Reflections on the BEA Blogger Con 2012

**UPDATED: As more excellent recaps come in, I will be adding them at the bottom**

On Monday I attended the BEA Blogger Con. I had a great time meeting friends old and new, but the conference itself was a mixed bag. Here’s an assessment with links at the end to other viewpoints.

8:45 am – 9:45 am: Continental Networking Breakfast + Swag Bag

I came in at the tail end of this.  Bloggers were sitting at round table and authors rotated every few minutes from table to table. When a lone author sits down at a table full of blogger-reviewers, her natural inclination is to talk about her books. I heard from other bloggers that they spent most of the hour discussing the author and her work. Some bloggers who had written critical reviews of the author felt uncomfortable making small talk with someone whose book they had panned.  Every blogger I spoke to said she would rather have just talked with other bloggers.

10:00 am – 11:00 am:  Opening Day Keynote: Jennifer Weiner

This event began with the presentation of the First Annual AAP Book Blogger Awards Winners. I think having blogger awards is a great idea. Some of the rules were head-scratchers, though, like this one: “iii) Materials which contain profanities, vulgar language, lewd behavior, extensive or gratuitous violence, or are otherwise obscene or inappropriate for a general audience.” Funnily enough, one of the winners is called Insatiable Booksluts.

Weiner’s keynote started late. I was at a table with Kristen of Fantasy Cafe, my partner in crime for the trip, and seven publishing company employees, either editors or publicists.  While waiting for Weiner’s talk to begin, we had a really nice chat with the folks from Norton, who were genuinely interested in what bloggers do. Still, I was stunned we were the only bloggers at the table. This turned out to be foreshadowing.

Weiner posted a transcript, and for the entire video click here. Everything you need to know about this talk can be summed up in in the first ten seconds, when she asks the audience to let her know if her bra straps become visible. She started with a chat about one of her booksignings a few years back, and spent the bulk of the talk on her fraught relationship with The New York Times. Noting that she is an odd choice for the keynote — because she is not a publisher (huh?) — she claims that what she brings to us is her success as an author who is an expert at social media.

Weiner made an interesting claim that Oprah was one of the first people to model a new kind of horizontal reader-author interaction, with an unselfconscious style. But then, sadly, Oprah got Franzened. Weiner theorized that the Franzen debacle took the wind out of Oprah’s natural, casual, peer to peer book blog style, and turned her into a New Yorker wannabe. That was unfortunate for Oprah. More unfortunate for me as an attendee, the rest of the talk was devoted to Weiner’s personal journey as a one of the first wave of author bloggers, and how that affected her relationship with the New York literary establishment.

I would have been interested to hear about her relationship with book bloggers, and how that has evolved. Weiner was funny, and this might have been a good talk in another setting. But I was in New York to hear about book blogging. I had the rest of BEA to meet and fawn over authors and their books.

After giving examples of her ability to sprinkle fairy dust (she actually said that), instead of just complaining about the Times bias (although I think she wanted a conjunction there, ‘cuz she sure did both in this talk), Weiner concluded with: “and if you’ve got a blog, you can do this, too.”

Weiner turned to book bloggers in the last two minutes. She shared some words of advice for us bloggers:

I’m not saying never write bad reviews, or that there’s no place in the world for some well-deserved snark. I’m not saying not to be honest. But there is something to be said for talking up the things you love instead of talking down the things you hate.

***

As bloggers, you help readers just by being there, by tweeting about what you’re reading, by answering questions, by covering the books and genres that mainstream media ignores, or covering popular books in a way the mainstream can’t.

***

Dance like no one’s watching, sing like no one can hear, tweet like you mom is not online. … Be yourself, and I promise, readers will find you.

11:15 am – 12:15 pm: Blogging Today: What you need to know and what’s next
Moderator: Zoë Triska, Associate Books Editor, Huffington Post
Speaker: Erica Barmash, Senior Marketing Manager, Harper Perennial and Harper paperbacks
Speaker: Patrick Brown, Community Manager, Goodreads
Speaker: Jen Lancaster, author/blogger, jennsylvania.com
Speaker: Candace Levy, editor, blogging at Beth Fish Reads

This was the best panel I heard all day. Everyone on it was good. I disagreed with some of the perspectives and advice, but each was offered in a spirit of collegiality and openness.

12:30 pm – 1:30 pm Let’s Talk Blogs! Networking Luncheon

Make New Friends: sit at tables identified by different genres and led by a blogging author from that genre

Everyone I talked to did not want to repeat the breakfast experience of being held captive by an author shilling a book. We considered ways to keep authors away from our table (Hiding the placard? Dirty looks? Farting noises?) but none seemed foolproof. So a bunch of us decided to take our box lunches outside into the hallway and sit there. If there is an image I take away from the day, it is me and my friends eating lunch on the floor in the hallway of Javits, while the authors sat inside at tables supposedly set for us.

1:45 pm – 2:45 pm So You Want to Make Money? Syndication, Monetization and Affiliate Programs for your Blog

Moderator: Scott Fox, ClickMillionaires.com
Speaker: Rita Arens, Senior Editor, Blogher.com
Speaker: Ron Hogan, Beatrice.com
Speaker: Thea James, Co-Founder, The Book Smugglers
Speaker: Sarah Pitre, Blogger, Forever Young Adult

I have no interest at the moment in monetization, but I wanted to support Thea and I also wanted to broaden my horizons. I had been asked to sit on the competing panel, Demystifying the Blogger Publisher Relationship, but declined since I don’t know much about that. After hearing about that panel, I wish I had agreed to do it. Even if I was an idiot, at least there would have been an amateur blogger up there.

Anyway, I really appreciated Thea’s perspective as a blogger who, with her partner Ana at The Book Smugglers, was reluctant to monetize. Thea’s focus was very much on the relationship she and Ana have with their blog’s readers, and the impact monetization might have on the trust-based culture of amateur reader-bloggers from which The Book Smugglers sprang. Given that, I was disappointed that during the Q&A, a partner of the Blogher panelist took the opportunity to chastise Thea for her attitude.

I feel that there are many different book blogging subcultures, and Thea’s perspective presented a valuable counterpoint to that of Rita Arens.  I wish more of this diversity– and specifically, more voices from the amateur blogging sub-cultures — were represented at this conference.

3:00 pm – 4:00 pm Creating Community & Driving Engagement

Moderator: Jennifer Conner, Blogger, The Literate Housewife Review
Speaker: Mandy Boles, Blogger, The Well-Read Wife
Speaker: David Lee King, Digital Services Director at Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library, and blogs at davidleeking.com
Speaker: Stacey O’Neale, Senior Publicist, Month9Books

This is nothing against the panelists, but I was bored to tears by this session and left early. It was more geared to new bloggers (advice on vloging: “take video with your smart phone. Post it to YouTube.”). I felt they tried to cover way too much. I think an entire session on video, for instance, would hardly cover the basic issues in vloging, never mind trying to cover all of the other things they did. I also felt that there was a big focus on getting eyeballs, which is fine, but trying to justify talking about page views when the topic is supposed to be “community engagement” by saying “and you need eyeballs to have a community” really doesn’t cut it.

4:15 pm – 5:15 pm Closing Remarks: Jenny Lawson (The Bloggess)

Lawson was excellent. I was truly spellbound by her talk. She was funny, smart, humble, irreverent — everything she seems to be on her blog. After the suffocating air of self-congratulation Weiner exuded, it felt freeing to hear Lawson. That said, while I think Lawson is great,  at the end of the day, just like Weiner, she’s an author with a book to pitch. No, Lawson wasn’t as crass as Weiner, who made a running “joke” of her book’s release date throughout her talk, and she had more to say than Weiner about being an amateur blogger, but her focus was on the journey from blogger to published author. If I had heard this talk at BEA, I would have been over the moon with it. As the closing address of BEA Blogger Con, it just solidified my feeling that the conference was oriented to publishers and authors.

Random points:

1. Hate reading: Both keynote speakers mentioned “hate viewing/reading.” Do you find yourself returning to a blog, twitter feed, or TV show that you hate? Is this a thing?

PS. If you are hate reading this right now, don’t answer this question.

2. Diversity: Beginning with Weiner, at least one person in every session I attended mentioned “diversifying” your book blog. Post pictures, top tens, movie reviews, memes, anything but book reviews.

Other Voices (I’ve had a shockingly hard time finding blogs on BEA Blogger Con. If you know of others, please link in the comments.)

I thought this was a book blogger conference, but there was a shocking number of people who weren’t book bloggers or who weren’t in the book industry at all. Maybe BlogWorld being nearby caused a mixup and we had people from that conference waltzing into ours, or maybe Reed thought “book blogging” and “blogging” could be mixed without issue, but I didn’t go to a Book Blogger Convention to meet someone with a blog about the environment. There didn’t seem to be a cap on the number of non-book bloggers present, which I feel affected the conference. I am very curious how many people there that day were book bloggers, how many were authors, and how many were publicists.

Hearing perspectives from other parts of the industry is one thing, but I didn’t go there to be marketed to and to be told how to be a better cheerleader for publishing.  In previous years, there were complaints about things said at panels, but at least there were panels full of book bloggers.

 Janicu’s Book Blog

***

So the BEA Book Blogger Conference really wasn’t what I had hoped it would be. I plan to write a long list of suggestions to the BEA Bookblogger organizers to recommend things that are more from a blogger’s point of view. Right now, BEA Book Blogger Con is good for very young, new bloggers.  I don’t think they are offering much for established bloggers.

Jane of Dear Author 

***

On the whole, I was quite disappointed. I can look past communications screw ups (provided they get fixed). I can shrug off logistical blunders the day of an event. I can even tune out the occaisional poor speaker. But, as feared, Reed’s earlier missteps have proven where the organization’s priorities lie…and book bloggers do not make the cut.

This was a common theme in much of the Book Bloggers Conference’s programming: it was skewed to align with the interests of authors/publishers in promoting their books to the book blogging community. I understand the motivation, and I understand the temptation: after all, publishers spend a lot of money on booths at BEA. The breakfast, the keynote, (to a lesser extent) the panel which followed, lunch, and the closing presentations all were oriented around pitching to the book blogging community. I for one regret having – apparently – spent $135 to be not-so-subtly pitched.

–The King of Elfland’s 2nd Cousin

***

After that came an interminably long question-and-answer period – with a very suspicious number of questions focusing on When Jennifer Weiner’s Next Book is Coming Out and What Jennifer Weiner’s Working On Next, rather than, um, Blogging and What It’s All About. I was sincerely starting to wonder if there were plants in the audience.

–AnimeJune of Gossamer Obsessions

***

As for the conference itself, there was a whole lot of bluster from publishers and self-promo obsessed authors, but I had a great time hanging out with other bloggers (and also some lovely librarians) and can’t wait to start putting the tips I picked up into practice. I’ll go over all the panels I attended in greater detail in my wrap-up post, but I took some great notes and I can’t wait to share my insights.

As for the keynote by Jennifer Weiner and the closing remarks by The Bloggess, suffice to say that these ladies are kickass. Both of them inspired me not just to be a better blogger, but to be a better person–no lie. Both Jennifer Weiner’s speech and the Q&A session (in which I ask a YA question!) are online, and I’m still waiting to see what they do with Jenny’s.

–Bibliophilia — Maggies Bookshelf

***

Secondly, even though I read and very much enjoy Jennifer Lawson’s blog and luckily got her bestselling Let’s Pretend this Never Happened yesterday (which I started reading on the train ride home) I feel her strengths are not in the public speaking arena. That’s not to say she didn’t have some interesting and funny things to say (most notably I loved her statement “bloggers are more important than big media”) but she didn’t actually have a speech per se, but mostly talked about her random thoughts about being an author and blogging (which is very similar to her writing style). It was not a strong finish to the conference.

–Stephanie’s Written Word

***

But I’m always a little worried that those bloggers will feel unwelcome or left out when there is always some focus on being part of this industry. Having no relationship with publishers and publicists does NOT make one less of a book blogger. A book blogger is anyone who blogs about books, and all the talk about what bloggers “owe” to the industry we provide free publicity for is offputting (to put it mildly). Maybe this fear is unfounded since the panel that focused more on the publisher/blogger relationship was up against one on community engagement so there’s another option to go to, but I’d be really curious to see what someone who has chosen never to receive review copies thought of the event.

–Kristen of Fantasy Cafe

***

It was a long day of discussion about what bloggers are and what’s expected of them from within the community and from the publishing industry. My experience for the most part was positive but there were some things that irked me. Most who blogged about their BEA blogger con experience have the same feeling I do. The vibe I experienced was that there was this belief that most bloggers want to be authors. There was this large amount of hard sell from the speakers and the panelist about their product and their book that it become ridiculous and tedious. But the ratio of women to men was greater. It seems most book bloggers are women and there was this great sense of women empowerment.

–Katiebabs of Babbling About Books

***

This is the third year in a row we have attended the Blogger Con. And, once again, we were witness to this strange hypnotoadish focus on “how bloggers can serve the industry” as opposed to how bloggers are a vital part of the new publishing ecosystem and what tips and useful help can be offered to bloggers that are interested in becoming more informed and better book bloggers. The environment felt exploitative and slightly condescending, as opposed to a horizontal meeting of equals. We also felt that the excitement of previous years was not present (a feeling we know many shared). Will we go back next year? Absolutely. We both think that the Book Blogger Con has the potential to be a big community building tool for bloggers. We just wish that the ones running the show would understand that bloggers attend this conference not to hear about how great they are at being cheerleaders for authors and publishers. We attend because we want to meet other bloggers, because we want to listen and participate in a dialogue between bloggers and the industry, because we want to learn from other bloggers their tips and tricks of the trade, best practices, and how to become better at what we do best: write reviews and spread the word about books, both good and bad, and on our own terms.

The Book Smugglers

***

The blogger convention (the half I was present for) was disappointing, and I wasn’t the only one who thought that, either. I asked Thea about the panels I missed and she replied that I didn’t miss much. A lot of bloggers felt misunderstood and dissatisfied that most of the conference was spent with publishers telling us what they wanted from us, rather than talking about more blogger-focused topic like a Blogging Etiquette or Ethics.

–AnimeJune of Gossamer Obsessions

***

My BBC afternoon was ok.  I feel that it was geared more towards new bloggers or first time attendees.  The focus is more on the business of blogging and cultivating industry relationships.  There’s nothing wrong with that, lots of bloggers are looking for that… but it is not  something I am interested in.  Would I go again?  Maybe.  But I definitely wouldn’t decide until after the panels were announced.  I realize that this year brought new owner, Reed Exhibitions, to BBC but I didn’t see any improvement over last years con and that one was put together by amateurs, not a fancy exhibition company.  I don’t think Reed has a handle on what a blogger conference should be and are only looking at it from a marketing point of view.  It’s understandable – they are in the publishing business after all – but if that’s all the conference has to offer, it’s not worth attending to me.

So I Read This Book

***

Like many of the other bloggers have said, I think the bloggers conference lacked information and industry news for the more advanced set. Sessions on moving from Blogger to WordPress, ethics discussions or improving search engine optimization would have made great additions to the conference, I think.

I plan on contacting the event organizer, Joe Vella, with some suggestion for next year. His email address is jvella@reedexpo.com, for those of you interested in doing the same.

Overall, I’m so thankful I could attend both the conference and the expo this year, and I will definitely be returning in 2013!

Here’s to an awesome BEA 2012 – and here’s hoping next year is even better!

Read. Breathe. Relax.

***

–Janicu of Janicu’s Book Blog

***

And that leads me to my biggest pet peeve — where were the bloggers? Both keynotes were given by authors (granted, who had blogging experience, but who are not what I would consider book bloggers). The majority of the panelists were people without a background as book bloggers. And the audience members I met or noticed were also clearly not book bloggers. Where were we?

I really don’t know the answer to this questions. I’ve been wracking my brain trying to decide if it was the conference organization, attendees, or my lack of reaching out during the day that prevented me from connecting with other bloggers. It’s probably a combination of the three, but I have to think there was something seriously amiss about a blogging conference where I didn’t meet a single unfamiliar blogger.

–Kim from Sophisticated Dorkiness

Book Blogger Uncon
That evening, I had dinner with a group of bloggers, two of whom attended the Book Blog Uncon. They said about 20-25 bloggers attended, and they had a wonderful day. They talked freely about books and blogging all day, including topics such as social media, creating community, commenting, DNF reviews, and the future of blogging.

Here’s a glowing report from Libereading.   And a critical one from Stains on the Page.

Conclusion:

I feel strongly that there needed to be more of a focus on blogger to blogger interaction, including blogger keynotes. Organizers had little understanding of what would drive such a diverse array of bloggers to attend this event (Hint: not meeting authors and publishers and getting books. Those are two of the many things BEA itself is for.).

Another issue I had was the lack of representation of some genres. If they’re going to have authors, they ought to try to cover the spectrum.  Out of thirty-two featured authors at the con, for example, not one was a romance writer.

I was also struck by the different tracks bloggers are on. As I met up with different bloggers, it became clear to me we wanted different things out of the whole experience, and were on very different trajectories with our blogs. Not every blogger hopes to one day quit her day job and live off her blog, whether it be from monetizing blog content, writing books, or using it as a platform to become an editor or author or work in publishing. Not every blogger wants to get more and more eyeballs or even more and more influence. I found myself feeling that the default definition of blog success at this conference was monetization and stats, and while that’s fine for those who have those goals, it’s a bit limiting for those who do not.

When I think about the vast gulf between the BEA Blogger Con and the UnCon, and the diverse goals of the bloggers I met, I wonder if one conference can ever be a happy home for all bloggers. Maybe the need for an UnCon was inevitable as book blogging grows and changes. But rather than giving up and striking out with a new conference, another idea is to try to have more diversity within the BEA Blogger Con itself. The organizers said the BEA Blogger Con had 400 attendees this year, up from 200 its first year. Although no one day event can accommodate every blogger’s personal raison de blog, I think that’s a large enough critical mass to have more concurrent sessions, which better address the diverse goals bloggers have.

39 responses

  1. It would be interesting to find out how many of those 400 attendees maintain a book blog other than authors with a promotion-centric purpose. Not that there’s anything wrong with that – but I would differentiate a blog like Penny Watson’s which has a broad/review scope from a typical author blog. Some, like Carolyn Crane, keep separate ones for their reading life and writing life.

    Like

  2. Do you find yourself returning to a blog, twitter feed, or TV show that you hate? Is this a thing?

    That pretty much describes my relationship with AAR. I feel so petty now.

    Like

  3. Thank you for linking to my post and sharing your thoughts about BBC. Hopefully the organizers will take into consideration all the constructive criticism for next year.

    Like

  4. Excellently on point – you pretty much put into words exactly what I couldn’t about the Book Blogger Con and why it didn’t work for me – and I was only around for half of it!

    There were a great deal of young and self-proclaimed “baby bloggers,” and I actually feel a bit worried if they’ll walk away from this thinking that these are the ideas of the general blogging community – money and stats.

    Like

  5. I was following your tweets and a few others on twitter and found it all very interesting. With this being the first year of Blogger Con under new management, I guess there were bound to be disconnects. Hopefully, they’ll get it right next year.

    Like

  6. Thank you so much for this post: it is good to hear your impressions of what was presented.

    Hate reading? Why would I return to something I hate if I can find stuff that I love instead? Am I just strange in doing that?

    I find the comment above about diversifing VERY interesting. I have been participating in Armchair BEA and having plowed through all 400+ links to peoples’ introduction posts I would say that my overall impression was that the majority of those people are doing everything BUT reviews: which makes me rather sad. Reviews were minimal and hard to find on many of the sites, which seemed to be much more interested in increasing the number of followers rather than engaging in serious discussion. Lots of graphics, links, lists, giveaways, cover reveals, memes, challenges, etc, etc, but no real focus on reading and reviewing. Now, I know that this is by no means a sensible way of finding book bloggers, but I was disappointed that I found only 13 sites that I added to my feed reader. Admittedly, there was probably another 75-100 or so that were well written, but dealt with genres that I am not really interested in, but that gives you an indication of this cross section of bloggers. These guys don’t need to diversify: believe me!

    I will try to gather my reactions to Armchair BEA once I have had a good look through more of the links, but there are an awful lot (easily 1000+ I predict by the end of tomorrow), so you might have to wait until 2014!

    However, I would say that the fact that they have not tried to divide book bloggers into groups suggests that they don’t realize that we are a very diverse group: we have all been lumped together into a huge amorphous mess, which has significantly reduced the usefulness of the event. :(

    Like

  7. I also find it disappointing that Thea was chastised, because her take on the monetizing issue is a valid one. Although it does illustrate your point beautifully that not all bloggers are the same, and because of that planning an event like this one would be difficult.

    Sounds like this whole thing was a rather uneasy mix at times. But, you know, maybe things will get ironed in the future? At the very least, sounds like they should factor in some general time for “networking” among the blogger attendees…..

    Like

  8. Thank you for such an honest opinion of the event. I attended last year and didn’t stay past lunch. I was extremely disappointed with the lack of organization – some of the panelists struggled to answer questions (asked by the moderator, not the audience) – and the way much of it focused on time management – we all have lives outside our blogs, we make time. I also was not impressed by the information given regarding the relationship between bloggers and publishers. I didn’t feel like any of it was very valuable or helpful. I ended up leaving shortly after lunch and spent the rest of my afternoon exploring the city. Visiting The Strand and dining at Veselka’s ended up being a much more enjoyable bookish night with the husband.

    Like

  9. Thank you for posting this recap, as I was curious to see what BEA woud do with the Blogger Con. It’s a shame, as the whole thing started out as a way for bloggers to get together, chat, and share tips and tricks of the trade. Glad I trusted my instincts and skipped this!

    Like

  10. I’d love to attend a Blogger Con (or even BEA Blogger Con next year) that had a lot more focus on diverse topics about blogging and bloggers. I don’t know why they wouldn’t get someone like Jane from DA to do the keynote. I love Weiner, and I think she’s hilarious, but it seems like that speech would have been better for another BEA event.

    What about panels like “How to Deal With Author Feedback On Your Review”? That there is a panel I’d pay big money for. Or “Blogging Etiquette in Social Media (Do Not “@” authors on review links).” Stuff like that. That there is gold.

    Thanks for making me feel less bad about missing BEA this year. I plan on going next year, and hope they take some of the suggestions and feedback for the Blogger Con portion seriously.

    Like

  11. Yeah, I hate read, although it’s rarely book blogs. The AAR blog and message board come close, but I only check it out about once a month, go, “Oh yeah, that’s why I never come here any more,” and promptly get the hell out. I find it pretty easy to quit book blogs that bug me.

    Like

  12. @Victoria Janssen: Thanks. It was great to meet you!

    @Nicola O.: I don’t know. Some of the bloggers I met were hoping to get published, but most of the ones I chatted with were like me.

    @Ridley: LOL. I happen to like that blog! But I guess I am prone to it on occasion too, as in the link I tweeted this morning.

    @Stephanie: I hope so too. Thanks for writing up your thoughts.

    @Amy @ My Friend Amy: I do plan to email them. I know they had some bloggers on their planning team but many of them seemed very frustrated and felt unheard. I’m sorry there was no formal feedback mechanism, no invitation to give feedback, and no encouragement to share our views on the con

    Maybe one will be forthcoming.

    @AnimeJune: Thanks, Elizabeth, and thanks for your post. I hope everyone who attended writes a post, good or bad. It was great to meet you!

    @Melanie: I wonder. I feel as if every year has had its challenges, albeit different ones, which is what led me to speculate that it;s just too big a task to try to make everyone happy.

    @Sue CCCP: Thanks for the viewpoint from the armchair. I was wondering about that!

    I chatted with one prominent blogger writes wonderful substantive reviews and thoughtful opinion pieces, but who occasionally posts image posts. Guess which ones get the most hits?

    @SuperWendy: Yeah, I do think more down time (like during meals) and more amateur bloggers on the panels would have been good.

    @Jamie: I did hear that about last year’s event. That’s what I mean about the challenges of a one day “book blogging” event. Maybe it’s just too much. Maybe they should just say outright: “this is a book blogger event for those who hope to use their blogs as a springboard to a professional career in publishing” and then have that focus, which would really match BEA quite well.

    @Alexia561: I’ll be interested to see what others think. I stood in a lot of lines, and talked to dozens of random bloggers who were there and I heard mixed reviews at best. I didn’t meet one person who said it was awesome.

    Like

  13. This was fascinating to me, because the entire event sounds like it has nothing to do with either why or how I blog.

    Like

  14. I agree with everything you shared. I actually ended up going to the opposite two break outs and had the same sort of issue in mine. The panelists were not bloggers or at least not made up of bloggers as the majority. I ended up leaving my second session early out of boredom and didn’t seem to be the only one.

    As for the authors, I was okay with it at breakfast until we waited two rotations with no one, got an author, then the author that was supposed to come to us next simply skipped our table. Lunch was just plain awkward because you’re trying to eat and have a conversation and end up trying to down a wrap between rotations.

    Just a few thoughts, thanks for doing this round up!

    Like

  15. I’m not surprised by your experience. BEA is a corporate entity, which means it’s all about credentials, money, and fame. The lack of romance isn’t surprising either, since the genre isn’t considered a place of “big”–aka mainstream–books to shill to a wide range of readers and booksellers.

    As for the monetization and commercialization of blogs, this is something fashion bloggers dealt with a few years back when fashion designers and online stores began taking their influence for granted. Companies assumed free purses, shoes, dresses, etc were compensation enough despite the fact that many fashion bloggers drove more sales and created more buzz than an editorial in Vogue or Harper’s Bazaar (who, incidentally, charge serious $ for ad space–and they get free swag on top of that). Paid ads and sponsorship does seem a bit sordid, but if publishers–and authors for that matter–view book bloggers as marketing tools, I think dedicated bloggers should be compensated for the time and effort it takes to run a blog and build trust with their readers. http://heartifb.com/

    As for the whole non-book review/reading log stuff dominating book blogs–does anyone else think of the many B&N’s full of calendars and toys?

    Like

  16. I’ve noticed non-review posts often get more hits, too. I put it down to the fact that reviews tend to be longer than other posts and that it can sometimes (though only sometimes) be difficult to comment on them if you’ve not read the book. Unless you just write “great review” which isn’t really helpful to anyone. That said, hits from search engines tend to balance it out over time as the casual reader is looking for opinions on specific books.

    It really sounds as though the Conference needs work, and I hope the organisers listen to everyone who writes about it so that it’s better next time. Paying that much just to be marketed to kind of sucks.

    Like

  17. I spent two decades in the supplier end of biotechnology and your post, with only product name substitutions, could have been written about nearly every conference I participated in. Sponsors spent most of their focus on keeping product and services front and center. If there was time left in the planning meeting de jour, only then did the attendees get considered as thinking (rather than purchasing) folks.

    It sounds bad, doesn’t it? I will say, however, that in my company anyway, conference feedback (good and bad) from the previous year was usually respected in those golden 20 minutes devoted to considering attendees. Be the squeaky wheel.

    Like

  18. Pingback: Book Expo America and BEA Bloggers Conference 2012: A Recap | The Book Smugglers

  19. Thanks for the awesome post (and for the quote)! If the program doesn’t undergo drastic revision next year, then I’m definitely not returning. Hopefully they’ll repeat the uncon…that’s probably where I’ll be instead.

    Also, FYI: The Book Smugglers just posted a great write-up of BEA Book Blogger Con that I strongly recommend (here’s the link).

    Like

  20. @Evangeline Holland:

    Paid ads and sponsorship does seem a bit sordid, but if publishers–and authors for that matter–view book bloggers as marketing tools, I think dedicated bloggers should be compensated for the time and effort it takes to run a blog and build trust with their readers.

    I would have a major problem with this. Paid ads are one thing, but sponsorships and compensation would officially make bloggers nothing but marketing tools for publishers, and the reviews would be useless. I don’t even read blogs that offer giveaways too often, and when a blog starts dedicating too many posts to a single book or author I become suspicious.

    Like

  21. I confess I would have been extremely surprised if this so-called ‘book blogger’ event had actually been, you know, blogger centered. The moment Reed bought it, it was pretty clear that it was going to be more about publishers’ and authors’ needs and perceptions of bloggers, than about blogging and the people who do it.

    Like

  22. @Chris: Thank you. Loved your post. And thanks for the Book Smugglers’ link. I love it that we are all offering somewhat different details, but coming to the same basic conclusion.

    @Lynn:

    I will say, however, that in my company anyway, conference feedback (good and bad) from the previous year was usually respected in those golden 20 minutes devoted to considering attendees. Be the squeaky wheel.

    thank you for sharing that, Lynn. And yes, we really do need to write letters. I hardly think Reed is going to be reading our book blogs!

    @Sue CCCP: LOL.

    @Charlie:

    I’ve noticed non-review posts often get more hits, too. I put it down to the fact that reviews tend to be longer than other posts and that it can sometimes (though only sometimes) be difficult to comment on them if you’ve not read the book. Unless you just write “great review” which isn’t really helpful to anyone. That said, hits from search engines tend to balance it out over time as the casual reader is looking for opinions on specific books.

    Great points. It is true that many of the hits for reviews come from search engines, and it does balance out.

    @Evangeline Holland: I am so glad you mentioned fashion blogs. The Blogher editor on the monetizing panel, and actually, also Jennifer Weiner, mentioned fashion bloggers. The Blogher woman specifically said asked why bloggers wouldn’t want to get paid for their work. She had come from freelance writing and always got paid for it. So to her it seemed bizarre to write and not think you should be compensated. She suggested it was an issue of woman not valuing their contributions to an industry. I found that an interesting argument, and would not want to discount it out of hand.

    @Heidi:

    The panelists were not bloggers or at least not made up of bloggers as the majority. I ended up leaving my second session early out of boredom and didn’t seem to be the only one.

    I find this so bizarre. I have no idea what they were thinking, except that bloggers must all want to become like the people on the panels who are with big corporations and compensated. If some want to do that, GREAT. But I wish more of the rest of the group were represented.

    @Rohan: bingo. I don’t plan to attend next year unless there is a large mass of people I want to see and we plan an uncon.

    @Las: I agree with you that there are lines to be drawn, and those lines are going to be different depending on who is blogging, why she is blogging, and who her audience is. It would have been interesting to have that conversation, but alas…

    @azteclady: If I didn’t know better I would think your comment says “I told you so.” ;)

    Like

  23. @Las: I guess I see it otherwise, since I do have a stronger background–and history with–fashion blogs than I do book blogs. Granted, there was a little kerfluffle when SBTB began accepting advertisement (don’t remember if there was as much outrage over DA doing so…though at the same time, Romancing the Blog had advertising during its short lifespan), but people still visit and trust SB Sarah’s opinions.

    Like

  24. @Jessica: I wouldn’t discount that theory either. However, I do think that it could also be the nature of blogging (which is very DIY–hosted by Blogger or WordPress, plain in design or bursting with awards, widgets, and graphics, started with the intention of being personal), and the fact that writing about books has never been as mainstream as writing about fashion. I know many, many fashion and beauty bloggers who began blogging and vlogging to break into the fashion industry, whereas book bloggers mostly want to talk about books and reading, not break into publishing.

    It’s funny though–I see food bloggers turning into TV personalities and cookbook authors, entertainment/gossip bloggers leveraging their platform to attend red carpet events and work for major magazines, and fashion/beauty bloggers becoming just as influential as Anna Wintour or Tyra Banks, but book bloggers seem to be the only segment that underestimates and devalues itself. I mean hello–TRR and AAR are pioneers, as are some of the earliest bloggers like Mrs. Giggles, Super Wendy, Kristi J, and Rosario, and Dear Author and SBTB made romance blogging a force to be reckoned with. I think book bloggers need to own it.

    Like

  25. @Jessica: I’d never dare!

    *ahem*

    The sad part for me is that I would have loved to be surprised. Wouldn’t it have been great if whomever was in charged had actually listened to the spirit behind the noise back in March?

    As it is, I wish there were more detailed posts about the UnCon–the write up at Libereading is like those cruel teasers that let you know that something is really, really good, yet out of your reach forever.

    Like

  26. @Evangeline Holland: I don’t have much experience with fashion blogs, and the little I do know is what made me recoil at the suggestion that book blogs should be more like them in the way they make money. From what I’ve seen, fashion blogs generally can’t be anything but advertisement for the fashion industry. I mean, what service are the bloggers actually providing other than making you aware of what items are out there? They post a picture, go, “Hey, look how pretty this is!” and that’s about it (with apologies to that blogger who made that awesome “25 Ways to Tie a Scarf” video). What’s there to review? Comparing fashion to books just doesn’t work when the respective bloggers serve completely different purposes. A book blogger is telling me something about a book that can’t be captured with a photo, and that I’d have to invest a fairly large amount of time to discover for myself.

    In that way, book blogs are more similar to hair and beauty blogs, of which I’m much more familiar. Yes, many of them make money,( and some of them are obviously just marketing tools for the various industries, so you know not to take them seriously), but they do take the time to review products, and, like with book reviews, I can usually read the body of the review to determine if the product will work for me or not, regardless of the reviewer’s rating. Once a bog completely switches over to just advertising, I lose interest.

    I’m not against a people trying to monetize their blogs. Good for them for having the savvy to pull that off, because if I had the interest and talent I would be all over that. But what I can respect an admire on general principle is not always what I’d be willing to put up with as a reader/consumer. If it looks to me like a blogger is making money by recommending a book, that’s not a blogger who’s opinion counts for much. I’m not against paid advertisement–I started reading the blogs after they were already established, so I missed that controversy–but they have to be obvious ads. Constant giveaways (don’t get me wrong, I love freebies, but when a blog has multiple giveaways every week, that tells me something), several posts dedicated to a newly published books…I can go to sellers’ and publishers’ sites if that’s what I wanted.

    Like

  27. She suggested it was an issue of woman not valuing their contributions to an industry. I found that an interesting argument, and would not want to discount it out of hand.

    I guess it depends where the money comes from. I would feel very uneasy being paid by an author or a publisher to write a review, simply because I would feel that it could be seen to compromise my unbiased opinion.

    Mainly I don’t feel the need to monetize because this is my hobby and I just see it as an extension of my book club. Plus, I can borrow a lot of the books I read from the library, and I am advocating reading certain books, but not necessarily buying them, so I don’t feel like I am helping anyone to sell specific books.

    Also: I’m a grumpy ragbag who hates seeing adverts wherever I go, so I am not likely to add them to my own site! :D

    Like

  28. Since I traveled in Monday morning, I didn’t get to the Con until lunch. I grabbed one of the few open seats and met some cool bloggers and pub people but when the authors arrived, it was all about them hawking their books. I mean, it was interesting but I liked chatting with the people at the table rather than listening to a pitch.

    The afternoon panels were okay, but not anything I was truly interested in. I went to the monetizing panel just because but didn’t like that Thea was chastised for her choice. At that point, I really wished I had gotten my librarian friend to register me for the SLJ Con going on across the aisle. That sounded much more interesting, sadly. But The Bloggess was FANTASTIC.

    Like

  29. Pingback: BEA Bloggers Conference 2012 | Fantasy Cafe | Reviews of Fantasy and Science Fiction Books

  30. Pingback: BEA 2012: Take-Aways | Read. Breathe. Relax. | Ya book reviews and fantasy book reviews

  31. I hedged my bets and split the day between the BEA Blogger Con and the Book Blog UNCON. There was nothing new for me at the Blogger Con but I had a great time at the UNCON. Smaller, interactive groups suit me better and I am interested in other bloggers thoughts/experiences. I don’t really care about publishers or how I can better serve the industry. I do care about the creative side of blogging.
    I wrote about it here.

    Like

  32. Pingback: It's A Wrap! 2012 BEA Book Blogger Conference | There's A Book

  33. Thanks for linking to my post on the UnCon!

    After reading your recap (and a few others), I’m glad I chose not to attend the BEA Bloggers Con. I don’t think I would have gotten as much out of the panels there, as I don’t accept review copies and therefore don’t have much interaction with publishers or publicists. I’m new to book blogging (since the beginning of January 2011), and I was mostly looking for an event at which I could meet other bloggers and get honest advice and other perspectives. The UnCon was pretty much exactly what I was looking for, but I do recognize that it wouldn’t be for everybody. It was very casual and, though we started with a schedule of sessions, we ended up mostly staying in one larger group because the majority of us wanted to discuss all the topics.

    I’m hopeful that the BEA Bloggers Con people will take the attendees’ suggestions and criticisms seriously, because I do think there should be room for different kinds of blogging-focused events. The UnCon’s casual approach worked because it was so small, but I’m not sure the same format would translate well to a much larger audience.

    Like

  34. Pingback: BEA Bloggers: Where Were the Bloggers?

  35. I have no idea what hate reading is…but I’ve always thought that perhaps this conference should have a premise like the writer’s conferences in which panels are proposed by possible attendees themselves. i.e. someone could propose a panel on say What’s your blog’s focus? and panelists could be selected based on whether they monetize, want higher stats, or simply want to just post for themselves and those panelists could talk about how they came to those conclusions and what signs they had that that was where they wanted to go with blogging.

    Like

  36. Pingback: Links Luau #5

Prof's Progress

... on making sense, one word at a time

Bkwurm.com

Bkwurm: /book*worm/ n. a person devoted to reading and study

VacuousMinx

Blog in Progress

Nyssa Harkness

Media and Cultural Studies with a focus on Genre Fiction, Gaming and Creative Society

Shelf Love

live mines and duds: the reading life

Love is the Best Medicine

Harlequin/Mills and Boon Medical Romance Authors

Blue Moon

Audiobook reviews and book reviews. Occasional opining.

specficromantic

reviews by a speculative fiction romantic

Centre for Medical Humanities

News, updates and insights from the Centre for Medical Humanities, Durham University

Miss Bates Reads Romance

Miss Bates is the loquacious spinster from Austen's Emma. No doubt she read romances ... here's what she would have thought of them.

Badass Romance

heroes, heroines, and books that demand to be taken seriously

bad necklace: not quite pearls of wisdom

mala, media, maladies, and malapropisms

Thinking in Fragments

but making connections too

Tales from the Reading Room

A Literary Salon Where All Are Welcome

momisatwork

thinking about teaching, learning, home and family

Feminist Philosophers

News feminist philosophers can use

Fit and Feminist

Because it takes strong women to smash the patriarchy.

Fit Is a Feminist Issue

(previously known as "Fit, Feminist, and (almost) Fifty," but we're not "almost fifty" anymore.)

Heloise Merlin's Weblog

Virtual people read books, too!

Victoria Janssen

Just another WordPress.com site

Bblog Central

Your source for book blogging.

Insta-Love Book Reviews

Deflowering romance - one book at a time

A Striped Armchair

Bookish thoughts from a woman of endless curiousity

Sonomalass's Blog

Another day in paradise

RR@H Novel Thoughts & Book Talk

Featuring Author Interviews and Commentaries

Something More

my extensive reading

The Romantic Goldfish

"Cheapest mother fucking goldfish on the planet"

Shallowreader's Blog

...barely scratching the surface of romance literature, reading and libraries

Joanna Chambers, author

Historical romance

THE DAILY RUCKUS

ROYALTY, ROMANCE NOVELS, AND A LITTLE RUCKUS

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,490 other followers

%d bloggers like this: