Back in May, I attended Book Expo America (BEA). When I got home, I recapped all the adventures I had during my trip (Pt. I | Pt. II) and the all the books I was able to bring home. I had an amazing time and enjoyed every minute of my time in New York! Attending BEA had been on my bookish bucket list, so I was thrilled to go.
Someone asked me recently if I would go again, and I was kind of surprised when I thought about my answer. BEA was a blast, but it's definitely not a cheap trip. The hotel, transportation, food... it all adds up. On one hand, it's worth it for the opportunity to finally meet some of the bloggers I've gotten to know online. But BEA isn't just about blogging buddies, right? It's supposed to be about the books! I've read a lot of BEA recaps written immediately after the event, but I started wondering if anyone ever reflected on it a few months later.
I asked myself:
What did I do with all the books from BEA?
I had my suspicions, but I wanted to actually chart what happened with the books I got from BEA. Did I find a ton of new favorite books or authors? Did all that waiting in line pay off? How did the ARCs I brought home impact my reading choices? Did I devour all those upcoming books... or did they languish on my TBR?
I brought home 37 books from BEA, and here's what I did with them:
GAVE AWAY | 17 BOOKS | 46%
One of the most challenging things about BEA is deciding what books you want to grab. I'd done a lot of research beforehand and made myself a list of titles that interested me. Some were books from authors I'd read previously, some had been on my wishlist for months, and some just sounded like something I might want to read. You're often making a split-second decision about whether or not you want a book, so it's really helpful to have a general list (or at least a sense of what will be there) before you go.
I preface this section with that information because even with all my research, I still brought home a lot of books that didn't work for me. I read a few chapters of every book pictured in this section before I decided that I didn't want to finish them. Rather than hang on to them "just in case," I wanted to give them to other bloggers who were interested in reading (and possibly reviewing) them. The best part? I gave all but three of these books to bloggers who hadn't been able to attend BEA. I almost did a giveaway with these titles, but I'm glad I ended up giving them to 10 different bloggers instead!
Either way, it's hard to ignore the fact that I gave away (without reading) 46% of the books I got at BEA. The majority of books I brought home ended up with someone else. I knew that I'd given away a lot of the books, but I didn't realize quite how many! While I could have held on to them longer and tried again at another time, I didn't want to hoard books that I knew I probably wasn't going to read (and definitely not read before their release date). If I do end up wanting to read one, I can always get it from the library.
READ | 13 BOOKS | 35%
So, let's talk about the books from BEA that I did read. At this point, it's 13 books overall, though I may still read few more (see two categories below). I sorted based on my rating, and it was interesting to see the results:
5 Stars | Of the 13 books I read, five were 5-star reads. Technically, two were 4.5(ish) but I rounded up for this post. Five out of 13 sounds great, right? Well, it is but I would have read three of these books even if I hadn't gone to BEA. Now, the great thing is that the other two books weren't even on my radar before BEA. Additionally, I haven't heard that much about either title in the blogosphere, so I don't know if I would have read them if it hadn't been for BEA. So, in that respect, BEA was worth it.
4 Stars | Two of the books were 4-star reads, and both were on my wishlist prior to BEA. I love anything about the Civil War, and I'd been dying to read that non-fiction title from the moment I saw it on Edelweiss (months before BEA). The other title was first published in Australia and had been on my wishlist after I saw that one of my favorite Aussie bloggers loved it. Getting both at BEA was great, but I would have read them anyway.
3 Stars | Three books were 3-star reads - okay, but not great. I liked elements from each, but I won't re-read, keep the ARCs or buy finished copies of any of them. Two were some of my most highly-anticipated books from BEA and both received a lot of pre-release buzz. Based on my expectations, both were kind of disappointing reads. The final book was something from an author I'd read previously, and it was about what I expected.
2 Stars | Finally, three of the 13 books were 2-star reads (if that). One was on my list of top 10 books I wanted from BEA, and it ended up being a huge disappointment. One was a book I grabbed randomly and knew almost nothing about when I brought it home. And the final book was by an author I'd been meaning to try and ended up really annoying me. If I try anything by this author in the future, I'll just grab it from the library.
RELEASED UNREAD | 4 BOOKS | 11%
There are four books that I haven't read yet but have now been released. One of them was published before BEA and is a finished copy, and I've almost reached my "read or give away" deadline on it. Two came out in August, but the length of one intimidates me and I've dragged my feet on the other for no real reason. The last book just came out a few weeks ago, but it's sitting on my husband's nightstand right now because I think it's something he would enjoy more. If I had to guess, I think I'll only end up reading two of these four (at most).
UNRELEASED UNREAD | 3 BOOKS | 8%
I thought about waiting to do this post in January because that's when these last three books release. But I figured it's a good snapshot of where I'm at today - almost six months after BEA. I plan on reading the two adult titles, so we'll see how I end up feeling about those. I've debated the young adult title since it sounds just a little too weird for me, but I'm hanging on to it for now until I've at least read a few chapters.
Was BEA worth it:
for the books?
For me, the answer is no. It sounds crazy to say, and I was shocked when I admitted it to myself. The books were one of the biggest reasons I wanted to attend BEA! When I first got home, I was ecstatic about the books I'd gotten. There were so many anticipated and hyped titles just waiting to be read. But after the BEA glow wore off, I started to feel burdened by all the books. I've never read primarily review books, and I didn't like the impact BEA was having on my reading choices.
I kept feeling like I had to read all these books, and I suddenly became way more aware of publication dates. I even created a spreadsheet to keep track of them all - something I'd never done before. For some bloggers, this isn't anything new. If you're used to receiving and reading a lot of review books, I'm not sure you would feel the same. But as someone whose reading taste is all over the place? I felt boxed in by my BEA books!
If you're pretty loose on reading and reviewing books before their publication date, you also might not worry about big piles of unread ARCs. For me, it was just too much pressure. I desperately wanted to read the books by a release date because my Type A personality had them organized in order of publication AND saw it as a due date. But that doesn't fit with the way I like to read! I'm more of a mood reader and find it difficult to follow a reading schedule, so the books I got at BEA ended up stressing me out.
I did discover two new-to-me authors that are now favorites, but all of the other books I read and enjoyed were ones I was going to read regardless of BEA. As much as I loved the two favorites BEA brought into my life, it's still only two new favorites. Because of that, I'm almost 100% sure I wouldn't attend BEA again.
for the publishing contacts?
I'd read a lot of posts before BEA about the opportunity for networking with publicists while you're there. I had a few great encounters with publicists, but only one of those led to a new contact that I know was a direct result of BEA. I handed out several business cards, so it may have helped more than I realized, but there's no way to know for sure if those people ended up looking at my blog.
Honestly, I felt like it was almost impossible to network. Most of the publicists seemed too busy and overwhelmed to talk, and I didn't want to just randomly hand out business cards to anyone I met. I wanted to use them when I had a great conversation with someone! Maybe I went about it in the wrong way, but BEA was so packed that I'm not sure it's really meant for networking. Are there opportunities to do so? Sure! But I didn't walk away from BEA feeling like that was the purpose of the event (at least for bloggers). I didn't attend any publisher events, however, so I'm speaking only to what it was like on the floor.
for the book blogging buddies?
YES! My favorite thing about BEA was the chance to hang out with some of my book blogging friends. I don't regret going at all - it was totally worth it to get to meet so many people in one place and at the same time! The things I did outside of BEA and the time I spent with friends is what makes me so glad I went.
When I re-read my two posts, I know without a doubt that it was worth it for me to go at least once. I wouldn't trade the time I spent with Betty and Cassie (and so many others!) for anything. I don't know when I'll get the chance to see some of the people I now consider some of my closest friends, so I'd really just go back if it meant spending a weekend hanging out with them.
So, would I go back to BEA?
I don't think so! It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I relished every moment I spent with the friends I've made online. If I lived closer, I might make it more of a priority to attend again next year. For now, however, I plan to just stick to bookish events closer to home. I had an amazing time while I was there, and I'm so thankful I got to go! I get to cross it off my bookish bucket list and set my eyes on something else in the future.
Aside from the time with I spent hanging with blogging buddies, BEA was most worth it for what it taught me about myself: that I'm not crazy about focusing on review books and definitely don't like reading on a deadline. If I thought I knew that about myself before, it was made all the more clear to me after BEA. Meeting authors and bloggers was so amazing, but my shelves are begging me to spend more time with my TBR...