How to Make the Most of Book Expo america (or other large trade shows)

While BEA is the place to make connections to agents and publishers, this event can be quite intimidating. It’s full of over-stimulation, with thousands of people running in all directions. The Expo goes non-stop every day for the entire three days.  There also are educational events and parties each evening.

Publishing houses and literary agents are not always easy to approach, as they are primarily interested in promoting the work of their current clients. Here are a few tips to increase your chances of making the connections you want:

1 · Know what to expect from BEA and make a plan of attack for your time there.  Pace yourself and know what you must do and what you would like to do if time permits.
2 · Do your research in advance. Come with a list a preferred publishers right for your book.  If possible, make appointments to meet acquisition editors at the Expo.
3 · Create a book proposal to maximize your preparation to meet publishers.  Not only do you want to have a proposal prepared so that you can send the proposal to the publisher as soon as the Expo ends, but also going through the book proposal process will prepare you to answer any questions the publisher will naturally will ask you (the audience, the size of the market, competitive titles, your platform).  It is rare for a publisher to ask for your proposal, manuscript or book at the Expo, but make sure you bring them just in case.
4 · Create a sell sheet to leave with interested publishers and others.  It will work for you long after the Expo is over.  Giving them only one sheet of paper with all of your relevant information shows them that you understand that they are overwhelmed with books and paper at the Expo and that you recognize the demands on their time and will be there later when they have the time to talk with you in more depth.
5 · Prepare a sound-bite pitch about your project to present to publishers.  Just 200 words, or something you can say in less than 15 seconds.  Prepare to answer follow-up questions.
6 · Get your registration badge and program the day before the Expo opening, if possible.  Take time to study the map and the program.  Each exhibitor is described and the exhibitor representatives at the booth are identified by name and title.  You can use this information to know who you would like to connect with at the booth.
7 · Pitch your project to the editors at your preferred publishers at times when they are least likely to be busy with booksellers – probably early morning. Be aware that the primary staff at each booth will be sales reps selling their books to retail and other booksellers.  Be friendly and conscious of what their mission is and ask if you can speak to an editor.
8 · Collect catalogs and business cards from everyone who indicates they are interested in you or your book.  Make a note on the back of each card so you will remember what you need to do when you get home.  Come prepared with labels to be able to ship things home that you cannot carry in your luggage. You can accumulate many free books, as well as catalogs at BEA.
9 · Attend educational and social events.  You are just as likely to meet an editor or media representative there as you are at exhibit booths.  Be personable and friendly, not pushy and insistent.
10 · Have fun and don’t expect to walk away with a publishing contract.  Don’t look at this as your only opportunity to sell your book – it isn’t.  Your goal at the Expo is to allow people to get to know you and have a face to put with the name on your book proposal or book.  You are starting relationships you hope will turn into book contracts.
11 · Follow up as soon as you can after returning home.  The best way to make sure your time was well-spent is to do what you committed to doing at the Expo.  Many good first impressions have resulted in book contracts.  This is your opportunity to differentiate yourself from the thousands of authors who are only known to publishers on paper.

12 · Don’t go it alone. Join peers for the guided tour experience offered by Learn more at

By Gail Richards
Tools for your publishing journey