If you read my recent post about “My First BookCon Experience” then you know I recently traveled to the Big Apple for a book lovers dream! While I have a similar post about how to prepare for cons in general, this is going to be about how you should take those tips and apply them to BookCon!
In case you didn’t know, Bookcon is an annual book convention held in New York City at the Javits Center. If this is your first Bookcon, my goal is for this post to help you to navigate the convention, plan accordingly, avoid mishaps, and to have fun!
Plan, plan and then plan some more!
The total BookCon schedule is usually available on their website and app about a month before the event. They consistently update it leading up to and during the convention. The schedule includes autographing sessions, panels, meet-and-greets, and writing workshops.
I highly recommend planning out what events you’d like to attend before you even head towards the event. It’s okay to not include every little thing you’ll want to do over the weekend, but I seriously recommend having a few back-up options in case a line gets capped for an event. There are quite a few people who use Excel to create a block schedule. Whatever way you find is easiest to keep track of the events you are definitely attending (the ticketed autographing sessions or writing workshops) and in-booth events that you want to attend. Every morning there is a Publishers Weekly guide available and that usually includes ARC drops and events that maybe aren’t in the online schedule.
Comfortable attire, you’ll thank me later!
This is obviously not something specific for cosplayers, but I would still recommend you be somewhat comfortable in your outfit if you are planning on costuming. BookCon runs for the bulk of the day, 10am-5/6pm, and you’ll be on your feet 90% of the time. Obviously comfortable shoes, stick to close-toed since there are strollers and carts everywhere. Not to mention because people are literally running to ARC drops and booths so you want your toes to be protected! The weather in NY was kind of wonky that week, it poured down on us in the evening and then was super humid during the day. Remember that most convention centers are going to be pumping the A/C to keep the crowds cool. Just because you don’t need a jacket going in doesn’t mean you won’t want one while you’re there. Be like a cake and have many layers!
Carry a backpack!
It doesn’t necessarily have to be a backpack but some kind of storage option so your arms don’t take the full brunt of the books. Publishers do a great job of handing out free tote bags, but you’ll want to come prepared with a way to carry all your bookish swag in! Personally, I’ve needed at least 2 totes (on top of my backpack) by the end of each day to hold everything! There are a lot of people who bring roller bags and thankfully Book Con does provide a bag/coat check option, but I’ve personally never used this service. Each day I carried a backpack to the convention, with a few tote bags stuffed inside. You’re going to be waiting in lines…A LOT. Having a comfortable backpack that doesn’t pull your shoulders down like a tote is going to be a lifesaver.
Patience is a virtue!
Speaking of lines, I hope you’re a patient person (I’m not haha) because if you’re trying to grab an ARC drop, snag an autograph, or a coveted swag item then be prepared to wait. I would say 50% of the time I was at BookCon was spent waiting in lines. This is a great chance to make friends with other people suffering in line with you, connect on social media, hand out your business card if you’ve got one and maybe find out some things you didn’t know were going on. By chatting with people I found out about a few potential ARC drops in the future, sometimes I just got in line for something hoping it was good and by chatting with people I found out it was just where I needed to be! Generally speaking, bookish people are pretty kind and helpful.
Speaking of backpacks, make sure that you are carrying all of the necessary things to help get you through the day. You’ll need a portable charger: between the terrible signal, taking photos and videos, trying to meet up with friends, using con apps, or live-tweeting your experience, your phone working pretty hard to do anything. Your battery will drain quick doing basic tasks. Trying to track down a wall port to plug your phone into isn’t ideal so I always recommend a portable charger and cable. Snacks and water: if you want to avoid high snack prices inside, then I recommend you pack yourself a few simple, non-greasy snacks. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! You’re going to be walking, talking, and sometimes running across the convention floor. I know standing in line for the bathroom isn’t ideal, it’s preferable to crashing due to dehydration.
Bring a buddy!
I know it isn’t always easy having friends who want to nerd out over books but if you can, drag a friend along. You can use either of the two Facebook groups I mentioned above to connect with others going so that you can divide and conquer. Someone can wait in line for a book drop while another can grab a quick autograph or pick up food, maybe even snag some swag. If you are dragging family and they have very little interest in being there, make sure that you give them specific instructions for what they’re supposed to grab, where and when. I went by myself and I really wish I could have split some of the pressure with another person.
Catch some zzz’s!
I know everyone talks about getting up to wait in line (some as early as 3am) but for me, I much prefer to be well rested. You’re probably going to be slightly cranky throughout the day, between the crowds and such, so I’d rather handle the stress of the day with more sleep under my belt. They don’t have any line movement to get into the building until 7 and the show floor doesn’t open until 10 so don’t stress yourself trying to get closest to the front of the line. I recommend staying happy, hydrated (caffeinated), and well-fed; it’s the best thing you can do for getting to more booths and snagging more ARCs.
I know I’ve mentioned the two BookCon facebook groups, but Twitter and Instagram are also going to be your friend. Be sure that you’re following BookCon and any authors that you’re dying to see on both. A lot of times authors and publishers will post their booth number, the tentative schedule, and what swag they’ll be giving out. I found out about some unscheduled author signings because of social media. They usually do this the week before the con so there is still time to adjust your schedule if necessary.
I know it sounds obviously, but remember why you’re there. This is your chance to be your most bookish self, surrounded by other passionate people, at a convention dedicated entirely to books! I’m the first to admit that I had a few moments on day 1 that I forgot; it’s easy to get stressed out, frustrated your’e not getting to attend panels or signings but just remember to breathe and stay optimistic! Things aren’t always going to go to plan but you won’t leave empty handed, both through friends, swag, and experience. Be kind to others, help those who need it, take time for yourself, and be patient.
☐ Your Tickets: Obviously bring your entrance pass but also any printouts or screenshots of any workshops you’ve signed up for.
☐ Schedule: You can build your Bookcon schedule on the app or make a spreadsheet through Excel, Numbers, or Google docs. Both of these can be kept on your phone, can be color coded, and adjusted as the day goes on.
☐ Payment: Nobody is saying you need to spend your salary on BookCon and you’ll definitely walk away with some free goodies but be prepared. Buying food, swag and some events you have to purchase books for autographs. Most take credit but it’s always good to have a little cash just in case.
☐ Comfy Clothes: I’m all about being comfortable, all the time. Your shoes will be key, good padding and well-worn in. Be sure you’ve got a jacket or sweater in case they pump in the A/C.
☐ Portable phone charger! This is something I usually bring because I get paranoid that my phone will die and I can’t find my friends. You can just charge your phone in your bag and no worries!
☐ Large backpack! I bring my backpack and it does the job of holding my phone, camera & money. I’m also bringing my own tote to hold my books in.
☐ Food & Hydration: Seriously, you won’t regret it.
☐ Post-Its: If you’re a con-goer, this is something you don’t have to bring but it’s handy. Make sure you take a post it and write your name on it. Whomever is signing might be able to personalize it!
☐ Lady Essentials: You never know when things might strike, but also I carry these in case someone else needs them!
☐ Business Cards: if you’re a blogger, booktuber, bookstagramer, then this is a great chance to do some networking. Strike up conversation with your line buddies, hand them out at meetups, or just leave them on tables.