At this point, Book Expo was so long ago, I feel I can barely remember the event. It is effectively a big blur in my recent memory, that I remember through a thick haze as chaotic, fun, chaotic, overwhelming, and chaotic. Nonetheless, while sitting in traffic on the way to work today, it occured to me that my last post on Book Expo was entitled Book Expo Lesson #1, thereby implying that I learned more than one thing from the show. As such, I feel obligated to share more of what I learned at the show with you. Here goes:
The second key thing I learned while at the publishing industry's biggest yearly event:
2. People go crazy for free shit
Picture this: humbled and exhausted from our fliering experience, my brunette colleague and I schlep back to the booth, to commence with the full day of meetings which lies ahead. As we approach our booth, we see that it is mobbed with people, all clamoring around the table my company has devoted to educating the masses about our latest proprietary deal with popular internet info site, About.com.
"Wow," I say to my colleague, "these people sure are into that website. And they're like, really excited about this new companion book series."
"Yeah..." she said, giving me a somewhat funny look. "Well, they're giving away tee-shirts, too..."
I quickly realize that, while some people may in fact be totally into the About.com site, like About.com's biggest fans, and visit the site every day, multiple times a day, many of these people are mobbing my conmpany's otherwise completely civilized booth just for the free tee-shirt.
How do I know this? Because these are the same people who mobbed the booth the day before, during the two book signings we did which we also offered free tee-shirts. I recognized them, and the hungry, anxious look on their faces. Several of them came right up to me, got right up in my face, asking desperately: "CAN I HAVE A FREE TEE-SHIRT?" No regard for the long line that had formed in front of them, or the people who had been patiently waiting for fifteen minutes already to get their galleys signed, and the free tee-shirt that was rightfully their's.
It's almost as though they had never seen or heard of such a thing as a tee-shirt before. Or as if they'd go topless if they didn't get a free tee-shirt from me that instant.
"Get a galley, get a shirt," I'd answer patiently, and these people, these tee-shirt grubbing, tote-bag laden people, would waddle away in a huff. Suddenly I understood: these people are a type. They can be easily identified by their comfortable shoes, their frumpy clothing, and the 2,3, or more totebags that dangled from their shoulders like cartoon anvils. They troll the show, searching high & low for freebies publishers, and leave with their tote bags brimming with free books, galleys, tee shirts, stickers, pens, temporary tattoos, erasers, bumper stickers, you name it.
And here they were again on Day 2 of Book Expo, clamoring around my company's About.com table, freaking out about the enormous, over-sized tee-shirts we were giving away as though they had just seen Elvis himself in the flesh. Bear in mind, these are tee-shirts that would fit any normal-sized person like a house-dress, and bear the slogan "I'm About __________", with a line left blank, so you could fill in whatever it was that you are About with a tee-shirt marker.
"So," I overheard my saintly-patient Managing Editor say to one of the tote-bag trolls, "What are you About?"
The tote-bag troll's eye's grew very wide as she pondered the question. "What am I About?"
"I got your answer right here, sweetheart," I thought. "You're about mooching freebies off of publishers at trade shows."
The question remains: will these people ever wear those shirts again?