I have just spent the last few weeks getting ready for my booth at TLA next week.  I have been ordering bookmarks and buttons and tshirts and posters, buying tables and table cloths and book stands.  However, this is not what the usual person does to get ready to attend TLA (or BEA or ALA or any of the other large book trade shows).

So, since most of you are published and soon to be published authors, I thought I’d examine preparation for a large convention from that perspective.

Convention exhibition halls are a great place for authors to network and get a good look at what is happening in the publishing world.  All authors, even unpublished ones, should try to go to a convention if at all possible.  Before you go, here are some things you should do:

  1. Buy an exhibits-only badge — Unless you are a librarian or bookseller, the classes at ALA or BEA aren’t going to be that pertinent to you.  Exhibit-only badges are significantly cheaper.
  2. Print business cards — If you have a book out, make sure your cover or some information on the book is on it.  Also make sure you have your website and/or blog address too.
  3. Check out the conference signing schedule — This way you will be able to plan your days and make sure you get autographs from your favorite authors.
  4. Check online for other authors and bloggers who will be there — Then, try to meet up with these groups.  Often groups of bloggers and/or authors will get together for drinks.  This is a great time to meet new folks and discuss marketing and publishing strategies.

And once you are at the convention, there’s a bunch of stuff you shouldn’t forget:

  1. Do not be shy — Talk with everyone.  After all, pretty much everyone there also wants to talk with you.
  2. Grab as many free books as you can, but be discerning — Publishers only bring a set number of giveaways.  Don’t grab a book if you don’t think you’ll read it or give it away.  Taking books you don’t actually want only deprives people who would have read the book from getting it.
  3. Wear comfortable shoes — I cannot stress this one enough.  Dress levels vary at the different conferences, but even if you decide to wear heels to something, make sure you can stand and walk around in them for 8 hours or so.
  4. Blog/Tweet/Facebook about your experience — Conventions always make great material for discussion and writing.
  5. Have fun — If your not exhibiting, there’s no reason why you should be stressed.  Be laid back and enjoy the experience.  It can be quite a wild ride.
© Copyright 2006-2011 Madeline Smoot. All rights reserved.
May be excerpted and duplicated for educational purposes.