For the last six months I have been hoping and planning to attend BookCon in New York City. Life has been chaotic this year so until I sat down on the plane I wasn’t certain I was going to make it – but I did! What an experience. I have never been to a Book Conference of any kind and I found myself transported to this crazy world inhabited by book enthusiasts for two whole days. I had a wonderful time and it has made me excited to either go again or attend a different book conference. I had the opportunity to meet Jen Calonita, Danielle Paige, the editor of the Fablehaven series, and more and each and every one of them was kind and lovely.
Before attending, I researched BookCon and I thought I knew what to expect, but nothing could have prepared me for the thousands of people and hundreds of exhibits. The number one piece of advice you get before going to BookCon is this: plan. Well, I had a plan! It started with me getting in line to get a book signed at 10:30. The doors opened at 10:00 and I was one of the first people through. At 10:06 the line to get a ticket to get in line for my author had closed. And the line to get the ticket was nowhere near where the map said the event would be located. The rest of the morning was the same. I was a natural at finding the end of a closed line. By 12:00 I gave up and just enjoyed walking from booth to booth, admiring the books and book related merchandise, and chatting with other beautiful bookish people.
It was clear I had no idea what I was doing. But, if I ever get to go again I wanted to be ready. So I chatted with everyone I could and I asked for advice. Loads of them just kept telling me to “plan” but when you don’t know where to go it is nearly impossible to plan. Outside of that tip, here are the most useful pieces of advice I learned the hard way or received from other people.
When you get your badge, open it, register it, and read the directions. If I had done this I would have know that a full month in advance I could have requested two tickets for two different author autographs. Instead, I carefully put them away in my suitcase and only opened them the night before I left. By then, everything was sold out. Two free author tickets, wasted.
Download any apps, follow everyone and everything you can on social media, and pour over the website. I had downloaded the app but neglected to use the website to the fullest and I certainly could have done so much more on social media. Saturday night I went back to my hotel and just 30 minutes of cruising around on Instagram and Twitter opened my eyes to what was possible for me on Sunday.
Find one thing everyday that matters to you and go there first. If you want to be part of an event at 3:00 in the afternoon at Penguin, go over to their information booth and ask about it. They will tell you exactly when and where to get in line or to wait for tickets. I found that most people’s complaint was that the lines and booths change every year so even repeat BookCon participants were confused.
Don’t have your heart set on being able to do anything. By that, I mean, don’t have your heart set on meeting an author or attending a panel. There are far more people in attendance than there are seats and tickets. I had to console someone outside the building on Saturday because she was devastated didn’t get to meet Eoin Colfer. Rides break down at Disney and events get full at BookCon. Don’t let one missed thing ruin your day.
If you have time, go to a variety of events. Many people are I it for the free books or author autographs. But, if you have a break or you just don’t know what to do don’t forget the panels. My favorite was how audiobooks are narrated and it featured some wildly popular narrators. It was fascinating, it was the last thing that day, and I wouldn’t have gone (necessarily) except I missed the tickets for something else. Every missed opportunity could be something else amazing! The woman pictured here is Saskia Maarleveld who narrator Ash Princess! It was actually one of my favorite things about this conference.
If the line is short you are probably cutting the line. I can’t tell you how many times I thought I had found the end of the line but instead it was a line break to keep the isle open. I would have been embarrassed if it wasn’t so common. On Sunday there seemed to be more “Mind the Gap” signs and “Middle of the Line” signs to guide people. Saturday was chaos.
A conference this large is not dissimilar to couponing. If you try to jump right in and organize coupons at every store you shop in you will become quickly exhausted. Instead, focus on one store / publisher. On Sunday morning I went directly to Penguin’s information booth and they walked me through the rest of the day. Doing this, at even this popular a publisher, meant that I got five signed ARCs and tons of ridiculous swag.
Read the rules. I knew that I couldn’t bring a wheelie bag into the conference but I didn’t know that I could check it downstairs. That means I could have just walked downstairs every once in a while and deposited all my lovely new books. Instead I walked miles and miles carrying everything. I slept like a baby but I really staggered home.
Ask questions. There is absolutely nothing wrong with asking people, “What are you in line to do?” This will prevent you from waiting in line for thirty minutes to spin a wheel and win a wristband you didn’t really want. Or cutting.
Have a way to get all of your new books safely home. I thought I would be walking away with, perhaps, ten new books. I planned on buying a couple and hoped to grab some new ones. Instead, this happened.
You may not be able to see but some of these books are even in piles because the publisher gave me duplicates and triplicates. I turned some books away! Of all of these books, I only bought five.
If you can, take a friend. Many wonderful events, signings, and give aways happen at the same time or the tickets for the events are given out at the same time. Having a friend doubles your chances of getting into more lines. If you have to go alone, there were whole groups that formed at the event to work together or just walk around together. Even if you go alone and talk to no one, you won’t be lonely because every three feet is a new wonderful book to read.
There you have it! My top ten tips from BookCon.
Tell me, please!
Have you ever been to a Book Conference? Do you have any tips or tricks?