Tuesday, May 15, 2012

So You're Heading to the BEA?!

Well, three weeks from today is the official start time of BEA 2012, and if you're taking in the BBC, now called the BEA bloggers con, (which I highly recommend, if for no other reason then The Bloggess will be there) then three weeks from yesterday. 
I know, I can hardly believe it either.

Last year was my first time at the show, and I perused a zillion helpful blogs to get the lay of the land and their top tips before I arrived, and thank god I did!  It's a mega show, it's overwhelming and exciting and yes, someone bit someone else last year, so there's a kind of crazy madness too.  I don't recommend the crazy madness, it's not one of the perks of the show, and generally easy enough to avoid.

Anyhoots, I thought I would set up a post of tips and tricks with links to helpful info for the first timers out there, and also for those of us repeat visitors who are always looking for some helpful hints to make the best of our time on the floor and to survive in the most pleasurable way possible.  Make sure to add your thoughts in the comments below, and I've also included a linky list so you can link up your helpful hint posts as well!  Let's face it, we're largely a researchy bunch so why not make it easier for ourselves?

The Javits Center, the home of the BEA and BBC for 4 short days, is a gigantic convention center on the west side of Manhattan between 34th and 38th.  It has four levels and will blow your mind upon entrance if you haven't been there before.  First things first, bring serious walking shoes.  I know you think you own a pair or two, I will suggest right now- they're not as great as you think.  I walk a lot, and I have tramped around Manhattan for 8 hours a day before and I was still woefully unprepared for how sore my feet would get.  To give you an idea of what you need, I went out this year and bought a pair of shoes from Marks Work Wearhouse that have 7 layered insoles, and I expect my feet will still get sore.  So put serious thought into your shoes, and bring insoles to have on hand, and expect swelling.  I kid you not.  The floors are almost all concrete, only a couple of booths will lay carpet and you will be pounding across the couple of city blocks worth of the convention center all day long.  Then if you're more superhuman then me, you'll go out and pound the pavement of Manhattan, and possibly all the lovely publishing and city wide bookish events, all night long, and you're feet will hate you.  It will be a mutual feeling, I promise you.

If you haven't already, pick a hotel as close to the Javits as possible, but still comfy and somewhere you don't mind kicking back in the evening.  If you're a lesser superhuman (like me) you'll go back to your hotel most evenings and want at least a couple of hours of laying down, regrouping and planning out the next days attack, and resting the tender tootsies.   There are shuttles to a wide variety of hotels from the Javits, but if you've picked somewhere within a couple of blocks (there are loads of close options) then you won't have to get up at the crack of dawn for the rush tickets for author signings, and you can stumble out in your pjs if you need to and then go back to bed for a bit before the day begins (my hubby did this for me twice last year, it was amazing).  Also you can take down time in your room mid afternoon if need be, or make much needed book dumps.  None of these things can be done conveniently on a shuttle, so keep it in mind when booking.

Now, the show itself! How to prepare?  Start off by consoling yourself with this little bit of knowledge- there is no way to do it all.  Resign yourself to that fact before you even look at the schedule, it's going to save you heartache.  If you really need to have as many signed books as humanly possible team up with someonelse who is going or bring along any interns/co-bloggers/admin people you use on your blog and send them off with lists each day of what you need.  Keep in mind that you likely already have strong relationships with some of the publishers present and they'll  send you ARCs if you request them, so don't feel compelled to lug them home from the BEA.  Focus on the signings, the talks and the ARC's you really want right now, as opposed to a month or more down the road.  Also keep in mind that all the panels, and author breakfasts stream live, and are archived on the BEA website if you can't fit them in.  You can watch them from the comfort of your home and couch, instead of killing yourself to rush across the halls in enough time to garner a seat.  For those of you who can't make the BEA I've installed the BEA streaming player so you can access all the great panels and talks straight from here!

Speaking of great new BEA technology, the next thing you want to do is sit down and play with the BEA show planner.  This baby will organise your days for you and then provide you with email/print worthy PDF's to make your life easier!  You will waste hours of time glazed and drooling over your computer using this tool, remind someone to feed you.  Last year, prior to this lovely tool, most of us did this by hand.  My recommendation, since you'll quickly learn everything happens at the same time, is make 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th picks for everything.  Then on the day you can make quick judgments based on the insanity of line ups and what you're heart most desires once faced with the prospect of only walking away with one option.  For example, on day two of the show last year I had 4 signings happening between 10-11, I headed in to the BEA, saw book 1 was dropped in advance of the signing (sometimes happens, sometimes not), made the decision that I could live without the signing as long as I had the book, which immediately cleared my way to go to two of the signings (one at 10 if I lined up very early I would be able to leave for the 10:30 one and still make it before the line was closed off) and sent the hubby to book signing the third for which I was OK with not meeting the author face to face as long as he got a picture and the signed book.  Other times I would see a line up that was going to eat up hours of my time and decide the other books I could get while I would be waiting were not worth the one book the line up was for and move on.  So make sure you have it all written down for quick reference.

Use PW articles and then the PW daily editions (available at the Javits during the run of the show) for the most up-to-date info on drops and signings.  Often the daily editions at the show would have info on signings you wouldn't find anywhere else.  If you want to arrive early for the door opening line up (I'm not joking, it happens, and it's huge) then this is a good time to pick up that days PW daily and flip through it, then make adjustments to your schedule for the day.  Otherwise, grab it and do your updates in your first line up of the day.  A note about that show opening line up- unless you like the community of it, it's wildly unnecessary.  Come 10 minutes before the doors open wait off to the side for the line to feed in, and then saunter in behind the rush.  Nobody is getting anything, or entering line ups so quickly that you need to get in the door 1st, 2nd, or 89th.  Also, I suspect the more rabid runners/shovers/biters are in the die hard beginnings of that line up.  Avoid them for a more pleasant BEA experience.

Look how huge this post is already, and I bet you haven't even once considered when you'll stop during the day and eat.  Although I know you're looking at your schedule and already deciding you'll just starve your way to 4pm each day, let me suggest you'll be happier if you don't.  First recommendation, do not eat at the Javits Center.  Their food court is 7 kinds of bad and overpriced, and there is nothing relaxing about it.  Take a real break and leave the building for 30-45 minutes, you body and mind will thank you for it, and the refreshed feeling you'll take back to the Javits floor will be well worth the 67 things you think you missed in that brief hiatus.  There is one dinner a 5 minute walk from Javits (on 11th between 43rd and 44th)that's big, fast, relatively inexpensive with decent food and big servings The Market Diner, and it's where the hubby and I went for all our BEA fuel ups.  There are a variety of restaurants further out, more a 10-15 minute walk away westbound, but the fact of the matter is, you likely won't want to go farther than The Market Diner because it's going to be killing you being away from the show at all.

Business cards- don't go crazy with them, as in- don't buy 500.  Bring 50ish.  You'll be amazed how little you use them, even if you're networking like crazy.  This is something I read on many, many posts last year, including ones that are far bigger than mine, so don't just take my word for it.  You'll get a BEA badge when you pick up your registration the day before the show (go on Monday, you don't want to be stuck in that line up Tuesday morning), slide a handful of your business cards into the back of your badge for quick and easy access.  Your hands are always going to be full, trust me!

Speaking of full hands, whether you're planning on being an ARC glutton or not (I suggest not, there are only so many books you can read in a year! AND you have to get all those buggers home), I highly recommend bringing a rolling suitcase.  I believe it's 5$ each day to check it and you can come and go from the check all day filling it.  No matter how few books you have, dragging them around on your shoulders all day will kill your back.  There have been interweb rumors of theft, true or not, it's easily avoided if you use your suitcase lock that came with it.  The hubby and I were very discerning with our books and the suitcase was still a lifesaver, who needs a sore back and shoulders on top of the sore feet?

Quick pointers for newbies!
-All books are free at the show, but bring some small bills for donation at the author signing area.  You don't have to donate, but think of how much you're getting for free?  It's the least you can do.
-Don't take more than one ARC, there are many folks at the show and everyone deserves a chance at the books.  Chances are there's a blogger you can team up with to share books to read the ones you missed.
-Network! This is half the reason you're there, remember?  Free books are great, but you still get those from your publishing contacts, don't loose site of that when you see the piles of shiny books.
-Check out networking sign ups like the one over at jennsbookshelves.com to make plans in advance to meet the bloggers who you particularly enjoy or are online buddies with.
-Post a picture of yourself on your blog in the weeks prior to the show.  A real picture, not a staged one, so your followers can recognise you and introduce themselves!  I'll put one up of me in my new pudgy steroid glory, it'll be embarrassing but hey! I want to meet you too.
-Keep in mind that all the signings are brief and limited. Just because you're in the line, doesn't mean you're going to get a signed book.  Usually they count out the line in advance and save you from hanging around too long waiting to see if you made the cut, but not always.
-Finally, this should go without saying, but this is a professional conference still, don't run, push, loose your temper or, you know, bite.  We're all a bit fan girl/ fan boyish, it goes without saying, and this is like our mecca, so obviously everyone is excited, but it makes a bad name for everyone when people don't act professionally, or at least cordially.  And dude, it'll totally blow up all over the Internet, there will be pictures of you biting up online for the rest of your life! 

Do you have a great post with more tips?  Please link up below and share the fun!
Want to see what you're getting into before you show up in three weeks?  Check out my BEA posts from last year, official BEA post, Day 2 and 3 updates while there.
Have something to add?  Please comment with all your helpful hints!
And in case I haven't said it yet, I can't wait to see you all there, make sure you say hi!


  1. Thanks for the tips ! I'll be sure to read your old posts.

    I came across your blog when I was looking for other Black Heart reviews and I just loved yours. It said everything I was thinking !

    1. Thanks! I LOVED the White Cat series, loved, loved, loved it! So glad you like it too, drop me a line with the link to your review, I'd love to see it!

  2. Awesome post! And I couldn't agree more about the shoes! I wore old, broken-in, comfortable shoes and my poor feet were still blistered and bruised by the end of the week. :(

    The suitcase is another must! Even being selective about the books I accepted, I still had an almost full suitcase every day. I think it was only $3, and the luggage ladies keep a close eye on everyone! I used a small luggage lock on mine just to be on the safe side.

    1. I know right? My feet were so swollen by the last day last year that they were kind of scary. And I thought I had the shoe thing down. I think part of the problem was the heat and humidity last year but the cement floors are definitely an issue.