2019 will mark my seventh Yallfest. The festival has changed a lot in the six years that I’ve attended, growing to include more authors, publishers, and attendees. Which is great, but can also be difficult to navigate, particularly for first time attendees who might not be familiar with the area.
I’m going to discuss some tips that I’ve compiled that will, hopefully, help you at the festival. These will be things that I’ve done (or wish I had done!). If you’ve been, I would also love to hear any tips that you might have. So let’s get to it.
Parking: If you aren’t staying at a hotel within walking distance of Blue Bicycle and the other venues (most of which are within a block or two), then familiarize yourself with where there are public parking garages/lots. And arrive early to be be sure you get parking.
Clothes: Check the weather! This is something I’m terrible about not doing, but it’s really important to check the weather before the event and dress accordingly. Sometimes it’s cold in the morning and warms up throughout the day, so wearing layers is a good idea. You don’t want to freeze in the morning or burn in the afternoon! And having some rain gear is always important, just in case. It’s only drizzled a little in the six years I’ve been, but you don’t want your books ruined because you aren’t prepared. Bringing ziplock or waterproof bags to protect your books is a good idea. And rain gear for yourself is a good idea too. But let’s be real, it’s the books we’re concerned about.
Food and Water: Be sure to bring snacks and water with you to eat throughout the day. I typically pack an easy lunch to eat on the go so that I can eat in line instead of taking a break for lunch. There are a lot of restaurants right there, so if a break is your thing there will be somewhere to eat, otherwise make sure you have something to keep your energy up. There are water fountains in a few of the buildings so you can refill bottles. And there are restrooms in several locations as well, so be sure to check the maps for those locations.
Books: Of course you need to bring your books for the signing! And if you aren’t sure about making it to a signing, bring your books anyway, if possible. I’ve missed out on having books signed because I thought the line would be too long for me to make that one with another I had planned, only to see it was very short and would have been easy to hop in at the end.
Sticky Notes: To make signing easier/faster for authors, books are marked with sticky notes at the title page. On the sticky you want to put your name (if you’re having it inscribed). They will have sticky notes for you, but having your own set isn’t a bad idea. I usually tag my books before the event, so I don’t have to worry about it while I’m in line. Bring pens and pencils as well, so you don’t have to wait for a volunteer to bring one around to you. The pictures below show how to tag your books, if you’ve never done it. The pages of hardcovers should be tucked inside the flap, so that grabbing the sticky turns directly to the title page. And you want the sticky on the page facing the title page, so that it doesn’t have to be moved and take up time. For the paperback (the third picture), just have it on the page facing the title page.
Tote Bags: There are a lot of giveaways at Yallfest. Be sure to bring extra tote bags for all of the books and swag you collect throughout the day. If you’re parked close, it’s also a good idea to go and unload occasionally, if you’re collecting a lot. Sometimes totes are given away, so you can use those as well, but having a few extras is very helpful.
Anxiety/Nerves in Crowds: Always be mindful of your own reactions to large groups of people. Things get packed during giveaways/signings, so personal space isn’t always easy to get. So keep that in mind as you plan out what you want to do.
It’s for Young Adults: I’m twenty-eight years old, so not exactly the target audience for middlegrade and YA, but still an avid reader of both. Yallfest is great because it brings together people of all ages, but be mindful of the children and teens in the groups. This event is really for them, so keep that in mind when lines have to be cut short or there aren’t as many books being given away as you thought. It’s great that we all love these books, but at the end of the day, this is for the teens, not the adults.
Number of Books: Most signings allow three books per trip through the line. Bringing more isn’t a bad idea, if you have them, because the line might be short and you might end up being able to get extras signed, but keep the limit in mind when you get in line. We want others to be able to have books signed, too. Not just ourselves.
Arrive in Advance: If there is a signing I really want, I arrive three hours before it starts. Yes, seriously. I’ve done this for Brandon Sanderson, Maggie Stiefvater, Leigh Bardugo, Neal Shusterman, and the list goes on. They are my priority, so I want to make sure that I’m near the front of the line. Some of these lines got crazy long and the last people in line, who came when the signing was beginning, ended up unable to get their books signed. I don’t want to be in that situation. And if they don’t have a line started when you get there, ask if you can be the first in line.
Make a Schedule and Prioritize: You aren’t going to be able to do it all, unfortunately. If you’re in a group, then you can split up and accomplish more, but prioritizing is key. Make a schedule for the authors/ARCs/panels you really want to attend and then plan around those. You may end up being able to make something else as well, but prioritize the ones you want the most. And on your schedule, make sure to include the location so it’s easy to figure out where things are in relation to each other.
Make Friends and Connect: Talk to people in line! I’m not always great about this, but I have met some great people in lines. And they are super helpful if you need to jump out of line for a minute. Make sure to connect on social media so you can keep up for next year!
Check Social Media for ARC Drop Info: There are a lot of publishers (check out all of the sponsors on the website) and they usually have a bunch of giveaways. Most of them announce what books they are giving away and when, so be sure to check their social media accounts if you want to know what is dropping when. This will help in planning out that schedule!
Be Courteous: Remember to be nice to those around you. Everyone is there for the same reason: we love books! Most people are ok with hopping in and out of lines if you need to, but keep in mind that you shouldn’t have a single person hold a spot for ten people and then expect all of you to get your books signed or get the ARC that is dropping. This cuts down the chances for everyone behind you, who have been waiting for ages along with you.
Pictures: Most authors allow pictures to be taken, some can even pose with you, but not everyone will allow this. This is just something to keep in mind so you aren’t disappointed when the time comes. Also, try not to let your expectations run away from you. People aren’t always what we imagine them to be, but that doesn’t mean it has to be a bad experience. So keep in mind that your expectations might not be reality.
Have you attended Yallfest before? What tips would you give? I would love to know what experiences you’ve had! Let me know in the comments. Also let me know if you’ll be there this year and if you want to meet. I’m easiest to connect with on instagram, so give me a follow and/or send me a message if you want to connect while we’re in Charleston: @courtneysreads