Looking at the schedule for BEA every year, it’s very easy to get overwhelmed. There are people everywhere – industry professionals, authors, bloggers, marketers, publicists, book buyers, book sellers – and each of them have an agenda. Then there is the small matter of getting your hands on the books you want and half the signings you want to go to overlap each other. Also you have to a few minutes to eat otherwise you will collapse. But after 3 years there are a few things I’ve learned that make life at BEA a little easier.
- Have a game plan. Print out a sheet with the time, place, book title, author, genre, publisher and a short summary. This is your life line and your means of making sure you get what you came for. There is no easy way to plan your next move at when you’re on the show floor.
- Arrive early. Guaranteed you are going to want one of the ticketed novels so arrive at BEA as early as possible. You don’t have to stay in the building afterword, but grab your tickets, then go eat breakfast.
- Be the first on the floor. I don’t mean trample an old lady or anything, but be in the line to get in. Publishers put books out first thing in the morning that you may never see again. It’s a great opportunity to discover gems that haven’t been advertised.
- Double check in-booth signing procedures. While the autographing tables are pretty straight forward, publishers have increasingly been hosting their big name author signings in their booths, and each publisher has a different system. Penguin releases tickets a half-hour before. Macmillan releases tickets at 9:00 and 1:00. If you don’t catch onto their systems right away you’re bound to miss a book that you really wanted.
- Collect book drop schedules. This is the second-best way to collect books, but its only reliable if you’re paying attention. Publishers often have the book drop times printed out, but they only release them at BEA. Collect them. They are your friend.
- Your phone is your greatest weapon. Keep your schedule on your phone. Use it to look up book summaries. Keep a record of contacts you’ve made. Set up reminders for impromptu book drops. Watch twitter for secret events. Never stop looking for ways to use your phone to make your life easier.
- Eat something. Drink something. Yes, the obnoxiously long Starbucks line will cut into your signing times, but if you’re not fueled properly then you’re not going to be on your top game. If you’re trying to save money, eat outside the convention centre. It’s might actually be faster since the lines are shorter.
- Stockpile totes. Totes are in abundance at 9:00 am. By 12:00 pm they are usually nowhere to be found. I don’t mean grab every tote there ever was, but collect 3 or 4 in the morning so you have them on hand later. There is nothing worse than wandering the floor desperately trying to find something to hold your increasingly weighty haul. On day 2 and 3, bring your best totes back, just in case.
- Don’t take books you aren’t going to read. This is the hardest ones to follow. As book lovers there is no such thing as too many books, but the laws of space and time dictates that there is such thing as too many books. When you pick up a book take the time to read the back; if you are just ‘interested in reading it’, it is probably an aspirational book (a book that will get passed over when something more attention-grabbing comes along). If you don’t want to forget it, write it down in your trusty phone. Let someone else who is really excited about reading that book get a chance to take it home instead.
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you miss a book, don’t be afraid to ask if there is any left. If it looks like the signing line full, ask if you can stick around to see if there are any extra after the ticket holders are done. If there is a book you’re excited for, ask if there will be any copies dropped. The squeaky wheel gets the grease.
- Read the Show Paper. It has some interesting gossip on what people are excited for and a brief overview of what is going on in the industry. If none of that interests you, book drops are often advertised inside.
- Promote yourself. Especially if you’re a blogger, this is your time to shine. Talk to people in line, say hello to other bloggers, make friends with both main stream and indie publishers, and best yet, authors. Everyone is here to make new contacts and you won’t do yourself any favors by not participating.
- Check a rolling bag. You are not Arnold Schwarzenegger and standing in line for hours carrying 30 books will tire you out faster than Ron Weasley running from a spider. Check a rolling bag and stow your books there halfway through the day. Your legs will thank-you. Your arms will thank-you. Your back will thank-you. You will be grateful.
Best of luck and I hope to see everyone at BEA again next year!