Conversations | A Guide to Surviving Book Conventions

Hello, guys! In case you’ve missed it, Ashley and I have been posting some Conversations pieces in hopes of giving some helpful tips and tricks for every book lover — attending author events, unhauling unused/old books, and using the #booksfortrade tag on Twitter.

The week of BookExpo and BookCon is now upon us, and I thought it was as good a time as any to give some helpful tips to make someone’s experience this year as great as mine have been in the past. This year makes the 3rd time I’ll be going to BookCon and the 2nd time I’ll be going to BookExpo. They’re both pretty different, from my experience at least, but most of the tips I can give apply to both conventions.

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1. Wear comfortable shoes.

First and foremost, bring comfortable shoes. I don’t know how I can emphasize this enough. BRING COMFORTABLE SHOES. Your feet will thank you later. I went a day last year wearing some shoes that weren’t the best for walking, and I regretted it later that evening in my hotel room. I could barely walk to the bathroom, people.

2. Coat check a suitcase.

Bring a rolling suitcase to the coat check counter. Not a lot of people are aware of this, and it will save your poor back and shoulder muscles from pounds of ache. Last year, it cost $3 to check a suitcase, and you’re able to periodically bring books to your suitcase so you don’t have to carry them around the show floor all day long. At the end of the day, pick up your suitcase and roll it out toward your hotel or car. It’s so simple, yet so important.

3. Be respectful.

I feel like I shouldn’t have to mention this one, but every year there are a few people that spoil the fun. Don’t push people, don’t cut in line, and don’t take multiple copies of something being given out. These events are used for promotional and professional reasons, so we’re lucky as a book community to even get to go. Taking extras or cutting in line prevents other people from getting the advanced copies or swag that they might have really wanted or waited in line a long time for.

4. Bring snacks and water.

It’s difficult sometimes to schedule a lunch break around all the events and giveaways going on, so it’s best to pack some snacks. During the 5 days I was at the Javits last year, I paid for a meal in their cafeteria one time. It’s expensive, so it’s also financially better for you to bring your own food and drinks. If you just really don’t want to, be sure to budget for the cost of the convention center food, or make plans to go outside and get food from food trucks or close-by restaurants.

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5. Plan ahead.

Most publishers have released their schedules by this point, so it’s always a good idea to plan what panels, signings, or giveaways you’d like to go to. The BookCon website has a place to get autographing tickets (here’s what’s still available for Saturday and Sunday), and they also have tabs for what authors and publishers will be there. I’ve seen multiple schedules being posted around on Twitter, Goodreads, and the BookCon app, so be sure to look around and find what ARCs are being given out at what times/booths.

6. Bring business cards.

This one mostly applies for BookExpo, but it’s always handy to have them. You can give them out to people you meet in lines, or some publisher booths will take them so they can mail you ARCs if you happened to miss a giveaway or signing. Don’t go up to authors and give them your cards, though.

Ashley and I will be attending an event with Goodreads Friday evening, so we made sure to have updated business cards to pass out for that. It’s nice to have for publishers to put you on mailing lists for blogs and whatnot as well.

7. Get there early.

Whether you’re wanting to line up for an ARC drop or just line up to get onto the show floor, it’s best to get there early. Most booths allow people to start lining up 30-45 minutes early, so that’s usually a good rule of thumb. I would always try to get in lines early enough so I could get through them quickly and move on to the next thing on my list!

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8. Check out the rules and regulations.

Some booths require tickets for certain signings that you have to get at the beginning of that day. Some authors require a ticket or a book purchase, so it’s best to know that beforehand and budget for buying some books. (Any book bought at a signing is going to be sold at retail value, so around $10-$17 for a paperback and $17-$30 for a hardback.) For some signings, you’re allowed to bring books from home to get signed, but some only allow 1-3 or so, so be sure to check the fine print on your autographing tickets or booth information. If you’re unsure, tweet at or email a publisher or BookCon — they’re usually pretty good about responding!

9. Sit wherever and whenever you can.

I know it sounds weird, but the floor will be your best friend. It might not be the cleanest, but sitting while waiting in the long lines will help tremendously. If you’re feeling particularly tired, go to a panel! Not only are they fun and informative, but you get to sit down for anywhere between 30-60 minutes, so you can’t beat that.

10. Turn on Twitter notifications.

Be sure to follow and turn on notifications for all the publisher and author Twitter accounts you can. A lot of the time, certain publishers will tweet surprise ARC drops or give hints at what they’re doing later that day. Turning on the notifications will guarantee you’ll see everything.

11. Wear layers, and bring essentials.

Depending on the weather, you might need an umbrella or a jacket. I know from past experience that the Javits has ever-changing temperatures, so bringing a light jacket or cardigan despite the outside temperature will always be handy. Also, bring headphones and portable phone chargers because the lines will be long so your phone will be out a lot of the time. Plus, you wouldn’t want to miss a tweet or a photo opportunity, and wall outlets are hard to come by.

12. Know your area.

It’s best to go in with some kind of familiarity of the Javits. Last year, a good bit of my first day of BookExpo (which is mostly panels anyway) was spent familiarizing myself with the show floor map and the layout of the Javits Center in general. The main floor has the check-in tables where you pick up your BookExpo badges and BookCon tickets if you missed the mailing date, as well as the coat check desk and a lot of seating. I recommend getting your BookExpo tickets the Tuesday or Wednesday before the real show floor days of the convention because the lines are super short or nonexistent on those days. If you’re coming for just the weekend, try to pick up your BookCon tickets as early as you can because the will call line will be long. The bottom floor is where the panels will be held, and the top floor will have the showroom floor as well as the food and main Starbucks counter.

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13. Plan how you’ll bring your books and swag home.

Luckily, I’ve never had to deal with the shipping aspects of these conventions. I’ve always driven and stayed at a hotel, so I was able to pack up all my books and drive home. Ashley and I will be doing the same thing this year, but for those of you flying or using public transportation, there is a shipping option in the Javits for you. It’s run by FedEx, and I’ve heard it’s around $25 a box to ship your stuff home. There’s a local post office that might be easier and maybe cheaper close to the Javits that you can probably get to fairly easy.

14. Don’t panic about missing an ARC.

This one is especially hard for us book lovers, but if you happen to miss an ARC giveaway, don’t let it ruin your day. A lot of the time, publishers will be giving out the same ARC at different parts of the day, so check their booth for a schedule sheet, or ask someone at the booth about potentially getting a copy mailed to you. If you show that you’re genuinely interested, most people working with publishers will try to help. They love books as much as you do! Also, keep in mind that these books are all mostly scheduled to release in the fall, so even though that feels forever away, they will eventually be released. So if you miss an anticipated ARC, you’ll still get to read it soon. If all else fails, maybe someone can trade you for it on the #booksfortrade tag and Facebook groups!

15. Lastly, have fun!

These conventions are SO MUCH FUN. You’re surrounded by books, people who write books, and people who love books, so there’s really no reason to ever be unhappy. Talk to people in the lines and at booths, and just have a good time. You’ll get the chance to meet so many cool authors and book people, so take lots of pictures too! There’s a reason I keep coming to these conventions besides all the books, and that’s the people. 99% of the time, they’re amazing book nerds just like me.

So, I hope this list of tips is helpful to someone, and I hope to see you all there! Don’t hesitate to come say hi if you see Ashley or me around!

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Will you be at BookExpo or BookCon this year? Tell us in the comments!

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6 thoughts on “Conversations | A Guide to Surviving Book Conventions

  1. Thanks for the info. This is my first BEA and Book Con… and I’m SIGNING! Friday 3pm Table 9 and Booth 1558. Hope to see you ther so I can thank in person. Plus, standing at a table alone is not so fun…I would guess.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow all of this is great info- I love the part about coat checking a suitcase.. BRILLIANT! My mom and her bestie went to Malice Domestic, which is a mystery book convention and they shipped all of their goodies home from the hotel business center and it had me dying laughing when she said it weighed 50 lbs. I most definitely need to get myself to a book convention soon!

    Denise
    http://www.deniseadelek.wordpress.com

    Liked by 1 person

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