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How to work the LA Times Festival of Books

The magnificent Los Angeles Times Festival of Books is approaching this weekend, and since almost every top author of the moment will be in attendance, aspiring writers and enthusiastic readers could turn the event into a networking mecca.

Every year, the festival is on the University of Southern California campus where parking on-site is $12 with bus and Metro stops nearby. It’s a walking-intensive event, which not only means comfortable footwear is a must but also an undetected corner either inside or outside may translate into a missed opportunity.

Attend specific panels

The festival is free as in the outdoor activities are accessible to everyone, but most of the specific panels, which usually happen inside the campus buildings with well-known authors, have tickets ranging from $2.50 to $30. The $2.50 is the service fee of buying tickets on Eventbrite.

Authors highlighting these panels include Erica Jong, Tayari Jones, Terry Tempest Williams, Elizabeth Acevedo, and Ibi Zoboi, just to name a few, and many have a theme like the genre the authors write in.

Top events such as the discussion with former Obama aide Valerie Jarrett comes with the VIP membership packages at $40 and $125.

Visit selective booths

Outside are the hundreds of booths occupied by bookstores, authors, nonprofits and the likes trying to reach the book-loving audience.

Since it will feel like an endless labyrinth, it will also be beneficial to exercise (physical with the walk and mental with the analysis) by checking out the booths that catch your eye. Though it gets crowded, walking close to the middle and switching sides of the aisle often may work with quick scans. There will be so many local book-related outlets from indie publishers to book clubs that could spark an interest. And buying the books the groups are selling could help them move their missions forward, so you might want to be selective with what you buy because that will leave a larger impression, especially with a smaller group that may recognize your sale if you want to connect later.

Establish connections with like-minded people

While at the booths and in the panels, only a small fraction of participants actually approach the people behind the booths and panelists and get the information they want.

To make an impact, for example, while listening to the panelists, prepare questions for the one or two you would like to meet. Meaningful questions as in ones that were not asked during the panel, so you don’t waste the panelist’s time, or worse, fail to make an impression. You want the panelist to light up at your words and better yet exchange contact information.

At a booth, if truly interested in the mission the organization is promoting, discuss it with the people more with on-the-spot questions. Other event attendees will be stopping by the booth every few seconds or minutes, so the people behind the booth are hurriedly catching up with everyone who stops by. Take their marketing materials to ask more questions later. The average time at a booth that you might have an interest could be 1-2 minutes, and if you’re buying a book, it could be another 2 minutes. Minimize time at each booth mainly because there are way too many booths and a lot of attendees split their time at the indoor panels scheduled at various times, meaning the day could become a harried mess if not careful about managing time.

Luckily, the festival provides a planner you can create ahead of the event as well as a long list of exhibitors to mark whoever commands your attention before struggling with a map on campus.

What’s your strategy?

If it’s your first time attending the festival or umpteenth time, drop your advice on mastering this book festival and others. When you love books, an event like this becomes overwhelming but satisfying.

 

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