What’s the point of BookExpo America? Every year the publishing industry’s annual convention seems to get smaller, and half the conversation on the floor seems to be of the “Why am I here?” variety. But as archaic as it may be, publishing is still a business forged out of personal connections, of agents knowing which editor would be right for a particular author and publicists knowing which reviewers will like what books. So much of publishing is still about passion, so for me the highlight of BEA is always the buzz panel (formally known as the BEA Adult Editors’ Buzz panel), where selected editors sit in front of a packed auditorium and declare their love for one of their upcoming titles.
“An agent told me about this book months before she sent it to me, so when it arrived I couldn’t wait to read it.” “I opened the manuscript and didn’t stop reading till I’d finished, when I called my boss and told him we had to buy it.” This is the kind of story everyone in publishing tells about the books they love, and, being editors, the buzz paneli sts certainly know they’re trafficking in clichés—but they do it anyway, because it works. Everyone in the Javits Center is looking for their next favorite book, whether they’re a bookseller, a reviewer, or a publisher, and we’re all suckers for a story about getting pulled in to a manuscript because we want that experience for ourselves. When Knopf’s Diana Miller revealed that her buzz title, City on Fire by Grant Risk Hallberg, had been submitted to 12 editors and they had all bid on the book—not one turning it down—I think every person in that room wanted to grab the galley and start reading it right there, to have the possibility of falling in love with it ourselves. And that’s the point of BEA. –L.M.
Laurie Muchnick is the fiction editor.
Photo of Knopf editor Diana Miller is by Michael Lionstar.