Emma and Nicole’s Five Tips for BEA (2014)

Now that May is here, it’s time to start planning in earnest for Book Expo America (BEA)–a publishing convention that takes place every year where publishers can showcase their fall releases.

Real life bestie Nicole and I have been going to BEA for three years now. With our fourth trip to BEA quickly approaching, we thought we’d share some BEA tips to help anyone attending get ready. Be sure to check out her blog today as well to see her tips.

Below I answer five question that (hopefully) share some of my sound advice for BEA. Here are the questions which I’ll tackle in depth below:

  1. What should I bring to BEA?
  2. What should I wear to BEA?
  3. How should I plan my day(s)?
  4. What should I expect at BEA?
  5. What’s the one thing everyone should remember when planning BEA?

1. What should I bring to BEA?

Now, I live in New York and BEA is in New York, so I’m skipping over the expected travel things to bring if you are making a whole trip to NYC. Here’s what you should bring along to the Javits Center:

  • Paperwork: DON’T FORGET YOUR REGISTRATION BADGE! I also print out spreadsheets for the schedule to have an easy reference. If you want spreadsheets of the show you can find some from Jenna Does Books who made a lovely (thorough) spreadsheet of all the YA signings to be had at BEA. Nicole from YA Interrobang also made a google doc of all the of the YA events to be had.
  • Cell Phone: I keep my entire BEA schedule on my phone for easy access and to see it plotted out in my calendar. Since Nicole and I sometimes split up this is also a great way to keep track of each other. I also use my phone to live tweet the show, take pictures for my recap post, and have a reference for the BEA site if something on the schedule changes. BEA also offers a Show Planner app to download to smartphones (iOS and Android I think) which is another helpful thing to have.
  • Charger: Javits has terrible wifi. Your phone will run down. This is life. Be sure to start the day with a fully charged phone. Also bring some kind of portable charger.
  • Cash: It’s just easier to get lunch with cash whether you are at the Food Court or elsewhere. Also easier for cab fare and everything else. You will also want some cash on hand to donate at the autographing area.
  • A small bag: This is not the time for a giant hold-everything monster purse. Just the essentials (wallet, ID, paperwork, phone, etc.)
  • Business cards: If you have a blog, tell people! I give cards to authors, to publicists who seem nice, bloggers I meet. Be sure to have a stack.
  • Water: It’s sometimes hard to get somewhere in the Javits when the place is gearing up for the day so I usually just bring a bottle and refill it at the water fountains during the day.
  • Snacks: Just in case lunch proves elusive and you need to refuel.
  • A rolling suitcase and a tote bag: More on these later!

2. What should I wear to BEA?

  • Clothes: The short answer is whatever makes you comfortable. The longer answer is that BEA is a professional convention and it’s nice to look semi-professional too. I tend to do business casual leaning more toward casual. I’d also say dress in layers with some kind of lightweight sweater because air conditioning works more fully in some areas than others.
  • Shoes: Comfortable shoes. If that means sneakers, fine. If it means something else, go for it. You will likely be on your feet for eight hours and you will be walking for a lot of that.

3. How should I plan my day(s)?

  • Obviously all that paperwork I mentioned in question one is going to come in handy here. Beyond that, what you do at BEA is up to you. This year I am registered as Press (still get a thrill saying that!) and I go on my own time. That means I have no obligations except to do what I want and document it. And I want to go to signings. I plot out the signing schedules for any authors I am interested in–first in the autographing area, then the in-booth signings (which should be up soon). I also make a mental note of galley drops (publishers usually give out schedules for drops daily).
  • Prioritize: The key is to note when everything you want to do is happening. In any given time slot it’s likely you can do multiple things, but sometimes you can’t. Know what is most important to you and know how much time you want to spend on it–generally I pick some books and say to myself “Okay, this is why I’m at BEA today.” and that determines what else happens at BEA that day.
  • Make time to eat: Seriously. I tend to frequent the food court, but really eating anywhere is fine. Food is important and you won’t make it through the day otherwise.
  • Bags: Remember that tote and rolling suitcase you’re bringing? The tote will be used on the show floor (where no rolling luggage is allowed) to hold galleys you pick up. There is a 100% chance you will get totes throughout BEA but it’s always good to have a sturdy one you already like–just in case. The suitcase is literally the MOST important thing to bring. Before the show starts, drop the suitcase in a coat check area for five bucks. Now, throughout the day, you can drop your books into the suitcase. At the end of the day you can roll your suitcase home or to your hotel. Easy.

4. What should I expect at BEA?

  • Fun: If you love books, BEA is a great time. It’s a little overwhelming but there is lots of fun to be had.
  • Books: No matter how many books you think you will take home, know that you will be getting more than that. (Thus the rolling bag.)
  • Lines: I can’t speak to how the panels and talks are at BEA because I never go to them but the signings are a blast. You will wait on lines for a lot of BEA but mostly it’s worth it.

5. What’s the one thing everyone should remember when planning BEA?

  • Talk to everyone: I’m better at this now, but don’t be afraid to say hi to people. If you see someone from Twitter, wave. If you love a book and see the author, say hello. If a publicist just made your day finding the last ARC for the only book you wanted that day, let them know. Pass out cards, make friends. Find contacts. I’m not saying you’re going to get a new job at BEA. But you might make some new friends–especially if you hang out with the bloggers.

Those are all of the tips I have to share for a successful BEA. If you have more (or have some questions I didn’t answer), let’s chat in the comments!