Man, how things have changed in a year. At the 2010 Book Blogger Convention, bloggers were tapdancing for publishers to get review copies. Now, the bloggers seem to be in control. This is the big takeaway: the book industry is actively courting the book blogosphere.
Other notes on the day:
1. The term "book blogger" is now unwieldy.
Genre diversity is no longer the only thing differentiating book bloggers: style, professionalism, commerce, tone, experience, technological savvy, and a score of other chacterisitics make describing what a book blogger does extremely difficult.
2. As important as book blogs are becoming, book bloggers are still pretty provincial.
The cagey organizers left plenty of time for Q & A after the various panels; this was usually the most interesting, not the the most informative, part of the sessions. For example, given the chance to query folks in charge of marketing for the big six publishers, most asked weirdly specific questions about their own little problems. You have the ear of the people most directly effecting book publicity in America and you ask about e-galley expiration dates. Seriously? This is one example of a larger trend; most bloggers aren't thinking beyond their own Wordpress dashboard.
3. Authors are becoming a bit of a pain.
This might just be my own misanthropy, but having to fuss over authors directly is a drag. Not only are we told only to shield authors from negative reviews, but we also have to screen increasing numbers of author pitches. I understand; authors, especially those from smaller presses and self-publishers, are desperate for exposure. We wish you the best of luck, but most of us are swamped with reading and writing as it is.
4. ARC obsession
The dangled carrots of the book blog world, advanced review copies (who gets them, who gives them, and when) determine the professional ethics of book blogging. It seems that if you solicit a review copy, you enter into a de facto moral contract with the publicist, publisher, and author. Even if the code is as simple as "be polite" or "review the work, not the person," your continued ability to get review copies depends upon your compliance. More and more, I am becoming fan of JGBTFB (just go buy the fucking book). This way you can write without any concern that you will violate the covenant of book publicity.
5. Social Media Fatigue
Goodreads. Librarything. Shelfari. Amazon reviews. Facebook. Twitter. Linked In. Online forums. Not to mention your own blog. Managing all of this stuff is a major headache. A future topic of discussion would be some best/most useful practice demonstration/analysis for those of who write about books independently. What works for whom and why? What are the advanced features and behaviors that will give our ideas the widest circulation?
6. Ascending to Pay
At this point, more than a handful of people who started as amateurs are now professionals. One of the undiscussed topics was how did you do it? Should I? How much do you make? And how? Now that book blogging is no longer principally the perview of rank amateurs (most are at least comptent amateurs), the ins and outs of making your blog pay is a conversation worth having--not just because there is money to be made, but also because people should think about the costs and benefits of going pro---or pro-ish.
7. The Writing is the Thing
I think most people who read book blogs can agree that the number one reason to keep reading a blog is the writing. Whether formal, conversational, satirical, confessional, analytical, emotional, comedic, or arch, what a blog says and how they say is its central feature. So it's a bit of an omission not to talk about writing approaches at all. Staging such a discussion is probably quite difficult, but I think we could all benefit from thinking about how to do the work of writing about books better, whatever we understand better to be.
I was excited to see a panel on technology this year, and I think more of this needs to happen. There are so many moving parts to the web that book bloggers could stand to learn more about (my hand is raised highest here). A series of 30 minute tutorials on web design, fonts, SEO, Google Analytics, hosting, and any of the myriad topics an independent web publisher should know about would be a major help.
9. It's the People, Stupid
I know this, but I always forget it: the sessions themselves aren't the main draw to these kind of events. It's the people you know and don't yet know that matter. I should have tried to make the reception the night before or any of the satellite events, but my natural introversion and stubborness took over. Someone remind me next year that I am an idiot if I don't do this stuff.
And with that, The Reading Ape is going to step away from the big picture, meta-blogging posts and return to something like regularly programming. Thanks to my non-blogging readers for sticking out the last few weeks. You both have been very patient.