As you may (or may not) know, my husband Ian and I went to BookCon last week. So! Without further ado – here’s our BookCon 2017 recap! This post includes an overview of our experience as well as some tips and suggestions in case you’d like to go to BookCon one day (and, of course, photos!). It’s a long post (and is by no means comprehensive as it only relates to what we’ve experienced), so if you’d like to skim through it, just look for the bold font throughout – those are the takeaways.
BookCon took place in New York, at Javits Center, over the course of two days – Saturday (10:00am-6:00pm show floor, 10:45am-7:00pm panels) and Sunday (10:00am-5:00pm show floor, 10:15am-5:00pm panels) – and consisted of author panels, signings, giveaways, bookish merchandise sales, and group and fandom meet-ups.
There was something for everyone at BookCon. Panel topics were diverse, there was a long list of authors whom attendees could meet (or at least hear speak), there were a ton of publishing companies (both small and large), and a lot of companies with merchandise available for sale. Some books were available for free via giveaways, but there were also books available for purchase.
It was great hearing from different authors (they were all so funny and witty and nice!) on different topics. Plus the moderators for each panel were great. I learned a lot from each of them and when all was said and done, I wanted to go straight home and start writing 😆 Here’s a list of the panels we attended, with descriptions from the BookCon website:
The Magic of World Building
What makes a world complete? It’s not easy to write with such little foundation. But Authors Danielle Paige (Stealing Snow), Renee Ahdieh (Flame in the Mist), Marie Lu (Midnight Star) and Melissa de la Cruz (Alex & Eliza) explore the depths of a world never seen before with every new best-selling book! Join us as these fabulous authors discuss the fantastical worlds they’ve created, the trial and tribulations of characters and cultures plotted in these multi-dimensional story arcs and keeping readers glued page after page, book after book. This panel was moderated by Cristina Arreola.
Carrying On with Rainbow Rowell
Rainbow Rowell burst into the American writing scene in 2011 when she published Attachments while still working at the Omaha World Herald. Ever since, she has enjoyed a meteoric ride, penning best-selling YA and adult contemporary novels such as Eleanor & Park, Fangirl, and Carry On. Join Rowell as she discusses life as a critically-acclaimed author, what it’s like to deal with controversy, and what happens when Hollywood comes calling. She was interviewed by Emma Straub.
The YA/Adult Crossover
How do you decide what stories are YA and what’s adult but YA-friendly? How do you write for both teen and adult fans? Tour and Tor Teen authors V.E. Schwab (A Conjuring of Light), Cora Carmack (Roar), Susan Dennard (Windwitch) and Gregg Hurwitz (The Rains) discuss tackling social issues for a teen audience, writing novels to appeal to all ages, making your characters vibrant with authentic voices and relationships, and more. Moderated by Tor/Tor Teen Editor Diana Pho.
Cult Classic Throwdown: Science Fiction and Fantasy
Join a panel of science fiction and fantasy authors and bloggers as they discuss the best – and worst – of genre tropes, from muscle-brained berserker barbarians to aliens bedecked in bad prosthetics, authors Sarah Beth Durst, S.A. Chakraborty, Jordanna Max Brodsky, and Michael Johnston, along with blogger Jenn Northington, will discuss what makes tropes work, what doesn’t, and what they hope to see in SFF across all forms of media. In addition to the panel discussion, brief clips from some of the most trope-tacular movies will be shown, and attendees will play SFF Trope Bingo for a chance to win prizes, including an Alamo Drafthouse gift certificate.
Attendees and exhibitors
In addition to the authors, the attendees and exhibitors were also incredibly kind! Everyone was polite and very helpful. If you ever have any questions while there, don’t be afraid to ask. We’re all there for our mutual love of books, after all.
Interactive and automated activities
Throughout the show floor, there were automated photo booths (just scan your badge, press a button, and smile!) and also interactive writing boards (one in particular where everyone could write down the title of their fave books).
Nice, clean facilities
I’m sure the Javits Center is in use almost continuously, so it really was no surprise that the facilities were clean and up-to-date, but it was a big plus in my book, nonetheless. There was also a food court within the center, which was convenient, but also a tad bit expensive.
This was the one and only “con” during our BookCon experience (bad pun, courtesy of Ian 😜). There were so many lines throughout the show floor and so many people both in and out of line that it was, at times, incredibly confusing. Fortunately, it was easy to just ask people what the lines were for (again, because everyone was so nice); however, it still took way too long to find the right line and then locate the end of said-line. Also, a lot of the people standing in line, especially toward the back, weren’t 100% sure what the lines were for (again, because the lines were so long and confusing).
A lot of these lines were governed by reserved tickets. If you didn’t get to the location in time to get a ticket, then you didn’t get a spot in line. The problem with this was, of course, if you spent too long trying to find the end of the line (and they often wound around booths), then chances are you wouldn’t get a ticket. And if you had another line you wanted to try for in case your first choice fell through, then chances are you’d have missed that one too because you took too long trying to find the first line and then the second. And so on and so forth.
It would have been nice if there was tape on the floor, outlining the whereabouts of the line, with posts/stands at the beginning and end saying what the line was for (with interchangeable signs for each event). It might also have been useful if these ticketed lines were available for signup online so that we’d know ahead of time if they were or weren’t sold out.
Do some research ahead of time
Look up blog posts from other bookstagrammers who have attended previously. I read a three-part post by Casey at The Joyful Pen before we left for our trip and found it to be incredibly helpful 👍 Past attendees often have really good tips and descriptions of what worked for them and what didn’t in terms of their experience.
When searching for a hotel, browse Google Maps (or whatever map app/site you’re inclined to use) and take a look at their location(s) in relation to the convention center. From there you can decide if you’d prefer one within walking distance or if you’d like to catch the subway. And book your room(s) well in advance. We procrastinated and had a hard time finding a hotel – we eventually found a pretty great one, just 15 minutes away from Javits, but it took a little while (and a lot of panic).
If you think you’ll be buying lots of books and merchandise at BookCon, you may want to consider taking an extra suitcase on your travels. We packed our clothes and stuff in a smaller suitcase and put that smaller suitcase in a bigger suitcase, so that flying over, we only had to pay for one bag. Then, on our way back, we put our clothes in the big suitcase and all our books and merch in the smaller suitcase. We also took a tote bag with us to the convention center so that we could consolidate our purchases. Take a look at the BookCon website (FAQs), because they have rules as to what types of bags are allowed into the convention center and on the show floor.
Have a plan
Take a look at the BookCon schedule and website in advance and sign up for their email announcements so that you’re in the loop. Their site is very comprehensive and includes a list of exhibitors, authors, panel schedules, show floor maps, FAQs, etc. Plan out your day: prioritize events and activities and know where you need to be and at what time.
If you’d like to attend something (or try for a giveaway) that starts at 10:00am, then try to get to the venue at least an hour early, because there will be a line (you have to wait in a queue hall) and if you’re too far back in line, you might not get to that 10am event in time.
With that being said, you should also prepare yourself for variations in your plans 😅 You might not get that book or autograph you were hoping for – odds are there are hundreds of other people wanting the same thing and there are only so many tickets/spots available. If it doesn’t work out, that’s okay. Just move on to the next thing on your list and don’t let it ruin your day 👍
Prioritize your goals
Making a list (either on paper or in your head) of what you hope to accomplish during BookCon will be helpful when developing your plan. For the most part, there are 5 main categories of activities: panels, signings, giveaways, meet-ups, and browsing/buying. Panels were my main priority this year. As an aspiring writer, it was important for me to hear from other authors about their writing experiences, world building, processes, genres, etc. I reviewed the panel schedule on BookCon’s website and took note of which ones I wanted to attend, then I planned the rest of my schedule around them.
Unfortunately, giveaways weren’t high on my list of must-do’s, so I didn’t get any ARCs (advanced reader’s copy), and I can’t give you any advice in that regard. I might give it a try next year though.
Wear comfy attire
You’ll be doing lots of walking and standing around so be sure you’re wearing comfy shoes. Additionally, an important lesson I took away from Casey’s blog posts was that layers are key 🙌 It might be hot and humid outside, but relatively cool in the convention center with the air conditioning, so layered clothing will go a long way.
Be prepared to stand in line
There were A LOT of lines at BookCon, so prepare to stand around quite a bit. There were lines for getting into the venue each morning as well as for author signings, giveaways, and panels, so pay attention to when you’re allowed to start lining up for each event and plan accordingly.
Panels: Beware spoilers
If you plan on going to panels, know that you may be exposed to spoilers. Usually people are cognizant of the fact that not everyone in attendance may have read all the books of the authors and they’re careful with what they say. But. Things happen. So do some in-your-head risk-benefit calculations 😜 I actually decided to not go to Cassandra Clare’s panel, because I hadn’t read Lord of Shadows yet and I was SUPER afraid of potential spoilers.
Have both cash and card available
Most vendors took either cash or card, but we did come across a few who only took one or the other.
That’s all, folks!
All-in-all, we had an awesome time and are likely to go again next year 😁🙌