If you’re a UK Book Blogger attending the Book Expo is on your bucket list of bookish events then below are a few tips I’ve collected over the 2 years that I’ve attended.
As we all events allow for things to change, new features and rules to come in and obviously this being venue depended. However I hope some of this will be useful.
Read Part 1: Prior to your Book Expo experience by clicking on this link HERE
Part 2: Attending Book Expo
Attending Book Expo is not like YALC, Bath Lit or YAShot or anything else. It’s massive and overwhelming and I am not exaggerating when I say exhausting.
In Part 1 I talked about the thing you can do to prep for the event but now you’re here. The doors (there are many doors) are open and you’ve entered the floor.
So here are my tips for making it as a UK Book Blogger at Book Expo.
Breath. Seriously, it sounds stupid but the Jarvits Centre (where the Book Expo was both times I went) is 700,000 square feet on the main floor. Not accounting for the event halls. You will walk a lot. There are people everywhere, running, pushing and there is no such things as polite giving way. Everyone is on a mission and if you don’t know where you’re going the whole thing can be rather intimidating.
So familiarise yourself. The floor map gives you the booth numbers of publishers but they don’t actually have the numbers on their Booth, so it’s a game of identifying the large publishers by their signs (Macmillian, Disney, Penguin Random House, etc) and using them as signposts to find the smaller Booths near them. The first morning is a bit hit or miss but after a few hours you begin to get the hang of it.
Use the Daily Magazine the Book Expo helpers hand out each morning. Publishers advertise in-Booth signings as well as Galley Drops and giveaways. You can add any you find interesting to the spreadsheet you’ve prepared. Don’t try and manage them separately, it’ll get confusing.
Also grab the Daily Sheets directly from the Publisher Booths, it’s the same information as the magazine but not all the publishers use the magazine. Plus they might add extra info which wasn’t available at the time of the magazine print.
There is an App. I believe it’s useful but as an international traveller having internet on your phone is awkward. The Jarvits did have Wifi but it was so overrun I only managed to connect to it once. So for me it was the Daily Magazine/Info sheets and what I’d looked up prior to arrival.
Say yes. The homework I did meant that about 80% of what I collected at Book Expo was stuff I already knew about. However you’re running around (yes there is actually running at times) that it stopping to read blurbs is a luxury you don’t feel you have. So if a publisher holds out a proof copy to you, I tended to accept it as long as it fell into a YA or MG category. You can review you books when you get to your accommodation that night and if you if it’s not a match return the book the following day. This also means that sometimes you end up with unexpected gems. Which is always a plus.
Don’t drown under the weight. Drop your books. There is a bag check. I left my carry-on suitcase there for $3 for the whole day and you can return anytime to deposit books in your bag. It’s a huge help.
Prioritise your wants. No matter how much prep you do. How organised you are. Or how fast you walk or even run. It is not possible to do all the things you want. You will miss out on books and signings. There are queues you’ll end up standing in for ages or Galley Drops that are delayed because somebody forgets the key to cupboard (this happened twice). You also have to eat, drink and at some point find a bathroom. Plus get rid of the books you’re already carrying. Pick 4-5 things that are your absolute must (not all in the same 2 hours of course) and focus on those. Everything else is extra.
Learn how to navigate people. Book Expo is an obstacle course. The obstacles move, have elbows and bags and to them you are invisible. Highly anticipated galley drops in particular can be ‘entertaining’ (let’s use that word) as a mass of people will push towards one publishing representative holding the galleys with no notice of what else might be in their path. Socially the navigation can be interesting as well, the question of “how are you” should only ever be answered with words like: good and great. Even the answer of ‘tired but good’ (which I thought was quite reasonable after 6 hours of rushing around the expo floor) was not the right choice.
The pitfalls of getting signed books. The guidelines for signing tables are that you show up about 15minutes prior. However this rarely happens. Popular authors have queues that can begin up to an hour before. If the author isn’t ticketed (more on that in a moment) and you really want a book / to meet an author then being there early enough is key. If you’re too early you get turned away. Unofficially pre-queues can start. Sometimes you’ll find spill-over queues in a holding pen. Depending on how many books are available you can be cut if the publisher didn’t anticipate demand. Some authors will only sign, others do the chat and photo thing. So you can be in a queue and not move or in others it’s super quick. Also be aware that sometimes the signings are only for samplers, but you only find out once you’ve lined up for the signing.
Ticketed signings are for about a quarter of the others on each day (my guestimate). The tickets are free but you have to show up early to get one. They are handed out at 8am. However for a chance to get the author you really want you probably need to be there at 7am and wait. That still doesn’t guarantee anything, as I waited for 40minutes only to be told the tickets had been gone for 10minutes already but they hadn’t bothered announcing those authors.
Sidenote: If you are attending an Author Breakfast you can’t queue for ticketed signing as the breakfasts begin at 8am and you need to be in if you want a seat. The breakfasts start queuing about 30mins prior.
You can leave. At some point you reach a stage where your body and mind agree and say: “screw it” and you want to go. It doesn’t matter that you’ve still got 2 hours left, more signings or drops. You’re done. LISTEN!!! I didn’t in 2014 – I did this year. All the book love is not worth the pain you’ll be in the following day. And if you still have 2 whole more days to go then you really don’t want that. When you’ve reached the end of your energy levels and/or patience. Go. The next day will be better for it.
In the evening, after you’ve rested for a bit, review your books/day. Root out any books you’re not sure about (they can be returned). Have a look at what the next day brings. Go to bed early.
Part 3: bookcon
Unlike Book Expo, the bookcon is a public event. No application forms. It is open to all. Publishers also sell discounted books, there are talks and giveaways + plus some cosplay. I saw an epic Belle outfit this year.
In that sense it’s much more in line with YALC.
Yet that’s about where the comparison ends because it’s also ridiculously bigger. There are so many people squeezed into a floor space half the size of Book Expo (they put up a barrier wall) and if you think that dodging people at Book Expo is difficult it’s a walk in the park compared to bookcon. At times you are actually jumping over people sitting in signing queues.
Everyone there is excited, which is lovely and it’s great to stand in a singing queue and listen to someone swoon about meeting an author they have had on their bucket list for ages.
The size is overwhelming. It’s a wall of noise and if there is organisation in the chaos I could not see it. There are queues of people for giveaways or signings lined up out of every booth that it’s impossible to navigate the floor without tripping over or bumping into people.
All signing were ticketed. Each person was only allowed two signings per bookcon badge, which had to be ordered online. Publishers got round this by having in-Booth signing for the same authors. What that meant is that you had in-Booth signing queues that formed over an hour before, stretching over 100 people long (I’m not kidding).
Most signings required you to make a purchase of the book. This didn’t apply to me but even people who had bought their own much loved copies still had to buy a new copy of the same book, on top of the bookcon ticket – I personally thought that sucked.
I went on the first day because of someone special but I was glad I skipped the next day.
Is it worth it?
Yes. If you have the chance to do Book Expo I think as a ‘once’ it’s definitely an experience. I know I went twice but there are some reasons attached to that. I have no desire to repeat Book Expo again. (If I get offered free tickets and travel I’ll rethink that 😉 )
There is a lot of homework before you go and be under no illusion that this is a holiday but you do come away from a huge convention area filled to the brink with books. Plus a good many of those books come home with you. And you get to meet authors you’ll probably never will in the UK.
I would take a few extra days after to enjoy yourself and/or recover though.
If you have any question re Book Expo or bookcon, leave them in the comments and I’ll try my best to answer. 🙂