What I Learned At BEA (Book Expo America)
It can not be too early to start talking about BEA.. certainly we are about 8 weeks out (or is it 7) and I am already counting down the days! 😀
Last year I did something that was new to me and I can not wait to share it with you! I too a flight from Minnesota to New York to attend BEA. Now if you are anything like me, a little introverted… but really want to experience BEA – I want to share with you how I did it, and what I learned so if you are planning to attend this year (and SSSQQQQUUUEEEEEEE for you if you are!) I am hopeful that my experience can help you plan for an exciting trip.
First off let me just say if you are at all considering doing BEA but not sure…. and what if… and….. STOP IT. Stop it now and go – RUN I TELL YOU, and get signed up. Seriously…. BEA is about one of the best things I ever did for myself and I will rave about it forever. 😀
So here is how it went down for me last year.
So… I was fairly new to blogging…. heard the low rumbles about something called BEA and as I watched on Twitter I learned that BEA stood for Book Expo America and it was a big huge book event in New York that many book bloggers were planning to attend. Honestly, I had never heard of such a thing before. An event that was all books…. major books…. oh and those people I have come to chat with frequently on-line… yeah, they would be there. I could actually meet them in person.
SO right there I am interested… but nervously so…. I have flown many places before with my family…. but never alone. This was so unlike me to decide to jump on a plane and go to New York – a place I had never been… never thought about going to…. and seriously here came the questions…
Who would I know?
Where would I stay?
How would I get places?
How expensive would this be?
Was I crazy? 😯
But I really really wanted to go…. so…. first off I connected with someone I felt safe with. I had never met Reagan from Miss Remmer’s reviews but we had chatted through comments on our blogs and on Twitter. I knew she was from Minnesota (SAFE!) and was a teacher (SAFE!). Through emails we both decided we were going to do this and do it together.
As we looked at prices we discovered that New York hotels were not cheep…. so we decided to look for roommates. But who? We went on Twitter…. we posted on our blogs…. and people responded…. within a few weeks we had roommates and they had all sent me their share of the hotel room which I had secured.
Care from Care’s Online Book Club
Kim from Sophisticated Dorkiness
Esme from Chocolates and Croissants
All women who I had never met…. but we emailed each other… I peaked at their blog posts…. found them to be just like me… and we had a plan.
So – here is my advice:
Read up on anything you can on BEA – I read the BEA website forwards and backwards…. a group of wonderful bloggers all got together and did a post a day about BEA and their experiences and advice and I literally took notes…
the best advice I picked up from them and used was:
1. Bring a large book bag to put your books in (seriously I can not emphasize this enough). You will get book bags there, but if you have a large comfy bag that you can toss in a little coin purse, a bottle of water or two and fruit or a granola bar you are set! Do not plan on carrying a desperate purse – many areas of the Javits are crowded and extra baggage will be something you will regret.
2. Dress comfy but nice…. you will be meeting authors and publishers and you are representing your blog. It’s a hobby, but at BEA it is also like your business….Oh and wear comfy shoes – you will walk A LOT.
3. There is food in the Javits Center but it is pricey… I ate the continental breakfast at our hotel and grabbed an extra piece of fruit/yogurt when I left… have a few snacky items to tie you over.
4. Friends told my New York was super expensive to eat there and I was worried but honestly, I found it not to be bad… very similar to Minnesota. Yes, I am sure you can find expensive places but even when we ate out at a couple nice places it was about 14 – $20 for a dinner, and on the low-end – we ate at an awesome Thai restaurant (what was it called Esme – Yum Yum?) it was about $12 and three courses that was DELICIOUS! I can not wait to eat there again.
5. Our hotel was a few blocks off from Times Square (SSSSSQQQUUUEEEE!!!!) and about 6 blocks from the Javits Center. We walked everywhere and only used a cab a couple of times when it was dark to get back to our hotel. we booked our hotel this year in the same area.
6. ***DO NOT book a lot of things before you arrive. Yes it is New York… yes there is much to see and do…. but this advice was priceless. People asked me to book shows and events with them prior to BEA and I said no…. I am so glad I did. Every night we were invited to have dinner with authors, with fellow bloggers, one night there was a book blogger party… all of this I would have missed had I filled my evenings with shows. Instead, when I booked my stay, I booked it one day longer than BEA so that last day I could explore New York and do a show…. Esme from Chocolates and Croissants did this with me… we seen The King Tut Exhibit and went to Mama Mia…. it was awesome.😀
5. Plan your book mailings wisely. Even though I had heard that at BEA you would be given books… I really had no idea. None. As soon as the doors opened that first day I was pushed with the crowd into the main area and into a table where a book was thrust into my hands. Seriously. I will never forget it… that book was I Am Number Four and I had never heard of it.
When my book bag became full I found Fed Ex on the main floor, boxed up the books and waited in line to mail the box to myself at home. That first standard size box cost me around $30. Later that day I discovered UPS downstairs which was a better set up. There they had long tables and you could grab a box and write your name all over it and leave it down there. Then you could make frequent trips to your box and fill it as the day went on. When that box was full I taped it up and waited in line to mail it to me… around $40. A bigger box, not bad but still… I could spend a lot at this rate.
Then I discovered the post office was about 8 blocks from the Javits Center. Now this is a commitment as I hauled three book bags to the post office – however when I boxed up that large box (and I put everything in it, books, t-shirts, pins, pens, swag of all kinds) it was $18 to send the box to me media mail. BINGO. This is the way to go. :D I also noticed some wise people brought to the center pull behind suitcases that they filled and then wheeled to their hotels or post office… not a bad idea either.
7. Absolutely invest in business cards. I bought a box of 500 through Vista Print last year… I probably still have about 200 left but I gave out a lot of them to fellow bloggers, publishers, etc… I paid around $19 for the cards and was very happy with them.
8. My final advice… you can sleep when you get home. 😛 Keep your ears open, be friendly, meet people and go to where the action is. I was tired…. but every night I had plans and that is part of the experience.
I found book bloggers to be exactly who I felt they were by reading their blogs. I did not meet one person who did not seem genuine. We all chatted like we were old friends and I loved how we could recognize each other by our blogs…. I can not even put into words what an amazing experience this was. I knew right away I wanted to go again this year and any other year if possible…
I am attending again with Reagan (Miss Remmer’s Reviews). The only thing we are planning differently is that this year we are just doing us two in the room. Our hotel room was extremely small last year (I never seen anything like that)… New York values space and every building is TALL – not wide. Same goes for the rooms. Our beds last year to my surprise, were full size…close quarters for a room full of girls I had never met before. :) And the shower/bathroom time was interesting to get us all in and out. It was good none of us spent a lot of time in the room. This year it costs us more, but worth the space.
If you are planning to go – please let me know, I would love to meet you in person! I will be taking my laptop and I will be on Twitter throughout the event (#bookjourney).