I’ve never been to BookCon. Heck, until last year I had never even heard of BookCon! But man, when I heard that there was a convention solely for the celebration of books and publishers…I swear I cried just a little bit. Okay, not literally, but you get my drift. So obviously I knew I had to go to this year’s convention.
For those that have never heard of BookCon; it’s literally a convention in New York that includes publishers, authors (and yes, they do autograph sessions) and other book adjacent companies and fans to get together.
This is not to be confused with BookExpo, which happens around the same time and at the same convention hall. I was actually super confused by this at first, so I promise I won’t judge you if you’re confused as well. Both events appear to be run by the same people, with the major differences being that BookExpo (aka BEA) runs during the week and for a longer period of time (and presumably has more opportunities for exclusive content and visits) while BookCon is the weekend.
I opted for BookCon because I didn’t want to take too much time off of work, especially when I’ve never been before and don’t know if I’ll like it. Who am I kidding? I’m going to love it! Anyway, moving on… I also decided to just go for Saturday, for the first year. I didn’t want to overwhelm myself and really just wanted a chance to get a feel for the event before I really dove all in. It’s not like there’s any rush or pressure, right?
As for my actual plans of going to BookCon? I bought two Saturday tickets, one for myself and one for my husband, whom I’ll shamelessly be using as a pack mule for my book haul (he’s okay with it, I swear). As this is my first convention ever that I’ve gone out of state for, I was feeling a bit overwhelmed by hotels, but eventually settled for one only four blocks away from the convention hall (with the anticipation of just walking there and back on the day of, thus saving myself some transport time and money).
Otherwise I had originally planned to just take it easy and see what I could discover while walking around. That is, until I caught the BookCon hype. It turns out that there are actually some really cool and active BookCon communities on Facebook and Twitter. It didn’t take long for me to get the bug.
I went from planning on having a casual day to trying to figure out everything from what authors I wanted autographs from, to what booths and panels I wanted to see/shop at. This quickly became pretty overwhelming, but while I know I haven’t seen everything yet, I feel like I have a better handle on it.
To help others learn from my experience, I’m going to try and put it all out on paper. Here’s what I’ve learned:
Autographs: BookCon recently switched the way they do autograph sessions. Now instead of having to wait in line at the beginning of the convention (something I understand to be quite intimidating) you can get tickets ahead of time. They’re capped at two per badge per day, but otherwise it seems to have evened the odds out pretty nicely.
Each session clarifies if you need to buy a book there for autographing, whether or not they give out free stuff, and if you can get any additional books signed. It should say what the requirements are on the tickets.
It’s worth noting that this will not be the only autograph sessions occurring during BookCon, they’re just the ticketed events. There will be plenty of in booth autographing sessions as well.
In booth autographing: This one is a bit more confusing, as the rules seem to vary by booth and publisher. Some publishers will require you to get a ticket in the morning, for a signing later in the day. They’ll probably have you buy the book as the way of getting a ticket. I know for a fact Macmillian is using this method.
Other in booth autographing sessions have been announced for their time and location, but don’t seem to require tickets. I don’t know if they’ll require a purchase, but I would assume that to be the case (plus it’s easier to not lug books to the convention to get signed if you can avoid it).
Also, not all publishing companies have released their schedules yet, which makes this whole thing a bit more complicated. The best advice I’ve been given on this is to follow the publishers and authors you care about on twitter, so that if they have any surprise announcements you won’t be missing out.
Panels: Panels seem to be much easier to deal with than the autographing sessions. At least by my understanding of it; which never having gone before I can’t technically verify. Everything that happens in the main hall requires you to sign up beforehand. You just get to tap your badge in the morning to get signed up for that room.
All panels not happing in the main hall are similar to any other convention; you get there and lineup. The more popular the author/panel is the earlier you should line up, but there’s a limit to that logic. I’ve been told that BookCon is very strict about early lineups, so keep this in mind. My advice would be to watch for other people lining up and join them once it starts. You won’t be the first in line this way, but you’ll be close, and that should be good enough.
Swag: I’ve heard that there’s going to be lots of giveaways, ARC drops, and things like that all over the place during BookCon. I’m hoping this is the case, as there’s nothing better than free book stuff and getting your hands on some ARCs (Advanced Review Copies). Some publishing companies have announced what ARCs or giveaways they’ll be doing, but again not all of them have.
There are some wonderful people on twitter that have done a great job compiling as many of the events as possible, which is quite the task. If you’re feeling overwhelmed they’re a good resource to look up – it helped me!
Some other great advice I’ve been given on what to bring:
- Bring a wheeled suitcase. This sounds crazy, as you can’t take it on the expo floor (I checked), but when you think about it it’s actually quite brilliant. You can check the bag in the coat check, and then at the end of the day you don’t have to carry all of your now very heavy bags back home. Brilliant!
- Have a comfortable backpack. Seriously, while it’s tempting to just grab a cheap one, your shoulders and back will pay the price for that one later. Especially if you’re hoping to haul a lot of books around. If you’re planning on bringing your own water (which I suggest) you should keep that in mind when picking out a bag. In the case of buying/carrying books you probably want a bag with an external water bottle pocket, just to make sure nothing horrible happens to the precious cargo.
- Bring water and snacks: This is a duh for anyone that’s gone to a convention, but better to say it than not. Convention food is expensive and will have long lines.
- Extra battery chargers for your phone and any other devices. You’re going to want to keep your phone charged here, not just for the obvious reasons but so you don’t miss out on any alerts from BookCon or the publishers you’re following.
- Bring a couple of tote bags. There’s going to be free stuff, purchases, etc, that will all add up for what you’re carrying. Even if you have a backpack with you, you’re going to need extra space at some point. That being said, you’ll probably be given an extra tote or two while walking around, so don’t go overboard bringing bags.
- Bring book plates. Book plates are stickers that authors can sign, so that you don’t have to haul as many books around. It’s also great if you suddenly run into somebody you want to have an autograph from, but don’t have their book on you. For my bookplates I bought a package of the simple name tags. They’re rectangle, white, and have no markings on them, making them cheap but perfect for what I need. Also bring a couple of fine point sharpies and keep them close.
- If you’re a book reviewer/bookstagramer, or anybody else trying to make connections at the convention then you should bring business cards. Seriously, I know it sounds crazy but it’s a good idea. You never know who you’re going to meet there and having an easy way to exchange information is super helpful.
- Follow all of the authors and publishers you care about on Twitter. They’ll usually announce any surprise events on there.
- Likewise follow BookCon on Twitter.
- Keep an eye on the relevant hashtags on Twitter: #TheBookCon, #BookCon #TheBookCon2018, etc.
- You can create lists on Twitter, which if you view will only show you updates from the people you add to said list. This is a great way of watching all of the publishers and authors at once, without having to dig through the rest of your feed.
- Get to the convention as early as you can. While you don’t have to fight in line for autographing sessions anymore, like any convention a lot of the free stuff will go sooner rather than later. It isn’t the end of the world if you miss this stuff, so it’s really dependent on how much you care.
- You can in fact get into more than two autograph sessions IF the session haven’ sold out by the day of. I think you have to line up in the morning for it, but again I’m not certain on this.