It’s here and gone, the annual Book Expo America at the Javits Center in NYC.
This was my first, and I will definitely be back.
Tips and Takeaways:
- It’s no time to be shy. Talk, meet, shake hands and do a lot of listening. Smiling too. My very first booth visit was to the London Review of Books. Never been across the pond and I never held a paper copy of this fine publication; in fact my book is NOT anywhere near ready to be reviewed, but I dove in and intro’d myself. We had a great discussion! I’ve read this is one of the very top media outlets for book reviews. The guy was so nice (here I am, expecting a British accent, but he was from Massachusetts). TIP: Be yourself, ask a few key questions, be brief, be gracious, take their business card, move along.
- Have a plan, of some sort. Otherwise you’ll stress out. I didn’t use the floor plan or the alpha listing. My method was just to split the two days into aisle numbers. Up and down each aisle, passing the booths that I didn’t to visit. You do have competition, in that sometimes there will be so much traffic around the people you want to speak to that you have to wait your turn. TIP: Be patient, hang in there. If it’s a potentially important connection, it’s worth the wait. Again, be friendly and succinct.
- Talk about your book and be prepared for the conversation to take a detour. Go with it. It’s not all about self-promotion, but coming across as a mensch; easy to talk to, friendly, funny, interesting. I laughed with people about the near-impossibility of covering such a humongous venue, about New York cabbies, about the searing heat and interesting smells of the city.
- Practical matters:
- Drink lots of water
- Hit the bathroom often (wash your face and brush your teeth every time; it keeps you sharp and confident)
- Keep snacks in your bag, especially breath mints
- Keep your phone charged for photos
- Carry lots of pens
- Carry a small memo pad for notes-to-self
- Plan at least one sit-down session per day to get off your feet and get smart. I sat in on a panel of five up-and-coming authors, what inspired them and how they constructed their stories. Even when the subject matter didn’t particularly float my boat, their passion and excitement were infectious, and I became interested in their books anyway!
- Eat light (you can have a big dinner when it’s over)
- Try not to gather too many books early on (they get heavy quickly)
- Duck into the free photo booth and make a gif, you’ll be happy you did (share it on social media)
- Follow up. For God’s sake, follow up! All those business cards, postcards and bookmarks you slipped into your canvas bag (take the freebies) represent Book Expo folks who took the time to speak to you. Even if they don’t/won’t figure into your writing career (and how can you be so sure…?), shoot an email saying hi and it was so nice to meet cha.
- Related to #5, find these contacts on social media and, as long as there’s nothing objectionable, follow them on Twitter, FB, Instagram and their blogs. You will probably get a follow back.
- Keep the spirit alive. It’s another year out ’til the next Expo, but in the meantime you have lots of work to do, including buying a new pair of pretty Sketchers (unpaid endorser here) to walk next year’s event.