Getting Publicity & Making the Most of Book Expo America (BEA)
I won’t be at BEA this year, opting to stay home, work with clients (oh yeah, and go fishing for walleye on the Columbia River).
Many of you may want to hear my personal observations about working with the press at BEA.
If you haven’t already sent out news releases (20 to 30 days in advance), honestly, don’t bother.
Now, if you get an award — either a Ben Franklin or IPPY — you call me immediately but don’t worry, you can relax and enjoy yourself, get home and work on your press release announcement next week after the BEA.
You can read all about getting more publicity with awards here.
Personally, and with all due respect to others might disagree with my opinion here, I’d forget the BEA press room.
One look and you’ll see. It is sort of like a cavern filled with media kits. Files and files of them, alphabetically presented. Filled for journalists to come by and take. It’s only open to journalists, but if you do happen to get in, it will be a shocker and an education to see how the kits are created. Most of them are pretty poorly designed and constructed, and make the same errors and omissions that journalists see all the time.
Oh, once in a while you’ll see a journalist come in and peruse the files, maybe even grab a media kit or two, but not many. The press file room is one of the loneliest places to be at BEA.
In all my years of doing this show, I have never seen or heard a media success story that was based on materials placed in the BEA press room.
If you look at what happens at the end of the show, 99 percent of the stuff is thrown away. Total waste.
Now what is cool is the press meeting room, assuming they have one. Over the years this spot has turned into a haven for the media to escape and be amongst their brethren. There’s free food for journalists. It’s a nice place to be if you can get in, and you can meet lots of cool people there. But you have to have a press badge to get in. There are armed guards at the entrance (no just kidding). But really, normal people (floor walkers and exhibitors) are not usually allowed or invited and doing business (god forbid) within these hallowed halls is not really condoned, except by invitation of a media person. But if you do get in, relax and meet a few good people.
And again, I’ve yet to see anything happen there that was really book publicity related. Journalists hang out, but good luck getting them to give you the time of day and getting a story. Better idea would be to make friends, listen, learn, commiserate, ask questions and think about what you hear.
My advice on the other hand is to look for media by their badges, stop and politely introduce yourself, talk to them, get a business card, give them a business card, and then write to them later, follow up individually. Ask questions and be friendly, but don’t expect anything. They can’t take your book since it’s too heavy to carry. Send them the book and materials later.
This is also wise even if you are an exhibitor.
Now understand, that these folks usually have their own agenda, their own goals, and objectives, their own job to do while they are there. They usually simply don’t and won’t respond at all to publicity seekers or people who see their badge and make a publicity pitch on the floor. In fact, if you pay attention to them you will see that they are tired, they are harried and feel accosted by people.
So be nice, offer them candy and a coffee, or a place to sit and relax. Be friendly and nice and be a human being.
There is one golden opportunity you can keep your eyes open for.
If you do catch a media person at a book doing an interview and taking notes, you can jump in and ask a controversial question or throw out a controversial comment. This is how to garner some quick attention and a quote. But that sound bite had better be good, timely and relevant. You’ve got to be fast on your feet to pull this one off. You can take lessons from Expertising Expert Fern Reiss on this one and turn this opportunity into gold.
But this is rare. Generally speaking, publicity opportunities are few and far between at the BEA.
BEA is all about learning and making contacts. Meet people, study the industry, find out about new technologies and other people’s publications and the companies, study the successful. Get business cards.
My advice is to forget collecting the free books or at least keep it to a tolerable minimum. Stick to books you’ll really want to read or study, or take home and give away to friends or loved ones for fun or to help someone.
Get in line a few times and get some nice celebrity autographed books. It’s fun shaking hands with some of these people.
Don’t break your back — you can always collect a box or two day by day and ship home from the floor, day by day, or from your hotel room.
Instead, collect catalogs, exchange cards, make requests and have people mail them to you. These are worth a lot later as well if you do business with people and want to learn about their companies by studying what they publish later at home
Even if you are an exhibitor, chances are slim that you’ll sell a lot of books or close major deals. It can happen, but mostly you are there to meet people and learn everything you can.
Before you go, if you can, get a hold of Dan Poynter’s tip sheet on how to get the most out of the BEA.
Here are my own suggestions. Make a list of every booth you want to go to.
On day one even before the doors open, and before you walk in, sit down and take at least half an hour to study the show guide, especially the map and learn where everything is located. Identify your “must see” locations with a color high lighter.
Then lay out your trip plans for the time you will be there.
Wear comfortable walking shoes.
Bring two very strong carry bags to collect stuff.
Be the student. Be open minded. Pay attention and think about what you see. Meet people. Learn everything you can. Take notes on cards or in a notebook. Ideas will come to you about what you will like to do with people. Record these ideas. Capture them and specifically identify the action you want to take — what specifically you will want to do (these actions will definitely occur to you as you walk around).
The contact and this action plan is perhaps the most valuable thing you can walk away from your time at BEA.
Follow up when you get home.
That’s how to mine the incredible resources and people that you’ll meet and see at BEA.
Have fun everybody! I’ll miss you. See you next year.