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TLA Recap + Library Conference Tips for Book Bloggers

Hi Friends!

In my In My Mailbox post this past Sunday, I shared all the books I received at the TLA (Texas Library Association) conference that I got signed last Thursday. I wanted to take some time to actually share the events of what happened at TLA and a few tips for any of you who might attend future conferences (TLA, ALA, BEA, etc.).

I got to Houston on Wednesday shortly before Jessi Kirby and Morgan Matson’s signings. Jessi was signing copies of In Honor and Morgan was signing her new book, Second Chance Summer. I definitely planned to attend more author signings at TLA because they had an entire part of the conference floor blocked off for back-to-back hourly signings. They had the list of authors and times posted in advance (and on their TLA app so you could create a schedule), so I planned out exactly who I wanted to see.

morgan matson at texas library association conference in houston, tx

Morgan Matson (left) and me (right) holding the signed copy of Second Chance Summer. I blushed at something someone said, so my face was still a fun shade of red when we took the picture. Fun times!

jessi kirby at texas library association author signing in houston, tx

Jessi Kirby (left) and me (right) holding a finished copy of In Honor! Isn't Jessi adorable?!

I didn’t take very many books home with me on Wednesday. Maybe 8 or so, but almost all of those was a signed book. I walked around the floor to talk to the publishers and figured out what their plans would be for books. Some places (like HarperCollins) do book drops where they set tons of books down all at once and it’s a bit chaotic; Harper usually has a day where they focus on Middle Grade books and another that focuses on Young Adult. Simon & Schuster tends to put down an entire stack (50+ books?) of one or two books until they completely run out of them. Sometimes they have a schedule for when a book will be put down, but most often, it seems to be random.

I took time to meet and talk to the reps that email Estelle and me. My goal at TLA was not to come home with bags full of books that I would stress over reading; I wanted to put faces to names and spend time getting to know more about their upcoming releases. Whether or not I walked away from a booth with a book was not important to me because I know that if I’m truly excited about a release, I will buy the book on my kindle or order a hard copy.

Jess from Gone with the Words and Jennifer from Novel Thoughts were at TLA on Wednesday. I spent time catching up with these girls and we had a ton of fun comparing books we’d read and loved… while trading recommendations and getting excited about upcoming releases. ALA and TLA have been two places I have met some of my best blogging friends. You will find the most supportive community who definitely (and obviously) share your passion for reading! I met Sabrina from YA Bliss and we spent a LONG time sitting in the empty conference center at a closed Starbucks animatedly talking about books.

Wednesday night, I was so thankful to be able to meet up with my very good bookie friend, Ginger. She so kindly allowed me to stay at her new apartment (thanks again, G!) where I got to meet her sweeeeet dog, Daisy. Ginger and I stayed up … waaaaaaay too late that night talking about books, planning out the next day, and catching up on life. Early, early on Thursday we pulled ourselves out of bed and headed to TLA.

Ginger and me waiting in line for Veronica Roth's Insurgent signing!

Veronica Roth’s signing was at 9:30 that morning, and we wanted to arrive early, find her signing area, and stand in line. Thankfully we made that our top priority because the line filled up quickly. They had 170 ARCs of Insurgent to hand out and were allowing people standing in line to just have one book signed. What I mean by that is you were allowed to bring books from home for most signings, but in her line you had to choose whether to have Insurgent signed or a book you brought from home. With so many people waiting, timeliness was a big deal since they had someone planned to start signing immediately after her.

Ginger and I cheesin' it up when the copies of Insurgent landed in our hands. Talk about heart-pounding out of my chest EXCITEMENT!

Veronica Roth and me with the signed copy of Insurgent! I don't know how I didn't pass out from excitement...

After the Insurgent craze, we walked the floor for the rest of the day, taking time to attend a few more signings. One person I was thrilled to meet on the floor was Stasia Ward Kehoe, author of Audition. I missed her signing on Friday because I went home Thursday afternoon, but when I got home I immediately purchased a copy of Audition. It had been on my to-read list forever, but I’d somehow not read it yet.

Stasia and me on the TLA conference floor by the Simon & Schuster booth.

I absolutely loved everything about TLA. The whole mood was pretty somber and quiet. Thursday was a bit busier than Wednesday because a few schools were in attendance for Teen Day, but everything went great! Thanks again to all the publishers and authors who so graciously took the time to a) attend the conference, and b) talk to me about their books. Book lover heaven!

I’ve had a few people ask about the conferences and what to expect. I’ve also made a few observations that people should consider, so I want to share.

Library Conference Tips for Book Bloggers

  • Find roommates or bookish friends to either a) room with at a hotel, or b) stay at their house. You’ll want to save your money for food or purchasing books for signings at the conferences, so save money on the hotel and room with friends!
  • Dress comfortably, but professionally. I’ve heard a few complaints from bloggers that they weren’t taken seriously by publishers. I don’t intend for this to sound rude, but if you look like a teenager visiting for Teen Day (and you’re acting like one), then you might get mistaken for one and leave a publisher’s booth empty-handed. Assume you have a business relationship with publishers; you are asking for copies of their books to promote. You’re a PR person. While you should wear comfortable shoes so your feet don’t die, distinguish yourself from the kids who will be attending as part of a school field trip.
  • Don’t forget to bring business cards. Keep a stash of business cards tucked behind your name badge so you have them on hand to give to people you meet (new friends!) or publishers. Information you might find useful to add:

Your name (duh)
The name of your blog
Your website address
Your twitter handle
Your address (especially useful if a publisher is going to mail you a copy of the book they no longer have at the conference)
What type of books you review on your blog.

  • If you’re uncomfortable handing out a business card to a new friend with your address, make a set specifically for acquaintances without your address.
  • Bring a backpack. They have bags (sometimes for free) for you to carry your books in, but the shoulder straps are killer when you start filling the bag up. A backpack is much more comfortable and back-friendly.
  • Food is expensive on the conference floor, so prepare to spend a bit more on okay food or take time to leave the conference to eat somewhere else.
  • Go to author signings! What better place to meet (and fangirl or fanboy) over your favorite creative minds? GO MEET THE AUTHORS!
  • Don’t forget to bring cash for author signings. Some publishers will have finished copies of books on hand. They sell them for anywhere from $2 – $10; most that I bought were $2 or $5. When I have the option to get an ARC or a finished, hard copy, I would like to have the finished book.
  • Act professionally. Don’t fight. Don’t push. Don’t run on the conference floor. Things do get chaotic, but stay calm.
  • Talk to the publisher representatives at the booths. Ask them about their favorite books. Find out what they’re excited about. Don’t have a me, me, me mentality when you’re talking to the reps. They have a lot of great advice to offer, and have often read most of the books they’re sharing. Let them know what kinds of books you like, and then they can recommend something you’ll probably really enjoy.
  • Read the summaries of the books before stuffing them in your bag. Patience is really key. Don’t take something you’re not interested in. Sometimes things get crazy so you have to make a split second decision about whether you want something, but take a moment to step aside later and check what you’ve got in your bag because…
  • If you have gotten something you don’t want to read (i.e. if you’re given a middle grade book and you only read young adult), share the book with someone else. Ask the people around you if they’d like to take the book. Librarians are often in breakout meetings or actual conferences learning things, so they miss some of the books put out on the floor.
  • Don’t expect copies of everything. Don’t feel entitled to a book just because you paid $25 to attend the exhibit. You will not get everything you want, but you will more than likely bring home tons of other goodies. If you spend the time getting to know the publishers, more than likely, you’ll make a friend who will try to mail a copy to your address.
  • Remember to say thank you. Be kind and courteous to the publishers. I don’t know what else to say here because… you should just be thankful.
  • Conferences are not the place for gathering books for friends and giveaways. It comes across as really rude and selfish when you’re stuffing multiple copies of a book into your bag. Instead of doing that, take a copy for yourself and approach the publishers about doing a giveaway on your blog instead of hoarding everything. Remember, the conference is not just about you. Make contacts, talk to the publishers about helping you out, and don’t be greedy.
  • There is an area at the conference where you can take an extra bag (such as a suitcase) to relieve the books from your backpack occasionally. I’ve never done this, so I’m not sure of the cost, but I wanted to note that this service is available. It is against conference rules for you to pull bags with wheels around on the conference floors. DO NOT plan to take a suitcase on wheels with you to walk around. You will be escorted to the baggage check area.
  • If you’re an out-of-state attendee, they have a postal service on the floor where you can mail your books home for a flat fee per box.
  • At both conferences I’ve attended, there has been a Teen Day. This is when most of the young adult books get distributed. Teen Day will be crazy. Anticipate and expect that. Just because teenagers are there, don’t act like them. They will stalk booths until the book they want hits the floor. They will huddle around booths and stand in the middle of the aisles. They will lunge over people to grab books when a book drop happens. Though their behavior is not okay, don’t blend in and act like them. Teen Day is, after all, designed for them. Publishers will put out piles of books specifically just for teens on this day, so make sure you ask before grabbing from a stack.
  • Again, don’t feel entitled to anything. Make friends and meet other bloggers. This will give you a community of people you can share ARCs and books with!

I hope you found this helpful. If you’ve attended a book conference, please let me know if you have any other tips I may have overlooked on my list!

June 18, 2012 - 12:34 am

Alexa @ Alexa Loves Books - This event looks like so much fun (and definitely is sort of like BEA)! I wish I could have gone so we could hang out 😉 I love your tips, by the way, and think that they’ll definitely be useful to people who attend conferences.

April 29, 2012 - 9:05 am

Shelve It: Books Bought, Borrowed, etc. - […] 4/24 book release: a review of Supergirl Mixtapes by Meagan Brothers. Magan gives you the dirt on TLA (the good kind) + provides some tips for those hoping to attend future conferences. Melissa C. […]

April 27, 2012 - 1:30 pm

Sharon @ Fictionally Inclined - Love the pictures! It’s so amazing that you got to meet Jessi Kirby and Veronica Roth.

This was such a great post. I haven’t been to a book conference/event like this (yet!), but I’ll be sure to keep these tips in mind! Thanks. 🙂

April 27, 2012 - 5:34 am

VeganYANerds - Great post, Magan! I love all of the photos of you with the authors you met, you look so happy, I bet it was a lot of fun!

And your offer some great tips for other bloggers going to these type of events!

April 26, 2012 - 5:52 pm

Jess @ Gone with the Words - Love this post so. much. 🙂 Fantastic tips, Magan!! It was so awesome hanging out with you, and I hope to get to do it again soon!

April 26, 2012 - 11:47 am

Katy Manck (BooksYALove) - Great post, Magan! As a long-time TLA member, recently-retired school librarian, and first-year book blogger, I appreciate knowing that bloggers & librarians understand their relationship with publishers & with authors.

It’s win-win-win as long as we all get the right book into the hands of the right reader, whether it’s through a blog post, a book talk at the library, or an author signing at a bookstore.

Let’s continue to be professional and upbeat in this together (and show folks that the stinkers who put ARCs up on eBay right after ALA Midwinter are the minority that we’re trying to re-educate).

Happy reading, happy blogging, happy people!
**Katy M
Recommending YA books beyond the bestsellers at
http://BooksYALove.blogspot.com
Follow me on Twitter @BooksYALove

April 26, 2012 - 11:19 am

margie c {the bumble girl} - Oh, Magan! How thoughtful of you to share all of this with us! I will be driving in for BEA this year, my first time! Unfortunately, I am only able to go in for ONE day! and I have been so very nervous as to what I should wear, what to expect and where to go. Mostly I’m hoping to meet other book bloggers 🙂
These tips are so very helpful, thank you so much!

April 26, 2012 - 11:02 am

Magan - Elena! You should definitely go to a conference! They’re a ton of fun and the networking is unbelievable. I’ve met some INCREDIBLE people at the conferences. Regarding the whole ‘look like a teenager thing’ – it really boils down to professionalism. I met some teenagers at TLA that acted more grown up than the adults did. It’s all in how you present yourself. Come to ALA in June, please? I want to meet you!!!

April 26, 2012 - 10:58 am

elena - Ahh Magan, this post is SO helpful and perfect! I’ve thought about attending a book conference before but haven’t made the plunge yet since it requires plane tickets & hotels. I really want to go to one when I’m more comfortable with blogging but wasn’t sure about them in general. Your tips are fantastic, definitely bookmarking for if I ever go in the future. 🙂 Unfortunately, the “don’t look like a teen” thing can’t apply to me because I still get asked if I would like the children’s menu in restaurants…sigh.

I also really love all the pictures you shared! I wonder what made you blush and you look lovely in all of them!

April 26, 2012 - 10:58 am

Magan - Thanks, Anna! 🙂 xoxo

April 26, 2012 - 10:57 am

Anna - Love this. All of this.

April 26, 2012 - 10:50 am

Magan - Haha, April! I try. So hard. I just want to raise up the book blogging community and we’ll do that by acting professional. Sometimes we get a bad rep for people who just want to take. I think it’s about figuring out what we can give back, ya know?

Thanks, love! 🙂

April 26, 2012 - 10:45 am

Magan - Ginger, I’m going to cry… it was so, so awesome for me, too! I MISS YOU! I wish we could rewind and do the whole day all over again. Cannot wait for the next time we get to hang out! Love you, lady! xoxo

April 26, 2012 - 10:44 am

April Books & Wine - You are so profesh, I LOVE IT. And I am glad to know I associate with people like you.

Solid tips lady, solid tips.

Also the pic with Ginger? Too cute for words!

April 26, 2012 - 10:36 am

Ginger @ GReads! - Wow! Your tips are so spot on. I will definitely be sharing this post with others 🙂 You did a fabulous job of highlighting some very important things to consider when attending a book event like TLA.

Oh man, I had SO MUCH FUN with you!!! That day is probably one of my most favorite book moments to date 🙂 thank you for making it special! Love you!!!

April 26, 2012 - 10:29 am

Karen - Excellent post!

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