It’s that time of year again! The days are getting longer and the anticipation for BEA and BookCon is almost tangible. This time last year I was a book convention newbie and was scouring the internet for any advice I could find to ensure a great experience. Most of the posts really helped me, so I decided to share some of my own this year. Please note that I am basing my tips on my experience last year in New York, Chicago may be different. Hope this helps!
⇒Wear comfortable clothes
• This is a popular, yet important, tip that I saw a million times during my search last year. Since both events are pretty much all-day occasions you must be able to stand and walk for long periods of time.
• BEA is a more professional event, geared towards people who work in publishing and bookish industries so I would suggest that you wear business casual clothing. I wore comfortable dresses on these days!
• BookCon is more relaxed since it’s open to the public, so I wore jeans and nice shirts.
• Last year, at the Javits Center, I ended up bringing a sweater most of the days for the moments that I wasn’t running around the show floor. If you have a light sweater I would definitely recommend that you bring it- just in case.
• Bring a bag big enough to carry all of your essentials but small enough to have on you at all times!
⇒Bring snacks and water
• Keep your body happy and fuel it from time to time throughout the day! Running around, meeting people, and seeing your favorite authors takes more energy than you think. Pack your favorite snacks, like nuts or granola bars, and some water in your essentials bag for easy access.
⇒Schedule ahead of time
• If I’m not mistaken the autographing schedule is already up and the panels should be up soon (if not already). Use these resources to set up a schedule for your day(s).
• Your schedule doesn’t have to be fancy (mine was literally a list of names and times), just make sure it’s set up in chronological order and highlight the things you MUST go to.
• Sometimes the unexpected happens- last year someone canceled last minute and one of the signings went by quicker than I thought. In case of a scenario like this you should have a few ‘back-up’ signings/panels that you are interested in included in your schedule.
• For big authors and panels try to get in line about 45 minutes to an hour before the scheduled time so you can ensure that you get a good spot. You can also use this time to snack and re-hydrate (;
• One of the best things you can do for yourself is give yourself some time to just walk around for an hour with no panels or signings scheduled. Give an empty booth or signing line some love, see what books are being given away, and enjoy the fact that you are simply there.
• Make multiple copies of your schedule OR take pictures/save it on your phone so you don’t have to worry about losing it.
⇒Utilize Twitter and BookCon app
• The BookCon app was a great resource to see what others are doing as well as get access to the panel and signing schedules. The only downfall is that is gets a bit flooded during the day and hard to keep up with.
• Twitter was my best friend and will be yours too. If you know a group of Twitter peeps going to BEA/BookCon try and see if they’ll join a group DM where everyone can share info throughout the day. I found out about so many ARC drops and books because of the group I was in!
• Something I wished I did was turn on my Twitter notifications for my favorite authors and publishing companies. They would randomly tweet about code words and ARC drops and I missed so many because I kept forgetting to check my timeline. Don’t make the same mistakes as me!
• Walking into the convention center will be like being in one of the best dreams ever. (Especially in BEA) there will be books everywhere! One of the hardest, but necessary, things you have to remember is to choose wisely. Trust me, it’s not easy. My family ended up with over 350 books after 5 days (110 of which were mine), so take this advice.
• Be honest with yourself, is this book something you’re interested in? If not put it down, the last thing you need is another book you probably won’t read on your never ending TBR pile.
• In New York there was a luggage area where you could store your suit case for a small cost and dump your books throughout the day. They also offered mailing services to ship your books straight home. Check with the convention center and see if these services are offered in Chicago (:
⇒Talk to people
• These are your people! Don’t be afraid to turn to the person by you in line and strike up a conversation or walk up to a publisher’s booth and talk to one of the people working there. Mostly everyone there is nice and are just as excited as you. Who knows? You might even meet your new blogger/bookish bestie!
And most importantly: HAVE FUN!