Take 5: Things I Learned at Book Expo America 2019
This past week I was very fortunate in that my library sent me to Book Expo America to learn about upcoming releases (thank you Fort Worth Public Library!) It was my first time going to BEA and there was a lot of information to take in and lots of new upcoming titles to learn about. Here are a few of the things that I learned.
Graphic Novels are HOT!
In the past at both TLA and ALA, there is a graphic novel/comic book alley which is kind of separate from the main publishing aisles but that was not the case at BEA. Graphic Novels were front and center and if I had to estimate, I would say it is a good solid 1/5 of upcoming publishing. Many well established YA authors, like Meg Cabot and Kami Garcia, are jumping into the graphic novel fray with DC Comics. Several publishers are launching graphic novel lines. And the one book I wanted to get to take home to my kids was – you guessed it – a graphic novel. I got the book, by the way, and got to be the hero. In fact, Thing 2 has, who you may recall has had a difficult time with reading, sat right down and read it once I put the coveted item into her hands.
Middle Grade is also HOT!
Though I do believe a lot of the YA was saved until BookCon, which I did not attend, there was a noticeable amount of Middle Grade being offered at BEA. I have been noticing the growth in the distribution and marketing of MG for quite some time now. Booklist recently had a special MG issue and School Library Journal recently hosted the Middle Grade Magic all day webinar, similar to its annual Summer Teen event. Like with graphic novels, you also see a lot of YA authors diving into the middle grade market. There are a lot of great middle grade titles coming our way and I can’t wait to read them.
Is Young Adult publishing on the downward slope of a high peak?
As someone who has been a YA librarian for a while now, I can’t help but notice that there seems to be a slow down of the YA publishing market after a couple of decades of real growth. I believe in housing they call this a bubble and it’s possible that the bubble has burst. Some signs of this include the fact that a lot of YA authors are moving into the adult, middle grade and graphic novel markets. There were some hot properties by established YA authors up for grabs, but there are a lot of new names on the horizon and it’s been a while since a title or series has really taken hold of the public interest globally like vampire and dystopian properties did just a decade ago. Certainly The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas and a few other titles have hit hot and have had some staying power, but overall YA feels like it’s trying to find its footing again right now while publishers take a deep dive into middle grade. It’s also interesting to note that a lot of what’s being published as older middle grade right now would have been younger YA just a few years ago.
Publishers are slowly but surely starting to really diversify
With the creation of initiatives like We Need Diverse Books and the hard, dedicated work of a wide variety of people calling for representation, this year’s upcoming titles appear to be some of the most diverse and inclusive titles I have seen in my 26 years of buying books for libraries. I saw a lot of titles with LGBTQIA+ and POC representation and I’m very excited for what I can buy for my patrons this upcoming year.
Libraries can learn a lot about marketing from BEA
The moment you walk into BEA you are hit from floor to ceiling with book culture. It’s an exciting energy that is all about books. There are large banners everywhere. There are visual displays everywhere. It’s a pretty amazing experience that can’t help but get you excited about books.
I know that we don’t have the money to recreate what I saw at BEA, but I’m here to tell you that we should do everything we can to highlight books in this way and just really create this exciting, inviting book culture in our libraries. Take a look at this Penguin wall:
It’s just a question and some post-it notes but it was powerful and impactful. Throughout BEA you could stop by anytime and see several people scouring the wall and adding their own voice. Here’s mine:
Now that I’ve shared with you some of my takeaways from BEA 2019, if you’ll excuse me, I have a lot of books to go order.
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About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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