By Dee Donavanik, Publicity Director of MEDIA CONNECT DC
BookExpo America, aka BEA, is a yearly event that brings authors, educators, librarians, and others involved in the publishing industry together for a few days of exhibits, events and networking. For a book publicist, it’s mecca. There is so much that goes on in those three days (this year it is May 29th-31st), from book signings to panels, that being prepared is crucial in order to make the most of the experience. Also, have I mentioned celebrities? Yes, there will be celebrities, and lots of them. As someone with a few BEA’s under my belt, I’ve found that there are some specific guidelines that will help you make it through the conference in one piece.
Be Prepared. You should know what you are getting yourself into. There will be a lot of walking, so comfortable shoes are imperative. Make sure you check out the guides and find the appropriate booth numbers for where you need to visit. Skim over the event listings so can prepare your agenda accordingly. It’s actually quite helpful to do a walkthrough in the beginning of the day so you are familiar with where all the booths are. Also, sometimes you will find that certain events/guests are not listed in the guide. Also, in recent years BEA has added charging stations, so it is helpful to locate those (and bring your charger) so you know where to go when you need to catch up on your emails and your phone is on its last legs!
Secure a good tote. A good tote is essential for you making it through BEA successfully (I highly recommend stopping by Chronicle Books, they always have the best totes). You will be gathering a lot of materials, catalogs, business cards, and, of course, books. If it’s your first BEA you may find yourself accepting everything being handed to you. This is a mistake. Things will get heavy and you will not want to carry them around all day. You may even find you have too many totes. So make good choices and only take the things you think you will actually use/read/need.
Find a buddy. You will find big name authors and celebrities all over BEA. There is an art to securing a celebrity photo op and having a buddy will help, especially when handlers are trying to move people quickly through the lines. Sometimes you won’t have time to pose with your new celebrity BFF, and your buddy can help sneak in a snapshot (see right).
Sometimes you will have time to time to strike a pose with a cultural icon, and your buddy can make sure they take several shots so you have a great new Facebook profile pic (left).
Other times you will find that pictures are not allowed, or that you are short on time and aren’t able to wait in a line, so you will have to resort to a walk-by selfie. Having a buddy in this case makes you seem a little less strange for trying to take a selfie with a celeb in the background (right).
Network , Network, Network. Celebrity sightings and free swag aside, in all seriousness BEA is an amazing opportunity for a book publicist to network. There are people you may work with and email on a regular basis that you will meet face to face for the first time. There are people you have yet to meet, but with whom you’ll want to collaborate. You’ll get a chance to see what new exciting titles publishing houses will release. From publishers, fellow publicists, journalists, producers and authors, the opportunities for expanding your network are truly endless.
One of my best experiences at BEA I hadn’t realized actually happened to me until after it occurred. As I was walking around with my buddy for the day, we ran in to one of her former classmates and began chatting. This classmate’s father came to join us, introduced himself as Bob and we continued a nice conversation. As we were parting ways, I happened to glance at Bob’s shirt only to find that name on his badge was actually “R.L. Stine.” No big deal, just R.L. Stine, some little-known author of some series called Goosebumps. So it just goes to show, you really never know who you could run into while at BEA!
Dee Donavanik is Publicity Director and based in Media Connect’s DC office. She has literally spent tens of seconds with dozens of celebrities she has encountered at Book Expo.