My Book Expo America vacation week starts tomorrow, because my nearly six-hour flight from Burbank, California to New York City departs at 7 AM on Saturday and I’ll need more than a few hours between work and bedtime to get ready for it–although, to be honest, I’ve been in various stages of “getting-ready-ness” for weeks. That’s mostly involved shopping–clothes (but no new shoes this year!), personal items, gadgets, and apps for said gadgets. Now I just need to remember to pack it all…but not to pack too much. It’s a delicate balance.
Having said that, here are A Few Things I MUST Bring to BEA (and would recommend that you bring, too):
Smartphone. Seriously. I’m an iPhone gal, but despite what my husband believes, there are other viable options. But whatever kind you have, make sure you have a good texting plan and a Twitter app, because they will probably be your main means of communication during BEA week. Other apps worth having: Evernote, BEA Mobile, a good map of the NYC subway system, and AppZilla (which contains dozens of apps in itself–you never know what will turn out to be useful with this one!).
Charger and extra/backup battery for smartphone. Seriously. If your smartphone is your lifeline, you must keep it alive. If you have an iPhone, I cannot recommend the Mophie Juice Pack highly enough–it’s an external battery/charger and good-looking protective phone case all in one. Not cheap–the base model Juice Pack Air runs about $80–but worth the money, and probably in stock right now at a nearby electronics retailer or Apple Store, so go get one.
Comfortable multitasking shoes. Comfortable is a must when it comes to your shoes for BEA; cute is a plus. Having said that, you may not have much time to go back to your hotel to change between that last autographing session at the convention center and that evening publisher’s party, so I’d recommend something that won’t look out of place anywhere. These were my go-to shoes in NYC last year, and they’re going back again this year.
Multitasking clothes, too. Even if you’re taking vacation time to attend BEA, it’s a business event, and your clothing choices each day you’re there should reflect that. You’ll want to strike a balance between professional and comfortable. For me, that will most likely mean simple dresses–again, because there may not always be time to change clothes between events, and my personal style is a little old-school, frankly. Having said that, comfort is key, but I think you’ll feel more appropriate if you’re dressed a little less casually–this really isn’t a jeans-and-T-shirts deal, y’all.
Reusable, insulated water bottle. It won’t take up that much room in your suitcase, and it will help you stay cool and hydrated during a long day on the convention-center floor. It’s a plus if it easily clips to a tote bag, because you’ll probably be carting one of those around with you all day too. I’ll have this one–it’ll be my carry-on bag for the airplane, and my carry-around bag in the city. At 20″ wide by 12″ tall by 7″ deep, I think it should hold galleys rather nicely, don’t you–especially if the water bottle is outside it?
A light jacket or cardigan. I’m a mom and contractually required to say that. But it might rain and you’ll need it outside–or you may be someplace where the A/C is cranked down so low you’ll want it inside. Spring weather is an unpredictable thing (back east. Here in Southern California, it’s dry and warm and will be like this for months…)
I’ve found that bloggers are usually pretty generous about sharing their advice and insights about attending conferences like BEA, so I thought I’d highlight excerpts from a few of the posts I’ve run across this week.
How much or how little you plan is entirely up to you. The first year I attended, I didn’t really have a plan. There were a few authors I made sure I hit, but spent the rest of the time wandering around. I stumbled across several really awesome signings, but was upset with myself that I missed one of my favorite authors because I didn’t even know she was there. Last year I was determined that I wouldn’t miss out again, so came up with a schedule. I made up an excel spreadsheet for every day, complete with the author’s name, book title, time, and location for every book that looked interesting. This way, if I couldn’t see Author A because there weren’t enough copies available, I could get in line for Author B! It was a wonderful plan! Too bad I lost it on Day 2. This year I’m not going to be as anal, but will still make up a spreadsheet…I am going to try and schedule downtime as well.
Stretching the dollars!
That first time I was going to BEA a friend of mine here in Brainerd told me “Food is expensive there, you can easily spend $50+ on a meal.” That freaked me out a bit. Well, I can honestly tell you that yes, if you want to go out and have a great New York experience, you certainly can and find high price and meals worth taking pictures of (uhhh…. I have), however I found prices to be not that different from where I live here. Your going out to a nice dinner (without drinks) will cost between $8 and $20. You can also stop and pick up a slice of pizza or a burger for a few bucks…
In the hotels I stayed in the past two years they had continental breakfast so I would eat there and grab an extra banana or apple for my bag I carried to the Javits Center. The Javits has food available but it is a bit pricey! I would recommend bringing a bottle of water with you and maybe an energy bar or granola. Outside the Javits and not too far walking distance are many restaurants that are nice too for a lunch break and a chance to sit down.
Also – coffee drinkers like me, grab your joe on the way to the Javits… the line that wraps around Starbucks in the early start up hours has been known to be up to a 40 minute wait. Been there.. done that….
The displays, booths or other peoples’ boxes in shipping. This one might get me into trouble but just because you’re at BEA that doesn’t entitle you to just take something from a display or box (either a fellow attendees or in a booth or conference room) without permission. Always ask someone before you take something from a booth. Those boxes are sealed for a reason.
Keep the flow of traffic going. Don’t stop in the middle of the aisle to chit chat with friends and start pulling out your books to show what you got. Move to the side if you want to do that. I don’t know how many people I bumped into because of that. The aisles aren’t that big and you have to remember that there is a lot of people walking around with bags full of books!
Use this opportunity to ENGAGE. If you find a book you want, ask to get a card from the publicist or marketer for the house and make sure he or she knows you are a blogger. Generally, authors are accompanied by someone from the publishing company – look for the person opening books to the title page to be signed. Make connections so you can get access to more great content. Believe me, they’ll be happy to meet you. Consider blogging about the books you get – authors are always happy for the support.
Bring a tote bag. You’re going to receive a lot of galleys. My first hour at BEA last year, I received over 10 books. Without asking for them. Some of the publishers will giveaway tote bags but they might not be very big or comfortable. No rolling bags are allowed on the expo hall.
Or bring a rolling suitcase and check it in the luggage check. It costs around $3 a day per bag and you can revisit your bag as often as you want during the day. Stop by periodically and drop your books off in your suitcase. Your back and shoulders will thank you. At the end of the day, just wheel your bag home or to your hotel room. Empty and repeat for the next day.
Or start a box in the shipping room. The shipping area is basically a huge full of empty boxes. You can claim a box by writing your name on it. Fill it up throughout the week. When it’s full, you fill out the paperwork and pay for shipping. Boxes will be unsupervised, so if you got (a sought-after) signed galley, keep it on your person. Last year the carrier was UPS. Just note that it won’t be cheap because of union rules. Last year there was a surcharge for $25 per box on top of shipping costs. You won’t be allowed to remove the box from the shipping room. Alternately, there is a FedEx location in the Javits as well, but they won’t hold your books for you.
Sassymonkey Reads: My BEA Essentials: What to Pack (and I swear I did NOT read her post before I wrote mine–we just happen to think alike!)
Bandaids – Either you or someone you know will need a bandaid. I come armed with regular bandaids and blister bandaids. I have always needed one, if not both, of them. I have to use bandaids for sensitive skin because I have a sensitivity to some adhesives (fun!) so carrying my own is really a must for me. I also use one of those blister block sticks. They help. A lot.
An extra duffle bag – Look, whether you are picking up a books at BEA (I picked up more last year than I really intended to) or taking advantage of NYC shopping opportunities (so! many! shoes!), it’s better to not do what I had to do last year. I ended up buying another bag in NYC. I was surprised because I had left room in my luggage but it wasn’t enough. So I’ll do what I did on that trip to San Francisco several years ago grab an extra duffle bag, pack it in my suitcase and hope that I don’t have to use it. (I have had to use it every time I’ve packed it. And that’s ok.) I won’t get caught without enough room this time. (Note: I’m an international traveller so the whole ship your books/purchases back to yourself thing? Doesn’t really work so well for me.)
If you have a favorite piece of BEA-related advice–what to pack, what to wear, what to do when you’re there–please drop it in the comments!