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?
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!