Guest Post: Judging the Value of the NY Book Expo by Steve Piacente

Like many others, I dream of attending the BEA. To be able to step into the same building with all those writers, agents, editors. (Insert your own version of heaven here). Besides ComicCon, BEA is on the Bucket List. Anyway, today's Guest Post comes from a writer that I've had the pleasure of interviewing for his novel Bella. He, like the lucky few, actually was a part of BEA. And this post is about his experience.

Judging the Value of the NY Book Expo
by Steve Piacente

The pain and pleasure of writing does not exist in the same way when it comes to promoting and selling a work of fiction. That is why many authors find it painful to make the switch from creative writing to creative marketing.

There are many firms and individuals who will do the work for you, but of course there is a price, and there are no guarantees. Paid advertising is expensive and as alluring to the self-published author as Eve was to Adam. We would do well to remember how that turned out.
Self-publishers who are not independently wealthy must be strategic in how they spend their promotional dollars. I made one of the largest investments in my book recently by renting a booth at Book Expo America.

For two grand, I got a tiny piece of real estate in the enormous Javits Convention Center, through which 25,000 people passed over three days. I met librarians, bookstore owners, agents, publishers and a slew of others in town for the largest conference of its kind in North America.

Was it worth it? The answer’s not so simple. My story in Bella centers on an anguished widow in search of the truth about her husband’s death overseas. She drags a reporter into the investigation, and the two of them learn a lot about the power of temptation and the futility of revenge.

Bella left New York in the hands of some 200 individuals who will ostensibly take the book home to Kansas, Canada and dozens of other places around the globe, and make a decision about whether it’s right for the store, book club or reader list. That will take time; so again, it’s hard to say if the investment was worthwhile.

What I did learn – or re-learn – is that technology is not the be-all, end-all promotional tool for self-publishers. It’s just as important to look people in the eye, explain your story in person, and press your custom bookmark into their palms as you shake hands.

Peter Drucker said the most important thing in communication “is to hear what isn’t being said.” To hear what’s not being said, you need to be present.

As for the wisdom of investing in the NY Book Expo, we wait and see.

Steve Piacente is the self-published author of Bella (, a communications official at the U.S. General Services Administration, and an adjunct professor at American University in Washington, D.C.


  1. I am hoping many of those couple hundred come to fruition in points unknown, Steve--and turn into thousands, if not more, or fans for your book.

  2. Was the $2,000 just for the booth rental? What was your total cost for travel, booth, and the 200 books that you (I assume) gave away for free? That's a pretty heafty investment.

  3. I'm looking forward to hearing if the investment was worth it. And yeah, face time pays. I know I'm more likely to buy a book if I know the story behind the story.

  4. Jenny, thanks for your support, and I wish the same to you when your book turns up in the stores.

  5. Hey, Robin, yes, the 2K was just for the rental. We have relatives in NY and stayed with them, so that defrayed the cost a bunch. But you're right, given the cost of books, meals, etc., we probably wound up spending closer to 3K. Then again, we gave books to store owners, librarians, agents, and folks from a dozen other fields from all over the world. Was Expo worth the investment? Just don't know yet. So far I've booked a reading at a NY library and a review has turned up on Amazon (bringing us to 36 or so 4-star reviews). We'll see ...

  6. Just A Girl -- I've tried to be very strategic when it comes to spending $ on this project. See some of the posts on my blog at - That includes questioning my own decision to go forward with the Expo. I am certain of one thing, however, and that is that social media will not do the trick alone. I think you must make a personal connection with readers. That includes not just face to face, but also being personal and (hopefully) personable when communicating via blogging. Thanks for your comment!

  7. Great interview with Steve!

    I happen to know Steve and I actually was the first one who won his contest.

    I love you design and content - very appealing layout, too.

    Quite impressed!

    My warmest regards,

    Elena Ornig

  8. I have had many friends, well-known and mid-list authors with good publishers, who went to BEA, and who gave away tons of signed books with little result. If you are a self-published author who has to spend your own money to be there you should save your money. There are better things that you can spend it on.


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