I’ve been going to Book Expo America (BEA) consecutively since 2012 and I’ve attended twice many, many years ago. With my San Diego Comic Con Tips Guide being quite a hit, I decided to make a BEA Tips Guide as well!
I usually travel by train from Jersey, where I live, so I don’t stay in a hotel for BEA (until this year, 2015, a first) and I have not yet attended an author breakfast, so I am afraid that I’m not much help in those departments. But if you have any questions that I have not touched upon, feel free to leave a comment and I will answer as best I can!
* Plan ahead so that you are not lost and overwhelmed. The entire programming schedule will be available online a few weeks prior to BEA. Make a daily list of the signings in the autograph area that you want to attend as well as the signings at booths on the exhibit floor, keeping in mind the (announced & unannounced) galley drops as well as any panels you’d like to attend. My list includes EVERYTHING that I am interested, with my priorities highlighted. The list includes everything so that I have structure AND am also open to playing things by ear because change does happen (signing delays/cancellations/location changes) and by some tiny miracles, I find myself with a free moment to get to a signing or galley drop I didn’t originally think possible. By having everything that interests you on your schedule, you can take the above into account as well as assessing lines, author popularity and so on and make out very well.
– That said, you are most likely not going to be able to get to do everything that you want to do. Remember to be grateful that you are able to attend BEA in the first place and that way you can’t be disappointed. So have a plan and be open.
* Bring: Wallet, food/snacks & water bottle, aspirin, cell phone (charge it and bring your charger), camera if you don’t have one on your phone (charge it and bring your charger and/or portable charger), business cards, a sharpie & pen, notepad/print out of your schedule, ONE bag/backpack to carry the above in, and one suitcase check in so that you can stock the books you get throughout the day.
– There are plenty of tote bags on the exhibit floor that booths give away all day, every day so you can grab one pretty much at any time and have a tote to put the books in that you gather along the way. But that tote will get heavy so…
– Rolling luggage is not permitted on the exhibit hall so bring a large or medium suitcase and check it. You can check it in each day for $3 (cash only) in the baggage check area which is across from the Starbucks and when that gets full, the second location is right down the escalator to the far right. Since bags/backpacks/etc… with wheels are not allowed on the exhibit floor, you can check that or a suitcase and put all of the books you accumulate throughout the day inside of it. You can go to your suitcase as often as you like. Your shoulders and arms will thank you for not carrying around lbs of books all day and instead dropping them off at your suitcase. Also, there’s a USPS, UPS and FedEx nearby if you need to ship books home.
* Dress business casual. If you are going to wear jeans, dress it up. A blazer, perhaps? I usually wear slacks but I wore a maxi dress once and it was really nice (this coming from someone who doesn’t really wear dresses). No heels. I’d suggest flats or sandals that you are not wearing for the first time so you definitely know for sure that they are comfortable while walking/standing for long periods of time. This is not the time to break out your new shoes. Breaking in shows ain’t easy. It’s going to be even harder if you do it here. If you’re not used to walking/standing for long periods of time, I’d suggest bringing band aids and neosporin in case of blisters. Finally, bring a jacket or sweater because it might very well be 90 degrees outside but the air conditioning is usually on full blast inside of the convention center.
* Make sure you know where your bank is, the post office is, and Fedex/Kinkos amongst other important places before you arrive, especially the latter if the lines are busy inside the convention center.
* Hit the ATM on your way to the convention center each morning. It’s so much easier to hit the ATM first thing in the morning to get this out of the way rather than having to go later on in the day when you’re so incredibly exhausted and don’t want to take another step.
* The complimentary shuttle bus that BEA provides, NYC cabs, and the subway are great ways of transportation. If you’re coming from out of state and are concerned about transportation, I’d suggest you look at a map of the city beforehand (Google Maps works just fine) and look at every place you plan to go to so that you know the general distances between places ahead of time and aren’t blind sighted but have some sense of direction and what not. I’d also recommend getting the Hop Stop app if you plan on using the subway and such as it will be a great deal of help! Walking is also great!
* Download the BEA Mobile app a week or two before the event and star your entire schedule. The app 1) Shows all changes in the program of events for the current day and 2) Counts down how much time is left during each signing… among other things so it’s a great resource to have during the actual con.
Picking Up Your Badge
* Print out your confirmation and bring it with you to pick up your badge at the Express Registration Counters located in the North Concourse on Level 2. If you’re in the city a day or two before BEA begins, I’d suggest picking up your badge early to avoid a long line. If you’re picking up your badge on the first day of BEA, arrive early. I can’t tell you how early since I always get my badge the day before.
* DO NOT forget to bring and wear your badge every day on your way to the convention center because you won’t get in without it.
* There are lots of book drops (aka galley drops/ARC drops), some at scheduled times, others not. You can follow the appropriate publisher accounts on Twitter to see when many drops will be announced, pick up an announcement flyer at the appropriate booths with a list of signings/drops by day and time, or get side eyed while you stalk your desired booths and wait for the exhibitors to put out the books for everyone to take. Only take one copy of each ARC that you want and only take the ARCs that you really want.
– Multiple lines will begin to form a few hours before the exhibit hall opens each day simply for entry onto the floor so if you already know that an ARC will be dropped or a signing will start when or shortly after the exhibit opens and it’s a must have for you, get there early and get in the line closest to the booth you have to head to. Check the map ahead of time so you know where you are going. If you’re not in any rush, you can get there when the exhibit hall opens. If you absolutely must be one of the first people in a line for a signing that takes place shortly after the exhibit hall opens, that’s when you arrive just as early or shortly after the 7am ticketed line attendees as once they get their tickets, many will usually start/get in line for the exhibit hall to open.
* Be respectful, say excuse me, don’t walk too slow like you’re in a high school hallway without a care in the world, and don’t stop suddenly in your tracks when there is a walking flow. Bags/backpacks with wheels are forbidden on the exhibit floor but if you’ve somehow found your way around this rule, DO NOT roll your bag/backpack as this immediately creates a dangerous situation for the thousands of people walking the exhibit floor.
* If you can, stay on the exhibit floor on the last day of BEA just before it closes for ARCs that publishers will be itching to get rid of so that they don’t have to lug them back to the office. That said, if you know that you would like a second copy of an ARC, get in touch with the publicist.
Panels & Other Events
* Arrive early to panels, do not save seats but if you feel that you must – communicate this action with everyone around you so there is no confusion, and be mindful of others if you happen to be recording or eating.
* I’ve attended the BEA Bloggers Conference once and did not feel the need to attend again but if you are interested in attending, many bloggers have spoken about this before and I’m sure they’ll be tweeting their thoughts about it as the date nears, during the date, and much more afterwords so keep an eye out for that.
* In addition to BEA, there are other events taking place at the Javits Center, like Book Con so don’t hesitate to check out what else is going on and sit in on a panel. Panels are great! In regards to Book Con though, I attended last year, its first year and I don’t see myself attending again as it was poorly organized and a mess. I am still on the fence about whether or not I will attend at least Saturday to see if things improve this year. But something tells me I’m going to pass altogether on it. I am looking forward to hearing about it though and sincerely hope that it does improve.
* There is an Autograph Area though many signings also take place at booths on the exhibit floor. Make sure to find the “End of the Line” sign so that you can avoid cutting and confusion. If you don’t see a sign, simply ask where the end of the line is.
* Everyone in line will receive an advanced review copy (ARC) or free hardcover/paperback to be signed while supplies last. While supplies (rarely) run out, more often the issue is the timing of the signing running out. If this happens, two things can happen 1) The line can be moved elsewhere so the author can finish signing or 2) If there are still books left, they’ll be sent over to the publisher’s booth and you can ask for a copy there though these will not be signed.
– The books you will be given during autograph signings are free but it does cost money to produce these books so there are donation boxes in the autograph area and it is suggested that you donate $1 for every ARC/book you receive.
* It pays to plan ahead, especially if you’re attending BEA with someone you know or coordinate with a blogger you meet at BEA after chatting and realizing you’re both attending the same signing. If there’s a long line, one person can get in the line for the both of you while you quickly go get another book signed and vice versa.
– Not every signing has a line and not every line is massive (requiring a 1-2 hour wait before the line even opens) so keep this in mind when planning where you’ll go.
– It also pays to network with the people in line around you for oh so many more reasons! Be nice, be professional, be present and enjoy every moment!
* Be considerate. The worst is when you’re one of the first people in line and ten minutes before a signing begins, six people join a person in front of you in line and that person didn’t say a word to you about it. It’s not even a question about getting the book, it’s more about a lack of common courtesy no matter where you are in the line. Communicate with people if you have one friend or a couple of friends on their way to meet you in line.
* If the line that you are in is ridiculously long, keep the line moving after getting the ARC/book signed but if you want a picture or have ONE book by said author that you have brought with you and want signed and the line is manageable, you can pull out the camera or book from home before your turn. Emphasis on ONE book. Keep the line moving as the author has a limited amount of time to get to everyone. Photos are more acceptable I’ve noticed so if you’ve brought a book with you to get signed, I would suggest doing this for 1-2 authors only, no more than that. Your rare must haves. For instance, Sarah Dessen. When is the next time you’ll see her again? So, okay, I get it. Bring your favorite Dessen book from home to get signed but that’s it. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT break out your entire catalogue. Really, I’d go so far as to say just hope that you see the author on the exhibit floor or at the Teen Author Carnival or somewhere else so they can sign your other book so that you can keep the line moving. You don’t want to bring your own books to BEA because you want to be considerate of everyone’s time – making sure everyone in line has a chance to meet the author. You will be receiving so many books as is and you’ll have plenty of reading material to choose from while waiting in line so the less books brought with you the better.
* I alluded to it above…if you aren’t able to make it to a signing, keep your eyes open and have your sharpies on hand (black and silver). You may bump into an author on the exhibit floor. If they’re heading somewhere, let them go but if they’re mingling, assess the setting and determine whether or not to approach. I missed an author’s signing one day and brought the ARC the next day hoping to run into said author, which I did and was thrilled about so keep your eyes open! Also, just be aware so that if anything, you can say in passing, “Hey, XYZ! I love your work! Can’t wait to read more from you! Have a good day!” #Memories
* Because of the popularity of some talent, some signings will be limited and ticketed. To get these tickets you must either have an Avid Reader Pass or you can stand in line at 6am 9tickets will be handed out at 7am) at the Javits Center the morning of the signing. Note that a ticket does not guarantee a signed book or a book at all as the line is first-come, first-served.
– I don’t know how often this happens but it only took one time for me to pay more attention every time. John Green had a ticketed signing and I knew the line would be ridiculously long so I didn’t bother getting a ticket for the line. Well, seeing as how most of my day is spent in the autograph area, I watched that ginormous line full of ticketed attendees get smaller and smaller and soon enough the line had ten people in it and more books than people and the line opened up to attendees without a ticket. I hopped in that line so quick! With about four people in front of me at this point, the line went awfully quick and that’s how I found out that even if you don’t have a ticket…there’s always a chance you can still get a book signed from a ticketed signing.
* Off Site Autograph Signings/Readings – There are many signings/readings at B&N, 92Y, The Strand, Books of Wonder, McNally Jackson Books, etc… during the week of BEA so be sure to look into what events are happening elsewhere.
* Teen Author Carnival (TAC) – The Teen Author Carnival takes place the night before BEA begins at the Jefferson Market Library and the list of participating authors should be up soon. If there’s an author in attendance whose books you love, be sure to bring your copies to TAC to get signed. There is no limit to how many books you can bring. You can also buy copies in person and should buy at least 1-2 copies in person to support the local indie sponsoring the event. I love Teen Author Carnival, it’s very intimate and laid back and all around awesome. I highly recommend attending if you can.
* After Parties / Blogger Meet Ups – There are many industry parties (invite only) and blogger meet ups (like the BEA Book Blogger Picnic) so if you’re not exhausted from BEA, plan accordingly!
* Food inside of the convention center is overpriced and if you don’t get to the convention center first thing, the Starbucks line is ridiculous. My advice is to eat breakfast on the way, bring your own lunch & snacks & water bottle (which you can easily refill), and go out into the city for dinner. You may have enough time to go out for lunch depending on your schedule so it pays to plan ahead.
– I typically eat a bagel and OJ for breakfast on the train ride into the city, grab a sub from Subway for lunch once in the city, refill my water bottle throughout the day using the water fountains in the convention center, and grab dinner on my way home. I pack snacks in my tote/backpack each night so I don’t have to think about it in the morning.
* Outside of the convention center, look out for food trucks which are affordable and delicious! Also, if you’re a walker, you might stumble upon a food festival on a street or two depending on how far your walk takes you. There’s always one somewhere.
* If you’re vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, etc… you are in NEW YORK CITY. NYC caters to everyone. You cannot play the “There’s nothing for me to eat” card here. There’s a place for you to eat and it may not be right next to or directly across from the convention center, but it’s here in the city. Maoz Vegetarian, Green Symphony, Burrito Box, Bare Burger, Bistango, Nizza, and S’mac to name a few are great options. More resources are here though that doesn’t even cover a third of it. It’s NYC. Walk around and stumble upon something great.
* Be sure to take advantage of Twitter, Goodreads, and other bloggers’ BEA posts to stay in the know about everything happening at BEA!
* I will be giving away the majority of the ARCs that I receive at BEA to people who donate to YA Runs A 5K for We Need Diverse Books.
– If you are attending BEA and find yourself with a YA ARC that you’d like for me to take off your hands for giveaway purposes, please reach out on Twitter (I’m @melodysimpson) during BEA.
– If you are not attending BEA and are interested in the ARCs that will be up for grabs, I will be sharing photos of the books as I accumulate them throughout each day on Twitter and will add a list of all of the books to the YA Runs A 5K roster on Saturday, May 30th. Also, from Wednesday, May 27th to Friday, June 5th, anyone who donates (donate here) $30 or more to YA Runs A 5K will receive 3 ARCs of their choice instead of 1 ARC (while supplies last, U.S. only) so stay tuned for the list!
Have fun! See you at BEA!