#ALAAC16 – Pregaming Basics for ALA Annual 2016


Are you ready for ALA Annual in Orlando? The first question is actually – are you GOING to ALA Annual in Orlando this year? Tasch and I are attending ALA Orlando and making a vacation of it, so you know I have tons of info to throw at you 🙂

Below the cut you’ll find info about the show (what authors I’m excited for!), some tips on how to make the most of the trip and also my general snarky banter – perfect right?

First things first you DID register right? For those of us who aren’t lucky enough to be a librarian of some sort, that means we can only register for the “Exhibits Only” badge.

Next – where are you staying? My friends and I are staying at a timeshare about twenty minutes away from the Convention Centre – it was cheaper (since there’s six of us) and we’re staying longer then the Exhibits Only pass gives us access to (a total of 9 days). Plus I get to cook! Our timeshare has a full kitchen, so yeah I’ll be cooking. If you’re not staying at the convention specific hotels, might I suggest you look into Undercover Tourist? We had an extra day to find accommodations for and with Undercover Tourist I snagged us a 4 star Disney resort hotel room for $96 (w/taxes & fees, free internet, breakfast and discounted parking).

Third – how are you getting around? We’re renting a vehicle (Jenn and I are driving down from Jersey – yeah there will be a post about THAT) for the trip since it seemed to make more sense then airfare + public transportation for six people over the course of 9 days. ALA has some suggestions on how to get around, but from friends who have driven around before its not a bad drive. Parking may be a bit steep place to place (Convention Centre is $15/day and Disney/Universal are about $20/day), but you may end up thanking yourself for the convenience.

Fourth – did you start that schedule yet? While many of us had been anticipating the “Meet the Authors” schedule for weeks now, they just released it on their website.  Book Buzz Theater, Pop Top Stage and Graphic Novel/Gaming Stage have all had their schedules up for a few weeks. I would suggest the following sessions:

Book Buzz Theatre:

Pop Top Stage:

Graphic Novel/Gaming Stage:

Get to the We Need Diverse Books panel early! It fills up fast and is ALWAYS worth attending, trust me. The Future According to… look the last three times I attended this panel at ALA Midwinter, the ladies have been hilarious, engaging and very eclectic in their choices to showcase. Meanwhile Harley Quinn All Access? Amanda Connor is the bomb and so is Harley Quinn.

As for Meet the Authors to be excited about…well there’s Zoraida Cordova signing LABYRINTH LOST (twice – here and here), Cindy Pon signing SERPENTINE and SACRIFICE, Lauren Oliver signing REPLICA, and Nadia Hashimi signing ONE HALF FROM THE EAST. Obviously these are my top picks…what’s yours?

Pretty sure Lauren Oliver and Zoraida Cordova are going to be packed so plan early (most booths will allow you to line up 15 minutes before the signing, assuming you are polite, don’t block other people and aren’t interfering with other booth business. Ask! I’ve had nothing but wonderful experiences with the booth attendants at ALA).

Clothing! – ALA is a business casual atmosphere. Now the Exhibit Hall is a little more lenient, but I strongly suggest you wear nice pants (not jeans or shorts) or a dress (I tend to wear my sundresses with cardigans) or a skirt set (fun light summery skirts with pretty blouses!).  I always layer; yes this will be Florida in the summer, but you won’t be outside that long in the sun on the days you’re at ALA. Bring a cardigan or sweater and I’d avoid open-sandals only because my feet tend to freeze first. Plus you’ll be running back and forth during the conference – I typically do about 15,000 steps in one day at ALA Midwinter just in the Exhibit Hall.

Conference Bag! – If the Orange County Convention Centre is anything like the other conference centres we’ve been to, there shall be bag checks. These typically cost about $3/per bag – I advise you to take advantage of this. Bring a roller suitcase, check it and then return to it after the conference is over for the day to unload. Double up with a friend and bring a larger suitcase or bag and split the amount.

For on the show floor – less is better. Keep the bare minimum you need with you – ID, money/cards, business cards, medicines, lotion, lip balm – because pretty quickly you’ll nab a really cool tote (or twelve) and plenty of books. I usually pack a make-up bag with what I need, because then I can just slip it into a tote (that never leaves my shoulder) along with a notebook and water. Do not let yourself become so bogged down you need to constantly stop and re-arrange. This can lead to problems (such as forgetting which tote has your wallet when you need food!) and is best avoided.

Food! – Generally speaking I do one of two things:

  1. I bring snacks that are easy to carry, non-perishable and non-messy. Bite-sized crackers,  grapes or berries, granola bars – these all work really well. A bagel in the morning if I’m really feeling hungry.
  2. I stop and get something. The Exhibit Hall floor will have food stands (in Boston there was a crepes, Korean BBQ, noodle, and hot dog stands) and quite possibly their own food court. I can’t say for sure as I’ve never been to OCCC, but in my experience most convention centres have this available. Its damn expensive however.

If you attend certain Book Buzz Panels, many publishers presenting will have snacks as well – popcorn, cookies, potato chips, fruit – and the convention centre itself will have tables throughout the Exhibit Hall with water, coffee and sometimes snacks as well. I wouldn’t count on this largesse though, as everyone else will see it too.

Books! – one big difference between BEA (Book Expo America) and ALA is that publishers can sell their books. Granted they will be at steeply discounted prices, but don’t assume every finished book out for display is free, especially at signings. ARCs/uncorrected proofs are always free – though some publishers will have you buy a previous book by an author to get the ARC signed. Keep some cash on hand just in case.

Signings are also held a little differently – all signings are booth signings (except for the ones held after Pop Top Stage sessions, they sometimes happen in the Pop Top Stage area) so the booths can often be a lot more crowded then you’d expect due to this, but the lines themselves are fairly short and quick moving. Some giveways will also require you to have a specific coupon from the ALA exhibitor conference book, I highly suggest you flip through and fill out the cards throughout the exhibitor book ahead of time so you can just hand it over and everyone is happy.

On Monday, when the Exhibitors are taking down their displays and ALA wraps up at 2pm, most publishers will have some sort of deal where you can get their display finished copies and/or display ARCs for either free or for even more discounted prices. Generally speaking they will have some sort of schedule when they are starting this (many start around 12pm) and will give you an idea of what to expect (number of books, prices, time, etc).

Do not harass the booth attendants! Its rude and gauche to ask the very first day on your very first talk with the attendants when they will be giving away copies. In my experience talking with them (about more than what books you want) and showing genuine enthusiasm goes a long way. Build a rapport with them and prove that you are more then just in it for the books. Also HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster tend to be the longest lines for Monday – if there are books from either you are interested in, expect to line up early or be in line for a long while.

Booths! – Don’t just fly by the non-publisher booths, there’s usually quite a few vendor booths that are more than happy to tell you about their product or have interesting demos. Some of the best swag is from these booths, so if you’re a swag hound like my sister Tegan, you won’t want to overlook them. For instance go to Booth 1503 (GALE) throughout the conference and take a short survey to win a pretty rad t-shirt!

That pretty much covers the basics of ALA. The conference is way more chill then you’d expect and tends to have less people on the Exhibit Hall floors since many are at the conference sessions the lucky lucky dogs.

Tomorrow I’ll talk about some books I hope to see!


Lexie Words






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