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Bea BloggerCon 2013 and Beyond

BEA bloggers

This year I sat through the BEA BloggerCon 2013 as someone who had participated in putting the program together so my perspective might be much different than those who had attended as pure bloggers.

I don’t think we’ve hit on the right balance of panels yet nor the right speakers.

The opening keynote speaker was Will Schwalbe and the closing speaker was Randi Zuckerberg.  I know I worried more about Randi pimping her project and I was convinced Schwalbe would be awesome.  Why?  Because Randi has a book coming out and a new digital start up and Will had called three of the advisory board members and actually took the time to speak to us about blogging and the expectations of blogging.

I was entirely mistaken about what would happen.  Schwalbe, unfortunately, spent most of his time discussing his book, his upcoming book tour, and his website Cookster.  He first implored bloggers to help readers focus on the words on the page and shut out the noise.  Everything but the words on the page were noise.  That’s kind of a perfect ideal – to focus solely on the words on the page.  (i.e., it’s hard to shut out the views of Orson Scott Card that read homophobic and misogynistic but some of his works are seminal science fiction tomes). At the very end, Schwalbe contradicted himself and suggested that we turn to kindness, remembering that there were people behind those words on the page.

Randi Zuckerberg was a good speaker and despite the 30+ minute delay that occurred because a call had to go out to the crowd for the use of a laptop to run the presentation she was giving, I was entertained.  Unfortunately, Randi’s talk was a much broader, less blogging focused. Still she spent only a small portion of her time discussing her new venture and she was informative and funny.  I didn’t agree with everything she said, but I took away a few nuggets.  More on that later.

The first sessions were BEA editor buzz panels.  These were panels I had suggested and other advisory members had not wanted. I wished I had not won that battle and I apologize to the other members of the advisory committee.  It didn’t work the way that I wanted.  I had hoped we would have a number of editors discuss exciting books for the fall, but there were only a few in the adult session and none relevant to genre readers.  They were lit books rather than genre and only one of the editors really sold their books. (Note to speakers in the future, please don’t read from a script. Engage us directly).

After the BEA editor buzz panels, we had big bloggers speak for adult and YA.  I think those went over much better.  I sat in the adult panel that was moderated by Jim Hines, author and blogger.  The panelists were Sarah from SmartBitches; Rebecca Schninkzy from Book Riot; and Mandi Schreiner from SmexyBooks.  They spoke about reviews, increasing facebook viewership (for both Sarah and Mandi, a small ad worked wonders), and picking what fights to have.  Rebecca said pick only the fights that involve you and the ones that you are willing to die up on that hill.  Don’t go muscling in for attention with someone else’s fight.

During lunch I moderated an ethics panel. I was on the panel and thus it was hard to judge how it went over.  My read on the tweets afterward was that it was confusing and dry.  I apologize for that as well.  Basically, it is important to disclose and be as transparent as possible.  I suggested that making your own policies clear to your readership was the most important.

The afternoon panels included platforms for blogging and I think we could have had two hours of that instead of the 50 minutes.  I also think Rachel from Parajunkee basically convinced all of the bloggers to move to WordPress.

I sat through a panel called Taking Your Online Presence Offline which was intended to give advice on how to extend your reach into your local community. Jenn Lawrence was the blogger on that panel and did a great job of explaining the things she had done such as setting up a Michigan Reader Events Facebook page and making connections with her local library and bookstore.  (Update: It was Tirzah Price of the Compulsive Reader who set up the Michigan Reader Events Facebook page).   There was an indie bookseller on the panel who was virulently anti digital and recommended that you don’t show up at her store with your Kindle because that’s a market she is shut out of.  She also said that the best way to make connections with your bookstore is to shop there; become a customer first.

The final panel I attended was one moderated by Malle Vallik of Harlequin with panelist Mandy Boles, The Well Read Wife; Eric Smith from Quirk Books; and Robert Mooney from Blogads.  I like Malle and have heard Mandy speak before. This panel was well organized and well rehearsed and I felt gave out some interesting information.  Mandy said that that the one social media platform that a blogger should pay attention to beyond Facebook and Twitter was Instagram.  Instagram is closing in on 100 million users, faster than Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and Pinterest.

What I took away from the day is that blogging is becoming more personal and more graphic focused.    While I don’t perceive incorporating many of the things that I learned about here at Dear Author, I do plan to use more graphics on Facebook and Twitter to help readers find out more information about books.

That’s my rundown of the day.  It was hard for me to gauge how other bloggers felt. I think the panels manned by the bloggers were more successful than ones that weren’t blogger focused. I understand that there were over 300 registrants but many bloggers don’t actually attend the sessions. Instead, they sign up for BEA Bloggercon to get a free pass to BEA, thus saving around $300 (the BEA BloggerCon pass is much cheaper that BEA general admission).   Publishers hosted some afternoon blogger events which bloggers attended instead of the panels so clearly the BEA Bloggercon isn’t interesting enough for many of the bloggers who registered.   I really hope that attendees give some detailed feedback. (And even here in the comments would be useful).

More tomorrow on my overall BEA experience.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

19 Comments

  1. Willaful
    Jun 02, 2013 @ 18:33:38

    Wow. Our indie bookstore sells Kobos and is a Kobo sffiliate or whatever it’s called. Far more useful than bitching about Kindles.

    ReplyReply

  2. mari
    Jun 02, 2013 @ 19:29:11

    Orson Scott Card is not a homophobe. He is s member of a religion that regards homosexuality as a sin, as do the majority of the world’s religions. He agrees with his religion’s teachings on sex and sexuality. If he is a homophobe, then the majority of devout Jews, Christians, and Muslims are also homophobes and misogynists. Orson Scott Card is a great writer and I am tired of seeing him slimed by this garbage.

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  3. Jane
    Jun 02, 2013 @ 19:41:04

    @mari: Well, setting aside the biblical inconsistencies on homosexuality (i.e., most of the texts prohibiting intercourse between the same sexes occur in the Old Testament and the great majority of those who observe Judaism do not observe the Old Testament customs including sending sheep out to die for your sins and cutting off fingers if caught stealing and any number of customs detailed for true believers in the Old Testament), homophobia and misogyny do not go hand in hand.

    Or at least I view them as separate and distinct.

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  4. leslie
    Jun 02, 2013 @ 20:14:51

  5. Jane
    Jun 02, 2013 @ 20:18:42

    In keeping with my own comment policy, I changed my post to read that the views of Orson Scott Card read homophobic and misogynistic.

    ReplyReply

  6. hapax
    Jun 02, 2013 @ 20:20:06

    @mari: Orson Scott Card is welcome to his personal views on sex and sexuality.

    However, if they are based SOLELY upon his understanding of his religious faith, he is not welcome to try to incorporate them into U.S. law.

    If he chooses to incorporate them into his fictional writings (and he does, oh he does), I am free to choose to find said fictional writings distasteful and urge others of like mind not to read them.

    I fail to understand where “sliming” is going on there.

    ReplyReply

  7. hapax
    Jun 02, 2013 @ 20:24:37

    @Jane — I’m not a bookblogger and I wasn’t able to attend BEA this year /sadface/ but I was puzzled about the timing. Does Bloggercon run concurrently with BEA? That would explain why you had so much bleed-off. I know that BEA offers pre-conferences for various folks (like librarians); mightn’t that work better for book bloggers as well? Or, alternatively, what about scheduling a “bookblogger track”, like the other interest tracks at BEA?

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  8. Julie M.
    Jun 02, 2013 @ 20:24:49

    Not sure how to say this without violating Dear Author’s policies so I’ll just say that I can’t agree with Mari’s comment. I don’t think she can speak for all “devout” Christians. We’re a diverse bunch and many do support their LGBT brothers and sisters and base their support on their understanding of scripture. I know I do. Hebrew and Greek were fun languages!

    Rev. Julie

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  9. Jane
    Jun 02, 2013 @ 20:27:28

    @hapax: The BEA bloggercon is held the day before BEA officially begins, like a pre conference.

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  10. Susan Helene Gottfried
    Jun 02, 2013 @ 20:37:20

    Jane:

    I’d love to talk with you via e-mail or something a bit more private. One of my good friends carried some very different opinions away from some of those panels, and I’d like you to hear her perspective since you had some influence in the panels and whatnot.

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  11. John
    Jun 02, 2013 @ 22:00:53

    In keeping with commenting policy (and thus avoiding what I really think on the matter), I will say that I vehemently disagree with the pro-Card comment as someone who has read his personal ideals on homosexuality. They were personally insulting and degrading. Also – while everyone has their religious preferences, it should also be understood that one is allowed to question the morality and reasoning behind those preferences in regards to purposeful prejudice. I’ll say no more on the matter.

    NOW, on to the actual stuff. It sounds like the BloggerCon is reasonably successful but not yet able to combat the allure of BEA. Personally, I’d like to attend both with equal measure. It would be intriguing to see publishers more actively excited about using BloggerCon. It would be a great way to pitch books towards people that are aimed at being more active in blogging – too often, people go to BEA as bloggers and then come out with a lot of titles but little knowledge of what that means.

    Scripted stuff is almost definitely going to feel stilted. Panels are exciting in nature because you want to see avid and honest discussion, not discussion that feels perfected to the point where there’s no room for its attendees to be involved and learn things that may not be planned. Panels are as much about feeding from the audience’s desire for knowledge as they are about the panelists discussing a specific topic amongst themselves.

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  12. Kaetrin
    Jun 02, 2013 @ 22:01:38

    @Julie M.: I agree Julie. Just because someone is of a particular religious persuasion does not automatically make one a homophobe or a misogynist.

    I can’t agree with Mari either. There are people of any number of religious persuasions with homophobic and/or misogynistic beliefs and they are not excused because they come from a religious space.

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  13. Kim in Korea
    Jun 03, 2013 @ 01:19:49

    Aloha, Jane! I am visiting hubby in Korea – it seems a world away from NYC and BEA. Mahalo for the recap and your honest reflections of the panels. I hope to attend next year!

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  14. Liz H.
    Jun 03, 2013 @ 08:28:20

    “Homophobia encompasses a range of negative attitudes and feelings toward homosexuality or people who are identified or perceived as being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT). It can be expressed as antipathy, contempt, prejudice, aversion, or hatred, may be based on irrational fear, and is sometimes related to religious beliefs.” (A compilaton of definitions from Websters, Oxfords, and several other major dictionaries.) That sounds exactly like OSC.

    And personally, I’m tired of people deciding that their personal beliefs are the “correct” beliefs for all members of a religion(s), and that those who do not share them are therefore not, or are less, devout.

    Most importantly, I don’t think that religion should ever be used as an excuse for hatred, discrimination, and/or inequality, and it is heartening that many DA readers feel the same.

    ReplyReply

  15. Kelly
    Jun 03, 2013 @ 08:34:20

    When you guys were live-tweeting the opening speaker, one phrase that raised my eyebrows was “If the book wins, we all win.” Did Schwalbe ever define what exactly makes a book “win”?

    Or maybe I don’t want to know.

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  16. Liz H.
    Jun 03, 2013 @ 11:37:57

    Although I’m not a blogger, the idea of Editor Buzz panels sounds fantastic to me, and I would think would be great for both bloggers and editors. Isn’t that step up, jump on publicity, “buzz” as it were, exactly what they’re always looking for? Unfortunately, it’s always a crapshoot when you have guest speakers and panelists. You can give the same detailed topics and instructions to two different groups of panelists, and end up with two entirely different different events. It’s quite interesting to me, for other business and management reasons, to read about how you’re assessing and evaluating everything afterwards.

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  17. Chris Wolak
    Jun 03, 2013 @ 23:18:26

    Happy to find a BEA BloggerCon recap! I’ve only been to BEA once, many moons ago, and started blogging in 2010. Hope to make it to BEA and Blogger Con next year. Did you used to have romance events at the Borders in Naperville? As for OSC, thank you.

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  18. Jane
    Jun 03, 2013 @ 23:19:35

    @Chris Wolak: No, I don’t think I’ve ever been to the Borders in Naperville.

    ReplyReply

  19. The Book Smugglers | Book Expo America and BEA Bloggers Conference 2013: A Recap
    Jun 04, 2013 @ 09:38:45

    [...] at Dear Author Kelly at [...]

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