BEA 2013 visitors

Book Expo America is a huge trade show with lots to see and do. Before you go, you need to make a plan and have a strategy.

BEA is the annual publishing industry trade show, usually held in New York, NY, but will reportedly move to Chicago for 2016. (Ed. Note: When I wrote the first draft of this post, BEA Chicago was slated for 2015, so details can change.)

Publishers and organizations set up booths – some carpeted, roomy and posh – at which they show off the books and authors coming up on their list. When BEA is in New York City, it fills Level Two of New York’s Jacob Javits Center.

I attended BEA 2013 as a Power Reader, a member of the general public. This year, for 2014, that Saturday for consumers is now called BookCon.

For many years, BEA felt off-limits for so-called “aspiring authors,” usually also “readers.” However, I was eager to see what the big show was like, and when I was offered a discount on a Power Reader Saturday ticket in 2013, I took the opportunity.

I can’t say I was physically prepared. However, I don’t want that to happen to you. Here are some survival tips for Power Readers or whatever they’re calling the voracious readers allowed onto the trade show floor on Saturday of the year you’re reading this:

Chris Matthews at BEA2013

In 2013, journalist Chris Mathews signed copies of JACK KENNEDY: ELUSIVE HERO/ Photo by Rhonda Lane

Study before you go

Look over the BEA website schedule and the floor plan before you go to determine which booths and events to visit.

You could browse up one aisle and down another, but that would be overwhelming as well as exhausting. I wrote down the numbers of booths I wanted to be sure to see and prioritized them. Even with that plan, I still saw much of the trade show floor.

Also, my Power Reader Day offered mostly non-fiction, romance and young adult, but very few mystery and thriller books. Check the website before you go to see if genres you enjoy are featured with signings and appearances.

Have a smartphone? Get the BEA app

Before you leave for New York, download the BEA app and mark which events you’d like to attend. The app will notify you when it’s time to go and where you need to go.

So, if you want a signed book from, say, journalist Chris Matthews or humorous romance author Jill Shalvis, your phone will tell you when to get in line.

BEA 2013 lines

Lines at BEA 2013 were long but moved. Photo by Rhonda Lane

Just take the totebag

Take every totebag you’re offered because you’ll fill them up with free books. As the day goes on, the nice totebags go fast. If you see one you love, get thee to the booth giving it away. Just so’s you know, as Saturday marches on, the totebags get thinner and cheaper.

Free books? 🙂 Ask first

Many of the books at BEA are free, but not all of them. Ask before pouncing on displayed books.  FWIW, if you’re there all day, some of those not-free books become free in the late afternoon.

Check your bags

I had brought a small rolling carry-on bag but hadn’t known rolling bags were prohibited on the trade show floor. Watchful gatekeepers sent me to the luggage check downstairs on street level.

Luggage check stations were at each end of the hall. Some were okay with attendees adding books throughout the day. Others? Not so much. A lot depended on who was on shift. Still, it’s just as easy to get another claim check. The tags are much lighter than the books.

A large rolling suitcase?

BTW, I saw some people roll in large, empty suitcases to check. At the end of the day, the attendees consolidated their treasures into the suitcase. I eavesdropped enough to hear many were librarians and teachers gathering books to stock their shelves.

FWIW, I wouldn’t use the big suitcase because I take trains in and out of Manhattan because I’d be expected to hoist the suitcase full of books up into an overhead luggage rack. Only use the big suitcase option if you drive and park near the Javits Center.

Don’t be afraid to FedEx

The company has a shipping booth. Don’t be afraid to use it. Besides, you can afford it. You didn’t spend a lot of money on all those books.

Keep it moving

Accept that you have no time to fawn over the famous authors signing. Lines are long, but they move fast. Newer, not-yet-famous authors, however, may have time for a chat.

Provisions: food, water, aspirin

Food can be found on the trade show floor, but they’re merely subsistence rations. Starbucks sells necessary caffeine, along with some salads and sandwiches, plus I saw a Pinkberry frozen yogurt which has fresh fruit toppings. Other fast casual dining establishments may be on the floor, depending on who has contracts for booth space. (Addition post-BEA 2014: A food court downstairs in the Javits Center allowed me to have a meal instead of a snack for lunch.)

In 2013, we Power Readers had a lounge, which I used to sit down for lunch and re-con with my app or intel I’d gathered prior to arriving in NY.

Some people used that opportunity to swap out books they’d received as part of “welcome packages” but didn’t want to take home.

Dress comfortably

I suspect you already know you need to wear comfortable shoes, not “I Love Them So They’re Comfortable” Shoes. I also attended my first BEA on the first hot day of the summer. Granted, spring 2014 has been running about two weeks behind, but dress according to the weather reports for the day.

Is it worth it?

At the end of the day, I was too exhausted to join friends for dinner. Still, if you love to read, or have a library to stock, absolutely.

I paid about $45 for a then-discounted ticket and came home with several hundred dollars worth of free books.

Plus, now I know about the big event.