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Monday, June 20, 2011

BOOK BLOGGER CONVENTION 2011, NYC

  
By Denise H. Sutton



As a sign of just how influential book bloggers have become, they now have their own convention with major publishing houses as sponsors and serving on panel sessions. The second annual Book Blogger Convention (BBC) (http://bookbloggerconvention.com/) was held May 27th at the Jacob Javits Convention Center in New York City and is affiliated with Book Expo America.

From book blogging tours to book blogger reviews, writers and publishers can’t ignore the public relations potential of book blogs. The Book Bloggers Convention caught my attention when I registered for Book Expo America; it made sense to go to the BBC because I was in the middle of reconstructing my author’s website. I have a lot to learn about social media, so I attended the BBC to understand just how I could better promote my writing projects. After all, as most of you know, writers are responsible for the bulk of their book promotion—unless you are Nora Roberts! And seeing how authors are connecting with bloggers and other social media was an eye-opening experience.

The BBC organizers were Michelle of Galleysmith (http://www.galleysmith.com/) and Rebecca Joines Schinsky of TheBookLadysBlog (http://www.thebookladysblog.com/). Fantastic job, ladies! Sarah Wendell, blogger extraordinaire and co-creator of the popular romance blog, Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, (http://www.smartbitchestrashybooks.com/) was the keynote speaker. She was energetic and funny—her writing personified and squared.

To emphasize the crucial role that readers play in publishing, Wendell asked us to imagine a four-way intersection of book production: the beautiful blacktop of authors; the exhilarating switchback road of book selling; the highway of publishing; and the reader’s road, which was somewhere between “a dirt road and a gravel road, maybe paved.” Wendell pointed out that with the advent of new media, the reader’s road is now the super-highway.

Thanks in large part to the development of book blogs—there are more than 1,400 book blogs registered with Google’s book blogs search engine—readers have started their own conversations about books, responding directly to authors, publishers, and book sellers through twitter, facebook, and a myriad of on-line communities. Publishers have begun to recognize and prospect the gold mine that is book blogging.

The convention was organized into three, two-hour blocks, with two topics running concurrently. The “Ask a Publisher or Publicist” was one of the best sessions. It became clear during this session just how much publishers rely on book bloggers. During the first half of the session, Random House, Harper Collins, Hachette Book Group, Simon & Schuster, Harper Teen, and Macmillan were represented; they all expressed an enthusiastic willingness to work with bloggers. And, quite frankly, why wouldn’t they?

Most book bloggers do what they do for the love of reading. Although a few make money by placing ads on their site, most work full-time jobs and blog as a passion. They provide a free service to publishers. And although many bloggers receive free books for review, the economics of this dynamic definitely serve the publisher.

Publishers need bloggers to connect with audiences because their publicity/marketing campaigns increasingly rely on non-traditional forms of media. After all, the landscape of publishing has changed: bookstores are disappearing and shelf space is shrinking. With the proliferation of online audience engagement, publishers rely on book bloggers to engage with readers.

The session “Practical Challenges of Blogging” focused on time management issues, and “Author Speed Dating” allowed attendees to meet with authors to talk about their books, the industry, and working together. “Technology for Blogging” covered the “latest and greatest in technology and innovation for blogging.” I attended “Navigating the Grey Areas of Book Blogging,” which was fascinating; the panelists discussed netiquette, professionalism, and the ethics of blogging. Each session had plenty of time devoted to Q and A—one of the best features of the convention.

Unfortunately, the final session I attended, “Blogging for a Niche Market,” was unwieldy because there were just too many panelists (a decent cup of coffee might have prevented me from leaving this session early). But as all convention attendees know, there are always ups and downs during the course of the day.

The influence of readers and book bloggers is empowering. Writers, of course, are a crucial piece of the dynamic; we can join these conversations by:

1) reading and responding to blogger reviews—join the on-line communities;
2) writing reviews for book bloggers;
3) learning how to work with book bloggers and asking them to review our books;
4) coordinating with bloggers to organize book blog tours;
5) creating our own blogs as part of authors’ websites;
6) asking publishers to promote our work by sending bloggers copies of our books.

If you would like to see the particulars on the panelists, visit the BBC site at: http://bookbloggerconvention.com/###



Denise H. Sutton, PhD, is the author of Globalizing Ideal Beauty: How Female Copywriters of the J. Walter Thompson Advertising Agency Redefined Beauty for the Twentieth Century (Palgrave Macmillan) and an aspiring fiction writer. You can read more about her at www.denisehsutton.com.

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