Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Book Blogger Unconference: Day 2

Well, this much is clear: there is a lot of interest in a book blogger unconference on June 4.

I have reached out to a few venues to see what space availability/cost might be. That is the only organizational step I have taken since yesterday. Tomorrow, I am going post about some next steps, but today I think some explanation and clarification might be useful before proceeding. Also, I have been contacted by the BEA Blogger Convention directly and have received permission to reprint that email below to get their take on the matter.

But first, some uncollected thoughts:

1. This isn't a revolt or boycott.

Those terms suggest some moral transgression, and that's not what is happening here. Some bloggers just want to think about doing something else.

2. The main difference is structural.

This isn't about who is speaking or what they are speaking about, it is about focusing on conversation rather than presentation.

3. There are great reasons to go to the BEA blogger conference.

The BEA bloggers conference might be a really good choice for many, maybe even most bloggers. But it's not right for me at this point and others have expressed the same. For example, if you want to cultivate relationships with publishers, the BEA blogger conference is a much better fit.

4. If you choose one over the other, you are not uncool. No one here is cool.

Again, what matters most to me is that bloggers get stuff that helps them be happier with their blogging lives. If that means that 99% goes to the BEA bloggers conference because that is the right fit for them, I am totally thrilled.


Ok, I hope that was helpful. As always, please leave a comment or write on your own blog if you want to add to the above in some way.


Here is what Joseph Vella of the BEA Bloggers Conference wrote to me yesterday. In fairness to Joe, I am not going to comment on it here, but I think it is important for everyone to see what they have to say before the next steps (if they still happen) are taken:

Hi Jeff,

Your recent blog was passed on to me and I wanted to reach out to chat with you directly. The BEA team respects your right to have an opinion but some of the things you have included in your post are not factual based on how we have approached this year's conference. I wanted to share with you so you could at least have all the information going forward.

BEA purchased the conference from Trish and Michele and has worked hand in hand with them every step of the way to gain their insights and direction on how to build this year's conference. They shared what worked and what didn't and have provided invaluable guidance on how to approach the organization and content this year. They vetted the entire program for us-from topics to speakers.

Along with this, we reached out to prior attendees (you probably received our emails) asking for participation in an online survey to share your feedback on the event. We had a wonderful response and gathered even more insights to ensure we were building and event that would be based on what our customers--book bloggers--wanted. Then, we reached out again to prior attendees (you may have also received this email) asking them to participate in an online focus group to help us fine tune what we had been hearing. Once again we gained a solid response and made modifications to our program based on what we heard from book bloggers.

As you can see, we did not create this year's event in a vacuum-BEA and Reed believe in working with our customers and listening to them to create events that will offer value and a memorable experience. This event has been created based on everything we heard directly from Trish, Michele and the many book bloggers who took time to share their thoughts with us.

Regarding the session topics you mentioned in your blog post that you'd like to see--well, many of the topics you mentioned are being covered in this year's program and we are currently recruiting speakers. Here’s a quick review:

*           Writing Negative Reviews will be covered in our session, "Critical Reviews: Fine Tuning Your Craft"
*           Dealing with Publishers will be covered in our session, "Demystifying the Book Blogger & Publisher Relationship"
*           Using Statistics and Monetization will be covered in our session, "So You Want to Make Money?"
*           Collaboration, Podcasting, and Social Media will be covered in our session, "Creating Community & Driving Engagement"
*           Niche topics (YA, Literary Fiction, Romance, Graphic Novels, Fantasy, and so on) will be addressed in our networking luncheon, "Let's Talk Blogs"

The conference is only a day so there is only so much time for sessions. In addition, there were many other things we heard from past attendees that they wanted to see-such as networking-so we built in two opportunities for that with the Networking Continental Breakfast and the Networking Luncheon. Past attendees also told us they want access to authors so we are inviting them into these networking events. We have a jam packed day with sessions, networking, authors, and two meals! One of the attractions to having the event at BEA is that there is access to BEA which means access to well over 1,000 publishers, 700+ authors, dozens of sessions of all kinds + access to the BlogWorld exhibits and a great discount to the BlogWorld conference as well. 

I hope that the information I have shared has helped to shed light on how we've been approaching this year's event and the value of BEA. Our goal is to work together with the book blogger community--and we are trying very hard to do our due diligence and do just that. We know there will be bumps along the way and we know we cannot please everyone, but I hope this will help to add some fresh perspective for you.

We would welcome your feedback to help continue to shape this year's event and the event going forward.

Thank you.

- Joe Vella

Joseph Vella


  1. BooksaremyboyfriendsMarch 22, 2012 at 4:12 PM

    "No one here is cool."- the truest thing that has been said about book blogging.

  2. I was kind of hoping that they'd say something about asking for blog stats... I guess not.

  3. It's nice that the sessions will address some relevant topics, but it would be nicer if they announced the speaker lineup before taking our money.

  4. Yup, Jeff is pretty much anti-cool ;)

  5. I'm so glad you pointed out that this isn't a boycott. I almost emailed you yesterday to indicate that in your post because I started worrying that others would see it that way. I know I saw Jennifer Weiner mention that as well and want to state that my attending or not attending has nothing to do with WHO the keynote speaker is. I just honestly don't care for a keynote at all.

    I think Mr. Vella made some good points about the types of sessions, but honestly, as soon as I left last year, I thought: this would be way cooler if it were more relaxed. I consider myself a serious blogger, but because we all blog differently, I don't necessarily want a panel of people (who may have totally different blogging styles) telling me what works for them. We do that enough already.

    The value of an unconference, to me, is the idea for discussion groups and shorter sessions. I think it's actually sort of like having a focused Twitter discussion, except we have the benefit of sitting in the room and valuing each other's comments.

    Also, as you mention, I think BEA Bloggers Conference is ideal for someone who does want that structure of an actual conference and perhaps a blogger who does want that sort of direction.

    Blah blah. I'll stop now.

  6. I felt like the motivation was getting a little lost, but I also understand that it's sort of hard to understand, so I thought I would clarify. 

  7. I will only say this in response to his letter - I took part in the surveys and the focus group, and I do not feel like our concerns about any aspect of it (other than changing the name of a session) were really addressed. 

    Beyond that, though, my motivation for wanting to participate in the Unconference is that I want to be an active participant in what is going on. I don't want to sit there passively and just have information thrown at me.  I want to learn new things. I want to try them out, too.  I don't want to be told what I should be doing without having a chance to share my thoughts and experiences.  That just doesn't work for me. It didn't work when I attended professional development meetings as a public school teacher, and it certainly will not work for me now. 

    I want to be comfortable, and I want to have a good time.  I will have a chance to interact with authors and publishers all throughout the week. I want this day to be about bloggers.

  8. To me the big draw of the unconference idea is keeping it as a blogger run conference that can focus on our wants and needs. An industry run conference with authors and publishers may be good for some... but I LOVE the idea of a place where bloggers can interact on our own terms. The structure of an unconference allows that because it gives more flexibility and options, and it allows us to talk about blogging and etc instead of just focusing on marketing to publishers instead. I realize I'm rambling but I'm just excited. heh. 

  9. Joe makes a fair point that you can't cover everything in a single day, and I think the actual session topics are good ones. The trouble is that it would be really difficult for a single presenter or panel to say anything much on those topics that would appeal to the large numbers of bloggers who will be in the sessions.

    Also, although I didn't get the surveys or the focus group invite (possibly because I unsubbed from BEA e-mails after getting lots of irrelevant ones), I think the calls for networking that he mentioned might have been bloggers' way of saying they wanted more interaction in the sessions. Last year, we could also "network" (i.e., talk to each other) at breakfast and lunch, so I'm not seeing any new expansion of opportunities there. Small roundtable-type sessions would be much better.

  10. It´s a shame. I´m coming all the way from Argentina to attend the BEA Bloggers Conference, and it could be a nice chance to network with fellow bloggers, but having both on the same day makes one choose.
    Another thing is, that I really don´t see the logic as accurate behind this statement: "I don't mind competing with it, but that's not why I want it to be that
    day---it's just that bloggers are going to be in NYC that day anyway". If bloggers are going to be there is because of the other event, and if they are going for the Book Expo, it opens the following day, so I´m not sure people would add a day to the budget for no reason.
    I really think a non competing schedule can enrich both initiatives instead of clashing.
    My two cents

  11. Jeff - have you considered perhaps holding it on another day?  I know that there tended to be a day where there wasn't a lot going on at the BEA (usually it was the first day) that most of us bloggers couldn't attend and so it would give us something to do and not compete with the BBC.  Also, a good idea for an unconference might be to hold it in the evening, over say two nights.  I know I would love to have some relaxing down time to sit around and chat with bloggers after the events of the day.  Perhaps the best way to get the people who want to come and also keep away from the 'conference' feel is to do that. I would think pricing of facilities might be a bit cheaper as well.

  12. I think the letter avoids certain other elements that go into the make-up of a conference, they are not only trying to attract bloggers, but also exhibitors.
    For the conference aspect, it seems that something in between may be useful, like facilitated sessions, not everyone wants passive presentations, but then a discussion also needs to be facilitated to be useful.

    Ideally both types of event would be incorporated, so you could choose to attend a presentation or a facilitated discussion.

  13. Hmm. I went to BEA last year and I never was asked for my input. I was sad to see that the conference was sold and I was amazed that no line up was given until just recently. I was originally sad I wasn't going to make it this year but now I'm not so sad....