Sunday, June 10, 2012

BEA 2012 Part 1: Let's take a look back!!!

(This will be a long post so bear with me!!!)

Months before BookExpo America began, I wasn't sure if I should attend. I had just lost my job and money is hard to come by. But I'm going to grad school in the fall for publishing. Despite the cost, it's good to stay on top of upcoming books.

This year the Book Blogger Convention morphed into "BEA Bloggers." The convention was sold to Reed Exhibitions, which is also the organizer for BookExpo America. As a result the price for the convention was jacked up, and in my opinion included a total content shift. Big-name authors were brought in, and blogger-driven panels were greatly reduced.

BEA Bloggers started off with a speed-dating breakfast. There were lots of good authors taking part, Justin Cronin, Jenny Han, Kitty Kelley, Lee Woodruff, and Amy Sohn to name a few. It gave authors a chance to speak about their upcoming work and to interact with fans. I didn't really have a problem with this part of the convention, except that the table numbers didn't seem to be sequential. The tables appeared to be scattered, and all the good ones were filled quickly. My main problem with the speed-dating breakfast, was the breakfast itself!!!

The previous blogger conventions always had coffee, tea, water and juice available. But for some reason this year, only coffee and tea. I could do without juice, but these dudes couldn't provide something as basic as H20?!?!? You can get all of these high-profile authors to participate in the blogger convention, but you can't have a water cooler in the room??? I eventually broke down and bought an overpriced ($3.65) bottle of water. I downed it in two gulps and when I turn around the organizers were finally bringing water coolers in the room?? I believe enough people complained that they finally brought in some water. Just made me a little ticked off.

(Not the greatest pic. I tried to get Jennifer Weiner's autograph, but I had better luck on Tuesday)

But that quickly dissipated when author Jennifer Weiner, above, delivered her keynote speech. She was very funny and engaging. BUT.....I'm not sure why she was chosen. I'm a big fan of hers, but not everything she spoke about had to do with blogging. Last year's keynote speaker, Sarah Wendell of Smart Bitches, Trashy Books, delivered a speech that was all about blogging. Jennifer Weiner has built a big online community through her blog and Twitter.  In my opinion her greatest advice on building an online community was, "Don't Poke the Crazy." Don't engage with someone who is off their rocker. Just be polite and move on. But I felt her speech was all over the place. She spoke about what she focused her advertising dollars on, her ongoing feud with the New York Times, and some of her favorite authors. It just seemed to me that a conference about blogging should have had a keynote speech that focused on blogging. Having Jennifer Weiner speak seemed to be a ploy by her publisher and the organizers to build word of mouth on her next book.

The first panel, Blogging Today, was very informative. It focused on how bloggers helped publishers build word of mouth. I just felt there was one very awkward moment during that panel. Somehow the topic of plagiarism came up. I happened to be sitting at a table behind Kristi of The Story Siren. She recently admitted to plagiarism. I know it's bad, but I couldn't help but stare at the back of her head during this topic. She wasn't spoken about directly but it was the elephant in the room. Many of the people in the room knew about the controversy. One of the marketing reps for HarperCollins said she wouldn't work with a blogger who committed plagiarism. In my mind I had to just say, (and excuse my language) "BULLSHIT!!" I'm sure that not all marketing reps in one division of the company work with other divisions. I don't believe she should be blacklisted, but I've been by her blog since the controversy and she gets plenty of books from HarperCollins imprints. That moment just rubbed me the wrong way.

Lunch was just like the breakfast, more author speed-dating. Fantasy author Kenny J. Anderson and former Iraq veteran Matt Gallagher stopped by our table. They were great and engaging. Anderson has such a vivid imagination, and he writes several books a year. Gallagher started blogging while still in Iraq before transitioning into a writing career.

The afternoon breakouts were kind of hit and miss for me. I attended the panel on how to make money blogging. There were good suggestions, but the moderator Scott Fox of Click Millionaires spent a little too much time pimping his own book than concentrating on the panel. Knowing your traffic, building partnerships with larger sites, and not clogging up your blog with too many ads were the tips I came away with.

The second panel I attended was  Demystifying the Book Blogger and Publisher Relationship. This panel had ONE blogger on it, Jenn Lawrence of  Jenn's Bookshelves. But I digress. Publishers and bloggers are partners, that was the overall message. We all want to get the word out about books. We have to work together.

The closing speech by Jenny Lawson a.k.a. The Bloggess was very inspiring. She spoke about her book, Let's Pretend this Never Happened, which is a humorous take on her struggles with mental illness. She was very passionate and open about her life. It's great that she's overcome so much. I did love her speech, but again like Jennifer Weiner it seemed out of place at a convention that supposed to be geared towards book blogging.

Overall, I think the blogger part of this convention is a work in progress. If this was someone's first time attending, they don't have anything to compare it to. Fortunately, I do. The previous years had some flaws, but they were SO MUCH BETTER than 2012. Reed Exhibitions needs to do their homework. A convention aimed at book bloggers should focus more on I don't know BOOK BLOGGING!!! More bloggers needed to be included on the panels. It felt like we were being used as a marketing tool. I did not get that feeling the previous two years. BEA, the main part of the convention, is supposed to be the overall marketing and networking event not BEA Bloggers.

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