I attended BookExpo America in 2013 and I’m going to share a few tips I learned in case you’re attending this year. 🙂
Take your books home in a suitcase
Before BEA when I was reading informational posts, everyone was saying to ship your books home. I’m so glad I didn’t do this! After BEA I heard several horror stories about people losing their boxes of shipped books! They never arrived, or they arrived super damaged, or the box arrived without the books (so we assume the books were stolen, OMG!).
Instead of shipping books, I packed one suitcase inside the other on the way to New York City. Then, on the way home, I evenly distributed my books between my two suitcases (to spread out the weight), and packed my favourite 5 in my carryon. Doing this avoided overweight baggage fees (my heaviest bag was 44lbs—6lbs below the limit). Also, I think airports are more reliable with baggage than the post office is with packages. Even if your suitcase does end up in the wrong place (pretty unlikely), they will send it to you.
But for me, the best thing about this arrangement was that I didn’t have to wait for my books. People get home from BEA and have to wait 2-7 days for their books to arrive. I liked knowing that my books were close to me at all times and I got to pick them up as soon as my plane landed!
Don’t get books you’re not interested in
Some people go to BEA and grab EVERY. SINGLE. BOOK. I honestly don’t get it. Don’t grab a book just because it’s handed to you. I actually did that once because I was so surprised that the books were literally thrust into my arms, but I ended up leaving those books at the hotel because I just didn’t want them. Other than that, I was really conservative at BEA and only grabbed books I really wanted; and I’m SO glad I did that.
No matter what, you’re going to come home with a huge haul that will take you months to get through. Don’t waste packing space and shelf space by grabbing everything. Stick to the books you want.
…but you will still come home with more books than you expect
Compared to some people, my BEA schedule was modest. I didn’t want to attend every single signing or get every single book. I expected to come home with about 15-20 books, since that’s what was on my schedule. I came home with almost double that (nearly 40 books).
You will be pleasantly surprised to find some books at BEA that you didn’t know would be there (for me it was Fractured by Sarah Fine!). And, of course, you will discover some new books that you weren’t aware of before that sound AMAZING!
I think this is one of the reasons why the previous point is so important. You will get more books than you think, so try to be conservative in what you grab. If a book only sounds like it “might be okay” then skip it! There’s no reason to grab books that you probably won’t read.
Force yourself to be social!
Once someone starts talking to me, I have no problem chatting it up. But, I am HORRIBLE at initiating conversations, and I think this was a problem for me at BEA. Part of the convention is networking, which means talking to publicists and people around you in line, and handing out your business cards. I didn’t do enough of that! I tried to do a little, but I still had a problem saying the first word, and as a result I don’t think I met as many people as some other bloggers did.
Do yourself a favour and don’t be afraid to talk to people in line! And if you made business cards, hand them out! That’s what they’re there for. 🙂