Everything I Learned from Attending BookExpo and Tips I’m Sharing

I can’t believe it’s almost time for BookExpo. I’ve been attending the book and publishing conference since 2011 and will be heading back as Press this year so be sure to watch my social media for updates.

This is an updated version of a tips post I originally shared in 2014.

What to Bring:

Here’s what you should bring along to the Javits Center every day:

  • Paperwork: DON’T FORGET YOUR REGISTRATION BADGE! If you’re a print out your schedule ahead of time kind of person, don’t forget that either. If you’re attending with friends you may want to have copies to share too.
  • Cell Phone: I keep my entire BookExpo schedule on my phone for easy access and to see it plotted out in my calendar. This is also a great way to keep track of any friends you’ll be traveling with as your schedules may overlap and diverge. I take my Press duties seriously so I also use my phone to live tweet the show, share Instagram stories, take pictures for my recap post, and have a way to reference the BookExpo site if something on the schedule changes. (BookExpo also offers a Show Planner app to download to smartphones which is another helpful way to schedule but it might not always load properly at Javits.)
  • Portable Charger: Javits has terrible wifi. Your phone will run down. Be sure to start the day with a fully charged phone. Also bring some kind of portable charger–there aren’t a ton of outlets so having your plug on hand isn’t a guarantee that you’ll be able to charge devices.
  • 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 for Coat Check.
  • Small Bag: This is not the time for a giant hold-everything monster bag. Just the essentials (wallet, ID, paperwork, phone, etc.) It gets crowded on the show floor and everything you carry is going to be heavy. Don’t bog yourself down.
  • Business Cards: I give cards to authors, to publicists, and people I meet during the show. Be sure to have a nice stack so you don’t run out. This year I’m getting new cards with my blog URL, email, instagram, and twitter handles.
  • Water Bottle: 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.
  • Rolling Bag and Tote Bag: 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 the show but it’s always good to have a sturdy one you already like–just in case. The rolling bag is the most important thing to bring. Before the show starts, drop the rolling bag 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.

What to Wear:

  • Clothes: BookExpo 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. My default outfit is usually a dress and cardigan with or without leggings underneath depending on the weather.
  • Shoes: Wear 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. My go to shoes are Sanuks or Skechers just go with something you have already worn. This isn’t the time to break in a new pair.

How to Schedule:

  • Over-Schedule: BookExpo has author signings, panels and sessions, inbooth signings, galley drops, and sometimes even after hours events. You should check the BookExpo site and publishing social media to see what’s being promoted and what’s interesting for you. Opinions vary on how much to schedule or plan ahead for BookExpo. I’m in the camp of over-scheduling. I mark down everything I’m even remotely interested in and whittle down from there as the day progresses.
  • 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 BookExpo today.” and that determines what else happens that day.
  • Schedule Lunch: 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. Same goes for staying hydrated.

What to Expect:

  • Fun: If you love books, BookExpo 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. If you listen to nothing else I’m sharing here, do trust me no the rolling bag.
  • Lines: You will wait on lines for a lot of BookExpo–especially for big name signings–but mostly it’s worth it.
  • Network: 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.

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

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