Saturday, June 9, 2012

Lessons from a BEA Noobie

To all my book blogger and book-obsessed friends, I highly recommend attending BEA at least once, if you can. It's an amazing, exhausting, mind-blowing experience that's worth both your time and money. Because this year was my first time attending BookExpo America, I learned a ton so I thought I'd share my hard-won experience with those of you thinking (or dreaming) about attending:

1. Wear comfortable--yet professional-ish--clothes. But don't worry so much about your shoes--wear what's most comfortable. It's so crowded, most people won't even see your shoes. I wore my tennis shoes and thanked god I did at the end of each day. But you're going to be talking to a ton of people, most of whom you want to leave with a good impression of you so don't look like you just rolled out of bed.

2. Speaking of...don't be afraid to talk to people. The nice thing is, you're all there because you love books so you'll always have something to talk about. Surprising myself, I talked to authors, publishers, and fellow bloggers like it was my job. I swear, I'm a really introverted, shy person and with all the talking and meeting new people this past week, well, it's going to take me a while to recover but it was so totally worth it. I met a ton of fabulous people just by talking books, one of my favorite subjects.

3. Don't be afraid to go solo. All my interactions prior to BEA were online so I knew no one IRL. But I went anyway. And had an absolute blast. I loved meeting Allison from Allison Can Read, The Gorgeous Gals of Bewitched Bookworms, Jenny from Supernatural Snark, Melissa from i swim for oceans, and so many more awesome bloggers, authors, publishers, and bookish people. Amazing folks I wouldn't have met if I didn't suck up my fears and go it alone.

4. Get organized. The BEA had an online show planner that was relatively helpful but, I have to say, a lot of it went out the window when I got there. Many of the publishers put out a schedule of their author signings and book drops (when they put out piles of lovely ARCs that they want people to pick up and buzz about). Publisher's Weekly also puts out a "Show Daily" that talks about show events. I found these most helpful in putting together a daily schedule (which I didn't do until the second day, having spent the first day wandering around in a daze).

5. Be flexible. Yes, a schedule helps immensely but don't be rigid about it. BEA serendipity plays a large role in the BEA experience. What do I mean by that? Well, I wouldn't have run into John Green *major, breathless fangirl squee* at the Penguin booth and learned he's both taller and more adorable than on his Vlogbrothers podcasts. And nicer, if that's possible. *sigh* BEA serendipity also led me to several signings and run-ins I wouldn't have had if I'd stuck to my schedule.

And some short but important lessons...
6. Book storage: Don't be afraid to bring a rolling bag and store it, if you want. A lot of people do that, so they don't have to play the role of a book mule all day long. It's three dollars to store it. Personally, my hotel was close enough that I just dropped some off about half-way through the day and headed back.

7. Remember, you're going to have to get everything you collect home. It's not such an issue if you drive but if you flew or rode the train, you're better off showing more restraint. Of course, you can always mail your books home via media mail. Super-easy.
8. Wear a watch (or bring a phone). Timing is everything.

9. Don't expect the internet or your phone to work well. The Javits Center is a battery graveyard, draining away your phone's life force and will to work.

10. Bring water and a snack. Trust me on this one. An 8oz bottle of water is like $4. Crazypants expensive.

P.S. I really suck at taking pictures so all these are from Wednesday near the end of the day...because that's when I remembered to take pics. *rolls eyes at self*


  1. I don't think I'd ever be able to go to something like BEA by myself. My social phobia is so bad that I get sick if I feel like I have to be around so many people by myself. I really hope that I get the chance to go sometime, though, because it looks like an amazing experience any book lover should attend at least once. Thanks for the tips :)

  2. Great post! I've been wanting to go to BEA for several years, but since I've never had anyone to go with, I never truly considered it. Glad to know it's not so bad flying solo!

  3. Love this post, Mary! If I ever get to BEA, I will definitely use this advice. :)

  4. Sounds like a lot of good advice! I don't know if I'll ever make it to BEA, but I think it would be great to do it once. We'll see. Sounds like you had a great time. =D

  5. YES!! I agree with this so much. My phone died so many times while at BEA, but I was so pumped that I was able to find a charging station by the CSPN winnebago. I think we met for like 2 seconds which sucks. Wish I could have talked to you more!

  6. Welcome back! I am going to go one year :) I have heard the shoe thing is the most important thing EVER!

  7. Nice, common sense tips!!
    I like them!!
    And yeah, that's crazy pants for a bottle of water. :D

    For what you say it looks like you need to both know what you want to do and be flexible about it :D

  8. YEESH so jealous of all these people who went for the first time this year!!

  9. Great tips. I haven't had the chance to go to BEA yet, but it's definitely something I want to attend in the future. :)

  10. YEAH MARY!!!!! So glad you had a blast, and I was super excited I got to see you multiple days in a row. Complete win. I agree with you on the schedule, you can make one in advance, but it definitely changes throughout the day and you just sort of have to roll with it. Glad dropping off books at hotel worked out for you, that was a brilliant lesson I learned last year.

    Hope to see you there again next year!

  11. The first day was a daze for me, too. I loved it, but I wandered around mostly bewildered and feeling like a bull in a china shop. At the same time, I was kind of afraid that getting ARCs was going to be a bloody battle to the death. So glad it wasn't actually like that.

  12. Did I mention how nice it was to see you?! I hope you'll come next year, as well :)

  13. It was sooooooooooooooo amazing meeting you!!! You were so much fun and I loved chatting with you and hanging out in lines..
    I sooo very much agree on the shoes (love me my chucks) and the bag. I didn't take one last year, but I did this and it was perfection! for $3 and then just adding the books so we don#t have to carry them all around!

    BEA this year was a total win!!

  14. Lol great tips! We haven't had a chance to go to BEA, but the more we read about it, the more jealous we are.

    "BEA serendipity plays a large role in the BEA experience."

    Hee, makes us think there should be a movie about it! Or, haha, a book? ;)

  15. Sounds like you had an amazing time! I'm super introverted myself, and I was wondering how I would handle something like this. :) Glad you had a good time!

  16. Awesome tips!! Hopefully one day I'd make it to one of these.

  17. Thanks for the tips! I wanted to go so bad but I couldn't find anyone to go with me =( I definitely plan on going next year though!!