Yesterday I got up early and took a train into NYC to attend, for the first time, the BEA Book Blogger Conference. I had been to Book Expo America in the past, even speaking on a panel of book bloggers in 2009, but had not attended the Book Blogger Conference. The last two years, the conference was run by two bloggers, Michelle at Galleysmith and Trish at Hey Lady! Whatcha Reading?. This year the conference was purchased by BEA and no longer run by bloggers but run as a concurrent event to BEA. Since I only had one day to go into the city this year, I thought it would be fun to check out the blogger conference and skip the (sometimes chaotic) trade floor. I’m going to break this post down in two parts, my personal thoughts about the conference, shall we say the Good and the Not So Good. First, I’ll start with what I felt were the parts in which the BEA Book Blogger Conference excelled.
The BEA Book Blogger Conference had two strong points and probably these would be considered two of the more important parts of any conference experience.
First, I think they kicked off with a pretty strong speaker, author Jennifer Weiner, who was there to speak to the crowd about blogging as an author and how social media has opened up a whole new world for authors to interact with readers. She has posted her entire speech on her blog if you are interested to see what she said. I found Jennifer to engage well with the audience and enjoyed listening to her speak.
Secondly, the sessions I attended were interesting. We started off listening to the panelists on Blogging Today: What you need to know and what’s next, which included blogger Candace of Beth Fish Reads, Erica Barmash of Harper Perennial and Harper paperbacks, Patrick Brown of Goodreads and author/blogger Jen Lancaster. Not surprisingly, the topic of plagiarism in the blogging world was brought up during the panel and as you can well imagine, people have very strong feelings about this topic. The panelists also discussed social media and the impact Facebook (and especially Twitter) have had on the book blogging world.
I also very much enjoyed the panel Demystifying the Book Blogger and Publisher Relationship moderated by Derek Stordahl, a Global Publishing Expert & Blogger and including blogger Jenn Lawrence
of Jenn’s Bookshelves, Lucille Rettino of Simon & Schuster and Lindsey Rudnickas of NetGalley. The panelists spoke mostly about how to develop relationships between book bloggers and publishers. There was also some discussion as to which was more important, page views and stats or number of comments on a book blog (which I still think is up for debate) and what information bloggers need to convey to Netgalley and publishers when requesting an ARC (mainly blog stats and how many Twitter and Facebook followers a book blogger has). It was a very informative sessions and probably the best part of my experience at the conference.
THE NOT SO GOOD
There was some interaction with bloggers and authors during the conference at breakfast and lunch, but as far as I could tell this did not run as smoothly as the organizers might have hoped. Maybe it’s just that I didn’t get so lucky when picking my table for breakfast (although sitting next to Cat and Karenwas great!) but while other tables had a rotation of four authors (spending a few minutes at each table) we only had two authors show up to speak with us. The same happened at lunch. Personally (and here I speak with some experience at event planning, having worked at a large international real estate franchising company for many years and having had to plan and execute many conferences during my career) I think that maybe having the authors at tables along the perimeter of the room, similar to an author signing at BEA, where you could pick the author you were most interested in interacting with and wait to talk to them may have worked better. I know that the author visits were to coincide with the time we spent eating, but I could have interacted with the authors I really wanted to see if it was set up in a different way. Also, I don’t think that any of the authors were giving out ARCs of their books (and I know that they will be doing so at BEA) but since we are all book bloggers and reviewers, maybe having some of the more popular authors sign their upcoming books would have helped ultimately promote those same books and authors.
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.
In the end, if you are attending your first BEA and need a good jumping off point, the Book Blogger Conference would most likely be worth the money. Also, if you are fairly new to blogging, I think that you can learn some very interesting information from future panels. It is also a good place to meet some of the bloggers you’ve been following (and make friends who you may just be walking around with on the trade floor). If you are a more established book blogger (or have attended BEA in the past) then I’m not sure if it would really be worth your time and money to attend. Did you go to the conference? If so, what did you think? Did I hit the nail on the head or am I far off the mark?