Tuesday, June 12, 2012

BEA Bloggers Conference 2012.

Note: I apologize for any formatting issues in the following post. 

The Book Blogger Conference has changed and grown since its inception three years ago.  When I went in 2010 it was a small grass roots event.  It has since been bought out by the folks who run BEA (Reed Exhibitions) and has grown immensely.  The line to register went around the bottom floor of the Javits Center. 

I also have to say that although there were several problems with the registration of bloggers, Steve Rosato and his team addressed concerns, replied to me and several people I spoke to in a timely manner, and, I believe, or hope, that everyone who wanted to register for this event plus BEA was able to do so at the price quoted.

Will Schwalbe.
The day started out with an a breakfast with different authors going to different tables to talk about their books.  I understand that some people felt they were being pitched books and I totally understand that although I didn't necessarily feel that way.  I felt the lesser known authors who sat at our table were respectful and articulate.  Although a lot of the books were not ones that I would personally read, I always enjoy talking to people about books and writing.  Will Schwalbe, who wrote, The End of Your Life Book Club stated that although some people like to read in order to escape, he feels that books are to continue the conversation.  I loved that!  I also really felt lucky to sit next to Justin Cronin (The Passage, The Twelve) as he discussed his books and writing process.  He also clued us in that he likes to put Easter Eggs in his books.  
Justin Cronin.
The winners of the Independent Book Blogger Awards were announced and then author Jennifer Weiner gave the opening keynote speech.  In her opinion, Oprah Winfrey is one of the first bloggers who invited people into her life.  Oprah in a sense defended the genre she likes to read and proved that some of those books had something to say.  Although Oprah already had a platform before she blogged or even started her bookclub, what I got out of this is that we, as book bloggers, also have something to say about the books that we choose to read. 

The next panel was Blogging Today: What You Need To Know and What's Next.  (Erica Barmash-Harper Perennial and Harper paperbacks, Patrick Brown-Goodreads, Jen Lancaster- Jennsylvania, Candace Levy-Beth Fish Reads, moderator ZoĆ« Triska-Huffington Post.)  This discussion was about the power of blogging and what else the industry can do with bloggers.  When the question of ethics came up, Patrick said that he felt that ethical piece falls into place as common sense.  He also said that "...we don't want anyone to go down the wrong path for him or her."  I interpreted this to mean that he wouldn't want anyone to be untrue to their beliefs.  Jen stated "In talking about books, people know that no one is behind me."  Patrick also mentioned that blogging is the start of word of mouth and "helps with discovery."  What can bloggers do to get their content seen?  Candace suggested to mix up your blog a little and put some diversity in, such as a feature that is not about books.  Jen does cross-posting to see where conversations are occurring.  There was also some discussion on plagairism.  Erica stated very clearly that they would not work with plagiarizers and I was impressed with her passion.  The panel agreed that they wouldn't want to work with a blogger that plagiarized and Patrick stated that if a blogger's reputation is tarnished so is their review.  

Julie Kagawa
Lunch was the same setup at breakfast and Julie Kagawa made her way to our table.  She is very sweet and laid back and she talked about writing and how she came to be published.  Other authors who visited our table were Jordan Matter (Dancers Among Us) and Kari Chapin (Grow Your Handmade Business).  Jordan said he used to work as a baseball player then an actor before he became a photographer.  He also had some interesting stories on the power of social media to get word of his book in the public eye.  From Kari, I learned a little about designing fabrics. 

After lunch I attended Critical Reviews Fine Tuning Your Craft (Mark Fowler-Attorney, Janice Harayda- One Minute Book Reviews, Florinda Vasquez-The 3 R's Blog, moderator Barbara Hoffert-Prepub Alert, Library Journal.)  I was hoping to get a little more technical tips and insight on writing reviews, but I was able to glean some nuggets of useful information.  Janice pointed out that the early reviews of classic literature, such as The Great Gatsby and Madame Bovary, were not favorable and bloggers should feel free to be as bold as these critics.  Today, we may be going the other way and the fear of the repercussions of negative reviews may sway some bloggers.  Barbara pointed out that readers need to know if something is bad as well as good.  My favorite item discussed was Florinda pointing out that critical and negative reviews are not the same and she advised that a reviewer should be useful and articulate where the book fell short while at the same time being diplomatic.

The next breakaway panel was Creating Community and Driving Engagement. (Mandy Boles-The Well-Read Wife, David Lee King-Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library and David Lee King, Stacey O'Neale-Fantasy Book Addict, m-Jennifer Conner-The Literate Housewife.) I went to this talk because I wanted to know how to reach out to more people. Mandy said to "make people love you."  Easier said than done, but she did suggest to bring your personal life to blogging. Jennifer admitted that the more she knows about a blogger the more she appreciates their reviews. They also talked about the power and usefulness of Twitter.  David looks at Twitter as a "big, digital brain" and utilizes it for brainstorming as well as networking. "If you have no readers you have no community." One woman felt that Twitter is not a conversation anymore and wondered where the community was.  I have to disagree with that. I've made some wonderful connections through Twitter and ironically, it was at the very first Book Blogger Convention in 2010 where several other people convinced me to sign up.

Jenny Lawson.
The closing keynote speaker was Jenny Lawson of The Bloggess who wrote Let's Pretend This Never Happened.  She was a very entertaining speaker and she entertained the audience with her trials and tribulations of blogging.  Her advice was to find your voice and then you will find your audence.  She also confessed to her struggle with depression and other issues.  But, she said that "...if you laugh at a giant demon it becomes a smaller monster." I liked this analogy and will try to remember it in the future.

To be honest, last year (2011) I didn't get much out of the Book Blogger Con but I told myself I would try it one more time.  The posts that I have been reading on the blogosphere have a similar complaint, that this year, the Bloggers Conference was not geared toward book bloggers but instead catered to the book industry.  Also, there were  issues with authors pushing their books or not knowing why they were at the breakfast and luncheon, a tense moment in a panel that I did not attend and general confusion about what the keynote speakers had to do with book blogging.  Luckily, I did not have the same experience with the author breakfast/lunch and while I would have liked to have  more specific and practical information pertaining to book blogging, I'm still glad I went.  I would like to go next year because the best part for me, was talking to and meeting my fellow book bloggers.

Everyone has their own very astute experiences and impressions so please check out some of the links below for additional write ups.  I would be very curious to see if the powers that be at BEA take some of these valid complaints seriously enough to implement changes.

The Book Smugglers
Crazy for Books
Fantasy Cafe
Janicu's Book Blog
The King of Elfland's Second Cousin
Sophisticated Dorkiness
There's A Book
The Queen's Quill Review


Unknown said...

Ahh, the pictures make me jealous. I would have loved to attend BEA.

On the other note, I may not have attend but I did see other post like yours. I heard some complaints but overall, everyone had a good time.

fakesteph said...

I loooved BEA Bloggers. I had fun with all the authors. I mean... they are there to try and sell their books, but none of them were pushy. They told us about what they were working on and had a conversation with us. And Jenny Lawson is the BEST. Her blog is one of my favorites! I loved everything she had to say.

Thanks for taking notes in the second panel. I wish I had stayed with you for that one. It sounds like it was great.

David Lee King said...

Hey - thanks for covering the panel session I was in. This was my first BEA/BEA Bloggers/Blogworld set of conferences, and I had a blast. The Book BLoggers thing was pretty cool too - always a good time meeting other bloggers in love with tech and books!

Darkeva said...

Great recap, Midnyte! I'm bummed I couldn't attend, but your coverage was very insightful, and thanks for pointing to other links--I'll definitely check those out too :-) Glad to hear you had a good time!


Kimberly @ Midnight Book Girl said...

It was so great meeting you!

I wished that I would have learned more about blogging but I had a great time mingling with other bloggers so I would definitely go again. That was the best part for me :)

The only author I had push a book on me was not one of the authors that were doing the breakfast/lunch. She was just kind of there. And she was super pushy and uncool about it and its not likely that I'll ever read her book. All the other authors I met were super nice and easy to talk to.

Kate @Midnight Book Girl said...

I loved Will! He was so passionate about his book, and I too loved that he and his mom used the books to have conversations that they needed to have. I also got to sit with Justin, which was awesome.

I was happy with the conference, but I had no other frame of reference, and I got uber lucky with the amazing authors both at breakfast and lunch that I got to chat with. I do know that the morning authors (okay, Marie Lu) did not make it to their scheduled tables. That would have seriously bummed me out, especially since some tables only had two authors visiting anyway.

Midnyte Reader said...

@Savvy-Yes, I agree I think that overall people took away (or tried to take away) a positive experience.

@Steph-I am glad you liked it so much. I feel bad for the people who got a bad taste in their mouth from some of the authors. I feel lucky that the authors I talked to were not like that.

@David-Thanks for stopping by. I appreciated what you had to say at the panel.

@Darkeva-Thank you for the complement. Definitely check out the other links.

@Kim-It was so great meeting you as well. You were so much fun. I'm glad you enjoyed the Bloggers Con.

@Kate-I agree re: Will. The conversation was bittersweet. I'm glad you liked the conference. I think even some first timers were put off, so I'm glad you had more of a positive experience.

Jen | Book Den said...

I would have LOVED to sit with Justin Cronin! I'm looking forward to The Twelve more than any other book this year.

Missie, The Unread Reader said...

WOW! Amazing! Thanks so much for sharing those awesome pictures. I'm so happy you got to go. I hope to make it over there someday.

Karen said...

Thanks for posting a different take on the event. I've mostly read complaints and I can see where everyone is coming from.
We're such a diverse group and fairly new as a community. I hope someone can get it right one of these times so that everyone feels that they are learning something from the experience.
Even so - it seems like you were able to have a good time and take something positive from it.

Midnyte Reader said...

@Jennifer - He was so nice!

@Missie - I hope you get to make it here too!

@Karen - I can absolutely see where everyone is coming from. I am a bit surprised that all this stuff went on (with authors pushing their books, etc.). I did like it more than last year and I probably will go again next year. I hope that the BEA folks take people's criticism and suggestions.

Mandy Boles said...

Thank you for your coverage of BEA Bloggers! I was on the Creating Community and Driving Engagement Panel along w/ David. *looks up and waves at David's comment*

I've enjoyed reading the round ups and getting to hear about the panels I missed out on seeing. I especially enjoyed the pictures in this post. If only I would have taken more pictures!

Mandy Boles said...

Thank you for your coverage of BEA Bloggers! I was on the Creating Community and Driving Engagement Panel along w/ David. *looks up and waves at David's comment*

I've enjoyed reading the round ups and getting to hear about the panels I missed out on seeing. I especially enjoyed the pictures in this post. If only I would have taken more pictures!

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