Wednesday, 14 May 2014

The Lazy Person's Guide to BEA

I didn't intend to write a guide for BEA. Because
1.) It's rather exclusive to the majority of people who aren't going to BEA.
2.) I've only been...once. Though I have now conquered Javitz 3 times and conferences 4.
3.) There are like a bajillion.

BUT I still read the guides and I wasn't seeing a lot of things that worked really well for me so...that's what I'm gonna work on today.

I'm a highly anxious person. I stress about everything for ages in advance. I'll spend WEEKS trying to plan the books I'll bring for short trips. I've built schedules and wish lists for BEAs I didn't even go to. I currently have 5 spreadsheets for this year's BEA to cover the books I need to read first, the books I want to get there, and the signings, panels, and giveaways I know of so far on each individual day. I make these grand game plans to get everything done, but when it comes to actually doing things? I pack in an hour before running out the door and usually more than I can justify. I probably only did half of the things I intended to last year. I even, as many who went last year may recall, slept through a breakfast I was invited to. Slept. Through.

I DID learn some valuable lessons from all this though, that I'll happily pass on to you.

1.) Why on earth are you showing up so early? I hear all these people talking about waiting in lines and the huge crowds, especially the first day with badge pick up. They wake up at 6 am to get there by 7 am and camp out for two hours. WHY ON EARTH WOULD YOU DO THAT?

I'm not a morning person by ANY means and I love my sleeps, even if I stay up way too late. Last year, I slept through the breakfast because I'd been out until around 11 with Teen Author Carnival, then stayed up until like 2 or 3 because I had just finished moving earlier that afternoon. This left me arriving at Javitz around 9:30, about half an hour after the doors opened.

And you know what? There was like five people in front of me in line to grab badges. I went through the line and checked my bag within ten or fifteen minutes, had a friend who stayed with me the whole time, then we were off. For the following two days, I just showed up at 9 and I didn't really miss out on anything. So unless you REALLY need to be there at 9 for a panel, signing or drop, skip the line. Get some sleep. Show up at 9.

2.) Get your badge early. This isn't something I did last year, but I will be doing this year. I mentioned there were still a few people in front of me on line last year half an hour after the conference began because we all had to pick up our badges. But you wanna know a secret? You can get your badge on Wednesday. And I fully intend to do that, if partially because I may swing by Book Blogger Con. I'll have my badge and be ready to go when I show up on Thursday. It's not like I've got anything else major planned early Wednesday.

3.) Get your fuel first. I picked this habit up at probably my first NYCC. There's not a lot of reasonably priced food options at or near Javitz and frankly, sometimes you don't want to carve out time to eat and hydrate. But, back in more civilized areas near the subway stations, there are Duane Reades and Dunkin Donutses and Starbuckses galore! I usually make my way into a Dunkin Donuts on my walk to Javitz and buy a bagel or two, maybe a donut, and a couple of water bottles. It comes out to maybe $10 to keep myself fed and hydrated. I keep a bagel on me and rip off parts when I start getting hungry or I'm waiting in a signing line, have the donut to eat on the walk there if I didn't get breakfast before hand, and the water bottles are a MUST. No leaving the floor to eat, no super overpriced foods, super convenient. You can obviously mix it up, but this is my pretty successful combo.

4.) Do as much meeting/greeting on the floor as you can. Last year I wasn't invited to any of the evening events and I haven't been so far this year either. And it's kinda sad, but it's also kind of a relief. BEA is EXHAUSTING. Especially when you do it like I do and don't have any real meals during the day. So I was more than happy to see everyone I could while I was running on adrenaline on the floor, but then I wanted nothing more then to go home. Usually I'd end up stopping and resting or at least picking up food at a place near the subways. There's a few fast food places and restaurants when you get closer to them. And then I didn't have to worry about bringing my suitcase back to my apartment (which is probably more of a trek then most of you will be making) then making myself presentable again and going back out. Super low stress that way.

Introduce yourself to that person who might be the same person you've seen as a tiny square. Talk with your line mates. Look for name tags. Don't be weird, but get in all the face time you can as you venture.

This year, I encourage everyone to come to Teen Author Carnival, as I'll be working the event and it's smaller, so I'll be easy to find. I'm also going to try to make the Blogger Picnic or the Blogger Bar meet up this year...maybe.

5.) Bring a suitcase. Everyone says this, but seriously. You may declare you're only going to grab X number of books, but have you thought about how heavy books are? And how long you'll be walking around with them? And getting to your hotel/apartment/next event? Is the $3 a day really THAT much of a sacrifice? No. No it's not. And there's like a 80% chance you'll be getting more books than you anticipate.

6.) Your essentials. This is what I always bring to a conference
  • ONE tote bag. This is the master tote bag. Not overly large, but enough to hold a couple books should it take me some time to find another one. This bag always stays with me and almost never holds books.
  • Wallet/clip. At the very least, have a place to hold a MetroCard, a debit/credit card, some cash, and your ID. Wallets can get bulky, so some little holder or bag would be great.
  • Pens. Sharpies and pens. You never know when you'll see an author on the floor or need to write something on the back of your...
  • Business cards. Or something you can write your information down and hand to someone. My business cards are HORRIBLY out of date at this point and not well made, but I have like 500 of them anyway and I can write any updated information on the back.
  • Phone and charger. You won't have a ton of time to sit and charge your phone, but you MIGHT. And your battery will go fast as you take pictures and use the BEA app and check our notes on your phone and try to find people with twitter/texting/DMing/snapchatting. Give yourself the option, but maybe keep the charger in your suitcase.
  • A sweater. Last year was disgusting, so this wasn't really an issue, but bring a sweater, put it in your suit case. Javitz is really well air conditioned. REALLY WELL AIR CONDITIONED.
  • Glasses. Just because you never know.
  • A notebook/note pad. Again, you never know. I also have a lot of my BEA schedule written down in my usual notebook. And if it gets too heavy, I can always toss it in the suit case. 
  • Refreshments. Because we've talked about this. And again, you can keep extras in your suit case and refill as needed.
  • Headphones. You might just need some time in your head every once and a while and this is your best shot in NYC.
  • Chapstick. You'll need it.
I usually keep all of this in my medium-sized tote bag so I don't have to worry about accidentally putting things into my suit case and mixing things up or not being able to find anything. It's a little extra weight, but not substantial enough to make a big difference with everything else. And if you're other tote bag(s) are somehow full and you can't get to your suit case for a drop, then you have some extra room to work with. BONUS: If you have an ARC and missed a signing but think the author is still roaming, you can put the book in this bag for easy access if you find them!

7.) Download the BEA app. It's one of the worst apps in existence, but it still has all of the information you could need within it. and you can keep track of your schedule and have it send your reminders so you don't have to worry about it.

8.) Plan. Bring back ups of your plan. Ignore the plan. Last year, I planned obsessively, had paper copies and the information on my phone. This year I have spreadsheets I'll probably print and my notebook and the app. I will actually follow through with about 50-75% of what's in the plan. I even marked in my spreadsheet a bunch of things that are optional or I can get in other means that work better for me. I picked up books I'd never heard of and went to signings I didn't know of and met people last year. Hell, I ended up meeting Veronica Roth because I was with someone going to the signing and didn't have a ticket, but they had extras there. I went to a romance novel signing with Eloisa James and Sarah MacLean and others that I happened upon and had the time for. But I also liked that I knew what my options where for 95% of the show and where they would be.

9.) COMFORT. I tried wearing a dress, leggings and flats on the first day and it was the worst idea. The. Worst. This year, it'll be all about the jeans and sneakers, unless I can find cute and comfy shoes that work with my dresses (sans leggings) or padding to put in my flats. Seriously. Do it. I promise this is a good life choice. Be lazy, don't try to be cute (but don't be a slob either).

10.) Don't ignore panels. Be aware of the panels going on you may be interested in. Not only can you learn a lot, you might see your favorite authors around. And bonus? YOU GET TO SIT. IN A CHAIR. It's a wonderful excuse to rest your feet!

And the buzz panels? After the YA panel last year, they had ARCs of all the books mentioned in the panel. FANGIRL was one of the first ARCs I actually got at BEA because it was at the table when I left the panel. Don't blow off these chances when it could be a slightly less stressful way to both rest and get a book you want.

11.) Embrace twitter culture. Last year, I had a name tag from TAC that also had my twitter handle on it and I wore it all three days of BEA. And people recognized me. People I didn't think would know who I was did because they knew my twitter handle. Not my face. Because that face? Is a tiny square. We can't generally look at tiny ass squares and then a person and say "Ahh! Yes! YOU!" But a twitter handle? 500% more likely you'll get recognized by your twitter friends. So, write your handle on your badge or have an extra thing with your handle visible.

But the most important tip? Have fun. If you're not enjoying your BEA experience, any part of it, then try to change things up! I mentioned having all my anxiety and being an obsessive planner. I do that because having plans makes me comfortable. It's a stress relief tactic and because of timing, it also helps me procrastinate on finals. So really, not having fun means you're probably doing it wrong. You need to step back, take a breather, and reevaluate.

Anyway, these are all versions of my face/hair combo, so if you see me on the floor, feel free to say hi! It may look like I'm going to run over something if you try, but seriously, do. Just know that you may be dragged with me if I actually am going somewhere.


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