The Unathorized Guide to BEA ;)
Their definition: BEA: Book Expo Of America – an event that takes place yearly for book sellers, media, and publishing houses and authors all to mingle together in promoting books that will be coming out yet this year and possibly next spring.
My definition: Heaven for Book Lovers. ♥
I remember that June day in 2009… I received my first comment on what I referred to at the time as my online book journal and I was stunned. How did they find me? Was it spam? It had to be spam! Yes I would click on the link in their name and I would certainly go to a site that would be horrifying inappropriate and probably virus my computer to a fast yet complete death.
I clicked the link anyway….
This moment in June turned my world around forever. I discovered there were others out there like me… book lovers who loved to write reviews, lots of them…. thousands of them…. how silly of me to think I was the only one.
And that my friends is what led to going from online connections with book lovers, to four years ago taking a plane to New York to meet some of these amazing reviewers in person.
My life has never been the same.
If you are new to attending BEA, congratulations! You just found the ticket to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, the key to the Emerald City of Oz, the magic carpet of Aladdin, the platform 9 and 3/4 at Kings Crossing.
However – that first time can be nerve-racking. How do you get to the expo? When should you check in? What happens when you get there? Should I take every book offered me? What should I pack? How do I get the books home without breaking into my life savings? How do I find other book bloggers? What should I wear? Where should I eat? …
Today, I am going to share with you my years of trial and yeah… error. Yet thanks to book bloggers who helped me that first year with similar posts… my trip was a lot more organized and successful than it would have been if I had just gone all solo.
Shall we begin? Hop aboard!
So you are going to BEA…. What To Pack?
The expo is AWESOME! This is a chance to not only meet other book bloggers such as yourself, but its also a chance to meet the wonderful Publishing Houses who send you the books to review as well as some of the AMAZING authors who write those books. That said, you should pack and plan to wear to the expo business casual wear. Capri’s, nice shirts, lite skirts, and nice pants/ dressy jeans. Remember – you are representing your blog. You can plan on more casual wear for your afternoon exploring.
Of course… pack comfy shoes. That is one thing you will hear time and again. You may be used to walking in heals but this is a whole new level. You will literally walk for hours at the expo, stand in lines for book signings, stand while you grab a quick bite to eat (if you stay at the expo to eat seating is very limited – more on that later), you will walk to and from events and many times stand at that event. Trust me… you will be thankful you packed comfy shoes.
Sunglasses, a light jacket/sweater, CAMERA, charger, sunscreen….
Flat boxes and shipping tape. If you have room in your suitcase flatten out a box to haul books in. The box is optional – the shipping tape I would say is not. Toss in a roll or two… trust me – when we get to the book shipping section you will understand.
You are in New York and in your hotel. Now what?
Ha. I used this picture last year but it still reminds me of myself year one. You have made it to New York. Congratulations my friend – mental high-five! But now you need to know how to get to the expo.
Every year I have stayed in the vicinity on Times Square and every year I have walked to the Expo and back. I can experience and see so much more by walking then by whizzing by in a taxi. Of course that is my preference… and of course, I am close enough to do that.
SO for starters, find out where you are and where that is to the Expo. See if your hotel has a shuttle… or check out the subway schedules. Basically secure your plan for Expo days.
If you have arrived a day or two earlier than the expo… explore a little. New York has so much to see… there are wonderful shows playing, great places to eat (a fav of mine is Yum Yum… just a few blocks from my hotel and oh so good!), exhibits to see and over all just fun to explore!
Day 1…. The Expo!!!!
Mmmmm Hmmmmm. There it is. The Javits Center in all of its glory. I get up early. I walk a few blocks to a Dunkin Donut and get a BIG coffee. Yes they have a Starbucks in the Javits, however the line is like people have not had caffeine in a month.
So first off…. you go in and get your badge. Go early – get in line… get the badge. The badge is the ticket to get you into the expo. You will need this every day… this is, your magic ticket to all things BEA.
Next up… the waiting game. I personally like to go early – it’s a time to people watch. The first year I went I waited in a long line and when the doors opened (hours later….) I was shoved in with the crowd into a table and handed a book. It was… weird. Second year… I was smarter. I avoided that line like the plague. I hung out still… but talked with people, walked around and after that initial surge of people went in… I casually walked in, not pushed… just taking my own sweet time and seeing what I want to see.
What you are about to experience is amazing. I still struggle to put it into words. There are books – EVERYWHERE. And many are there for you to take…. which leads me to my next point… and this one is important…
Oh The Expo! Oh The Books! Book Blogger Etiquette!
Yes the Expo is fantastic for those of us who love love love books. Yes, I did refer to it as Heaven for book lovers. And yes, I too get excited about all the books, all the authors, all the opportunities to come home with enough reading to last you the year… and that is where I ask you to think before you take.
I know, this may go against your very nature of going to the expo. I know this might just have me knocked off your “bloggers I wish to follow list”…. but before you delete me…. hear me out. My second year at the expo I, as well as many of the book bloggers I admire, witnessed something ugly. There was a group of book bloggers – young book bloggers, who were pushing their way through lines, grabbing books, verbally angry if they did not get the book they wanted and all out behaving badly. We as book bloggers were embarrassed. Publishing houses were angry and a murmur started about book bloggers just grabbing books. It was bad bad bad.
My third year at the expo I overheard a girl with a bloggers badge talk about how she was going to recover her cost of the flight and hotel in books and what they were worth. I checked out what blog she was from (it will be on your name badge) and once home I checked out her blog. Sure enough she had the books she picked up and their value posted next to them. I was sick to my stomach.
All this said, please…. represent well. Take books you plan to read and say thank you don’t just grab. It is a privilege that we are able to attend this event, not a right. The publishing houses want the books out there to start a buzz about them as we read and review them. I know we will not get to all of them, but we should be selecting the books we take in the mindset that we will try to read and review it.
How Do I Get The Books Home?
My first year at the expo was an eye opener. When it was time to get a box for my books I went to the conveniently located Fed Ex on the main floor of the expo. I boxed up my books (I can not recall if they charged me for the box or not), taped it shut, filled out the paperwork and $65 later I walked away stunned at the price. The next day I tried the UPS that was located in the downstairs area of the expo. The box was bigger, but it was about the same price to ship the books home. WOW.
So while both of these are convenient, by the end of the expo I had a much better (and cost effective plan). At the end of the day I would take my books to the Post Office. There is one close to the Expo, and there is one up by the hotels by Times Square as well. For $30, and that was including insurance, I could send a LARGE box of books to my house.
Moral of this story, while Fed Ex and UPS are convenient and serve a purpose in a pinch, note they both have around a $20 handling fee tacked on for the convenience.
*Note this is where the box and packing tape come in. At the post office they will charge you for a box and they will charge you to but their shipping tape. I always bring my own tape and when I am done I give it away to another book blogger at the post office who would otherwise have to buy tape to package their books.
Stretching your Dollars!
My first time to New York friends had told me that it was very expensive there. They said that meals could cost in the $50 range and that had me a little nervous. I do not spend $50 on food. Well, as in anywhere you go, you certainly could spend $50 on a meal if you wanted to… but I also found that their pricing varied just as much as where I live in Minnesota…. you can find food at all prices.
I mentioned before that I love Yum Yum (Thai food). That is a must stop for me. For around $15 you get an appetizer, choice of soup or salad, a main course and a desert (the green tea ice cream is fantastic!) You can find pizza by the slice, salads, you name it… you can spend $5 on lunch easy.
The Expo offers food there but it does come with a price. I ate the Chinese food their last year for lunch one day and it was close to $15. I quickly found if you could find a buddy to go out to one of the restaurants in the area. Not only is it a break from the busy expo, but it is a chance to sit down and talk and eat something tasty for a fair price.
Part of the fun of the expo is meeting other bloggers! If you get the chance to connect with others at dinner, events, where ever, I recommend you do so. Introduce yourself and have a blast! One way to do that is fill out the form for the Blogger Connection list and recently I heard about a Blogger Picnic planned!
Have a way to keep track of where you are supposed to be and when!
For many of the Expo attendees invites to open houses and author events may sprinkle through your time in New York and more may pop up while you are there. Keep a small notebook handy to jot down information such as date time and address. This is also handy to capture someone elses information.
Branding…. and a picture please :razz: Do you know me?
If you read this blog you probably have a pretty good idea of what I look like. Why? Because my picture is on the right sidebar and used as part of my morning meandering post. Why do that? By putting my face on the blog, people who read me feel as though they know me. For me, I think it increases a comfort with the writer, a feeling you know them and that is why I do it. It also helps when you go to bookish events such as the expo for people to know you. When people approach me, they know me by my face. Many times, I have to read their Blog Name on their name badge (which inevitably is turned the other way… gah!) to know who I am speaking with.
Now I totally get that many of you do not want your face on your blog and I understand that. However…. consider, if you are looking to connect with other bloggers putting your picture up just for this week and the week of the expo. It will help people who read you, find you, otherwise you may pass a loyal reader 20 times at the expo and never realize that is who they are.
Just my thoughts on that.
Also, bring a business card. My first year I heard that and I thought why would you do that? But I made them and found out that many of the bloggers you connect with and even authors and publishers, are grateful to have a way to contact you . When I made the card below, that was my heard at the time and I felt that really identified me with my blog… after all, we do identify a blog layout to a person…. its true! When people chance up their blogs and I pop in to see what they are writing, I am suddenly disoriented and have to check that I am on the right blog. (I know… I am weird )
BEA attendees who have gone before please feel free to add to this list. Newbies, please feel free to ask anything I may have forgotten.