BEA (Book Expo America) is quickly approaching and if you’re a first time attendee, it can be overwhelming. This will be my fifth year attending the conference and over the past few years, I’ve developed a list of tips for surviving and enjoying BEA.
My tips are a little different than others that focus on NYC itself. I work in Manhattan so I’m here every day, which means I’m not a tourist and can’t really speak to things like hotels or places to sight see beyond the obvious or shipping books home (I’ll be lugging mine home every night in a suitcase dragged onto a NJ transit train). NYC IS lovely of course and while you’re here you should make the most of it. But since I’m here every day, my concern is only Book Expo.
1. Make a schedule.
Anyone who has gone with me to BEA in the past knows how much I love schedules. I include every possible thing I want to see–whether it’s an autographing session, a conference session, or a galley giveaway. I also include stuff I’m not interested in myself but I know my friends might be. I always carry extra copies because there’s always someone who never thought to bring a schedule. And yes, I schedule lunch too. (More on that in a bit.)
2. Don’t get to the Javits on time.
What I mean is, get there either really early so you’re first in line (like 7:30/8) or get there late so you miss the line entirely. Getting there on time means you’ll be stuck on a ridiculously long line.
3. Get coffee before you get to the Javits center.
Avoid the on site Starbucks! The line there is longer than any other autographing line in the entire conference!
4. Check a suitcase but carry a backpack plus tote bags.
Schedule in periodic drops to the suitcase to lighten your carrying load. I think checking a suitcase for the day is $3 and overnight is $10. I usually leave the suitcase overnight one night so I don’t have to lug it around to parties since I commute into the city from NJ and will not have a hotel room to drop books of to.
5. Eat lunch early or late.
The Javits is expensive (for non-NYC standards. If you’re from NYC, then the food there is reasonably priced!). And crowded. I suggest either eating lunch either at 11 or after 2pm. Avoid the lunch time at all costs. You won’t get a seat and you’ll spend an hour on line anyway. Alternatively, bring a power bar or a snack. There’s nothing around the Javits to eat at unless you walk several blocks away (or eat at the gross McDonald’s nearby). Also, leave a water bottle in your suitcase so you don’t have to purchase one at the convention center.
6. Be selective.
Don’t take every galley you see just because you can. Don’t be greedy. Take only the ones you know you will read, leave the rest for others. The conference is mainly for librarians and booksellers, not bloggers.
7. Get to autographing lines early.
And I mean EARLY. I often lined up an hour before certain authors I knew would have long wait times. I have never seen an autographing line without a long wait. If you want a book, plan in advance for it.
8. Dress to your standard of comfort but look professional.
I’ve seen other BEA tips lists suggest wearing sneakers. I’m not going to suggest that. I’ve never worn sneakers to the convention, even last year when I attended at 9-months pregnant. Yes, you will be standing nearly all day. But that doesn’t mean you have to wear sneakers. Wear cute flats or sandals, something you can stand in all day. I always wear a dress. I never wear jeans.
9. Carry business cards
They don’t have to be super fancy or graphic designy, but you will want something to hang out to all the people you meet. Otherwise how will they find you? After all, you should be networking. Which brings me to…
10. Network, damn it!
You’re among your kind at BEA: other book lovers! Start a conversation with the people next to you on line. You clearly have the same interests. I’ve made great friends at BEA that I’ve kept in touch with.
11. Avoid twitter.
Otherwise you’ll drain your phone battery. Plus, you want to be present at the conference, not with your nose to your phone all day. (We’d all prefer you with your nose to a book you picked up!)
12. Get a Taxi on 10th ave or 9th ave, not in front of the Javits
You will be waiting forever if you try to snag a taxi in front of the Javits, but if you just walk a block or two, you’ll have your pick of taxis.
13. Don’t be afraid of the subway
Seriously, it won’t bite. It’s not that complicated to navigate with since most trains run straight up and down. Trust me, I take the subway every day to work and I’m still in one piece!
14. Enjoy the people as well as the books
My fave part of BEA is hanging out with my writing/book-loving friends who I don’t get to see the rest of the year. I always come back exhilarated about writing and reading thanks to our conversations and the general atmosphere of being in a place where everyone loves and appreciates books. Remember to have fun.
15. End the weekend with a pedicure.
Your feet will hurt. Treat yo’self!