Frankly, my heart is grieved for all the people who poured their lives into this event in the six months I worked with them. They were professionals who swung for the fences.
I hope ECPA tries again. Some random thoughts on ways to improve it in the future:
The name didn't mean anything to readers. Instead, an expo sounds like a trade show not an opportunity to interact with authors and other readers. I haven't come up with an alternative to suggest yet, but I do think tweaking that could help because it would change the image in the consumers mind.
The price tag. I LOVE Books and Authors. LOVE them. But I thought several times (and my husband reiterated yesterday when I debriefed) that as a reader, I'm not sure I would have gone. Maybe for one day, but $59 (down to $49) is steep for three days -- especially if the workshops weren't effectively communicated. I love meeting authors like some would love meeting whoever the hot actor is at the moment. So like others have mentioned I would drop the price dramatically so that more money could be spent on books :-)
A corollary to the first two: it felt like an impersonal tradeshow. Everything about the Dallas Convention Center is large and oversized -- hmmm, must be in Texas LOL. I walked around several times trying to see it through the eyes of a reader. I think having a central selling point of some sort and then having clusters of authors might work better -- and the idea of selling books at the end of workshops for the participating authors is spot on. Make it easy for people to find the author they just interacted with. I was very surprised to have several of the folks who sat in on our workshop track us down later. It took some extra effort on their part.
The programming was spectacular, but the word didn't get circulated. One thing that I would encourage is to have some kind of postcard or form of tangible save the date card sent out several months in advance. It looked like most advertising was through email. Who among us hasn't received an email, thought "That looks interesting", inadvertently deleted the email or lost it the mass, and forgotten about the event? So something tangible, though more expensive, would help the event stick in people's mind.
Frankly, I hope ECPA tries again. It was so much fun to meet a couple of my readers and make some new friends while connecting with old. :-)
So I hope they tweak, adjust, and move forward. I think getting outside the traditional box will be important as we strive to continue to interact with readers and solidify their connection and commitments to our books.