bea: what i saw and how i conquered

Thursday, June 7, 2012 |
I’ve been blogging for over three years.  Until this week, I had never been to Book Expo America.  I feel lucky to have been able to attend – it wouldn’t have been possible without a bonus at the start of the year and several vacation days from work.  For me, this trip was a luxury, one I wouldn’t let myself stress over (because those are VACATION days, dude!), and one that I wanted to do from ‘outside the box.’  Know what?  It was fun.

I’m going to lay out the elements of my BEA 2012 experience below, in case you want to borrow them for future planning.  And also because I met some great people and ate some delicious food, and those experiences bear recording.

1.  Take the bus, not the train (and if you have to fly, i apologize in advance, this is useless advice).  Even though I like trains best, the itinerary I would have chosen was just too expensive.  But it was okay – largely because of item 2.

2.  Bring a friend.  One of my non-blogging, real life friends joined me for the first few days of the trip.  She wanted to get out and see things and go to cool places and wouldn’t let me sit indoors and obsess about what author would be where and when.   We could also commiserate if we picked a bad table at the restaurant and ended up overhearing a bizarre conversation (it happened. little italy.).  That’s how memories are made.

3.  Get to NYC early.  We got to NYC on Friday night.  We went out that night and slept in the next morning, by which time we were ready for some Saturday sight-seeing – nothing too ambitious, mind you – we just checked out the Egyptian and American wings of the Met.  But while waiting for dinner that night we walked into an open artist studio night.  And the next day we dropped by the Brooklyn Flea and went to a Mets baseball game.  Going in without an epic master plan can work to your advantage.

me, freaking out over a sphinx at the Met

4.  Think about staying somewhere other than Manhattan central.  Like…Brooklyn.  You knew I was going to say that!  But seriously, I would attribute the majority of my ‘good times’ during BEA to having a cool place to go back to in Brooklyn.  I stayed with cousins, but you could consider renting an apartment for a week, and even the hotels themselves are a bit cheaper in the outer boroughs.  It does mean you have to take the subway to and from the Javits each day, but the distance was very freeing – I didn’t feel like I was locked into the madhouse 24/7.

5.  Plan your meals – with an eye towards quality.  You’ll be in New. York. City.  The place is teeming with great restaurants, and not all of them will break the bank.  Do your research and find great places to eat – that way you won’t have any regrets later about settling for something subpar.  If a restaurant meal isn’t in your budget?  Make sure you have plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables!  A couple of places we tried this trip: Nights and Weekends (for brunch in Greenpoint), Pok Pok (thai dinner in Red Hook), Roberta’s (pizza plus in Bushwick), Ample Hills Creamery (ice cream! in Prospect Heights), & Shake Shack.

6.  Have a signing schedule/plan for BEA, but be reasonable.  Prep yourself for changes, for being tired, and for the idea that things may not work out.  You won’t get every book you want.  But you will find that there are so many things on offer that you’ll end up happy.  Oh, and expert tip: go to one of the author breakfasts.  I heard they were all good, and Lois Lowry’s speech made me cry at the children’s one.

7.  If you have publishing contacts, reach out and see if they’d like to meet.  I don’t regularly correspond with many publishers – but I did email in advance and ended up having a lovely meeting with one publicist (it totally made my day).

8.  Check out social media for news about BEA and outside events.  I found out about the Teen Author Carnival and a NYPL Science Fiction, Fantasy & Music evening through twitter links.  And someone tweeted another link to a Facebook contest to attend a Carolrhoda Lab-sponsored author/blogger breakfast.  I entered and won – and it was fabulous.  I was invited to one other morning event that I couldn’t make, but KIDS, here’s the deal: I wasn’t invited to publisher parties.  And I still had a really good time.

left to right: me, Tessa Gratton, Brenna Yovanoff, Jen (A Book and a Latte) & Maggie Stiefvater

9.  Make sure to meet up with your internet friends in real life.  If you correspond on twitter or via blog comments, you probably have something in common.  Take the extra step and ask them to meet you for lunch, or simply introduce yourself prior to a panel.  I was surprised that anyone recognized me – but it was so lovely when they did (or when I did the same thing to them).  

10.  Mail yourself books from the USPS during lunch breaks, take advantage of bag check the rest of the time, and follow other great BEA advice you can find in preparatory blog posts. 

I enjoyed myself most when I was wandering around people-watching, not putting limits my time and not worrying about the people ahead of me in line.  Thanks to all of the authors, bloggers, publishing contacts (shout-out to college friend Whitney!), my friend Lauren and especially my cousins Isaac and Jess for making BEA and New York a fun time.  I heart you.


Liviania said...

Sounds like a great time!

I hope you did try some cart food, because NYC cart food is actually pretty good!

(Sadly, I was invited to a publisher party. I sort of cried at the invite, "But I'm not going to BEA!")

Tales of Whimsy said...

All awesome advice. I'm SO envious that you met Maggie. I imagine her as quite the bad a$$.

Kristen M. said...

Sounds like a lot of fun! I'm sad that I couldn't make it out there yet again but I'm glad each time another blogger friend gets to go. :)

Cecelia said...

Liviania: I didn't try any cart food, alas! But. I did go get authentic deli pizza after one of my afternoon USPS book mailings. And it was gooooood. Hope you get to go to BEA next year!

Juju: Thanks! Maggie is a little bit bad a$$, but she's also funny and quirky and sweet. I had a great time talking to her.

Kristen: One of these days it will be YOU!

Care said...

Glad you had fun! I didn't have any time at all to sightsee when I went in 2010 but I loved loved loved meeting all my imaginary friends. It was worth it and I might be ready to go again.

Any rumors abt where it might be next year?

Ryan said...

Glad you had a great time, and I think your advice would be some of the best I've seen. The few times I've gone, I've never stayed in Manhattan. Of course it wasn't for BEA either.

Anonymous said...

Great tips for future BEA attendees. Probably some of the best tips I've seen!

- Nicole
P.S. It was great meeting you at BEA this year!

Charlotte said...

It was lovely to meet you in real life!

A Buckeye Girl Reads said...

This sounds like great advice and this is one of the best BEA posts I've read. :)

A Buckeye Girl Reads said...

Edited to add: I could never figure out why bloggers go to NYC, yet don't spend time doing the tourist thing-it's NYC!

Cecelia said...

Care: It'll be in NYC at least through this next year. After that it may move?

Ryan: Thanks! Outer boroughs FTW! *grin*

thebookandit: Thank you! It was great to meet you too!

Charlotte: Agreed! Let's do it again. *grin*

A Buckeye Girl Reads: Thank you! And... yeah. That's something I never understood either. I was glad to break the mould.

Jill Buck said...

We live within bus/driving distance of NYC and I have a couple of librarian friends who just took the bus there for the day and came back afterwards. I was so used to seeing bloggers talk about going for the whole time that I was surprised they just went for the day. Sounds like you had a good time and that is a lot of good advice!

Lisa (starmetal_oak) said...

Nice meeting you in the lines there at BEA! These are great tips. I am definitely going to try and stay somewhere else than midtown Manhattan next time. It was just exhausting. Plus I rode the subway for the first time this trip and it wasn't so hard at all!

Anonymous said...

It was so great to meet you Cecelia!

I wasn't invited to publisher parties, either, and I still had a rough time trimming down my BEA round up post. It's easy to get jealous about hearing about all the fabulous parties, but if you are in NY with a bunch of other book bloggers, you are going to have fun regardless.

Lisa Mandina said...

It was so great to meet you! Great tips! I learned a lot this year too. And if I ever have the money to go back, I'll know better what to do. Like you I didn't get any invites to publisher parties, but that's okay, I got to meet lots of great authors and bloggers.

Alyce said...

It's great that you had such an awesome time! I hope to be able to attend someday, but I just don't know if that's realistic unless I either move closer to the event or it moves closer to me. :)

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