How to Survive BEA: 10 Big Tips From a 3 Year Vet!

Hey bookworms!

The Book Expo of America is in two weeks, and everyone is scrambling to put their schedules together. If you've never been to BEA, it's daunting. If you've been there before, it's still daunting, but at least you know what to expect...well, sort of. BEA is in Chicago this year, so the layout of the venue and the City will be completely different from the one so many people know.

I decided not to travel to Chicago this year; instead, I spent the money to go to a writing retreat a few months ago. Will I miss not going? Sure, of course! Especially since I'm not caught up in the pre-BEA planning chatter sweeping my Twitter feed right now, or when y'all are talking about how much fun you're having, or when I see that favorite authors will be signing. But it won't devastate me like it did the first year I was supposed to go when a lot of real life stuff made going impossible.

I have a friend who is going for the first time EVER and asked for some tips about BEA. We've been texting and emailing, because there are SO MANY TIPS that you don't necessarily think about---and may not even remember if you've been down this road before!

I decided to share some of the tips I've given her with all of you, and hopefully you'll find some of it useful!

This one is really important! At the very least, you REALLY want to have a bottle or two of water in your bag at all times. There will be a water fountain at the venue (likely near the bathroom) where you can refill it. STAY HYDRATED.

And FOOD. BRING FOOD. The lines to eat at the conference hall will be CRAZY and the food will be EXPENSIVE. You'll wait in line, and you may miss something else, because, you know--FOOD IS IMPORTANT!!! You do NOT want to faint at BEA because you skipped the long line to get food in order to do other things.

What I did was packed a box of Smuckers Uncrustables (ready made PB&J sandwiches) and a bunch of KIND energy bars in yummy flavors. I could eat my lunch while sitting in a one hour line waiting for a signing, or I could sit down against a column or wall peacefully for a few minutes (Because if you think waiting in line for food is bad, wait until you see the seating area!!!). I made sure to wake up early enough to eat breakfast each day (Depending on where we stayed year to year, there was either free breakfast at the hotel or we stopped at Dunkin' Donuts on the way and grabbed bagels or muffins). I also made sure to eat in the evening. Something smaller that I could carry at lunch was PERFECT.

This sounds intuitive, but you would be amazed how many people wing it or have just a very general idea of what they want to do. My first year at BEA, I went with two friends. Two of us had put tentative schedules together online, and the third hadn't. Each day, she looked at the schedule from the venue and read through all the summaries of books/authors present in the back and rushed her list together. The next time she went, she was much more organized!

Also, make MORE THAN ONE COPY of your schedule. I cannot tell you how many times I misplaced mine!!! It fell out of my pocket, it got tucked into a book that was bagged, it got left at a booth, etc. I also would give copies to my friends (and they to me!) so that if we spotted something dropping that we wanted, we'd grab it for one another. Plus, that way if you lose every copy, it still exists! (Maybe ALSO take a picture on your phone!? There IS a BEA app, but it doesn't always work at the venue or have the right times. Hopefully this year it will work better!

When I make a schedule, I always overbook myself. ON PURPOSE.

There's just SO MUCH to do and you never know when you might get waylaid by a long line or a chat with friends or a publisher or a last minute EVENT you can't miss!

I always make a list of everything I might want to do. I color-coordinate it based on what I REALLY want to do and what I want to do ONLY IF I have time.

Some days, I have a very small list and don't do much of it at all:

I also make comments on if the signing is at a Booth and if it's ticketed or not, because that warns me about how long the line might be or if I need to go twice to get a ticket. Sometimes, I even leave myself notes about why I want to do something!

It's really important to have the booth location or table number on your schedule, or you'll know something is happening, but not know WHERE!!!

Other times, I have an insanely huge list that I think I can only do a fraction of and manage to do almost EVERYTHING:

Sometimes you can do more of your list than you thought because one line is ending and you have a little time to kill between lines--or heck, the fates just align!!!

Sometimes---while I LOVE meeting the author--I just really want to read the book, and I decide to pick up the galley when I see a galley drop and skip the line. That helps a lot!

For signings, I try to prioritize: I don't keep ARCs, but pass them on after reading. I'd rather standing in line for a finished copy of a book than an ARC, because I'll keep those. At the same time, there are certain authors that I just want to MEET, and so the signing line is worth it no matter what!!!!

Sometimes, I can get the e-galley on Netgalley or Edelweiss, so I'll skip the book for the OTHER book I want. Other books I'll get at publisher parties during BEA so I can cross them off my list! I didn't have to wait TWO HOURS to get SIX OF CROWS by Leigh Bardugo last year because Macmillan was so lovely and already had a copy for me at their party!!!)

It will fluctuate!!!

But having a schedule is just SO HELPFUL.


Look on Twitter: Authors and publishers will announce galley drop times and/or signing times. Write those times down somewhere. I made a Word Document of everything I heard about, then put it into my Excel Schedule. I also got emails from publishers I worked with about their schedules. Also take note of if the signing is IN BOOTH or at a TABLE. In Booth means it's at a publisher's booth, and the tables are together in a signing area!!! Don't get lost!

There's also an awesome guide that Publisher's Weekly puts out every year (They may have already; BEA is early this year!) with what titles will be featured at BEA. This way, I know what to look for on Twitter! PW also does a great online feature that you can see right now for Adult and Children/YA books.

There's also an awesome Publishers Lunch excerpt book that is available every year on Netgalley and Edelweiss. If you didn't get this year's copy yet, it just went live two days ago!!!

And of course, there's a list of schedules and authors and times on the BEA website to get you prepared!!!

I also REALLY like looking at the Buzz Panel Authors to see what will be well as looking at banners on the showroom floor!!!! It helps me discover new authors AND get excited about books I already want!!!

(Sometimes, you can even see crazy stunts on the Showroom Floor while waiting to get into the conference hall, such as the one HarperCollins put together to build buzz about ALLEGIANT before it came out!)

Yes, it's a professional event, but you will see SO MANY people in comfortable walking shoes---and wish you were wearing them as well!!! Publishers understand that--Heck, they often do it as well!

If you're not comfortable, you'll be aching and miserable, and each day will be worse than the one before it. Think of it like this: You'll DO MORE if you're not aching. You'll SKIP more if you feel miserable. "Do I REALLY want to walk back to the signing tables AGAIN??? Nope, I'll just go back to the hotel and rest."

 ©The Daily Photo

I DID, however, bring some nice clothes for publisher events to change into so I didn't look like a TOTAL scrub!!!

Which leads us to........

When packing your suitcase, what do you REALLY need?

Every item you put in there means less room for books!!!

Can you re-wear a pair of pants and cut down on how many you bring? Do you really NEED that extra pair of shoes? Will the hotel have a hairdryer so you don't have to bring one?

Also, TRAVEL SIZE shampoo/toothpaste/toothbrush/etc. IT IS SO HELPFUL!!!! There is an aisle just for this stuff at Target, Walmart, etc. If you need a special brand, you might find a travel size version on Amazon. Otherwise, go to that aisle at your Target/Walmart/etc. and buy an EMPTY TRAVEL BOTTLE. Fill it up with what you need. VOILA!!!!

I also recommend NOT taking all the swag you can snag at BEA. Take it for the books you really want to learn more about or for the series you're obsessed with, of course. Leave the rest for someone else. It's not worth the space in your suitcase. You might have bags of just swag, and is it worth it!?


You will get SO many bags at BEA. Some are awesome and beautiful--and break easily. Others hold up for years and are so durable. I use some of my bags for groceries, around the house, or when going out to an author signing and bringing books from home.

Some cool ones I've shared before:

Spirit Animals, ALLEGIANT, and THE HOBBIT!
These bags are GORGEOUS, but I only use THE HOBBIT regular because it's huge and strong and durable.
The other two are screenprinted and I'm afraid that if I use them a lot, they'll get a lot of wear and tear!

HEIR OF FIRE,  DEEP BLUE (it turns into a
reversible towel! So soft!) and THE DARKEST MINDS!
DEEP BLUE is super cool and fun for summer because IT IS A TOWEL. I don't use the other two for every day use because of all the wear and tear, though I do take HEIR to my signings with Sarah and the Darkest Minds bag is sturdy enough that I sometimes use it at events!
This Harlequin bag is my all-time favorite BEA bag. It's simple, yes, but it is SO FUNCTIONAL.
It's PERFECT for every day life. The side facing away from the camera (of course...and I'm too lazy to go take another picture...this was taken during BEA last year...) has this amazing netting. You can see it on the left and right side!!! I can put my schedule in the side. I can put a waterbottle down the side. THERE IS A SPOT FOR A PEN. I bring this EVERYWHERE. It is strong and durable and such an amazing travel bag!!!
If you see it, grab it!!!!
I don't think I have any pictures to share, but I would also also recommend looking out for Macmillan Children's Bag Drop that they've done for at least the last two years. I snagged one for Little Elliot and another for Pout Pout Fish. The Little Elliot bag is huuuuuge. And CLOTH. I filled it up with Christmas presents this past year (And I really thought I had a photo of that somewhere...oops!). Pout Pout Fish is also cloth. The shape is a little funny for holding a lot, but it's soooo cute: And again, DURABLE!!!! It gets a lot of compliments when I use it, too!

See if Macmillan is dropping bags at their Children's Booth and note the drop time: It's worth it!!!

Bags are also great because it can get you some extra room if you fill a suitcase with books...though if you're flying, you can't bring a lot of extra on board. I usually take the train to NYC, though, and strap a couple of bags to my suitcase handle if needed!!! But it's really hard to manage!!!

Obviously, there are things your friends really want, too. (Unless you're one of those lucky people going with a mother or a husband who is there to wait in lines and help you get everything you want!) There will be times when I'm relaxing with nothing to do for two hours before a signing except wander. If a friend really wants something during that time, I can try to get it for them---and they'll do the same for me. It's worth it!!! (Again, share your schedules with one another!!!) 

Plus, if you're going with friends you live near, you can share ARCs with one another. If you only have one copy for you both, that cuts down on what you put in your suitcase!!! My co-workers and I always go together and share with one another!!!

This is something that really IS overlooked!!! People always thought I was so smart to have done this. Ask the people at  home (or maybe have a friend swing by and collect the mail if you live alone) to OPEN YOUR MAIL. Have them text you a photo of what books publishers sent you while you were away at BEA.

Why stand in line for an ARC if that book is WAITING FOR YOU AT HOME!?

....Also, I'm going to say it again: HAVE THEM TAKE A PICTURE.

Because have you seen this EpicReads video yet?

Yeah, that could happen to you, too. A LOT of books sound or look alike!!!

In the Autographing Area, there will be donation bins. It is encouraged to donate a dollar for every signing you attend. A lot of people (myself include) will drop a twenty or two in the first or final day and just round it off. Others will do a dollar a book. There are, sadly, people who forget to do this at all...or don't think to bring money!!! Don't let this be you. Help give back for all of the books you're bringing away with you!!!

BEA is about NETWORKING. Meet new publicists that you can work with in the future. Talk to publicists you've only met and worked with online. Some of my favorite memories of BEA are about MEETING PEOPLE. Last year, I FINALLY met two publicists I've worked with for years, and it was amazing!!!

It was also great to meet other bloggers, either ones I've talked to online or new friends. It This is the most amazing opportunity you'll have to be with other book nerds and find people as passionate about this world as you are!

When you meet that new publicist, you exchange business cards, right? Make sure you have them and that they're legible!!! I wrote my address on the back of a bunch of cards and brought along an index card holder. I had a divider for cards that had my info on them that I gave out to publicists and a divider for cards WITHOUT my info that I gave out to other bloggers, etc.

I also decided to use fancy ducktape and 3-D stickers from the craft store to make my holder fun and unique!!!

You can get these holders anywhere. I think mine came from Staples or Home Depot, but here's a picture from Target's website:

10. HAVE FUN!!!
This should go without saying!!!
You're at BEA and it will be amazing. Don't stress. Have fun. You WON'T do everything you want, but you WILL do a lot of great things!!!

If you have time, explore the city. Go out with friends. Eat dinner someplace awesome. See the sights. Find out what's awesome to do in Chicago!

Eat some good food1!!
I love eating at KyoChon Chicken when I'm in NYC!

 When I go to BEA in NYC, if there's time, I like to see a Broadway Musical. If I'd never been to NYC before, I'd go a couple days before BEA and maybe stay later, too. It would give me more time to see the city. I would have done this if I'd gone to Chicago this year because I've never been before, but I'd like to go someday!

I also like going to the Teen Author Carnival the day before BEA at the Jefferson Library; I don't know if anyone is doing something similar in Chicago this year.

Books of Wonder always hosts a great signing panel each year, too, that I love to attend, and there are other signings in the city. See what the bookstores in Chicago are hosting!!!

Maggie Stiefvater, up on a table at Books of Wonder!
Such a troublemaker... ^.~
(On panel with Garth Nix, Jennifer L. Armentrout, Alethea Kontis, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Gretchen McNeil, and A.G. Howard!)


Feel free to comment here or grab me on Twitter!!!

You can also browse my write-ups from the last three years of BEA.
I talk about a lot of what I did each day, and some of the posts can be very useful for gleaning information about how signings look or are set up (PICTURES!! VISUALS!!!!), and I comment on why I didn't have time to do something or why I had time to slip in something extra. (I think my 2015 entry on the final day is especially concise in this regard!) 


If you go to BEA, you don't need to write about it every day--In fact, it's a LOT of work and takes away from sleeping time!!!!--but your followers will appreciate it if you at least talk about the books you're most excited about!!!!

Especially if they're brand-new, never-heard-about titles. BEA is the place to discover new books!!!! So tell us about the new stuff, too, not just the upcoming bestsellers we already want!!! ^.~

Have so much fun!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I hope this post helped a little bit!!!! ♥♥♥