My First BEA: The Experience

Wednesday, June 4, 2014
Hey everyone! I just got back from Book Expo America 2014 --- my first one ever! I hardly slept, ate, or sat down but I would do it all again in a heartbeat.

We had a nice view of the Hudson and were within walking distance of Javits.

I would love to post a haul because we all love books and book pictures and talking about the before-mentioned, but about 15 pounds of my books are still en route out here to Arizona. That said, this first post is devoted to BEA itself: the experience, the fun, the utter chaos, the Jason Segelness of it all. Look for my haul in a few days, I hope.

Unfortunately, the whole shebang over the two/three days (if you count BookCon) is both overwhelmingly awesome and so long, so much so that I really didn't take a lot of pictures at the Javits or the exhibits there. From the morning I got there with Bekka, Lyn, Kara (all of Great Imaginations) and Pixie (of The Bookaholic), it was a mad rush. And, with the free time we did have, the five of us either: went to a bookstore (THE STRAND!) or volunteered at a Kids Author Carnival. But more on that later.

 It's so beautiful. Also hi Kara!

 Books I bought while in New York for a book convention.

BEA itself is kind of hard to understand until you're there in person. That's lame to say and to hear as an outsider (I totally felt that way in 2013), but it's true. I read all about it each year (I blogged for three years before going) and I still had no idea what I was getting myself into. People get books, there are signings, and panels, and parties, sure. But that doesn't really show you how chaotic it gets and stays from 7am until 4pm. In no way is it meant to be exclusionary, but you cannot judge the convention until you've seen it firsthand. It was one of the best trips of my life, both for the signings and books but more for the people!, but it is one hell of a experience.

For example, those "free ARCS" at the event. There are "drops" of books in which 1) the publishers either literally drop a stack of books for people to pick up in a mad scrum or 2) create long lines and distribute a stack of books individually until the supply is gone.  Each scenario is insane and causes a giant cluster of people, gathering around and waiting for hotly anticipated novels. Which is fine, but it makes things hard to do anywhere around that area, for however long it takes. Add to that the fact that some drops are random, some are scheduled, some are "secret" and some you can only access if you have a special ticket.

There are also signings -- some of which anyone can line up for, others that are ticketed to only a few. And sometimes, even if you have waited in that line for an hour, you're not always guaranteed a book.  I waited in line for Heir of Fire for nearly 2 hours without a guarantee, just because I wanted it so bad. It was worth the risk -- and I did get a signed copy. But I also ditched Garth Nix's signing for Clariel so I could hit a drop for I'll Give You the Sun. Chances are, you will miss something you wanted over the course. That's okay. There is just so much going on. There's also a measure of freedom to collecting ARCs at BEA, but it's not exactly a free for all with decent people rushing about snatching books to and fro.

And then I made a Pocahontas joke on twitter to express my excitement.

Don't get me wrong about drops -- I loved the madness. It can be so much fun to plot your ARC-scheme and maneuver around to get the ones you are excited for before they're gone. Bekka, Pixie, and I were so successful on Day 1 that we took Day 2 really easy on ourselves (and you need rest, because you will walk/run A LOT and east VERY LITTLE) and skipped BookCon entirely (because holy too many people Batman). Kara and Lyn were BEA Masters on Day 2 and knew how to hit the drops AND the signing lines to get ALL the books they were interested in. The point is, it can be and WILL BE stressful but if you have a plan, the chaos is somewhat, if not manageable, at least navigable.

I shared face space with this man.

Outside of BEA, there's a lot to do, most of which is entirely fun and also extremely draining. Besides the publisher parties (I only went to one and it was so much fun but I was so very tired I can't have been very fun), there are book blogger breakfasts, brunches, picnics, drinks. The people aspect of BEA is honestly the most exciting and memorable. Long after I read Mortal Heart (aaaah!!), I will treasure my memories of rooming with those five weirdos, yelling "KIAAAAAAAAAARAN!" with Gilly (from Writer of Wrongs) across Burgers & Cupcakes at Meg (from Cuddlebuggery), or volunteering at the Kids Carnival to help Claire LeGrand and Heidi Schulz.

That's me all dressed up for a publisher party!

Part of the lunch crowd -- Gilly from Writer of Wrongs and the Reader of Fictions herself, Christina

Pixie dives into storytelling time with Debby from Snuggly Oranges

The dread creature DebMeGilly

View from Jefferson Market Library where the KAC was

(I have more pictures on my Instagram, if interested!)

So all that said, here is my advice about BEA.

If you want to go, save. Start now. I went as press so I didn't pay for my badge or attending, but staying in New York City itself, not to mention traveling there, is expensive. And everything adds up really, really quickly.

If you want to go, post consistently and passionately about books. It doesn't even have to just be about ARCs. Just review and love books.

If you want to make the most of your time, ask for drop schedules and make a signing list. You will stop adhering to said schedule at some point, but make it anyway.

If you want a book and can't find it, ask a publicist. Most of them are super nice and funny. The only one I had an issue with was managing Jason Segel's line and I wasn't mad at them.

If you want to meet someone, introduce yourself. Be it a blogger you admire, a publicist you've worked with over the internet, or an author whose book you loved, just say hi. I had zero bad experiences meeting people I had admired, be it Jamie from The Perpetual Page Turner to Ksenia at Manmillan.

If you are hungry, bring snacks. And water. You think you have half an hour to eat and then oh wait wasn't there a drop at Macmillan in 15 minutes? And didn't [This Friend] want to hit Lauren Beukes' signing line in 10?

If you don't walk a lot, start preparing now. And get comfy shoes. My shoes were terrifically ugly but I could walk at the end of the day. I can't say that about the girls in 6-inch heels.

If you're interested in a lot of books/totes, prioritize. Make alliances. Trade. There's a whole lovely system of handing things around, too. Bloggers (at least those I know) were always willing to trade/loan/give something to another if they missed it. I really wanted Rooms by Lauren Oliver but had another line so Lyn got me a copy. In return, I gladly let her get the Epic Reads tote I wasn't attached to. It's okay to help your friends.

If you are already planning to go, get ready to have a fucking blast.

That's all from me for now, but expect a haul in the near future!


  1. AWWWWW! I can't wait to do it again with you next year! But you are so right! You need alliances. BEA is like fucking Survivor for books. Last one standing gets them all. I mean this in a good way. I would do it every single year, multiple TIMES a year, if I could. The people are what make it super special though. I can't even imagine anything ever living up to this year's experience for me. You all make my heart so full. <3

  2. So happy you had a great time. This was my third BEA and I was not feeling great on Friday, but I still got to see a lot of friends and get some amazing books. Hope to meet you next year :)
    Jen @ YA Romantics

  3. The people are the best part of BEA <3

  4. I'm seriously enjoying all the BEA14 recaps posts today. Very good advice. I've taken note. Just in case. :D

  5. You are so right - you have to really GO to it to properly put your thoughts and ideas into words. I was lucky to have people who knew what the hell was happening, but it still didn't prepare me for the cray-cray that happened (good and scary kinds!) I also really liked going as a "free spirit", getting things for others and sharing books, because, like you said, it was more about the experience and the people than the books.

    When we no longer go to BEA, we're still going to HAVE to host some sort of meet-up!!!

  6. Thank you for a lovely post. Being so far away it brings it much closer reading all about it.

  7. I really liked reading your recap! It sounds like your first BEA experience was an excellent one, and I'm thrilled for you. It's definitely overwhelming BUT it's also one of the most fun things you will ever do in your life! Glad you could be there -- and hope you can come again next year!

  8. hah! What excellent advice. Trading and looking out for new buddies is totally what it is all about. Heck two books I wouldn't have been able to get if a friend hadn't hooked me up while I was stuck in line and vice versa. Unit and conquer I say. =)


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