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Monday, April 30, 2012

BEA: What the heck do I do now?

Book Expo America 2012 is fast-approaching and I, like a lot of you, am making plans to head to NYC and attend North America's leading publishing event. It's a great place to learn what books are forthcoming, check out the trends, network with publishers, meet authors and other bloggers and of course pick up some books you're excited about. But how exactly do you go about tackling such a gigantic trade show? 

Well, I've done posts in the past on BEA Tips to prepare you for the event and how to attend BEA on a Budget. Today, I'll share my two cents about how to avoid being overwhelmed on the show floor. 

The exhibit hall is a maze of booths neatly tucked in along numbered aisles, but once the exhibits open they will disappear in the insane crush of people. Your program and a map might help, but that's if you can find a spot to safely pull off the main drag and re-orient yourself. With so many things going on and the level of activity ramping up, you have to have a plan to handle the chaos.

The key to success is preparing for the question you'll spend 90% of BEA asking yourself. 
"What the heck do I do now?"

Know what you want to do. -- What are your goals while at BEA? Meet authors. Meet your publishing contacts and make new ones. Hit the stages and listen to authors and editors talk about what's new. Wander the booths and get an insiders opinion by asking representatives what they're excited for. Focus on books and try to snag the ones you're excited about. It's all up to you, but at least somewhat sort it out before you get there.

Get organized. -- Use the BEA website and organize before you get to NYC. You can find floor maps and a list of exhibitors. The Find tool is also particularly helpful for finding author events and signings. You can even use the My BEA tool to organize your schedule.

Have a schedule, even if you don't stick to it. -- Use the tools I mentioned above to make yourself a schedule. It will be helpful even if you don't stick to it. Include signings in-booth and in the autographing area, stage events, meetings, and any other events you're planning to attend during BEA hours. Put the big picture down on paper so you can see exactly what's on your agenda and where the conflicts are. You'll also be able to mark which events are most important to you. And don't forget to double-check your schedule the week before BEA since schedules are constantly evolving. 

Be efficient. -- More often than not you'll have a signing at on the hour and another on the half-hour. With the long lines at BEA, seems like you'd have to make a choice right? Not always. Be at your first signing early and you could be out of line in time to make your second one. It won't always work, but giving yourself extra time won't ever hurt.

Prioritize. -- As I said, you can list every event you want to go to but mark the ones most important to you. Knowing what your priorities are will help your streamline your schedule. Combining that with efficiency and time management will give you time to do things like squeeze in something on the fly, get a drink or food, or head to bag check to drop off books and anything else you've picked up in your travels.

Never be afraid to ask. -- Asking only takes a second and at BEA it can be very helpful in tweaking your schedule or pointing you in the right direction. Ask publishers if they have signing schedules available. There could be one you missed in pre-planning. Lines form around every corner of the exhibit hall, so tap someone on the shoulder and politely ask what the line is for. You might be interested. If you see a friend passing in the aisle, ask them where they're headed.  You may want to go too.

Taking these things into consideration before you get to BEA will hopefully keep you from getting overwhelmed and asking yourself  "What the heck do I do next?" while standing in a corner looking lost. That's no way to spend your precious time when there are so many awesome things you could be doing.
Most of all, just remember to relax and enjoy yourself. You love books and that's what BEA is all about!


  1. I needed this post so much, I can see myself standing around looking lost. I'll be sure to make a schedule.

  2. thanks for this! it’s my first time to go to BEA and i’m so excited and nervous at the same time. I will go alone, and i will definitely be lost. haha.

  3. Thank you so much! It makes me feel better that I may not be the only one who will be lost. It will be my first time as well and as jennachristy, I will be alone. However, I look forward to having lots of fun and lots of time lost. Happy reading!


  4. Thanks for this post! This is going to be my first BEA trip and as excited as I am when I go to big crowded places I do tend to get overwhelmed and panicky pretty easily.

  5. I won't be going to BEA this year, but these are awesome tips that I'll come back to for next year!

    Thank you!

  6. I wish I could go to BEA this year, but I live in LA. :(
    But I hope anyone who's gong has fun!