The BEA Bloggers’ Conference 2013

This week I had the chance to attend the BEA Bloggers’ Conference, held in NYC. The Bloggers’ Con is part of the overall BEA (Book Expo America) which is HUGE and has hundreds of authors signing books and lots of sessions. I just couldn’t get away for more than one day, though, so I just attended the blogger con (this year!).

There is something so exciting and rejuvenating about attending a conference filled with people who love to read and write about books. Sometimes blogging can be a tad lonely, and even though I connect with a lot of people through blogging, there is a sense of “if I write it, will they read it?” when I create my posts. It’s so refreshing to meet people who feel the same way, and oh so flattering to be recognized by readers!

However, the point of this post is to share some of the highlights of that day’s sessions. I had attended Blogger Con two years ago and there was a different feel to the air this year. Two years ago I heard a lot of “publishers are starting to realize the power of the blogger”. This year a big theme was “people are listening to you – you are powerful”. (I’ve always found authors partial to bloggers, but then most authors love a person who has taken the time to read their books).

The opening keynote was Will Schwalbe who talked about the role of book bloggers and shared a personal story about starting an “end of your life book club” with his mother as she was dying.

My morning session focused on editor insights into YA books. As you know, I am a huge YA fan! They previewed some coming titles and they had ARC’s available for us to take. The editors talked about how “mash-up” genres were growing in popularity – so a book that is contemporary, but a mystery with some horror or a ghost element. Or a coming of age story that is also a mystery. Contemporary seems to be coming back into play, replacing fantasy as the hot seller – though fantasy is still popular! Narrative non-fiction is also a new hot genre (well, it’s not really new per say, but it’s been out of vogue for a while).

At lunch there was an ethics session with lawyers going over how you need to disclose if you got the book for free, or if you know the author, if you are being paid, etc. Anyone who has been blogging for a while should be aware of these legalities.

The first afternoon session I attended dealt with taking your online presence offline. The bloggers involved (including Jenn’s Bookshelves, whom I follow) talked about how they interact in their community to promote reading (book clubs, work at schools, etc.) A big theme in this session (which had two regional independent bookseller people on it) was the independent bookstore and the importance of supporting your local/nearby independent bookstore. I thought about this for a bit. I’m a big fan of my local bookstore (for me, The Concord Bookshop in Concord, MA). I just never thought about featuring it in my blog. However, I’ve now been inspired to feature it more prominently and to promote its many wonderful events. I’ve even finally figured out how to successfully post pictures (this free version of Word Press kills me), so I will post shots of events, too. If you are ever in the area, do yourself a favor and visit the Bookshop – it is right on Main Street. Also in this session it was strongly suggested that Twitter be used regularly to promote yourself as a 3D person, not just post book reviews (um – that was what I’d been doing because who could possibly care what was happening in my daily life if you don’t know me?). I started tweeting away throughout the day to see what would happen and boy she was right – my followers immediately started increasing. I guess people do want to feel like they know YOU, not just read you! They also suggested starting memes, etc. on Twitter.

The next session had to do with increasing your presence, which is a goal of mine. I am hard pressed for time to blog, but the more you blog, the more people read you. The participants on this panel shared all sorts of apps and websites (most of which were new to me) that can get you “out there”. These included in part: instagram (popular photo site that I used to use but then got freaked out that strangers might see pictures of my kids); estella society (which I need to check out); Vine (app that makes 6 second looping stop-motion movies – I tried it yesterday and posted to Twitter); Twiangulate (not entirely sure how this works, but shows your connections); Tweet reach (who are you reaching); Reddit (shows popular web posts); triberr (form a tribe of bloggers since strength lies in numbers); and distillry (full disclosure – I can’t remember what this one is and I can’t find it online, but I was impressed when I saw it!).

The final key-note address of the day was Randi Zuckerberg of Zuckerberg Media and I’m sure she was wonderful, but by that point I had been in sessions all day, met with Net Galley people, met with a publisher, and been up since 4:30 am. My head hurt and I was pooped and I had tickets to “My Name is Asher Lev” that night, so I headed back to the hotel to rest up and recharge!

All in all, it was a fun day that made me want to go back next year – same time same place!!

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