How to Own the Hell out of BookExpo America

Rock the hell out of BookExpo America. Tips for making it the best convention ever!

BookExpo America is approaching fast!! Since this will be my third year attending (and my second year speaking at Blogger Con! Don’t forget that!) I thought I’d offer a few pieces of advice.

Join the BookExpo America Goodreads group

This group has been invaluable to me every single year. There are topics about registering, signings, galley drops, authors, and more. This is one of the best places to get information on which signings people have their eyes on.

Make a super awesome colour-coded spreadsheet.. with EVERYTHING!

The BEA Show Planner sucks. Actually I can’t even say that for sure because I’ve never used it. I’ve just seen it and thought it was ugly and clunky and didn’t even know how to BEGIN to use it. Since my first year, I’ve just created my own spreadsheet.

Here’s what mine from last year looked like:

A spreadsheet of author signings for BookExpo America 2014

There are a few tricks to having an awesome spreadsheet:

1. Note down EVERYTHING that interests you

This includes high priority, low priority, mediums, whatever. Everything that you are interested in maybe getting—write it down. Even if there are two at the same time, write them both down.


Because you have to be prepared for change. Let’s say you have two books at the same time that you want, but you only write down one of them. Then, on the day, you go to get that one book you wrote down and they say, “Sorry, we already have too many people in line and you won’t get a book at this point.” Well that sucks. Now what? Had you written down the other book too you could have hopped over to the other opportunity instead.

Put down everything that interests you, but PRIORITIZE them. This leads me to:

2. Colour-code your signings according to priority

A lot of people have colours for every priority (including low), and that’s cool. It works for them. Me? I’m a visual person. So I only colour code the ones that are REALLY important to me. I make them jump the hell out.

  • Red: High priority GET ME NOW! NOW NOW NOW!
  • Green: Medium priority I’d really like to have you, but won’t cry if I don’t
  • White: Low priority the books that might be nice to have but I’m not actually that bothered

I make my low priority books white so that they don’t stand out as much as I’m scanning through my spreadsheet.

3. Make a note of multiple opportunities

Sometimes there will be a galley drop for a book on Thursday morning, an author signing for that same book Thursday afternoon, and another galley drop on Friday. If this is a book I want, I add all of them to my schedule. I just add a note in my “Notes” column that there will be other opportunities to get that same book. That way, when I’m going through my schedule on the day, I know I can skip one of those galley drops if something else is taking priority, and I know I can still get the book another time.

Research the books and authors

The BEA Show Planner may suck for compiling your schedule, but it doesn’t suck for general browsing. They list all of the events (except for in-booth signings and galley drops) on the site. The main things here are the talks/panels and the author signings. Read through them, see what interests you, and add them to your spreadsheet.

See what other bloggers are doing!

It’s easy to miss the in-booth signings and galley drops since they’re not on the official BEA website. This is where the Goodreads group and other blogs come in handy. See what other people have researched. Some bloggers let you download/view their own spreadsheets, others post links to publisher schedules, etc.

Use multiple sources for gathering your information and that’s how you’ll find those super awesome books (and the pesky galley drops!).

Here’s an awesome spreadsheet put together by Nicole Brinkley.

Find out who else is going and make plans

Talk around on Twitter, browse around your favourite blogs—find out who else is attending so you can arrange to meet up with them. It doesn’t have to be a super official “let’s go out for coffee” kind of thing. You can just exchange phone numbers and make loose plans to see each other at Blogger Con or in line for a specific book.

It’s fun to meet your online friends! In fact, sometimes that’s more exciting than the books themselves. (Did I just say that?!)

You don’t have to get there at 6am… SERIOUSLY!

If you’re gunning for those specific author tickets then this doesn’t apply.. But if you just want to get into the BEA show floor, you DO NOT need to get there at 6am!

Every year I see people saying “GET THERE EARLY!” Well, every single year I’ve arrived at 9:00 – 9:15am (that’s 15-30 minutes early) and I’ve never been in a ginormous line. It’s never taken me more than like 2 minutes to get inside once they start letting people in. So I have no idea why people are getting there at like 7 or 8am. I’d rather get some more Zzzzz.

And then there are the points you probably already know…

I feel like these last things are the pieces of advice EVERYONE gives. They’re still equally true but I wanted to put less of a focus on them since you’ve probably heard them before:

  • Bring a suitcase and check it. Then, whenever you have a break in your schedule, return to your suitcase and dump neatly pile your books in there.
  • Wear the most comfortable shoes you have. Screw what they look like. This is like Shawshank Redemption and no one will be staring at your feet. I wear flip flops every year because they’re comfy and I can wear them for hours.
  • You don’t NEED to bring a tote bag. You can if you want, but there are hundreds at BEA just waiting for you to grab them. Sometimes people shove them in your arms.
  • DON’T get every single book. Be picky. You probably won’t read most of them anyway. Case in point: 11 Books I Haven’t Read from BEA 2014 and 10 Books from BEA 2014 I Still Haven’t Read.
  • Be a good person and drop some money in the donation boxes.
  • Try to be social and hand out your business cards. Talk to people in line around you. (I suck at this)
  • Don’t forget to eat. Sometimes I actually forget eating is a thing. The books will do that to you.

Don’t forget about Blogger Con!

Sometimes the Blogger Con is my favourite part of BEA. People are more relaxed, less in a rush, and I love talking about blogging! It’s a great place to actually meet people and exchange information.

I will be speaking with other bloggers on two panels this year and we’d love for you to come. πŸ™‚

10:00–10:50am: Optimizing Your WordPress Blog

Make your WordPress blog the best that it can be to attract followers and engage readers. Learn about the must-have plugins and how to configure them, get hands-on with SEO, and take steps to secure your blog. New and mid-level bloggers who have a WordPress site and want to ensure they’re using the best plugins and fully utilizing the platform will enjoy this session.

Speakers: Me, Cialina from Muggle-Born, Rhys from ThirstForFiction, and Brittany from Book Bumblings.

Basically, rock the bloody hell out of your WordPress site. Do everything, and do it right.

2:30–3:20pm: Going Beyond Blog Formatting

Enhance and customize your blog by learning advanced formatting with HTML and CSS. These coding languages will allow you to create more dynamic post layouts, and make those blog design tweaks you’ve been dying to do for months! Advanced bloggers who are familiar with their blogging platform and the visual editor, but want to take things a step further by learning code will benefit from this informative session.

Speakers: Me, Stephanie from These Paper Hearts, and Hazel from Stay Bookish.

Get a grip on HTML, CSS, and learn to customize your own blog! We’ll turn you into coding gods and goddesses.

Are you attending BookExpo America this year? How about Blogger Con?

Do you have any tips to share?

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I'm a 30-something California girl living in England (I fell in love with a Brit!). My three great passions are: books, coding, and fitness. more »

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  1. I was waiting for you to put up a post! LOL! Great tips! All things I certainly have thought about and taken into consideration. I will be at BEA this year, but not Blogger Con. It was a waste for me last year. There were few panels that really interested me (those were not yours!). Good luck on your panels!

    1. I’m sorry Blogger Con wasn’t enjoyable for you last year. πŸ™ Hopefully I’ll see you around BEA!

    1. It’s the same for me Grace—I get pickier every year I go! Maybe I’ll see you around. πŸ™‚

  2. The only thing I took from this article is that you prioritized Morgan Matson at Medium and now I’m really unsure of if we can be friends. (On another note, when I go next year maybe I will revisit this post so I can rock the helll outta it :p)

    And I agree with the getting there early thing. When I went we got there like a few hours early and the line didn’t really start filling in until like 30 minutes beforehand. All I could do was look at the person I went with and basically be like ‘Yeah, I hate you…’ haha

    On another note, I wonder if there is anything there that is more specific business wise? I never thought to look into that…

    1. I’M SORRY!!!

      In my defence, I had never read anything by her before so I didn’t know if it was something I’d like. If it makes you feel any better, I did end up getting that book!

  3. I’m going to BEA and Blogger Con for the first time this year so I’m happy to have any and all tips! I will definitely be going to your morning session since I have a wordpress blog and feel like I don’t always know what I’m doing πŸ™‚ Looking forward to meeting fellow bloggers and of course the books!

  4. This post was awesome!! I am super duper excited to go to BEA!! All these post (esp the goodreads grouo) has helped me plan ATON since that isn’t usually my strong suit. Also I am very much looking forward to your session. Ever since I have switched to WO with u I am in blogging heaven. Now if I could only get my sister blog to make the change?
    See you there!
    ❀️Britt @ please feed the bookworm

    1. I’m so excited too Hazel!! I can’t wait to meet you and our panel is going to be SO AMAZING!!!

  5. I WISH I could go!!! I’m in Canada and didn’t plan ahead of time πŸ™ So jealous of you folks that get to go. Hopefully I’ll be there next year.

    1. I’m sorry you can’t make it Mackenzie! There will always be another year. πŸ™‚ Maybe 2016 will be the one for you!

  6. These are such amazing tips! Thank you so much! I’ve done a couple book events and I never thought to do this, and I always get so overwhelmed when I try to plan me and my sisters day!

    1. Hmm now I can’t remember exactly! I think it’s something like $5 or $3 to check a suitcase. So it’s definitely reasonable.

      I’ve never put a lock on mine but there isn’t that much security. I’ve just never had any problems so I’ve never bothered.

      Basically, the suitcase area is roped off. In order to get in, you have to show your ticket and they lead you to your suitcase (or bring it out for you if you’re leaving). But if you’re just dropping off books, they check your ticket and then you can walk into the suitcase area. But once you’re in there, there’s technically nothing stopping you from opening/taking another bag.

      So I guess it’s not that secure, but I’ve never had any problems. If you plan on getting a lot of books, you definitely DON’T want to be lugging them around all day. Although, now that I’m doing more strength training exercise, the idea of lugging around pounds of books actually sounds somewhat appealing. Maybe it’ll help me build more muscle! πŸ˜€

      How weird is it that I’m actually now considering that for exercise/strength purposes? LOL

  7. Thanks for the post! This year will be my first year attending, and I’m nervous as hell but also infinitely more excited! I joined the Goodreads group a couple of weeks ago, and it’s been amazing. How close is the suitcase/bag check to the main floor events? If it’s too far away, I may just stick with my handy store-all backpack.

    1. There are like 3 bag checks throughout the centre. They’re outside the main floor, down the staircase, and a few steps away. Overall like a 2 minute walk each way, depending on where in the main floor you are. Not so bad. πŸ™‚

      If you plan on getting a lot of books, you’ll be grateful for a checked bag!

  8. Thanks for all the information and tips! I love knowing that my tendency to overplan might come in handy somewhere. πŸ™‚

    I have a question for you: I’m a fairly new blogger and live in driving distance to NYC. I’m thinking of going to BEA for a day to see what it’s all about, but I don’t have many followers yet and my blog isn’t quite where I’d like it to be. Do you think it’s a waste of my/the publishers’ time to attend, make up business cards, etc., or is it worth it to start putting more effort into my site and increase my blogging knowledge?

    1. It’s definitely NOT a waste of time for you to attend, Kelly!

      BEA isn’t just for “experienced bloggers” or “bloggers with a ton of followers”. It’s for everyone in the industry. If you have a blog, that means you too!

      In fact, I think BEA will be wonderful for you. I would also HIGHLY suggest going to Blogger Con as well. Blogger Con is usually most beneficial to newer bloggers. You would learn loads!

      Both BEA and Blogger Con are an excellent chance to you to get books you’ll love (especially ARCs you may not otherwise be approved for, if you don’t have many followers), network with other bloggers, and meet some publishers.

      It’s certainly not a waste of time. I think it will be a wonderful experience for you. πŸ™‚

      1. Thanks so much for that advice! I wasn’t sure if I’d be too much of a fish out of water, you know?

        But I think I’ll go for it! I’m hoping it’ll provide a bit of inspiration/motivation to better my blog as well as new topics to write about. πŸ™‚

  9. AWESOME post. Going to join the Goodreads Group. I always seem to miss the galley drops. πŸ™‚

    I am excited. This will be my fourth year. I hope it is the best year. The first year was a disaster. I had no clue what to do. πŸ™‚

    Great advice about the suitcase. That is the BEST advice.

    My favorite part of the BEA is meeting other bloggers. I especially like to meet the bloggers I talk with online on a regular basis.

    Speed Dating is also a favorite. πŸ™‚

    EVERYONE have a great time, and thanks again for this FANTASTIC post.

    Silver’s Reviews
    My Blog

    Elizabeth (Silver's Reviews) recently posted: Book Beginnings - 5/8/15
    1. They haven’t done speed dating in recent years, have they? I always thought it was a cool idea though. πŸ™‚

  10. Thanks for the great tips. I went to BEA last year, last minute, and I felt like a deer in the headlights as a newly hatched Kid Lit Indie author. I was so in over my head, but I did my best and survived. Still a bit nervous but looking forward to BEA this year … meeting more people and getting around better with tips like yours!

    1. I’m sure you’ll have a wonderful time! Maybe I’ll see you around. πŸ™‚

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