Friday, May 8, 2015

Discussion Post: What I Learned My First Year at BEA

It is officially May! And you know what that means, Book Expo America is fast approaching. Last year I did a Getting to Know You Post. I'm not sure if I will do that again but if you are going to BEA you should check that out HERE and get to know me. Not much of that has changed. Except this year no beach first and I recently got my hair cut so you may actually see it down!

But this year I decided I might do a discussion talking about some of what I learned last year. I have been talking to Britt from Please Feed the Bookworm who is going to be my BEA Buddy about this stuff so I figured I would share it with everyone. But keep in mind, I am by no means and expert at BEA. I have been once and I wouldn't say I really did it up. But if this is your first time, don't be scared, you'll be great! Here are some of the tips that I have.

 1.) The Best Part of BEA is the People 

- Blogger Con is a great way to meet people in a low stakes environment.
I know that it's the same time as the first day of BEA and we all want to get there for those signings and ARC drops but if you have paid for Blogger Con you should go. I learned a lot last year and I met some really cool people who I spent time with throughout the week

- Say hi to people, own the awkwardness 
One of my biggest regrets is not going up to bloggers I recognized because I was too awkward. Guess who else is probably awkward, them. (Right?). Don't be afraid to introduce yourself. I attacked Octavia and Nikki last year and I was so glad.

- It's totally cool to fly solo. 
Most of the lines I went to last year I went by myself. I know the buddy system is key. Octavia has a whole post about it. And I like buddies as much as the next person but don't feel like you have to have a partner in crime or a horde of fellow booknerds wait in line with you. I like being a one-woman wolfpack. I didn't feel like I had to see if the other person also wanted to wait 2 hours for Gregory Maguire. It sounds anti-social but I DO WHAT I WANT! But really it freed me up to meet people in line and chat them up. It lets you meet new people if you are solo.

- Chat up publishers when things are not crazy hectic for them.
They want to talk to you. They want to recommend books to you. I went to booths when there were no galley drops and found out about events and drops happening the next day.  If you were late to a drop or you didn't get a copy of the book don't be afraid to ask them to send you a copy. I've never done it but I hear it can be done. BEA is as much a networking event as anything else.

- Business cards are an essential investment 
Like I said, networking event. Pick up some business cards, I recommend VistaPrint. These are great not only to give to publishers but fellow bloggers. If you meet a really cool person in line and you want to check out their blog the best way to do that is to get their business cards. Let people do that for you. And actually, I loved my business cards so much, my blog redesign is based on them. Well, the color scheme at least.

I stole this from Elizabeth. She took pictures, I didn't.
- Pictures are worth a thousand words. Take them!
And not just of your book hauls. You will always have your memories but physical evidence of that is good too. Take some selfies with blogger friends. Especially take pictures with authors. You may never meet Leigh Bardugo again, take a picture with her and then fangirl about it for years to come.

- Hang out afterwards! 
Yes, BEA is a networking event but it is also meant to be fun. So many amazing bookish people are all in one place take the time to break bread and chat in a more relaxed environment. This may be my biggest regret. I didn't hang out afterwards. But this year I told Britt not to let me head back to the Bronx (where I'm staying). Everyone else, hold me to this. We need to hang out! Tell me where you're going for dinner. Any meetups you are having or know of? Invite me to bookish events that evening!

 2.) The Amount of Books is Overwhelming but Amazing 

Surprise in-booth signing? Drop everything!
- Make a plan but be prepared for nothing to go according to plan
You gotta be more organized than Santa. Make a list and check it three times. A lot of people like printing out the signing schedule and highlighting what they want. Personally I like making my own spreadsheet. But you can plan as much as you want, when you get there all hell will break loose. It's important to plan but just know that you may have to improvise. Last year I dropped everything for a galley drop and missed out on three other books but it was one of my most anticipated reads of the year and it ended up being an in-booth signing. Things didn't go as planned but I regret nothing.

P.S. If you are looking for a comprehensive list of YA signings and drops Nicole for YA Interrobang has a great Google Doc. And if you want to see my Google Doc so that we can coordinate, let me know and I'll share it with you. I'm not being stingy, I just don't know who might be interested.

- Everything will inevitably be at the same time, you have to prioritize 
Why don't things go according to plan? Well for one thing, have you seen the schedule? It's out of control. Like six things are from 10-11:30 on Friday morning. You need to decide what is your top priority, can't miss books. Color-code your list. I also suggest putting things into your phone calendar so that you have alerts.

- Get schedules of when the drops are going to be 
I did terrible with galley drops the first day last year. I didn't know that most publishers will put out a printed schedule for either that day or for the whole week. Grab those schedules first things and when you are waiting for your first signing of the day adjust your plan of attack. There is nothing worse than missing a drop for that highly anticipated book because you didn't see that it was scheduled. If you are wondering what galleys will be offered, Publisher's Weekly has a really great list.

My haul from last year.
- You will have more books then you know what to do with. Maybe be a little more selective.
I don't get a lot of print ARCs. Last year I was like a kid in a candy store. I was like Augustus Gloop in the Wonka Factory. Don't fall into the chocolate river. I got about 70 books last year and read like fifteen of them. I'm not saying it's a bad thing to take as many books as possible, I'm just saying don't just take it because it's free. Take books that you want to read.

- Getting books personalized is amazing but not really essential 
This sort of goes hand in hand with the above advice. Sometimes you grab a book in a signing because it sounds interesting and then you don't end up reading it. Or maybe you did read it but you want to share it with a friend or in a giveaway. If it has your name on it, you're kind of stuck with it. This year I will probably only get the books I know I'm going to keep personalized, the rest will just have a signature and that's amazing! Do I like my ARC of Egg and Spoon more because it's personalized and my copy of Wicked is not? Answer: No. I met Gregory Maguire, he signed my book and I made an idiot of myself. That's all that matters. (P.S. I got Wicked signed at a different time. Only in rare circumstances will an author sign an outside book at BEA).

- Rolling suitcases are essential 
70 books over three days is a lot of books. A simple tote bag will not do the trick. You need a suitcase with wheels. For a few bucks you can check that bag outside the exhibit hall and go back to drop off books at any time. It's so worth it. But you will be getting tote bags. Don't try to put them with or next to your suitcase, you'll have to pay for it or it'll get confiscated.

3.) I hope you like lines! 

- There are lines EVERYWHERE 
Lines for books, lines for galley drops, lines for food, lines for the bathroom, lines for lines. If you like lines then BEA is the place to be. But seriously use these lines to your advantage. This is your chance to chat with people. It's also your chance to sit down and rest your. Eat your lunch while you're in line. This is break time.

I got in line for Gregory Maguire so early!
- You need to get in line early, especially for really big authors.
You aren't supposed to line up any more than a half hour before a signing. But I'm saying get there early because you shouldn't be surprised if a half hour before there are already 100 people in line. The patented "not a line" often comes into play here. I got into a few lines two hours early just to make sure that I had a good spot.

- Book Con is sheer insanity 
If you thought the lines were crazy at BEA, you know nothing. Much of this should be better this year because BEA and BookCon are on two separate days. But this is the where anyone and everyone can go and meet their favorite authors. This is where you will see big name movie screening and celebrity panelist. BookCon is the only time I saw a stampede for a galley drop. BookCon is also the only time where I lost my place in line going to the bathroom. The person just didn't save it for me even though I asked. If you think I'm joking check out The Irish Banana's gif recap. I'm not saying this to scare you away from going. I'm just trying to prepare you.

4.) Tech Problems Are Not Exaggerated 

- The Javits is absolutely a succubus for cell phones. Those portable charges are phenomenal and worth the money. 
Seriously, I don't know how and I don't know why but you can have a full charged battery for one minute and the next minute you're down to 40%. The Javits will destroy your battery life. Getting one of those external battery chargers is so important so you're not looking for an outlet. This is the one I have and it was a lifesaver.

- You will not get cell phone service. 
It's probably a battery succubus because you are constantly roaming and trying to find service. The Javits is a large cement building and there are thousands of people trying to use the same cell waves. The deeper in you go, which by the way is where the autographing is, the least likely you are to get service.  Don't bother tweeting or Instagramming throughout the day. Your phone will not be work it, it will kill your battery faster, and you will just be annoyed!

But the most important thing I learned is..,

4.) Take Care of Yourself 

- Drink lots of water 
I cannot stress this enough. You are on your feet all day, you may not feel tired or thirsty but you will be. After the first full day of BEA last year I was so exhausted and it was mostly because I didn't drink enough water.

- Don't forget to eat. Bring lots of snacks 
She's grumpy from not eating lunch
Just as important as water is food. Am I making BEA sound like some sort of post-appocalyptic wasteland? Well it's a dystopian world of books so it's cool. No but seriously, you have to eat. One day I didn't get a chance to eat lunch until about 2pm and I was not a happy camper and neither was my stomach. You may want to get in line really early for your afternoon signings or finishing AM signings late. Bring snacks. Things like trail mix and fruit.

- Food is really expensive at the Javits, bring your own
I spent $12 on a sandwich and a banana. Get your food before you come in. I'll probably make a few PB&Js and bring those with me. Stop at Duane Reede on your way in and pick up things to snack on. My best advice is to stop at the bagel carts around the city for breakfast. The coffee is strong and hot, the bagels are $2. You can't beat that. Plus if you bring your own food you don't lose valuable time waiting in line and you can get a good spot for your first afternoon signing.

- Wear comfortable shoes 
Everyone says this and they mean it. You will be doing a lot of walking and standing, your feet will be killing you. Do not be afraid to wear sneakers. You should totally dress professional with dresses and nice pants but your footwear should be functional. Leave those heals at home. I mean I wear heals about two days a year but still. I would even suggest avoiding flats with little support. And if you are like me and you want/need to buy new shoes break them in first. And at the end of the day, soak em in a footbath. Take care of your feet.

- The buses at the end of the day are a godsend! 
And the best way to take care of your feet? Don't walk or take public transportation home. There are these absolutely amazing buses that will take you to where you need to go. I found these buses on day three and wish I had found them on day 1. They drop people off at large hotels and landmarks so ask one of the drivers to find one that will be near where you need to go. I'm staying in Woodlawn with my brother and the bus took me directly to Grand Central so I could hop on a train. IT. WAS. GLORIOUS.

All right, that's what I learned. Did I forget anything? What advice would you give to a BEA first timer? What did you learn at your first, second, fifth BEA?

If you are looking for more tips here are a few I found really helpful before I went.
The Book Addicts Guide
The Irish Banana
Miss Print

And check out the BEA 2015 Goodreads Group for more info and to chat with others going!

This is my excited face!
But seriously, BEA is so much fun. I am so excited to go back. I can't wait to meet everyone and see people I met last year. I can't wait to meet authors and get signed books that I will desperately want to destroy my TBR to read. I can't wait to wait in line for the bathroom and forget to eat lunch because I'd rather get a copy of that sequel I can't wait for. But mostly I can't wait to see you and meet you even if I don't know you and you don't know me.


Leave me a comment with your thoughts. And if you are going to BEA this year let me know so I can say hi. And if you see me across a crowded exhibit hall say hello. I'll be the six foot tall girl with brown hair and glasses looking nervous or grumpy.

And if you have any tips for BEA newbs leave them in the comments. Or if you have BEA tips for me leave them in the comments. Or if you just want to flail about BEA leave a comment. EXCUSE ME WHILE I FANGIRL!


  1. Someday, I’m going to go to this. It sounds like fun.

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

    1. YES! You must. It is tons of fun. I hope you get the chance to go. Maybe next year. It's in Chicago and I know a lot of people are glad because it's closer to them.

  2. It all sounds really insane but fun! I hope you have a great time and haul lots of amazing books :D

    1. It totally is Eileen, insane but fun. I'm sure I will have a great time and I know I will haul a lot of amazing books.

  3. Yay I can't wait to go again!! Last year was my first year too.... and I learned so much. The biggest thing I learned is it wasn't near as intimidating and stressful as I thought it would be. Everything just flowed and worked out great for me. I got out of one line and got into another. I didn't wait very long at all... maybe 20 mins? Maybe I just randomly picked the right people or something. I do remember seeing you there in line for something?? I forget what we were in line for. Hope to see ya this year!

    1. AHHH!!!! What line was it? I can see it in my mind. I totally remember seeing that your nametag said Pittsburgh and then talking to you. I hope to see you again this year.

      And your advice is perfect. It is definitely not as scary and intimidating. By the time you leave you feel like a total pro.

  4. You are a saint. Just an absolutely wonderful person right now!!! THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR THIS. I hope I see you there bec I really want to see some of my blogging friends and take pics for the blog. This is my first year so you're the expert here!

    Alex @ The Book's Buzz

    1. I'm glad it helped. Everyone's advice was so helpful to me last year. I hope we cross paths and if we do, we will definitely have to take a picture. I'll look out for you. And if you have any more questions let me know. I can try to answer them or ask someone I know has more experience with it than me.

  5. That sounds really fun. It might be a little too big for me. I tend to go to smaller conventions. But it sounds great! Maybe I'll go some year. I'm going to a local convention near me this month, Balticon.

    1. Cool! Local conventions seem amazing. There aren't really any around me that I have found though. I like the big ones because you can get more bang for your buck but I totally understand how intimidating it can be.

  6. I'm going to be there! It's my first year and I'm so excited, but the scheduler on the website is so wonky and the app seems almost useless—why can't I get my schedule on the app? Ugh. I'm already overwhelmed! Still can't wait though :D

    1. YEAH! I hope we cross paths Bridget! The website is really wonky and the app is confusing. The only use is that it sends you updates for your schedule. But I prefer to have my printed spreadsheet. I'm overwhelmed too but excited!

  7. I am so disappointed that my plans to go this year went awry. I was really looking forward to going. But , job loss, and no monies ruined it. Maybe next year. I hope you have fun!

    1. Ah man, that sticks! I hate when plans fall through like that but I understand how it goes. I hope you can make it work next time.

  8. This is such a great post! I wish I'd have known this stuff before I went last year. This year will be my second, so I feel a little more prepared. On that note, I'd love to coordinate and say hello. (:

    Sarcasm & Lemons

  9. Great tips! And some I hadn't read on other blogs. It's my first year attending and I need all the help I can get.