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May 8, 2014

Preparing for #ArmchairBEA

by Donna Huber

One of the biggest blogging events of the year kicks off in just over two weeks. In the coming weeks you will see a number of bookish people tweeting about their Book Expo of America plans. Why? Because it is a huge event and in order to get to everything one wants to see (and I don't think it is possible for one to see absolutely everything) they have to prepare a schedule. While those participating in the "at home" event don't have to worry about walking miles each day to waiting in line to get great swag or a favorite author's autograph, it can still be exhausting between writing blog posts, visiting blogs, participating in chats, and of course there are all the "at home" life duties (jobs, soccer practice, dinner, etc.)

If you don't regularly blog 5 days a week, Armchair BEA will be a bit of a shock to the system. My first time participating was also the first week I blogged every day. And I think there was only 1 topic a day. But still I was exhausted after it. By the second year I was having content posting 5 days a week, yet several times a week there was a guest writer. So while not as difficult, it still was a challenge. Then last year there were 2 topics a day that you could write on. Plus there were more Twitter parties and my life was a much busier. I barely got to visit any of the blogs participating, which is a shame because it is a great way to meet new friends.

If this is your first year participating in Armchair BEA or if you, like me, don't want to be so overwhelmed during the event that it ends up being too stress to be fun, I have some tips.

Plan Your Posts

Armchair BEA organizers have already announced the daily topics at the headquarters site: see the agenda. I highly recommend planning out what you will post on. You do not have to write a post for each topic. Which topics most appeal to you? You should do the introduction post as it will give you the most opportunity for networking, but other than that topic you can do as few or as many as you want.

After choosing which topics you want to write on, go ahead and start writing up the posts. The more you can get done in the weeks leading up to the event the more time you will to visit blogs and leave comments.

My usual blogging routine has me scheduling all the posts for the week over the weekend. However, if I have to write more than two I usually cannot get the whole week posted. I've already started formatting and scheduling the posts that Claire and guest writers have submitted for this month to free up a little time. I'm ahead on reading so I'm not going to worry about getting much reading done between now and Armchair BEA. I just need to get my reviews written up and I will have a new review every week through May.

Without reading as much in the evenings, I will have a bit more time to focus on writing up the Armchair BEA posts. My goal is to have them all written and ready to go by Sunday night, May 25.

If you want to address both daily topics, decide now if they will be separate posts or one post. I think it is easier to put them in one post. It will give you the most views as you are not dividing your readers between two posts. Also, remember if you are using Triberr that you can only have 14 posts in a 7 day period so you may run the risk of a post not being fed into Triberr if you do separate posts.

If you have other responsibilities, it is difficult write a daily post. And even with my high hopes of this year being the year that I'm all set come May 25, more realistically I will have a couple of posts to write that week. There are some short cuts you can make that will still provide an interesting post for readers.

Make use of lists and bullet points. Plan for at least one of the genre topics to be a list - favorite books in that genre or characteristics that make you enjoy/not enjoy that genre, etc. Also keep your posts brief. Remember that the bloggers visiting your blog are also wanting to visit a bunch of other blogs. You don't need to write a detailed thesis for each topic (unlike what this post is turning out to be). Shoot for a paragraph or two per topic.

Set a Goal

Speaking of visiting other blogs... It is not realistic to think you can visit all 600+ blogs that are participating in the event every day. Set a goal of visiting a certain number of blogs each day. Depending on your daily schedule you may be able to visit 5 - 10 blogs or maybe 20 - 30 blogs. I have a full time job and a house to keep up, so my goal is to visit 10 blogs a day. And when I say visit I mean do more than click on the link and then leave. Be sure to leave a comment, if nothing else say that you are visiting because of Armchair BEA.

Decide on the Parties and Giveaways

I don't think the Twitter party schedule is out, but based on past years there will be parties at various times of the day to cover most of the time zones. I recommend participating in at least on chat and there should be one at a reasonable time for you. But be prepared. The chats get crazy. Decide now what program (like you will use to follow the chat and become familiar with it so that you aren't lost because of technical issues.

Giveaway day is an exciting day, but possibly the most overwhelming. Last year, I looked at a lot of giveaways, but I only entered maybe 20. The first year, I entered just about every giveaway available. What changed? One, I just don't need that many more books. Unless it was a book that I really wanted to have I passed by them. Actually most of the book giveaways I entered were books I thought my niece or nephew might like. Two, giveaways are time consuming to enter. The first year it was mostly leave a comment to enter, but now everyone is using Rafflecopter and there are multiple entries. I had to weigh the prize against my time. I mostly just did one or two of the entries and most of them were for gift cards or interesting swag.

Have Fun

So you don't write a post for each topic, so you don't visit but a couple of blogs each day, so you missed all the Twitter parties. It is okay. Part of the point of Armchair BEA is to be less stressful. The most important part of the event is to have fun. If you prefer to visit blogs and leave comments more than the Twitter parties, then focus on blog visitation and skip the parties. Or if you just want to be social, but don't feel like you have a lot to say on the daily topics then don't post every day and go to all the parties and visit 60 blogs a day. Oh and there is a new interactive group where you can just hang out all day. Do what you like, participate as little or as much as you want. No one is going monitoring whether you attended a party, wrote a post, or visiting a blog. I'm sure there are people that sign up for Book Expo of America and barely step a foot on the exhibit floor, yet they have a great time any ways.
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