The Book Blogger Convention, Part 1

Aha, I bet you thought I was done talking about BEA and the Book Blogger Convention didn’t you? Well I took a bunch of notes on the panels for the Book Blogger Convention and laziness prevented me posting about it sooner. I do want to use these notes though because it used a lot of my phone battery to take them and it almost didn’t last the night (making me concerned that I’d have to call my ride from the train station via payphone). So in honor of that phone battery that could, here we go.

By now there have been a couple of good wrap-ups of the BBC in my google reader, so I will point you to them as well:

  • Fantasy Cafe – did a very good overview which summarized the BBC panels and highlighted interesting points the panels made.
  • The Book Smugglers – A detailed breakdown of the panels at BBC plus commentary on each.

This is part 1 of 2 parts (I wrote up a post that was ridiculously long).

Overview
So what is the Book Blogger Convention? It’s pretty much what the name suggests – a convention for book bloggers. A few bloggers got together and decided to have a small convention close to the same time as BEA (probably knowing a lot of bloggers would be at BEA anyway). At first the convention had an upper limit to number of participants, but after the BEA organizers learned about it they offered space at the Javits Center (along with tickets to BEA for the bloggers). Now it’s affiliated with BEA. The website says that it’s goal is “to provide support, instruction, and social time for people who blog about books”.

I was pretty impressed by the Book Blogger Convention. For a convention in it’s first year, there was a big turn out. Lots of publishers and PR and authors knew about it and showed up the day before for a meet-and-greet. And the organization that probably went into the food, the goodie bags, bringing in the speakers, and the websites (both the main one and an online auction site) was staggering. It’s amazing what a handful of bloggers managed to do.

The Book Blogger Convention was a one day event (Friday, May 28th) which was simply laid out as a series of panels related to book blogging:

1) Keynote speaker (9:00-10:30)
Maureen Johnson started it all off as the keynote speaker. She was hilarious. I had heard her name before as I think she’s a pretty well-known young adult author and I’ve been meaning to read Suite Scarlett. After a speech which had me laughing so hard I could have cried at one point (and that’s not easy), I was really glad that Suite Scarlett audiobooks were part of our BBC goodie bags. She talked about becoming a writer, New York City, social media (likes twitter, hates facebook – I concur), book bloggers and more. It was 90 minutes long, but I was entertained the whole time.

2) Professionalism and Ethics in Blogging (10:45-11:45)
Ron Hogan of Beatrice.com was the speaker for this session. His presentation is available online here.

He said that bloggers should not let journalistic ethics be imposed upon them. The situations are different, and what may apply to journalism may not apply to blogging. He discussed how ethics are more about questions you’re asking rather than set of principles, and that you have to establishing rules of thumb by talking to people and seeing the situation. From his site he summarizes it thus: “just as I argued that bloggers shouldn’t be judged by somebody else’s standard of professionalism, they shouldn’t be compelled to accept somebody else’s code of ethics in order to be deemed trustworthy. I’m not a big fan of declaring adherence to a code of ethics as a shortcut to credibility”.

The example he presented for that was last years brouhaha about the FCC guidelines. Newspapers don’t have to say where they got their books from, and now the FCC doesn’t say bloggers need to say where they’re from. Some people still reveal where they got a book. Some don’t. In Hogan’s opinion, if you don’t say where a book is from, it doesn’t mean you’re secretive. It’s just not an important part of the conversation to you. It is not a hard and fast rule.

There was a brief question/answer session. Books on the Nightstand commented that people should get away from the words “free books” in terms of review copies that are sent to bloggers. They are not free when bloggers spend so much time and effort reading and reviewing the books. This was a good point. Another interesting point was a publisher who said that they were happy when bloggers couldn’t review something and gave them away to someone who would read it. I think the thought is that it’s going into the hands of someone who would appreciate it, not to say that they were OK if a blogger *never* reviewed a book they received.

I thought it was an interesting session. I’m not sure I agree completely that there are never hard and fast rules, but it gave me something to think about. To be honest, this was one of the sessions where the title itself made me think, “This could go badly.” I mean, book bloggers write reviews. Reviewers are opinionated. Telling people who have opinions about doing things professionally and ethically may not go over well. I also think that things can get misinterpreted online. I wasn’t surprised to see people criticizing some of his points, but I think putting video and audio online cut down on secondhand misunderstanding at least.

[Lunch]

3) Writing and Building Content (1:00-1:50)
This was a panel with Amanda [The Zen Leaf], Kim [Sophisticated Dorkiness], Betsy [A Fuse #8 Production], and Christina [Stacked], moderated by Rebecca [The Book Lady’s Blog].

This was a panel regarding coming up with interesting ideas for blog posts. I think I enjoyed this one just because it was like peeping into a window and seeing how other people work on their blogs.  They suggested a lot of different things to kick start your creativity but they all agreed that a blogger’s voice is unique and although it’s the usual first date cliche, people should “Be themselves”. Each person brings own expertise from their lives,  jobs, and experience. They also commented that your voice changes as you evolve. Just don’t try to be something you aren’t because if you force it, it will show in the writing.

They suggested that for new bloggers, memes are a good way to get your name out there and meet new people, but once people get to your blog, they need a reason to stay. One suggestion is to have series (one example was a series on bees, another was a series of 5 books that fit a particular topic), which is a way to keep readers interested in a topic, and pull them into your blog. One blogger in the panel says she has a series where she compares Harry Potter in hardcover to paperback and the UK versions and lists each minute difference.

No idea what to write? They suggested having a go-to type of post for these situations (examples were posting about chatting with their husband at bedtime, and a saved file with future releases to post about). A couple of the panelists said they had posts scheduled weeks out or were usually 3 weeks ahead in reviews (Uh… making me feel inferior), so they work on the timing when they’re not able to blog. Another suggestion is if you’re reading a long book, to break it down into many posts instead of just one.

All of these bloggers wrote long posts and most agreed they wrote down their thoughts on a book in a notebook as they read to help them with reviews later (I tried this last year by the way… I stopped because it takes too long. I’m more of a write what I remember reviewer).

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One thought on “The Book Blogger Convention, Part 1

  1. Pingback: My Thoughts on the BEA Bloggers Conference, 2012 | Janicu's Book Blog

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