Sunday, January 16, 2011

Book Expo America 2011: Do's and Don'ts

Book Expo America

So you've heard about this crazy little thing called 'BEA' or 'Book Expo' and you say to yourself 'What in blazes in that?'  First, why are you talking like that?  Second, Book Expo America (BEA for short) is an industry event when publishers, booksellers, teachers, librarians, media and authors all get together to party.

Best part of all?  As a book blogger we get to go!

What BEA is Not:
(some stuff to keep in mind)

+ BEA is not open to the public.
This is not like San Diego Comic Con or Wizard World, this is more like E3--you're either industry compatible or you're not allowed through the golden gates.

+ BEA is not just 'free books!!!!!1!!!'
I'm assuming if you're bothering to look into this you have an interest in books and the publishing world.  Maybe you want to be an author or publicist or editor one day.  Maybe you want to take over the world and find the best publisher to help with your tell-all book.  Whatever the case, this is a great place to network.  As a blogger we have a more immediate view of publishing trends, we're both 'professionals' and 'fans' and as such we know what we like.  Or don't like.

The world is moving towards a more digital age, something bloggers have an up on.  More and more of our fellows are being used for 'quotes' inside of books from reviews.  So use BEA wisely.  Meet those publicists you only know by email handle for a cup of java in the morning before the Floor opens (believe me you'll have the time).  StalkMeet up with authors who you've built a relationship up with, or run into them while on the floor (if last year taught me anything, authors have writers they fangirl over as well!).  Hand out business cards like sweet-tarts to everyone.

For a Book Blogger BEA should be looked on as a way to network, and as in any professional setting where networking is the key, professionalism is the most important factor to remember.  Running to get the free books, being rude to fellow bloggers, pushing in line to get ahead, forgetting to donate* when you get a book signed by an author--this is all things that aren't acceptable.

I've found friends by waiting in line with people--both of the attendees and the staff at Javits/BEA.  More often than not a little patience and some positive attitude and karma solved all problems (several of the authors I was in line for and nearly missed asked to extend their signing to an empty table so that the fans waiting would get a chance).

+ BEA is not good for the shoulders (or knees, or feet...).
Even if, like my friend last year, you only take the books which interest you, chances are you're gonna be sore after a hour or two.  There's really no full proof way to mitigate against it.  Dress comfortably, but nicely.  Business casual if you plan on meeting industry folks like editors or publicists.  Wear comfortable shoes--sneakers are great, flats are great...three inch wedge boot clunksters?  Not so much.

You'll be inside for the vast majority of the day and the Javits is, if nothing else, well air-conditioned.  If you're the type who gets chilled easily, bring a light cardigan or hoodie.  While NYC is likely to be very hot (and its a wet kind of hot, not a dry kind), the Javits won't be.

To mitigate arm strain, back pain or shoulder problems utilize the bag check-ins.  For $3 a bag you can plop it down in one spot for the entire day.  So bring a large rolling suitcase and make a pit stop every couple or hours to de-load the books, swag and tote bags you'll be collecting.  I haven't heard of any issues, the bag check ladies are kind of fierce and hawk-eyed, but if you're really worried put a small lock on it.

You can also go to the shipping area and get a box and plop your stuff in there...but I've heard problems from that quarter.  Plus shipping is expensive from on site.

+ BEA is not the place to get your coffee, lunch, breakfast, snack...
On the one hand you have little choice unless you pack your own meal.  Javits is in the middle of nowhere (or rather the backend of nowhere) and most people won't have enough time to find a place to eat, wait to eat and then get back.  But the food at Javits is really just a side-up from school cafeteria food.  Plus everybody will be crowding that area, so the lines will be long and seating limited.  Even for coffee.

If you're staying in a hotel see if you're room has a small fridge or if the hotel will let you store food in their kitchens (some will, it doesn't hurt to ask).  If you're commuting (like I did), consider how long you can go without food and whether its worth waiting til you get home for an actual meal.  Bring some handy snacks that won't spoil quick.

This year I plan on making Bento Boxes.  They're simple, easy to pack and contain food that doesn't easily spoil.  Plus they can be quite filling.

(*) Donating: I honestly can't tell you how many people did or did not donate.  The suggestion is to donate a $1 for each book you get signed.  I try to figure out how many authors I'm hoping to meet and get books signed from and then put it all in at once.  Last year I got 25 or so books signed so I put two $20's in the first day and that was that.  I don't want to get on a soap box, but is it really that hard to donate that $1?  You're getting books--at times finished copies--signed by an author you profess to love, $1 is the least you can do.

What BEA Is:
(there is good news!)

+ BEA is a great way to connect with blogging buddies.
Last year I met up with some I spoke with fairly often and others I only knew by their blog handle.  It was a great experiment for me to see if I could make friends and be comfortable.  Even met a blogger from Germany who I ended up having a lovely lunch sit down with (hey Kathrin!)

This also comes in handy if you have similar tastes.  I found myself needing to be in two places at once more than once and because I had people I could count on and lean on, they graciously held my spot while I ran off to catch the last thirty minutes of a session, or catch up with a publicist buddy.  I returned the favor of course and in this way I met a few people I wouldn't have otherwise known (like Tori--aka the Book Faery--who I wound up standing in line behind several times).

+ BEA is a great way to meet authors.
Admired an author for untold amount of years?  Interested in seeing just how crazy certain YA authors are?  Wanna stalk that cute male author you've see on blogs?  Well BEA is great for this!  (maybe not the last one, that's still illegal.)  The wonderful thing about BEA is that its not just new authors, authors from my childhood (Richard Peck!) also pop around and give me a chance to meet them.  Authors that live on the other side of the world or country.  Can't get to a lot of author signings cause you live in Boonhickville NJ (like me)?  BEA will solve that for you!

+ BEA is a resource to find out about publishing trends.
Even though I didn't make it to many of the sessions, I read about them and caught snippets while running back and forth on the show floor.  Hour long sit downs with editors and authors who are discussing trends in the coming year and beyond.  These are great informational dumps for bloggers to consider and look at.

+ BEA will let you know about that author's sequel series graphic novel you've been aching to know about.
Outside of the ARC's and books they'll be showcasing, I've found publicists and editors and just booth people very forthcoming about upcoming books.  If they can help you, they will.  Don't ask for spoilers, but they'll be more than happy to sit and talk about acquisitions and author info and pass along their catalog.  Now this doesn't mean interrupt an important looking meeting to ask if Stephenie Meyer is putting out Midnight Sun yet (yeah I saw a girl do this at the Little, Brown booth) and then get indignant when they don't give you the answer you're looking for.  They're not GODS, they just help facilitate.

+ BEA helps find authors you didn't know you had to have right this second
Even with my obsessive Goodreads, Amazon and blog stalking, authors get past me.  It hurts to say so, but there's the truth of the matter.  That said BEA is there to shore up my deficiencies.  Its thanks to BEA that I found out about Rachel Aaron's Eli Monpress series and Celine Kiernan's Moorehawke trilogy.  Its thanks to BEA I found out Fantagraphics was putting out a Moto Hagio graphic novel.

I'm fairly certain my father rues the day I found out about BEA, but gee golly I'm glad I did!  Wouldn't give up these memories for anything!