DAY THREE: Book Blogger Convention, Tour of Hachette, and AWESOME Japanese food
Ana: I have always wanted to attend BEA but what really made me take the plunge was the Book Blogger Convention and the fact that Thea was invited to be in one of the panels. For those who not know, the Book Blogger Convention (henceforth “BBC”) is the first, organised Book Blogger er, Convention which became a part of BEA when the organisers actually got a room at the Javits for it. I don’t know how they managed that and I don’t know what I was expecting but oh boy: I was mighty impressed by it all. For starters it was extremely well organised, the panels were really interesting and none of them ran overtime and hey, all the equipment worked; there were both breakfast and lunch included and even they weren’t the best food in the planet, it was all included in the fee and abundant; there was a pretty awesome tote bag as well, full of goodies like:
What I mean to say is: this was not a last-minute, thrown together deal. We could see that the organisers put a lot of work and effort into it and what can I say? It was a huge success, 250 people attended, amongst bloggers, authors and publishers (when we visited the good people at Tor, they all KNEW about it!) and since this is only the first year, I think the BBC has a bright future ahead.
We got there at around 8am for registration and breakfast:
Thea attacking the bagels
The Keynote Speaker: Maureen Johnson rules
After breakfast we moved on to the room to hear the Keynote Speaker, who happened to be Maureen Johnson, one of my favourite contemporary YA authors. I am not the first to say this, but this speech? It was MADE OF WIN. Not only Ms Johnson is articulate and interesting, she is also incredibly funny. Her session lasted for 1h30m including a Q&A and it was a great event all the way through. Amongst the points she made, I think the ones I liked the most were:
– The Internet is a natural extension of writing and therefore an organic phenomenon;
– There is still a lot to learn about the Internet and blogging as there are no real experts and a lot can be learnt on the go;
– Book Bloggers are Activists for Books (how cool is that?) and we can make a difference; I like the phrase “bring back books from the abyss” referring to banned books and older books;
– She likes Twitter so much (and seriously, you need to follow her, her tweets are so funny) her goal is to be the first person to Tweet from the grave;
– We are in the “Golden Age of Screw-Ups”.
After her session ended, I had to dash out to meet Miriam Parker, our contact at the Hachette Group for a tour of their offices. The building itself is amazing and I had a few problems with the elevator (you have to pick your floor BEFORE getting inside, which by the way, I DID NOT KNOW) but made it safely to their floor. Miriam then showed me around all departments (including the Art and Publicity) and we ended up at the Orbit’s floor where we chatted to several editors, one of them was actually petting a book we simply can’t wait to read:
Then they made the mistake of not only introducing me to the storage room but also uttering the words: you can get anything you want. BIG MISTAKE, ORBIT DUDES! With another 5 books in tow, I said goodbye to Miriam and dashed back to the Javits for lunch. Because I am the luckiest biatch in the world, Maureen Johnson was leaving as I arrived and I basically jumped in front of her (sorry if I scared you, Maureen) and squeed like the fangirl that I am.
I got in line for lunch and that was when I finally was able to actually chat a little bit with Amy from My Friend Amy who updated me on the upcoming BBAW. I can’t wait. Then, we sat with Thea and Kenda for lunch and they told me all about the talk I missed while I was at Hachette:
Ron Hogan on Professionalism and Ethics
Thea: While Ana took off to meet with the awesome folks at Hachette, I stuck around to listen to Ron Hogan’s piece on “Professionalism and Ethics.” Ron Hogan’s speech started out strong, highlighting that there is a big difference between print journalism and bloggers – and thus, different standards and definitions of “professionalism” and “ethics” apply. He then proceeded to apply seven qualities from Seth Godin’s Linchpin (how to make oneself “indispensable”) to bloggers…most of which felt a bit dry, repetitive, and had little to do with the theme of “professionalism.” Rather, these seven qualities seemed to have more to do with developing a focus and creating a successful book blog. The “ethics” segment also was loose and fast, focusing on the idea that blogging ethics are of a different set than professional journalism.
What I took away from Mr. Hogan’s presentation, riddled with that awful company team-building stock art, was the vague notion that bloggers should be trustworthy and conduct themselves with “moral intentions.” While I agree that the FTC Revised Guidelines aren’t necessarily applicable to book bloggers, his second “example” – comparing the myriad unpaid bloggers for the Huffington Post to a blogger asking someone to do a guest post – felt a tad disingenuous. We are dealing with massive differences of scale and frequency, after all. And, for the most part, book blogs receive little to no income from posts – so the monetary compensation angle doesn’t quite fit.
I suppose it doesn’t help that all throughout the presentation, all I could think of was Billy Madison. You know, the Academic Decathlon “Business Ethics” part.
After that, it was time for lunch!
Writing and Building Content:
Thea: This next panel featured some very, very smart bloggers – the lovely moderator Rebecca (The Book Lady’s Blog), and panelists Amanda (The Zen Leaf), Kim (Sophisticated Dorkiness), Betsy (A Fuse 8 Production), and Christina (Stacked). Each of these women talked about their own methods of writing and creating content for their blogs – a rather extensive process, if I may say! After listening to how many outlines, detailed notes, schedules, etc these ladies create to keep their blogs running, I felt like a bit of a slacker! All in all, a very informative session – although I do wish that there was some variety on the panel. Everyone seemed to generally agree with each other, and also seem to write the same lengthy style of reviews. I wish there could have been a brief review writer, or an ebook reviewer, for example, to change things up a bit.
That said, very informative, eloquent, intelligent women with some great advice.
Next was the Marketing panel – the one Thea was part of – and I have to say I was so anxious for Thea , I had butterflies in my belly. The panel went well and they talked about issues such as how to put your name out there like, comment on other people’s blogs, always reply to comments on your own, join social media sites like Twitter/Facebook – but don’t overdo it so that you don’t stretch yourself too thin. I thought all panellists had interesting things to say and for the most part they were all in agreement expect when it came to stats and what they mean to publishers or whether to disclose them or not. The majority of panellists agreed that people shouldn’t obsess over stats—and that publicists might not care too much about the number of followers or readers as much as they care about a sense of community. Thea was the sole dissenting voice saying that we do think stats are important not only to us and she outed me as the stats “whore” –in those exact words – of the duo and I was so embarrassed but hey, I OWN it, I check our stats all the time and I LIKE to see them grow. We also have our stats counter open in our webpage to everyone to see – just click on the sitemeter logo- and it has been like that since day one when we had the grand total of zero visits; but to publicists as well, and that they have all the right to ask for a blog’s stats before agreeing to send books – numbers are important in our opinion, but obviously only as a RESULT of good content and good reviews and of building community. It is possible to have good content, to have a good community and rapport with readers who leave comments and linkage love AND good stats and we don’t see anything wrong with that. We completely understand that to some bloggers the issue is NOT important though, which is totally fine, but we sort of feel that sometimes the mere use of the words “Marketing” and “Stats” is a no-no and vilified and we don’t think that is fair at all.
Thea had to dash out after the panel to go to the post office to ship her books back home, which is a shame because LOADS of people came looking for her (including a couple of publicists) to say that they actually agreed with her opinion. In the few minutes before the next panel, I also had the chance to chat briefly with the awesome Alex Lencicki, marketing and publicity director for Orbit books, to geekout over Sarah Rees Brennan’s books with Aja Romano of Bookshop and to form the Alliance for World Domination via Book Blogging (AfWDvBB) with the wonderful and totally cool ladies, Rebecca (The Book Lady’s Blog) and Christina (Stacked) .
Blogging with Social Responsibility: This panel was moderated by Maria of The Boston Bibliophile and the panellists were Zetta Elliott at Fledgling, Stephen at Band of Thebes, Wendy at Caribousmom, and Terry at The Reading Tub
This was a fascinating and educative panel. Each of the panellists had interesting things to say about their experience with blogging –they all touch on important issues like LGBT reading, addressing racism in publishing, blogging for a cause. The main point is that bloggers can make a difference and you never know who is listening in the background and even a small post about an important issue can touch someone and make a difference. The Q&A was pretty good on this one as well. After the panel, I made sure to introduce myself to Zetta Elliott which is an author I totally respect and admire (and on a shallow note: she is freaking gorgeous!).
Impact of the Relationship Between Author and Blogger: This one was moderated by Nicole of Linus’s Blanket and with
Amy of My Friend Amy, Bethanne of The Book Studio, Kristi of The Story Siren, author Beth Kephart of Beth Kephart Books and author
Caridad Pineiro of Caridad Pineiro’s Blog as panellists.
I have to say, this was my least favourite panel. Most of what was said was useful and to the point such as authors can contact bloggers directly but most bloggers seem to prefer to deal directly with publicists; or how having a relationship with an author outside the confines of the blog (email, twitter, etc) does not imply a biased review, in fact both authors and bloggers were very clear on this (and the authors present even said they don’t mind negative reviews if they are written carefully and tastefully) but ultimately I thought that the authors had more to say and contribute than the bloggers in this panel.
All in all though, a VERY good day and the BBC has a lot of potential for growth. I have to give MAJOR kudos to the organisers and wish them all the best for next year:
After this panel, some of us decided to have dinner together: Janice, Kristen, Angie, Thea and I went to this fabulous Japanese restaurant, Ippudo. For some reason, we decided it was a good idea to walk from the Javits, and after about half an hour, we quit (FAIL!) and took a taxi. We had the wrong address by the way, but we found the place. We “only” had to wait about 1h30m for our table but this was definitely the best meal Thea and I had in NY.
From L. to R.: Janice, Kristen, Angie, Thea and Ana
The BEA People:
Thea: BEA was also invaluable because of all the incredible people we got to meet. Waiting for a cab, standing in line (I saw the same wonderful librarian in almost EVERY LINE I queued up for!), randomly walking through Javits…BEA was a gold mine for connection building. Here are a few of the bloggers we got to meet:
– Alea Adou of Pop Culture Junkie
– Amy of Amy Reads
– April of Good Books and Wine
– Cindy Smith of Cindy’s Love of Books
– Eleni of La Femme Readers
– Gayle of Everyday I Write The Book
– Linda Nguyen of Better With Books
– Taschima of Bloody Bookaholic
– The lovely JL (and her sister) of An Avid Reader’s Musings (for some reason, we kept bumping into each other by the bathroom!)
– The Story Siren
And this is in addition to all the other lovely ladies we’ve already mentioned – Angie of Angieville, Janice of Janicu’s Book Blog, Kristen of Fantasy Cafe, Kenda of Lurv ala Mode, Amy of My Friend Amy, Michelle of Galleysmith, Trish of Hey Lady!, Charlotte of Lusty Reader, Heather of Age 30+ Books, Lenore of Presenting Lenore, Rebecca of The Book Lady’s Blog, Christina of Stacked, Mandi of Smexy Books, Christine of The Happily Ever After, and so many more…it was AWESOME. Pure awesome. We loved meeting everyone and cannot wait to see everyone again, once our bank accounts have recovered!
Visiting The Strand Bookstore – an Exposé
We stayed in NY over the weekend to do some touristy things and naturally our path led us to The Strand which was rumoured to be Book Store To Rule Them All. The reports were right. With shelf after shelf of all possible genres and a YA section to die for with most books (new, recently released) for around 8 bucks, The Strand proved to be one of those awesome…mistakes. Because even though we got more books we could possible carry (or read) at BEA we still ended up buying loads more and had to painfully rule out several books we really, really wanted.
And now for the expose part: when we were at The Strand we overheard a conversation between a patron and bookseller where the attendant said something along these lines:
Have you looked at the galleys section?
Thea and I literally jumped. A galleys section??? For reals? We looked for it and right there, next to the Children’s section; there were a couple of shelves LABELED “Galleys and Proofs” where the same were being SOLD. For those who do not know: every single galley or Advanced Reading Copy comes with a sign, right there on the cover and it says: NOT FOR SALE.
And yet, The Strand, this NY hallmark sells them! We even saw one who still had the publicist’s contact details on the cover. We were completely horrified by it.
We wonder: How is this possible, world? Does The Strand have a special deal with publishers where they are the exception to the rule? Or are they breaking the taboo? Does anyone know? …Bueller? Bueller?
*An Aside*: We woke up on Sunday morning, our last day in NY and the first thing Thea says to me, in a very serious voice is: “Dude. I think I have a serious problem. I am sitting here thinking about how we could go back to The Strand to get MORE books. Help.” I was tempted, Internets. REALLY tempted. But I simply did not have any room left for more books in my suitcase.
Also, following up on a few comments left in the previous reports, we wanted to add a couple of things we didn’t mention (there is so much to talk about!)
– The BEA is open to EVERYBODY. You don’t have to be part of the publishing industry, an author or a blogger. The convention is open to the public and you can just buy your ticket for one day, if you want. The BEA has a website where they post all (or at least, the majority of) the authors and publishers attending so that you can organise yourself accordingly;
-Bags: someone asked about how we carried the books we picked up. A lot of the booths were distributing tote bags. For example, as soon as we arrived, we picked up a Little,Brown one with loads of ARCs inside and then just added on top of it. By far, our favourite tote bag was this one:
– With regards to BEA more specifically: we were very surprised that Scholastic had no booth and that Macmillan’s was so small. We also thought that genre representation was not all-inclusive. We hardly saw any Sci-fi, Fantasy and Romance books and authors but we understand that since these genres have their own conventions (like Comic Con, RWA and RT) it would make more sense for publishers to invest in those. Otherwise, the show is a gold mine for YA, Literary and Historical Fiction and non-fiction.
All in all, this was a tremendous experience that we highly recommend to anyone who can afford it. Yes, NY is MUCHO expensive – you don’t have to tell us that, our bank accounts are bleeding as we speak – but it is well worth the investment at least once.
I mean, fantastic free books? Loads of signings with awesome authors? Meeting all these people we love in person? It’s PRICELESS.