This week was huge. For the first time, I felt like an AUTHOR.
I've never been too particular about calling myself a writer. You don't have to be published or work for money. If you say you're a writer, you're a writer.
But this week, something happened. The book -- thus far, my somewhat private writing that I shared with a few key people (my agent, editor, close friends, my boyfriend) -- went public. Really public, at BEA. Now people have books in their possession. They will read them. They will think thoughts and I won't be there to say, oh I meant this and not that. The work now stands on its own.
I've already written about my signing and how I was totally blown away by the turnout. This post is about everything else -- the pics on my phone, the events after Javits closed, the thoughts still on my mind.
First, events. I had been to BEA two years before (as a reader not an author), so I understand the floor. It's really not that different as an author as opposed to a reader. You see what books are coming down the pike. You wait on lines to get books or posters signed. You see celebrity authors (or, perhaps a celebrity cat as I did one year). I'm never going to be a book buyer so that whole wheeling-and-dealing side of BEA will never be part of my experience.
But what was new... the parties!
On Wednesday night, I went to an event with about 40 book bloggers. They got a head start with a presentation that looked like this...
As one blogger said to me, "If HarperCollins treats its authors as well as it treats its bloggers, then you're in good hands."
Then after two hours, the bloggers moved to another room where they mingled with... the Authors. At first, it had tinges of a meat market, like I was being paraded into a room for others to size me up. But that was before I met anyone (and because my mind tends towards skewing things in strange ways). Everyone was so nice! So many READERS. Many bloggers read one book/day. Others have been doing this for years, creating communities of thousands.
I got to talk about my book, my writing process... all that. But for me, the best part was connecting with these uber-readers, the evangelists, the ones who hyperventilate at the thought of meeting their favorite author. They make you love books even more.
Here are some pics from early in the night, before the room got packed ...
And then the next night... another party. While the blogger party was intimate and a little networky (not in a bad way!), the HarperCollins BEA party was celebratory and familiar. It was held at a gorgeous 2-floor space in Tribeca with a roof deck overlooking the Hudson River.
Who was in attendance? Any author who was involved with BEA, plus their editors, agents, publicists, and marketing teams. Both HarperCollins and Harlequin were there (the former owns the latter). I'd say there were 400-500 people there.
And that night was a little strange because again I was put in that Author camp. Sure, one of many many authors (most with many more books under their belt), but still. People went out of their way to make sure I was entertained. I had a separate check-in area. People introduced me as "Jessica Tom, the author", which made me chuckle the first couple times I heard it. The event seemed to say: HarperCollins couldn't publish books without authors. Thank you. And that was cool, to be a seed that helps grow this massive industry.
I got to meet the many people who make the book what it is: sales, marketing, pr and the editorial team. I got to meet Meg Cabot (who, rather charmingly, was still wearing her BEA badge though everyone else had long taken them off. ("I learned it from an old-time author. Make sure people know who you are!" Which is ironic because... she's Meg Cabot.)
I also did this fun promo video for Go Set a Watchman, Harper Lee's historic much-anticipated book. All authors were asked to answer one of three questions. I answered the prompt, "The Book That Changed My Life." I answered The Secret History by Donna Tartt. If you haven't read it, it's juicy yet literary, sexy and suspenseful. It made me want to be a writer.
All in all, this was the most eventful week of my writing career. Getting an agent, signing a contract... those were big and amazing, too. But they were all leading up to this moment: a physical book, a community of readers, the ability to say "I'm the author, Jessica Tom."
I'm not quite used to that yet... but I hope to get there soon.
NB: These books are galleys for press, bloggers, etc and are in somewhat limited supply. Even my parents don't have one. If you want, you can pre-order yours here and get it at your door on October 27.