The Silver Lining | Tips for Surviving (and enjoying) BEA: 2014 edition

This post was one of my most popular last year, and with BEA upon us again next week, I thought I’d repost it. But with some new additions! The additions will be written in blue.

For a first time attendee, BEA (Book Expo America) can be overwhelming. This will be my sixth year attending the conference and over the past few years, I’ve developed a list of tips for surviving and enjoying BEA. (Please note I’m attending via my day job, so I’ll be wearing my professional Digital Publisher hat as well as my Book Lover hat.)

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.)

Print separate schedules for each day to limit what you need to carry. I usually leave the follow days’ schedules in my suitcase.


2. Don’t get to the Javits on time.

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. Arriving on time means you’ll be stuck on a ridiculously long line.

If you’re going with friends, designate someone each morning to be the “place holder.” They arrive early and hold spots for others. Please limit this to only 2-3 people though and make sure you let the people behind you on line know you have others joining you. People may see this as frowned upon, but I guarantee everyone on line is doing it.


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!

I usually eat on my walk to the Javits (from Penn Station) or while waiting in line. Yay for multi-tasking!


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.

Leave a bottle of water in your suitcase so you don’t have to carry it on the floor. Alternatively, bring an empty bottle of water and fill it up as necessary at the water fountains.


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 11am or after 2pm. From 11:30-1:30, 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).

 The shortest line always seems to be the BBQ place, so get in the mood now!


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 readers (except on BookCon maybe).

Don’t forget the panels and conference sessions either. They are often informative and entertaining and well worth skipping a line to see.


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.

While I suggested saving spots on the opening line above, savings spots in autographing lines is a no no. Don’t do it. Everyone who wants the book needs to wait in line the entire time.

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 two years ago 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.

I find Toms to be the best shoes to wear. They are cute but comfortable and look more professional than sneakers. 


9. Carry business cards

They don’t have to be super fancy or graphic designy, but you will want something to hand out to all the people you meet. Otherwise how will they find you? After all, you should be networking. Which brings me to…

 Write your twitter name on your badge so people know how to find you easily!


10. Network!

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.

But don’t pitch agents or publishers. This is not the time or the place.


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!)

You won’t find outlets at the Javits unless you have access to one of the lounges. I generally bring two phones, my personal one and my work blackberry, and I leave the blackberry turned off so when I need to call my husband to pick me up at the train later, I have a phone that actually works still. 


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.

Except during Taxi turn over time, generally around 4-5pm. The day time taxis are done for the day and the night time taxis don’t start yet. It’s harder to find a taxi during this time. Utilize the free buses the Javits provides. Last year I took one to the Marriott Marquis and then walked only three blocks to Port Authority instead of the bazillion blocks it would have been.


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!

 But the subway won’t help you if you need to go across town.


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!

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