 responses to “BookCon Rant – Never Again

  1. Well, that’s pretty much the deciding factor – those videos.. if the BEA floor is like that, I seriously cannot imagine making my way through the crowd with my wheelchair. Hell, I’d be frightened that someone would knock a hose loose from my vent. There’s no space there for people with no baggage (except for a bookbag and even that looks like it’s barely room) .. that would creep me out and be incredibly frustrating. Especially to go and be so excited to meet authors and other bloggers – I think the problem is they need to make it more closed.. to bloggers and authors and pubs, and not the “general” public. Iknow that sounds kinda snotty, but really, it’s BEA for a reason. Not everyone and their mother is supposed to be able to attend.
    April @ My Shelf Confessions’s latest thoughts >> Mailbox Madness (77)

  2. I orginally signed up for Saturday and it was power reader day just like last year then all of a suggen they changed it without notice and I freaked. I didn’t want to go to a limited book con. I wanted to go to BEA. So I called to make a stink and got switched to Friday, THANK GOODNESS I did!!! I have heard so many complain how awful this was. Think maybe they should go back to what it was last year and why fix what wasnt broken! I so sorry Saturday was such a bad experience. Glad you had fun the first couple of days 🙂 I had a blast on Friday!!!
    Michelle@Because Reading’s latest thoughts >> Week in READ-view and The Sunday Post 6/1

  3. Mary G Loki

    Omg I am so not envious of your experience. Just watching the vid of the crowd made me anxious. 🙁 It is really crappy of them to still be selling tickets and having the building fill to maximum capacity! I mean I worked at Victoria Secret’s Outlet in Texas and they did that! I mean the managers would do head counts during hoildays and would make a line outside of the store and only let a person in when a person left the store. SO F***ING HOT IN THERE!

  4. I saw posts on Saturday about how crazy BookCon was – I would have been PISSED if I’d traveled from Texas for that. Thankfully I hear BEA was much better than BookCon. Sounds like they should have been fined for over selling their event at the least – what a safety hazard!
    Berls @ Fantasy is More Fun’s latest thoughts >> Pinching Pennies | May 2014

  5. It was awful!! I have panic attacks and trying to get to the 4 author Harlequin signing that morning sent me into one!! I was there early and already there were hundreds. I was kicked, pushed, had a book ripped from me, watched ppl grab not 1, 2, but 3,4,5 of the same book!!! The poor lady in the booth begging ppl to be polite and take one. Sadly everyone was overwhelmed. I went into the other side and hid in the farthest booth just to stop hyperventilating. never ever ever ever again.
    Bella’s Shelf’s latest thoughts >> Cruisin Away….

  6. Sharon C

    What a terrible experience, it sounds so chaotic and disorganized! I hope BEA made up for it 🙂

    • I honestly don’t know why they say BEA is Saturday, too, because the BEA showroom floor was empty, the publishers weren’t doing any activities over there and I heard most of the senior people didn’t even attend that day so if you wanted to use that day to network, it was pointless because the people you wanted to network with weren’t even there. BEA on Saturday was a ghost town. Which is fine because I really didn’t need any more books LOL. BookCon was one third of the BEA showroom floor. So the publishers lucky enough to be on that side could carry on like business as usual while the other publishers (for instance, HarperCollins) had to set up satellite booths near the signing area so Con attendees could access them. What the executives SHOULD have done was do the three days of BEA and then opened up the entire Javitz to BookCon attendees as a separate event. Then 10,000 people wouldn’t have been squished into one small area.

        • I don’t think the separation would be a bad idea IF they reduced the number of tickets sold and had events spread out over two days so people are swarming one area for multiple author signings. Just because they CAN squeeze 10,000 people into a section of the Javitz doesn’t mean they SHOULD (although I bet that doesn’t account for all the booths taking up space – I’m sure it was a fire code violation). And maybe reduce the number of celebrities.

      • Juie

        Excellent idea. Any idea why the change was made this year? Was it publishers not wanting to engage with non-industry people? So glad to find your blog and this post. So relieved I wasn’t the only one pissed off. Here’s my Fb rant on BookCon: “I urge everyone to avoid Book Expo America’s public event next year. It was truly awful: a small part of the Expo was cordoned off for the public today and then way oversold. No discernable galley drops. Difficult, if not impossible to access readings. So I crossed the border separating BookCon from the vast and underpopulated Expo and gathered books there for the poor teens stuck back at BookCon. Also, frustrating because last year’s public event (called Power Reader Day) was fantastic–it was disingenuous of BEA to trot BookCon out as something that had changed in name only.”

    • I left after Libba Bray. I needed to go to the bathroom and went to find one that I knew was usually pretty quiet and the line was 50 people deep. I was too flustered to realize that the BEA floor bathrooms would be empty so I just hailed a cab and left. BookCon was the worst way for me to close out my BEA experience. The hounds of hell would have to chase me back in to get me to go again.

      • I managed to stick it out all day, but it was pretty intense. I learned that there were near empty bathrooms down past the food court. However, even learning this ‘trick’ I had to argue with a security guard to get past the John Green line just to use them! And I gave up on the autograph floor after seeing rabid people in The Grumpy Cat line. I really felt sorry for her/him and realized who really needs a photo with a cat?! I would of liked to shop and buy books from new authors, but the booths were too packed with lines for autographs. The romance panels towards end of day were empty, while it seemed rest of BookCon were pushing for John Green (this is when the cops showed up to moderate) and Scifi panel with Veronica Roth moderating. Jason Segel, Carey Elwes, David Mitchell and John Grisham panels were in TINY ass rooms, like less than 200-300 people. With only 2-3 panels on at once, that leaves 7000 people with nothing to see! The math does not compute. They sold the tickets, they knew how many were coming. Only idiot would think they would wander about and not go into a panel for most of the day.
        teresaelectro (@teresaelectro)’s latest thoughts >> Totally making my own cinnamon lip balm, you guys.

          • I can’t believe it either. Perhaps, my music festival survival skills kicked in subconciously. I even showed up with a slight hangover headache and empty stomach. The expo floor was a bit dizzying even sitting down at the Mario Batalli session. He just kept saying delicious over and over, so I left to grab some food and recharge. Then, I plopped myself in Amy Poehler line, which apparently was most civilized of the day. After that, I resigned myself to seeing whatever I could, but not being committed to anything. Also free books really softened my disposition. 🙂
            teresaelectro (@teresaelectro)’s latest thoughts >> Totally making my own cinnamon lip balm, you guys.

  7. I was there as well (not for Libba Bray though) but my experience was very similar. In my case it was with the lining up for Jennifer Armentrout for her 11am signing. I got there at 10am asked a volunteer where they would line up. I was told to come back at 10:30am and I was given a ticket (that I didn’t know I needed, so good thing for checking early). When I came back at 10:20 and was directed to where to line was, there were 100+ people in front of me, already settled in sitting on the floor like they’d been there for a while. So obviously they started before they directed me to. That line took over an hour and half for me to get through, and I wasn’t the last one. This caused Jennifer Armentrout to miss her 12:15 signing at Harlequin. Then the Kristen Ashley, Jodi Ellen Malpas and Rebecca Zanetti signing, they gave out numbers but then didn’t check them as people went up to get their books. So if someone had a friend lining up and they came after, they got books before the ones that had gotten “tickets”. So yeah, very unorganized. On a side note though, this is the same experience I have at every Comic Con at the Javitz Center. The autographing is done the same way. It’s always madness of people like you saw walking in the isles that you actually can’t walk more than baby steps at a time. So I don’t think it’s something that will be changing any time soon. This is just how the Javitz Center operates. I brave Comic Con usually the days that there’s something I really want to do, and I know the drill of camping out at a booth that has someone signing that I want. I try to stay away from the autographing area unless I’m dying for someone there. And I come out of there wanting to scream my claustrophobia and frustration at the amounts of people that they crushed me with like sardines. And don’t get me started on the fact that there was only one bathroom on the floor available to “BookCon” attendees instead of the “BEA” badge holders. I am definitely going to BEA next year, but getting doing the full week and having my “better” badge. Because the BookCon badge was a rip off.
    Francesca @ UTCBookBlog’s latest thoughts >> Interview and Giveaway with Amanda Carlson and Kristen Painter

    • Rebecca

      The lines at the regular BEA can be long but definitely not out of control like the ones at Book Con, and the aisles have space so you can walk around and don’t feel like you will get killed if there is a fire. I was there on Thursday & Friday and the lines were very organized and if you asked they would tell you where the line you wanted was, or let you start one if there was no line yet and an area was available for one. If you qualify to attend BEA I wouldn’t let the mess that was Book Con scare you away. I definitely won’t be going to NYCC anytime soon though if it’s like Book Con!

    • This! Yes this! I read your post and most of the comments and replies. I feel so validated. BookCon was awful. The only thing I was able to do was get in to see Holly Black, Cassie Clare and Maggie S. We waited hours on line…oh wait, yes there were 3 lines, against a wall. When I saw the autograph area, I did not go in. There didn’t seem to be a point. The other thing I participated in at BookCon was to get a Stephen King book at Simon & Schuster. I wrote a post too on my blog. Book Con is NOT BEA. It is like ComicCon…a pop culture event. I was happy to see so many pple who love reading, but it was not handled well.
      Midnyte Reader’s latest thoughts >> Feature & Follow – Guilty Pleasures (June 5, 2014).

      • I feel like the whole day was such a waste there. I’m glad I managed to get the Libba Bray book, but it was literally the only thing I could do because it took over 2 hours. I could have been somewhere else. Like enjoying the city.

  8. Did I see people had small children there with them??? OMG! I would have needed so much Xanax for that. Seriously. The level of the freakout I would be having in a crowd that big is absolutely immeasurable. Thank goodness you didn’t get trampled in that insanity. I was all jealous of all the people that got to go. Now, I am glad I stayed home.
    Lisa @ just another rabid reader’s latest thoughts >> #ArmchairBEA: Wrapping Up The Week

  9. Samantha Ace

    I’m in your second video haha, but yeah it was utter madness. I did get into Alexandra Bracken and Libba Bray though so it was all worth it 😉

  10. And that video doesn’t even show the one point when there was a section right in the middle of that aisle where NO ONE was moving. I literally had to turn around, and force my way back the way I came, and down towards the publishing booths, to get down to the other end of the autographing tables. Book Con was horrible. I know I missed several books because of that. But I can’t stand crowds, so I had to get out of there. Oh well, I probably won’t attend BEA next year, and then I think it will be in Chicago at some point, I might go there for a change! Glad I got to see you, even if only for a moment or two!
    Lisa Loves Literature’s latest thoughts >> Sunday Post #9 and Stacking the Shelves June 2nd, 2014

    • That actually happened where I was standing too. I managed to wiggle my way to the Info Booth and as I was standing there, some old guy screamed at the people in front of him to move. I looked at him and said “THEY HAVE NOWHERE TO GO, DUDE.” He gave me a nasty glare but STFU after that.

  11. Wow. Based on the first video in this post, it was packed! I don’t know how you were able to move. They didn’t allow you to line up for an author signing until 5 minutes before the schedule start time? That’s bad/no planning. That’s asking for chaos. Then to be threatened for showing up early and the Fire Marshall threatening to shut it down? Definite overcrowding. How hot was it in that place, with all those people?
    Brianna (The Book Vixen)’s latest thoughts >> Book Review: Soulless by Gail Carriger

  12. What a nightmare! This is why I don’t do San Diego Comic Con anymore (and those they DO have a line for- but you have to show up for that line before the convention even opens for the day, or you don’t get into the room at all). They need to account for popularity of certain authors, organization of masses of people, LARGE and accurate signage, and backup plans. Thanks for the warning- I will *not* be attending Bookcon ever.
    Beth W’s latest thoughts >> Stretching Your Cents: Savings

  13. I couldn’t agree with you more. BookCon was a complete disaster in for me. I had a signing schedule for Saturday, but after venturing to the ‘dark’ side I had to return to the BEA side and abandon all hope to get any of the books I wanted. It’s just not worth the aggravation. I feel bad for all the publishers and vendors that got caught up in the madness. They should re-think their plan for next year.
    Liza @ Reading with ABC’s latest thoughts >> Review: Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

  14. Juie

    Another reason reading your post and the following comments has been a welcome relief is because I’m only finding decidedly positive spin on the whole debacle, not just by the organizers (of course), but by “outside” media outlets.

  15. Torsten Adair

    I’ve attended BEA numerous times. I’ve attended every New York Comic Con, from the first “fire marshal” con to the recent 130K show. I was overdosing on endorphins when I saw the lines outside at 9:15, and when I saw the surge of attendees enter the show floor! Bibliophiles! People who love to read! I hadn’t been this jazzed since the last Harry Potter midnight madness release (which lasted until 4 AM at my store in Lincoln Center)! (And then later, I read about the TFIOS event… screaming teens.. screaming for an author! WOW.) I attended one panel early in the morning (10 AM), so I didn’t have to stand in line to get down to Hall 1E. I accomplished most of my author autographing during Thursday and Friday, so I didn’t do any of the scheduled signings on Saturday. It was easy to navigate the aisles in Hall 3E on Saturday. It was not NYCC-crowded where one has to stop-and-start to get down an aisle. Even early in the show, when Scholastic was handing out “I Read YA” totes, the booth was not mobbed, and it was easy to walk around the scrum. I had no trouble entering or exiting Hall 3E. Of course, I live in NYC, so I’m used to having minimal personal space. Bathrooms? Here’s a secret: Go downstairs. There are restrooms located by each escalators. If you have a BEA badge? Fourth floor. Yeah, it’s the first time, and mistakes will be made. But ReedPOP learns from every show, corrects what went wrong, then makes new ones as the make each show better than the last. Man… I wait for the day when BEA rivals Frankfurt. 275 thousand attendees (including two days for consumers)!

    • Hi Torsten, thanks for the comment. It’s really great when teens and young adults are THISEXCITED! for books. I applaud that! I can get behind it! I love John Green and would have figuratively died to attend that panel, but I knew there was no way I was getting in so I didn’t even try. And I was okay with that. I don’t have to meet every author. And I love that kids are excited for books. But this wasn’t just about books. This was a book slash popculture con rife with celebrities and Grumpy Cat (again?!) and not everyone came for the books. If ReedPOP needs to resort to tactics like these to draw in a crowd for books, then that is a pretty sad state of affairs for reading, my friend. I don’t know if you watched my videos…but it was not easy to navigate. Both days during BEA, while crowded, I was freely able to move around without being pinned to people. Just trying to get into the Libba Bray line left me pinned inside a mob for over an hour. An hour that the volunteer staff sat back and did nothing (aside from yelling at people to move and a fat lot of good that did them) to disperse the crowd, like hand out tickets, or start a damn line. Which is ultimately all anyone wanted in the first place: to be lined up. I went to the downstairs bathroom by the registration booths….the one that is on the floor below them by the escalators. And it was mobbed. I thought that bathroom was my dirty little secret but there were ~50 women in line. So I hailed a taxi and went back to the hotel. I don’t know how anyone can think that this BookCon was organized or planned well, especially when the overwhelming majority of people who attended have complained about it, at least that I’ve seen so far. I would love a con like this…IF they could get it right. They didn’t. Maybe they’ll have better luck next year. Or maybe they’ll see how much money they made from vendor booth sales and 10,000 ticket sales and say “to hell with it, this worked.” I guess we’ll find out.

  16. I had a hard time with the Jennifer Armentrout signing as well. I have bruises on my left arm as a result of this con. I had a ticket, but it was so hard to move on. I believe they just wanted money and didn’t care about atendee’s safety. Thought I was going to die at times.
    Grace Fonseca’s latest thoughts >> Photo Recap of BEA 2014

  17. Melissa

    BookCon left a bad taste in my mouth. 🙁 I bought my BookCon tickets for my sister and I because my sister loves Jennifer Armentrout’s books (and it was her birthday present). I got to the autograph tables at 10:00AM to ask them where the line was and the staff told me to come back later at 10:30AM. I came at 10:25AM to ask and found out that it became a ticketed event. To my sadness, my sister and I were not able to get tickets. My sister was really sad. The staff was completely unorganized. Because, my sister and I couldn’t get Armentrout’s book signing tickets, we went to the panel: Epic Storytelling with Holly Black, Cassandra Clare and Maggie Stiefvater. At first the staff told me that they stopped the line for this panel and told us to come back later. Ten minutes later, my sister goes to check and the same staff person told us we can line up. So we quickly went to line up, and then the same staff member told us we were on the wrong line. Another staff member, told this staff member, that we were in the correct line and it was chaotic. There were no divisions between the 3 lines so when the doors opened all the lines were trying to get at the same time. It was bad. Thankfully there was some order after more staff came and my sister got to see at least 2 of her other favorite authors but sadly no signing for her. 🙁

  18. Rachael

    Wow, this is crazy! I was at BEA for the 2 days but decided to skip BookCon because my suitcase was already at its weight limit and I am SO glad I did. I had heard it was nuts but watching the video just makes my stomach churn. I definitely would have had a panic attack in there. Scary stuff.. thank goodness there wasn’t a fire or some other emergency or people would have been trampled..

    • I only got the Libba Bray book. I was interested in House of Glass by Sophie Littlefield, but I ran into the Harlequin publicist while fangirling over Kiera Cass and she said she would send it to me if I didn’t receive it on Saturday. But I have so many books already LOL. The crowd was insane, but seriously, I was NOT leaving without The Diviners! I suffered through that craziness, it was going to be worth it!

  19. Rose

    Thank you for posting this. BookCon was a complete mess. It was obvious that they were just greedy and were trying to sell as many tickets as possible regardless if the attendees actually had a good time or not. I also tried to get Libba Bray’s signature. I got there an hour early after being turned away from Ann Martin’s but was told to come back 5 minutes before Bray’s signing time. Came back and met that mess of people shown in your video. It was insane, I agree, if there had been a fire we’d all be killed. Didn’t get her signature or any signatures. Only got one ARC because there were simply too many people to be able to stop at the booths. I ended up sticking around for the rest of the day. I will admit the panels I attended were great (screaming teens and all) and I actually got into John Green’s after standing in line forever but overall I wish I’d saved my money and not gone to BookCon.

  20. I’m glad you survived the unsafe BookCon conditions. I was there, but totally avoided the autographing area, and given your experience I’m glad I did. After waiting on one long line at the Harlequin booth (their staff was super nice and well organized) and then missing out on tickets for a Random House author, I retreated to the BEA side. Ultimately, I left the event much earlier than planned. I like the suggestion of having a separate day for BookCon after BEA in the future.
    Catherine @ Book Club Librarian’s latest thoughts >> Weekly Book Recap #70 — BEA 2014 Edition–Part 1

  21. Rebecca

    For anyone who attended with a BEA full pass, check the email you registered with. They sent out a survey today. There is also an email to send detailed comments to.

  22. BEA2014 Recap Part 2 - BEA Day 1 (And the Parties!) | The Bawdy Book BlogThe Bawdy Book Blog

    […] BookCon Rant […]

  23. […] sit well with many attendees, who had complaints about lines and crowds in the Javits Center. At The Bawdy Book Blog, reviewer Jennifer James described the lines for author signings as being “like a horrible mosh […]

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