We will be honest, you can never fully be prepared for your first trip to Book Expo America. It’s one of those events you just have to experience firsthand. With that said, the bevy definitely experienced all of the craziness the four-day affair had to offer. As sappy as it’ll sound, it was through all of the joys and trials of BEA that we cemented our friendship with each other, and had our dauntlessness put to the test. So we thought it was only appropriate to highlight the challenges we faced at BEA and some tips to conquer them, so you–first-timers or veterans–can have an awesome time!
BECAUSE YOU LIKE YOUR FEET. YOU WANT TO KEEP THEM, RIGHT?
Jen says: Oh man. I used to live in heels and I admit that I scoffed at this tip when I researched in preparation of my first BEA. Thank God I listened anyway because even in sandals, my dogs were barking. HEED OUR WORDS.
Steph says: Definitely a top priority! There’s a lot of standing and moving around –you’ll probably at least feel that at the end of the day — so keep comfort in mind when planning what to wear on your feet. I’m not saying to not wear your cute, new flats, but make sure your feet have already become somewhat familiar with them; it’s probably not the best idea to try to break them in at the Javits.
Katie says: I am a Disney princess and simply float along on fairy dust
Robots do it barefoot. Unless you are immune to pain, you most definitely need to wear comfortable shoes. The amount of walking and standing is basically The Fellowship of the Ring crossing Middle Earth-level intensity. ONE DOES NOT SIMPLY WEAR HEELS TO BEA.
Jen says: I overthought this my first year, but seriously, casual dresses, skirts, nice clothes, but not necessarily BUSINESS clothes, are all fine.
Steph says: I don’t think anyone will necessarily frown on you if you’re in a nice pair of jeans, but I think “nice” is the keyword. You can look cute, and fun, but be presentable — maybe leaning more towards a “Casual Friday” at work or something of that nature
Katie says: I see people stress about this one a lot. Just think about what you’d wear on a lunch date and you’ll be fine.
Lindsey says: Think ~teacher attire~ but a bit more on the fun side.
Because you are a GD professional! JK, lol.
Jen says: People trade business cards SO much at BEA. You’ll meet cool bloggers in line, and you’ll probably want to keep in touch!
Steph says: You’ll definitely need some if you want to leave them with a publisher, or to exchange info with a blogger you met, but don’t think you need an extreme amount. I kept a few tucked into my badge holder every day, but I personally didn’t pass out as many and actually still have plenty of cards left over from our first year attending.
Katie says: Business cards are a nice touch, but not overly necessary. I just keep around 20 with me, just in case. Unless it’s your first year and you’re new to blogging, then it’s a really good idea to bring more.
Lindsey says: I’m sure you could be old-school and exchange contact info on slips of paper with a pencil, but business cards are just so much more convenient. Also, sometimes there are random contests that use business cards as entries.
Jen says: I always try so hard to stay up late because squeezing in ALL of the flaily and hilarious book/fangirl conversation is necessary, but, when I slept more, I was way less of a zombie in need of brains– I MEAN, DIET COKE– the next morning.
Steph says: I was really bad and stayed up late with Lindsey, but I think there was at least one instance when that affected our ability to wake up the next morning and we got left behind by Jen and Katie (haha). Definitely try to sneak in some shuteye because there will be plenty of early wakeup calls.
Katie says: Or have roommates who will beat on pots and pans to get you to wake up in time. It’s hard to go to sleep early at BEA when you’re rooming with friends you only see once a year but you will thank yourself the next day! Think of it like going to work. A very very fun work where you get paid in books but damn, you really wish you had gone to bed an hour before you did.
Lindsey says: Apparently I can function on minimal sleep because I would stay up laaate (I was probably the last one to fall asleep in the apartment every night), but then I’d be fine the next morning and I think I only napped once in the afternoon. If you don’t have this absurd ability, however, I highly recommended going to bed at a reasonable hour. You’re going to be on your feet for most of the day, so conserve your energy.
Make sure you pack your polite smiles, your pleases and thank yous, and keep your hands and elbows inside the vehicle (aka your own personal space bubble).
Jen says: TO BE FAIR, I don’t think we’ve had much experience with rude/shovey people at BEA, but we seem to hear about it every year.
Steph says: You’re amongst your people, fellow book lovers, so enjoy your time there and be courteous to everyone. Like Jen said, we haven’t personally experienced any of the bad behavior, but do you really want to be talked about negatively post-BEA? I hope not.
Katie says: Ditto Jen. I was scared my first year because I’d heard horror stories of how awful people were but so far none of us has experienced that (*fingers crossed*). All I can say is THINK LIKE A CANADIAN.
Lindsey says: It’s like Barney and friends taught us when we were younger: “Remember ‘please’ and “thank you’ ’cause they’re the magic words.”
A suitcase on the show floor is probably unnecessary. (Unless you have back/feet issues/intend to get TOO many books?). It’s difficult enough to get around with a bunch of people milling about.
SO many booths at BEA give away totes, but most days, you’ll grab a few books before you get them, so make sure you have something decent-sized to put them in.
Jen says: I read somewhere my first year that you should carry “a backpack” and a normal-sized one would have been GREAT. I brought a tiny Vera Bradley one. In addition to my wallet and essentials, it fit 2 books. Do not do this.
Steph says: Tote bags galore! I haven’t brought anything to the exhibit hall floor except for my own purse and I’ve been fine. The first year, when I went a little crazy with books, I hauled those totes, and my shoulders hated me for it, but I made it through without a backpack or without checking in a luggage bag.
Katie says: Totes, totes, totes. I used a backpack my first year and felt like a child on her way to kindergarten. Plus, I couldn’t take a peek at the books to see what I had gotten, if I already had that book over there, etc. Totes are really the best.
Lindsey says: So when I was in high school, I would honestly stare down people who wheeled around their luggage bags in the crowded hallways in between classes. It was the same in university when I’d take the jam-packed subway. Present Day Lindsey hasn’t changed much in this respect because seriously…SERIOUSLY. If you’re going to leave it in the little coat/bag check area to transport your stuff after, then that’s fine. It is just not a good idea to wheel your bag on the exhibit floor. It’ll be inconvenient to others and yourself because you’ll spend half the time dodging people, shelves, tables, giant stand-up posters, etc. Don’t be that person.
So, BEA has ended and you have numerous books to add to your already overflowing shelves. If you don’t live in NYC, how do you get them home?
Jen says: Last year, I flew JetBlue, which allows you 1 checked bag, 1 personal item and 1 carry-on for no charge. On the way to NYC, I packed my large Vera Bradley duffel bag inside my suitcase. On the way home, all my ARCs went inside the duffel. Bing, bang, boom, roughly 20 books from NYC to South Florida at no extra charge. Plus, I was secure that they were safe with me. I’m doing it the same way this year, and I hope to never do it any other way.
Steph says: First year: shipped most books home via USPS (kept the few ~precious~ with me) and it wasn’t too bad money wise, but it was annoying hauling them to the post office and sitting on the floor to pack them up. Second year: didn’t get too grabby, so I managed to take everything back in my luggage, and I definitely want to do that again.
Katie says: The rest of the Bevy ships outside of Javits but I personally love the shipping BEA offers, if only for the convenience of dropping my books throughout the day. Yay for not lugging books around the city!
Lindsey says: My first year I shipped my books via USPS. I opted for this instead of shipping my books directly from Javits (via Purolator, I think?) Anyway, while I did save some money, I think I ended up paying nearly the same amount after Canadian customs costs. I shipped two boxes home and it was about $40 each. It was alright, but the actual post office experience was horrendous (I’m pretty sure it took half an hour, and everyone had to wait for me), as post office experiences usually are. If you want to avoid that, just ship it directly from the Javits. The only downside is that you can’t go back to your hotel/apartment afterwards and gaze upon all your beautiful bounty. On the flip side, if you’re flying out, you can also just pack suuuper light and if you have a mediocre-sized haul, just stuff it in your luggage and check your bags in.
Because the Javits is a life-sucking force. At least, for your cell phone battery.
Jen says: I’m doing something new this year and buying a battery-powered cell phone charger. Desperate times…
Steph says: The bevy took to calling out how low our battery was to each other. “27%!” “16%!” “3%! I’m not going to make it!!!” It was almost a contest to see how fast our battery would drain. IT GOES FAST… especially if you’re like us and tweeting, instagramming, sending ALERTs to each other…Plus there’s the handy BEA app and all that!
Katie says: The thing about BEA is that you’re going to be on social media a lot which means your phone will get drained FAST. So even if you don’t bring a charger, be aware of your battery life so you don’t get stuck!
Lindsey says: Bring your charger. There aren’t too many outlets, but it’s good to be prepared. I used my phone for EVERYTHING–communication with the bevy when we got separated, tweeting, reading on my Kindle/iBooks app during long waits, keeping important notes (like schedules, lists), and for taking photos. If you’re like me and madly attached to your phone… bring a charger.
Steph says: We had a daily “scheduling hour” to write down what booths and autographing sessions we wanted to stop by at and it made life sooo much easier. It’s easy to get overwhelmed, so have an idea of what you want to do and where you’re going to go.
Katie says: As someone who loves making lists, this is one of my favourite parts of BEA. I know lots of people have their schedules all planned out as soon as the signing schedule comes out but that doesn’t account for the galley drops schedules and the random announcements of drops via the publishers Twitter. So the Bevy usually has a big STRATEGY SESH the night before BEA, and bring our lists with us. It’s also a good way of knowing where your friends will be while you’re doing something else.
Lindsey says: By the end of day 1 you’ll probably have most of the floor generally memorized, but I suggest studying the map beforehand anyway. Also make a list of stuff you want to check out (galley drops, in-booth signings, autograph tables, panels) and divide it by days and times. Even if stuff overlaps each other, WRITE IT ALL DOWN. So that way if something on your schedule gets messed up, you know what else is going on elsewhere that you can catch instead.
You know that highly anticipated title you want? Yeah, THAT ONE. The publisher might be tweeting about their limited ARCs that they have out in their booth when the floor opens. This is where everyone is going.
Jen says: Remember the lines for Harry Potter midnight showings? Yeah, that.
Steph says: I think this goes hand-in-hand with scheduling and knowing where you’re going…KNOW WHERE YOU’RE GOING BECAUSE YOU MIGHT MISS OUT.
Katie says: Trust: you want to show up early. And may the odds be ever in your favour.
Lindsey says: All I can say is that when the doors would open, I’d feel like I was a Tribute in the Hunger Games right after the 1 minute timer goes off and everyone has to fight for the stuff in the cornucopia.
If you’re not, you may need that suitcase that we advised against.
Jen says: I was SO glad I was selective last year. It made transporting the books much less stressful.
Steph says: Yeah, that book looks nice, but do you really want to haul it around all day, add it to your possible shipping costs and, most importantly…ARE YOU REALLY GOING TO READ IT? The first year I got a little bit carried away by the excitement of so! many! books!, and I get that, but it’s important to consider whether it’s a book you actually want.
Katie says: It’s SO hard to be selective your first year, I know. All these beautiful books are surrounding you and your eyes get too big for your stomach and you just grab everything. And if you truly are going to read them all, go for it! But just remember that shipping costs a bitch and a half.
Lindsey says: Last year, I had a list of “must-haves” which was about 4-5 books, and everything else were books I either knew I would definitely read or was likely to purchase in a book store. Like KT says, remember the shipping costs. Especially if you aren’t American.
• The Javits is not conveniently located by a subway station. But, many of the hotels associated with BEA are. If you’re not staying in one of these hotels, you can take the subway to one and take the free shuttle to the Javits.
• The Hopstop app is GREAT for figuring out how to get around on the subway.
• If you’re in the city for 4 or more days, get the 7 Day Unlimited Metrocard for the subway. It’s $30 and between book signings, BEA, and experiencing New York City, it will most likely save you money as opposed to needing to load your Metrocard repeatedly.
• If you wind up in anywhere in Chelsea, you have access to free wifi, thanks to Google.
• NYC, especially Times Square and other touristy areas can be really pricey. To save money on food, try ordering online (sooo many places deliver!) instead of going to those typical franchise restaurants that jack up the prices.
• Missed a signing? Make sure you ask the different publisher booths about their drop schedules! You may still be able to get the ARC at a drop or, if they’re inclined, sometimes they have a few extra stashed away that they’ll give to you.
• Become familiar with the “dodging and weaving” method when maneuvering around the show floor. It’s crowded, yo. (Note from Jen: I went to an overcrowded high school with over 3,000 people and have always prided myself on this skill because of it.)
• Along those lines: Please don’t stop in the middle of the show floor to chat. At least pull off to the side of the aisle so people can go around you because being stuck behind people at BEA… ain’t nobody got time for that!
• Pack snacks and if you have space, a water bottle, too. You don’t have to bring an entire picnic meal’s worth of food, but a granola bar or crackers could be the difference between life and… being famished when you’re waiting in line and can’t leave your spot. Also, the Javits magically transforms into a desert and while they did have AC last year, water is just always good to have.
• It’s a little late for this tip, but keep it in mind for next year! Consider renting an apartment in the city via airbnb.com or homeaway.com. This is what we’ve done every year and it’s worked out REALLY well. We don’t have to eat every meal out, and we have more space than a hotel room would allow.
If you have any questions, feel free to ask!