My past two years attending BookCon have changed the way that I perceive the world of fans. By simply looking at the pattern on a Game of Thrones–themed tote, I can identify numerous people with whom I have something in common. Last year, a girl in front of me in line for a book signing for Cassandra Clare, one of my favorite authors, was wearing a pair of socks with a quote from Brandon Sanderson. Immediately I knew we were able to talk about our shared love for his books. Within minutes, I knew the Hogwarts houses of nearly everyone in my immediate vicinity.

However, in the excitement of seeing all the authors, beautiful books, artwork, and other fans, it can be quite overwhelming to grasp the system of autographings and panels. Only from several failures have I learned the importance of planning in advance. The downside of so many people sharing your interests is that lines can be long. Therefore, it is important to choose a small handful of booths and panels that are the most important to you. Additionally, going with friends who have similar interests is fun, and it helps you to divide and conquer the Con.

Don’t worry about standing alone, however. A simple remark in line to the people next to you about which Dire wolf is your favorite or what literary city you wish you could find yourself in can instantly form a bond between you and other fans. Booths offering releases of limited-edition items or advance reading copies of books tend to have the quickest-filling lines. These should be chosen carefully. Only the Main Stage will be cleared between panelists, as it has no overflow room, so there will often be a large line forming prior to panels there. However, for smaller panels, the rooms will not be cleared, so if there are several panels that you hope to see in the same room, staying in your seat might help ensure your spot, and, in the process, you might discover a new author who interests you—or a new friend.

If all else fails, the main show floor has an abundance of activity and opportunities. Everywhere you go, people will be eager to talk to you about books. Truly, regardless of which authors you manage to see, or what ARCs you snag, meeting fellow fans is what truly makes BookCon special.

Alexandra Lilly is a high school junior in NYC who, between class periods and assignments, loses herself in other worlds.