Lessons I Learned from BEA 2013
It was an experience I couldn't have just once. So... I'm going back. And, this time I'm hitting the BEA Bloggers Conference (BBC). After rumors of past BBCs not really hitting the mark, based on this post from the BEA News blog, I think I picked the right year to start attending. Because it sounds like it's going to be AWESOME.
So, are you going? Is it your first time? I remember thinking about how hard it was to plan for something I had never been to before. One thing I will say - my first experience at BEA was definitely a learning one. And, now that we're almost exactly three months away from going back, I've been thinking about everything I learned and the things I intend to do differently.
1. The lines aren't as bad as you think they are. Oh, don't mistake me - you WILL wait in lines. Long ones. Besides the line to get in at the beginning of the day (2 hours), the longest line I waited in in 2013 was the line for the Harlequin Teen Hour where I met Julie Kagawa, Katie McGarry, Amanda Sun and Elizabeth Scott. I was 7th in line, and I waited for just over 1 hour. I learned early on that, if the author you want to see is really popular, an hour wait is about right. But, the thing is, the wait was never as bad as I thought it would be. I talked to the people around me. I read some of my new books. I texted my bestie Jen who was there with me (but not always WITH me). I studied my schedule and talk to others about theirs. For some reason, those hours seemed to pass quickly.
2. Don't get every autographed book personalized. I met a lot of authors I had never heard of before at BEA '13. I had them personalize books to me that sounded good, but upon further reflection, I knew I probably wouldn't read them. Since they have my name on the inside page, it will be much harder to donate them to the library or give them to someone else in a giveaway. This year, I plan to only have those books I am POSITIVE I will keep personalized.
3. Make love, not war. I know you immediately see red when someone in line in front of you "holds a spot" for a friend or three. But, before you get all huffy and start talking smack about the rude people butting in line and not doing the time like everyone else, I ask you to look at it from a different angle. Chances are, those friends were off snagging ARCs from galley drops. I'm sure they'd be willing to pick you up one, if you asked. Or, hold your spot in line next so that you can go grab the same books. Heck - they'll even tell you exactly where to go to get them. Instead of getting irritated, chat them up. Make new friends. You might see them in line another time, and this time YOU get to be the one they hold a spot for.
4.Try to control yourself. When you walk onto that floor and see the stacks of FREE BOOKS just sitting on the floor and on the counters, trust me. You will be all, "Give me the books, NOW." And you'll take them, because, well, you can. But, I ask that perhaps you might want to show a modicum of restraint. Try to give consideration to a few things. First of all, you need to get the books you take home. If you're shipping, it will cost moola. If you're driving, it will cost you your car's shocks after you weigh down the trunk. You might also want to consider the fact that, there will likely be people on the floor who genuinely want that historical fiction book that you just picked up for speculation. If you don't know for sure that you will want to read it, leave it.
5. Only bring the important stuff. Bring a small tote with you to the convention center on day 1. You'll be handed totes like they're going out of style, so you'll only need one to help you hold those first few ARCs you pick up, plus your essentials. After that, you'll have plenty of totes to help you carry your loot. About those essentials - there aren't many. You should only need your schedule, business cards, money, a water bottle and some snacks.Oh - and you'll especially want to keep your phone handy. People will Tweet when they see galley drops of particular interest. And if you have a book posse, you'll need to keep in touch as you run here and there.
6. About those snacks... On day 1 last year, I ate breakfast at 5:30 a.m. I didn't eat another meal until 10 p.m. My schedule was so jam packed that first day, I couldn't find the time for lunch. Thank the stars for Luna Bars. Especially if this is your first year, the stars will be in your eyes as you bag all those galleys and meet all those amazing authors. Lunch? Pfftthht. Buying a meal in the Javits cafeteria (and, it's a very nice cafeteria, BTW) will be very far down on your to-do list. You'll do well to bring some energy bars or some other easily packable snacks for sustenance.
7. Pack it up. Last year, I averaged over 30 books per day. Trust me when I say, you can't carry all those around with you. It will kill your shoulders and back. I brought a large roller suitcase that got parked first thing in the morning in the suitcase check area. It only costs a few dollars, and it's well worth it. A few times during the day when I had a moment, I stopped by and unloaded my totes in the suitcase. Jen and I shared one suitcase, and Jen supplied a combination lock for it. Each day, we filled it to over flowing. Even with the suitcase, my back, shoulders and neck were killing me at the end of each day. I can't imagine what I would feel like if I didn't have my suitcase.
8. Ask the right questions at the right time. I REALLY wanted a copy of Reboot by Amy Tintera at least year's BEA. But, I had a scheduling conflict that prevented me from getting in her line. But, I learned the day before that, after a signing, if there are any books left, the publisher brings them back to their booth. An hour after the Reboot signing ended, I happened into the Harper booth, and asked if they had any copies left. Turns out, they had only one. And they gave it to me. I was So. Excited. So, if you can't get to a signing, let this be your plan B.