bea.jpgI love books. I love the people that write them, edit them, publish them, sell them and read them. So every year for the past three, I’ve attended the publishing industry’s equivalent of the Boy Scout Jamboree (minus the bed-wetting and cries for mommy), known officially as BookExpo America or BEA for those in the know.

This year was the best ever of the three I’ve attended, and you’re about to find out why. Welcome to my review of Book Expo America 2005 in Three-Part Harmony (Blog, Photos and Podcast). You’re reading the blog edition.

My first BEA was in 2003 (read review). I was all wide-eyed and bushy-tailed, full of excitement. I had a book draft, a dream that one day we would judge a book not by the market capitalization of its publisher, but by the content of its pages. I also had a friend with a Los Angeles apartment (free housing, free housing!). So, I set out from Cambridge, Mass. to drown myself in the world of publishing. I attended meeting after workshop after seminar after training on everything from writing a proposal to doing media interviews. I returned wiser, more connected and heavier by the weight of about 60 books.

We could call my second BEA (read review) in 2004 Mission: Guerilla Marketing. After being told by many publishers at BEA 1.0 that they’d be more interested in my book if I were a famous comedian (in which case I really don’t need them), I came to 2.0 in Chicago with scores of my self-published books in hand. I was shameless people. I must have given my book to everyone from PJ O’Rourke to Maureen Dowd to a Ugandan Bishop – because it never hurts to have a Bishop on your side (well, it depends on which side I guess. Oops. Poww. Surprise!). The highlight was asking out both Maureen Dowd and Donna Brazile live on national television, and while they didn’t say yes, they didn’t say no either. I’m still waiting for the final answer, but I’ve got it from a reliable source that my book was spotted on Maureen Dowd’s desk in D.C.

So with this BEA being number three (the magic number and all) and in the publishing capital of New York city, what great things would I set out to do? What crazy stories would I collect? What intellectual hotties would I attempt to woo? And just why was I going back?

The mission this year had expanded dramatically to include five objectives:

1. Enjoy the presence of those who love the written word

2. Get my hands on a crapload of advanced book copies

3. To a limited extent, still talk up my political humor title of last year

4. Gather interviews from all sorts of people for my new podcast (The Front Porch Podcast)

5. And finally, talk up my new non-fiction book project – a compilation of essays on what it means to be black or African in the 21st century, especially through the lens of music generally and hip hop specifically

Yeah I know right! That’s a lot for one man to accomplish in four days, but thanks to a return of college-era sleep patterns and the airborne crack dust that is New York’s air supply, I’m happy to report success in all areas.

This is a long and winding story. It’s the tale of too many chance encounters to be described as chance. It’s the experience of the world’s worst pickup line. It’s the adventure of throwing your whole self into a sea of complete strangers with the powerful assistance of free drink tickets.

My goal is to take you with me on this journey, to have you experience Book Expo America through me, in three part harmony. The images from my photo album. The sounds from my podcast. The words in this blog.

Stay tuned for a great story.

UPDATE: you can jump directly to the next blog entry