No Longer a BEA Virgin and Seven Lessons

On Tuesday morning at the ungodly hour of 4am I headed to the Rochester International Airport to catch the first flight into New York City for the 2012 Book Expo America.

Lesson number one: Listen to your business partner and don’t fly into JFK. Ugh. I landed at 7:15 in the morning but did not arrive at the Javits Center until nearly 8:45 where Bob had patiently been waiting for…well, a while. Thankfully he only said, “never fly to JFK” once. I was reminded of this when I took the super shuttle back to JFK and it took nearly 2 hours to get there.

The first couple of hours Bob and I just walked the hallways. This is what Bob would call ‘walking the terrain’. We always recommend getting to a conference or convention early so you can just walk around and get a vibe for the place. Also, so you know where you are going. We found all the places we had business meetings and still had some time. We decided to go find the New Title Show Case where we had books listed on the Digital Bookshelf.

Lesson number two: Bob is a guy. Yes, I knew that, but the moment I went to go ask for directions, he did the old, ‘I’ll go wait over here’ trick, like he wasn’t with me or something. I think he even walked farther away when the man behind the info desk got up to point me in the right direction. Not sure Bob appreciated that I kept pulling out my map either. Well, I am a good co-pilot.

We were pretty disappointed with the Digital Bookshelf. I was very excited about the concept, but it was poorly executed. Also, the placement of the bookshelf made it impossible for people to just wander through. You had to be looking for it, to find it, and then you had to ask directions. You can read our thoughts on Bob’s post at Digital Book World.

Bob talked a lot the first few hours. Yes, he does talk, a lot. Trust me. He told me what had changed, what hadn’t and made many observations and predictions. I was just taking it all in. The Javits center itself can be very overwhelming. And there are moments where Bob can be overwhelming. Once I got used to the floor plan, it was easy. At least the walking around part. But BEA was like no other writing event I had been to, ever. It felt more like the conventions I used to attend when I was in the Marketing field. This immediately changed my mindset from author to business person, which in this situation was key.

Lesson number three: Always be prepared. Bob will tell you that I stressed a lot about going to this conference, but sometimes my stress is a good thing. It forces me to prepare. And I was prepared. I had a contact list, phone numbers, floor plan and a cheat sheet. Before every meeting, I looked at my list and reminded myself of the goals of our meetings and over all experiences.

My first meeting was at 11am with Bob and some people at KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing). The first thing I noticed about the people at Amazon was if they didn’t know the answer to one of our questions, they went looking for the person who would. Before the appointment was done, I had spoken to 3 people and Bob had chatted with 2 others. We hung out at the booth for a little while, talking with some other people from Amazon.

Lesson number four: Allow for shifts in the plan. When we first got to the KDP booth, Bob and I were talking with two gentlemen. Within a few minutes, I was having a conversation with 3 different people from Amazon about an entirely different subject, one that wasn’t on our list, but proved to be most beneficial as we are going to make the move from LSI to Createspace for our POD’s.

We stopped at the Overdrive booth, one of the booths on our list to hit, but didn’t have a meeting. When we stopped, we were immediately greeted by a representative who gave me all the information I would need and a point of contact for getting our books into the library system.

One of the biggest things I observed was that the people at places like Amazon, Kobo, Overdrive and a few others who are leading the way in technology were more than approachable. In fact, they did the approaching. They wanted to talk with people. When I walked through the booths where the Big 6 were located, all I got was someone handing me an ARC. Of course, they had long lines with people waiting to see people like Rachel Ray and other celebrities and well known authors. The big 6 booths just had a different feel than other booths.

Bob and I then had lunch. Sadly, we couldn’t find Pizza for Bob so we ate pasta. I thought about asking someone where to find a slice, but figured Bob would ditch me if I did, so pasta sounded just dandy. After lunch we did a ‘divide and conquer’.

I was a feature author at the Kobo booth. This was a very interesting experience. I spoke with many authors, publishers, press, and marketing professionals about my personal experience with using Kobo as a publisher and an author along with all the other platforms. What I love about Kobo is they want our books available across all platforms. The key is discoverability and the more sites you are listed, the more visible you are. Good philosophy. I was interviewed for a social media spot to promote my books and then invited to their office to take a tour and do another interview that will be used on the website. Bob will also be going up there when he comes to Rochester to present a one-day workshop in November.

I then went to a presentation on ACX (Audible) while Bob was still in another meeting. During the presentation they were discussing authors that used the platform and there was Bob Mayer’s name on the slide. Then Bob won one of the drawings. (I put his business card in, the prize should have been mine, just saying).

Bob and I sat down and did a mini after action review of what we had experienced so far, and then made a list of what I needed to accomplish on my day two of BEA.

Lesson number five: It is very hard to hail a cab around 5pm from the Javits Center.

Day two of BEA I went in with a much different perspective. First, I didn’t have to ask for directions, nor did I need my map. The Javits Center seemed smaller (although the men at the Ellora’s Cave booth looked like they got bigger). I worked the Kobo Booth again and walked around touching base with all those we had meet the day before. I had a meeting with a gentleman from DBW and then from Readerie. I bumped into my first agent and we had nice chat. She’s an agent who gets the changes and has adapted and doing very well for her authors.

I wondered into the digital section and looked at some of the technology and start up companies. I was a little disappointed as most were either too late to the party or slightly behind the times. Some were way ahead of the times. I watched part of a presentation about where books might go in the future. Some very cool stuff, but still felt as though 95% of the people at BEA were living in the past, not looking toward the future, much less living in today.

I took only two books home. One that a friend had smuggled from across the pond for me and one that an editor I had meet from 47North at Amazon thought I might enjoy since he knows the kind of material I like to read and write. I did download a few books onto my Kindle App for my iPad when I got home, but I don’t lug books home anymore from conferences.

Lesson number six: being prepared made it an excellent experience. We didn’t go there hoping something would happen, we went there with a solid plan to make things happen.

BEA overall was an excellent experience.

Final lesson: Without an AAR (After Action Review) everything you have done will be done in vein. Seriously. I can’t stress enough that it isn’t just about what you do at the conference or convention, but what you do after. Bob and I started a document in Google Docs where we both put in our list of people we need to follow up with, what we learned, what we need to do better next time and where our over all plan needs to be adjusted. I’ve already drafted emails to six different people and I’m currently taking what I call the ‘stream of conscious report’ and putting it into a format that Bob can digest. Following up is essential to sustainability in this business. Once you make contact, you need to continue to stay in touch. I always say wait a week until after the conference if you can, just to give people the time to get settled back at home, but don’t wait too long. Out of sight, out of mind.

Next up. Thrillerfest! I’m flying into LGA.

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 June 9, 2012, in Publishing, Write It forward and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 16 Comments.

  1. Thanks so much for this! I’m going to ThrillerFest too, and you’ve inspired me to be sure I have my ducks in a row before I get there. And I had a moment of panic but I checked…I’m flying into LGA. Whew!

  2. Good stuff. Buried in your post are two golden nuggets that I learned the hard way by working in a federal government bureaucracy for thirty years.
    First, don’t go to a meeting unless you know what you want to achieve. Before meetings, I would call my colleagues into my office and we would write explicitly on my whiteboard exactly what we intended to get from the meeting. If we couldn’t write anything on the board, then we shouldn’t be going to the meeting. If you have nothing to gain then all you can do is lose.
    Second, always conduct a post-mortem (AAR in your parlance) right after the meeting. Everyone hears and remembers something different. You correct mistakes, confirm outcomes, and gain insight by getting everyone’s views and perceptions.
    Thus, every meeting should be three meetings: the strategy session, the meeting itself, and the post-mortem.

  3. Having worked in IT marketing I agree an action plan is a must. Rolling with the new ideas presented, and making contacts for future follow up are key at a conference. What I find interesting though is that Cool Gus is going to be migrating to Createspace.
    Also, have you talked re: your trade deals, about leasing out books? Hugh Howey is putting out feelers. And what do you think about contracting out paperbacks yourself, for distribution through stores? Is it too much hassle compared to doing POD through Creatspace?
    I’m wondering if any or all these topics were discussed by self publishing style companies.

  4. Fantastic coverage and information of the BEA conference. The monarchy of England comes to mind as the big six have occupied the throne for so long, it is difficult to change. Being prepared prior to and following up when a conference ends … excellent advice. Thanks!

  5. Son graduated in the midst of BEA, so not this year, but will get to all or part of Thrillerfest. Live in NJ, so an easy train or I can sleep on daughter’s couch on the Upper Eastside. Great advice on attending any conference/convention. I have attended quite a few over the years and you are so right, without a plan too much time is wasted and opportunities missed. Thanks as always Jen. Recommend John’s Pizza (Theater District) for Bob. Reservations recommended.

  6. Great advice, a plan going in and review to finish. Sounds like a few things aren’t going to change (with the trad publishers). Just a few questions: are places like this a good place for a writer even if you don’t know anyone? And LIRR wasn’t an option from JFK? It’s usually quick.

  7. Nice to hear about conferences over the pond. Was interested to read the difference in approaches and attitude between the trad publishers and the digital ones like Amazon. Makes you think, is that why so many people are now going it alone with ebooks?

  8. Great recap, but my favorite line is this one: “But BEA was like no other writing event I had been to, ever. It felt more like the conventions I used to attend when I was in the Marketing field.”

    It’s NOT a writing event, and perhaps, that is part of what is missing.
    Thanks for the great down-to-earth observations here! Sorry I missed you there, though it would have been nice to say “hi!” in person.

  9. You were very productive. Well done. Geez… pizza, cabs and never fly into JFK. BEA sounds amazing, fast paced and wow!

  10. Thanks for the recap! Sounds like your planning = a successful con. As someone who uses Lightning ource for POD, I’d love to hear what you learned that tipped you over to CreateSpace. I’m leaning that direction myself for my next release just because of the cheaper author copies.

  11. Hi Jen. Thanks for the rundown on BEA. At what point in an author’s career is it worthwhile to attend BEA? . . . Sorry I’m going to miss you at Thrillerfest. Life happened while I was making plans, but I hope to be there next year. Have fun!

  12. Thanks for the great review of BEA. I’ve always been intimidated by its size! Now I’m putting it on my plan for next year. I have the same question as Jennette — why CreateSpace over LSI?

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