This will be my first time registering as a blogger rather than as a librarian or book review editor. Last year, I did a "blogger signing" at the NetGalley booth and was amazed at how many people – publicists especially – contacted me after the fact about my blog. Your presence at BEA demonstrates that you want yourself and your blog to be taken seriously. Don't be shy about approaching publishers - everyone's there to network with everyone else and get the word out about books. It is expensive, but you won't regret attending. I'm also eagerly anticipating attending the first Book Blogger Con. The organizers have some wonderful panels lined up, and I'm looking forward to meeting many other bloggers.
The blog tour has already been underway for a week, with some great suggestions from other bloggers on what to expect from BEA. Here are some additional tips that first-time attendees may find helpful. I've also blogged from BEAs in past years, and you can read those older posts here.
Plan ahead. The BEA website is a gold mine of information on what will be happening when. It will have details on panels, autographing sessions, and exhibitors and booth numbers. There'll be additional signings listed in the PW Daily newsletter available at the show, and others will be posted at publishers' booths, so keep your eyes open for them as you walk around. After you check in, you'll be handed a large program book that you'll want to hang onto, even after BEA is over. It's pretty bulky, though, so rather than dragging it out all the time, I make up a quick reference sheet listing publishers I know I want to visit and their booth numbers.
Every April, Publishers Weekly comes out with a pre-BEA preview, including info on "galleys to grab" – ARCs for summer and fall that publishers will be actively promoting and giving away at the show. Library Journal usually does a similar preview, so check both websites for details in late spring. Edited to add (5/16/10): the LJ preview is here, and PW also has a list of kids' galleys to grab up.
Arrive early. The exhibit hall opens at 9am on the Wednesday. Unless you're attending a breakfast or other event, you'll want to be there by then, badge and a large, empty tote bag at the ready. The lines can be long early on, and it's a large, confusing, crowded place. If you haven't already checked in the day before, plan to arrive at the Javits at least 30 minutes in advance.
The "arrive early" suggestion holds true when it comes to finding lunch. The Javits has a large food court with about a dozen fast food places, but it fills up fast. Plan to get there by 11:30 if you want a place to sit down. Well, a place that isn't a corner of the floor, that is. (Been there, done that.)
Pace yourself. This year, the exhibit hall will be open for two days rather than three, and the time will go very quickly. It's a lot of fun, but it's also a very long time to be on your feet. You will get tired. Other bloggers have suggested wearing comfortable shoes plus bringing along a bottle of water and a snack (trail mix is good). I highly recommend this! Breath mints are good, too. If you need to take a break (and you should), a good place to stop for a while is the author stage on the exhibit floor, where authors will be giving readings.
Mix things up. In the excitement of walking through the exhibits, meeting people, and getting autographs, you may forget that many panels will be running concurrently. They'll be held in conference rooms on a separate level. The presenters will be important players in the publishing industry as well as authors with new/upcoming books to promote. You'll learn something new and useful at every panel you attend, even if you don't think the topic interests you. The "buzz" panels are especially worthwhile. Publishers often distribute free books there too!
Be selective. There will be many, many ARCs available, along with finished copies. Take time to read over the blurbs and take home just those that really interest you, because you'll get loaded down otherwise – plus you'll need to find a way to get them home. If you end up with more than you can carry, BEA has a mail room where you can set up boxes and temporarily store your books during the day before shipping them home. It's a great service, though pricey ($45-50 to ship a large box full). However, I'd advise keeping any particularly valuable finds, like autographed copies, with you as you walk around, or checking them with the coat room, because I've had books taken out of boxes that were labeled as mine.
Visit with a variety of publishers. The big New York houses will have the largest, most elaborate booths and will be pretty easy to spot. You'll also find booths run by hundreds of other presses, from large indies to small presses to university presses and more. There'll be many you won’t have heard of before. You'll be able to check them out beforehand on the BEA website (and on their own websites), but serendipity can be a wonderful thing, too. If you're not familiar with a publisher, investigate the display copies at their booth; talk to a representative; read through a catalog; ask to get on their mailing list.
Smaller presses, especially, may not have many or any free copies to give away there. Always ask before taking anything, and have business cards available to share. Also, feel free to ask the representative for the name/email of a publicist or marketing rep you can contact later, if the right person isn’t at the booth when you stop by. Some may have yet to discover the wonderful world of blog publicity; if this is the case, use the opportunity to educate them about your site and blogs in general, if need be.
Be prepared to speak about your blog. What is its focus? How many books do you review or spotlight each year? What types of ARCs are you open to receiving? BEA is a great opportunity to promote your site. Chances are that your blog is more widely read than you realize, so people may already know who you are. Also, if you blog in advance about the ARCs you hope to pick up, or signings you hope to attend, you may find the author stopping by your site to comment – and then they'll remember you when you show up in person.
Get out of Dodge (aka Javits) and experience the city. Take a walk through Central Park, take the subway to the East Village (so many awesome restaurants there), meet up with fellow bloggers for a meal, see a Broadway show, go to a museum… and if you can, try to get to The Strand, an enormous bookstore you can easily spend hours in. It's easy to reach by subway, and they're open late. Bring your wish lists.
Hope to see many of you in NYC in May!