The Book Blogger Convention, 2011

This year’s Book Blogger Convention was bigger than the last. I heard that last year there were under 200 people there and this year the number was more like 400. Which isn’t bad for the second year! Also great is that year 2 felt better than the last, particularly with the schedule. Last year there were no choices of panels and we sat in the same room listening to panels one after another. This year there was a choice of panels after Breakfast and the Keynote Speaker (Sarah Wendell from Smart Bitches, Trashy Books). They also decided to do a “build your own swag bag” this year instead of giving all attendees a bag full of books and stuff that many people didn’t want.  Both these things were welcome changes in my mind, so kudos to the convention organizers for making those thoughtful changes.

I’m going to go over the panels that I attended and give a short overview of my impressions. This year I’ve been struggling a little bit with blog/work/life balance so what I wanted to take from the BBC was some perspectives on that, but I feel that this was my personal goal and that there’s enough at the Book Blogger Convention that there was something for everyone.

(Descriptions are copied from the convention schedule)

Practical Challenges of Blogging (10:00 – Noon) – Not managing  your time well? Do you want to get better about blog/life balance, multitasking, managing your TBR, and a host of other real world and life impacting topics? This panel will help you become a better blog manager. Panel: Meg [Write Meg] – moderator, Jennifer [Jenn’s Bookshelves], Raych [Books I Done Read], Kristen [Fantasy Cafe], Lenore [Presenting Lenore]

What was nice about these panels was that there were often different approaches to the same thing. One of the first things they discussed was time management and their particular methods. Jenn from Jenn’s Bookshelves talked about waking early and using several spreadsheets to give herself time to work on her blog and to keep herself organized. Other panelists were not so organized. What they seemed to agree on was that sometimes there are things in life with a higher priority than blogging. Sometimes it’s possible to do things ahead of time to cover your blog while you deal with Real Life, but other times it’s either kill yourself trying to make the self-imposed blogging commitment, or let it go. Lenore from Presenting Lenore described her Dystopian YA feature and how last summer it coincided with a busy time at work, and this spring she didn’t do it because she only had so much free time and she has a book coming out.

Another interesting thing that they covered was answering comments. Most said that when they started they answered every comment, but as their blogs grew they couldn’t always catch up. Raych said she saw a “rule” that bloggers should always answer every comment and then visit the other blogger’s blog and comment there and she “laughed and laughed”. They agreed this is a good idea when new and it’s also a good idea to visit people who visit you and occasionally comment, but to do so every time they comment can be too much. The “rule” makes sense in terms of building blogger relationships, but it is possible to over-extend yourself trying to keep up if you have a lot of comments.

They also covered negative comments. There seemed to be a range of things people did. One panelist said she deletes comments that are personal attacks. A few of them turn off comments after a certain point. One person said they were away from their blog so missed the brouhaha there, which turned out to be a good thing because it was over by the time they got back. Generally they said to try to step back rather than joining the fray because jumping in can just fuel the fire. And not to be “that guy” who has to be involved whenever something controversial happens.

There was a question from the audience regarding book tours. A few panelists didn’t do them because they felt like their review may not be seen when there’s a day or week when everyone is reviewing a book. Those who do do them prefer getting original content (one example of a successful tour was the Mockingjay one), but interviewing an author is not so tempting because it takes a lot of time to come up with original questions to ask the author. Lenore says she typically takes 4 hours to come up with interview questions. One panelist said if she does a book tour she asks to be the first stop so that she can stand out a bit more before everyone else starts posting about the same book.

Navigating the Grey Areas of Book Blogging (1:00-3:00) – Professionalism, ethics, netiquette and managing expectations are all topics of conversation that these panelists will speak to and discuss as part of this session. Panel: Heather [Age 30 + A Lifetime of Books] – moderator, Bethanne [The Book Studio], Kathleen [A Bookish Broad], Candace [Beth Fish Reads], Pam [Mother Reader], Amy [Amy Reads]

What I liked about this panel was how clear the moderator was from the get-go that what they’d be discussing was what worked for them, but were not rules that everyone HAD to follow. (I always feel like this should be obvious, but there’s always someone in the audience who feels annoyed because they disagree with what the panelists are saying. ALWAYYYYS!!!)

Some interesting topics they covered:

Professionalism – they were using this word in terms of conducting yourself professionally rather than as professionalism being a paid reviewer (versus a hobbyist – although they also said some people would object to it being called a hobby too).

Negative reviews – most people in the panel did post negative reviews, but felt that it’s up to the blogger if they only want to post about books they liked, but if you promised to review something for a publicist/reviewer, you should review it, although if you want (not necessary) you could contact them and say you didn’t like the book and see if they still want you to post it. The panelists said that negative reviews can sell a book too because what you didn’t like could be exactly what someone else does like.

Answering emails – I think this was because of a question from a publicist about what’s a good email subject line (the bloggers said a tailored email – I noticed you liked X so I think you’ll like Y, with the right NAME, not “Dear Blogger” or “Dear ,” is best). Most panelists don’t answer every email requesting for a book. If they haven’t answered, they don’t want it. One of the panelists answers every email except the ones that address her as “Mr …” (I do this too – I especially don’t reply to an email pitching me a book which is clearly in my review policy as not a genre I read. Like non-fiction? Self-help? Really?)

Revealing relationships – Most panelists felt that they should reveal if they got a book from a publisher/author. Some said if a blogger had a relationship with the author, like they met them etc, but not to make a big deal about it: “I met so-and-so at BEA and was so excited to read this book” or “I follow this author on twitter and..”  – I think this depends on how much you “know” the author.

Affliate links – One of the bloggers said that she thinks that the FCC guideline is that people need to put that they are an affiliate in every post, not just on a sidebar/somewhere in their blog. The FCC isn’t after book bloggers but she said this was the rule they came up with as she understood it after meeting with the FCC. (I personally find this annoying! Every post? I plan to look into this more)

Advertising – most of the panelists did not have advertisements in their blog but didn’t see anything wrong with it (they do advertise in terms of being affiliates).

Blogging for a Niche Market (3:00- 5:00) – Not every book or blog is the same. Spend some time learning about how each genre may or may not differ from each other. Network with your colleagues and learn more about how to blog within your particular niche and others. Panels: Florinda [The Three R’s Blog] – moderator, Amy [Passages to the Past] – Historical Fiction, Jen {Jen’s Book Thoughts] – Mystery/Crime Fiction, Jill [Rhapsody in Books] – Non Fiction, Rebecca [Rebecca Reads] – classics, Tanya [Dog Eared Copy] – Audiobooks, Cass [Bonjour Cass] – GLBTQ, Jennifer [Reading Rants] – Kidlit/Librarianship, Katie [Babbling About Books & More] – Romance, Sarah, Erin & Jenny [Forever Young Adult] – YA, Thea [The Book Smugglers] – Sci Fi/Fantasy

This panel was done a little differently. First the bloggers introduced themselves and their niches, and answered a couple of questions (how they were drawn to this niche, what did they do, if anything to reach readers outside this niche), then they came down to sit with the audience at different tables and did informal Q&A sessions with them. I think I got the least out of this unfortunately. I felt like the tables were too big and there were just 3 people out of 10-12 really talking (maybe that was just the table I was at), and not everyone had a chance to enter the conversation. I liked that they did something different though – maybe next time, smaller tables, better organization (like every 15 min make people switch tables), maybe a moderator for each table with a list of topics.

7 thoughts on “The Book Blogger Convention, 2011

  1. Thanks for summarizing the points from these panels. It sounds like there were some good discussions, especially in the Practical Challenges and Grey Areas panels.
    Those topics about handling author pitches, negative reviews and comments, and affiliate links are all of interest to me. Now I don’t feel like I missed out!

    • I hope it was helpful! Yes, the panels were like 2 hours long so there was a lot of discussion, and I just wrote about what I recalled being interesting to me.

      I think what I liked hearing the most – the most helpful nugget, was that what you find important is subjective and it’s up to you to set your goals and then do what YOU find right to get to that goal. I think it helped me in terms of not beating myself up if I can’t blog and it also is nice to be reminded it serves no use to compare yourself to someone else because people have different goals.

  2. Yes! I agree completely that I loved it when the panel on Professionalism said right up front that they were discussing what worked for them. Everyone has different goals and a lot of the speakers acknowledged that.

    I don’t think it’s actually necessary to put you are an affiliate in every single post. At least that’s what my husband told me, and he tends to keep up with that sort of information. He said that you should put where you got the book, but that you do not have to put if you are an affiliate. I should ask him for more details. This was when we had dinner at 11 PM after I got home so I didn’t really ask that much more about it.

    I agree the setup of the third panel made it difficult, but I think that may have also been because it was the end of the day and people were running out of steam. At least I was struggling with not collapsing into a tired heap at that point.

    • I’m having a hard time trying the figure out the affiliate thing. I’ve been googling and it seems like the newer posts talk about affiliate marketers should say “Disclosure: Compensated Affiliate” where the links are (so in the actual post if you link in a post)? On the other hand I actually don’t see this on the actual FTC website anywhere, and then they talk about what should be obvious to blog readers (you would think that amazon links in a book blog = probably an affiliate, right? Am I just thinking too highly of people?). And I’m also wondering if it matters that when I have my buy links, I link to more than just Amazon.. The whole thing is confusing.

  3. Thanks for summing up the points that were discussed! I would have loved to attend these panels but I had a great time with ArmchairBEA. I think that the same thing was emphasized throughout that week: it’s up to us what we want to do with our blogs and we shouldn’t feel pressured to post when we don’t have time to read or review.

    • Armchair BEA seems like a lot of fun too. I think either in person or online, doing these things helps rev you up a little for your blog, right? It feels good to interact with other bloggers.

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

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