Navigating BookExpo America: A Checklist

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It’s no secret that BookExpo America can be overwhelming. With the event less than two weeks away, now’s a great time to revisit recommendations from booksellers who are masters at navigating the trade show and accomplishing key business goals while grabbing galleys, attending educational events, and making new connections.

Over the years, many ABA member booksellers have offered tips and tricks for making the most of the BEA experience, but their number-one recommendation is to plan ahead. With time being the most valuable resource, heading to the convention with a detailed plan about who to see, what to discuss, and top goals to accomplish can make this BEA your most productive year yet.

Use the following checklist to draft a plan of action for before, during, and after the show.

Plan ahead

  • Choose three of your most important goals to accomplish while at BEA and make sure to get them done.
  • Decide whom to meet: schedule appointments and/or make a list of the publishing staff you want to drop in to see in booth order, according to the BEA floor plan.
  • Plan to meet face-to-face with phone reps from publishers, wholesalers, and other vendors who are not normally available for in-person meetings.
  • Develop a bulleted list of topics to cover at each meeting. Time is often limited, so be concise.
  • Bring supporting materials: a marketing kit, event photos, or program information can help when making a pitch to a publisher.
  • Develop a one-sheet that outlines bookstore highlights: visitor numbers, special events, proximity to major cities and airports, etc.
  • Connect with a veteran bookseller to get tips and advice about navigating BEA. Regional association directors can recommend the best person in your area to reach out to.
  • Ask publisher sales reps for recommendations about whom to meet with, the best galleys to grab, and any signings or parties to keep an eye out for.
  • Use the BEA Show Planner to highlight publishers and their booths on an interactive map, add events and appointments to a master agenda, and print or e-mail a custom-made schedule. Sign up for the BEA Mobile app to use it on the go.
  • Remember to pack comfortable shoes and a big stack of business cards.
  • Keep up with Bookselling This Week, Publishers Weekly, Publishers Lunch, and Shelf Awareness for all BEA coverage, both before and during the show.

At the show

  • Follow the plan: having spent all that time planning ahead, it’s important to stick to it. Attend scheduled events and meetings and use free time to network and visit the show floor.
  • Grab a tote bag right away or, better yet, bring one from home, so there’s a place to put business cards, catalogs, galleys, and swag while traversing the floor.
  • Bring business cards to hand out, and don’t be stingy.
  • Talk to anyone and everyone, and ask for their business cards. Make a note on the card about who the person is and what was discussed for easy reference and recall later.
  • Don’t be shy about talking with publishers or company staff at their booths; exhibitors are there to meet booksellers.
  • Check out the non-book offerings and gifts on display, and any other items to augment store inventory. The trade show floor offers special Gift and Remainder pavilions.
  • Utilize the BEA floor plan: running back and forth on the floor can be exhausting.
  • Visit the ABA Indie Bookseller Lounge (space #2902 on the trade show floor) to meet some of your favorite authors, learn about ABA programs and services, relax and have a snack, and meet with fellow booksellers.
  • Attend as many education sessions, author events, conferences, and editor buzzes as possible. (ABA’s programming kicks off at the Javits Convention Center at 10:00 a.m. on Wednesday, May 29, with the plenary session “Publishing, Bookselling, and the Whole Damn Thing: A Conversation With John Sargent” in the Room 1E14/1E15/1E16).
  • Attend after-hours events, like Hotel ABA’s publisher parties and the Annual Children’s Book Art Silent Auction and Reception.

After the show

  • Reach out to any new connections; pull out those business cards, send a quick e-mail, and keep the lines of communication open.
  • Follow up on any open discussions from meetings with publishers, distributors, or industry professionals.
  • Make plans to attend the next BEA: attending each year helps you to strengthen relationships from the previous year, make new connections, and understand the industry better.

The countdown has begun; there’s no better time than now to begin planning for BEA. Check out what industry professionals at Winter Institute 8 had to say about making the most out of BEA for more ideas and advice, and get planning!