A Loner’s Guide to Book Expo America

Jeff O'Neal

CEO and co-founder

Jeff O'Neal is the executive editor of Book Riot and Panels. He also co-hosts The Book Riot Podcast. Follow him on Twitter: @thejeffoneal.

I wrote the original version of this guide before Book Expo America last year, but I have 100% more BEA experience since then, so I thought I would tweak it a little.

This isn’t “wear comfortable shoes” advice, though you should do that. (Actually, you should wear comfortable shoes all the time. Except when you are trying to chase me down—then by all means wear some torturous Carrie Bradshaw pair).

1. The book that is being given away left and right is going to be the book you are going to be sick of hearing about in six months. So read that right away before hype fatigue becomes a problem.

2. If you try to crash the librarian’s special reception/lounge, you will be met with stronger language than “quiet, please.” Unless you are a librarian, in which case it is all high-fives and ass-slaps. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t talk to librarians; you should. You should definitely look for them at the bars and buy them tequila sunrises. You really haven’t gazed into the dark void of book nerddom until some glassy-eyed children’s librarian delivers an homily on her love of Ramona Quimby, Age 8.

3. Do not drop your business card into every “WIN AN IPAD” giveaway. The only thing you will win is an unstemmable tide of email spam.

4. Drinking game idea: go to a trend panel and do a shot every time someone uses reason or evidence. At the end, you’ll only wish you were drunk

5. Check out the remainder pavilion but don’t dawdle. The dudes who lurk there are a little sketchy. Like drives-a-windowless-minivan-and-knows-his-way-around-a-roll-of-ducttape sketchy.

6. If you find yourself waiting an hour for an autographed copy of some C-list celebrity’s ghostwritten memoir, then it’s time to reconsider your station in life and your prospects for future happiness. Also, wave to me.

7. Do not tell a clutch of self-pubbed novelists that you write reviews. Save yourself the time by getting on the 6 train to the Bronx Zoo, cutting your femoral artery, and jumping into the piranha tank.

8. No one likes a free totebag whore. No one, that is, except people looking for people to mock on Twitter.

9. To maximize your quality-value ratio, don’t eat at any restaurants between 30th Street and 72nd Street. Unless it is a vaguely “pan-Asian” restaurant. Those places are only slightly below average, but pretty damn cheap.

10. Go to The Strand, but not with a shopping list. Pretend you are in the last scene of Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade and pick out just one thing–“Choose wisely.”

11. Also visit Three Lives. This is the platonic ideal of an independent bookstore in a spectacular neighborhood. Go with a friend, laugh together, and pretend you are in a Nora Ephron movie.

12. Don’t bother with a map of the Javits Center. Just let the random placement of escalators flow over you.

13. The Javits wi-fi is both unreliable and overpriced. I would never spring for it in a million years. Plus, I would feel like I was cheating on AT&T, who normally provides my unreliable and overpriced data coverage.

14. New Yorkers have a word for people in line at the Javits Starbucks: “suckers.”

15. New York doesn’t have many extreme sport opportunities, but if you are feeling a little reckless, walk past the lines outside the women’s restrooms and sing “Drip, drip, drop little April showers” from Bambi. This is thrilling, but dangerous.

16. In the future, no one will understand the phrase “snake oil salesman.” If you are looking for an equivalent in 2025, might I hazard “self-publishing guru” as a guess?

17. You think you know how strange the whole L. Ron Hubbard/Dianetics thing is. But you don’t. Not until you wander across the lush red carpet and completely unvisited Dianetics booth/complex/mothership.

18. Judging by floorspace, children’s books are about 67263482 more profitable than literary fiction.

19. If there is a huge line right in the middle of the floor (not in the author-signing cattle pens), it is probably for a Harlequin title.

20. Probably best to avoid the wild-eyed carpet-baggers in “digital publishing platforms.” If you aren’t interested in extensible distribution and unparalleled discovery capability, they have a nice bridge over the East River to sell as well.


Alright, enough pregame. Reporting from the floor coming at ya over the next few days.