Thanks all of you for the wonderful comments about my business cards last week! At the end of the post, I asked if any of you had any questions about BEA and two of you did. Kristi of The Story Siren has done two posts so far about BEA, answering questions from her readers and I'd suggest you check it out: Part 1 and Part 2. Now let's get started:
Lauren M asks "I've heard the exhibit hall is usually packed with people, but is it so packed that you won't get an opportunity to talk to the people working a booth? Do you have any advice for putting yourself out there despite the loads of people?"
Yes, it is definitely packed with people and you have to learn to manuever through it all quickly. But there is definitely time to chat with people working a booth. Only the aisle itself is packed and usually there's a space around the booth or off the aisle itself where you can position yourself to chat with the people working or publicists you may already know.
It also depends on where the booths are located as well as the publisher itself- booths that are located further away from the entrance or even at the entrance are not as filled as the middle areas. There's also the Big Six publishers and those will be crowded, but I remember going to Flux or Sourcebooks and it was way less dense in those areas. It was a welcome relief. By mid-to-late afternoon though, people are leaving and so it's easier to talk to those people at the various booths.
In regards to putting yourself out there, put a brave face on and strike up a conversation if it's someone you don't know. Introduce yourself and your blog (or school or library or whatever)- business cards come in handy at this time because it gives them something tangible to remember you by- and just go with the flow. Kristi's said on her blog more than once- you're all there because you love books so you already have something in common, so don't worry too much. The people there are nice and friendly.
Wendy asks "Last year was my first time as well. I saw many people with those big huge bags full of ARCs. While I'm not going just to get a ton of free books, I might see a few I'd like. But I feel so awkward taking free stuff. Any advice on how to get over the awkwardness and acquire ARCs?"
You just have to do it. It's a little bit easier when they're just laying around in piles, but it can be hard to ask for an ARC. Some publishers just put out piles of books for the taking (like Beautiful Darkness, Nightshade, and some others), or will have a line where you can get an ARC (Penguin did this for Matched), or they will have ARCs hidden beneath their table or in a storage closet and you have to ask for them (Penguin did this with Grace by Elizabeth Scott; Random House, Bloomsbury and Flux do this in general). Usually, if they are hidden, there are display copies out so you know what they have. Also, the worst they can say is no, and then you thank them and move on (or they might take your business card and write down the ARC you want to send to you later, which is always nice).
OK, so I said at the beginning that you just have to do it, and that is one way. Just get brave and take what's there (if you want it, obviously, and that it's actually there to be taken- ask if you don't know!), or ask for an ARC you want if that's the policy. But I find what really helps is to have a buddy with you, and this is a bit of a general BEA/any big convention rule anyway.
At the past two conferences I've been to, I have had two buddies at various times- Meaghan and Susan. Now, Meaghan is a lot like myself- timid and scared to ask for/get things. You'd think that having two similar people together would be bad and nothing would ever get done, but what actually happens is you get to this point where you HAVE to gather the courage to do whatever it is you need to do. You get irritated at how much time you're wasting because you're so scared to ask an author for a photo, or ask for an ARC, or whatever, until you just do it. Meaghan and I are an awesome duo.
Susan is a take-charge kind of gal and has no qualms taking ARCs (that are for taking- she doesn't steal or anything) or going up and asking for them. Since we sometimes want the same things, I stick with her and she'll ask and then I'll pipe up and be like "Oh, and may I have one too?" (or sometimes I'll be quiet and the booth person will take pity and be like "Do you want this too?" and I will say yes). She is my hero and I love having her around.
So yeah, a buddy will help when it comes to snagging ARCs or even just approaching people at the booths. Plus, if something embarassing happens, you aren't alone! It'll probably turn out to be something funny later on.
I hope this helps at least a little bit and if anyone has any questions (or needs anything written today cleared up), just leave a comment or email me and I can answer it next week!