Book Expo America, 2014

P1030067I’ve been on vacation for a couple of weeks (Paris, London, Bath) because my brother just got married in Paris, and boy do I have a lot of bookish things to talk about the trip, but since there are 1600 pictures I need to wade through to write that post up, I’m going to talk about BEA first.

What BEA is and my experience this year: I’ve talked about Book Expo America (BEA) here in the past, but for those not in the know, it’s a trade show that focuses on books. Since 2009 there has been a Book Bloggers Conference (now called the BEA Blogger’s Conference) affiliated with BEA. If you have a BEA Bloggers badge, you can go to BEA. BEA has been limited to industry professionals, (and in the past few years, to book bloggers as well), but last year they opened up one day to the public with a “Power Readers” day. This year Power Readers got rebranded into BookCon, but more on that later.

Although I signed up for the BEA Blogger’s Conference, I ended up not going. It was on Wednesday and didn’t feel comfortable taking time off mid-week when I’d just taken time off, and I haven’t exactly have had much time to blog either. This is also why I didn’t RSVP to any invitations to publishing parties. In the end, I just went to BEA on Friday and Saturday, and I made up for my time off on Friday by working on Sunday.

I think this year was the year that I was the most laid back about BEA – I didn’t have the same “I can’t sleep” feeling the night before (although jetlag may have had something to do with it), and I only looked at what books would be available the night before. What ended up happening was that my list of books to get was 2 to 4 books per day, so I had a lot of free time to wonder around and just stand in lines for books that sounded interesting and to try to get a few books for other people. The downside of this is that not having a lot of books I specifically wanted made me have more time to wander and more time to get more books (“Well, I have nothing else to do, may as well go to that galley drop…”, “OK, I guess will take that book you are offering me”, “Excuse me, what are you in line for?”)… this was a terrible strategy for keeping books out of my house.

However, because I only went 2 days, I had a lot more energy on the floor this year than previous years, which includes that energy I need to be sociable. I’m practically a mute elsewhere, but I feel safe striking up a conversation at BEA. I met Asma of A Reading Kobocha waiting for a Holly Black signing, Emily of Oktopus Ink while in line for Alex London, Stephanie of Views from the Tesseract in a line for John Scalzi, and Celia of Dragons Den Publishing while waiting for a couple of RWA signings. I also got to see a few old faces – Kate and Alyssa and Mr. Raging Bibliohol, and fellow YAckers Nicole and Sandy. And that’s not including everyone I randomly talked to or shared a cab with or sat next to on the shuttle back to Grand Central. I also got to have dinner with YAcker Heidi because real life overlapped with online life and we have a friend in common who lives in Manhattan (related: we have a system to send books to each other via people we know, aka our book mules).

When I was in London, I felt very American because I could hear myself whenever I said, “It was awesome“, but “awesome” is what I think about talking to book people at BEA. The only downside of enjoying their company is missing their familiar faces when they aren’t there. There were a lot of bloggers that didn’t come to this years BEA that I missed.

Anyway, picture time.

Signings:

Lev Grossman signing The Magician's Land

Lev Grossman signing The Magician’s Land

Holly Black signing The Darkest Part of the ForestHolly Black signing The Darkest Part of the Forest

Seen on the floor:

Crap taxidermy

Crap Taxidermy promo

The Penguin Book Truck

The Penguin Book Truck

Lego Star Wars

Lego Star Wars figures for Star Wars Reads Day III (@ DK Publishing)

Let's Get Lost car

Let’s Get Lost car (@Harlequin)

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Out of Print booth

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Fahrenheit 451 matches (@ Out of Print)

BEA versus BookCon:There seems to be some murmurings about BookCon and how it’s changing BEA online. I like the concept of the public getting to experience BEA, but I did find the crowds really crazy / anxiety inducing. I would go to the BookCon side of the floor only when I had to, and go back to the BEA side when I needed to breathe. Here’s some comparison pictures. I guess that’s all I have to say about it. BEA is on the left, BookCon is on the right.

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The Haul: Finally, these are the books I ended up with.
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Book Expo America Recap, 2013

This past Thursday and Friday I was at the annual Book Expo America held at the Javits Center in New York City. I also attended the BEA Bloggers Conference (formerly the Book Bloggers Conference) on Wednesday. Here’s my (supah long) report of these things.

BEA BLOGGERS CONFERENCE:

bea bloggers icon

BEA Bloggers is a book blogger convention affiliated with BEA. You may or may not recall, but last year I had a horrible time dealing with registration for the BEA Bloggers Con, and after that I was rather disappointed in the conference itself. That was the year the convention was bought by Reed and it felt like the new management didn’t really understand book bloggers and it led to there being a ridiculous amount of promotion to a captive audience amongst other blunders. This was not really what I’d paid money to have to deal with, and from the posts online there were a lot of book bloggers that shared my disappointment. Thankfully Reed Exhibitions seemed to be listening, sent out surveys to book bloggers, and set up a conference advisory board to make this year’s conference better. Even with this, I dragged my feet when it came to registering again this year. I only live a train ride away and I can afford to go (I know I am very lucky to be in my situation), but last year honestly drained me. On top of that I’ve been neglecting book blogging because of my full-time job. I finally decided to go a week before the conference itself, but a lot of bloggers who went last year told me they were skipping the BEA Blogger Con if they were coming to BEA at all.

So with that optimistic preamble, how was it?

I think it was a lot better than last year. This time I had minimal problems registering (I had the page open too long and it didn’t register me when I hit submit, so I had to redo it all. It also hiccuped and sent me back to the main BEA registration page, not back to the BEA Blogger Con registration page), I felt like the con was more about book blogging than it was about promoting things to book bloggers than it was last year, and I also felt like this year I learned something from a couple of the panels that I attended. On top of that there seemed to be more effort to represent the different genres of bloggers in the panels with a YA and adult blog track, genre fiction like Romance and SFF were better represented, there were more book bloggers on panels about book blogging, and it felt like the way the sessions were timed at 45 minutes this year allowed for more sessions and decent breaks between them.

On the other hand, there is still room for improvement. I’m not convinced the keynote speakers fully understood book bloggers (maybe we should do away with the keynote speeches – I’d personally be OK with having the time to talk to people over breakfast/drinks instead), I had some trouble deciding what sessions to attend because all I had was a title and no description, and there were still a few comments by some non-book-blogger speakers that made me pause. Most notable for me were remarks about “being nice”. I’m going to say I think their hearts may have been in the right place but I was wincing internally. Between the opening keynote speaker’s comments on negative reviews and a couple of other offhand comments in other sessions (from mostly non-book blogger panelists) telling bloggers not to post on controversial topics for page views and not to fight with authors on social media, I left the con wondering a little bit about how book bloggers are seen by those who are in the publishing industry. In my mind the comments suggest a disconnect from the book blogger’s perspective. There could be some validity to the speakers’ comments, but reviewers have been targeted for critical reviews that were not attacks on an author, posting on controversial topics is not necessarily a bid for attention, and as for fights over social media–there are always two sides to every story. Maybe I’m feeling defensive of being a book blogger and I’m taking some comments and seeing a pattern where there isn’t one, but this was food for thought for me after BEA. Anyway, putting that aside, I really did feel a lot better about the con compared to last year – but last year set a pretty low bar. If I don’t go next year it would be more about having gotten what I can out of this con rather than anything else. That said, there are bloggers who were more disappointed than I was.

The opening and closing keynotes and the Ethics Panel Luncheon were events that was shared universally by all attendees, but in the morning and afternoon there were sessions where there was a choice between two options. In the morning there was a YA focused track and a non-YA focused track (which they called “adult”) to choose from, .and in the afternoon the sessions were more about general blogging topics.

These were the sessions I attended:

  • Opening Keynote (Will Schwalbe)
  • Adult Editor Insight Panel (other choice: Young Adult Editor Insight Panel)
  • Adult Book Blogging Pros: Successes, Struggles and Insider Secrets (other choice: Young Adult Book Blogging Pros)
  • Ethics Forum Luncheon
  • Blogging Platforms (other choice: Taking Your Online Presence Offline)
  • Extending the Reach of Your Blog Online (other choice: Book Blogging and the “Big” Niches)

(I skipped the Closing Keynote with Randi Zuckerberg)

Opening Keynote: I saw that there was a camera set up but I am unable to find the video online, but I found a nice recap from a fellow blogger here that I thought hit the highlights. The general feeling I came away with was that Schwalbe had a genuine enthusiasm for books and for how reading connects people. He had some poignant things to say about the book club for two he had with his mother after she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and he talked about the different definitions of success in publishing with a story about connecting to one reader at a book signing, but he also said a couple of things that I don’t think he realized were a bit touchy for his audience. This included talking about the affect that “negative reviews” have on authors with advice such as “keep in mind the human beings behind these books”. I wish I could find the video so I could just link to it and ask people to watch and decide how they feel about what he said. Overall it was a nice speech and I thought Schwalbe’s earnestness very likable, but his comments about negative reviews have me mulling days later. OK, let’s move on.

Adult Editor Insight Panel: This turned out to be a buzz panel where each of the editors discussed books they were particularly excited about this year. Joshua Kendall of Mulholland Books talked about two books: The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes (who won the Arther C. Clarke award for her Zoo City), about a time traveling serial killer (“imagine Silence of the Lambs written by Margaret Atwood”), and S, a book by JJ Abrams and Doug Dorst which he says reorients your experience as a reader (he compares it to House of Leaves) and is a book about storytelling. There will be 20 to 22 pieces of ephemera related to S and the first one is a postcard from Brazil (see picture below). Patrick Nielsen Hayden of Tor Books discussed Jo Walton’s What Makes This Book So Great, which is a collection of selected tor.com essays by Walton in which she rereads books and discusses them; Twenty-First Century Science Fiction, a collection of science fiction stories; and The Incrementalists by Steven Brust and Skyler White, a supernatural procedural centered around a society with special powers and a goal to make the world a little bit better a little bit at a time. Mary-Theresa Hussey talked about The Returned by Jason Mott, which is about people who have died returning to their families, and Sarah Beth Durst’s first adult trilogy which begins with The Lost, and is about a small town in the desert where missing things go – this includes the heroine, Lauren. Out of all the books discussed, I was most interested in Sarah Beth Durst’s and Jo Walton’s, so they’re going on my “what to watch for” list.

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Adult Book Blogging Pros: Jim Hines was the moderator here, with bloggers Mandi Schreiner from Smexy Books, Rebecca Joines Schinsky of Bookriot, and Sarah Wendell from Smart Bitches, Trashy Books making up the panel. I was excited by this one because the panel was full of actual bloggers, and two of the blogs were Romance, which I felt was a genre that is hugely popular and strangely underrepresented at this con in previous years. This was a fun session and I thought the panelists had some good advice, notably from Sarah Wendell: “your opinion belongs to you, no one should tell you it’s not valid”.  Also Jim Hines specifically joked about being in front of book bloggers and holding back from pitching his books. I thought this showed awareness for staying on topic and why the audience was there that was refreshing. Another thing I thought was a good takeaway was their discussion on social media and how it didn’t always have to be about books – that just linking to your posts on twitter isn’t enough. They recommended being multidimensional and not being afraid of being vulnerable because people will connect to you (Sarah of Smart Bitches said she just has rules about what she won’t talk about – like the mafia, don’t talk about the job, don’t talk about the family).

Ethics Forum Luncheon: I think a couple of years back there was a rash of posts about FTC disclosures and we’ve had previous sessions on this at BBC, so I wasn’t unfamiliar with the topics at this forum, but this is still a useful panel nonetheless. Jane Litte of Dear Author moderated a discussion with Richard Newman of Hinch Newman LLP and Professor Geanne Rosenberg of Baruch College. First the speakers went over their credentials, then they discussed what the FTC guidelines for bloggers were. Basically you must disclose if you got a free product to review or are compensated in any way. It should be noted that the FTC is more concerned about reviews that are falsely positive in order to sell a product rather than reviews that are not positive. Disclosure should be clear and conspicuous. After this there was some discussion of ethics and conflicts of interest (something that gets in the way of or appears to get in the way of clear, unbiased, independent opinion), and then the floor opened up to questions. I wish I could say I paid more attention, but I’m afraid I zoned out after a while. :\ ETA: I meant to link to this Book Smuggler’s post in which they pointed out some of the problems with this panel which includes calling ARCs “free”.

Blogging Platforms: This might have been one of my favorite panels because the women who were in it (Rachel Rivera of Parajunkee, Evie Seo of Bookish, April Conant of good Books and Good Wine, and Stephanie Leary – a WordPress consultant) went into some more technical detail of the day-to-day differences between some of the more popular blogging platforms (specifically blogger and wordpress were compared, and then the differences between wordpress.com versus wordpress.org were discussed). I have a wordpress.com site because I cannot be bothered to deal with self-hosting, keeping code up-to-date, dealing with security and backing up my blog that is involved with wordpress.org, so this panel cemented my continuing laziness, but may eventually get fed up with some of the plugins I can’t get on the .com end. There was also an interesting discussion of useful-for-book-blogger wordpress.com plugins, including one for star-ratings. Plus I’d always been curious about blogger so it was interesting to have it’s pros and cons laid out even if I’m not really ever going to move there.

Extending the Reach of Your Blog Online: I was seriously waffling over sitting in on this panel until the moderator busted out a laptop and we realized that a powerpoint presentation was happening. It was a long day and I needed some visual aids in my life. The panelists were Mandy Boles of The Well-Read Wife, Malle Vallik of Harlequin (moderator), Eric Smith of Quirk Books, and Robert Mooney of Blogads. Basically this session was about using social media in order to drive traffic to your blog. Mandy Boles started by saying she thinks that the next big thing after twitter and facebook is instagram because it is on its way to having 100 million users within 3 years. She talked about how she uses Instagram, and then moved on Vine, which is like Instagram except users share  6 second long videos. She recommended using the availability of hashtags in both these social platforms to get yourself noticed. [FYI: both of these social apps are geared towards Apple customers, and I am anti-Apple, so for those of you like me: Vine just became available on android this week]. Eric Smith talked about how offline events can produce traffic online – for example he has something called the Geek Awards that has created traffic for his blog. Finally Robert Mooney recommended using Stumbleupon because ‘stumbles’ last a long time, while on twitter you post a link and the effect of bringing in traffic is only a temporary blast. He also recommends Reddit but cautions that you can’t just jump into the Reddit community, you have to be a “good citizen” and “do your research” before you dive in.

BEA: THE HAUL, THE PEOPLE
I attended BEA on Thursday and Friday (I thought about also going Saturday but I was pretty pooped by then). As usual it was pretty crowded and crazy, but this year I think I had a better time dealing with it. It helped that there weren’t that many books that I HAD to have so I wasn’t really rushing around. There were some long lines though – I think I waited up to an hour to get a couple of books signed. I didn’t really go straight to the most crowded areas when BEA first opened it’s doors so maybe I just wasn’t looking at the right time, but to me it didn’t seem like there were as many books out on the floor as before. It might be that there just was less Young Adult and Science Fiction & Fantasy out though because a couple of people told me they thought there were more books this year. I did feel like it was a lot harder to get extra copies of books. I was trying to get certain YA books that other bloggers asked me to look out for, but the publishers were pretty strict about the popular  titles.

Anyway, here’s my haul. I tried, but I have a hard time saying “no thanks” when someone hands me a book. This means there’s a couple of YAs in here that I’m debating if I’ll keep because I don’t really know what they’re about (The Wolf Princess and Catena in case you were wondering). The total is: 19 books, 1 sampler book, 1 novella.

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As usual, seeing blogger friends was the best part, so I was happy I got to spend some time walking around with Stacey (USAToday’s HEA and Heroes and Heartbreakers), and with Heidi (Bunbury In the Stacks). It was brief but I finally met Alyssa of Books Take You Places. I also met Andrew of Raging Biblioholism (he writes lovely reviews, you should all mosey over to his blog and check them out).

I saw a few other bloggers briefly through the days (Ana and Thea, Elizabeth, and Memory), but I wasn’t able to find everyone I knew who was there. I have to say I was really missing a few bloggers that I had connected with at previous BEAs who decided not to come this year – it felt strange not to see some of my fellow YAckers and Kristen of Fantasy Cafe. BEA wasn’t the same without them, but thank goodness for the Internet.

Overall, I was exhausted after three days, but BEA did it’s job in making me feel re-energized about reading and blogging, so this means I’m probably going to be posting more regularly around here and visiting and commenting on other book blogs again. Watch this space. 🙂

My Thoughts on the BEA Bloggers Conference, 2012

[Note: If you aren’t a book blogger, feel free to skip this post. It’s long and probably only interesting to a certain group of people who read my blog]

I have been an attendee at the Book Blogger Convention since the very first one in 2010. My posts on these can be found under the “book blogger convention” tag, otherwise look at:

Usually I’ve enjoyed the Book Blogger Convention (BBC). It’s been an event surrounding book blogging and I’ve meet a lot of bloggers there and had a chance to listen in on panels where different book bloggers discussed a particular topic. Sometimes I don’t agree with something a panelist says, but that’s to be expected. I still felt like I came away with a better understanding of how others blogged about books and felt more rejuvenated about book blogging. It was also a fantastic deal: $90 for the first book blogger con, $120 the next.  This included a pass to the BEA floor for the rest of BEA. The first year registration was with Paypal and the organizers set it up so BEA issued me a pass, the second year I was instructed to sign up directly through the BEA website, where I was identified as Non Editorial/Media when I signed up with the Book Blogger Convention.

This year, I didn’t have the same positive experience.

REGISTRATION HELL
I think my discontent started early, with registration. At the end of January, it was announced that Reed Exhibitions had bought the Book Blogger Convention. This was a surprise to many, and bloggers wondered what it meant to the BBC. I didn’t have any expectations one way or another, but I was soon feeling the repercussions of the buyout. I was on twitter right after the announcement, and another blogger was complaining about issues with understanding how to register. Thinking I’d be helpful, I tried to register myself. I went through the BEA website, through the regular registration, as I had last year. I selected Book Bloggers Convention, and the form said the early bird rate (before May 17th) would be $72 and “This does INCLUDE a BEA pass”. I also said I was Non Editorial Media, which I assumed I should, like last year, on another page during the registration process. Here’s a screenshot I made for part of that:

I was shocked when I got to the payment part of the process and it said I owed $65 for the BBC, and another $159.00 on top of that for being non-editorial/media, for a grand total of $224.00, which is almost twice how much it cost last year. On top of that, why did I have to pay the $159, when the BBC is supposed to include BEA? Other bloggers on twitter informed me they only paid $65 for their registration, but they had registered before the announcement that the BBC was bought. I thought that there had to be a mistake.


So then I located the number for customer service and called them. I explained my issues and wondered why I had to pay for being non-editorial/media on top of the BBC cost, when it said BEA was included. I asked if I should have gone through the press registration (which was on a different part of the website), because apparently that would have been $0 on top of the BBC cost. The woman I spoke to wanted to know how big my blog was – how much traffic did I get? I told her it shouldn’t matter because I was still a book blogger and last year, my traffic wasn’t an issue to getting into a conference about book blogging access to the floor was included in the price. I also told her: book bloggers are people who post their opinions on the Internet. They will not be happy if BEA was saying a big blogger got to pay less for an event and a small blogger had to pay more. She said she would talk to someone, took my number and promised to call back before the end of the day. She never called. This was Friday, and customer service was only available during working hours, so I got to stew all weekend before I could contact another representative. I also loved how I had to call while I was at work myself.

Also notable: I had to point out another huge error in their registration pages – the BEA website said the Children’s Breakfast was on Wednesday, the registration had it listed on Thursday. They fixed this quickly, but as for my registration? It took me almost 2 weeks and several phone calls and emails to Reed. As I said, this was during my work hours, and it did impact my mood and productivity to be calling BEA or waiting for them to call me back. In the end, there was so much confusion that they had to make an announcement on their BEA news blog. The price would be $135 for book bloggers, and this would cover the BEA pass. But since when I had tried to register the price was wrong, and that since I saw the price as $72, that’s what they would charge me. I had to jump through an extra hoop, filling out a form and faxing it to them (I ended up emailing them a PDF because who has a fax?) in order to get this price. I know I could have argued for $65 since I saw that too, but I was tired. I honestly debated just paying the $135 everyone else seemed to be, but after all the grief I had gone through and images of my mother smacking me for not knowing the value of money, I took the discount. At this point, I considered writing up a post on how to register for the BBC (at that point rebranded as “BEA Bloggers Conference”), but I thought BEA had fixed most of their issues and I didn’t want to revisit the whole thing because it just annoyed me thinking about it. I had people tell me that they saw the issues I was going through (I was ranting on twitter for some of it) and it made them wait till Reed had their registration straightened out.

STRANGE PHONE CALLS, ASKING FOR STATS, and the UNCON
On March 20th I got a voicemail message on my home phone. It was from a PR representative asking me to blog about a religious/spiritual book. I was shocked that anyone had my home phone number to market a book. The only place I could think of that I gave my number to in relation to book blogging was BEA, but in the past I’ve only gotten junk email because of signing up. I wasn’t sure it was BEA who passed along my phone number, and when I asked on twitter if anyone else had this experience, no one replied that they had. I was half-tempted to call the PR firm back to ask where they got my number, but didn’t. I saw a post somewhere where BEA denied they gave out bloggers numbers, so I didn’t pursue it. Last month I heard more that more bloggers were getting calls, and they were told the PR firm got their number from BEA. I went to look for the post I thought I saw, I couldn’t find it. I pointed a fellow book blogger at an opt-out I saw on the BEA form I filled out. I still don’t know what to think about the phone call I got and if BEA really handed out book bloggers contact information to PR firms.

Around the same time this was going on, there was a little brouhaha because bloggers who had registered for the BEA Blogger Con got an email asking them to fill out a form for the attendees list, which also asked about their stats. I think Jessica of Read, React, Review gives a great overview of the reaction to that and the general discontent. Again, I thought there was a post in response to this issue from BEA (it may be the same one that mentions the phone calls), but I can’t find it. If anyone can confirm this, please let me know.

From the comments on twitter in March and April I saw a lot of people were having issues with registering. People who had registered as press were being rejected 2 months after they had applied. These included big name blogs. The very first BEA I went to in 2009, I went as press and had no problems whatsoever. I wasn’t asked about stats and got into BEA for free. Of course I have no problem paying for BEA and the Book Blogger Con, and I have for the past 2 years — as long as I was paying a reasonable price. I don’t like the idea of different prices for different people just because you were lucky enough to register before the announcement that the BBC was bought, or that you have a blog with some number of hits that the organizers thought was an acceptable number.

Because of my experience, I was considering the Book Blog UnCon when I found out about it. An “uncon” to my understanding is a convention where there is a free-flowing structure and attendees create the panels. This appealed to me, but after all the trouble getting registered for the BEA Blogger Con, the thought of calling Reed’s customer service again to cancel my registration made me recoil. I decided to try to forget what I’d been through and just see how the official BEA Blogger Convention was.

THE BEA BLOGGER CON ITSELF

Arrival and Breakfast
I arrived a couple minutes after 8:45am because I went to the wrong wing at first. When I arrived there were goodie bags and some books for the taking. I believe the books in the bag were by the authors who were at the author networking breakfast and lunch. This is what I got:

The breakfast was continental (muffins and bagels and some fruit). I looked at the networking list for breakfast and saw no authors from the genres I usually blog about. The closest thing was Dystopian, but I felt that YA bloggers would rather have those tables than me. They didn’t distribute the authors very well either.  Few tables had 4 authors (see table 9), some had 3, and these were grabbed early. Many tables had just 2. When I got there, I realized that there were probably over 30 tables and there were only 24 tables in the list, so many tables didn’t have authors at all. Thankfully, I was enthusiastic about meeting William Joyce because I had watched and loved his short film, The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, and it just won the Oscar for Short Film (animated) this year, so I ended up sitting at a table that he would be visiting and thoroughly enjoyed meeting him, despite the short visit. I also liked the other author who stopped by, Lee Woodruff. Even though her book sounded like it is a heart-wrencher, I appreciated hearing her thoughts about why she herself enjoys reading that type of story, even during hard times.

Also thankfully: I did manage to sit with bloggers I know (Angie and Holly), and their company saved a lot of the day for me. Holly is a blogger I talk to a lot online, but never met, I also was able to meet Jane from Dear Author, Jessica from Read, React, Review, and Elizabeth from Gossamer Obsessions for the first time, and I saw Ana and Thea from the Book Smugglers, Charlotte from Charlotte’s Library, Kate from Babbling about Books, and More, and Kristen from Fantasy Cafe. I met a few other new faces at our tables and would have liked more time just meeting other book bloggers, but this was difficult to do during the author networking.

Opening Keynote:
I think the best thing would be to have the video of Jennifer Weiner’s keynote and her Q&A here:

The text of Jennifer Weiner’s speech can be found here.

Blogging Today: What you need to know and what’s next
This was a panel moderated by Zoë Triska, Associate Books Editor of the Huffington Post. Speakers were: Erica Barmash, Senior Marketing Manager at Harper Perennial and Harper paperbacks, Patrick Brown, Community Manager of Goodreads, Jen Lancaster, author/blogger of jennsylvania.com, and Candace Levy of Beth Fish Reads.

Only one of these speakers (Candace Levy) is a book blogger, which I thought was odd. This proved to be a foreshadowing of things to come. Here’s a good set of notes about the questions and the main points taken from the answers the panel gave. My overall impression of this panel was that it didn’t feel very specific. “What you need to know” is subjective. Overall it felt like a meandering discussion that sort of had to do with what other people who weren’t necessarily book bloggers, but have blogs, thought of book blogging. I tensed a little when one of the panelists called review copies “free books” — please, can we stop calling them FREE?  The moment of the conference was when one of the panelist said that she would not want to work with a known plagiarist. I came away from this one most impressed by Patrick Brown of Goodreads, who had some of the most interesting comments (for example – advice to book bloggers to not alienate readers of their blog who aren’t book bloggers, his experience with Facebook is that people there love infographics, and Goodreads’ policy is not to allow reviews that have been paid for).

Lunch:
Lunch was another networking affair, and unfortunately we were unable to get any of the tables we wanted to sit at (here’s the list of options). The table we ended up with was one with 2 authors coming by, and one didn’t show. One was a non-fiction author (WordPress for Dummies was the book) and one was a fantasy/genre fiction author (Larry Correia) I appreciated the latter because at least he writes in a genre I read, and he actually showed up, but the rest of the lunch was awkward wait until his arrival. There was a strange mix at the table and I didn’t relate to the people there to learn about wordpress that weren’t book bloggers. I wondered if people had wandered in from the Blogworld conference because it was in the same area as the BEA Bloggers Conference.

Afternoon Breakouts
At this point we finally moved out of the room we were in and had the choice of 2 panels from 1:45 to 2:45, and then again from 3:00pm to 4:00pm

From 1:45 to 2:45 I had the choice of Critical Reviews or So You Want to Make Money? — Other than being an affiliate, I have no plans to monetize my blog, but I was curious about the money panel, so I went to that one. The moderator was Scott Fox of ClickMillionares.com, and speakers were Rita Arens, senior editor of BlogHer, Ron Hogan of Beatrice.com, Thea James, co-founder of The Book Smugglers, and Sara Pitre, blogger at Forever Young Adult. Again, the moderator was not a book blogger, and took the opportunity to promote his book (questions would be rewarded with a copy). They started off with why they monetized their blogs. Rita Arens made a good point about wanting to see more people in book blogging think about being paid for their time. Most of the panelists use Blogads, no one used Google Adsense. This had to do with being able to customize the advertising on their blogs. Thea told people to sweat the small stuff: investigate what was out there, look at your blog and choose a theme that has room for standard ads, consider the number of ads you want .  I sort of got the impression that it is difficult to make a lot more than “ramen money” (covers just the cost of running the website with a little bit more for ramen) with book blogging. When question time came by, the first to the come up was a website owner, and non-book blogger which made me again wonder if we had BlogWorld attendees wandering in. The second was another author who took a moment to self promote. I forget what her question was.

From 3:00 to 4:00 the choices were Creating Community & Driving Engagement, and Demystifying the Book Blogger & Publisher Relationship. I chose the latter. The moderator was Derek Stordahl, Global Publishing Expert and Blogger, Jenn Lawrence, blogger at Jennsbookshelves.com, Lucille Rettino, Vice President, Director of Marketing at Simon & Schuster, and Lindsey Rudnickas of NetGalley. I don’t know whether it was the length of the day or if it was because there was a panel like this in previous years, but I found myself not really paying much attention to this panel, so I sort of missed it when a panelist said that a “mature” blogger had to do more than review – they had to do other promotion on top of that, like covers and Q&As. But I did catch it on twitter since my tweetstream sort of came alive for a minute there. I did get the impression, like The Book Smugglers commented in their write up, that this panel was a what can book bloggers do for publishing — and maybe this was because there was just ONE book blogger on the panel to represent the group.

I skipped the closing keynote. I just didn’t want to hear another promotion.

OVERALL THOUGHTS:
My mood shifted throughout the day. It went from cautious optimism to general disappointment.

I was OK with the author breakfast even though only 2 authors came by, and it was them promoting their book because they only had so much time with us. I was OK with Jennifer Weiner’s speech, even though she did seem to be self-promoting a lot in it. By lunch I began to feel a bit more awkward because there was more promotion. At the breakout panels, when the moderators promoted their to-be-released book and there were at most 2 bloggers in a 4 person panel (and the usual number was 1 blogger per panel), I started to get tired. When people would go up to ask “questions” and then hijacked the conversation to promote their book, it grated on my nerves.

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.

There is talk amongst the book bloggers about sending Reed constructive ideas for making the event better next year. I am always optimistic, and this is Reed’s first try, so I hope the event will improve. But next time, I am waiting a bit before I register. I’m going to have to see what they have planned before I come back to this conference.

Next I’ll post about BEA itself, which I had a much more positive reaction to.