The Penguin Booth At BookCon Was A Dumpster Fire, And Even That Is Too Polite.

Let me first say that I’m biased. I’ve been to different conventions over the years, and haven’t always had the best time. I have enjoyed conventions as many times as I’ve hated them. I’ve seen multiple giveaway systems, experienced the nightmare of the Funko booths, lotteries, and lines that only few could even fathom. I should also say that I was at Book Con mainly for my girlfriend, to help her grab freebies and things she wanted.

All that being said, fuck you Penguin Random House Booth at Book Con. Fuck you, and your terrible system.

I’m sorry for the language. I know if this post happens to gain some attention with the Book Con crowd, a lot of people there were a bit on the younger side. However, there really is no other way to express my disappointment and outrage with how poorly ran the penguin booth was.

The system that the Penguin booth decided to employ was a lottery of sorts. The claim is that 30 minutes before a signing starts, a person working the booth will go to a location around the booth and start handing out tickets to people who want to go to certain signings. If you arrive before the designated time, the workers will tell you to keep walking around, tickets aren’t being handed out yet. Simple, and could seemingly work right?

No, that’s a dumb ass plan, and let me tell you why.

For a smaller publisher, or a smaller booth, this plan is feasible maybe even reasonable. However, Penguin should have known this system simply would not work with a following of their size. Penguin is by far THE BIGGEST booth at Book Con. They are the first thing you’ll see from multiple entrances to the show floor, and are at least the size of 3-4 regular booths combined. Given that much real estate it is heavily implied that they are a big deal, and should be prepared for heavy traffic. They weren’t.

If a con goer decides to arrive a little bit early to wait for tickets to be handed out, others will follow, this should be fully expected. Everyone obviously wants the best possible chance to meet their favorite authors. So it is no surprise at all people will begin forming unofficial lines.

Penguin on the other hand, believes that you should randomly walk around in circles and just hope for the best. Even though doing exactly what they told you to do will probably net you absolutely nothing and in all likelihood leave you on the outside looking in. If you listen to the workers of the booth and decide to circle around the booth, there is a good chance that soon after, they’ll start forming the line for the ticket giveaway. You’ll be on the wrong side of the booth, and be incredibly lucky if you happen to get a ticket.

So, maybe you should try and just stand there and have booth security yell at you?

Nope. That’s a terrible plan as well, because then you form a fire hazard, and I promise you 9/10 times the booth will form the ticket line away from you to spite you, because you had the “audacity” to not walk around in circles hoping the ticket giveaway landed on you. The fact that there isn’t an effective strategy could be exactly what Penguin wanted. Which if that’s the case, let me tell you my personal story at the penguin booth yesterday, and why that’s a terrible idea.

The thing my girlfriend wanted the absolute most from Book Con was a copy of Bonfire by Krysten Ritter. She’s a huge Krysten Ritter fan. We probably could have increased our chances had both of us decided to stalk the booth, but I didn’t want that. I told her I think it was more important to experience Krysten Ritter’s panel, because going to a panel of someone you think is really cool is a special experience. So we split, she went to wait for the panel, I headed back to the show floor to attempt to scope the situation out.

Krysten’s signing is at 2:45 PM. This means that her ticket giveaway should begin at 2:15 PM. I’m scoping the Penguin booth out at 1:30 PM. However, this is a terrible time to be around the Penguin booth, because the ticket giveaway for Wonder Woman: Warbringer, which means there is already a sea of humanity crammed like sardines around the Penguin booth. It simply is a safety hazard and a poor idea to add to this cluster of humans, so I decide I’ll come back after they’ve sorted out the Wonder Woman signing.

I go to a different booth to pick up a free book. I was at the front of the line, but decided to leave because the author was late for her signing and I had to get back to the Penguin booth. I arrive back at the booth at around 1:50 PM or so. The sea of humanity for Wonder Woman is now reduced to what seems like a reasonable lake of humanity now. I quickly head toward the table where Krysten Ritter will be. I would say at this point there are about 100 people meandering around in the area. I join the unofficial line hoping that it somehow works out.

At about 2:05 PM security gets involved, and dissolves the unofficial line and it becomes just a huge mass of people. It is at this point an exceptionally loud girl (we’ll call her ELG) starts preaching about how people need to be fair and honest about who was here first. She claims she had been there quite awhile and if she waited she deserves a ticket to the signing. The lead security guy proceeds to tell her the rules, that tickets aren’t given away until 2:15 blah blah blah, and everyone should walk around because it’s a fire hazard. Mind you the line was fairly reasonable, it wasn’t until the line was dissolved and became a large mass of humanity did it start blocking the walking lanes.

A guy comes up next to me in this pile of people and asks what’s going on, I explain people are trying to get tickets to Krysten Ritter’s signing. We’re going to call him glasses guy, because that’s all I really remember about him.

At 2:11 PM someone from the Penguin booth whistles really loudly and starts yelling at people to move because it has become a safety issue. Everyone in the mass of people checks their phones for time and scoffs, because no one is moving 4 minutes before tickets are supposed to be handed out.

It’s 2:15 PM, the crowd is growing restless because no one knows where tickets will be handed out. ELG is talking about how the crowd is behind her and she deserves her ticket, and that anyone who cuts in front is terrible. One minute later, a group of 4-5 people push through to the front and greet ELG AND STAND WITH HER AT THE FRONT OF THE PILE, this is the same girl screaming about how she deserves her ticket the most and people who cut in line should be thrown out. Hypocrisy at it’s finest. At this point, everyone should realize this girl preaching fairness and respecting the time waited is a full blown hypocrite and just incredibly rude.

At 2:18 PM or so, lead security guy explains how things are going to work. He’s going to hand some tickets out to his people, they’ll walk into random pockets of the huge crowd (which at this point might be 500+ people squished together), and hand out tickets to whoever they want. If they saw people pushing they would stop handing out tickets.

I cringe at this because I know this is a bad idea for so many reasons, but also, during the entire time I was at Book Con I was regularly given looks because I clearly stick out. I’m a dude (if I had to guess the attendance was 85% female), and I’m 6’0 tall. I’m just saying I’m more physically imposing than most people there, and if any pushing happened, I knew I would get blamed. I’m not here to cry about discrimination or whatever, I don’t know if it played a factor at all, but I know it certainly didn’t help my cause.

It’s 2:20ish PM and a security woman walks into my area of the crowd with tickets. She stops right in front of me. People are pushing into my back and around me like crazy reaching their arms forward, I’m literally holding people back from mobbing this woman. She begins handing out tickets to people, and she hands them out to everyone in the front of the circle, I thought this would include me as I was right there. Even glasses guy was given a ticket (he had just arrived at 2:10 or whatever). As she begins to turn toward me people start pushing, and she stops handing out tickets.

Ticket lady begins to then notice a girl is having a PANIC ATTACK, I help clear some room because this girl is bawling her eyes out and hyperventilating. People behind me are still pushing and grabbing. Ticket lady calms her down and helps her out, gives her and her friend tickets. At this point Ticket lady says she’s going to start giving out tickets again. I then see that this LITTLE KID is getting squished. He’s getting absolutely destroyed, he was about to be trampled like he was Mufasa. The ticket lady also notices this kid getting squished, I do my best to pull this little kid out of of the pile. She gives him a ticket, and he’s on his way. At this moment the ticket lady announces she HAS ONE TICKET LEFT, and spins around in a circle looking around.

And of course, of fucking course the super hypocrite ELG, screams that she deserves this ticket. Ticket lady turns and gives her the ticket. It’s over. The ticket giveaway is done.

Being quiet, and not actively grabbing at this lady’s tickets worked against me. That’s tough. I really wanted to do this for my girlfriend and I know she absolutely would have loved to have Krysten Ritter’s book and meet her. It’s difficult, doing what you felt was the right thing, and coming up short, and more or less getting punished for trying to be fair.

That’s not really the worst part though. I hear people in the crowd talking about how they’ve been in the unofficial line since 11:30 AM, 12:00 PM and that this was the first place they came when the con opened, and they didn’t get tickets. My girlfriend and I woke up at 2 am, hopped on a bus at 3:30 am to arrive in New York at 7:30 AM, ate breakfast and headed to the Javits Center, mainly because she wanted to meet Krysten Ritter and get an ARC (advanced reader’s copy) of Bonfire. I went through all of that, and yet I still somehow felt extra bad for these other young fans that had spend most of their Sunday waiting for just this signing.

My girlfriend went to the Krysten Ritter panel, as it turns out they handed out copies of the book at the panel. Krysten even responded to something my girlfriend yelled out from the crowd. That’s amazing. My girlfriend ended up having a wonderful time altogether at Book Con, even though she didn’t get a signed copy of Bonfire.

But the honest truth is, I can’t help but feel bad because I know plenty of people sacrificed going to the panel so they could have a chance to meet Krysten Ritter and get a signed book. They were completely destroyed, and most likely didn’t even get a copy of the book. That sucks. That just 100% completely sucks.

You’re probably thinking that yes it sucks, but if I can’t come up with a better system, why complain? Glad you bring that up.

My personal belief is that if you’re willing to put in the time, you are the most deserving of the ticket. If it were up to me, Penguin would use the Queue Hall to their advantage and tell people to form lines there and wait as long as they want for the thing they want most. If you’re willing to commit most of your day to see one author you should get to see that one author.

Penguin has to be better at anticipating which of their signings will be larger, and have lines set up for the tickets so people can commit as much time as they want to their signings. Penguin could also have lines at the opening of Book Con and hand tickets out at the start of the day and have people return to the booth when it’s time for the signings. This would alleviate foot traffic around the booth, and would allow people who are willing to commit the most time to see an author get their ticket while still being able to enjoy the con. This means that you likely will not be allowed to see more than one author though. However, it is very unlikely people did that under the current system, and if they did it really speaks more to the unfairness of the random draw.

People at the Penguin booth and Book Con, your job is incredibly difficult, it really is. By no means am I saying that anyone can do your job. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t disagree with how Penguin ran their booth, and that they can’t SIGNIFICANTLY improve.  Book Con itself was a fairly well ran event, and an enjoyable experience in my opinion.

Feel free to disagree with me on here or twitter.

twitter: @thetwentytwo

One Reply to “The Penguin Booth At BookCon Was A Dumpster Fire, And Even That Is Too Polite.”

  1. Our firsthand experience with the utter stupidity and disorganization at the Penguin Booth happened with the Marie Lu book signing! It was utter mayhem when they screamed at the last minute where everyone should line up and then there was no supervision of said crazy “line”, so all the honest people got screwed over and the many, many people I saw (and some who told me) jump the line, got in! I hope many people write to their favorite authors and tell them how Penguin treats their fans!

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