NTTBF ’17 Recap – The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Welcome to my North Texas Teen Book Festival 2017 Recap! It was March 4, 2017 in Irving, TX. It is the third year for this festival but it has grown so much. It was surprising to see so many publisher tables with really good swag and ARC drops. I believe this festival was better than last year in certain aspects and I will do my best to explain.

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Location

The festival was at the Irving Convention Center again. It is a very nice place for an event like this and thankfully more of the center was used as opposed to last year. This festival was on four different floors. Let that sink in. Four. Different. Floors. That meant there was a LOT of walking and carrying of books up & down escalators. I heard a lot of attendees being confused where things were. They were upset about missing panels because they weren’t sure where GB3 was located. That’s fair if you hadn’t been to this center before. This held true during the 2016 and 2017 festivals. Even more of the convention center was utilized this year but the weather just was not playing nice (think cold and rainy).

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This is how crowded the first floor was at 8:30AM. Just let that sink in because it is reported that over 10,000 people attended this year and this was a snapshot of just one portion of the floor.

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Book Sales

What booknerd doesn’t love book sales??? Half Price Books did not provide the book sales this year, Barnes and Noble was in charge of that. I am not always a fan of BN because I never have a good experience when I go into their stores. The BN near me feels like they silently judge me for reading YA books and I don’t appreciate that. This crew was not that way (thankfully) and were on top of their game. The thing that changed this year was you were given a wristband after you bought books. These were supposed to be used and checked when it came time for the signing lines. I’m here to say that didn’t happen.

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Publisher Additions

I’m adding this to the beginning of the post because for me, as a reader and blogger, this made a huge impact on my day. Random House/First In Line hosted a breakfast with some of their authors. You had the chance to quickly chat with them and get your books signed. If you were lucky enough to get your books signed before the signing lines, it made you breathe a little easier knowing you wouldn’t have to fight to get them signed later. I was fortunate to get a seat right before the doors closed. Even though it was rather cold and blustery, it was a really good event. The authors were very welcoming and always had a smile on their face.

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Jeff Zentner, Julie Buxbaum, Jennifer Niven, Nicola Yoon, Kiersten White, and Jennifer E. Smith

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That girl with the bag had Kiersten sign everything she owned so I never got her to sign anything for me at this event. 😦

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I did get to chat to one of my favorite authors who I’ve talked to at other events, Jeff Zentner. (Isn’t he a doll?)

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Nicola Yoon was the only other author I was able to get close to. That place was packed and some of the attendees seemed to cut in line.

There were also afternoon meet & greets put on by Epic Reads. You could choose between the 1PM and 2PM event. Both had different authors so it really was a tough call. I opted for the 2PM and it gave me anxiety because that meant I would be late to the signing lines.  I really was torn between meeting these authors up close and personal or heading down to get a good spot for the signing lines. (NOTE: My anxiety and fears were confirmed. More on that later.) I opted to go and here is the result: face time with some really awesome people.

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Me with Colleen Oakes

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Me with Victoria Aveyard

 

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Me with Margot Wood (EEK! I fangirled so hard)

 

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Me with Heidi Heilig dressed as a pirate

 

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Me with Angie Thomas 

 

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Me with Katie Cotugno

I felt this event was very, very well done but it felt rushed. That was probably because the author signings were directly after this event. I sat a smaller table and we all worked together so well on getting stuff signed, taking photos, and asking questions. I hope the rest of the tables were able to get signatures and photos.

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Lines

The lines this year were slightly better than last year, but only slightly. There were yet again lines for signing passes, special Epic Reads events, and more. The first line of the day (which I did not stand in) was for signing passes to see Veronica Roth and R.L. Stine. I was not going to put myself through that madness so I avoided. Sadly the weather did not play nice so people had to stand outside in the cold wind to get a Roth/Stine wristband. It was all about the wristbands this year.

This was yet another year where as an attendee I had to make the decision: lines or panels? I certainly could not do both. Did I want the chance to meet awesome authors and/or get ARCs or listen to authors talk on a panel? The honest answer is it didn’t matter because both were not going to happen. I clearly chose the lines.

I did stand in line to get a wristband for the Epic Reads meet and greet. That was not a pleasant for several reasons, the weather being most of them. Here is me freezing with my light jacket.

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The other reason I did not enjoy this line was… wait. That part of the story should fall under the Manners section. You’ll have to wait just a wee bit for that one. It’s good. You’ll want to stick around for it. The bottom line is I got my wristband and that’s what mattered. (Clearly because the pictures for that are shown above.)

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As I mentioned, publishers really stepped their game up this year and did several ARC drops throughout the day. As a reader, that blew my mind in the best way possible. I am forever grateful when a publisher wants to get an upcoming book into the hands of readers. That being said, it quickly became a nightmarish experience thanks to one group of unchaperoned middle grade students. While waiting patiently next to the Penguin Teen table for the upcoming ARC drop, a group of middle grade students rushed up to the table minutes before the line was to form.

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The girls in the green shirts hovered after being told no less than six times by the Penguin Reads staff to “take a lap” and “keep moving”. Once the line was told to form, those girls shoved their wait in front of every single person who had been doing what they were supposed to do. Not one time was there a parent or someone watching them. They had no respect for authority or adults and clearly did whatever they wanted. I know this because after they grabbed books from Penguin, I witnessed them rushed to the guy manning the First In Line/Random House table and take books from him before he could even get them sat out for his ARC drop. They were also rude during the signing lines. Now yes, I know this should probably fall under the Manners section but it seemed to fit with the Lines section as well. I did end up getting the ARC at this drop and I am grateful, but I felt I had to fight to get that. Nothing about these festivals should feel like a battle.

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I did also stand in line for a Fierce Reads ARC drop and it was so organized and calm. Not a slam against the publishers or the people that manned the tables, only an observation on the people in line. (I told the couple behind me I would put them in my blog so here you are! 🙂 )

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The other line that is the real focus is the signing lines… but that will come later. Let’s just say that it was calmer than last year but my level of disappointment hit a new low.

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Friends

I try to express how important it is to make friends at these festivals. I made more friends this year and was over the moon excited about that!

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#squadgoals – am I right? I know April (@aprillovesbooks) and Ashley (@ashleyoutpaged) from Houston but met Jesse (@JesseTheReader) and Makaelyn (@MakaelynP). They were so much fun to hang around! Never a dull moment with these celebrities. (Photo credit Makaelyn’s mom 🙂 )

I also ran into friends I hadn’t seen in awhile. It made me miss them even more.

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#reunited This is my partner in crime! Putting the two of us together is so much dang fun. ❤ (photo credit: @LaCherenda)

I also ran into Xander (@Foreverbookish – he is a big deal) and Liv (@GrangerLiv – also a big deal!) though I didn’t get photos. 😦 Boo on me for that. I did run into Becky (@Becky_LoveDemi) at the start of the day. That made me happy.

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I still stress the importance of making friends at these events. One can never have enough friends no matter what.

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Manners

Let me take a moment to talk about manners. This is something that should be common sense to everyone but it seems to have skipped some (a lot of?) people. I saw a tremendous lack in manners and common courtesy through the entire day. This was strong at the 2016 event and it held true this year. Yes, everything felt more organized and calm this year but that did not stop the students from slamming into me, cutting me off, stepping on my feet, shoving me out of the way, glaring at me for one reason or another, or telling me to get out of their way. Not at any point in time did one of them say, “Excuse me”, or “I’m sorry”, or “please”, or “thank you”. I know it is too much to ask, shame on me.

I know I am an older YA reader and I will never deny that. I embrace who I am and what genre I prefer to read. Nobody should have the right to judge me on that. That being said, it happened to me a lot at this festival. By volunteers. You read that correctly. The volunteers were rude this year. So very rude. I know it was mainly to older readers/attendees because I traded stories with others who were treated this way. Talk about uncalled for. Here is my story: After I made my way to the table with my friends for the Epic Reads wristbands, the volunteer said loudly in front of everyone, “You do realize this is for teens, right? The publisher wants TEENS to attend.” I. Was. Floored. I felt so many emotions at once: rage, anger, embarrassment, shame, and fury. Just typing this now is making my hands shake with anger. Who are you to judge me like that? I happen to know the publisher wants YA readers to enjoy this event, not just teens. If publishers did not want older YA readers to read their books, why put so many on mailing lists for ARCs? Why include so many on blog tours and ask for their opinion on books or events?

That one situation really ruined my day. I carried it with me for the rest of the day and you can confirm that with anyone that was around me. I was not excited to be at this festival any more. Knowing I was being treated that way by volunteers was shattering to my self esteem, my mental status, and my overall thoughts on the festival. Why in the world would I want to attend a festival where I know I’ll be talked to this way by volunteers. Not to mentioned it made me question what I was doing. Should I really be an older reader at a YA festival? More on that later but it made me question a lot of things.

Remember me mentioning the middle grade schoolers who jumped in line and did whatever they wanted? They were very rude when it came to signing lines. One girl behind me huffed a lot and asked me to “move faster” because she wanted to meet the author. Calm down, sweetheart, we are both in the same line that isn’t moving. Being a jerk to me isn’t going to change that. And no, I am not going to let you cut ahead of me. Stop asking.

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Panels

I only went to one panel this year: Penguin Teen panel. The description was a bit misleading in the brochure because it made it seem like a lot of the authors would be there. NOPE. It was someone from Penguin talking about the upcoming books.

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Author Signings

Now we get to the topic that you really want to know about (unless you have really been curious about the entire day). I am guessing that you are probably like me and want to know about the authors and the rush of meeting these awesome people. If you read my post from last year (found here: NTTBF ’16 Recap) you will remember what a nightmare the authors signing was like. I’m happy to report that it was only somewhat better this year. Only. Somewhat. Remember how I said I was afraid of getting to the author signing area late? Well, I did show up “on time” (which meant very late) and I was towards the very end of the line. I was already pissed and didn’t care much about being here due to earlier events of the day, so missing the chance to meet a lot of authors for photos and signatures did not hit me as hard as it should have. It hits me hard now and the overwhelming sense of disappointment hits all over again. But feast your eyes on the line to get to the signing lines:

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Chaos. Madness. Rudeness. Whining. Utter defeat. All of these were felt where I was in line. I know I felt a lot of that myself, mainly utter defeat. I honestly asked myself, “Why even bother?” By the time I made it inside the signing area (which you had to continue following a piece of tape along the right wall and around the other side of the room) I had just over an hour to get my books signed. Do you think that went well? No, of course not.

The signing area was done a little differently and authors were given longer lines for people to stand in. sigh That meant I spent 20 minutes waiting to meet just one author. Go ahead, do the math on that. I ended up meeting a total of FOUR authors. FOUR out of FIFTY. To say I was disappointed and defeated, again, is an understatement.

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I didn’t have anyone to help me get my books signed so I was stuck. Again, what else could I do?

Here are the authors I was able to meet:

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Jennifer E. Smith

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Stephanie Perkins (whom I ❤ so much)

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Adam Silvera

 

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Kiersten White

That is what just over an hour got me. Four authors. Me = let down and defeated (my theme for the day, it seems). I did manage to snag a photo of Veronica Roth on my way out. It was the closest I got to her:

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It isn’t fair that she is that attractive.

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My Book Haul

Would you believe me if I tell you that I carried about 60lbs worth of books all day? I even went in light this year thinking I wouldn’t have to carry as much. Little did I know I would be handed beautiful ARCs by wonderful publishers to take home.

All of the books I carried with me all day:

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The swag I walked away with. Swag was not as plentiful this year.

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The books I took to be signed:

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Now what I actually had signed:

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It looks like a lot, I know, but I had a lot of anthologies that I wanted signed by multiple authors. Should have known that was a pipe dream.

The ARCS I brought home:

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Tote bags for days….

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My prize of the day was finding this oddly cut copy of Kiersten White’s ARC Now I Rise

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Pretty rad, no? I did have Kiersten sign it. 🙂 She even took a picture of it!

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EDIT: Overall Thoughts

I love this event and will go back next year, and the year after that. I will scream it from the rooftops how much I adore and support this event. My opinions here are meant to be heartfelt and with no harsh tones at all.

I have now been on both sides of a book festival – planning and attending. I truly believe the NTTBF planners took the comments from attendees last year that the signings needed to be handled better. I believe the signings were handled better but it still does break my heart to know I was one of those at the back of the lines that was given such a short amount of time to potentially meet the authors I wanted. It really did kick me in the gut and wear me down. I did have thoughts of picking up my book bags and walking to my car to just end the day. Why stand in line for 20 minutes to get no more than three books signed by the author? (I was yelled at by a volunteer for putting four books in front of one author. Thankfully the author came to my rescue but the damage was already done.) I know there were a lot of people at the event and we all had the same goal. It still doesn’t make me feel any better. I know I have a somewhat established library and as a result I have a lot of books. Why would I not take advantage of them being signed? I know I sound super pessimistic and selfish but when I got my hopes up that high to meet authors and have a great time, only to not have all of that happen, I can’t help but feel down.

I urge everyone to try to attend this if you can, but either go with a friend or make friends there. Remember – BE NICE TO PEOPLE. THAT GOES FOR YOU TOO, VOLUNTEERS. Nothing gives you the right to pass judgement on someone because they look over 18 and read YA books. You have no idea how much of an affect your mean words can have one someone’s state of mind, feelings, and emotions.

Keep in mind if you have to sacrifice panels to stand in line, ask yourself if it is really worth it to you. If the answer is yes, there you go. I skipped panels for the chance to see what the publishers brought or what events they were holding. Still not sure if it was the best thing for me due to manners and crowds but at least I tried.

As you can tell, that one comment from early in the day really did stay with me. Heck, it is still with me. No matter how much I interacted with fellow readers or was recognized by authors (still blows my mind…), that one comment shadowed everything else. I could not move past it. I don’t like holding on to things like this but I don’t ever want anyone to have this happen to them. It did raise a question in my mind that I may create into a discussion post: Should your age determine if you attend a YA festival? Obviously my answer is no because a majority of the demographics of YA readers/book buyers is 18-64. What I do strongly believe is that nobody has the right to judge me or anyone else on what books they read. I know, I know, it shouldn’t matter right? I was only 1 of over 10,000 and I should move on. Answer me this: How would you feel if something like this was said to you? end soap box rant.

 

So tell me, did you attend this event? Or would you attend this event? What are you thoughts on everything I laid out about the day? I want to hear from you.sara-signature1

 

 

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5 thoughts on “NTTBF ’17 Recap – The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

  1. Thank you for this recap post, Sara!! It’s awful that the actions of a few people managed to cloud your experience. 😦 I considered going to NTTBF, but ultimately, I knew the amount of people attending and the packed schedules of things to go to would give me anxiety and I chose to not go. I’ve had no issues attending Comic Cons with 100,000+ attendees, but the difference there is that I probably don’t feel like I want to go to everything and meet everyone there?

    As for the age of attendees at YA festivals, I think that unless an event like an ARC drop or something is labeled as specially “only for teens”, then people shouldn’t be surprised/angry if adults show up to them. Sure, they probably want to put books into the hands of teens, but if it’s open to all festival-goers I would say any and every age should be welcome.

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  2. This sounds like an amazing event; I wish we had a regular event in Chicago that catered to readers. (I know we have ALA, but it isn’t the same as having the fandoms show up.) I had LA Book fest to look forward to in California, and that was amazing. Unfortunately, rudeness seems to go hand-in-hand with these events, and I don’t really understand why people make a point to be rude when you’re all in the same boat. Sorry you had to deal with that. 😦

    Looks like you had fun, overall, though! Such great ARCs to get!

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  3. I always love reading posts about festivals and signing events, but thank you so much for sharing this. It was so fascinating your adventure, and I’m glad you still love this event even after having a few difficulties. I literally flinched when you wrote about that woman that told you weren’t in the age range. A person should never be judged for their age or what type of books they enjoy. There are so many types of YA readers out there, and it was just an insanely rude comment. Beautiful and entertaining post!

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