Part of me wants to dedicate this post to Jenny Han, because her launch party for PS I Love You the night before BEA really kicked off the whole experience in a good place.
Over the years, I’ve watched the BEA phenomenon from all facets of the industry — from publishers on twitter, bloggers chatting online, to grad school friends coming back from NYC with dents in their shoulders. BEA was the Con of Cons for book nerds, and I’ve heard all sorts of stories, good and bad, that prepped me for my first trip last week.
To see how my experience went, feel free to browse #LCsurvivesNYC
Lines. Galleys everywhere. Crowded. Crazy awesome. Crazy overwhelming. Impossible to find food and water. Grabby hands. Biting mouths. Pushing. You’re-screwed-without-a-plan mentality. Sore feet. Aching back. Confusing layout. Amazing authors. Highly anticipated books. Big announcements. Night parties. Lots of time with others. What happens at BEA stays at BEA.
In short, it sounded intense and wild, almost like sensory overload for this introvert. It’s not hard to be excited about books, especially when everyone else surrounding you is just as thrilled, but I wasn’t sure if I could handle that kind of rush for three days in a row in a city that’s never appealed to me in the first place.
So what did I do?
I made a plan!
- First thing’s first: food. I cannot travel anywhere without having a billion snacks on hand. I brought four quart-sized bags (one for each day + emergency pack) of goodies that included to-go applesauce, to-go peanut butter cups, chewy bars, and gummy bears.
- Feet. I work in retail part time, so my feet know what it’s like to work nearly 40 hours a week constantly moving and standing. This wasn’t a huge concern for me, but I did want to wear something that could withstand BEA as well as the NYC sidewalks and subway.
- Galleys. To prevent a billion galleys shoved my way that wouldn’t be read, I created a spreadsheet of books to look for (based on pub dates, information from imprints about author signings, BEA announcements about galley drops, etc). The sheet was then color-coded by level of importance (MUST HAVE to GRAB IF SEEN to MEH YOU CAN PASS) and arranged by booth number, with notes about signings and drop dates. Pretty soon I had it nearly memorized. Clearly five of those books were super important to me if I was able to memorize them.
- Learning the subway. Unlike many of the people I knew who were going, I was going to travel back and forth from the hotel to Javits to publishers’ offices and back again each day. My time was going to be spent under Manhattan, really. So I downloaded the NYC metro app and Google Maps (both free!) to navigate the city.
Intense lines only on Day 3. Galleys everywhere on the hour, and gone quickly. Crowded on Day 3 but Days 1 and 2 were spacious enough. Crazy awesome. Crazy overwhelming. Easy to find food and water. Polite conversations. Go-with-the-flow mentality. Sore legs. Easy layout. Amazing authors. Highly anticipated books and unique surprises. Little time with others. Night parties. Sharing BEA with others.
It was everything and nothing like I expected. I went to BEA as a literary agent, spending about half of my time outside of Javits in meetings with editors and my agency. But the second I was in Javits, though my nametag said Literary Agent, I felt like I donned my blogger hat (for the galleys and hugs) or bookseller hat (browsing the catalogues and future publications).
Toss the plan!
- Be kind. I didn’t witness shoving and biting, though I did see a very young blogger cry over not getting a book (again, Day 3. Day 3 was more along the lines of what I expected all of BEA to be).
- Network! I mingled with educators, librarians, publicists, editors on the floor and at their offices, and ran into and hugged many bloggers (Jamie, Jess, Lauren, Sarah, Ellie, Brittany, and Alexa in particular) and met new-to-me ones as well (Alyssa, Gillian, Michelle, Andi, Allison, Mandy, and Nikki).
- Not everyone experiences BEA the same way, so it’s good to share galleys. Ashley, Lindsey, and I searched for books for bloggers who couldn’t grab a drop (Kelly) or couldn’t be at BEA (Morgan).
- The food is easy to find. There’s nothing I can say about the food — in terms of quality or expense — but I can say that it’s everywhere and very tempting.
- Keep calm. The people who came in with plans for the books to grab seemed more flustered than those of us making networking connections or waiting for our top five to arrive to the floor. Yes, it’s important to know who is signing what where, and when what is dropping where. But what’s more important? Also, have you breathed yet?
- And as for all those other galleys people were passing out — if I didn’t want it, I didn’t grab it. It’s perfectly fine to do that. Someone else is on the hunt for that copy you don’t plan to read, so leave it for them.
BEA is not a competition over how many books you can grab. It’s a place to reunite with or make new friends, hold business meetings over the future of the industry, discuss the art of writing, and make connections with marketing and publicity. It’s a professional setting, and I’m happy to report that my experience in and out of Javits maintained that atmosphere (that is, until Day 3). Maybe it was the people I experienced it with or maybe it’s because I expected something horrifying. Either way, Year One of BEA was a success.
(And I didn’t get lost on the subway! #LCsurvivedNYC)
BEA will be in Chicago for 2016, which is just a couple hours away. It would be crazy to not attend next year. My primary purpose to attend BEA is to get in touch with folks in NYC — otherwise, I’ve a feeling I would not be a regular attendee. Being an agent requires keeping up with the business and the business is in New York year-round, not just BEA May. The galleys are great and the people are great, but this little introvert who loves grass and trees and open skies would much prefer to meet others (the bloggers and readers) in a smaller, more intimate gathering than a convention. I do not regret it one bit, but despite planning and tossing said planning, it was still an awesome (the true meaning of the word!) experience.
And now, for the part you’re most curious about…
Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy || My Secret to Tell by Natalie Richards
Curiosity House by Oliver & Chester || Tonight the Streets Are Ours by Leila Sales
The Doldrums by Nicholas Gannon || Hanging Mary by Susan Higginbotham
The Blackthorn Key by Kevin Sands || Girl Waits With Gun by Amy Stewart
Have you been to BEA before? What was your experience like? Are you planning to go to BEA in the future? Have you received any of these ARCs/know anything about them? Have you met other bloggers? Share your thoughts!