10 Mistakes I Made at BEA (and One BIG Mistake that They Made!)

June 22, 2014 BEA, Book Events 0

So, I learned a lot being a first-timer to BEA this year!  Now that I’ve been through the experience, there are a few things I’d do differently.  I thought I’d share for those of you who might make it there in future years!

10 Mistakes I Made at BEA

 Me and my roommate, Jenni

1. Left my Roomie Hanging – If you read my recap of Day 1 of BEA, you know that my poor roommate had to hang out in the hotel lobby for hours waiting for me to get there so she could check-in.  Oops!!  And while this wasn’t exactly my fault (I thought I had all the bases covered by adding her name to the reservation), I should have made sure that we communicated a little better before we checked in – then I would have known that she didn’t have a CC with her and was planning to pay in cash and I could have warned her that she’d have to put down a deposit in order to check in (why the hotel staff never mentioned this to her, I’m still not sure).  Since she’s from Ireland, the only way we could communicate was via Twitter, which just wasn’t all that effective in a pinch!!  So, there was LOTS of scrambling on my part to try and get the poor girl into her room so she wouldn’t have to wait for me to get there – at midnight!

2. Didn’t Plan for Morning Drops – I had no idea that most of the publishers did a first-thing-in-the-morning galley drop at 9 AM, so I totally missed out on it that first day.  It actually turned out fine – I got pretty much everything I wanted, but I felt at first like maybe I’d missed out on something!  🙂

3. Paid Too Much for Shipping – My mom gave me her corporate UPS number, so I thought I had it made when it came to shipping my books.  But, on the first day, after walking a mile and a half or so with my suitcase full of books, I discovered that the UPS store I had walked to didn’t accept corporate numbers.  The only store that did was back in the complete other direction – another mile and a half away!  Then I found out that UPS charges like $20 just to put your books in a box with some styrofoam.  Not a good deal.  Luckily on Day 2, I met up with some awesome bloggers, who took me with them to a nearby FedEx (NOT the one at the Javits, where they charged a huge surcharge) and paid WAY less.

4. Forgot to Eat.  Literally.  The first day of BEA (the actual convention, not the Blogger’s Conference), I just totally forgot to eat.  Sometime after 2:00, I developed a headache and realized I hadn’t eaten anything at all, so pulled out a protein drink and a granola bar (which was perfect, by the way – I had them pretty much every day).

5. Didn’t Attend Panels.  Next time I go to BEA, I’m going to plan around the panels more.  This year, I didn’t really have a great plan in place and found myself not sure when the panels were happening (or where).  My phone was pretty much out of commission the entire time I was at the conference (which was really frustrating since everyone else’s seemed to be working just fine), so I couldn’t use the BEA app like I was planning to.  I loved getting galleys, but I think I would have enjoyed the conference more if I would have gone to some of the author panels!

6. Attended the Author Breakfasts.  Ironically, (after what I just said) I did attend the author breakfasts on two of the mornings, but I’m not sure if it was worth it.  Mornings tended to be some of the busiest times for a lot of the most popular signings and drops and the breakfasts ran later than the opening of BEA – I didn’t end up staying for the whole breakfasts because I wanted to get out onto the floor.  The adult author breakfast was honestly a little bit boring – but I really did enjoy the children’s author breakfast – especially Jason Segel, who totally endeared me to him forever.  Still, I think I might skip these next time.

7. Missed the Teen Carnival.  My roommate and I were really exhausted after the Bloggers Conference (and I was honestly a bit nervous about braving New York public transportation), so we didn’t head over to the Teen Carnival.  I wish I would have because it sounds like the panels were great and the whole thing was a lot of fun!

8. Was Too Shy to Impose.  I was actually pretty proud of myself for putting myself out there and chatting with people throughout BEA, but after the day was over, I was still a bit too shy to reach out to any of the blogger friends I had met to get together with them (without a planned event).  One of the nights, my roommate was invited to a blogger party and I should have Tweeted some of the bloggers I’d met that day to see if anyone wanted to hang out.  But I couldn’t bring myself to do it and instead I just hung out at the hotel that night.  Silly, I know – I’m sure there were people around who would have been happy to have me join them, but I convinced myself I’d be imposing – or that they all had really important events to attend or something.  🙂

9. Didn’t take enough pictures.  My husband kept telling me to take pictures, but I didn’t do it nearly enough.  I’m a bit older than the average book blogger and I think there’s a generational gap here – I still feel a bit silly walking around taking selfies.  But when I saw other people’s BEA blog posts including tons of them, I realized I missed out and should have at least taken more pics!  🙂

10. Didn’t plan to see New York.  I really hadn’t made any sold plans to see NYC at all.  If it weren’t for the fact that my roommate knew her way around and had a few things she wanted to see, I probably would have stayed holed up a lot more.  And talking to other people who went to see If/Then convinced me that I needed to see it too!  I’m so glad I didn’t leave NY without seeing a Broadway show (I was a theatre major in college after all!).

The Biggest Mistake that BEA Organizers Made

So, those were my mistakes.  Hopefully I’ve learned from them (though I’m sure I’ll make more next time!!).  But there’s one big mistake that I’m really hoping the people at BEA learn from too:

If you have a big name author, plan for a line!!  I was completely shocked when I went to go ask about Jason Segel’s signing and they told me that a line wouldn’t be forming until 30 minutes prior to the event.  Um, yeah, I knew that wasn’t going to happen.  After all, it’s Jason Segel.  Sure enough, a good hour and a half before the signing, those of us who were just “hanging around” were forming a line.  The problem is, there was another impromptu line forming (unbeknownst to us) across the hall.  It almost got ugly, but one of the organizers came by and suggested that we merge the lines – every other person.  And, surprisingly, everyone politely agreed.  We were thrilled with how nicely everyone responded and everyone was happy.  The “line” grew and grew and snaked around the hallway.  Except that, apparently, there were also some people who started hovering around the actual signing desk (even though we’d been told we couldn’t) and they got aggravated when they found out there was already a very long line.  So, the folks organizing the signing decided it would be great idea to walk about 5 feet away from the huge line that had formed and plunk their sign down there.  WHY?!!  Chaos ensued as a mass of people shoved their way over to the sign and fought to keep something close to their place in line.  So incredibly ridiculous!  The whole thing was really aggravating!

But that was nothing compared to the Alexandra Bracken signing debacle.  On the day of Book Con, there were 8000 extra people crammed into just a portion of the Expo Center (why, oh why did they think that was a good idea?).  Because of this, they informed us that they didn’t have room to form a line for Alexandra Bracken until 30 minutes prior to her signing.  So, I decided to just wait around.  Of course, I wasn’t the only one with this idea.  Soon there was a mob of people waiting around.  And the mob was blocking the walkway – apparently becoming a fire hazard.  The staff told us we needed to leave – “Go, wander,” they told us.  But everyone in that mob knew that if they wandered they would just end up at the back of the mob, so no one was willing to leave.  Finally, a supervisor came out and announced that she wouldn’t be giving tickets to anyone at the front of the mob and that we had to go wander.  I knew that this wasn’t going to end well, but I didn’t want to aggravate anyone into not giving me a ticket, so I did as they asked.  But every time, they got the crowd to move a new one just took its place minutes later.  They then said they wouldn’t open the ticket line until five minutes before the signing.  Five minutes!!  This just had disaster written all over it.  Finally at five minutes to, I managed to squeeze my way around and in front of the crowd.  Sure enough, the supervisor sent someone to the back of the mob with tickets.  The poor girl was almost crushed!  I just looked at the supervisor and said (nicely), “Look, I did what you asked – I wandered away like a good little girl.  I need to be somewhere after this and there’s no way I’m making it if I have to fight through that mob for a ticket.”  They knew that I’d been standing at the very front of the line and luckily, they let me in.  The others who had been standing with me for a very long time weren’t so lucky.  I believe they all made it in – eventually.

The moral of this (perhaps too long) story?  BEA Organizers, plan for a line – if you don’t, you’ll just end up with an unmanageable mob.  Even if you didn’t plan for a line, if one starts to form, then hurry up and make a plan for one.  You can’t stop it!!  The best you can hope to do is control it so that absolute chaos does not ensue.  And chaos will ensue.  Trust me.  

(By the way, there was at least one BEA staff member who was smart enough to go with the impromptu line flow – check out my Days 3 & 4 recap to see a picture of me and a few other bloggers who were allowed to start the Jennifer Armentrout line – even though it, gasp!, wasn’t supposed to start yet).

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