Thinking about attending YALLWEST next year?
Last week I posted all about my experience at the first ever YALLWEST, the companion festival to the east coast’s Yallfest. It was my first time going to a convention/festival as a blogger, and while I had a great time with a lot of fun surprises, I also did quite a bit of planning and preparing! After attending, I decided to compile a post with tips and tricks to make sure you get the most out of your YALLWEST (or any other bookish event, really) experience, as well as things I wished I had known/done differently.
I live about 8 hours away from Santa Monica, so a certain degree of planning several months ahead of time was essential for me. Transportation had to be arranged, hotel rooms had to be booked, etc. As soon as the official website went live announcing the dates I immediately blocked out my calendar for that weekend and started planning.
I drove. Why did I opt for an 8+ hour drive instead of an 1.5 hour flight? 1) I wanted the flexibility driving would afford me in terms of what I could do in the area and 2) It made so much less of a hassle to transport my books. We drove an SUV so it was completely comfy to have all of our suitcases and books in the car, and we knew we would have room to bring back books, as we didn’t have to worry about fitting all the books into a suitcase or checking a bag. (I love the ease of being able to just throw what you need in your car even if it doesn’t fit in your suitcase).
We found hotels in the Santa Monica area to be on the higher side price-wise, and from experience I know traffic in the LA area is brutal no matter what day of the week. We opted to stay in Orange County because there were other things we love to do in the area (Disneyland, Newport Beach, etc.) and it was a nice breather to leave the LA area and return to Orange County which was less congested. It was about a 45 minute drive each way (with no traffic) but the extra drive time motivated us to leave extra early which ensured us a good place in line each day. We also were able to get more for our money by staying farther away, and managed to get a suite with parking and breakfast every morning included for the same price as a standard hotel room closer to Santa Monica.
I brought around 30 books to be signed. Once the signing schedule was released I went through my bookshelves and selected all the books I had by authors who were signing, and set them aside. Then I went to Target and purchased a large plastic bin (I found it on sale in the dorm area) and packed all of my books in it for the car ride. I love keeping my books in pristine shape and didn’t want them sliding around in the bin and possible denting corners, so I folded a few towels into the empty spaces around the books so they stayed snug and in place during the whole drive.
(Tip: Keeping your books in a closed plastic bin helps protect them from being warped by often cooler hotel room temperatures. I’ve had it happen to me before when I’ve traveled that if I keep a paperback in a air conditioned hotel room the cover/pages starts to curl around the edges. Keeping them in a closed pin may help to prevent this!)
Plan Your Priorities
One thing I learned throughout the duration of the festival is that no matter how you think you can schedule things, there’s no way you can do everything. Between the signings, panels, giveaways, networking, games, and activities, you’ll only be able to hit a few things (one event per hour, maybe two if you’re lucky/have a friend with you). My regret is not being able to go to as many panels because my top priority was getting books signed, so next year I’m going to switch up my focus more to see more authors speak. I reccomend deciding WHAT your top priorities are and WHO your must-see authors are, and
Schedule Your Days!
Once the schedule went live on YALLWEST website, I immediately drafted up a schedule for both days of all of the major events I wanted to see. It may seem a little type-A, but it helped so much to already have an outline of how our day was going to go! We obviously couldn’t go to everything each hour, but it was nice to have a breakdown of what was happening each hour so we could easily choose what to attend (or split up if our interests varied). For example, under signings I only listed the signings that hour of authors who I had books by, rather than having to rely on the event’s program which listed every author. It was nice to make a personal schedule that narrowed down JUST what we wanted to do. I also added locations and reviewed the map so I wouldn’t be completely blindsided when I got there. I’ve included a screenshot of our schedule for Saturday to show you how I organized it.
At the Festival
This was one of the simplest, and best tips that my boyfriend suggested. Was getting there two hours early each day excessive? Not really. It was nice knowing we had a cushion in case we hit traffic (which is extremely like no matter what day in SoCal) and finding parking each day wasn’t super straightforward (the first day we parked in a paid lot across the street from the high school, and the second day we parked under the library, but if that filled up you had to deal with street parking). Once we got there and got in line we were pretty relaxed, knowing our place was secure, and could send one of us out for a Starbucks run if needed. Plus, I met soooo many people in line that were so nice, from bloggers to teachers to readers, so it was a bonding experience.
*Tip: Be prepared to pay for parking. We payed $5 each day. Make sure you get your parking pass validated at the festival for a cheaper rate (it would have been $10 if we hadn’t). Also, paying for parking in a nice, secure lot is so worth not having to circle for street parking.
What to Bring
At the festival I carried my books around in a collapsing rolling cart that I always carry in the back of my car in case I have to transport something heavy. It was really helpful to not have to carry 30+ books on our back.
Since we were rolling around something heavy, we wanted to keep the load we carried on our backs/shoulders light. I opted for a cross body swing pack purse that was compact and that I didn’t have to worry about falling off/getting pick pocketed.
What was in my bag:
- Hand sanitizer/Antibacterial hand wipes
- Post its (essential for labeling the title pages of books with your name for author signings)
- Granola bar (the more snacks the better if you don’t want to spend valuable time waiting in line at the food trucks/have special dietary needs)
- Long-wearing make-up (So it doesn’t melt off in the sun. I used a lip liner from MAC’s pro longwear line and a matte lipstick and it lasted all day, and I set my SPF foundation with a generous amount of powder.)
- Business Cards!
- The boyfriend had a light backpack as well that included the rest of our daily essentials:
- More snacks
- 2 water bottles per person (and this wasn’t enough, bring more!)
- Jackets for layering
- My planner
- Phone chargers
- We also received free totebags that we used to carry the books we won/received/bought at the festival (don’t forget to include room for those when you’re planning your packing!)
What to Wear
Most people would probably recommend wearing what is most comfortable so you can walk around the festival for 7+ hours. While that’s a perfectly valid opinion (and who doesn’t love running around in comfy tennis shoes and leggings?) my recommendation is different. Wear what you feel good in. If that’s also your work-out clothes, great! Personally though, if I’m going to an event where I’m meeting authors, publishers, other bloggers, etc and representing my brand, I want to look more polished. I opted for a mix of fashionable and comfortable. On day one I wore a comfy top in a color I love, paired with denim leggings and TOMS wedges. On day two I opted for a t-shirt with a maxi skirt and gladiator sandals with a statement necklace. I had a lightweight lined cardigan for both days as it was chilly in the morning.
In order to expedite the lines for signings as soon as possible, there are certain things the staff want you to have ready for when you meet the authors. Label each title page a post-it not with your correct name spelling, and have the books “nested,” open to the title page on top of each other and ready to sign. If you don’t, someone may literally take your books out of your hand and do it for you (which I was not a fan of since I don’t like by spines or covers being cracked or bent) so if you do it yourself you don’t have to worry about that (and they do go down the line to check if you’re ready).
For the sake of time many authors didn’t pose for pictures, but if you had someone there with you, you could have them snap a candid of you and the author while you were getting your book signed.
Be Prepared to Get in Line for EVERYTHING
Lines started over an hour before an event started, usually not by the event coordinators but by attendees who decided to make a line insanely early so as not to miss out. You have to be super proactive about it, because in some cases they cut off the line after a certain number (such as if there were only so many ARCs to give out or so many seats in a panel). For example, I went to an ARC giveaway at noon (which I lined up for about an hour before) and then immediately after I received it I had to get in the line that had already formed for the 1pm event I wanted to attend! Again, have someone there with you really helps, as my boyfriend was able to stand in line for an event we had tickets to while I got some books signed.
Bring Your B&N Membership Card
They had a Barnes & Noble tent that was selling a HUGE selection of YA titles, and were offering membership discounts for those who were enrolled in their program. It was a great opportunity to purchase a book so you could go get it signed if you didn’t already have it.
Be Ready to Network!
Once I knew I was going to YALLWEST I knew it was time to have business cards made! I’m so glad I did because swapping business cards with other bloggers/readers/bookstagramers was essential in connecting with them after the festival!
Bring A Friend!
I’ve reiterated this several times throughout the post but if you can get someone to go with you, it’s a HUGE help! From lugging around your books to watching your stuff while you’re in the restroom to splitting up and getting more things done, it’s really worth it if you have someone willing to go!
Have you entered my YALLWEST giveaway yet?
I’m giving away an ARC of Emmy & Oliver along with some other YALLWEST surprise goodies, so if you haven’t entered, do so now! There’s only a few days left, and you can follow me on Bloglovin’ or subscribe to my blog via email (either at the bottom of this post or in the sidebar) to gain the most entries! (Must be 18 or older, US only, winner must respond within 48 hours or a new winner will be chosen).
If you have any other questions about my YALLWEST experience, feel free to ask!