We had a blast at our first American Library Association (ALA) conference, and we thought it’d be fun to give some tips for people who wondered if this conference was for them.
For librarians, ALA annual is the BIG Library Conference of the year, full of everything from the World of Manga to Educating with Robots.
Stacey: With a book recently out, I attended as a signing author, as well as a panelist for the 8 Diverse Debuts with Marie Lu panel. So, for one of the two days I attended, I was busy getting ready for the panel, as well as meeting readers/librarians. The panel was awesome – we had a filled room, and though I was super nervous, I managed not to croak. (One of these days, we will do a post on “How Not to Croak When Doing a Panel.”) In the evening, there was a special dinner where the Newbery and Caldecott awards are presented and speeches are given.
Stephanie: Since I wasn’t going to ALA as an author, my experience was significantly different than Stacey’s. To be honest, I almost didn’t attend the event; most of my friends were there as published authors and I was nervous that I would feel as if I didn’t fit in. But I’m so glad I went—and I’m not just saying this because I managed to snag ARCs of Amie Kaufman‘s ILLUMINAE and Rae Carson‘s WALK ON EARTH A STRANGER.
For me, the biggest highlight of ALA was getting the chance to talk to so many publishing professionals and connect with writers and authors who I usually only see on Twitter. When I first stepped into the Moscone Center I was both thrilled and terrified. With over 3000 booths and 25,000 people, I’m sure you can all imagine how massive it seemed. It truly felt like the Disneyland of books—magical, exciting and a little overwhelming. I would have probably felt even more overwhelmed if I was there as an author knowing I would need to do signings and panels, and that I wasn’t just free to explore and do whatever I wanted. So, in the end I was extremely grateful that this was my first experience, because I learned a lot just from walking around and talking to people. It was still a little intimidating, but by the end of the weekend, Stacey and I both felt as if we’d conquered the Exhibit Hall.
Both: Here are a few tips we’ve put together to help those of you who plan to attend ALA in the future:
1. HAVE A PLAN OF ATTACK. Rather than using the pinball approach of pinging around from booth to booth with no defined course—map out where and when you want to go. Most authors only sign for 30 minute to 60 minute periods of time, so if you want to snag a signed book or ARC from one of your favorite authors you’ll want to plan it out, using the guide that each attendee is given upon registration.
2. DON’T BE SHY. Most publishing professionals and authors are there because they want to promote their books, which means they are probably going to be thrilled to talk with you. If you don’t know what to say, “What books are you excited for?” is always a great start. That will generally lead to the exhibitor telling you all you need to know about their latest and greatest, and occasional they will even reach into a secret drawer and give you a copy of the book as well.
3. YOUR HOTEL IS PART OF THE CONFERENCE AS WELL. People at ALA like to have fun, so when you go back to your hotel instead of just heading back to your room and passing out, try to make an effort to hang out. One of our conference highlights was meeting a YA book buyer for Scholastic Book Club. We ran into her in Stacey’s hotel lobby and when we started asking questions about what it was like to be a buyer that she was happy to answer. That night, not only did we make a new friend, but we learned a whole lot of great things about Scholastic.
4. BUSINESS CARDS ARE NOT OBSOLETE. If you attend ALA and take our advice not to be shy, it’s a good idea to have business cards, so you can make sure to stay connected with the people you meet. *Other good things to bring include: comfortable shoes, fun pens if you’re signing books, snacks, and bottled water (so that you don’t end up paying a vender $5.00 for drink).
5. LAST, BUT NOT LEAST, GET A CONFERENCE BUDDY. Not only is everything more fun with friends, but ALA is so big it’s a great idea to have someone else help you navigate.
Those are a few of our tips, if any of you have any ALA tips or conference tips in general, we’d love to hear them in the comments!
And, since ARCs are not meant to be hoarded, we wanted to host a giveaway using some of the books we managed to grab while ALA. To win, please fill out the Rafflecopter below.
One lucky winner will be able to choose from among these books:
- An ARC of OUT OF DARKNESS by Ashley Hope Pérez
- An ARC of FOR THE RECORD by Charlotte Huang
- An ARC of BLACK WIDOW FOREVER RED by Margaret Stohl
- An ARC of THESE SHALLOW GRAVES by Jennifer Donnelly
- An ARC of THE SCORPION RULES by Erin Bow (signed)
- An ARC of THE FOXGLOVE KILLINGS by Tara Kelly
- An ARC of FORGET TOMORROW by Philip Dunn
- Paperback of MORE THAN MUSIC by Elizabeth Briggs (signed)
- An ARC of SYMPHONY FOR THE CITY OF THE DEAD by M.T. Anderson
- An ARC of BLOOD AND SALT by Kim Liggett
A SECOND lucky winner will be chosen from the COMMENTS to receive another ARC. And finally, a THIRD lucky winner will receive 2 ARCs from our top secret grab bag.