I think the first thing that needs to be thrown out there is that being a Native New Yorker who won’t be returning to a hotel room nearby means my experience and enjoyment of BEA is quite different than most folks. I’m also a loner blogger. I follow other blogs, but it is not how I have made friends with people. I have both real life and internet friends in the publishing industry, but they are not through the book blogging community that seems to be a major major factor into how a lot of hanging out happens at Book Expo America.
I’m first and foremost a pop-culture enthusiast and journalist. While I love books of all kinds and have been reading since I was merely three years old, before I could even speak, my interests lie in the less traditional aspects of what a bookophile would. I’m going to make a B-Line for a major personalities’ autobiography than the latest book in #1 bestseller’s list author… unless in the case of someone like Mick Foley who has been both.
The first major tip I can tell anyone planning to attend ANY event at the Jacob Javits is sensible, strong shoes, with a good heel and actual ankle support. I’m talking even for women. Yes, I know it’s a networking event and you want to look your best and most attractive. Trust me, the kind of people who would look down on you for wearing sneakers or dress shoes are not the type of people worth conducting business with. I’ve made the mistake of wearing simple VANS to Javits, what a serious hardcore mistake. VANS may work for long walks on the flat sidewalks of New York or a plain, but Javits Center has basically an unfinished floor. No amount of carpeting changes that under that carpeting is a rocky gravel of concrete. I now have special work shoes with pivots for walking on unwieldy and “dangerous” terrain. Jacob Javits is just that. Sneakers or dress shoes… no heels, high heels, loafers, skate shoes, sandals, whatever.
On top of the shoes, dress sensibly. You want to look presentable, but you don’t want to be too cold or too hot. As a pop-culture journalist I feel I get away with nice pants and a sports jacket and still wearing some funky out there t-shirt that shows personality. I’d say most authors could get away with that. Even females… dress YOU. There’s going to be plenty of retail folks and executives and whathow in their tailored suits and and looking stuffy and uncomfortable. They have no choice. Maybe you’re one of those people too and if you are, I’m sorry, but if you’re not. Be you… I mean don’t dress up in one of Liberace’s old numbers (unless of course your book is about Liberace, then by all means), but be YOU. Three days of books for me means three days of wearing a T-shirt that will catch attention long enough to spur conversation about anything.
Try to plan, plan, plan. Make use of the Book Expo America website, do google searches. One could easily just walk into the show blind and take it from there and probably be amazed. I’ve never been able to operate this way and never will be. I’m an itinerary guy. I make note of some of the major folks who will be there, be they writers, celebrities, etc. I try and know when and where they’ll be scheduled to hopefully procure something of my interest. Be it a pamphlet, ARC, actual book or just face-time and a photograph.
Things to take note of:
The Major publishers (Penguin, Hatchette, Harper, etc.) as they usually are all bunched together in the 2500-3000 aisles. Don’t focus all your energy there, but the chances at most of what many bookies want can be found there.
Don’t spend all your time and energy there though. Smaller publishers can shock you and are many times the ones with that one book that makes you go “I am so glad I walked by that booth, I wouldn’t even known!” There are some great independent publishers and if you focus ALL your energy on the autographing sessions and big publishers you WILL miss out.
Cases in point include my meeting Melvin Van Peebles in 2009 and receiving a copy of Boardwalk Empire in 2010. These both happened at booths that were just over there, where the other booths weren’t. You’ll see plenty booths where it’s like nothing you care about, but keep your eyes open, somewhere in that crowd of “eh” is that gem!
Here’s a major tip. Don’t take everything you can get!
For those of you who don’t live in NYC you have to either mail it to yourself using one of the many methods at the Javits or bringing everything to the post office. Those of you do live here, you still need to carry all that stuff around all day and then to your home. Be it you drive in or take a subway. This year I’ve considering taking the suggestion I’ve seen elsewhere of spending the money on coat check to have a large pull away luggage piece which I periodically run to in between sessions or just to make getting home easier at the end of the day set up. Carrying totes all day around the con is fine, but at the end of the day when you’re exhausted and might actually be heading to other events, a luggage bag with wheel is much easier to pull around the city then a totes and a book bag.
Even with that, if you take every book, poster, bookmark, business card, pin, frilly you can off the floor or get handed then you have to go through all that stuff when you get home. 25% of it will be actual garbage. Do you want to carry garbage around?
Now if you care about the real Reid Harris Cooper method, well, part one would be being me. Part two would to be aware of some of the major celebrities scheduled to be at the expo.
Here’s some of the more exciting ones:
Kevin Sorbo, of Hercules and Andromeda fame and the upcoming POOLBOY, AVARICE and SAM STEELE AND THE CRYSTAL CHALICE will be autographing in promotion of his upcoming memoir TRUE STRENGTH detailing his life and career and his battling through strokes to still become the living legend he is.
Duff McKagan, guitarist for Guns N’ Roses, Velvet Revolver and Loaded, will be autographing in promotion of his book (which he states is not a memoir or an autobio, but is about his life), IT’S SO EASY AND OTHER LIES
Joey Pantoliano, legendary actor of stage, film and television/activist will be autographing to promote his book ASYLUM, detailing his life, battle with alcohol and discovery of mental illness
Dr. Temple Grandin, author and expert on autism, as well as a doctor of animal science, will be signing the revised edition of her collection of essays, The Way I See It
That is just a small smattering of some of the celebrities. There are others and major authors will be there as well.
Not limited to this year, folks such as Eoin Colfer, Gena Showalter, Daniel Handler AKA Lemony Snicket, James Patterson, Brenda Novak, John Scalzi, Roz Chast, and many many more will all be on hand. You just need to keep abreast of the autographing section and in booth autographing.
The biggest tip I can ever offer is to not get overwhelmed and to have fun. Events like Book Expo America are full of excitement. Free stuff, lines, issues, problems and just lot and lots of information. The first time or the fifth time can be a lot to handle. You will walk away feeling like you missed something and you probably did, but what’s more important is what you didn’t miss. You need to just let yourself have an experience. If you do it the way I do it and that works for you and you have an amazing time, great. Hopefully it’ll work for me. If it doesn’t work for you, I will not take blame, you did something wrong! If you go your route, hopefully that’ll work for you too.
Before I close out I really can’t tell you where to eat or what parties to go to after. Those take research as well, or keeping your ear to the grind during the con. In terms of the food aspect that really goes to what you like, how far you want to travel, etc.
One thing I can definitely suggest is to buy yourself a weekly Metrocard. Why rely on the free hotel shuttle? Also that free hotel shuttle can’t get you downtown. Sure the floors open at 9 and for those who want to go to Author Breakfasts I don’t recommend a late night. Someone like me who lives in NYC but far from Javits can’t actually do those Breakfasts. It’s impossible to get to Javits by 8:30 AM. I could get downtown quicker than I could Javits.
Besides the point, go eat Thai. Find a Thai place. Use those three days in the middle of the week like a vacation. Have Thai, Indian, Steakhouse… enjoy yourself. I know I will and that’s the most important thing I can offer you.
ADDENDUM: Two SUPER celebrities have been added to the adventure, JOHN LITHGOW and JANE LYNCH, who have both decided it was time to get their long and storied lives up to this point into a succinct print.