Today I attended the second day of Book Expo Australia and while some things were the same, other bits were different. Having gone on Saturday there was not as greater need to wander the stalls but I had some time to kill before my first seminar so I took another lap and found a couple more that were interesting. I swung by the Booktopia table and noticed they had the new John Marsden book on display which wasn’t there yesterday. It looks awesome, and I used all of my self control not to just grab it and run off before anyone could stop me. I will have to wait for its release just like everyone else.
The crowd seemed around the same if not slightly more than yesterday. Like before there were places where there were a lot of people while others had very few so depending where you stood if looked either empty or busy. The fighting knights returned which was fun to watch, and at one stage there was a princess and a knight fighting . As I was getting lunch nearby I could hear the announcer asking whether the pirate would beat the Scotsman in the next battle. The consensus around the food cart was the Scotsman, naturally. A few minutes later this was confirmed.
One of the differences I noticed was that they had started announcing the seminars that were on which was really great. Just before they were starting an announcement was made and told us what ones were about to start and what rooms they were in. This was great because while we were given a basic list of what seminars were on (if you didn’t print the schedule straight from the website), having them told to you reminded you they were on and where, plus let you decide if you wanted to make any last minute decisions on going to something.
The first session I went to was Writing Children’s Books. With only three of us in there it was very intimate but Michael Stone from Little Steps Publishing did a fantastic job. Lynette Ralston was supposed to join him but he told us he couldn’t find her, but unlike yesterday when one presenter was absent, Michael did a wonderful job on his own. He talked to us about the numerous avenues of getting a children’s book published, and the processes involved. He also showed us some of their published books and the ideas behind them and the effort that went into them. It was fascinating to hear about how something as seemingly simple as a picture book comes to be and it is a lot more complicated than people realise. With word limit restrictions and decisions to make about illustrations, design, book size and the all important cover, it was amazing to hear about how these books are created.
I also went to the 7 Sins of Publishing. That was also a great session. Dan Kelly from Boolarong Press was funny, inclusive and engaging meaning you couldn’t help but have fun. The sins were what you’d expect: thinking writing the book was the easiest part, not understanding all the work that goes into it later or how important editors are, as well as the importance of marketing and the problem with thinking that traditional publishing is the best option.
My last session was supposed to be another short story session, but after 15 minutes of waiting and having to go an ask a volunteer what was happening, we were informed that no one was coming. It wasn’t officially cancelled like the one yesterday; the presenters just didn’t show up. I asked how could they have forgotten, and if they had wouldn’t the announcement remind them but it turns out the announcements were stopped because people it seems were complaining that it interrupted listening to or giving readings. Which just seems incredible insane to me, for 10 or 15 seconds once an hour or so to let people know what is happening it disrupted people listening to readings so much everyone had to suffer. It was certainly a better system than having to watch poor authors and presenters trying to spruik their own sessions from the door to those within shouting range.
Considering the two short story sessions were pretty much the reason for going to this expo, it’s hard not to be disappointed that they were the real let down of my weekend. Overall I would like to think the weekend was a success in some ways, but in others there were some clear problems. Being the first year it is hard to judge, and the volunteers did their best with what they had but you can’t ignore the fact that being there you wouldn’t help feel that some of it was a little unorganised. It was an interesting contrast that the same event could produce. Presenters not showing up and seminars being cancelled was certainly the biggest problem for me. And with only one food cart and two coffee carts certainly limited the choices for lunch. But on the other hand, the people who ran their stalls did a wonderful job. There was a lot of information to take and you get to talk to many different authors, people, and publishers throughout the day. And what seminars that did run were often very good and even though a few had issues, the remaining ones were excellent. They were helpful, informative, interesting, and the presenters were really passionate about what they were discussing. I learnt a lot from those, and as per usual, came away filled with inspiration and a desire to go home and write something.
I am looking forward to seeing how the Book Expo will improve next year, maybe a few lessons perhaps can be learnt from its first year. Already set up with a date in October 2015 it hopefully will be a bit more refined, while still maintaining the bits that made it great this year.