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.
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.
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.
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.
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!