5 Things We Learned at BookExpo America

J_Dana_Trent_Saffron_Cross_BEA

Thanks to our publisher, Fresh Air Books, our two-day adventure at the BookExpo America (BEA) in New York was full of bright-eyed, first-time author moments of bliss and awe. Nearly 300 advance reader copies of Saffron Cross were distributed while Fred and I connected with wonderful people and their stories. Oh, and we interviewed with Religion News Service’s superstar Jana Reiss, author of Flunking Sainthood (yippee!).

Here’s what we learned:

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1. This is real. There’s nothing like seeing your BEA nametag with the words “author” to make you realize you’ve got a book coming out October 1. And the giant poster with your name, your photo, and Saffron Cross splashed across the front and Rabbi Rami Shapiro’s words of endorsement doesn’t hurt either. Another a-ha moment: the two hours we spent at the Abingdon Press booth meeting book reviewers, media, book sellers, librarians, and other authors. It doesn’t get any more real (or wonderful) than that.

BEA exhibitors hall--with everyone from HarperCollins to Penguin!
BEA exhibitors hall–with everyone from HarperCollins to Penguin!

2. The competition is fierce and fabulous. There was no shortage of BEA glamour. The most influential publishers promoted their household name authors and titles. Celebrities were in tow: Elizabeth Gilbert, Chelsea Handler, Jim Carrey, Octavia Spencer, Chris Matthews, John Lewis, Helen Fielding, Wally Lamb, Ishmael Beah, and of course, Grumpy Cat. Simply getting a traditional publishing contract among today’s storytellers is an honor. Sharing book’s essence in a wave of a million messages is tough. But you have to trust in your journey, your voice, and the Divine mystery that ties us all together as people who love a good story. 

3. People care about interfaith marriage. Fred and I were amazed at number of people who came by for the signing and confessed their own inter-denominational or interfaith stories. One Jewish man had been married to a Baptist woman for 40 years before her recent death; a mother shared that her Christian daughter is dating a Muslim. Two Jewish woman came by when they mistook me for a rabbi (I love it!) and offered their support when they learned our story. Saffron Cross is relatable and timely: according to Naomi Schaefer Riley, nearly half of U.S. spouses are married to someone of another denomination, faith tradition, or no faith. Saffron Cross is closer to home than we think.

Signing books at the BEA Abingdon Press/Upper Room Books/Fresh Air Books booth
Signing books at the BEA Abingdon Press/Upper Room Books/Fresh Air Books booth

4. People love eHarmony success stories. 

The fact that we met on eHarmony? Everyone loved that aspect of Saffron Cross. Who else would have matched a Southern Baptist minister and a HIndu monk but the genius algorithms of eHarmony? They knew we were compatible, even if on paper (or screen), it seemed like the beginning of a bad joke. eHarmony was the access point through which folks tuned in to our story with instant connection. Almost everyone’s heard of eHarmony, and if this could happen to us, it can happen to you!

Stacks of Saffron Cross, ready to be signed and placed in the readers' hands!
Stacks of Saffron Cross, ready to be signed and placed in the readers’ hands!

5. There is much to be done before October 1. It’s only June 6th, and we are 117 days from Saffron Cross’ launch. There are stories to share, events to coordinate, press kits to distribute, guest blog posts to write, interviews to schedule, and articles to be written. The next four months will be a frenzy of bringing this baby into the world so that others will know the love, grace, and mercy we have been shown through our Christian-Hindu interfaith marriage. Our prayer is that you will know this grace, too. It happens when we open yourselves up to understanding the faith journey of  someone who, on the surface, seems intrinsically different from us.

Thank you for your continued support!

Did you attend BEA? Share your experiences below, on Facebook, or tweet them @jdanatrent.


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