With BookExpo America 2016 just a week away, I thought it would be a great time to share some tips for first-time attendees. I was a newbie myself in 2015 and had the time of my life, walking away with a ton of books, lots of new friends, and plenty of great memories. Now that I’ve got one year under my belt and am OFFICIALLY a BEA expert, here are a few kernels of wisdom that will help you make the most of your time at the show.
1) Research galley drops.
In the days leading up to BEA, many publishers provide schedules of what galleys and ARCs they’ll be releasing when. Social media, especially Twitter, is a great source for this information, as is Publisher’s Weekly.
Some publishers only release their galley drop schedule the morning of. In that case, the first thing you’ll want to do when you arrive each day of the event is to swing by the booths of your favorite publishers to see if they have the day’s printouts. ARCs and galleys tend to go pretty quickly, so you definitely want to make sure you know when to show up for the books you want the most.
2) Make a plan (with back-ups).
Once you know what galleys, author signings, and speakers you’re interested in, I recommend creating some kind of plan. On my map, I circled and highlighted the booth numbers of keypublishers where I knew I had important signings. I also made up a simple paper schedule listing the times and locations of events that caught my eye.
In addition to keeping track of your can’t-miss events, I suggest noting several back-ups in case your first choice doesn’t pan out. Last year I was interested in getting an ARC of Six of Crows but learned that all its previous galley drops had been mob scenes. I decided I didn’t want to wait in line with no guarantee of getting a copy, so I checked my schedule, found a signing going on during the same time slot, and went to that instead.
3) Bring a rolling suitcase.
At the end of my first day of BEA, I was downing extra-strength Tylenol to deal with the pain in my neck and shoulders from toting around the 20+ free books I’d collected in my backpack. Then a friend shared a secret for days two and three – bring a rolling suitcase!
Suitcases are prohibited on the show floor but can be deposited at the bag check. I collected books in my backpack in the morning, transferred them to my checked suitcase during a lull in the action, and gathered more books in the afternoon. It lightened my load, and my back was grateful.
4) Don’t be afraid to talk to people.
I understand that walking up to a random person at an event and striking up a conversation may not be the most comfortable thing in the world. Do it anyway! One of the coolest things about attending BEA is the camaraderie and kinship that comes from being surrounded by people who have the same passions you do. Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself, talk about your favorite authors, or request book recommendations.
Don’t shy away from asking questions, either. Stop by publishers’ booths to ask what galleys they’ll be offering and when. Query seasoned veterans for tips and advice. Ask people in line who/what they’re waiting for – you may want to queue up, too. The more you ask, the more you know, and the more you know, the better your experience.
5) Bring business cards.
I learned this lesson the hard way. BEA is a great way to network and build relationships, and just about every person I met last year had a business card to give me. It was awkward and a little embarrassing that I didn’t have one to give in return. It may be just a little piece of paper, but it’s an important way to get your name out there, share contact information, and leave a lasting impression.