Woke up the other morning with a big smile on my face and my first thought was I just dreamed about BEA! It didn't make a whole lot of sense because, so far as I know, BEA has never been held in a parking garage or the back of a bookstore. But hey, dreams are weird! I do remember the excitement I felt walking through the bookstore to the BEA entrance, and a big red & white book being handed to me. It was a happy dream. :)
Anyway, the dream reminded me that BEA is almost here....and OMG I'm so excited that I can't stand it but I'm not ready and I still need to work on my signing spreadsheets! *deep breath* So...
This will not be my first BEA, but I am still unbelievably excited and looking forward to having a great time! I've noticed that I'm not seeing as many posts about the Book Expo that I've seen in the past, and I'm not really sure why. I know that my first year, I obsessively searched the blogosphere for tips & tricks, and took lots of notes. I was incredibly nervous and wanted reassurance about what was expected of book bloggers. In the interest of spreading the BEA love, thought I'd offer a little reassurance to those of you who might be attending, but are a little nervous.
Don't laugh, because shoes are incredibly important. Every post I've read over the years has mentioned the importance of wearing comfortable, padded shoes. They aren't kidding. Last year I wore comfortable shoes that I've worn for months, and my feet were so sore that I switched to sneakers by the last day. I also lost a toenail, because shoes that are comfortable during normal life don't hold up to 8+ hours of walking/standing on a hard, concrete floor. I found myself detouring through a certain publisher's exhibit because they had padded carpeting! Shoes are important! I'm giving serious consideration to buying a pair of Crocs because a co-worker swears by them....but I need to get past the ugly factor first.
This is another piece of advice I'm glad I followed! Several bloggers told me over and over again that I needed to bring a suitcase with me and not rely on tote bags. I felt silly bringing a suitcase with me and compromised by bringing a small carry-on, but am very glad I did! My suitcase was the smallest one in the suitcase corral the first day, and the next two days I brought my full size one! Even being selective, I still wound up with a full bag every day. And it was worth the $3 daily charge to have somewhere safe to drop off my books throughout the day! It's very safe as the attendants keep a close eye on everything, but I also had a small lock on my bag because I am paranoid.
I plan on bringing a big red tote bag with me as well as my suitcase, as it's the perfect size for me. Even has outside pockets for my Snapple and camera. Don't worry about totes though as by the end of the day, you will have more than you'll know what to do with! They are everywhere, and some publishers even have people posted in the aisles handing them out!
The food at the Javits Center is mediocre, very expensive, and you have to stand in long lines. I was warned about this in advance, so I brought snacks and drinks with me. This year I'm planning on bringing Fiber One bars and a couple bottles of Snapple. There are also water fountains if you want to refill your bottle throughout the day. I try not to drink too much, as the lines for the bathroom are always long! BTW - there's a hot dog cart right out in front of the Center with reasonably priced alternatives, and I can confirm that the hot dogs are really good!
My best advice is to dress comfortably, but keep in mind that this is a trade show for professionals. I've read different opinions about what to wear, and I saw everything from suits to shorts & tank tops on the floor last year. I also saw some of the people in suits sneering at the people in tank tops. I plan on wearing business casual, which means no jeans. I usually live in jeans, but I want to make a good impression.
How much or how little you plan is entirely up to you. The first year I attended, I didn't really have a plan. There were a few authors I made sure I hit, but spent the rest of the time wandering around. I stumbled across several really awesome signings, but was upset with myself that I missed one of my favorite authors because I didn't even know she was there. Last year I was determined that I wouldn't miss out again, so came up with a schedule. I made up an excel spreadsheet for every day, complete with the author's name, book title, time, and location for every book that looked interesting. This way, if I couldn't see Author A because there weren't enough copies available, I could get in line for Author B! It was a wonderful plan! Too bad I lost it on Day 2. :( This year I'm not going to be as anal, but will still make up a spreadsheet. I have bad knees and was in pain last year, so am going to try and schedule downtime as well.
Solo vs. Group
I've always flown solo so can't really give advice on whether you should travel in packs or not. It would be convenient to have someone save you a place in line and to split up to stand in two different lines, but if you fly solo you can do what you want and be spontaneous. I'm trying to talk a friend of mine into going with me as I think we'd have fun together, but she has yet to sign up. *glares at Bo*
I do have to say that even as a very shy person, I had no problem talking to others in line. They love books. I love books. We were both in line for the same author. See, lots to talk about right there! If you don't want to talk, you don't have to. And it was very cool when someone said they read my blog! I thought they were just being polite because, well, that's just me, but it was still very, very cool!
This is a trade show, not an All You Can Eat Book Buffet for Bloggers. I have an unproven theory that one of the reasons BEA tightened up entry requirements was because of complaints from the professionals about bloggers behaving badly. There was pushing and shoving and running and even biting last year. It was embarrassing. I don't want them to close BEA to bloggers in the future, so I am going to be on my best behavior, say please and thank you, and hope that everyone behaves. BEA is one of the best events I've ever attended, and I don't want to risk being uninvited to the party! So behave!
Hope that these tips are useful and put some of your fears to rest! Let me know if you have any other questions and I'll do my best to answer. I'm not an expert by any means, but I know how much I appreciated this type of post my first year. Here are a few others helpful posts:
BEA: BE A Rockstar by Miss Remmer's Reviews - Reagan put together a series of vlogs before last years BEA, and she's reposted them for us. Still very useful information! And she's also put together a BEA Blog Feed for bloggers who are attending, so be sure to subscribe!
Lexis at Poisoned Rationality has a great BEA 2012 Info post with lots of helpful links!
Sophistikatied Reviews posted A Worrier's Guide to BEA that is a fun read, full of helpful tips!
Are you attending BEA this year? Send me an email if you want to meet up! I know I want to attend the Book Buzz panels and several of the YA signings, but just started putting together my schedule. And let me know if you have any helpful hints I missed, especially about really comfortable shoes!