The YALC Survival Guide

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As Top Ten Tuesday is on hiatus this week, and it’s been announced that the YALC schedule will be released on Friday, I thought now might be a good time to do a YALC survival guide. I know that some of you are going for the first time this year, so I hope you find this useful! (I also highly recommend reading this post by Amber over at The Mile Long Bookshelf, which she wrote before last year’s YALC, especially if you suffer from anxiety.)

1. Stay hydrated

YALC takes place at the end of July, and it tends to be hot. There is air-conditioning on site, but there are a lot of people there and it’s not always effective. You’re going to need to be drinking water regularly, or you’re going to do yourself damage. And I do mean water – caffeinated drinks aren’t going to help. This is really the most important tip I can give you, and is true of any con you might go to. It’s remarkably easy to forget!

2. Plan

There’s a lot going on at YALC, so you’re going to want to take advantage of these few weeks with the schedule to work out how you’re going to best use your time. Related to this…

3. Accept you’re not going to be able to do everything

Seriously. Come to terms with that now, and your time at YALC will be a lot pleasanter! It is impossible to make it to every signing, panel and workshop. Usually how it works is there’ll be a panel, and then straight after that, the panellists will go to their signing tables and sign for around 90 minutes (well, it’s scheduled for about 90 minutes. Some go on much longer). In the course of that 90 minutes, the next panel will start. If you were in the first panel, you’re not going to be at the front of the signing queue for any of those authors, let alone all of them, so you’re probably going to miss at least some of the next panel, and so it goes on. Last year I missed a panel I really wanted to see because I messed up and was still in Patrick Ness’s signing line. This did mean I was right at the front of V E Schwab’s line though. The big name authors like Ness, Schwab, Laini Taylor, E Lockhart and probably Ryan Graudin are going to have HUGE queues, and you need to take that into account when you plan.

4. Don’t overdo it

Take breaks. Remember to eat. There are places within Olympia where you can buy food, but they’re expensive, so I recommend taking something with you. There are small supermarkets in the vicinity, and a bigger Tesco in Hammersmith tube station, but remember that everyone else probably has the same idea, so they sell out of stuff quickly. If you feel ill, or that you’re running out of cope, tell someone. Everyone’s really friendly, and they’ll help you. I nearly fainted at one point last year, and the people manning the Electric Monkey stand were lovely to me when I asked if I could sit down there.

5. Follow the publishers on twitter/instagram

There are always a ton of publisher stands, and they do regular giveaways. The best way to find out about these is to follow their social media accounts. I don’t use instagram, so I can’t help you there, but some twitter accounts you might find useful are: @HQYoungAdult@BooksWithBiteUK@WalkerBooksYA/@WalkerBooksUK@Chapter5Books@EMTeenFiction (Electric Monkey), @HotKeyBooks. There are others, but these are a start.

6. Take cash

All those publisher stands? They sell books, often at a discount. Although a lot of them have card machines, they rely on the wifi at Olympia and it’s not great, especially when there are thousands of people trying to use it at the same time. There are also cash machines on site, but again, remember there are a lot of people who’ll be wanting to use them and they *will* run out of money, so bring what you want to spend in cash. This will also stop you accidentally bankrupting yourself, which I very almost did two years ago. Not my finest hour! It’s also worth bearing in mind though that the publishers won’t be selling books of the authors officially attending – those you have to buy from the Waterstones stand, and they won’t have any offers on them.

7. Take a break

I know, I know. I already mentioned this in number 4, but it’s really important. A day at YALC is EXHAUSTING. If you’re doing more than one day, imagine what you’re going to feel like by Sunday. You need to take breaks. There’s a lovely chill-out area with beanbags, deckchairs and books, so take advantage of it. You can also leave the site and come back in if you need some fresh air. I know you’re probably thinking that there’s no way you’ll have time to do that, but seriously, make time. It’s worth it.

8. Don’t be afraid to approach people

I’m a bit wary of saying this, because it’s not true of all authors, but many of them are perfectly happy to be approached as they’re wandering the convention. I’m not saying pounce on them with your entire collection of their books, but if you want to say hi and have a bit of a fangirl/boy at them, many of them won’t mind. A lot of authors are there as fans as well as professionally, and they understand. At the same time, *please* be aware of their need for a break and personal space too, and if they make it clear they are not up for being approached, respect that.

9. Work out in advance how you’re going to carry your books

Each time I’ve been to YALC, I’ve come back with a lot of books. And I mean a LOT. Mostly I’ve carried them around with me in tote bags (it’s a publishing event; you will be overwhelmed by tote bags!) but that’s not great for my shoulders or my back. Two years ago I ended up having to get the bus back to Euston – which took about 2 hours because of Friday rush hour – because I could not possibly carry those books to the tube station. It’s definitely something to think about – and remember that if you’re coming from a distance, you also have to get those books home with you. I know, terrifying isn’t it?

10. Talk to people

Everyone at YALC is a fan like you. You will find people you can squee with while you’re queuing to meet your favourite author, people you can argue passionately with about who you ship, people who love the same things you do. But only if you talk to them. I know it’s scary, but I’ve honestly met some great people at YALC, and the advent of social media (god, I sound so old) means you can keep in touch with them so easily. Last year, I met someone in the queue to get in, who turned out to live half an hour away from me. We’ve been to at least five local book signings together in the last year. The last day at YALC last year, I met the lovely Alice while queuing for a signing, and I’m looking forward to seeing her again this year. It’s worth making the effort to start up a conversation, although again, respect people’s personal boundaries.

11. Have fun!

Yeah, nothing to add to this one, just enjoy yourself.

I hope that’s a little bit helpful to those of you going to YALC this year. This will be my fourth year, and I really do love it. If you think I’ve missed anything out, or you have questions, please let me know in the comments!

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