Will on the Whirlwind of BookExpo America

The following is a guest post by Editorial Assistant William Helms on his experience at BookExpo America 2011.

The annual BookExpo America is a whirlwind of frenzied activity. Almost every publishing house under the sun–including those you’ve never heard of before–is represented by a booth or table in the cavernous Jacob Javits Center. Hopeful agents, authors and celebrities are wandering the floor with what they believe is the “next big thing.”

Macmillan, Penguin Group, and DK are just a few of the publishers at BookExpo. Used with permission of William Helms. Copyright 2011. All rights reserved.

While waiting on a winding line with another colleague for Chuck Palahniuk to sign galley copies of his newest book, two of my colleagues randomly passed by and told us how they almost walked past hip hop legend Flava Flav, who was wandering on the floor with an entourage and trying to pitch a memoir of some sort. Apparently, he had on a Viking helmet with the horns and didn’t have his signature gigantic clock. And the year before, I managed to walk past David Byrne of Talking Heads fame outside the Javits Center riding his bike against traffic on 11th Avenue, and once I got inside walked past the impeccably dressed Tim Gunn, who was there to sign copies of his book.

Buyers and librarians are there to check out what everyone is offering. But honestly, practically everyone is there to wheel, deal, schmooze–and take home some free stuff. Who doesn’t like free stuff, right? I wind up giving my girlfriend Tanya and mom the ten zillion tote bags publishers give away every year.

Another great tote bag to hold your books. Used with permission of William Helms. Copyright 2011. All rights reserved.

Admittedly, what can be a lot of fun–for me at least–are the celebrities you can meet at signings or while on the convention floor. The only problem is that usually these meetings can be incredibly short but you can still be a Braggy McBraggart as the kids say these days, and it’s a professional perk!

In all seriousness though, some of my best BEA moments so far have been meeting hip hop legends LL Cool J and KRS One, both of whom I’ve admired since the 1980s. One of the first cassette tapes I bought, with money I saved from my allowance, was LL Cool J’s Mama Said Knock You Out, and I played that tape to death. Of course, that can’t beat meeting the renowned and preeminent scholar Dr. Cornell West.

You could make a celebrity sighting at the HarperCollins booth. Used with permission of William Helms. Copyright 2011. All rights reserved.

Ironically, despite my rabid interest in photography, I don’t have any pictures from the previous years. So this year, I resolved to have some photos from BEA and to be honest, I’m glad I did.

This year I managed to take a picture with Mrs. Brady herself, Florence Henderson who was there to promote her forthcoming memoir. I was afraid that I made her feel really old when I mentioned that my mother was a big fan of the show but she was quite charming–and gives a great hug. Yes, I hugged Mrs. Brady–and it was exactly what I would have expected.

Mrs Brady gives a great hug. Used with permission of William Helms. Copyright 2011. All rights reserved.

Usually there is at least one well-known musician around with a book and this year it was Duff McKagan, the former bassist of Guns N’ Roses. I may have been about 10 years old when Appetite for Destruction came out but that album loomed large as several songs from that album were huge hits. In the PR photos and videos, you could tell that McKagan was taller than everyone else but until seeing him in person I had no idea how tall he really was; I’m a little over 5’10” and McKagan easily towered over me. I would guess he was easily about 6’4” or 6’5.” McKagan was there to autograph a bound except from his memoir which will come out later this year. Considering that he was in one of the world’s largest rock bands in the 80s, he was actually quite nice. Still it can’t beat getting a hug from Mrs. Brady!

Will meets Duff McKagan of Guns N' Roses. Used with permission of William Helms. Copyright 2011. All rights reserved.

William Helms is an Editorial Assistant at AMACOM. He performs administrative tasks such as preparing contracts, but does editorial work, such as developing manuscripts. His first signed book is due out Spring 2012. Previously, he was an Editorial Assistant at Hippocrene Books, a midtown Manhattan and Jamaica, Queens-based, family owned, independent publisher of bilingual dictionaries, language guides, travel books and international cookbooks. He also did some freelance writing for a couple of publications namely Shecky’s and their now defunct Bar, Lounge and Club Guide, an Astoria, Queens-based publication Dish du Jour and music journalism and criticism for Long Island City, Queens-based Ins&Outs Magazine. He also started doing some occasional music writing for Glide Magazine, a great music magazine online. Check the Author Guidelines for Book Proposals on our website if you are considering pitching a book to Will.


2 responses to “Will on the Whirlwind of BookExpo America

  1. Barry Richardson

    LL Cool J…Cornell West…Duff McKagan…they’re all pretty cool. But getting hugged by Florence Henderson…CAROL BRADY…that’s awesome!

  2. William Helms

    The great thing was that all of them were incredibly charming and seemed very down to earth. I’m not sure which one wins out overall but I think that meeting Cornell West had to be the biggest thrill ever and that’s with being a big LL Cool J and KRS One fan since I was a kid.

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