Posted by: Kathy Temean | May 29, 2010

Book Expo America Report

A few days ago I said I was looking for people who would be interested in writing something for my blog.  I felt it was a win-win, since it would be a great way for a writer to promote themselves and it would give me a few days where I didn’t have to do research for my blog. 

Writer/illustrator, Tracey Berglund was the first to e-mailed me and said she had just gotten back from BEA.  Of course, I knew all of you would be interested in hearing about her experience, so she agreed to share the high points of her day with you.

My first thought was to put up Tracey article, plus her artwork, but after reading her article, I felt running her artwork and her article together would take something away from both. 

I have always wanted to show off the many talented illustrators I know and meet, and have been disappointed that the illustrators have never written anything about craft for my blog.  Tonight a light bulb came on and I decided every Saturday will be “Illustrator Saturday.”  So next Saturday Tracey will be the first Illustrator for “Illustrator Saturday”.  I will show you some of her new art from her latest book dummy and a couple other pieces, along with her bio.

If you are an illustrator and would like to have me show off your artwork, please contact me.  Send me your picture, bio, website (if you have one) and illustrations you think represent your best work.   

Here is Tracey BEA article and one piece of her artwork to whet you appetite:

I went to the Book Expo yesterday, quite a trip!

When I arrived I realized that people like me, illustrator/authors were not really welcome, as I heard the person I bought the ticket from say so to an artist/writer who didn’t know what to fill out on the registration form. I had written I was a non editorial media person, and wrote the name of the mobile company where I do freelance work. I didn’t let that spoil my fun and curiosity though. I had decided to attend my first Book Expo with a detached air and not have specific intentions so I wouldn’t get stressed out. I felt good wearing one of my British Alison and Antonia t-shirts, it said “I specialize in 19th century poetry” which is a random, and tongue in cheek graphic (I have another that says I Specialize in 18th Century Architecture) and of course I wore it to amuse myself. Twice though, I’ve met shy poets who asked if I really was a poet. (I am not) Trade shows are like airports, no one really looks at each other – too busy…

Once inside there were thousands upon thousands of publishers and marketers and ebooks business people, etc, etc. It was rather overwhelming. Librarians and book enthusiasts stand in long queues to get signed books from their fav authors, the name authors require pre-ticketing before queuing. The authors or sometimes publisher reps would say one line to them and smile. With a sigh of disappointment sometimes only posters were given out, and not the books. There were some very odd titles being promoted too-some of the more memorable ones included:” How To Live Like a King on Credit Card Debt”, Is God Really Listening?”, “Dinosaur vs. the Potty”-(yes, for kids”, “Why Men Prowl and How not To Become Prey”, and much more.

I donated a dollar and got a signed book from an author whose signing line was not very crowded, Karen Gray Ruelle, “The Grand Mosque in Paris”, but Joyce Carol Oates, and Maira Kalman-great illustrator-and other favorites who were impossible to see were also there. I must say it didn’t look like they were having much fun. I also watched two presentations on raised stages, one on a writing genre called “GreasePunk” which I’d never heard of, Personally, I’d just finished the Booker Prize winner Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel -600 grisly pages on Tudor England and Henry the 8th. Another stage I attended was on consolidating all of a publishers channels into accessible monitorable digital formats. It sounded so daunting and Ingram, the company so convincing of their competencies, in that field and everything, I’d have gladly used their services if I’d really understood what it was they did. I scratched my head, took the brochures and continued getting knocked into by people with huge bags of books.

At one point I was so overwhelmed I’d actually forgotten my handbag in the talking Koran section, and an hour later, found it as it was exactly where I’d left it, the Oman, Saudi Arabia Lebanon aisle with their gilt embossed books was luckily for me but not for them very quiet. In my opinion, the best stuff was done in Europe, Italy and Spain, the UK. Belgium, I just love the aesthetic of art, the quality of the imprint, the edgy kids books and quirky intellectual stuff they produce-both from a visual and editorial standpoint. For example, Edizioni Corraini of Italy, Alice Editions of Belgium and oqo Editora of Spain literally blew my mind. I took cards, flashed some samples of my work and felt like I could suss out which publishers might find my style of work interesting and vice versa.

On another note, there was a “speed dating” session with author illustrators that I attended. It was pretty odd and intense. Someone would blow a whistle when we had to change tables and books, which made it seem so fast food that is was almost amusing though I had a nice chat with Bob Shea whose for a moment empty table I sat down at, Bob is an illustrator, graphic designer and writer promoting his new book, Dinosaur vs. Potty. I asked him how he found an agent and he said his buddy and fellow fantastic illustrator, Lane Smith had helped him immensely in that department. It made me feel like getting ones book published is somewhat of an insider’s game and contacts and timing are everything-almost. One does need talent and perseverance; and it doesn’t hurt if one’s lucky stars align. The events in general took the glamour out of any ideas I’d had about being an author writer, illustrator. Kind of funny….

Another odd moment was when I took refuge on a bench far removed from the action for a few minutes rest, and a panicking man in a perfect suit on a cell phone pleaded and pantomimed that he wanted to borrow my felt-tip pen (I’d been jotting notes) As I surrendered it, I noticed he was a literary agent at The McVeigh Agency, so I asked in a whisper if he could do me a favor too. He said yes after my call. I got his card, told him what I did and sent him an email the next morning. So far no reply. But you never know. Life can often be serendipitous.

I think attending the Book Expo opened my eyes to the field. I’m less intimidated and more aware of how timing and the right contacts are everything..

I was inspired and exhausted. That night I attended my son’s school concert and felt like a 90 yr old…so wiped out.

all very interesting…

If you can’t wait until next Saturday to see more of Tracey’s art, you can click hereRemember, to let me know if you want to participate in Illustrator Saturday or be one of my Guest Author Bloggers. 




  1. Great article, Tracey 🙂 And any Trade Show at Jacob Javits can wear you out (I’ve gone to a couple — the Auto show, and one year for the “gifts” industry. Only it was on both floors! From what I read, they kept the BEA on just one floor this time, right?

    Anyway, great art and thanks for the enlightening info!


    • Thanks for your comment Donna Marie. I agree with you that all trade shows wear one out, perhaps I wasn’t as detached as I’d professed to be it felt personally intense and wearing. As I recall BEA had a downstairs venue where private rooms were used for special meetings and events, so it was on two floors.


      • Tracey, you’re probably right about not being as detached as you were trying to be. I would think it’s difficult being surrounded by people, one or some of whom you would hope to get to know—kind of like wondering if the love of your life was somewhere in the room, but the chances of finding/meeting/running into him are nearly impossible! lol

        I think it’s great you went though. I’ve had the itch to go, but it costs. My writing “splurge” is always on the NJSCBWI conference—-which is only NEXT WEEK—-which I’m SO EXCITED ABOUT! 😀 😀 😀


  2. I think you are right Donna, your analogy about finding one’s true love made me smile…things like that just happen somehow, don’t they? when you’re not looking. 🙂 Enjoy next week’s conference…I’m trying to get there Saturday! all best…


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