January 21, 2016

I Went to ALAMW16!

After attending BEA in New York for the past three years in a row, I will be unable to attend in 2016 since it's in Chicago, and that's a much further distance for me to travel. So, I needed a convention to attend in its place that was within driving distance.

Hello, ALAMW16.

Boston was a 7 hour drive for me, which made for a long, but doable, day. It helped knowing what waited for me on the other side - books and fellow Tribe member, Valerie from Stuck in Books. So, all good things.

After checking in to our hotel, the Boston Park Plaza, we had a good laugh at the microscopic bathroom. It was literally the smallest bathroom I've ever seen. The only bonus - there was two of them. :)

After checking in, we took the shuttle over to the Boston Convention Center to check in and get our badges. We were legit!

So, we spent the next two days trolling the convention floor, chatting it up with publishers and grabbing books. 

I had wondered before going to ALA if it was really all that different from BEA. People kept telling me it was. That it was calmer. Less frenzied. More blogger-friendly. So, here's what I found out. 

Is ALA really more laid back than BEA?
A thousand times YES. At BEA, people start lining up to get in three hours early. Ten minutes before the doors open, hundreds of people surge toward the door in an effort to be one of the first on the show floor. It's madness! At ALA, ten minutes before the doors open, there was maybe 30 people milling around waiting to get it. It was... weird. 

Publishers, too, are more laid back. They were constantly putting out stacks of books for us to take. If we missed one or if we wondered if they had an already finished copy, we just asked for it. There was no waiting in lines for ARCs to be put out. It was all quite nice to not always feel so rushed. 

Do you still get books at ALA?
Uh, YEAH. Most of the titles at the mid-winter meeting are due to come out this spring. And there were lots of them. It does seem like ALA is geared more toward the younger reading audience. There were tons of children's and middle grade ARCs for the taking. Way more than at BEA. There was also quite a few YA books available. But, if adult fiction, new adult or romance books are your thing, don't get your hopes up. You won't find much of those at ALA. I came home with quite a pretty stack, including a bunch of books for my 9-year-old daughter. 

Is ALA better than BEA?
What's your definition of "better?" The one thing I found severely lacking at ALA was author participation. There were almost no authors present. None to talk to or to sign books or to have lunch with. None to fangirl over. That is my second favorite part of BEA - meeting these people who make stories come to life for me. I did meet one author. I was super excited when I learned that Jeff Kinney, author of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, was going to be there signing Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Old School. His line was the longest one I waited in - 40 minutes. 

ALA is also definitely smaller than BEA. On many levels. There aren't nearly as many booths, the publisher booths that are there are smaller than at BEA, and since there's nearly no authors, there's also no autograph area. There are also very few publisher parties, breakfasts, luncheons and get-togethers. And, there are also far fewer bloggers there. I did see a few that I knew, but nowhere near BEA. 

But, as I mentioned - there are BOOKS. Lots of them. So, if your main goal is books, ALA is definitely better. If getting up at the butt crack of dawn to wait in long lines isn't your cup of tea, ALA is better. 

But, if you like meeting your favorite authors, stick with BEA. Also, if the social aspect of BEA is what you go for, you might want to skip ALA. 

All in all, I'm glad I went. It was a fun trip. It was especially fun getting to hang out with Val again. Living thousands of miles apart isn't fun. I brought home lots of good books and I filled my daughter's bookshelf, which is never a bad thing. And I spent significantly less money at ALA too. Would I go again? Maybe. If it was within driving distance. But, if I had to choose, I'd probably still choose to go to BEA. I missed the authors and my fellow bloggers. 

Me and my girl Val from Stuck in Books

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