Last weekend I was lucky enough to go to the amazing BookExpo and BookCon events in the New York City Javits Center with a few other WBP contributors: Melody, Foody, Meg, Ashley, and Christine!
BookExpo is the largest industry publishing event of the year. There are select tickets for bloggers, but it’s mainly for publishers, agents, authors, and industry professionals.
Following BookExpo is BookCon, an event that’s open to the public and catered more towards the fans. (This is the first year it was two days!).
The best thing about both BookExpo and BookCon is that it combines business, community, fangirling, and events (both during the day and after hours) in a giant mixing pot. Add some superstar authors and celebrities, their biggest fans, and stir!
I’d been to BookCon last year, so I thought I was prepared for what I was in for. I was very very wrong…
BookExpo felt much quieter, but that’s probably because it’s all industry professionals and a few bloggers. Still, Friday, which was the last day of BookExpo, was very intense. The lines for signed ARCs started filling up well before the authors arrived. Some had to line up an hour beforehand in set places! And our very own Amanda Foody’s signing of DAUGHTER OF THE BURNING CITY sold out fifteen minutes before it was set to start! And many ARC drops ran out of books within minutes (THE BELLES for example).
BookCon was definitely more intense, but that was because it was a free-for-all for fans. And by fans I mean fans. There were people cosplaying (I saw a really cute SoC Nina). People were clamoring for ARCs and books that they loved and, again, if you weren’t in some lines up to an hour beforehand you were SOL for picking up an advanced signed copy. This happened for Leigh Bardugo’s line and the FOREST OF A THOUSAND LANTERNS line ran out of copies, too! Go Julie!
It was a very exciting event as both a writer and a reader fan. I was able to see some greats like Marie Lu, Leigh Bardugo, Holly Black, Laini Taylor, Jason Reynolds, and Renee Ahdieh. There were a lot of celebrities doing signings (like Neil Patrick Harris, Kevin Hart, Chad Michael Murray and Chelsea Clinton). And I was able to see some of my friends have their first convention signings! Shout out Samira/LOVE HATE AND OTHER FILTERS, Foody/DAUGHTER OF THE BURNING CITY, Karuna/THE GAUNTLET, and Julie/FOREST OF A THOUSAND LANTERNS.
I do have some advice on what to do if you’re going to go to a big conference with a lot of authors and events (for example the upcoming ALA in June 2017 where our very own Axie Oh will be signing ARCs of REBEL SEOUL!):
Things to Bring:
- Backpack (seriously, my shoulder was killing me after lugging around the most giant purse ever)
- Extra tote bags (although they do often give out free ones at some booths)
- Bottle of water (or buy water right away)
- Snacks (you can bring outside snacks! Tip from Meg)
- Portable/external phone charger (everyone is on social media/their phones at these events! And you’ll probably want pics with your favorite authors. So make sure you have your phone charged!)
- Wear shorts/pants (many people end up sitting on the ground in lines, by walls, anywhere they can find. So skirts aren’t…very conducive to random floor sitting)
Wear Comfortable shoes and take breaks when you can: I think EVERY con advice post will say to wear something comfortable. There are really no places to sit outside of the panels and if you’re waiting in lines for an hour or more then you’re often standing (although, our group just sat when the line was standstill waiting for authors to arrive). You’re also going to have to be pretty spry to keep up with the crowd as it tries to push you this way and that at its whim. Seriously, it is an ocean of people!
Try to alternate between panels and signings: In the same vein as comfy shoes and breaks, you could catch that rest by going to some amazing panels. But be aware that some panels fill up fast. For example, the Holly Black and Leigh Bardugo Panel “Magic with an Edge” had a line that formed about an hour ahead of time. They’ll usually have a side room to let people line up so they’re not crowding the hallway. Make sure you ask the person at the door if there’s a separate line area so you’re not caught wandering the hallway when they let in the people who were waiting in the other space.
Make yourself a schedule ahead of time (but don’t feel bound to it): Knowing what you want to do each day is great because you’re not wasting time wandering the floor wondering what there is. When you’re unsure of what’s going on you might be too late to make the aforementioned lines. However, I would urge you not to only stick to a set schedule either. There are some fun last-minute things like ARC drops or giveaways that happen throughout the events. And if you’re forced to go an hour ahead to line up for a panel then you’re going to miss out on a whole event since they’re usually in hour increments.
Download the App (if there is one): I’m going to say that the BookExpo and BookCon apps aren’t perfect. For example they had some signings at the wrong time or some weren’t even listed! However, the app is a very useful tool. If a room is changed or if you need an interactive map it’s often nice to check the app. Also, for BookCon there was a homepage chat where people would say if they had extra tickets to ticketed panels and signings that they were willing to give away (same with some people who got ARCs and couldn’t fit it into their luggage. The struggle is real!). But, like I said, the apps are NOT perfect, so if you want to print out the paper schedule beforehand, that doesn’t hurt either. My one big complaint about BookCon was that there weren’t a lot of informational booths or tables with clearly set out maps and when you walked in the “program” was really just a glorified magazine with articles and a few pages of author profiles.
Connect and network: If you’re going as a writer or blogger, then it’s a great place to connect! If you want to bring a card then make sure it has your social media sites and profiles on it. People get really excited to meet new people at these events and it’s so easy to bond while waiting in a long line or sitting in a panel with your favorite authors. I will say that since I was all over the place, when people followed me I wasn’t always on the ball about following back. But I did see some authors and editors tweeting out that if they’d met you to give them a quick @ mention and they’d give you a follow. Things move really fast at these conferences, so I think it’s fine to always reach out afterwards.
Okay, I hate to do this but I’m going to give some don’ts:
Don’t pitch agents and editors on the floor: If you meet your dream agent and you’re connecting, then that is amazing, but unless they ask you about your book first I’d hold off on pitching your story. It’s really hard because they’re right there. And they laughed at your sweet joke about dolphins, but even if an agent is at BookExpo/Con for business (which many are) it’s for the clients they already have signed. There are other writer-centered conferences where they are specifically taking pitches. And it’s so hard to give up on this chance to connect in person, but I will say that some agents have told me they remember me from such-and-such event even though we never talked about my book!
Don’t assume an author walking the floor should stop for you, and if you do approach be polite: I will say that I’ve stopped my favorite author and asked for a photo outside of a panel/signing before. She was the nicest and totally took a photo with me, but as soon as I did that a deluge of other fans recognized her and asked for a photo too. I think if I were to go back I’d have held back from approaching her in that moment. She’d been watching a panel in her free time and I’m sure the day was very hectic for her. Authors are people too and they deserve time to wind down. That being said, she was very nice, possibly because I tried to be respectful of her when I approached her. So, if you do go up to your favorite author outside of a scheduled event then just be polite!
Also, there are just so many official events with these authors where they’re usually willing to stay later and take photos or sign a book you brought (seriously, every author was so nice!)
Don’t try to do everything (or you’ll die): Honestly, I think I tried to do almost everything at BookExpo and BookCon, and now I’m definitely sick. Like I have the worst flu symptoms in the history of germs. And I know it’s because I ran myself ragged. It was a very fun experience, but by the time Sunday came around I don’t know if I even knew where I was half the time. Make sure you’re taking care of yourself, drinking lots of fluids, and eat lunch! Seriously, I skipped lunch two days by accident because I went from event to event without looking at the time. The very amazing Meg had to bring me ginger ale and a snack on Sunday because I was dead on my feet.
(Tip from Akshaya: Take vitamin C during the con, or even the week leading up to it.)
But, the biggest piece of advice I can give anyone who is going to any book event is to have fun! Seriously, this is such a fun experience to see the people who created the stories and art that we’ve fallen in love with! It’s great to be in a space where so many like-minded people are also freaking out because they saw the top of Leigh Bardugo’s head far in the distance! So, if you have a chance to go to any book related event, be it BookCon, Yallfest, or the upcoming BTAF in September (which is much more manageable size-wise) then just let yourself have fun and fan over all the amazing around you!
Also…I vlogged BookExpo and BookCon: