Book Expo America: The Plan

I learned the hard way how important it is to have a plan when attending a conference or convention. While I’m not a shoot from the hip kind of girl, the first conference I attended (RWA National in Reno), I didn’t have much of a plan and frankly, I got very little out of a very expensive experience. I didn’t read up ahead of time what the workshops were all about. I didn’t look at which authors were presenting, or even what they wrote. I had no idea what to expect.

In a nutshell, I went to a few workshops (was disappointed because I hadn’t done my homework on the presenters). I spent a lot of time in my room working on my pitch and then after I got the request for the full, I spent even more time in my room going through my manuscript one more time. After I got home, I sent off my manuscript and then began reading emails about other writers’ experiences. It was then that I realized how much I had missed. Now I plan.

Last weekend I gave a presentation to the Pocono’s Lehigh RWA chapter. What I loved about the writers attending is they all had a plan for my workshop. Everyone came with specific questions. I think this is important when going to a workshop. Know what you want to learn and don’t be afraid to ask for clarification or if something you thought would be covered and wasn’t, don’t be afraid to ask.

Whether it is presenting or attending, planing is key for making the most of your experience.

Bob and I have been using a combination of Dropbox and Google Docs for some of our work. Google Docs is nice because we can both be working on a document and we can see what the other is doing. A little weird, but it works. I parked a spreadsheet there for my schedule for BEA. I’m going to be meeting people from Kobo, Apple, Amazon and also talking to other authors. I like to set up meetings ahead of time when possible. I find it slightly amusing that Bob is adding to my schedule, but going to BEA is a big deal for Cool Gus Publishing. It will be the first convention we are going with the official new name change. We have a shelf on the digital bookshelf showing off some of our fiction titles. Its exciting times and I’m really looking forward to attending. I have never been to BEA. All the more reason to do my homework.

I’m only going to BEA for two days and I want to make sure I get everything done that I have my BEA checklist. I’ve contacted a few author and agent friends I know that have attended and they have given me all sorts of tips. Now, you would think someone like me who speaks at least 6 conferences a year, this process would be a no brainer. However, we have found that when we don’t use checklists we then make mistakes. Early this week Bob shared his SOP for the ACX audio program. Anytime he adds a book to our audio listing, he’s going to follow that SOP and if it needs changing, he will change it.

So what is my SOP for attending a conference? I actually change it up each time I go, but mainly it consists of:

  • Write out business and personal goals for conference
  • Create any swag, business cards, etc.
  • Know what presentation to attend before getting there
  • Know the presenters and find them on-line, learning as much about them as possible
  • Contact other business professionals who have attended the conference
  • Make a list of who I want to meet with
  • Contact them if I can and arrange meetings
  • Of the people I want to meet, find out if they are giving a workshop, having a booth and schedule in a time to visit
  • Once there, walk the terrain–learn where everything is first
  • Stay on the conference floor the ENTIRE day
  • Drink water and have snacks like peanuts or a granola bar
  • Wear comfortable shoes
  • Take notes
  • When returning home, rewrite notes
  • Jot down thoughts and send on to Bob
  • File business cards and connect with the people I meet
  • Go through all of this a week later and work on staying connected after the conference

So far, for BEA I’m nearly booked solid for the two days with meetings. The highlight will be that Cool Gus Publishing will be hanging out at the Kobo booth on Tuesday from 1-2:30 and again on Wednesday from 1-2:30. If you are going to be at BEA, come stop by and say hello. Bob and I are very excited about the future and what that means for writers and more importantly: readers. Readers Rule.

Write It Forward

About Jen Talty

Publishing Consultant, Author of Romantic Suspense and Co-Creator of Cool Gus Publishing with NY Times Best-Selling Author Bob Mayer.

Posted on May 18, 2012, in Write It forward and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. Jen and Bob,
    Thanks for the great tips. I just finished reading your book on how to get the most out of writer’s conferences and I highly recommend it. I linked to it in a recent blog post. As you’ve said here advance planning is the key. I would add this: be nice to everyone you meet. The person handing out badges and conference packets is as important to the success of the conference as the famous author everyone came to see. Best wishes for a successful BEA for Cool Gus Publishing.

  2. Jillian Dodd - Glitter, Bliss and Perfect Chaos

    Thanks for all the great advice. I’ve never been and am looking forward to it! I’m going to the publisher’s conference on Monday and Tuesday, but definitely need to have a plan of attack for walking the floor on Wednesday. Probably a much better idea than wandering aimlessly! I was also excited to see your books are going to be part of the digital book shelf. I put my two books in there as well. I’ll br sure to stop by Kobo on Wednesday! Have fun!!

    • Jillian–So looking forward to meeting you! Mind taking notes for me on the Monday events? I won’t be attending that part of the conference (family obligations) and I’ll share my notes with you! One of the things Bob and I always recommend. When I go to conferences with my critique partners we divide and conquer. That way we can get information from workshops we were unable to attend because we went to another one.

      I have to admit I’m a little intimated by BEA. Just looking at the set up makes me a little nervous.

  3. Joy Held's Writer Wellness Blog

    Conferences are grueling fun (if that’s possible.) I know you’ll make it a productive experience, but I want to remind you to pack your yoga mat and get a few minutes of exercise everyday during the con. Works wonders for clarity, kinks, and vitality during an event that can be very draining. Have a great time. Don’t worry about time. Just roll out the mat in your room and stretch for ten minutes. You will be glad you did.

    • Sound advice– and I always try to get to the gym when I’m at a conference, or just go outside and walk around, especially in NYC. I love to just walk the streets.

  4. Thanks for the conference tips, but also for mentioning Dropbox and Google Docs. I’d never heard of Dropbox before and reserached it, and did further reserach of different ways to use Google Docs – very helpful.

  5. Great blog, Jen. I never thought of contacting someone outside of my current circle to set up a meeting. I’m going to use this. And look for really comfy shoes.

  6. Great tips about pre-planning for conferences and setting goals ahead of time. Large conferences can be overwhelming. BEA is huge. You’ll have a great time. Can’t wait to hear about it. Please share.

  7. Sounds like me. I am a major planner.

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