- Wear comfy shoes. I know this seems like a no-brainer, but the number one complaint you hear at BEA and other conferences is "Oh my god, my feet are killing me!" In winter, boots make great footwear because you can find stylish boots that still have arch support and good soles. Summer, however, is more tricky. Ballet and similar flats are the go-to "comfy" shoe of choice, but more often than not these are murder on your feet due to the thin soles and lack of support. Try brands like Merrill's and Easy Spirit that are designed to support your feet.
- Bring a friend. If you're an easy-going extrovert who has no difficulty meeting and mingling, then don't worry about this one. But if you're shy, an introvert, quiet, etc., conferences can be really overwhelming. It's great to have someone there who you know, and can hang out with whenever there are lulls in the meet-and-greet parade, so you don't feel isolated. If you don't have anyone in person who's going with you, try meeting up with some fellow bloggers or authors who you know online who are intending on going. You may find they're just as relieved as you are to have someone to hang out with!
- Plan your route. Conferences, especially ones as huge as BookExpo America, can be overwhelming, even if you think you're braced for it. Know which booths you want to hit ahead of time, and stop by each as soon as you get there to pick up their schedules. The most sought-after books aren't usually just lying around for anyone to pick, the publishers will have "drop" times, and you'll need to get in line for those, sometimes far in advance of the actual drop. These publishers will have their drop schedules on little handouts that you can grab. So plan ahead and prioritize!
- Take notes. You're going to meet a LOT of people, and while you think at the time that you can't possibly forget them, in a few weeks you'll regret it if you don't write something down. I tend to jot notes on the business cards I get handed, to help me put a face, or a conversation, with the name on the card. Which brings me to my next tip!
- Bring business cards. This one is a source of contention, as some people don't think business cards are useful. I, however, fall into the "why not?" camp. If you're at an industry conference, I recommend bringing some sort of business card or other physical reminder of who you are. (Many authors use bookmarks, which is great, because we're in the book industry.) Personally, I particularly like business cards that have a picture of the person on them, because I'm terrible at matching names and faces in hindsight.
- Follow up! You've met well over a hundred people in the span of a few short days. Do you remember them all? In a month, will you remember them all? (By the way, you with the photographic memory, I'm not talking to you. You can just go be smug in that corner over there.) No? Yeah, I didn't think so. But say one of those hundred people emailed you the following week to tell you how much they enjoyed meeting you and how much they look forward to working with you in the future. You'll remember them now! So my last pierce of advice is that you should follow up with the people you meet who you really want to remember—and who you hope will remember you. BEA, and conferences like it, are all about networking and making connections in what can otherwise be a very solitary industry if you don't live in NYC yourself! Don't let those connections fade away.
Do you have any tips to add? Sound off in the comments!
If you're planning on coming to BEA this year, please come up and say hi if you spot me! I'll be there with Aussie co-author extraordinaire Amie Kaufman, and if you want to see where we'll be at any given time, check our schedule. We'll be giving away and signing copies of THESE BROKEN STARS and copies of SHADOWLARK. See you there!