For at least one day, publishing's annual national convention is going pop.
The organizers of New York Comic Con, ReedPOP, announced Wednesday they will launch BookCon during BookExpo America, a weekend gathering in New York in late May. The "massive pop culture" event will feature author John Grisham, actress-author Amy Poehler and other well-known guests. BookExpo will have its own celebrity guests, including Lena Dunham and Anjelica Huston, but it's primarily a trade show held for booksellers, librarians and others in the industry. BookCon will be open to the general public.
According to ReedPOP, BookCon will take place May 31 at the Javits Center and include panel discussions, podcasts, interviews and trivia contests — programming also common at BookExpo.
"We want to bottle some of that energy from Comic Con and use it for the book world," said Lance Fensterman, global senior vice president for ReedPOP and a former show manager of BookExpo.
Fensterman called the launch of BookCon a circular journey, saying that New York Comic Con (unaffiliated with Comic-Con in San Diego) was conceived as an offshoot of BookExpo America and now is the basis for a new feature at the publishing convention. He didn't rule out BookCon becoming a separate convention, but said the focus now is on establishing a "critical mass."
"We want to get to 10,000 fans this year, that would be a success," said Fensterman, who noted that New York Comic Con drew more than 100,000 fans in 2013.
BookCon will replace and expand on the "power readers" program introduced two years ago at BookExpo, when hundreds of non-industry attendees were permitted. With sales at best flat in recent years, publishers have been trying to engage readers directly, whether through social media or by authors participating in book club discussions.
"Fans are looking for new ways to get involved, share their passion and participate in the publishing world," Liz Perl, senior vice president for marketing at Simon & Schuster, said in a statement. "This is the perfect time to expand upon BEA to provide the kind of behind-the-scenes access to talent, trends and works."
ReedPOP is "a quirky offshoot" of Reed Exhibitions, a leading event organizer that has been running BookExpo for nearly 20 years.