The Newbie’s Guide to BookCon aka my BookCon 2019 Experience

Posted June 10, 2019 by Amber in Bookish Things, Real World / 8 Comments

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Sooo, I did a thing.

A couple months ago, I let slip that my brother talked me into going to BookCon 2019 this year.  I’d heard a little about BookCon and other bookish conventions through Twitter, but I’m not deep into those spots in the blogosphere, so it wasn’t a desperate wishlist item for me.  I thought I would casually go and check it out, but after I started to research, it became readily apparent that this was gonna be some Comic Con level stuff, and I needed to up my game.

Rather than just having a brag fest here about the experience (because I am super lucky – I live about 3 hours away from NYC so this convention is really accessible to me), I thought I’d put together a guide about how to go and have fun, without too many anxiety attacks or getting brutally murdered.  Will this guide help you achieve that unicorn copy of Leigh Bardugo’s latest book? Absolutely not.  But hopefully you will have a great time and not die.

Seriously.  Avoid dying at all costs, because some of the people at BookCon are intense.

This is going to be a long post, so I’ll break it up into sub-sections.  I do want to keep it all in one post, because having an overall guide instead of a series is useful.  I actually had a really difficult time finding information of what to expect at BookCon when I was Googling it pre-convention, so hopefully this guide will be helpful to others next year, especially the less intense people. Most of the other guides out there are exclusively BookCon hauls, or telling you that you need to make a schedule and get there really early.  Or not.  I felt like it was all really confusing.

For your convenience, a table of contents!

Part One – Tickets
Part Two – Plan Your Day
Part Three – Autograph Tickets and Raffles
Part Four – Packing for the Day
Part Five – Getting to BookCon & The Morning In Line
Part Six- The Fierce Reads Breakfast
Part Seven – Penguin Random House
Part Eight – NOVL & Other ARC Drops
Part Nine – Epic Reads Chaos
Part Ten – The One Panel I Went To
Part Eleven – After the Con
Part Twelve – The Haul

If you’re interested in my day and are not planning for BookCon yourself… most my personal stuff starts coming in at Part Six… so skip to there. 🙂

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Part One:  Tickets

BookCon typically occurs late May/early June.  This year, it was June 1 & 2 – in 2020, it will be May 30 & 31.  Tickets go on sale mid-November, but unless you are trying to get VIP tickets, don’t sweat it – they won’t run out early.  On the other hand, if you know you’re going to be the type who needs VIP tickets, perks include things like first access to the show floor (not early entrance), an exclusive drop area, and an extra autographing ticket.  Perks change every year, so watch the BookCon website for specifics.

VIP badges sold out in less than 20 minutes this year.  For a lot of people, first access to the show floor and that extra autographing session makes a big difference.  If you know this is the only time you’ll be able to make the convention or if you absolutely must have a certain book or meet a certain author, VIP tickets are for you.  If you’re someone like me who can see themselves coming out to NYC more than once, or if it’s your first time and you just want to go to take in the convention, don’t worry about VIP tickets.  They’re an extra layer of stress that you don’t need if you just want to chill and have a good time.

If you’re not looking to score VIP tickets, don’t stress!  General admission was still available on the day of the convention, though if you buy them early (think: more than 45 days in advance) they’re less expensive.  You can buy them online and your badges will be sent to you, or if you’re international and would prefer to pick them up at the convention, you can do that too.

Depending on which tickets you buy, you’ll get different artwork.  We chose to only go Saturday because we knew we’d need to recover on Sunday (which, yes, we definitely needed) so our tickets had Cassandra Clare’s Chain of Gold on the cover.  Also – don’t bring a lanyard unless you have a special one you want to wear, because you can get free ones there and they will not run out.

You do need to activate your badge before arriving to BookCon, so make sure you do that at some point.  Don’t worry – there’s a big sticker on them saying “ACTIVATE ME!” so you won’t forget.  I activated ours the day before the Con, so there’s no rush on this either.

Alrighty!  So after the tickets have been purchased, the best thing to do is figure out which autographs you’d like, download the BookCon app, and watch for exclusive opportunities.  If you’re crazy like me and buy your general admission tickets in December – six months early – then you’ll have a long while to wait before anything happens.  I made sure to follow BookCon on Instagram so I’d see the latest updates about new guests and opportunities.

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Part Two:  Plan Your Day

Planning your day comes in bits and pieces.  You have to decide what you want to focus on.  BookCon is definitely one of those times where you are going to have to choose you adventure.  Do you want meet authors?  Do you want to get free stuff?  Do you want to go to panels?  Do you want to do a little of everything?  There’s enough in each option to fill your whole day, so please don’t go in with the expectation that you will get it all.  You won’t.  But you’ll probably want to do it all so…

Advice #1:  Bring a friend.

 

Ideally, this will be a friend who is deeply supportive of you but not super interested in what’s happening, so you can force ask them to assist you in your daily quests.  For me, this was my darling, supportive husband.  My husband actually is a reader, but he’s an audiobook reader and likes looooong fantasy novels so a lot of what was available for the day didn’t interest him.  He was an incredible beacon of support and I sent him on missions all day.  He also got to listen to The Lost Gate by Orson Scott Card all day, so he was perfectly content.  Yay!

ANYWAYS.

So if you’re planning your day out, you’re going to want to be conscious of a few things leading up to the event.  There are a few different resources you can use.

  1. The BookCon App – Remember how I suggested downloading this earlier?  They have a scheduling tool on the app you can use if you want, but most of all, you’re going to want this so you have easy access to the panel and guest listings.  This will tell you what is going on when in a general sense.  I find that the app was particularly good if you’re interested in panels.
  2. Follow everything on social media – And yes… I mean pretty much everything.  For all the negative energy floating around Twitter, it’s really the best place to get information.  When publishing houses announce their schedules, when the date of the author signing registration is announced… all that, you’ll find by following @BookCon and various houses and authors on Twitter.  This is useful not only in advance, but day of the convention.
  3. Find a DM group on Twitter and be a part of it – Seriously, this was my best resource!  I was able to glean information from experienced Con-goers and newbies.  All the publishing house schedules were re-posted in the chat and it was a great place to ask general questions and prepare of the experience.  Doubly useful if you’ve never been to NYC before.  I cannot recommend this enough.  If nobody in your feed is hosting a DM conversation about BookCon or BookExpo, use your hashtags and find someone! 🙂
  4. Find someone who is keeping track of everything – Despite running a bookstagram account, I actually don’t have a lot of free time for social media, so I struggled to keep up with all the publisher schedules and BookCon announcements.  In my Twitter DM thread (seriously – the best) someone recommended a user who keeps an Excel spreadsheet for a $3 donation.  For me, it was worth it so I could sit back and let someone else do the work.  And that spreadsheet had everything announced – it was so valuable when I actually did make a schedule.

In keeping track of who they want to see and what they want to do, people all seem to have their own methods.  When I sat down and really went to town, I used Google Calendar and color-coded, because I could print it, get notifications of upcoming things, and share it with Matt.  A lot of people favor Excel spreadsheets.  It’s all about what works best for you!

There are no rules to how to create this, but even if you’re not a planner, it’s good to have an idea of what’s going on throughout the day.  Honestly, there were so many interesting things that ended up double-booked that we didn’t get to, or lines that were so far beyond our control that we had to prioritize (or just skip them).  You can also just get in line and ask people what’s they’re waiting for!

However, I do suggest putting everything you’re interested in on your list, because you never know how the day will flow!  Maybe there’s a giveaway you really want at the same time as a panel, but the line for the giveaway is insane and you’re not feeling it… if that’s the case, then it’s good to have that backup option right there.

Advice #2:  Turn on your Twitter notifications.

 

For the day-of, publishing houses and other exhibitors will drop secret passwords and giveaway announcements.  This year, there were reapers wandering the floor and you had to ask them a very specific question for a chance of winning a card that might include a voucher for an ARC of The Toll.  We didn’t win the ARC, but we did get a Scythe pin, so that was cool!

If you organize the houses/authors you’re interested in into a Twitter Collection/List ahead of time and turn on notifications… you’re bound to run into a password or three.

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Part Three: Autograph Tickets and Raffles

Before the convention even begins, you have to register for signing tickets and enter raffles.  If you’re interested in a writing workshop, you can sign up for that as well!  I did not attend a writing workshop, as we were making a day trip out of it and I didn’t want to ditch my husband for that long, but it’s something I think I would consider in the future because it’s a really cool opportunity.

What I did do is enter a raffle.  I rarely win raffles and I couldn’t believe it when I did!  There are breakfasts, snacks, and exclusive Meet & Greets all day at BookCon.  If you watch your favorite publishers and the BookCon webpage and social media feeds, you’re bound to run into something interesting.  The downside of these is that you may have to give up another event if you win – maybe a panel or a chance to grab a signing/ARC ticket available at the same time.

I entered the raffle for the Fierce Reads Breakfast and won!  I couldn’t believe it, and it was totally cool.  It did rob me of the opportunity to race for an ARC of The Starless Sea, but we would have had to get up a lot earlier to get one of those (more on that later).  It was such a cool experience to be able to sit at a round table and talk to fourteen authors about their books, lives, commuting options… so I completely recommend entering a raffle.  I will discuss the breakfast in more detail later on.

One thing you really need to be ready for before BookCon is the autograph ticket drop.  A few weeks before the sign up goes live, BookCon will release an information sheet on their website so you can see who is signing what and when, and whether or not a purchase is required.

Advice #3: Know Your Signing Choices Inside and Out

 

I actually made this mistake, and I want to prevent others from making it.  In general admission, you have two autograph tickets, and that’s it.  Autograph tickets are free (some signings require a book purchase) but you need to know who you want and what time they are signing.  When you get to the setup, signings are in order by date and time.  And the tickets go fast.

Those who have VIP tickets get first shot at the autograph tickets and they get three, so some of tickets may already be gone by the time they’re open to general admission.  I was ready at 10am to get my tickets but scrolling chronologically instead of alphabetically threw me, and all my picks sold out before I could get to them.

A personal suggestion:  use a computer to get the signing tickets, instead of your phone.  If nothing else, you can use the ctrl+f function to search the page and find your choices without scrolling and that extra moment makes a difference.

Advice #4:  Look out for In-Booth Signings

 

While BookCon has a lot of people in the official signing area, publishers will have in-booth signings as well!  These are not announced through the BookCon webpage or app – they seem to be universally announced on Twitter.  This is where following your favorite authors and publishers pays off.

My experience with these was that you had to get a signing ticket at ticket drop (as soon as the doors open), so it wasn’t something you could get ahead of time.  These included authors like Leigh Bardugo and Amanda Foody, so if you’re hoping for an in-booth signing, get in line fast.  The signings themselves are later in the day.  In particular – if you’re looking for a well-loved author (like Leigh Bardugo)… that’s when you want to get in line at 5am.

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Part Four: Packing for the Day

I put off my calendar-making and packing until the day before, because I was experiencing a lot of anxiety, mostly because there were so many unknowns.  If you’re like me, hopefully this post will eliminate a lot of that!

There’s a few things you’ll want when you’re packing for the day:

  • A backpack. I’m talking like a school bag, not a lightweight gym bag.  Something that can bear the weight of a lot of books.
  • A sturdy tote.  You may very well end up with cloth totes from BookCon, but don’t rely on it.  I actually had a really nice tote from Society6 that I love and that was all I personally needed – I brought two extras, but didn’t need them… but it helped that my husband was there with a backpack and a tote as well.  If you’re going solo, plan for more totes.
    • As a side note, carrying bags all day is HEAVY.  BookCon has storage available, but do note, this year they charged a fee every time you went in and out to drop/retrieve stuff.  This hasn’t already been the case in the past, so make sure you read the fine print.  Also note:  The VIP storage did not require this.
  • Books to have signed.  If you have a signing that doesn’t require a purchase, make sure you bring your books with you!  People had whole suitcases of books in the VIP line.  When you’re grabbing books (or promising to get things signed for your friends) make sure you take into account which items and how many items each author will sign.
  • Your badge.  Because… obviously.  This also goes for any pre-paid parking vouchers you’ve purchased, any autograph tickets, workshop and event tickets… the works.
  • Water.  I can not emphasize enough how important it is to stay hydrated.  Even though it’s extra weight to carry around, and even though you’re going to be around books… bring bottled water!
  • Snacks and/or lunch.  Granola bars are the best in this situation, or other small snackish things.  There’s a food court downstairs, but it’s expensive and the lines are long.  Plus, you’ll be standing in lines all day, so it’s good to have something to munch on while you wait.
  • A battery pack.  Your phone will die before the end of the day, I promise, so make sure you have a battery pack with you!  Between adding new people to your Twitter/YouTube/Instagram/blogroll, adding TBR books on Goodreads, taking photos, checking schedules, and generally entertaining yourself in line… you’re going to need a charge.
  • Your schedule.  Whether it is digital or not, it’s always good to have a printed copy of this around.  Save your phone battery for finding friends and taking pictures.

In regard to you and not just the stuff you’re bringing…

BookCon itself is a casual event.  If you’re going to BookExpo, it’s much classier and you want to dress up a bit, but for BookCon you’re simply going to want to be comfortable.  I recommend wearing your most comfy shoes – for me, those are my Converse, but for a lot of people that could mean running shoes, flats… wear something you know you’ll be okay walking around in for eight hours.

If you’re going to have photos done, even selfies, you’ll probably want to look your best, whatever that means for you.  I would strongly encourage you to let your nerd pride shine!  Fae Crate ran a cosplay contest, and I saw a few great costumes (much love for the Throne of Glass series) and a little bit of Disney Bounding as well!

I wore a maxi skirt with leggings, a t-shirt with a quote from The Hunger Games, my Chucks and a pin-laden purse… plus I carried my Alice in Wonderland tote  I would consider my outfit to be pretty low key, but it was just enough to get a comment here and there, and that was super cool.

If you collect enamel pins, I strongly recommend you wear some of them.  I had a lot of fun talking fandoms with complete strangers! 🙂 Plus we got to share artist love.  The print on my tote bag is by Evie Seo and it was recognized and we had a moment.  It’s just fun.

If you’re been to any Comic Cons, the same rules about fandom love apply.  Wear it proudly and get excited!

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Part Five:  Getting to BookCon & the Morning In Line

Because we were just a couple states away, we chose to get up at 3:30am and drive to NYC in order to be there for 8am.  I will tell you right now, if you have your heart set on something happening first thing in the morning, you need to get there between 4:30am and 5:30am.  There was a girl in my Twitter DM conversation who arrived at 4:57am, and I thought she was really early at the time, but that was so not the case.  She was general admission, not the first in line, but she managed to get the ARC of The Starless Sea and got everything she wanted.  I was super happy for her when she shared her haul at the end of the day, because she worked hard to get everything she wanted, and she left happy.  If you’re going with goals, yes, you may actually need to get there really early.  And you will not be able to get into the Jatvis Center until 7am-ish, so you’ll be lining up around the block.

If you don’t have your heart set on an early morning ARC or signing ticket, you don’t need to get there early.

The lines move fast, and you’ll be on the floor within twenty minutes.  So if you don’t need something at 10am or 10:30am, honestly, don’t sweat it.  Sleep, dear hearts.

As I said earlier, we drove in, so getting to the Center at 4am wasn’t really an option for us.  I believe if we did it again, I’d probably get a nearby hotel.  That’s what my brother and his girlfriend did, and they came to the city on Friday.  I recommend it!  You’ll get more sleep, and have closer access to rest at the end of the day.

The Jatvis center is a gorgeous venue for a convention.  I’ve only been to Rhode Island Comic Con, and let me tell you – this place is carpeted.  It seems silly, but after standing in line all day, that makes a difference.  There are big, glorious banners hanging from the ceiling, and this is all so exciting.

When you enter, there’s a Will Call line in the middle, and also day-of purchases.  If you’re going to a breakfast or workshop, you want to go to the far right to get your wristband.  VIP lines and special events veer to the right, and general admission is on the left. When I got in line for my breakfast, there was only one other person there.

The really interesting and fun thing about BookCon is… there were a lot of introverts there.  I was worried about the crowds and the people, but there were only two moments in the whole day when I felt a little panicked and unsafe.  Otherwise, there are awkward conversations galore and everyone wants to talk books.  For influencers, this is a good time to connect with one another.

Advice #5:  You really don’t need business cards

 

Listen.  I know a lot of people online swear that if you’re an influencer, you should be handing out business cards and using this as a networking opportunity, but you really don’t need business cards.  This was something I stressed about leading up and since I was rebranding anyway, I decided not to do them… and I didn’t need them.  People network and follow live on their phones and it’s great.

If you’re at BookExpo, it’s a bit of a different story, because networking is part of the purpose of that event.  BookCon is more for the fans.

The morning line is a good time to make friends, or if you prefer, just chill and center yourself, preparing for the day ahead.  I downloaded my current eARC (Six Goodbyes We Never Said) and read a bit after the few of us at the head of the Fierce Reads Breakfast line decided to disengage.  And this is what I love about introverts, by the way?  We inherently understand one another’s need to make friends, but also not to talk and have a lot of social pressure.  The phones or books come out and the most conversation is, “Ooo, what are you reading?”  Love it.

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Part Six:  The Fierce Reads Breakfast

Remember how I said there were only two times I felt deeply uncomfortable all day?  Opening was the first time I felt physically unsafe.  For this reason alone, I would strongly consider VIP tickets, just to miss the initial crowd.  Because there are so many things going on at 10am when the doors officially open, people will not let you walk and are perfectly happy to push, shove, elbow, and trample you.  Because I was a part of the breakfast, we were told to “go to the back toward the MacMillan booth”.  So, not really knowing where we were going… we tried.

And immediately, general admission ran us down.

I’m not exaggerating.  Even though there was a line of us, not knowing where we were going was stressful.  I was elbowed and crushed just trying to get where we were supposed to go.  And since the Fierce Reads breakfast was a ticketed event and not open… nobody else was going where we were going.  I honestly just wanted to holler and tell people, “Listen, I’m not going to your line, I promise, please just let me breathe!”.

It took about ten minutes for us to get to the back, where we were told to wait in a line.  We were repeatedly asked what we were doing.  The actual line for the MacMillan booth looked at us suspiciously as we passed, presumably convinced we were trying to cut the line.

I was trying to lowkey take pictures because I didn’t want to be weird and all HEY LOOK, AUTHORS.  So this is a picture of the pile of ARCs (some) and books for sale (mostly)… and Melissa Albert sitting at the table and the “bouncers” getting things prepared.

From here on out for the breakfast, I’m afraid I don’t have any more pictures.  Everything went really quickly.

There were pastries and coffee for us, but this wasn’t a real “meeting room” – it was an open air booth with a rope in front of it so you couldn’t enter unless invited.  I took some breakfast because it had been five hours since I’d eaten, but retrospectively, I wished I hadn’t.

Here’s how the Fierce Reads Breakfast worked:

About seven people sat down at the table.  The authors introduced themselves, spoke quickly about their books, and then asked what we were all excited for and if anyone was a writer.  We had about eight minutes per table.  At the mark, the MacMillan “bouncers” had us all get up and go to the next author table.  After the first couple tables, I learned to keep my backpack on and ate up my food quickly so I wasn’t carrying it from table-to-table.

Here was my go-around:

Table One – Stephanie Garber and Melissa Albert:  I picked this table first because I knew both the authors.  Stephanie Garber had the cutest dress!  And Melissa and her bounced off one another so well, they were fun.  We sat with them before the roundtable official start time, so we actually had a little extra time!  They spoke about the Subway vs. the BART, and talked about the games they do (or don’t) at their launch parties.  Then before they could talk about Finale or The Hazel Wood, we were shuffled off!

Table Two – Katy Rose Pool and Marie Lu:  Once again, we gave no opportunity for the lovely authors to talk about their books.  One of my table mates congratulated Marie Lu on her baby and she spoke a little about how this was her first event away and how difficult it was.  The “bouncer” at this table was on top of things, though, and had Katy Rose Pool talk about There Will Come a Darkness.  There wasn’t time for Marie Lu to talk about Rebel.

Table Three – Sara Faring and Jess Rothenberg:  By this point, the “bouncers” had our number and cut us off before we started chatting, and Sara started us off by talking about The Tenth Girl, followed by Jess introducing The Kingdom.  As an aside, it’s very cool to listen to authors describe their own books?  Summaries and elevator pitches give the basics, but the excitement and restraint here?  I’m definitely going to read both of these, and actually bought a copy of The Kingdom after breakfast.  I would have bought The Tenth Girl as well, but it was not for sale and they told us one ARC (more on that later).

Table Four – Sona Charaiporta and Kristina Forest:  While neither Symptoms of a Heart Break or I Wanna Be Where You Are are really in my genre zone, can I just say… both Sona Charaiporta and Kristina Forest are lovely people.  Kristina spoke a little about how her history as a dancer inspired her novel and if you are in interested in dance, I really suggest you check out I Wanna Be Where You Are.  Also Sona warned us that Symptoms of a Heart Break would probably make people cry.

Table Five – Kim Liggett and Christine Riccio:  At table five, I sat right next to Kim Liggett and I just finished The Grace Year the week before BookCon so I was still deep in the book.  I got the opportunity to tell her how much I loved Gertie, one of the side characters, so that was super cool.  She also spoke a little about how writing The Grace Year put her in a really intense place.  I honestly didn’t talk much to Christine because I was talking to Kim, but she seemed really nice and the person I had breakfast with seemed like a totally different personality than the one at the BOOKSPLOSION! panel later in the day.  As internet personas do.  Her Again, But Better has been a huge source of controversy the last few weeks, but that fact never came up and I was grateful.

Table Six – Katie McGarry and Ann Dávila Cardinal:  This was a fun table because after a quick overview of Five Midnights and Only a Breath Apart, the conversation turned to paranormal experiences and Katie McGarry spoke about the loss of her best friend and how someone once told her that you shouldn’t have an empty chair in your bedroom because ghosts like to sit and watch you sleep SO yeah no chairs in my bedroom anymore, thanks!

Table Seven – Cora Cormack and Charlotte Nicole Davis: Our last table!  At this one, we really only had the opportunity to talk about the books, but I actually walked away with both these ladies’ books (Roar and The Good Luck Girls) so it’s just another example of how feeling an author’s passion is hugely inspiring.  Charlotte Nicole Davis, in particular, made me chuckle because she was giving her synopsis – western, outlaws, found families, sister stories – and the MacMillan lady at the table cut in to add “and fierce women!” as though there wasn’t already enough awesome sounding about The Good Luck Girls.

After all the tables were done, people rushed the ARC table.  And I do mean rushed.  We were in the middle of a conversation with Cara Cormack and other tables were crushing the book table, and poor Stephanie Garber and Melissa Albert couldn’t get out of the way.  I felt bad, but I dashed off from right next to Cora Cormack and it felt so rude, but I was taken by that mentality of, “if I don’t get over there, they’re not going to leave anything”.  Cora Cormack, if you ever stumble across this post, I am so sorry.

At the ARC table, we were told we could take one, so immediately people started taking more than one and slipping them into bags and what not.  I know for a fact one girl took one of each ARC because she posted a haul picture later on Twitter.  We also had the opportunity to buy the books for $10/ea. and many of them were signed.  I swear, I heard one girl grab a copy of Roar and flip through it, say, “Well mine isn’t signed, I don’t want it” and toss it back.

OMG y’all.

So from that I hauled an ARC of The Good Luck Girls, which I was declined for on NetGalley but really wanted to read.  I also bought The Kingdom and Roar because both sounded super up my alley.  I went back to MacMillan later and bought Five Midnights… I keep going back to that one and I’m so intrigued by it.  I think I would have bought more but people were running each other down and it was intense and I needed to leave.

So I did.

Oh!

Also worth mentioning is that MacMillan provided a swag bag with a little something from several of the books, which was really generous of them.  There’s a handkerchief from The Good Luck Girls, a pendant from Roar, a poster from The Night Country, lip balm from Five Midnights, and bookmarks from a few other books.  There was also a Fierce Reads fanny pack.  Those aren’t my thing, so I traded it to my brother for some buttons, which I’ll show you later.

It was super generous of MacMillan and Fierce Reads to do this and I’m really grateful.  Sitting down with these amazing people was such a once-in-a-lifetime sort of opportunity, and I really wish I had made more of it.  I absolutely recommend trying out for this breakfast, and honestly?  Just breathe.  My stressing out about getting to the tables and trying to get an ARC before some of the other people took all of them dampened my experience and I didn’t need to be like that.

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Part Seven:  Penguin Random House

I spent most my day hanging out around the Penguin Random House booth.  There were giveaways and signings galore over here!  Also they handled the lines (of all shapes and sizes!) really well.

Things to know about giveaways:

  • Most booths give you tickets, which (should) assure your item/signing/whatever.
  • When the attendants ask you to go away and come back at a certain time, you should respect that.
  • When the attendants ask people to move, nobody does, so security gets mad and still nobody moves and if you’re a good person and respect the nice people giving away free books, you get screwed.
  • Sometimes the booths are clever and if people are mobbing up and not listening, they’ll choose the start of the line from a random place in the middle and you still won’t be first.  So, seriously, don’t be violent and don’t mob.
  • Say thank you!  I was honestly shocked how many people were complaining about not getting the book they wanted in some of the mass giveaways. It is so cool that these publishing houses are giving these books away and we need to not be entitled brats, yes?
  • You are not assured a book.  This is something a lot of people have a hard time with.  Most of the booths (Penguin in particular) are really good about the cut-offs.  If the line is closed, there are no more books.
  • There are signs!  The “line starts here” and whatnot signs are really helpful.  Looks for them – most of the booths have them.  Penguin’s were really easy to see – others were more tricky.

I bring up all this because of the mob at Books to the Future.  This was a four-book giveaway at the Penguin Teen booth and I wandered over about half an hour early and WOAH.  People were all over the place.  And nobody was going away, despite security because there and the Penguin Teen people telling the mob when the line would start.

Ultimately what happened here was this.  Since it was a multi-giveaway, I met up with my husband and my brother and his girlfriend and we all were lingering with everyone else.  I had my husband stand out of the way while I tried to figure out more information.  My brother and his girlfriend went a different way.  One of the reps at the Penguin Teen booth made a (sadly unnecessary) announcement about behaving like civilized humans, then the line start and line end people went out.

By pure happenstance, my husband was one of the first five people in line because he was standing out of the way.  I’m telling you – mobbing doesn’t do any good, especially with Penguin.  Because of this, he was able to get a copy of The Beautiful and it was awesome and I can’t wait to read it and promote it.  Because I was mobbing, I ended up somewhere in the middle of the line.  I was lucky enough to get War Girls.  My brother and his girlfriend, who were mobbing in a different place, got nothing.

Lesson:  mobbing does no good.  Also, I did not learn this lesson the first time and we’ll talk about that when we talk Epic Reads.

I was also lucky enough to get a couple signed ARCs at the Penguin Random House booth.  These were going on all day at Booth #1221 and this line was my favorite.  The first time I stood in this line, it was for The Orphan’s Song by Lauren Kate.  This was a book I genuinely wanted – I read Fallen years ago and remember having really mixed feelings – I loved things and I hated things and nothing in between.  I’ve actually already started The Orphan’s Song and I plowed right through it – Lauren Kate’s foray into adult is fantastic and I’m really excited to share that with you.

The other signed ARC I stood in line for over here was Who Put This Song On by Morgan Parker.  Unfortunately, Penguin didn’t have the books, so we got a signed bookplate and a pouch, and they took our addresses to mail us an ARC.  I was a little bummed, but Morgan Parker was so nice and I stood with the two coolest Hufflepuffs in this line and they were super fun.  I never asked for their online creds and ugh, I should have, because I definitely would have followed them.

Before I move on to the last thing we did at Penguin, I want to talk about the Wall.

I loved this wall.  There were a few different community participation walls at BookCon – favorite character, favorite author, a whole Looking for Alaska wall… but this one was my favorite because the question was the most potent: “What book changed your life?”

For me, this was such a hard question.  I was standing in line for The Orphan’s Song and wracking my brain about it.  It’s a big order.  It wasn’t Harry Potter, though those books were hugely influential for me.  Then I looked up at a green post-it that said “Trickster’s Choice by Tamora Pierce”.  I smiled.  Trickster’s Choice is one of my favorite books of all time.  Then, as soon as I saw it, Tamora Pierce’s books started flooding in.  For me, it was definitely her.  I read these books with my friends.  The books made we want to write.  The books made me dare to dream, to imagine, to think that as a girl, I could do anything.  I went with Alanna, because even though I loved Daine, Alanna inspired me the most

As I went down the line, I spotted not only Trickster’s Choice, but also Wild MagicThe Circle of MagicProtector of the Small, and Beka Cooper.  One book from each of her older Tortall series, and The Circle of Magic as well.  To the other people on that wall who said a Tamora Pierce book changed your life… I love you, and you are my people.

Because I’m a sap, here were the other books in our party.

For my husband, Eragon by Christoper Paolini.  This was the book (and the series) that got him into reading.  And they’re audiobooks.

For my brother, Nice Try, Jane Sinner by Lianne Oelke.  Like my husband, this was a book that my brother read at a time when he sort of figured he wasn’t a reader.  While my brother read more in his youth, he was over it before high school… until Jane Sinner.

My brother’s girlfriend listed The Mortal Instruments (the whole series) by Cassie Clare.  I don’t know her as well to know her full story here, but there were lots of her kindred spirits on that wall.

Okay okay.  This post is long enough – lets move on to the last thing at Penguin!

After Books to the Future earlier in the day, I expected Book Wiards to be insane.  It was not!  I think it’s largely because they weren’t all ARCs.  Plus it was later in the day and there was the Looking for Alaska panel at 5pm, where Book Wizards ran from 4pm to 6pm. This is where I thought Penguin was, again, really smart?  They gave out tickets stating both 4pm and 5pm, and they asked that people with the 5pm tickets come back later.  I thought that was great because I knew I had a ticket. Also, the way this one worked was that you took a quiz on a tablet, and you got whatever book your answers matched.  I ended up with Steel Crow Saga and my husband got Kill the Farm Boy.  Which, by the way, I am totally reading.  I’ve been eyeing that one for a couple years now.

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Part Eight: NOVL & Other ARC Drops

I spent so much time at Penguin Random House, I didn’t really have to opportunity to go to most the other booths during the day.  Seriously.  Lines all day!  My husband went to Scholastic in the morning and Hatchette in the afternoon and managed to get one of the Lollipop walls before they sold out.  By the time he reached it, there was only one book left, A Match Made in Mehendi.  He met Nandini Bajpai and turns out she lives a couple towns over from us, so that was fun.  Typically speaking, A Match Made in Mehendi isn’t the type of book I generally pick up, but after reading the back, it seems pretty cute.  I will definitely read it.

Advice #6:  Always be grateful and kind.

 

Put yourself in the author’s shoes for a second.  I was really hoping for The Bone Houses from the NOVL giveaway, but I would never complain about the book I received… especially in front of the author, who was signing right there.  Put yourself in the publisher’s shoes – they’re giving you something free, and you’re snubbing your nose at it.  Or in the author’s shoes?  They’ve worked so hard to bring your dream to life, and you don’t even want it for free.  Some of the behavior I witnessed that day…?  I’m so disappointed in humanity.

I will read all the books I got from BookCon.  I am grateful to the publishers for giving them away, and I wouldn’t take a book out of the hands of someone else who would really like it… especially if I have no intentions to read it.  I know a lot of people grab ARCs at these events in the hopes of trading them on Twitter (although unless it’s a unicorn… people aren’t going to want it anyway)… that’s not my jam.

If you looked at the schedule above, you’ll see that I had a lot of ARC drops on the schedule and sooo many of those did not happen.  We had three lollipop walls on the list, but only managed one.  The same with Epic Reads.  Which brings me to….

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Part Nine: Epic Reads Chaos

This was the second time I felt unsafe at BookCon.  The first ARC drop at Epic Reads was while I was at breakfast, so my husband waited in that line (and ended up with Homerooms and Hall Passes, which sounds ridiculous, but yes I will read it anyway).  The line for the second ARC drop was closed an hour before the drop started.  I didn’t even go back towards the booth until 2:30pm.

At this point, we knew there was an ARC drop at 4pm, and we were crazy early.  But we just needed to sit down.  We had no idea what ARC it was going to be.  We sat near the edge of the booth and a woman came around the side and screamed at us.  Well, not just us, but everyone lingering.  She said if we thought we were in a line, we were not going to get a book and she would make sure of it.  My husband and I moved further off to the side.

On one hand, I understand why they were being aggressive, but here’s the thing I noticed between Epic Reads and Penguin – they were dealing with the same crowds, but Penguin spoke to people and organized them… and Epic Reads yelled, belittled, and brought in security.  There are more effective ways of dealing with pushy, over-excited people than igniting them with further negative energy.  I don’t think the books that Epic Reads were giving away were so fantastic that people should have been mobbing, but there was so much negative energy buzzing over there.  I’m sure the workers felt unsafe… I know people in the area were angry and edgy.

Anyway, we sat further to the side, and all of a sudden, someone shouted “go, go, go!” and the crowd compressed.  I jumped up immediately to get in line, which, honestly, was more of a mob.

A few minutes later, someone else came around and started yelling at the line in groups.  I was at the corner, and when he reached our group, he said “There are only 100 ARCs and honestly, there’s more than 100 people ahead of you.  There’s no way you’re getting a book”.  And security stood at that corner right beside us, and everyone is struggling and yelling elbowing and I just decided it wasn’t worth it.  I still don’t know what book it was, and neither did the people near me.

So I got out of line (it wasn’t worth it, especially because my heart wasn’t set on whatever this book was) and immediately, a security guard appeared and thrust his arm in front of me.  He missed hitting me by a hair’s breadth, no exaggeration.  “I’m trying to leave,” I said.  “Not cutting in line,” he said.  Security wouldn’t even let me leave, they were so distrustful of the line’s intentions.  I still being jostled and elbowed, and I was on the outer edge.  I actually had to raise my hands and back away in the opposite direction as quickly as possible.  The security guard watched me the whole time.

I’m pretty sure he was convinced I was going to run for it and try to get past him and cut.  Who would do that?  Why would anyone show down an armed official for a book that will be on the shelves in a few months, anyway?  I was so uncomfortable and even writing about it now…. I wouldn’t ever get in another Epic Reads line again. I don’t care what they’re giving away.  No book is worth feeling unsafe.

Advice #7:  Nothing – no ARC, swag, or author – is worth feeling unsafe.

 

I share this because it gave me so much anxiety, and I was not prepared for it.  Maybe I should have been.  Maybe this is what lines are like at her booths regularly.  I’m telling you so you’ll be prepared for it, just in case this is normal.  Call me a snowflake if you must, but I’ve never experienced this level of aggression at any of the other conventions I’ve been to.

As an aside, the guy yelling about the ARCs was completely right.  I went and found my husband and we walked by the Epic Reads line a little later (giving in a wide berth) and they had it roped off several yards further up than where I had been standing.  So all the shoving and elbowing and aggression would have been for nothing.

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Part Ten:  The One Panel I Went To

The Epic Reads incident was near the end of the day, so I was done.  Done, done, done.  We did Book Wizards, which was a whole world of better, and then went downstairs to a panel.

BookCon panels are not like Comic Con panels… or at least, BOOKSPLOSION! wasn’t.  But you still have to get there early if you want a decent seat.  There were a lot of seats open when we got there, buuuut… not ones where we could see the panel.  When we sat down, we thought they would broadcast to the screens so we would be fine – that’s not what happened.  Can anyone speak to whether they broadcast to the side screens in earlier panels, or in other rooms?

Either way, I’d say you’ll want to get to your panels about 30 minutes early – more if it’s a really popular one.  I have known the panels at RICC to be past capacity in line an hour before the panel even starts, but I don’t believe that’s as big of a problem at BookCon – there’s a lot more going on, and while panels are amazing, they aren’t as big of a draw as signings and the show floor.

The only panel we really wanted to catch was the Books to Movies panel, especially as Eoin Colfer was sitting on it and both my husband and I are eager to see what will come out of the Artemis Fowl movie later this summer.  Unfortunately, we missed it because we were standing in line (of course!) but my brother did go and he reported back that it was interesting, and Eoin Colfer mostly spoke about the gender swap on Julius Root’s character and how he was against it until he saw Dame Judy Dench’s performance.  I know there’s actually been a lot of controversy around that, but I’m all for it – while it does take away from Holly’s ascension, she looks so powerful in the trailer, and, well… we can talk to that when I do a book vs. movie on it.

Advice #8:  Go to panels.

 

Retrospectively, I wish we’d hit up at least two panels.  Panels are amazing for getting some energy back.  The FOMO at BookCon is real, and I just couldn’t tear myself away, but I really wish I had.  The BOOKPLOSION! panel at 5pm was the first time I’d eaten since a small chocolate croissant at the Fierce Reads Breakfast and man, I paid for it.

BOOKSPOSION! wasn’t really our choice, but my brother and his grilfriend were heading down, and they suggested we join them, so there we were!

This is my brother and his girlfriend Jeneane.  They’re the whole reason we were at BookCon in the first place!  This is a full day at BookCon, and Jeneane’s hair is still amazing.  She’s pretty incredible.  She watches BookTube and has gone to this panel before, so we were actually there on her advice.

The essence of the BOOKSPLOSION! panel is that Christine Riccio, Jesse George, and KatKennedy interviewed one another in costume, then answered some basic life questions, then took questions from the audience.  Questions ranged from getting your significant other to read (be sneaky, maybe try Twilight, or audiobooks) and the best ways to make pasta (artichokes and butter sauce).

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Part Eleven:  After the Con

You guys must be exhausted after reading all this.  I know I’m exhausted after writing all of it!  Right now, this post is at 7.8k words – that’s almost 20% of a NaNoWriMo novel, guys.  ….  And BookCon, like this post, was exhausting.

By the end of the day, our feet were sore from walking, and our shoulders sore from lugging books around everywhere.  It was a relief to stop and get something to eat.

We ended up going to Tabata, a few blocks away, and getting delicious New York ramen.  For my husband, this was the best part of the day – he loves ramen, and left NYC with a big grin on his face.  And honestly, after a long and tiring day, I can’t think of a better dinner.  Ramen is delicious, but also light enough that I didn’t feel sick after eating my first proper meal all day.

Advice #9:  Seriously.  Make sure you are eating and drinking throughout the day to retain your energy.

 

We had a long drive home after the convention, so we ended up getting home around midnight and I didn’t pull out my books until the next day.  And this feels like a good time to talk about Con Flu.

Con Flu – different than Con Plague (where actually sickness is spread) – leaves you feeling like you’ve been run down by heard of bulls.  Runny noses, fatigue, soreness… it’s the pits.  It’s very much like vacation flu, and it’s your body’s way of yelling at you and saying, “Hey!  I need some time to recover from all that abuse you put me through yesterday!”

Advice #10:  Give yourself 24-hours of R&R after any convention.

 

For people in pristine shape who are regular runners, who eat and hydrate well, and who take regular breaks, this is no problem.  For the rest of us… ugh.  Con Flu is the pits.  My advice is to sleep in late, hydrate like crazy, take some ibuprofen for your aches and pain, and curl up with one of your brand new books.

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Part Twelve:  The Haul

Which leads me to my BookCon 2019 hauls!

A disclaimer:  I went with someone who was standing in lines with me.  I was not standing in the most popular lines.  I did not go to panels throughout the day (except at the end when all the publishers were packing up).  I did not do any signings.  My whole day was “standing in line for free stuff” focused.  My haul and your haul may look very different.  I’ve seen hauls with a LOT more books, and I’ve seen hauls with a lot more POPULAR books.

Nevertheless – I am so happy and so grateful for the books I ended up with, and I want to thank MacMillan, Penguin Random House, Hatchette, Scholastic, and HarperCollins for all the wonderful giveaways they hosted.  And everyone else, but those are the publishers I benefited from.

First up:  The Swag!

We were not swag hunting at BookCon this year.  I know a lot of people go in for totes, buttons, and pouches, but we were there for the books.  Honestly, I have more swag than I know what to do with already!

We ended up with:

  • 5 pouches
  • 3 enamel pins
  • 10 buttons
  • 1 candle
  • 1 vinyl sticker
  • 1 tote
  • 1 luggage tag
  • 1 print
  • 1 beanie

The beanie, print, candle, and one of the buttons are actually swag from the FanMail Box I purchased ahead of time.  I’ll be posting an unboxing of that on the blog in the next month or two.  Other than those items, though, all this swag was free.

Jeneane got me the Winterwood enamel pin, and I am so excited.  It’s gorgeous and simple, and I really enjoyed Shea Ernshaw’s The Wicked Deep, so I’m looking forward to this book!

Second:  The Samplers

Like swag, we weren’t really looking for samplers.  I don’t tend to read them myself, and these actually came from my brother who gave them to me because he got in line for the Supernova sampler and ended up with extra things.

Apologies for the gross looking floor?  Apartment rugs are so glamorous.  The size of the stuff just exceeded my normal presentation board (see the swag picture, lol), so I gave up.

I’m probably going to pass on the Harry Potter samplers to a girl I know who loves the illustrated editions, and who will probably love them.  And maybe I’ll take a peek at Rebel – I did read Legend and had some mixed feelings, so I’m not entirely against it.  Plus Marie Lu was the nicest lady. 🙂

Now, of course, the fun bit!

Don’t get too excited, because you are not going to see ARCs here for The Starless Sea or Ninth House.

Advice #11:  Don’t go expecting to get something.  Go to be with the community, and to meet authors.

 

I’ve been seeing all over the feeds that people were really expecting to get *more* books or *better* books.  I went in hoping to get books, and spent about a month talking myself down from the hope of getting The Starless Sea.  As a community, there are too many of us building an expectation that if you’re aggressive enough and plan perfectly, you’ll get AMAZING FREE BOOKS.  A lot of the post-event commentary has been disappointment – either over quantity of books, or not getting something specific.

I’m not sure how many people who go to BookCon have ever been to another convention, but it’s unheard of to get free stuff at Comic Con.  You pay to get in so you can pay for autographs and go to free panels and be in a group of people who love the same things you do.  So I want to be really clear here:  you should not judge the success of your convention on the books you do (or do not) get.

The Free Book Haul:

For most people, the most exciting one here will be The Beautiful but I’m just so grateful for all of them.

With the exception of Kill the Farm Boy and Skulduggery Pleasant, all of these are ARCs and many of them are coming out this fall SO I have a lot of reading to do over the summer if I’m going to review these my normal two weeks before publication!

Books I Bought:

I went into BookCon telling myself I wasn’t going to buy any books, but after having breakfast with so many lovely authors and seeing the sales?  I couldn’t resist.  I did restrain myself a little bit more than I normally would have – thankfully for our bank account, I went shopping after I was already worn and weary, so I wasn’t keen on carrying more books!

So, you know, I picked up a copy of The Priory of the Orange Tree.  It is truly the biggest book I’ve ever seen and I think I may re-purpose it as a bludgeoning tool should the world dissolve into post-apocalyptic chaos.

Like the books on my blog, these are all over the place.  From classics to books that technically weren’t released for another few days, to other things in between… my library is a pretty exciting place.

I do know that there was some controversy last year on Twitter (of course) about If You Don’t Have Anything Nice to Say.  While I’m aware of the accusations, I’m really interested in the question Leila Sales aims to discuss in this novel, and since I liked her This Song Will Save Your Life, I really want to read it.  I’ll let you know my take when I finish it (as always).

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*deep breath*

And that’s it!

I’m done!

I don’t think I could find anything else to say about BookCon – either suggestions for others or my own personal experience – if I tried.  This post is standing just shy of 10k words, so if you’ve read the whole thing – thank you and I love you.  If you haven’t I forgive you!  I hope everyone has fouond this generally informative and interesting, and most of all I want people to know that while BookCon isn’t this magical, perfect wonderland, it’s a really cool experience where you will meet fantastic (and not so fantastic people).  I also want to say that it is totally possible to go in with half-a-plan and still have a lot of fun and get a lot of wonderful books.

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Have you ever been to BookCon or something similar?  It was definitely an incredible – if intense! – experience and if you find yourself with the opportunity, I’d say take it, at least once!  I’d love to hear all about your experiences with conventions – of any kind!  Give me a holler in the comments!

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8 responses to “The Newbie’s Guide to BookCon aka my BookCon 2019 Experience

    • Amber

      Sounds like you did the exact opposite of what I did! Did you find that people were a bit pushy and aggressive getting to the panels as well? 🙁 I was hoping people were a bit more chill downstairs. Also I cannot believe you read the whole things – this was the longest post I’ve ever written. Thank you so much for reading!

      • Honestly, for me the panels were great! I was always seated and even sometimes pretty well! Maybe I went early enough? Also you don’t need to get out if you have two panels in the same room that helps. Basically I did some lining up on Saturday but I was fed up with that pretty fast and realised I was not ready to wait so long for free books I was not super interested in or that I could get another way Haha!
        Your article was super interesting! I wanted to write one but time passed and I had reviews to make so idk now…

        • Amber

          People were SO on top of their BookCon posts. I wanted to push mine off a week because I wanted the time to write it with more than a haul, but there were soooo many posts just a couple days after the Con that I felt a bit irrelevant when it dropped. 😛 You should write one anyway, if you’re feeling it. 🙂 So many people only have hauls, and the experience is super interesting to read about imho.

  1. I love your event and vacation recaps! I really want to go to Bookcon but I’ve heard it’s just gotten CRAZY in recent years! I regularly go to YallWest which can be intense too with the lines- I definitely have had instances where I’ve felt physically unsafe and was elbowed pretty badly a few years ago during the LEGENDARY Arc drop, so I promptly left because not worth it! I like going to ALA when I can because the vibe is a lot more relaxed!!

    Cristina (Girl in the Pages) recently posted: Somewhere Only We Know by Maurene Goo | ARC Review
    • Amber

      I’m so glad you like those because honestly they are some of my favorite posts to write! 😀 😀 😀 People were intense – I guess not as intense as they could have been, but a little too intense for my comfort. I’m still really on the fence about whether or not I want to go back next year. Fortunately, I have a lot of time to think about it! 🙂