It’s that time of the year again, folks, the time when your social media feeds slowly start to fill up with the acronym BEA. BEA, or (more formally) BookExpo America, is splashing down in New York City at the end of May, and the book world is aquiver with excitement.
I went last year, and let me tell you, BEA was AWESOME. If I had the money, I’d go again in a heartbeat. But since I can’t, I’m going to do the next best thing and pass off some of my knowledge to you! Ready?
To go or not to go
Most likely, if you’re reading this post, you’ve already decided to go. Then again, perhaps not. Maybe all you need is some information and a good push. It is my personal opinion that all serious bloggers should go to BEA at least once. I can’t describe to you the rush I felt from being in a place literally filled with fellow book-lovers. The networking alone is worth it, not to mention the chance to meet your favorite authors and score some early copies of upcoming releases.
However, BEA can be quite a commitment between costs and time off, so don’t feel pressured into going. Figure out what you can afford and plan accordingly. If you can’t go this year, take a look at this list and see if you can find another conference closer to you. Or do what I did and use your overwhelming jealousy to help you start planning ahead for next year!
BEA vs. the Bloggers Conference
Oh, but hold up. Which badge are you going to get? Here’s where it got confusing for me, and I’m sorry to say that I don’t entirely understand the options even now. Okay, so, if you JUST want to go to BEA and not do anything else, you go to the BEA website, choose your badge category, and register. Prices for the badges depend on what you are. For instance, if you’re a blogger who is also a teacher, bookstore associate, or librarian, you qualify for the “Book Buying Professionals” badge. Regular bloggers, on the other hand, fall under the “Publishing Professionals” umbrella.
However, the BEA Bloggers Conference is going on concurrently and will be filled with events and topics just for bloggers. Based on the fine print, it looks like the Bloggers Conference tickets get you into the conference and BEA itself for $30 LESS than a main ticket. I don’t know why, but I’d think that would be the best buy, even if you skipped the Bloggers Conference entirely.
There are other events that you can buy tickets for, such as the Author Breakfasts and the IDPF Digital Book Conference, but I didn’t attend either of those, so I’m afraid I won’t be much help. (Note: You can find out which authors will be at the Breakfasts by checking out the BEA main page.)
How to get there and where to stay
So you’ve decided to go and you’ve picked your badge. Hooray! How to get yourself to NYC will depend on where you live, obviously. If you’re close, drive on up. If you’re a little further out, catch a train. And if you’re really far out, jump on a plane with the rest of the country! The sooner you start looking, the better deal you’re likely to find. Check all the normal sites like Travelocity, Expedia, Kayak, etc. for some good deals, but be sure to check the main airline sites as well. They sometimes have deals for customers who book straight from them. If you’re a student, Student Universe is a good site to check as well.
Go for the deals, but don’t be afraid to spend a little extra if needed. When I went, JetBlue was the cheapest flight I could find, and they treated me well. However, had an airline with a bad reputation like American Airlines been my cheapest option, I would have passed over them for someone else. Believe me, when you’ve heard some of the stories I have, the fifty extra bucks isn’t worth it. Also try to be kind to yourself when it comes to flight times. A 7 AM flight might not sound too awful now, but you’ll be kicking yourself when you have to leave your house at 3 AM.
As for hotels, what you choose will be up to your priorities. The idea of navigating the bowels of Downtown NYC scared me silly, so I chose one of the official BEA hotels with a bus that would take me straight to the conference center. Also, a free continental breakfast (to save on food) and free wi-fi were a BIG deal for me. A gym and bar downstairs? Not so much. Side note: You can sometimes find quality deals for airlines and hotels through the BEA website. As I said, I ended up booking my hotel through them, but my airfare ended up being cheaper elsewhere.
Of course, you have other options for housing as well. Many times, travelers use BEA as the jumping-off point for a longer stay (more on that later.) In that case, renting an apartment might be a smarter option. Getting a short-term rental in NYC (or New Jersey) might be cheaper in the long run if you plan on staying longer than a week. Not only do the costs work better, but you would have your own space with (most likely) a little kitchen where you could save on food costs. Another option is couch-surfing. I’ve never done it, but friends of mine have with great results. Of course, be safe and use your best judgement when arranging to stay with a stranger. (Duh.) Click on the link to learn more. Your last option would be to ask around and see if you can crash with a friend who already lives in NYC.
Who to stay with
So you’ve figured out (roughly) where you want to stay. That’s awesome. Have you considered getting a roommate? Roommates are great because they automatically halve (or more, if you get more than one) your costs, they provide you with a sightseeing buddy, and they’re great for planning BEA strategies. I found my roommate last year by posting a request on my blog. I knew other people were in the same boat, so I knew it was only a matter of time before I found the right match. Of course, you may already know blogger friends who are going, so you can work out a deal with them. Or, if you don’t know anyone at all, you can check the BEA group page on Goodreads, since there’s always a group there of roommate-seekers.
Of course, please be smart about choosing your roommates. The book blogging community is a wonderful one, but the fact remains that this is the internet. Even if the person you’re talking to isn’t a total creeper, there’s no guarantee that they’ll be a reliable person. Make sure you discuss important details (smoking or non-smoking room? do you go to bed at a reasonable hour or stay up all night partying? how are you going to split costs? etc.) ahead of time and document everything that you agree upon. In your rush to secure a roommate, don’t jump at the first person who responds to your requests. BEA is still several months off. There’s time. Do it right, and be safe.
So concludes part one of my BEA Tips. Check back over the next two months leading up to BEA as I cover traveling in NYC itself, sightseeing, BEA strategies, etiquette, and packing tips.
If you have any questions, please comment below or email me at shaelitblog [at] gmail [dot] com.