A fantastic introduction to preparing and making the most of festivals, book events and cons from one of our fantastic 2016 Interns: Sophie Hickman.
There are loads of reasons to love book events like YA Shot and YALC. Dozens of your favourite writers all in one place. Amazing panels and workshops. Author signings and book stalls. But sometimes they can be nerve-wracking, especially if you’ve never been before. What if it’s busy and loud? What if everyone else knows what they’re doing except for me? What if I embarrass myself in front of my favourite author?
Don’t worry. It will all be fine.
I know, because I’ve had all these worries, and more. But I can honestly say that I’ve spent some of the best days of my life at book events. Here are my top tips for making the most of the event and what to do before, during and after.
PLAN. Okay, I love planning. I’m a planning sort of person. But even if you’re one of those annoyingly chilled-out go-with-the-flow sort of people, here are a few things you might want to think about:
- Do you know where you’re going? Plan your journey, work out what time you’re going to get there, maybe print off a map.
- Which panels, workshops and signings do you want to go to? There are normally loads to choose from and it can be hard to narrow it down. Remember that signings can take a while and panels might take place in different venues. My top tip is to pick your absolute must-see events and make sure you can get to those. It’s a lot more relaxing knowing you can see your absolute favourites rather than rushing around trying to see everything.
- What are you going to wear? I’d suggest layers and your comfiest shoes.
- What are you going to eat and drink while you’re there? A lunchbox, snacks and drinks are perfect, especially if you don’t know where you’ll be able to get food when you get there.
- How much cash will you need? A lot of stalls at events don’t take cards. And you might need to buy more food and drinks, too.
- Which books do you want to get signed? If you’re one of those lucky people who’s going to stay near YA Shot or YALC overnight, you get to take a suitcase and don’t have to worry so much. If you’re travelling there and back in one day, with a handbag or backpack, you might need to think a bit more carefully. I always go for my absolute favourite book by a particular author or a copy that means a lot to me. Test your bag before you take it: do you really think you can carry that around all day?
When I first walked into YALC I suffered from extreme sensory overload. So many books! Books that hadn’t been released yet! Free posters and badges and all so pretty and colourful…
Take a deep breath. Look around in a logical order. Get to the events you want to in good time, so you’re not rushing at the last minute.
I promise you that bookish events are normally not too loud and crowded. It’s normally people milling around and talking at a reasonable volume. When I went to YALC, the book zone was a haven compared to the rest of ComicCon. But if you do need five minutes, you’ll be able to find somewhere quiet to take a few deep breaths.
One of the most nerve-wracking things of all can be thinking what to say when you see your favourite author in real-life. This can actually be a really fun thing to think about beforehand. Do you have a favourite book or series by that author? A favourite character? Do you have a question you’d like to ask? Authors are usually used to dealing with nervous readers, so they won’t mind if you seem a bit awkward or want to stand there in silence. They’re probably quite nervous themselves. Attending a big book event is a big deal and they’ll be really grateful to meet a reader who loves their books. Saying something nice, even a straightforward ‘thank you’, will probably make their day as well as yours.
Once you’ve told everyone exactly what happened and who you met and which books you bought, spread all your bookish goodies out on the floor and take a picture (I’m not on social media, I just like to take a picture before everything gets spread all over the house). Then hug your new books, stare at the author signatures and start planning for next year…