BookCon & BookExpo 2019 Review from a self-published author’s POV

James Hannon – a self-published Cosplay Author tries to promote himself and his book at these two very different events at the same place, and learns a lot about the publishing and book reader worlds in the process.

#TheBookCon #BookCon #BookCon2019 #BookCon19 #BookExpoAmerica #BookExpo #BookExpo2019 #BookExpo19 #Unbound


During the last week of May and the first couple of days of June 2019, I made the trip into New York City to hit BookExpo and BookCon 2019 at the Javits Center. I was there to promote my book Anatomy of A Cosplayer: Tales From Behind the Mask and try to increase my footprint in brick and mortar bookstores and libraries.

BookExpo was on May 29th – 31st and BookCon was June 1st and 2nd, and they existed in the same space of the convention hall. On the surface they look the same with many of the same vendors and exhibitors, but they are totally different events for totally different target audiences.

BookExpo (also known as BookExpo America or simply “BEA”) is the largest annual book trade fair in the United States. According to Wikipedia:

Nearly all significant book publishers in the United States, and many from abroad, have booths and exhibits at BEA, and use the fair as an opportunity to showcase upcoming titles, sell current books, socialize with colleagues from other publishing houses, and sell and buy subsidiary rights and international rights. Authors, librarians, and buyers for book retailers also attend the event.

Wikipedia contributors. (2019, May 30). BookExpo America. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 19:42, June 14, 2019, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=BookExpo_America&oldid=899506457

BookCon, on the other hand, is a fan-based convention very much like New York or San Diego Comic Con, but with a focus on books. Most of the exhibitors kept their same booth locations throughout both events, and just switch from being in “industry networking” mode to “promoting their product to fans” mode.

I figured that as an author trying to promote my book and increase my distribution network, it would be a good idea to attend both of these events as they seemed to have all the people I needed to reach in the same place. So I applied for an author pass at BookExpo (only industry people allowed) and was approved, and bought my BookCon weekend passes for my wife Jackie and myself.

A few days later, I signed up with the Combined Book Exhibit to display Anatomy of a Cosplayer throughout both events at their 2019 New Title Showcase exhibit. They also offered an opportunity for me to have a book signing during the show, but the price was a little above my budget. As I kept visiting their exhibit area over my time at both BookExpo and BookCon, there were actually lines for the authors who were signing, and I felt a little jealous that I didn’t have that signing moment at a big con. That being said, I still would have made the same decision to not do the signing.

At this point, I’m going to split this review into two sections since I had a very different experience at each event.

BOOKEXPO 2019

Walking into BookExpo, I was very optimistic about being productive over the three days based on the “Welcome to BookExpo” message where they proclaimed in their program guide:

“BookExpo Loves Indie Publishers – Independent publishers have always been a vital segment of our exhibiting customer base. Being small and nimble allows these publishers the ability to put some of the most unique and powerful books into the market and we are excited to deliver a new way to give them a spotlight”

As I read that paragraph walking into BookExpo on the first day, I was confident this was the perfect place to help me get my book out to the right people – all in one place! Looking back a week after the show, I realized I was rather naive and uninformed as to what BookExpo actually was about. Independent publishers are NOT the same as self-published authors. Even though I have a large publisher behind my book (AuthorHouse), they did not attend BookExpo, nor did I expect them to…

A little behind the scenes here:


Anatomy of a Cosplayer and my previous book Lost Boys of the Bronx were both published by AuthorHouse Publishing. And they did their job turning my manuscript, photos and artwork into a beautifully formatted hardcover, softcover and eBook that is on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and a bunch of other online retail sites. However, unless you spend a few thousand dollars more, they are not going to help you market your book or get it into the hands of libraries and brick and mortar stores. They are pretty upfront about that, so there are no unreasonable expectations, and I probably will use them again for my next book.

So, I am pretty much on my own marketing the books. And that is a exciting and great place to be – where I am responsible for my own destiny… But at BookExpo, it wasn’t a very good place for self-published authors. Nobody tried to kick me out or was rude in any way, but I was told quite a few times that the distribution channel people would only talk to publishers and not authors. After a few occurrences of this, and seeing their face drop while reading the “Author” on my name badge, I just gave up any hope that any of my business goals were going to be achieved at BookExpo.

So, I decided to just enjoy BookExpo as a spectator with access to stuff most general readers do not have. And that made the event so much less of a total waste of time for me.

I went to the Combined Book Exhibit to take some pictures of Anatomy of A Cosplayer being displayed on the shelves of a big con, and while I was there, I heard the Downtown Stage (which was right next to the CBE) starting a new panel introducing Deborah Harry and Chris Stein of one of my favorite bands – Blondie. I have no idea how I missed this when planning out my BookExpo trip, but Debbie has a new book out called Face It and was promoting it. Well, Fate had me in the right place at the right time, so I went and watched the panel – which was great, and even tho she wasn’t autographing, I got some great pictures of her and Chris Stein from pretty close up.

I also ran into George Takei who was signing his new book They Called Us Enemy at one of the vendor tables. His lines were long and I wasn’t sure if I had to get a ticket to get an autograph, but I was able to wave at him and grab a photo.

I explored the BookExpo some more and found myself in the Unbound section of the event. This was a section set aside from BookExpo/BookCon that had non-book items for sale. There were vendors that sold greeting cards, tea, fancy writing pens, and items like that. I walked by a vendor with artwork on his walls that cause me to dead-stop seeing the vibrant colors on the prints. It was Nakatomi Inc and I struck up a conversation with the artist Tim Doyle about his work. It seems he is an artist that produces concert posters for acts such as Metallica and Weird Al Yankovic. His artwork on the walls were not those items, but they were amazing. We talked about my book cover artist Angela McKendrick (@cuddleswithcatsart) and how wonderful her art is. Hopefully the two of them see the potential of a team-up down the road.

As the day got later and I wanted to get out of New York City before Wednesday rush hour traffic kicked in, I decided to hop on the ferry back to my car in New Jersey. But I will say my mood had changed for the better with the artistic interactions I had – even if my plans for getting help with distribution had fizzled early on.

I didn’t go back Thursday or Friday, and I probably would not go to BookExpo 2020 after this experience, but I will keep an open mind about it. If you are reading this, and have any suggestions that would have made my trip more fruitful, please email me or post in the comments!

Full album of my experience at BookExpo on my Facebook Photo Album:
https://www.facebook.com/lanternmedia/media_set?set=a.10161741195450133&type=3

Now lets talk about a much more fun and productive couple of days!

BOOKCON 2019

Going into BookCon, I had a much different strategy than I did for BookExpo. As a cosplayer, I have been to New York Comic Con and other fan conventions for the last 10+ years. Its a large part of my Anatomy of a Cosplayer book, so I knew exactly what to expect. Kinda…

I had heard there was some cosplay going on at BookCon in recent years, but nowhere near the amount at NYCC. So I figured I’d ask around to see if costuming was ok. Being that I have a lot of DC Comics based costumes, I figured I’d ask the fine folks at DC Comics if they’d be interested in having me and a couple of my friends there to help promote the brand in an official capacity. (And my book… cough cough)…. They saw right thru my ruse, and told me that they wanted to highlight their authors who were appearing, and didn’t want to take away from their thunder. A perfectly legitimate concern, and they were nice about it, so I didn’t press it. I did ask a moderator of the official Facebook page of BookCon if cosplay was ok, and she excitedly told me that they would LOVE to have cosplayers there (in an unofficial capacity). So I decided to enlist a couple of friends and do some cosplay promoting – I mean I am the Cosplay Author right? LOL

On Saturday, I appeared as Jay Garrick – the Golden Age Flash from the CW show The Flash. I recruited Karen Gaebel as SuperGirl to carry my book around for photos, and my wife Jackie Hannon to wear a colorful shirt with the image of my book’s cover. We walked the con floor for quite a while and got a LOT of positive feedback and requests for pictures – Even got a few requests to purchase the book right there and then – but I read that was against the rules of BookCon for non-official vendors, so I just passed my information to them (and believe it or not they emailed me later that they bought it!). I took a lot of pictures, and met a lot of people. Saw the Adam Savage panel, and had just a great fun time…. Then BookCon closed for the day, and we went home in a much better mood than BookExpo.

On Sunday, I didn’t cosplay due to a blister from the day before. But I had no regrets because I had a secret weapon – my talented cosplayer friend Renata Gatti wore her Handmaidens costume from The Handmaid’s Tale, and it was accurate. If I thought we got a great reaction on Saturday cosplaying, we got an even bigger one on Sunday being The Handmaid’s Tale was a book before it was a TV series, and the new season was starting later that week. We (well, Renata) took well over 200 pictures with fans of the show and the book, and we got a lot of interest in Anatomy of a Cosplayer. Again, a few requests to buy my book right there and then. And again, I couldn’t sell without breaking the BookCon rules, but gave info to the requestors.

As a weird side note, on Sunday an older woman came up to Renata and myself, and started a conversation with us about her Handmaid’s costume. She didn’t ask the usual fan questions or request to take a photo, but she was more grilling us about WHY Renata chose to wear that particular costume. (There is a political movement regarding that costume, but Renata is just purely a fan of the show.)

It was an interesting convo, and when it ended, we both went our separate ways not thinking much about it. However, today, while searching for photos Renata’s Handmaid costume at BookCon, I ran across a picture of Margaret Atwood – the author of The Handmaid’s Tale, and Renata and I swear it was the same woman who talked to us. Now, I looked for a while, and there was absolutely no record that Ms Atwood did appear at BookCon on Sunday, and I assume that if she actually did appear, there would have been a bigger deal made about it. But that woman who approached us looked exactly like her – and it makes for an interesting story…

BookCon was a big success for me… I had a really great fun time and was very productive. I met a lot of people, got some excellent tips for marketing the book from other successful self-published authors, and took a lot of great photos. I will absolutely go back again!

One thing I will mention is that there were a LOT of women at BookCon. I would guess the crowd was 90% women. I expected there to be large number but not THAT big…. I saw a photo posted for a male with a shirt that said I’m just here to stand in line and hold books for my wife. Everyone was really nice to me, and I only mention it as a curiosity and a mental note about a potential marketing opportunity.

Full album of BookCon available on my Facebook album:
https://www.facebook.com/lanternmedia/media_set?set=a.10161753328435133&type=3

Thanks so much for reading! Any questions or feedback, please drop em in the comments, or email me.

-=James

Gotta Run
Gotta Run

The Richard and the Young Lions album was finally released!

It’s finally here! The FIRST Richard and the Young Lions album ever – 51 years after the band began (and 14 years after “Richard” passed away)!

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw it for sale on https://wickedcoolrecords.bandcamp.com/ – the long (and I mean LONG) awaited album of Richard and the Young Lions! I still can’t believe that I have the LP, CD and MP3 files in my possession now

A short history:

Back in Summer 2001, when I was learning to be a filmmaker and web designer, my co-worker and friend Shelly Riff joined this 60’s band called Richard and the Young Lions that was getting back together as a replacement keyboardist. As luck would have it, they needed somebody to create their website from the ground up, so Shelly recommended me. I met the band, and got the job and became fast friends with the guys.

As I was working on the site, one of the key pages was the Legend of the band. As I started writing this page, I learned a LOT about the band’s history. And as a budding filmmaker, I couldn’t have found a better first project. So I approached the guys and they thought it was a great idea.

I spent the next three years of my life working with Leon Leybs on this documentary – in addition to holding down full-time jobs. We learned so much about the band, film-making, and ourselves during that time.

The band’s musical comeback was going great in Summer 2001 and they were regularly playing clubs in downtown New York City. And then September 11th happened and everything changed and the NYC music scene was changed forever.

RYL continued on, but they decided to focus on putting out an album under Little Steven’s guidance. Every Sunday they were there working on this album – and I was there every Sunday shooting footage.

Eventually we met legendary NYC disc jockey Pat St. John, and he graciously offered to narrate our film. And to say I was blown away was an understatement. But with great opportunities comes great stress not to blow it. And we went buy xanax without perscription into overdrive to finish this project.

Sadly, Richard Tepp, the lead singer became seriously ill during the filming and slowed down the album work. But that put even more stress to finish the documentary.

Which Leon and I did in late May, 2014. And I am so glad we did. On June 17th, 2014 – two weeks after we showed our final product to Richard and the band, he passed away. He was really sick, so I wasn’t in the room with him when he watched it with a couple of his RYL bandmates, but they told me that he loved it and said “We really had a great run, didn’t we?” Knowing that I was able to give Richard that moment is one of the greatest rewards I’ve ever gotten.

We had our video release on July 8th, 2014 which turned into a huge tribute to Richard. We really felt Richard was in the room smiling down at us.

After the premiere in 2004, the documentary had a good run and made it to the Hope and Dreams (NJ) and Anchorage Film Festivals. The album on the other hand really lost steam without a lead singer. There were a few replacement singers (Richard’s son Casey and the very talented Mike Fornatale), but without Richard (who had recorded all his vocals before getting sick), everything kinda floundered.

I never expected this CD to see the light of day. And then I got the call from RYL drummer Mark Greenberg aka “World Famous Twig”. I was shocked..

James Hannon with his copies of the Richard and the Young Lions albums in front of the poster for his documentary Out of Our Dens The Richard and the Young Lions Story

I got the LP and the CD in the mail !!!!  And they were great!   Richard would have been so proud!

Important Links

Richard and the Young Lions website
Purchase the $18 RYL Documentary DVD from me
(FYI Amazon never has it in stock and resellers charge $80)
Purchase the RYL CD from Wicked Cool Records

The premiere of James Hannon and Leon Leybs documentary Out of Our Dens: The Richard and the Young Lions Story
The trailer for Out of Our Dens: The Richard and he Young Lions story by James Hannon and Leon Leybs – narrated by Pat St. John

A Tale of Two Comic Cons – Part II – NY Comic Con

Part 2 of a segment about two consecutive weekends where I got to met THREE of my childhood heroes, and have a lot of other cool things happen at a pair of conventions.  This is in addition to the weekend earlier where it was Superhero Nirvana down in Flemington, NJ– October is a great month to be a costumer!

Well, this one is about the big boy of conventions in the New York City area – NY Comic Con!  Last year there were 96,000 or so attendees – this year 105,000.  According to Wikipedia, its been going up steadily since its inception…It sold out both weekend days this year, so I dont know how much higher those numbers can get…

Year Attendees
NYCC 2006  33,000
NYCC 2007  49,000
NYCC 2008  60,000
NYCC 2009  77,000
NYCC 2010  96,000
NYCC 2011 105,000

Last year, Johnny Rox and I went to NYCC for a first time on the Saturday, and it was MOBBED (I’m not talking supermarket mobbed – I’m talking last train out of the apocalypse-mobbed!)…   We went in normal civilian clothes (as opposed to being costumed) and we had a great time.  Check out our experience last year here  (Lots of pix there too)

Anyhoo, so lets get on with the events of the individual 2011 days!

Friday Oct 14th, 2011 – Day #1 (for me)

Someone mentioned to me that since I was vacation on Friday, I should go to NYCC that day because it would be a LOT less crowded…  Nobody else was on vacation, so I had nobody else to go with, but I knew enough people there – so I headed into the city on Friday sans costume…

I got a call in the morning saying that the lines around the Javitz Center were insane but happily found out that these were people who had to pickup tickets.  Luckily I ordered my tix a few months ago and had them in hand, and didn’t need to wait in any lines..  But I got there after 2pm anyway to avoid the initial confusion that usually happen at these things.

I went in without any maps, or any idea what I wanted to do…  I said I wouldn’t do that again, and I actually created an agenda on the NYCC website, but I never printed it, nor did I remember anything on the list…   There’s a LOT to see, and there’s no way in hell I was gonna see 5% of what there was to see, so I just decided to let Fate be my guide…

So I walked… And walked…  And walked…  I zigged and zagged down aisles dodging human traffic looking for Read more

Green Lantern movie – A lifetime waiting to review!

Don’t worry, I’ll let you know in big bold letters when to stop reading if you don’t want any spoilers

Friday, June 17th, 2011

Well, after waiting my entire life for this, FINALLY a Green Lantern movie came out. In case you didn’t know, your old pal James (whose company is called LANTERN-media.com by the way) has been a HUGE Green Lantern fan since he was a kid.

Sure Superman and Spiderman were cool, but there was just something about having a ring that can construct kick-ass weapons based on the wearers imagination really appealed to this Irish kid from the Bronx – And the fact that he was “green” didn’t hurt LOL And every summer, I’ve watched as a bunch of less-deserving superheroes get their moment on the big screen.

Well not this Summer… Finally Green Lantern hit the theaters today!

I’ll be honest, I was pretty worried about this movie… Waiting an entire lifetime for something only to have it suck was a real concern. I really tried to keep my emotions in check about it – and by its release, I was fully expecting it to be more disappointing than the Green Hornet movie with Seth Rogan last year.

Which was a really good strategy on my part. Having low expectations meant that as long as Jack Black didn’t star as Hal Jordan (an actual possibility from a past script that still frightens me), it was probably NOT going to be a disappointing movie.

So we found a local theater and went to the matinee. Jackie wouldn’t have stayed awake for the car ride to the theater, let alone the whole movie, if we had went to the midnight showing, so we went to the first showing of the next day. We also decided to watch the Non-3D version since it was earlier
Read more

Band Review: Black 47 at the Stone Pony, Memorial Day 2011

Band Review: Black 47 at the Stone Pony, Memorial Day 2011

As biased as my previous review was, this one will be also.  But, unlike the previous review, I became biased towards Black 47, not because of friendships (which came later), but because I was just a super fan going back to their early days (1989-1991) when they were playing in the Norwood/Bainbridge section of the Bronx – which just happened to be my old neighborhood.

I’m kinda embarrassed to admit this, but I never did see the band live when they were playing back in my old neighborhood.  They had played in the local Irish bars, and by this time I had already given up drinking at the ripe old age of 16 (more common in my Irish-American neighborhood than you would expect)

I don’t remember who exactly, but “someone” recommended Black 47, and I picked up their CD – probably at Crazy Eddie’s on Fordham Road. I was really surprised that I liked their music.   I DID NOT like Irish music at all at that time tho – too many parentally-forced listenings of “Wild Colonial Boy” and “The Unicorn” on WFUV’s Sunday radio program will do that to you.

Read more

Christmas Blizzard 2010 / Irish Voice review

Originally this was going to be a blog entry on this cool review I got on the Irish Voice newspaper website today, but I realized that the Scotch Plains Christmas Blizzard of 2010 is just as worthy to talk about…

I’ll talk about the book stuff first since I think its pretty major – AND it will let me end the blog with the blizzard videos and pictures… So here goes…

After shoveling out from the Christmas Blizzard (see later on), I sat down to surf the net a bit, and I got a Google Alert email telling me that
James Hannon” and “Lost Boys of the Bronx” was mentioned in a news story entitled “Don’t Bet Against Spider man“.. Didn’t know what connection I had to Spiderman, but news is news right?

Popping the article up on my screen, I realized it was from the Irish Voice newspaper and was written by “Off the Record” columnist Mike Farragher – Now things made sense….   A few weeks ago, I had went to the Irish-Mexican Alliance benefit (see my blog from then for what that was all about) and I met Mike in person there.  We’ve been “virtual” colleagues for a while since both of us were part of the Irish-American Writers & Artists group and had a lot of the same friends (most notably god-amongst-men Larry Kirwan – who somehow is getting mentioned in every blog lately LOL) – We finally met in person, and I passed my book to him hoping he would find the time to check it out…

Well, he did and he wrote a wonderful review of it…  Check it out at:

http://www.irishcentral.com/story/ent/off_the_record/dont-bet-against-spider-man-112497839.html
I know Mike has both an online edition of his column and a “physical newspaper” edition.   I’ll find out Wednesday if I made it to the paper version…

Now  onto the Christmas Blizzard!

Everyone knew this was coming – kinda… In the days prior, there were reports of it being anywhere from a dusting to 2 feet of snow…  Would it come on Christmas Day or the day after – or not at all???  Details were sketchy, but “something” was gonna happen…  Eventually reports started remaining consistent and we were gonna have a Nor’Easter the day after Christmas…

Read more