The Book Blogger Convention was founded in 2010 by Trish Collins of Hey Lady! Watcha Readin’? and Michelle Franz of Galleysmith. The Book Blogger Con was an event run by bloggers, for bloggers for two years prior to being purchased by Reed Exhibitions, operators of Book Expo America and other trade shows. The first BBC had 200 attendees, and grew to 340 the next year.
I was looking forward to attending BBC, but was a bit puzzled when the purchase by Reed was announced in January with no details. There were lots of congratulations, but I was really surprised nobody asked what it meant for the event. This post and the comments at Collins’ blog are representative:
We are confident in the direction that Reed will take the Book Blogger Convention, and we feel they will be able to do things with it that we were unable to do, either because we didn’t have the resources or we didn’t have the time.
For many of us, registration was complicated and nightmarish, necessitating a February post dedicated to explaining how to do it (which was so unclear that a fellow BEA employee had to further clarify in a long comment). After registering, I was immediately spammed on a near daily basis with invitations to a webinar on, of all things, Google+. Author Jennifer Weiner was announced as the keynote speaker, a choice that raised eyebrows for a range of reasons.
Edited to add: And Weiner has weighed in, introducing her own point of view, and the possibility of an anti-BEA plot from the Friday Reads/Book Riot folks (who, it seems are taking the leads in organizing the un con):
There was a blogger focus group that … wasn’t very focused on bloggers, according to one participant:
Eventually, in early March, an agenda was announced… with no details as to who would sit on the panels. I emailed to ask when details would be forthcoming and received no response. The topics seemed quite generic and unexciting to me, and others, but might look more promising if I knew who the speakers were:
Today, I received a form email asking me to register for the attendees list, which required me to give my blog stats:
The reaction was swift and negative on Twitter,
And this is what the page looks like now:
Some observers asked whether this was inevitable:
Fed up, several bloggers asked for refunds, and an unconference, spearheaded by Jeff O’Neal of The Reading Ape, is in the works, with many prominent bloggers showing support both in the comments over there and on Twitter.
One of the organizers of original BBC, Rebecca Joines Schinksy, of Book Lady’s Blog, has posted:
I was involved in planning both of the previous Book Bloggers Conventions, and I loved the “for us, by us” feel. I was not involved in the sale of the Book Bloggers Conventions to BEA; in fact, I wasn’t aware of it at all prior to the public announcement.
In the months since that announcement, I’ve developed concerns about the direction the event is going and about the fact that the programming of this year’s agenda seems more focused on allowing publishers and authors to get in front of bloggers than on creating a day of education to benefit bloggers. Why would I want to pay to spend a day being marketed to?
Other bookish folks have picked up the story, and who knows what will happen from here:
Count me as one of those disappointed with how things are turning out. I support an unconference for any reason people want to have it, whether the point is just to have a smaller alternative gathering, a la Book Camp, or to mount a principled rejection of what’s on offer at BEA Bloggers Con. I am one of those bloggers who is not so interested in relationships with publishers, making a career of my blog, and the like, and I was starting to feel like “my kind” would be marginalized at the event. I have to wonder, if the backlash gets worse, what bloggers will even be willing to sit on panels at BEA’s Blogger Con?
But I don’t think all hope is lost, yet. I strongly encourage the folks at BEA to start listening to bloggers, which requires, you know, actually being available to us (and NOT just asking us to follow you on Twitter, like your damn Facebook page, or give you our stats). It will be sad if this pits bloggers against each other (con versus uncon), the very opposite of the spirit of community, friendship, and shared love of books the original Book Blogger Con was launched to foster.
Updated: A conference organizer, Joe Vella has responded to questions at Reading Ape.