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  • Writer's pictureIshta Mercurio

Go Pro: ALA and OLA for Authors

Nothing says "Lucky Author" like a conference badge.

ALA Midwinter is happening NOW and extends through this weekend into Monday, and a ton of my friends will be there--many for the first time! And OLA (which is essentially Canadian ALA) is NEXT WEEK! And a ton of my friends will be there as well, including--dun-da-da-DUUUUUUUN--ME. (More on that later.) So here are some helpful things I learned from my own ALA Midwinter experience last year that I thought I'd share.

Pack the Comfortable Shoes. Look: I know your leather three-inch heeled mid-calf boots* are gorgeous and exactly the right shade to go with everything and sooooooo comfortable** and the fact that you got them at a discount only makes you want to show them off MORE, but I promise you that after walking around the convention floor for hours and walking from your hotel to the convention center and running from signing to your lunch meeting to your presentation to your dinner meeting, you will regret wearing them. And your feet will hate you.

Not-at-All Hypothetical Boots, aka My Favorite Mistake

Forget About Getting Swag and ARCs. Controversial, I know; isn't getting to snag a truck-ton of free advance reader copies the WHOLE POINT of these things? But you're going to be running from signings to lunches to presentations to dinners, and you don't want to haul around all that stuff. Plus--and I'm getting really real here--you have enough author friends you can swap books with. Arcs aren't as special to you as they are to a librarian, who might only know a couple of authors who live locally and are regular library pests *ahem* I mean patrons. Pick a couple of books that you're REALLY enthusiastic about and prepared to promote the shizzle out of (because that's what you're supposed to do with ARCs, they are PRECIOUSSSSSSS and FOR PROMOTION), and leave the rest for the librarians. Speaking of not hauling stuff around all day...

Minimize What You Carry Around. You don't need bookmarks from every other book you've ever written in your purse. Nor do you need your hat, gloves, scarf, and earmuffs (probably--unless you have to walk to a lunch or a dinner). Nor do you need much of anything, really. And by the end of the day, schlepping it all around will only make you hot and tired and cranky, just when you need to be your most polite and/or effervescent. BUT:...

Remember the Essentials. Deodorant (I ALWAYS have to reapply after lunch, because these things make me excited-nervous, and that means having the stinky sweats), something to keep your breath fresh, 3-5 sharpies in case your publisher doesn't have them for some reason, a map of the convention floor, your phone, your schedule, your hotel room key, your glasses if you wear them, your coat. Maybe some hygiene products, if you're near that time of the month. A granola bar or something to keep your blood sugar up in between things. That's it, folx. And speaking of granola bars...

Remember to Eat. I'm not kidding. You're going to want to meet up with friends and roam the floor together looking at ARCs and F&Gs, and you're going to need to have a functioning brain for your presentations, and you need to not be running on fumes and caffeine and excitement. The only place that leads to is you drawing a blank when a librarian asks you a question in front of a room full of people. You need to remember to eat. Schedule it into your day. And speaking of scheduling your day...

It Will Take At Least Twice As Long To Get Anywhere As You Think It Should. This is basically the First Law of Conventions. The Convention Center will be twice as big inside as it appears to be on the maps, and the city blocks will be twice as long as they look on Google Maps, and the elevator in your hotel will take three times as long as you want it to. Just know that and give yourself lots and lots and lots of extra time to get to your signings and whatnot. And get to your signings ten minutes early, just to acquaint yourself with everyone and get yourself set up. And thank everyone working your publisher's booth before you leave, because...

Remember That You're Lucky to Be There. Look, you know those around-the-corner lines that you see pictures of every year? It might not be like that for your book. It might! But it might not. And that's fine. Your publisher is spending money to have who knows how many copies available, and who knows what swag, and maybe even to fly you there and put you up in a hotel, and you're lucky your book is getting lifted at all. Not every author gets to go to ALA (or OLA). Appreciate that if you're there at all, you're one of the lucky ones. And enjoy your time there, whatever form it takes. Appreciate the people who DO show up to get a copy of your book. And speaking of appreciating people...

Be Nice to Your Publicist. Publicists are magicians. I saw mine pack up a dozen framed signs and a dozen books and clear a room in five minutes flat, all while carrying on a conversation with two people. She had who knows how many other things to set up and take down that day. Multiply that by four days. It's A Lot. She's amazing, and I am grateful for her. Finally...

You Can't Do Everything. There will be people you meant to catch up with but missed; there will be books you didn't manage to find. Going to ALA is overwhelming--it's an ocean of books. It's like going to a mega-mall and expecting to enter every single store and come out of each one with something meaningful. It's impossible. You're not going to be able to take in everything. And that's okay.

Have a wonderful weekend!

*Purely hypothetical boots, obviously. *ahem*

**Comfortable for sitting in, sure. But you're going to be doing way too much walking for those shoes. Save them for a bookstore event or

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