NYC/BEA/BBC Wrap-Up, Part 5

18 Jun

Wow, five wrap-up posts?

Who am I and what have I done with myself?

This will be the last of the “this is what I did with myself that whole time” posts, I promise, but Book Blogger Convention day was mostly the whole reason I went to NYC in the first place, so it deserves its own post. I have to admit that this long after the con, it’s been tough to remember what happened and what the sessions were about. So I’ve been skimming a lot of other fantastic posts like the one from Fizzy Thoughts, Girl from The GhettoKim’s at Sophisticated Dorkiness and a really comprehensive round-up from Kittling Books. The Reading Ape also wrote a great reaction post that highlighted some of the things I was also feeling, post-BBC but couldn’t quite articulate.

I don’t think I’m going to re-cap each of the panels individually because those great bloggers above (none of whom I got to meet, I would like to note — ::sadface::) did such a great job of it. But my reactions to the day’s events I think is more pertinent (at least to me when I go back and read this post later).

First of all, Maureen Johnson was amaze balls. I was familiar with her and her writing before BBC, even though I’m not primarily a YA reviewer. I read Suite Scarlett on my nook and have purchased the follow-up Scarlett Fever as an eBook as well. I’ve been following her on Twitter for quite a while, and she consistently makes me laugh at least once a day. I was expecting great things from her keynote and wasn’t disappointed.

There were some great quotes that I wanted to highlight (which lots of others have highlighted as well — I’m not that unique):

  • “Writing is something you do by yourself, but not because you want to be alone.”
  • “Bloggers are book activists.”
  • In response to the question I asked about a phenomenon I’d heard about on the BEA floor the day before, of an author having a “ghost Twitter-er”: “Writers should write their own stuff. It’s the least we can do.” This concept apparently stirred quite the pot — both from bloggers and from publicists, who emphasized that authors are encouraged to build their own audiences but shouldn’t lie about it.

In general I was really enthused by her encouragement of bloggers as a driving force on behalf of books.

Ron Hogan’s talk on professionalism was great, especially his opening line: “The war between critics and bloggers is over. And the bloggers won.” Talk about a cheer from the crowd. I really took a lot out of his presentation, even though I wasn’t very familiar with his site Beatrice beforehand. The biggest point was that bloggers and traditional critics shouldn’t be held to the same standards of professionalism because we operate in different ways. Newspapers don’t have to tell the FTC where they get the review copies they read, but bloggers do? (Apparently not anymore, as the FTC guidelines changed again.) But the question is, why wouldn’t we want to hold ourselves to a high standard? Isn’t it important that readers know who we are and potentially where our books are coming from? It’s something I hadn’t really considered before, since before BEA, I’d never received an ARC from a publisher to review. I never before felt that I had the audience to support ARC requests, and in all fairness, I wish there were a few more specifics in terms of guidelines for bloggers. As a relative newbie, I still feel a lot of times that I’m fumbling for answers or for “rules of the game.” I assumed that most of my readers knew that I own most of the books I’m reviewing (okay, I own all of them). But in the future, when I review a book that I received from a publisher, it’s something I plan on disclosing, because I don’t want any question of my integrity to be called into question. He definitely gave me some things to think about for the future of this blog.

After lunch, the panels were a bit hit or miss — I really enjoyed the Writing and Building Content panel and the Marketing panel. But both seemed to be kind of one note — Keep doing what you’re doing and be yourself. The Reading Ape made the point that I think can be used for both of them: What if what you’re doing sucks? I admit to feeling the little green jealousy monster when blogs that I think are fairly similar to mine and started after mine have more commenters, more followers, more everything, and I can’t seem to jump start an audience. Especially when I’m aware that one of the criteria publishers are looking for is number of commenters. I also know that Building Content is something I need to work at, but finding the time to blog regularly is tough. Rebecca from The Book Lady’s Blog gave me some great encouragement during a break between panels, that I think can apply to most of us struggling with content and writing. She asked how long I’d been blogging, and when I told her it’d been just less than a year, she told me that she (and most bloggers) took at least a year to find their voice, so to not beat myself up for not having it down pat yet. Most of the bloggers on the building content panel have been blogging for a long time, so developing a strategy and a schedule for blogging seems to be one of those places I need to work on.

The second two panels — Blogging With Social Responsibility and Impact of the Relationship Between Author and Blogger — felt less relevant to me. Both of those topics seem to be something that are only relevant if you have an audience to pay attention, and I’m still working on that part. Though I don’t discount anyone’s ability to create author relationships or to create change by blogging about it, its personally not something I’m focused on.

In short, what I’m taking away from BBC is that blogging takes work, but that there’s room for everyone out there. As long as you stay dedicated to your own voice and to your own reading, you can’t help but be successful. And that the only definition of success that matters is your own.


8 Responses to “NYC/BEA/BBC Wrap-Up, Part 5”

  1. Skip June 18, 2010 at 2:47 pm #

    Rachel- Christina, who offered the “be yourself” advice on the panel, wrote a very generous follow up on her blog. You may have already seen it, but here it is anyway:

    After thinking about it awhile, I think the message really is “don’t try to copy someone else.” I think, for example, that my day to day self isn’t really all that interesting to people who aren’t me, but my writing and blogging forces me to try to be interesting. So it is some version of myself, I suppose, but needs some verb more forceful than just “to be.” Maybe “make thyself”?

    • Rachel June 21, 2010 at 10:23 am #

      I did see her reply, which was very helpful, and a great follow-up to that general message of the day. I think the “make thyself” advice is certainly prudent since being and creating are two different things, and who we are in our blogs is really just what we put out there.

  2. Alice June 18, 2010 at 5:17 pm #

    sounds like a very interesting forum. after going to blogher last year i was a bit soured on panels about blogging, since i didn’t feel like i got much out of ANY of the ones i attended, but i’m heartened to hear that it doesn’t have to be the case! 🙂

    • Rachel June 21, 2010 at 10:59 am #

      I think that panels about specific kinds of blogging can be successful, but it sounded to me like Blogher was just about general blogging, and everyone has their own issues. Because this was specifically about book blogging, I think the focus was more specific.

  3. Amanda June 19, 2010 at 5:38 pm #

    I’m at a loss as to really say why some blogs grow and some don’t. I know for me, as a mid-level blogger, my “success” has had mostly to do with the fact that I actively went out trying to make friends in the blogging world. This was not because I was trying to get an audience for my blog, but because I was going crazy staying home with three small boys all the time and I wanted some “grownup” friends. I found bloggers that I connected with and made friendships, and through them my blog grew naturally. I’ve never really done any self-promotion beyond putting up a tweet when I have a new review up (and that only in the last 9 months or so, since I got on twitter). I really have no idea why my blog grew to be popular. I wasn’t out for popularity. Just out for friends. I love blogging because it’s helped me meet so many nice people from all around the world, and that was actually my favorite thing about the Book Blogger Con as well. I loved meeting new bloggers and I hope I can be better friends with everyone soon.

    • Rachel June 21, 2010 at 10:26 am #

      I’m hoping that the efforts I’m making on Twitter and on other networks will help. And BBC was certainly helpful in reaching out to other bloggers. But sometimes I feel like I should narrow the focus of my blog, because I do read lots of kinds of books and maybe that’s why I’m not garnering a more enthusiastic audience. But then I realize that narrowing it wouldn’t be reflective of what I’m actually reading. And there are lots of eclectic readers out there right? I’m trying not to focus on popularity, I really am, but sometimes it’s difficult not to be concerned with the stats.

  4. Kim (Sophisticated Dorkiness) June 20, 2010 at 11:54 am #

    Thanks for linking to my wrap-up post — there have been a lot of really good ones out there.

    I’d second what Rebecca said about finding a voice — it takes a long time and a lot of work. I think we tend to get impatient (I know I do, anyway), and think that just because we blog things should always be awesome and other people should read it. but that’s not always true — building a community around a blog takes time. But it happens, just slowly. And what Amanda commented above about actively interacting — that’s huge.

    I like your takeaway — that was almost exactly what I thought too!

    • Rachel June 21, 2010 at 10:51 am #

      Thanks for the comment. I realize now from the responses I’m getting, like your’s and Rebecca’s, that it doesn’t happen immediately. That just because my friends happen to think that my book recommendations are great doesn’t mean the larger blogging community will all of a sudden think I’m the greatest thing since sliced bread, and I have to put in some effort to make myself better and accountable to my audience.

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