Practical Meerkat’s 52 Bits of Useful Info for Young (and Old) Writers, week 21

by Laura Anne Gilman

The previously scheduled entry is being bumped for a by-request special report from the floor of the Javits Center – this week also known as Book Expo America.

BEA, as you might have seen it referenced, is the yearly publishing trade fair held in New York City.  For several days, publishers and bookstore buyers, librarians, reviewers, book-bloggers, writers and industry pundits gather to promote new releases, and take the pulse of the industry as a whole.

(This year’s diagnosis: not dead yet.)

Not every writer will go to BEA.  In fact, most won’t.  Nor is it, honestly, any kind of career must-do.  However, if your publisher asks if you would like to do a signing there, say yes.  Big Names get long lines and prime placement, but even a newbie writer whose book isn’t out yet sees an amazing sales-promotion and ego boost by having a giveaway signing via your publisher.

If a signing isn’t planned, and you have the opportunity (on your own, or via your writers’ organization) to attend anyway, my advice is: go.  The show is a rolling buffet of networking and promotional possibilities on its own– and the free swag is mind-blowing.

[If you walk out of the show with fewer than three new galleys and no publisher-branded tote bags, you’re a far stronger soul than I]

So, let’s assume you’ve been invited, or ponied up the $75 for a day pass, and hied yourself to EnWhySee.  What now?

1.     Make appointments.

Publishing goes a little crazy this week, trying to cram everything in.  Make sure you have a scheduled time to meet with your editor and/or agent.  See if they can introduce you to members of the sales force, or foreign rights agents – or foreign language publishers.  Don’t assume you’ll “run into people.”  You might, but they’ll be on their way to meetings.

2.     Interact

Don’t be so overwhelmed with the things you’re seeing that you forget to meet the people.  Look at nametags.  Introduce yourself.  Have business cards ready to hand to people.  You’re not there to pitch your project – this is a chance to network, one industry pro to another.  If you get asked about your projects, bonus!  Also, the fair is a hotspot of librarians.  Be Nice.  Tell them they rock (they do).

3.     Research

Who is being promoted – and how are they doing it?  What’s the hot ticket galley or giveaway?  What organizations have tables – get their info!  How about the production side – check out the electronic production booths, and see what new tech is being pushed/promoted.  What publishers have busy booths, and who is sitting quietly?   This is a masterclass in publishing , and the entire fair is your classroom/textbook.

4.     Attend the Seminars

BEA is more than the main floor.  The entire week there are interviews and seminars and side events.  Some of them need advance registration, some don’t.  Plan ahead to make sure you catch the items of interest.

5.     Socialize

Not all after-show parties are ‘open,’ but many of them are – and some of them you can get into by tagging along with a friend who knows someone.  Tweet-up to meet folks for drinks after the show, or to escape for lunch together, and compare notes.  And keep in touch with these people after BEA ends!  They’re your new peer group….

Some Important Survival Tips

1.     Wear comfortable shoes.  The Javits Center floor is a crime against podiatry.

2.     Hydrate.  The air in the center is dry, and you’re going to be walking a LOT.  Also, every year it seems BEA happens during our first heat wave of the season.  Carry a water bottle with you, and refill it several times during the day (also: make note of the bathroom locations!)

3.     Eat at least two meals every day.  Try to do it outside the convention center – Javits redefines highway robbery with what they charge for food.  In recent years, a number of decent options have sprung up in the neighborhood.  None of it’s fancy, but you can get a sandwich or soup without killing your budget.

4.     Comfortable shoes.

5.     And did I mention comfortable shoes?

[after-the-show survival tip: there is usually a Spa-run massage station set up somewhere on the main floor.  They do a booming business for a reason.]

Edited to Add:  as per  the BEAn blog, total attendance was 23,067 compared to 21,919 in 2010.


Coming up in Week 22:  How to Get Your Reading Groove Back

Laura Anne Gilman is a former editor with Penguin/Putnam, and the author of more than a dozen novels, most recently the urban fantasy PACK OF LIES, and WEIGHT OF STONE, Book 2 of the Nebula-nominated Vineart War trilogy.  Her SF collection, DRAGON VIRUS, which SF Signal called “amazingly evocative….a potent ride through a changing future, will be published by  Fairwood Press in June 2011.  For more info check her website, her BookView Cafe bookshelf, or follow her on Twitter (@LAGilman)  And yes, her nickname really is meerkat.


About Laura Anne Gilman

Laura Anne is a recovering editor-turned-novelist, with an Endeavor Award, a Nebula nomination, another Endeavor award nomination and a Washington State Book Award nomination under her belt. Her most recent series is the award-winning "Devil's West" trilogy, starting with SILVER ON THE ROAD, and her same-universe story collection, WEST WINDS' FOOL, AND OTHER STORIES OF THE DEVIL'S WEST. The novella GABRIEL'S ROAD was published by Book View Cafe on April 30th, 2019. Her Patreon, featuring original fiction, writing advice, and original Rants, is at Learn more at, where you can sign up for her quarterly newsletter.


Practical Meerkat’s 52 Bits of Useful Info for Young (and Old) Writers, week 21 — 1 Comment

  1. One of the most interesting people I met at BEA was a young woman who, at age 15, is running a literacy program in her local schools. If I remember the numbers correctly, last year she got students to read over 5000 books. Absolutely amazing, and I learned it all because we randomly started talking in a line.