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.