Whether you’re attending YALLFest for the first time or you’re a retuning fester, these tips and tricks will be great for you! Over the past several years that I’ve attended, I’ve learned several tips for strategizing and preparing for this amazing festival. These tips have helped me navigate (and survive) the crowds and all the bookish activities without having to stress. Well, at least not stress as much as the year before. If this is your first time going to YALLFest, or you’ve been before but would love some pointers, then check out my tips below! If you have visited this post before, please note that new tips have been updated to reflect the current CDC guidelines and YALLFest’s safety policy.
Tips and Tricks for Attending YALLFest
Bring water and food
Honestly, this is THE most important tip I can give you. It’s important to stay hydrated, especially when you will be standing in lines for most of the day. You will constantly be on the move and may not have time to stop for food or something to drink. So, always bring food with you, even if it is snacks. Trust me, having water and food with you will make your experience ten times better because 1) you won’t feel faint or nauseous and 2) you won’t be hangry. 🙂 I usually bring a refillable water bottle, a bottle of Gaterade, and several meal bars, along with some chips and crackers. I also have some chocolate or candy with me, in case I need a sugar fill. But no matter what, bring water and food! And even if you have to run back and forth to the water fountain, that’s okay! Everyone is super nice, so don’t be afraid to ask the person in front or behind you to save your spot while you go get water or food. There are also several amazing food places around the festival!
Plan ahead – create a schedule
Every year, I create a schedule for Friday and Saturday and trust me, this goes a long way. This helps me stay on track and also remind me of the authors I really want to meet and the ARCs I want to try to grab. Below is a glimpse of my past Friday schedule. It’s very small, but still important to have on the schedule because it reminds me what I have planned for the day. Please note that this is from 2019 and does not reflect the current year’s schedule.
|Friday, November 8||Notes|
|3:30 PM||Fierce Friday||John L. Dart Library||Stephanie Garber||Get books signed||*Max 3 books|
I try to stay very organized and even highlight the events that are at the top of my ‘attend’ list. As you can see, I label it by time, event, location, author(s) I want to see, why I want to go to this event, and notes. When it comes to in-booth signings, I add an extra column for booth location and publisher. If there were multiple events going on at the same time (like on Saturday), I would highlight one event as the top event I want to go to and then try to attend the other events after that or if I won’t make it to my top event, I’ll go to my second option. Overall, having a schedule comes in handy. You may not stick with that schedule, but that’s okay; there’s nothing wrong with veering from your schedule, I just find it much easier to plan ahead!
With planning ahead, it’s also important to decide when you would like to line up for authors, panels, giveaways, etc.. The times below are what I have done in the past. It does not mean you need to do the same; but it’s usually what I recommend. However, with this year’s safety guidelines, being able to line up super early may not be an option. I recommend keeping an eye on YALLFest’s website.
- Authors: 30-120 minutes; this honestly depends on how popular the author is. For instance, Stephanie Garber’s signing line usually will have people lining up about 2 hours before her scheduled signing.
- Panels: 30-60 minutes; this is an estimate, only because I typically do not attend panels. But when I lined up for the YA Smackdown, I lined up about 40 minutes early, so I could get a good seat.
- Giveaways: 30-120 minutes; this also depends on how popular the giveaway is. ARC drops will probably be more popular, so expect those lines to start early. For example, when Wicked Saints by Emily Duncan dropped at YALLFest in 2018, the line was insane and people lined up over an hour in advance. So, if you think the line for a specific giveaway is going to be long, you can always check in and see, or line up early. I’ll for sure be in line early for any giveaways I want, so just be prepared to line up early for these. However, please note: most booths will not let you line up early until they officially start the line. You can linger off to the side, just don’t make it look like you’re in line. And please DO NOT linger in the street – your safety is important! Some booths ask that you don’t line up until 15-30 minutes before the giveaway, but then this could lead to potential issues and safety hazards because people will still line up early. Also, with YALLFest’s updated safety guidelines, lining up early may not be an option. For 2021 YALLFest, there will NOT be any in-person publisher booths. All publishers are virtual this year. As far as I know, there is only one giveaway in person and that is for the first 500 people attending the opening keynote on Saturday (the first 500 people will receive a water bottle and sticker sheet from Underlined). It is unknown if other publishers will give away goodies during sponsored panels. Authors may be giving away swag during their signings.
YALLFest can get pretty crowded, so if you have two or more events/signings going on at the same time, chances are you will only make it to one, two if you’re lucky. The lines get long and if you are going solo, it won’t be easy running to and from signings, especially if they’re on opposite sides of each other. I’m not saying it isn’t doable (it definitely is), it just will not be as easy as someone who came with their parents or a group of friends. Depending on the author lines and locations, you may be able to see multiple authors within the hour. It really just depends on how long their lines are and if their locations are in the same vicinity or close by. Now, when it comes to ARC drops, chances of getting two different ARCs that drop at the same time are pretty slim. People line up 30 – 120 minutes in advance for ARC drops. So, what I advise doing is if there are two ARCs dropping at the same time, decide which one you really want to try to grab more and then you can always talk to someone at the booth to see if they have extras of the ARC drop you missed. But also don’t get upset if the answer is no and if you don’t get the ARC you want. These publishers are absolutely amazing and it truly is a blessing to have ARCs be handed out at YALLFest (and to have in general), so never take it for granted. Besides, you can always try trading on Twitter or a Facebook group. So, basically, just be realistic about your schedule and understand you may not make it to every event.
Be friendly and courteous to others
The GOLDEN rule. This goes such a long way. Never treat the authors, volunteers, publishing staff, and attendees with anything but excitement, courtesy, and respect. The volunteers spend months putting this event together for everyone, and they deserve nothing but the utmost respect for all their hard work. And the same is said for the authors and publishing staff. They don’t have to be at the event, but they are, and that’s amazing. If an author can only sign three books, but you brought four, please don’t get upset. We’re lucky to have the authors attend. And if you’re in line for an ARC drop, but the publishers run out of ARCs before you get up to the table, still be friendly and understanding. I know it’s upsetting, but the publishers don’t need to bring ARCs; attendees are very lucky that they do. So no matter what the circumstances are, always be friendly to the workers, authors, publishers, and other attendees.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions and/or for directions
YALLFest can, at times, be overwhelming. The venues are all over Charleston and sometimes it can get confusing, not knowing if you’re going in the right direction. Usually YALLFest will provide a map in the onsite guide (kind of like a newspaper), but if you don’t have a map, do not be afraid to approach a volunteer or an attendee. I had to do this a lot my first year because I was unfamiliar with the layout and trust me when I say that it definitely helped. Everyone was super nice and understanding. I asked questions like, “where is the Charleston Museum?; I can’t find the HMH booth, do you know where their booth is?; Do you by chance know where the closest bathroom is?” and so many more. So, even if this is out of your comfort zone, you can do it! It’s better to ask questions or for directions than to wander aimlessly, hoping you stumble upon the booth/author you’re looking for.
Follow YALLFest and the publishers on Social Media
Of course, you should definitely follow YALLFest on social media to stay up-to-date on any schedule changes. Most of the publishers participating at YALLFest will have announced their schedules before the festival. However, some publishers announce some un-publicized booth drops, such as ARCs or swag items. I advise to follow the publishers on Twitter and even Instagram. Some of the publishers attending may be: HMH Teen, Underlined (Penguin Teen), Epic Reads (HarperCollins), Fierce Reads (Macmillan), Riveted (Simon Teen), NOVL (Little, Brown), Pique (Amulet Books), Blackstone Publishing, Disney Books, and I Read YA.
Also, most publishers will announce their schedules on Twitter, so I’d definitely give a follow beforehand. And I also recommend making a list on Twitter of the YALLFest publishers – this keeps all their tweets in one easy and accessible area.
Make friends in line
Every year, I meet a ton of wonderful and friendly people in line. I still talk to friends I made at YALLFest and it’s honestly one of the best parts of the festival. Talk with people who look friendly in line or who are wearing really cool bookish-themed merchandise. Or anyone reading a book you have read or want to read. YALLFest is not just about meeting your favorite authors and getting books and swag. It’s also about meeting people who share the same love as you do for books. And that in itself is worth the whole trip. So, make friends and have fun. And side note: if you’re flying solo, then it’s always an added bonus to make friends in line, especially when you have to use the bathroom. 🙂 But also understand that not everyone in line is going to want to make conversation, and that’s okay. Either way, you’re bound to find some awesome people to talk to while you wait in lines! And you never know, the person you’re talking to may happen to be a soon-to-be published author (I met Rebecca Ross, author of The Queen’s Rising, before her book came out, and she was so nice!).
Always check the weather before you leave for YALLFest. My first year, I brought my fall jacket and a sweatshirt and I ended up having to carry both because the weather was in the 70s and sunny. I did not check the weather beforehand and I definitely wished I had. If it does end up raining, make sure to bring an umbrella or a poncho for yourself, and bring Ziploc bags to protect your books and swag. So, dress in what will keep you warm but is also comfortable. I also recommend wearing sneakers because a lot of walking and standing will be involved.
Don’t over pack
I learned this lesson real fast. My first year of YALLFest, I brought two bins full of books to get signed, and I barely got any of those books signed. Lines were long, sidewalks were crowded, and I was extremely tired. Some authors I needed wristbands for and I waited in line for over an hour to get those. Most authors didn’t have wristbands, but their lines were still crazy long (which is awesome for the authors). I did my best to meet as many authors as I could, but I definitely over packed. If there’s a ton of authors you want to meet Saturday, make a schedule and understand that you may not meet all those authors. I know, it’s not the advice you want to hear. But if there’s two authors you want to meet that have signings at the same time, you are most likely going to have to pick just one. So don’t over pack with too many books; it will be a lot of carting around. Plus, you can buy pre-signed books at Blue Bicycle Books, so you don’t have to lug around bins of books! That definitely comes in handy! 🙂
*New!* Remember to bring masks!
For 2021, YALLFest is requiring every attendee to wear a mask inside and outside, regardless of your vaccination status. This is to protect the attendees, volunteers, staff, and the authors. Please follow this safety policy so everyone can enjoy their time at YALLFest. Please also be respectful of the people around you and do your best to maintain an appropriate distance. I know this may be hard at a festival, but definitely does not hurt to try. I recommend bringing multiple masks just in case.
And the most important tip…
So, all in all, below are the shortened tips I recommend:
- Stay hydrated and bring food
- Plan ahead
- Set a realistic schedule
- Always be friendly
- Ask questions
- Follow the publishers on Twitter
- Make new friends!
- Dress for the weather (wear sneakers!)
- Pack light
- Bring masks
- HAVE FUN! 🙂
I hope these tips help you with your YALLFest visit! And if you have any questions, ask me in the comments! I’ll also be walking around at YALLFest, so if you see me, come say hi! I’ll be posting constantly on my Instagram story (@acourtofcoffeeandbooksblog) and on Twitter (@BiblioStacks), so make sure to check there to see where I’ll be throughout the day! And I’m also hoping to have some goodies to hand out! I can’t wait to meet you all, and make sure to have a fun time at YALLFest!