Saturday, June 4, 2011

KB's Adventures at BEA 2011: Book Blogger Conference

Just one of the strange things you find on the streets of NYC at 7am. A broken down table left in the middle of the sidewalk.
The second annual Book Blogger Con was the end of an incredible week at BEA. Things started very early for me. I was up at 5:30am so I could be back at the convention center for 7am where breakfast was held. This year around 400 people attended BBC, more than double from last year's BBC. There were many familiar faces and we sat at tables, enjoying the breakfast spread provided. (Lunch had a nice selection of sandwiches, salad and cookies and sodas) There was fruit, pastries bagels and most importantly coffee. I couldn't function without at least 3 cups because I was seriously dragging from lack of sleep this week.

My tasty BBC breakfast. Yum!

After breakfast, Sarah Wendell, who runs Smart Bitches, Trashy Books gave the keynote speech. Sarah's speech was great. Two things I took away from it was what makes a blogger successful? It all comes down to personal success. You set out the path you'd like to take and run with it. Dont' define your successes by the others around you. And stop with the competition and being territorial. It's all about building a community together.

Also, Sarah raised a good point about book sales. The music industry keeps tabs on record sales through the years, and not just the first week or month an album is out. If an album sells 500,000 copies, that album reaches Gold Status. If an album sells 1 million copies, they're given Platinum. If an album sells 10 million copies, that are given Diamond status. Why can't the same rules apply for books sales? Publishers are so concerned about first week sales that they don't take into consideration the span of a book over the years. Shouldn't book sales be treated like song and album sales? Sometimes a book doesn't sell well in the first week of it's release, or maybe not even months or a year down the line. But the life span of a book that continues to sell for years, even decades, isn't well documented. This should change. Why not give awards for a book that has sold thousands or millions of copies, even if it takes a few decades to get there?

After the keynote speech there were two, 2 hour workshops people could attend. I went to the Ask a Publisher or Publicist panel.

The first hour's panel:
Jennifer Hart [Harper Collins] – moderator
* Lydia Hirt [Penguin Group USA]
* Kelly Leonard [Hachette Book Group]
* Lucille Rettino [Simon & Schuster]
* Allison Verost [Harper Teen]
* Ksenia Winnicki [Macmillan]

The second hour's panel:
Wiley Saichek [Authors on the Web] – moderator
* Chelsy Hall [Big Honcho Media]
* Lisa Roe [Online Publicist]
* Michael Reynolds [Europa Editions]
* Julie Schoerke [JKS Communications]
* Libby Jordan [Unbridled Books]

This was a very informative workshop, although toward the end I was fading because it was a 2 hour block. Publishers, especially publicists adore book bloggers. Their big thing to do is blog tours. They love it when bloggers send them review, both positive and negative. And they like to read reviews for older books. They want you to contact them about a book you want to review and prefer not to do mass mailings of books. They are open to questions and if you're going to contact a publicist about a book you're interested in reviewing, please be cordial and friendly in your emails.

One question asked was how important is the popularity of a blog. Do publicists care if a blog has low traffic? The consensus from the panel is they don't necessarily care how much traffic a blog may have. It's all about how a blog is set up and they way a blogger writes their posts and reviews. They're looking for content and the way a blogger presents themselves. So, if you think you're blog is too small, throw that thought away. Traffic number doesn't define a blogger.

Small press publishers and independent publicists hired by authors and other publishers must work harder than the big publishers to get bloggers to review their author's books or to take part in blog tours. These groups are working overtime to catch bloggers' attentions and are trying not to get lost in the shuffle. If you're a blogger interested in finding new authors or taking part of some sort of tour or promotion, get in touch with the independent publicists because they will bend over backward to work with you.

Because it's becoming more difficult for books to get reviews and money toward author promotion has been cut back drastically, publishers are starting to rely on blogger (perhaps too much) to get the word out about books and their authors. I also feel bloggers are stressing themselves out, trying to stay on top so they don't get lost among the blogs who are keeping tabs on the publishing industry. For some, blogging isn't just a hobby, but has become a job with no pay, other than free books or the respect from their peers and industry professionals. In the coming years, publishers are going to court bloggers much more. I see it even now. The review requests from all sides from big name publishers, to independent publishers, to self-published authors, digital epublishers and so forth has increased drastically. The next five years or so should be very interesting, including which blogs become the go-to ones, the models other bloggers will follow.

The it was off to lunch. I was pleased to have finally met Kristi from The Story Siren. We were standing in line for food and I looked behind and there she was. I went up to her and said I was a fan of her blog. I wasn't sure if she knew me or my blog. Kristi did and is a big fan of my WTFckery posts. (WTF for the win!)

After lunch was another two workshops to choose from. I went to Navigating the Grey Areas of Book Blogging.

Heather Johnson [Age 30+ A Lifetime of Books] – moderator
* Bethanne Patrick [The Book Studio]
* Kathleen Schmidt [A Bookish Broad]
* Candace Levy [Beth Fish Reads]
* Pam Coughlan [Mother Reader]
* Amy McKie [Amy Reads]

This panel talked about everything from how to handle negative reviews, rude comments left on their blogs and when to reply to review requests. Again, there are no set rules to blogging. The belief is you do what you want. And there IS NO OBLIGATION to review any book you get, especially if you don't ask for it and it's sent to you. Pam at Mother Reader was adamant about this and I'm very much in agreement with her. Seriously, I have over 200 books that have been sent to me, where I sometimes am sent up to 20 books in one week. Since I'm only one person, I can't review them all. I'm not going to stress about it, so why should you? Also the topic of whether or not an author should review their fellow author's books came up. The majority of the panel agreed they would like to read more reviews from authors. Not too many authors review because it's become taboo. They believe authors are experts in their fields, so wouldn't it make sense if they shared an opinion about the books in their genre?

After this panel, I was on a panel with 13 other bloggers called Blogging for a Niche Market. We were asked why we blog and what we love about or niche genre and if we're interested in only "talking" to our specific audience or want to reach others outside that audience. This panel was different from the last two and the second hour we ended up sitting at table talking and discussing our blogs.

And that ended BBC. It was a great opportunity and one I would recommend anybody who blogs, or would like to blog to come to BBC next year. There are some kinks that still need to be worked out, such as the time length of the panels. I would be interested in seeing more panels next year about different topics such as how to monetize your blog or other ways to be creative when it comes to blogging.

I'm probably forgetting some other important factors discussed, so anyone who went to BBC, you're more than welcome to leave your impressions here about the conference or people you met  you feel should have a mention. What was your opinion about BBC and what changes would you recommend for next's year BBC, if any?

BBC also had some nice swag. I took 3 books and a BBC bag for myself.  3 books grabbed = $65.00.

The grand total of books I got from BEA and BBC came to $500. Not bad if you think about it seeing as I spent $120 for my week long pass.

BEA seemed to be all about the books you could find. I wonder out of those books people took, how many will be read and reviewed or talked about? Some went home with 100 books or more. I bet not even half of them will be read. I can't deny I felt a bit greedy with the books I got, but for me, the important thing about BEA was about meeting people and interaction, the networking aspect not only with the industry professionals, but with the book community.

BBC promoted togetherness and that sense of community outreach I look forward to.

And so, this ends my report for BEA and BBC 2011. It was a wild, amazing fun time I'm still recovering from. For all those who enjoyed my posts, I thank you. If not for you, I wouldn't do this. 

On Monday, June 20th, I will be holding a contest in honor of my birthday. I'll have two sets of books to give away. One set will be some of the most anticipated and wanted YA books at BEA, while the other set will be popular romance books. As for what these books could be... you'll just have to wait and see.



Mandy (The Well-Read Wife) said...

I wish I could have made it to the workshops at BBC. It sounds like they were excellent! Thanks for including the talking points in your post. It's especially nice to hear that publicists are not concerned so much with page views.

I had to catch a flight back home that day and had to miss out on BBC. But I had a great time at the BBC reception the night before. It was so nice to get to meet everyone in person.

I wish I could have met you! I love your WTF posts as well!:)

Debbie S said...

I wish I could go to one of these just for big book readers.Lucky you looks like your pile you show once in awhile will fall over now with all the goodys .The pics a nice for us to see what it is like.Happy reading and a early happy birthday to seems they creep up fast.

Dot S.( said...

Hi Kt/KB, Thanks for taking me along on your visit to BEA and BBC. Perhaps I can get a chance to go next time. But this time I felt like I was right there by your side (except you got all the swag. :-)).