Last week, I attended the Whirlwind of Overwhelmingness (known, more commonly, as the Texas Library Association’s Annual Conference). Being a mere writer/blogger—and not a librarian—I opted to purchase the double-digit priced floor pass, which was good for three days of admission to the exhibit hall, rather than go all-out triple-digit and attend the actual conference sessions.
The exhibition hall was exhausting. Hence: some tips on how to survive, should you ever get the chance to attend this, or a similar, conference.
Bring your own water (and maybe even your own grilled cheese). Yes, the fast food stand inside the convention center might look cute—it is shaped like a wedge of cheese, after all—but there’s nothing cute about spending $3.50 for a bottle of water and $6.50 for a grilled cheese sandwich. Nothing. Cute. At all. Also, the faux Starbucks booth is stubborn when it comes to handing out iced waters—even if you are obviously pregnant and practically beg them for one. Solution: bring your own bottle of Ozarka, baby. And then, head to P.F. Chang’s where you actually get food that’s worth the extra money.
Bring more than just your purse. I’m not talking about your flimsy little summer tote bag, either. Bring at least one, maybe two, of those reusable grocery store bags. There will be galleys of books you want, and many of the publishers are eager to spread the love.
Don’t be a Greedy Gertrude. On that note, don’t let yourself get blinded by FREE! FREE! FREE! and then proceed to forget your manners. Be selective about the books you are offered. If it’s a book you’ve been dying to read, by all means, take it (politely, and with a “thank you”). Otherwise, read the back cover copy. If it sounds like your kind of book, and you have a plan in mind—meaning YOU PLAN TO READ IT and, hopefully, to review it—take it. If it doesn’t interest you, leave it there. Common sense, but needs to be said. It might be someone else’s “I’VE BEEN DYING TO READ THIS!” book. Taking it when you feel merely “meh” about it might deny them that privilege.
Be warned of The Swarm. If you a) have been told you look like a high school student any time in the last twelve months, b) happen to attend the expo on “Welcome, Local High School Students!” day, and c) said high school students are wearing yellow—and so are you—you might need an extra dose of self-awareness. On one hand, it’s never good to get caught in the stampede of dozens of teens swarming en masse to whatever free book is being offered. Due to this, you might also want to avoid other people thinking you’re One Of Them. In this instance, it’s good to hold your head up high, walk with purpose, read the back cover copy, ask questions, be selective, and mostly, be considerate of others.
Have a plan. I saw a tweet a few days ago from someone who wishes there’d been a session on how to score galleys—she walked away from the expo with exactly zero free books. Now, I’m pretty sure The Swarm had at least a small something to do with this. However: what you must understand is that there were a lot of galleys to go around. I ended up with many books I not only recognized, but really wanted. This is not coincidental. If you’re going to an expo like this, the best advice I can give you is this: do your research. Know which books are coming out, know which ones you’re most interested in, know the covers, know which books go with which publishers. Know these things, then watch for them and try not to get trampled by The Swarm.
Wear comfortable shoes. You’ll be walking. A LOT. After three days at the expo, several hours each day, and much of this time spent roaming around? Yeah. Enough said. Leave your high heels and your hawt blister-making boots in your closet. Pretend you’re on The Biggest Loser and come prepared to spend hours burning those calories.
Bring cash—preferably in increments of $5. You’ll need it for more than just the parking fee. In addition to the free things offered, you can buy already-on-sale books at a discounted rate. Also, if there are author signings, you’ll be prepared (especially if said author happens to be a Favorite-with-a-capital-F for more than one of your friends)(I learned this particular part of the rule the hard way. I’m sorry, friends). Another warning is in order here, though: if you happen to attend an expo where the publishers try to get rid of everything they have on the last day, please see point number four again. Librarians + super-discounted books = DANGER.
So. There you go. Now you’ll know how to survive one of these things, should you ever have the opportunity to attend.
On a related note, expect more book reviews here on the blog. As someone who did manage to receive “more than zero” galleys, I feel a responsibility to do something worthwhile with them. For me, that looks like reading the books before they’re released and recommending them to you guys if I feel they’re worthy of recommendation.