How to Swag at BEA

The amazing and talented YA teen writer Kody Keplinger informed me before BEA that I had to help her get swag this year at BEA because she'd heard I was the person to go to. I'm not sure how that rumor got started but I did absolutely nothing to dissuade popular opinion that I was becoming the queen of swag at BEA. (There's even that ridiculous nickname Miss Keplinger gave me, which will remain unsaid).

(Meredith's and my Swag at 9:30 am on Wednesday, after the Swag Sweep)


And this is that moment where I've gotta fess up: I am apparently my father's daughter. And my Swagging skills were definitely inherited from him. Though you wouldn't find him running the halls at BEA and picking up books, his itinerized trips to Disney World when I was a kid, definitely inspired me last year when I was figuring out how to walk away with the best swag at BEA last year.

We were that family that planned everything we wanted to do at each park the night before and my dad wrote it down and allotted the correct amount of time for each ride, each show, each parade, or whatever.

We were that family that arrived at the gates at 7 am, lined up so we would be right up from when the gates to the park opened at 9 (oh yes, we waited in line for two hours). Then I ran to That-Year's-Big-Ride to get fast pass tickets, while the rest of the family ran That-Year's-Second-Biggest-Ride to get in line. After collecting fast passes, I ran to meet up with them, which often times included fighting to cut people in line. (This was the curse of being the oldest child in my family, er, well one of them. Having to help put up the Christmas tree was another).

We were that family that ran from one ride to the next, that spent 14 hours in each park, and that stopped to eat if and only if we had time in our schedule. Vacations in my family were more exhausting than the rest of the year.


So you see, I'm highly qualified to direct people on how to Swag at BEA, because I've done all of Disney World in a couple of days, survived to tell the tale - and go back and do it again several more times. And of course, there's the hard evidence. Last year I scored $1100 worth of books. This year I got more.

How to Swag

1. Be prepared. This includes being comfortable. Those 3 inch heels and business clothing - leave that in the office. Sneakers, jeans, layers (the temperature in the Javitz seems to fluctuate...or maybe it was all that running around). But it also includes planning ahead. Meredith, Juju, and I sat around the round table in the office before BEA opened on Wednesday and looked through the booklet, picking out every signing we wanted to see. After circling them, we made our own linear chart in Mer's handy notebook so we knew exactly what we needed to accomplish each hour - and where. And most importantly, bring a rolling suitcase and check it for $3 downstairs (more on this later). Then when those six tote bags are threatening to tear your arms off your shoulders, you can unload your books into your suitcase and head back out onto the Floor for more Swag.

2. Be early. The later you arrive, the harder you'll work and the less you'll get. On Wednesday morning Meredith and I got our tickets to the ticketed signings at 6:30. And we weren't the only ones. We ran into a pair of fabulous Tor editors - one of whom Swagged with me last year. (And last year, by the way, I got to Javitz at 7:15 and the woman in front of me got the last Suzanne Collins ticket for Catching Fire). Both days, I was lined up outside the Exhibit Floor at 8 am, waiting to get inside (us non-exhibitors are allowed in at 9 am) and since BEA isn't Disney World, when other members of my Swag Team showed up later, no one behind me complained about being cut in line.

3. Know the layout of the Floor. Both days, we chose the left entrance where the sign "Independent Publishers" hung in the entry way. (The right entrance was right in front of Harper Collins, but it had more crowds). Both days, we went through the entry way and immediately cut to the right. Then we swept up the Harper/Hyperion aisle, turned the corner, swept down the Macmillan aisle, turned the corner, swept up the Hachette aisle, etc.

4. Be assertive. People shove. It happens. (These are free books!) While I don't advocate shoving back, you can't just let someone roll their illegal rolling suitcase over your feet either. You also can't be tentative. On Thursday, I joked with Kody and SKendall and told them: "If you fall behind, we'll leave you behind." This was a joke, and I didn't leave them behind, but well, there's a little bit of truth in every just kidding. (Meredith and I did leave Juju behind on Wednesday, though we did pick up Swag for her - #sorryjuju!).

5. Swag with People who are Like-Minded. It's quite possible the paranormal trend in fiction rubbed off on Meredith and I on Wednesday. We had a sort of eerie telepathic communication going on when we swept through the aisles of the major publishing houses. I went left, she went right, we each grabbed ARCs and tote bags for each other when opportunity arose. The two of us (minus Juju, since we left her behind) swept the entire Exhibit Floor on Wednesday in 30 minutes. The Janet Reid on the other hand did not Swag with us, and while I love her am afraid of her, this was a good decision, she would not have wanted to run the aisle with me (she prefers to make me do the running and just bring her the Swag).

6. Have good Swag Karma. Those rolling suitcase. They're not allowed on the Floor. The signs are everywhere. Obviously anyone pushing and shoving for ARCs can read. (And yes, possibly one of the best moments of Thursday's Swag Sweep was the fabulous and fierce Diana Fox telling a woman who was racing us to the Swag that rolling suitcases were not in fact supposed to be on the Floor). But also there's the multiple copies of books faux pas. Don't pick up copies of books you won't read - or won't send to someone else for their reading pleasure. And don't pick up six copies of each book. The $1100 of Swag I got last year, yes I read them, yes if they were good, I promoted and talked about them. And I plan to do the same with the Swag I got this year.

(The Swag from Wednesday)

Some of the Best Swag I got my hands on:

Copies of all the Buzz books (except Plain Kate and Bad Science)

The Passage by Justin Cronin

Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

Beautiful Darkness by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl

The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney

For the Win by Cory Doctrow

Nightshade by Andrea Cremer

Oogy by Larry Levin

Delirium by Lauren Oliver

Ascendant by Diane Peterfreund

Virals by Kathy Reichs

Numb by Sean Ferrell

I am Number Four by Pittacus Lore.

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Lenore Appelhans said...

Now the most important question: how did you get all that swag home?!

I sent most of mine home with my husband, and my suitcase was still heavy enough that I wanted to throw it in the East River after lugging it to the airport...

Meredith Barnes said...

This is inspiring. Almost as much as seeing you in action. I was proud to swag alongside you, Soldier...

I'd say there were more than a few dirty looks at the late-joiners in line...but BEAers are not nearly as rabid as Disney World-ers. Free books are soporifics. Well known fact.

SKendal said...

...You could not be more intense if you tried. I love it. And would love to swag with you again next year.

Creepy Query Girl said...

Holy Cow. Your swaggins skills are very impressive! Looks like you got some great picks.

Barbara Chepaitis said...

My goal was to give swag away, and I did. Signed lots of my book, Feathers of Hope, and gave away little 'hope' chests with feathers inside. Came home light!

Josin L. McQuein said...

See, this is the kind of thing that should be in your agent profile. Anyone that can mount an offensive with military precision and come away with that kind of loot has the skill to navigate tricky contract type stuff that makes writers' eyes go wonky.

Either that or you could maybe take over your own small country and have the highest literacy rate/best libraries in the world thanks to your swagging prowess.

Donna Gambale said...

I have reached a whole new level of respect for you, Suzie. And that description of your family's super-planned vacations? OMG, I'm a recovering hyper-scheduler, and even I found that impressive, and a little scary.

But when I was 18, on Senior Week, in Disney for the first time... I got out all the park maps our first night there and made a list of what rides we wanted to go on and where they were so we weren't traipsing back and forth through the parks. No super-early wake-up though...

I think I need to BEA with you next year. At drink night, Kody was telling Frankie and I how scary you were, and I knew you were my kinda gal.

Shannon Messenger said...

Okay, I am SO bookmarking this post for when I go to Comic Con in July. If you think people with rolling suitcases are tough to battle for swag, try battling people in stormtrooper costumes. :)

YA Book Queen said...

After reading this post, I'd say it is definitely undeniable: You are the swag queen. ;)

Janet Johnson said...

Wow. And I have to say it again. Wow. You are GOOD. I'm so impressed!

If there wasn't a rumor before, there must be now. You rock at swag getting.

Lisa Wells said...

I needed a nap just reading about your scary impressive skills. I bow to your stamina and devious brain.

Mary Gray said...

You are too fun! That Nightshade cover is gorgeous. Have fun reading!

Ann Marie Wraight said...

I have to repeat Lenore's question:

How the blazes did you manage to get the swag bags home? Did you perhaps have a golf cart with you that to mention? Do you own your own aeroplane? Airline?

I have to confess though, that when you mentioned your father at first (learning swagging skills from him) - I thought you would tell us he was a pirate...I was relieved - but a wee bit disappointed when I read on!

Looking forward to reading your reviews of the books.

C.M. Villani said... I'm in awe. I will totally offer my services as a pack mule next year if I can go with you to BEA!

Nikki said...

Suzie, you are amazing. Awe-inspiring. Ruthless. Shameless. Greedy.
All the things a writer wants in her agent. You're my shero.

Shelli (srjohannes) said...

next year - lets have a contest on lbs of books.

This year I got 100 lbs - score!

Swag sweep challenge 2011 - see you there! ;)

Larissa said...

LOL - That is awesome.

I have to laugh about Disney World. I live in Central FL, and I see that all the time. :)

Thanks for sharing your swag-grabbing tips!

suzie townsend said...

Oh, all that swag? Still here in the office. Because I am a horrible colleague, it is overtaking Meredith's desk in Janet's lair.

readingkidsbooks said...

This confirms are most definitely the perfect agent! I'm so not a scheduler, and I'm so not a morning person...but hey, I don't need to be cuz you clearly go from ungodly early hours of dawn into the wee hours of the night...Girl you are the energizer bunny reincarnate and I could not be more delighted to have you energizing away on my behalf. I must say though...I'm just a teeny tiny bit envious of all those books you brought home.

April (BooksandWine) said...

I agree with all of these tips! Also, The Passage was one of my top scores too.

So glad you had a successful BEA!

Unknown said...

Awesome post!

Marjorie said...

So who won the contest already?

Jude said...

It's ok you left me behind. You more than made up for it by getting some swag for me while I was lagging! I love you!

Romance, Rumours and Rogues said...

I am in awe.

Those are some serious organisational skills you've got going on :)

And I know who to stick close to when I make my first BEA!

Rebecca B said...

Did you used to watch "Supermarket Sweep," by chance? Because I am convinced you could be the all-time champion!

Jan von Harz said...

Good to know if I get there next year.

Mystica said...

And nice to know it was fun too. Congratulations on the haul.

Claire Dawn said...

Seriously, BEA sounds awesome! Some day!

Remilda Graystone said...

LOL, I loved reading this post!! Your dad sounds like my mom. Going anywhere with her is a little scary and always a bit exhausting.

Sarah Fowler said...

Last time I was on vacation, I thought ahead and packed a soft-sided suitcase-within-a-suitcase. The treasures I brought home weren't all books, nor were they all free, but they were worth the extra charges.