Last weekend, I attended the Book Expo Australia at Sydney Showground. As part of our university course work, a friend and I were given permission to film there, which enabled us to canvas a variety of opinions about the event.
Personally, it wasn’t what I had expected. While I knew that for its first year and with minimal advertising we couldn’t expect the world, I was still a bit disappointed. It had been targeted to families and other publics outside of the publishing industry but it still felt more like a trade fair, alienating those publics who did attend.
I attended two days – Friday and Saturday. Friday wasn’t an official Book Expo day but they were holding events on social media and book reviews which I wanted to attend. I met some great people and came away with some good tips, but the courses were definitely more focused towards authors and how they could get reviews and promote themselves on social media. The course description on the website was a bit misleading! Despite not having any writing inclination, I really enjoyed the editing and rewrites course I did with Scott Baker – I bought his book and plan to get reading ASAP!
Because I was filming the event, it was difficult to enjoy it to the full and spend time just wandering amongst the stalls. Our lighting was very poor and it was difficult to engage members of the public. That meant that by the time we had all our footage, we were both a little too exhausted and overwhelmed to enjoy exploring the Expo.
There seemed to be a general consensus amongst the stall holders we interviewed that it was very disorganised and no one was entirely sure what they were doing. However, it all came together by 10.00, when the doors opened for the public.
We attended a debate about the importance of the genre of YA. There were some fantastic speakers among them, most notably Pip Harry, a YA author, Meredith Jaffé, book reviewer for online magazine The Hoopla and Andrew Cattanach, who I am inclined to believe is Booktopia’s most humorous employee. It was incredibly engaging listening to the varying viewpoints on young adult as a genre. What I took away is that they are just books, put into this category to sell more copies and that their readership should not be defined by their categorisation.
I also got a book in the free showbag I was given – ‘Year of the Rat’ by Claire Furniss. I devoured it that afternoon – it isn’t a book I was expecting to like but I really did!
One truly negative part of walking the halls with a camera was being accosted by stall holders who wanted more publicity. We had one lady selling her orgasmic healing ritual CDs and books who held us captive for ten minutes! We did get some great footage of the theatrical fencing group which were performing at the Expo though!
Overall, the Expo didn’t live up to my incredibly high expectations. While it didn’t affect me, some of the seminars and talks were axed at the last minute with members of the public remaining uninformed. It also didn’t seem particularly busy – I feel that if one really famous author could have been secured for the event, it might have increased attendance and thereby given the atmosphere a better buzz. I was also disappointed that none of the bigger publishing houses had a stall – seeing as these are the companies I would one day like to work for, I wanted to talk to them about the process of getting involved with work experience or internships.
I am still incredibly indebted to Sandra Wigzell, the organiser of the event, both for letting us film and for almost single-handedly putting the event together. It can have been no easy task and while there were definitely aspects that could be improved, the weekend event was still an impressive feat for a one-woman team with minimal sponsorship. I can’t wait to see what happens in the coming years as the event becomes better known amongst the public.