Woohoo!! I’m still kind of in shock that I actually went and I was there and I experienced all of the craziness that was BEA! It was AMAZING. Last year, when I first heard about BEA, I figured it was kind of a far-fetched idea that I would actually get to go. But after much debating and planning and compromising, I showed up at the Javits center at 7:30am on Friday, May 30th and got to go to the coolest thing ever. Even though I was only there for one day, it was still absolutely awesome and totally worth it. This post is going to be for me to share with you guys my personal process of BEA: how I planned, what I did, tips and tricks, and things that I wish I’d done differently. And at the end…my huge book haul!!
I first heard about BEA last year, before I even started this blog. I used to run this (now nonexistent) recipe blog and had turned it into a recipe-and-kind-of-also-now-books blog last summer, at which point I first started getting review books and hearing about BEA, because the 2013 one had just taken place. That’s when I began to wonder…could I go next year? I live only about 4 hours away from NYC and usually visit the city at least once or twice a year anyway, so it seemed like something that might possibly be in the cards!
At this point, I started getting more and more serious about reading and book blogging. In September, I started this blog and eventually did away with my old recipe blog that I wasn’t as interested in anymore. Since then, it’s been in the back of my mind that I’d probably go to BEA once May came around, but a couple of months ago, I started to get really nervous about it. I knew that I’d be in my wheelchair and would have to bring my mom with me to help me get around. Was this something that I really wanted to do? Especially with all of the hassle that comes with being disabled? And I was nervous that people would judge me — either for being in a chair or having my mom around.
But after some soul-searching (and loads of encouragement from you guys!), I decided that BEA was something that I wanted to do — no matter what! So I contacted BEA and asked about how I should go about getting a free ticket for my mom, who would only be there as an aid, not an attendee. And was quickly shut down, told that I wouldn’t be able to get my mom a free ticket. Discouraged, personally insulted, and angry, I couldn’t believe that my rights as a disabled American were being denied. There was no way I’d be able to attend without a helper, and they didn’t even offer to supply somebody for me instead of having me bring my own. With no way to afford a separate ticket for her, I almost gave up.
But when a friend pointed out that, technically, their treatment of me was illegal, and bolstered by the support of people on Twitter who agreed that BEA was in the wrong, I emailed them back and informed them of this. Eventually they agreed to supply my mom with a ticket…but did I even want to attend an event hosted by an organization who would treat me like this?
It took me a couple of weeks to really get over the incident, but ultimately decided that I needed to just suck it up and hope that things would go as planned from then on. I now had a free ticket for my mom and I was really excited about the event itself, so I ended up applying for media registration (basically a free ticket for the “press” in exchange for hyping the event with blog posts, tweets, and book reviews) and was approved! Now I could start planning in earnest.
Luckily for me, my mom agreed to pay for the cost of the gas, train tickets, food and hotel room that we’d be using to get to and stay in NYC. We also decided to buy a brand-new wheelchair, because we knew that my old one was a pain in the butt to get in and out of taxis, because there were parts that you had to take off and put back on each time you wanted to fold it up.
With the basic logistics taken care of, it was time for the fun part…what would I do when I was actually at BEA??
Once the lists were released, I used the BEA website to narrow down which autographing authors I’d want to wait in line to get books signed by. I wasn’t really sure how galley drops worked, so I mainly just focused on the authors. I made a list of everybody that I was even remotely interested in seeing on Friday, and then grouped them each by time.
I eventually ended up with a list of 8 authors I wanted to try to get a book signed by, making sure that I’d pretty much have time to wait in line for each one (no double-booked times), but still wasn’t sure exactly what to expect with line length and wait times.
Ultimately, I ended up being glad that I decided to pretty much only do autographing all day, instead of worrying about galley drops or walking around and seeing all the different publishers. I ended up getting to see a few of the booths, but what I was mostly interested in was the books! I didn’t really care about making contacts in publishing, and figured that I could play galley drops by ear. And that worked out really well for me!
I’m a little disappointed that I didn’t make it to the 9:30am HarperTeen galley drop right when the doors opened, because I didn’t realize that it was happening until it was too late, but I got a ton of other books, so I’m not devastated about missing that one thing — it’s literally the only thing that I wanted to do but wasn’t able to, so I think I was pretty lucky!
Along with planning out which authors I’d get to meet, I did a ton of research on the logistics of BEA itself, with a lot of help from other bloggers’ advice and posts! Specifically:
- Shae Has Left the Room was my go-to blog for BEA information. She did a huge BEA series, with helpful posts about stuff like what to pack; getting your badge, accommodations, airfare, and roommates; battling BEA overload; and BEA etiquette
- Jenna Does Books made a really awesome spreadsheet of YA Autographing Authors
Like I said, I only ended up being able to make it to BEA on Friday, but my mom and I actually left on Thursday afternoon. It takes about 4 hours to reach NYC if you drive to New Haven, CT and then take the train into Grand Central, so we got into Manhattan around 6:15pm and went right to our motel. After we dropped our stuff of…we went to see Hedwig and the Angry Itch! A musical starring Neil Patrick Harris about a transgender woman who moved to America from East Berlin in the 80s.
This wasn’t originally in the plan, but my mom randomly found some last-minute wheelchair seats for sale and we got to go! The show was incredible, and I’m so glad that I got to see something while I was there. I love Broadway, and every show I’ve ever seen there has been absolutely amazing. It’s definitely something that I would recommend doing if you’re in NYC for the first time (or, any time, really). The tickets are usually pretty expensive, but totally worth it!
After the show, we stopped by Bon Chon Chicken (one of my favorite NYC restaurants) for a late-night dinner, and then headed back to the hotel to get some sleep before having to wake up super early for the show on Friday.
After only three hours of restless sleep (I have clinical anxiety, so any time I’m really nervous about something — especially a new experience that’s out of my element — I always have trouble sleeping), I woke up at 4am on Friday morning, ready for a great day. I spent some time reading before I had to actually get out of bed at 5:30, which is actually pretty much the only time I spent reading the whole time I was there!
Our hotel had a free continental breakfast, which we headed down to at 6:30, and then left the hotel around 7. We made it to the Javits center for 7:30 and then started trying to figure out what was what. This “before the doors open” time was what I was most nervous about. I had no idea what to expect. People kept giving me different answers about what would happen and where to go…I was a wreck. But it turns out that I didn’t have to be nervous at all! It was pretty easy to figure out, once you were there.
I’ll do a post next year with more information about the specific logistics…all you need to know for now is that there was no reason for me to be nervous at all! Everything was fine.
As soon as the doors opened, I went right to the autographing area and got in line for my first signing — Heather Gudenkauf at 9:30 — and was basically in that area the whole day. I sent my mom out to get us some tote bags and got settled in to be waiting in line all day. At first, I was really shy. I didn’t say hi to anybody and was feeling pretty bummed that I wasn’t getting to chat with other bloggers. But eventually I kind of came out of my shell, and ended up saying hi and talking to so many people that I knew! I must’ve seen over 50 bloggers that I recognized!
Most notably, I got to talk to Michelle from Pink Polka Dot Book Blog (who recognized me!), Octavia from Read. Sleep. Repeat., Anya from On Starships and Dragon Wings, Kassidy Voinche from her BookTube channel, and Rachel from As Told By Rachel. But there were so many others, too! I’m still so excited that I got to meet all of these people!! It was awesome seeing them in real life 🙂
My favorite part of the day, though, was getting to meet Tiffany Reisz. One of my all-time favorite authors (check out her Original Sinners series), she’s an absolutely amazing writer who was so sweet in person! She even gave me a hug and referenced some things I’d said on Twitter 🙂 Meeting her was incredible…I was so in awe of her talent.
I’m definitely going to do more on this next year…BEA is basically over, so I’m sure you don’t really care about this stuff right now. But here are some things I learned and was glad that I did:
- Food. One of the smartest things I did in preparation for BEA was get breakfast before the conference (you could either do a hotel breakfast like me, or pick up something at a nearby Dunkin Donuts) and stop at Subway for lunch. On our way to the Javits, we went by a Subway that was open for breakfast and got sandwiches to eat later. Everybody else was complaining about how hungry they were, while I was able to whip out a sandwich and have lunch right while waiting in line for Morgan Matson!
- Shoulders, not feet. A bunch of bloggers warned people in their pre-BEA posts to wear comfy shoes because your feet would end up hurting a lot. While I’m sure comfy shoes would’ve definitely been a plus for some people (shoes didn’t really matter for me in the chair, obviously), I heard way more people complaining about their shoulders from carrying tote bags! Most people spent almost the entire day sitting on the floor, waiting to get books autographed, so their feet weren’t really the problem.
- Almost everybody was wearing jeans. Over and over again, I heard people telling me to wear “dressy casual” attire and NO JEANS! But probably about 80% of the attendees were wearing jeans! I didn’t feel overdressed in my business capris, but it was clear that you could basically wear whatever the hell you wanted and it didn’t make any difference. Maybe if you were doing a publisher lunch/breakfast or had meetings to go to, that would’ve been different. But if you were only doing the galley drops/signing lines? Jeans were fine.
- The autographing lines are complete chaos. Expect to be told three different things by different people in charge. Nobody talks to each other or knows what’s going on. And they’ll refuse to start a line for an author even if there are people already waiting, which creates even more chaos. Just know that you should ask at least 5 people, volunteers and attendees, before getting in a line for something.
- People will cut the line. A lot of people.
- Bring lots of phone power. I came with a fully charged phone and a power brick, and my phone still almost died by the time the day was over.
As a BEA beginner, I definitely made a few mistakes and wish I’d done a few things differently:
- Brought a coat!! Even though I’ve been to NYC a million times, I forgot how (even in almost-June) it’s pretty windy there and can get freezing at night. Tons of people were walking around in puffy jackets, even though the high of the day was 71˚ and it was May 29th! I ended up taking a blanket from the hotel and wrapping it around myself in the chair. Problem solved!
- Downloaded some audiobooks onto my phone. I get motion sickness very easily, so I basically couldn’t do anything on the train ride to and from NYC. I don’t know why I didn’t think of this, because it’s something I usually plan for, but I wish I’d downloaded an audiobook onto my phone from my computer to keep myself occupied when I couldn’t read or look at my phone.
- Brought snacks for the train ride back. I brought some food with me, but it wasn’t enough. I thought I’d have time to grab something after we left BEA and before we got on the train to go home, but we didn’t. I had to wait another two hours to finally get some food in me and I was hungry.
- Had a case for my business cards. It wasn’t until I was packing my bags to go to BEA that I realized: “…where am I going to put these business cards?” I didn’t want them to get bent, but I had no great way of carrying them. I ended up just putting them in a Ziploc bag, but I wish that I’d had something more sturdy, like one of these bar soap holders I found at Walmart for only $1.00! That would’ve been perfect.
Now for the best part of the post!! ALL THE BOOKS I GOT AT BEA! I can’t even believe that I got this many books from ONE DAY at BEA! It was awesome.
That’s 18 books!!
First, I’ll show you the ones that I’m not quite as excited for.
Seagrass Pier by Colleen Coble
Alistair Grimm’s Odditorium by Gregory Funaro
Ruth’s Journey by Donald McCaig
The Stone Wife by Peter Lovesey
Crazy, Stupid Sex by Maisey Yates
Cake by Lauren Dane
The bottom four books are some that my mom randomly picked up when the doors to BEA opened, and the two little Cosmo ones are books that I had to grab in order to get the book that Tiffany Reisz signed for me (Harlequin’s book signings were set up a little strange). While they all look okay, I just wasn’t really super interested in any of them. Maybe I’ll do a giveaway or something!
Next are the unsigned ARCs!
The Jewel by Amy Ewing
Landline by Rainbow Rowell
Messenger of Fear by Michael Grant
I scored The Jewel and Messenger of Fear at a HarperTeen galley drop and then randomly happened upon somebody giving out copies of Landline (maybe extras from after she did her signing?) and scooped that one up, too!
I also got a bunch of signed & personalized ARCs!
The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black
Falling Into Place by Amy Zhang
I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
The Fever by Megan Abbott
Captivated by Megan Hart & Tiffany Reisz
Little Mercies by Heather Gudenkauf
And some signed & personalized hardcover final copies as well!
Panic by Lauren Oliver
Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson
Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein
Okay, this post is finally over! BEA has been fully recapped and books have been shown 🙂 Time to start reading!!