Veni, Vidi, Vici, Y’all

Veni, vidi, vici, y’all…

That’s how I feel about the BookExpo, which I attended last week in New York. I was there because my book, They Call Me Orange Juice, was on display in Archway Publishing’s booth, and I got to be a part of a meet and greet with several people from Simon & Schuster. It was a whole bunch of fun, I learned a lot, and I hope I’ll get to go back again sometime. And while, I’m not exactly sure I conquered by any stretch of the imagination, I definitely went and saw.

Here are a few things I learned while I was there:

Don’t wear black when you’re trying to stand out in a crowd of thousands. I love to wear black. I feel comfortable in black. Black is classic. Black is also what six gajillion other people were wearing at the BookExpo. But not Little Audrey! I chose a bright orange fit-and-flare dress (see what I did there — orange in the book title, orange dress?), and I met a ton of people just because they complimented me on my dress.

Always have a plan. This is the Virgo in me talking to you now. Memorize your elevator pitch. Imagine questions people might ask you and how you’ll answer them. Study the floorplan. Map out where you want to go and when. Where’s the ladies’ room? Where’s the exit? When will be a good time for a little break?

Be spontaneous! I know this is the exact right opposite of “have a plan,” but you’ve got to be open to things that just happen because they happen! I met some of the nicest people at the BookExpo completely by accident. So if you deviate from your plan or have a change in plans, it’s not the end of the world and may even be the beginning of something wonderful.

Don’t be afraid to talk to people. Everyone says you’re not supposed to make eye contact with New Yorkers, much less make polite and trivial conversation like Southerners are wont to do. Everyone is wrong. Once you open your mouth and a Southern accent flows out, people perk up and talk right back! From the bellhops and the wait staff to the Simon & Schuster execs, folks love to talk to someone from the South. People remember you because you make them happy. And they feel like it’s okay to talk to you first the next time. Plus, at a networking event like the BookExpo, you just have to be bold, speak up, and make those connections.

Smart devices will be the very death of networking. While I’m an outgoing person, to put it mildly, it’s hard to waltz up and talk to people whose whole entire heads are buried all up in their phones. Y’all put down the phones and look around! Be where you are.

Confidence counts. My little book was one of a million books at the BookExpo. And in the face of so much talent, so many just flat famous authors like Barbara Kingsolver, Trevor Noah, Nicholas Sparks, and Mika Brzezinski just to name a few, it’s hard not to become overwhelmed and discouraged. But you know what? Ain’t nobody at the BookExpo who can tell a story like me. And no one has my voice. And no one can put words on a page like I can. At least that’s what I kept telling myself over and over and over again to avoid retreating to my hotel room and hiding my head under the pillow. You’ve got to believe in what you’re selling. If you don’t, no one else will.

All in all, my big adventure to the BookExpo was just that — a big, once-in-a-lifetime adventure. Will I be the next Lewis Grizzard or John Grisham? Who knows? But if I hadn’t gone, my chances would be a lot less than they are today, and I’d always be wondering “what if?”

(And since we’re talking about my book, have you gotten your copy yet? If you’re in Birmingham, head over to Little Professor Book Center or Church Street Coffee & Books, and in Citronelle, you can get one at Jeanna’s Flower Shop. Or you can order your copy today!)