Thank you for taking the time to check out my blog. I’m trying to make it more useful to people, so I thought I’d start out by sharing some of the journey to BEA/BookCon 2015. This year it was held at the Javits center in New York City.
Who should care? (Who is this aimed at?)
A lot of writers dream of showing off their works at a large conference, but they may not understand what’s involved in becoming an exhibitor at a show like BookExpo America. I know I didn’t when I started the process. Hopefully, this will help ease you through some of the pain if you’d like to try it someday.
Why do people want to attend conferences like this as exhibitors?
There are many reasons/goals, but here are a few and my thoughts on them.
- Make money – Unless you’ve got a lot of things to sell, this might not be the most realistic goal. I have seen children’s books being sold by indie authors, and that’s cool. I think they did fairly well, but I suppose it depends on what you’re selling and who’s coming to the conference.
- Gain exposure – This was probably my primary reason for getting in gear enough to be there. I wanted to meet people, and I took the opportunity to start an email list. I gathered about 600 names and about 120 either didn’t work or the people unsubscribed immediately. That’s fine. I don’t want people on my list who don’t wish to be there. That can’t be good for anybody.
- The cool factor – Not going to lie, it’s a very cool thing to be able to say, “I had a booth at BEA.” However, if that’s your only reason, I suggest finding a cheaper way to gain your cool factor. It takes a lot of time, effort, and money to get to a conference like this.
- Life goal – This can tie into “the cool factor” and make that more legitimate as a reason for putting yourself through all this.
How do I sign up for a booth at BEA 2016?
Check out the official website for more details. Although I’m sure they’d be willing to book you at any time, they don’t have their gold rush on booth space until December/January. So you have some time to think about the commitment involved. Make a list of questions and call them. Their customer service is decent.
My Questions and Their Answers:
Question 1: How much does a booth cost?
Answer 1: It varies by year. This year a 6×8 booth costs $3643. This booth is furnished and has 2 chairs, carpet, a table, a garbage can
Question 2: How do you pay?
Answer 2: By check in installments. (They mail a bill out. I believe I made three payments.)
Question 3: What are the dos and don’t about swag?
Answer 3: You can give away candy and run raffles from your booth, but you can’t walk the aisles or interfere with the booths around you.
Question 4: Can you autograph from the booth?
Answer 4: You can sign up for an in-booth autographing session. (They put a note in the official booklet about which booths have signings. This privilege costs $95 (as of this year – I expect that to rise next year), and I’d probably skip it next time, but it was good to do for the first time. That’s the cheap option. The formal autographing lines cost more than double that.)
Question 5: What are the shipping costs and other fees to get books and booth materials to your booth?
Answer 5: Freeman handles all that?
Internal thought: Huh?
Answer 5 continued: Freeman is the official contractor. You’ll have to contact them about the prices. (I believe it came to $406.50 for them to take my almost 200 lbs of stuff to the booth. I conscripted help from many friends to haul the leftovers back to the train for me.)
*Please note, you should call them for yourself with your own list of questions because the answers may vary for your specific situation.
Insurance, Supplies, and Other Costs:
- BEA insurance = $75.00. It seems like a waste, but I’m sure if somebody walked off with all my stuff, I’d be singing a different tune.
- Books to take to sell and giveaway = $924.40. Using this year as research, I would definitely change up how many of each book I got and which books I stocked, etc. You can’t actually sell during BookExpo America, but you can sell at BookCon.
- Booth supplies = $502.04. Now, this includes things like the banner I commissioned a friend to make. The bulk of this was to GotPrint to make postcards of the various books I have. I have about 10 titles, so this was a lot. Plus, I have a ton left over, so next year, I may not have to order any bookmarks or postcards. It also includes things like packing tape, sharpies, candy, nameplates, etc from Walmart. I also bought pencils and wristbands with one of the book titles. While these things enhanced the cool factor of my booth, they’re not necessary and they do add up.
* Keep in mind, you’ll need to factor in travel and accommodation expenses. I won’t put in my numbers because they won’t help you.
* My total budget came to about $8000. Now, you can do it for much less. Next time around, I probably will do it for much less, but I wanted all the bells and whistles I could get for this first show.
Points of Irritation:
- The state of New York requires that you have a certificate of authority to collect sales tax if you’re going to sell anything within the state. I found that lovely little fact out about business days before the show. To be fair, my certificate did indeed arrive in time. The signup process wasn’t terribly intuitive, but if you’ve ever filled out something as arduous as the FASFA or obtained a fishing license from your state…you’re probably good to go with handling the online runaround.
- I forgot that my booth had carpet, so I ordered some through Freeman. They were super nice about refunding that though. High marks for their customer service. There was also another snafu that I had no control over. I send the books/materials by 1 day priority mail because it was about $25/ box. For some reason 5 arrived two days later and 1 arrived in 1 day. So, Freeman sent me two bills. I got it sorted with them though, and again, their customer service was top notch.
Official website of BookExpo America – This site is great for background information, but it’s tough to get straight answers on prices. I suggest calling them first. If they sense you’re likely to book a booth with them, they will get back to you in a timely manner.
Freeman – official contractor
Would I do it all again?
In a heartbeat. However, I’m undecided on joining BEA in 2016 as they’re moving it to Chicago. While it would be great to hit a new audience, I live much closer to NYC. I believe I could keep the budget about the same in total by shuffling around priorities, but it might be good to take a year off and check out a few smaller conferences instead.
Thanks for listening. Hope you found this useful. Have a great day.
I’ve debated BEA and Chicago would be closer for me. Thanks for the post, this answered a lot of my questions. Still debating…
It was a lot of fun. I’m not clear on the “split with somebody else” thing, but I think it can be done unofficially or officially. So, if you’ve got a friend who wanted in on the adventure, that might defray some of the costs too. Good luck.
I attended BEA as a spectator, although I had 2 books there, I did not have my own booth. I thought about having one in the near future and have a better understanding of what to expect financially. Thanks for the insight. You gave me a lot to think about.
Please let me know if you have questions. It’s definitely pricey. There are probably a lot of cheaper conferences, but it is one of the most well-known ones around. Did you have a good time? For Chicago, I may go as a BEA spectator then stay for Con as an exhibitor.
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