Thursday, June 17, 2010

BEA: Tips for Your First Time

Okay, I know that BEA was awhile ago, but it's been so crazy that I'm just now getting around to posting this! 

This was my first time attending Book Expo America and I got some great advice beforehand from many different bloggers. As I went through the conference, I kept thinking of little nuggets that I'd like to share with any BEA newbies. So, while it's fresh on my mind (and to be linked to in later years), here are my BEA tips for first-timers:

1. Bloggers can register as press for FREE. This gets you into the exhibits! Also, new this year was Book Blogger Con and registration for BBC granted you access to the exhibits, as well. Definitely check into this, especially if you're funding your own way (as so many of us are!). I discovered this through Book Bites (and I wish I had discovered it before I paid my nonrefundable $95.00 to register for BEA...).

2. Bring business cards!! I really can't emphasize this enough. Bloggers, especially, should consider having business cards made. What better place to promote your site than at a book industry event like this? If a publisher agrees to send you an ARC they don't have with them, they'll expect you to have a card to give them. While you're waiting in line or going to a dinner or breakfast, have cards to hand out as you introduce yourself. I got mine at Vistraprint. They are very affordable, shipped very quickly, and have lots of cute designs to choose from.You can tuck them in your name badge holder to have at the ready.

3. Wear flip-flops if you want to. The main thing to understand is that you'll be on your feet for several hours at a time. Wear whatever is going to make you comfortable. I'll have you know that I was in thick-soled flip-flops both days and my feet were fine.

4. I heard several places that attendees would not be allowed to bring bags with them into the exhibits. This is not true (at least, it was not true this year). Yes, many booths have canvas bags to hand out, so you might just want to pick up one of those. But if you want to bring your own bags, you may. You may not bring rolling things (suitcases, carts, etc.). But you can bring a rolling suitcase and check it at the baggage check for $3.00 and then come back to visit it and drop off books. This is convenient if you're local and don't want to ship stuff or if you just want to fill up your carry-on bag for the plane!

5. Visit booths at several points during the day because they may be putting out different ARCs at different times. Every publisher is different - some bring only the galleys that will be signed by authors during the show, some bring a wider selection. It seemed like this year most publishers only brought ARCs from their fall catalogs (not from summer/spring). If you want to know if/when they'll be giving out a particular title, ASK! Publishers are happy to answer those questions and it gives you a good "in" to strike up a conversation if you want to.

6. If you're looking for a galley that you don't see sitting out anywhere, ask (politely!). For me, that conversation went something like this:

Me: Excuse me, will y'all have copies of The Extraordinary Secrets of April, May, & June?
Pub: No, we don't have that with us today. I'm sorry.
Me: Oh, that's fine! Is there any chance you could send me one?
Pub: Sure!
Me: Thank you so much! [Hands business card.] I blog at Abby the and my mailing info is on this card. I really appreciate it!

I made a huge list of a hundred books I wanted to look for, but if I did it again, I'd trim that list down to maybe one or two galleys per publisher that I really, REALLY wanted. I felt shady asking a publisher for a whole huge list of books, so I'd ask for the one I was most looking forward to and I'd take copies of what they had to hand out (i.e. the books they intended to promote at the show!). I'm so looking forward to going through my boxes to look at the books that I hadn't heard about prior to the convention.

7. Talk to publishers! In the morning of the first day, there was a huge, mad crush of people and it seemed like it was going to be impossible to talk to anyone. That calmed down after awhile and then it was so nice to be able to talk to publishers, introduce myself, and share my blog with them. If you need a conversation starter, ask them what their favorite books in the fall line are. Ask if there are any books they think deserve more buzz than they're getting. Comment on a favorite cover that you see in the publisher's booth. And, bloggers, be prepared to answer the question, "What do you blog about?" Come up with one line that describes your blog. "I review YA and middle-grade fiction and non-fiction, and I post about library programs and other library things." Y'know, for example.

8. Yes, everyone is excited to visit the big booths with their stacks of ARCs, but don't forget the smaller booths! And don't be afraid to take books from and talk to publishers you haven't heard of! While the big houses might be busy fending questions from a hundred people and setting out stacks of galleys for the next giveaway, smaller houses might be a little more laid-back and have time to talk to you, answer questions, and promote their upcoming books.

9. Make friends in line! The 30-60 minutes you're standing in line for a signing or a breakfast or to enter the exhibits will go much more quickly if you have someone to talk to while you wait. Everyone's got a name badge that has their location and their affiliation (be it librarian, bookseller, blogger, etc.), so that gives you an immediate conversation starter. And who knows who you might meet? For bloggers, this is a great time to gently promote your blog to people who will be interested in your subject matter - after all, you're hunting the same book, right? So you have at least some similar tastes.

10. Make use of the shipping area. To be honest, this was my favorite place in the whole exhibit hall. :) They have a huge room with lots of tables. Get a box or two or three (for free), put your name on it, and find a place on the tables. As you go through the exhibits and your bag gets heavy with books, visit the shipping area to unload them into your box. When the box is full, there are kind people who will take your box over to the weighing area. You'll fill out a shipping form and pay for the shipping and you won't have to lug home a million pounds of books! This is especially helpful for out-of-towners (like myself). The shipping is not cheap, but it didn't seem exorbitant either. This year, there was a $35.00 flat fee per box, plus shipping costs based on the weight. A full box cost $55-$65 (depending on the weight). For me, the shipping room was a little oasis when I needed a break from the madness of the hall. I found that as my bag got heavier, I'd get crankier. I'd get to a point where I needed to stop snapping at my friends and go unload my bags. Then I'd feel like a whole new person (and ready to go grab some more galleys)!

I had a great time overall at BEA and I'm already thinking about what I would do differently the next time I go. Anyone else have BEA tips to share? Leave 'em in the comments!