The Book Expo America can wear you down withÂ the swag and celebrities, so it was refreshing to join the huddled masses of several hundred bloggers, publishers and publicity representatives for an opening reception for the first- ever book bloggers convention which was recently held in New York City.
Michigan must be a magnet. The first person I run into at theÂ receptionÂ is the ghetto girl from Detroit Michigan who has one of the blogs I read frequently. Part of the reason I wanted to attend this event is blogging is a lonely occupation. I also wanted to make sure I wasnâ€™t a freak. I wasnâ€™t. There were bloggers who cover the book world from a highbrow to low brow approach-historical fiction, fantasy, childrenâ€™s books and every Â genre in between. Â It is almost impossible to generalize about who bloggers are with one obvious exception-gender. Most bloggers, or at least those who had time to go to a convention, were women.
At the opening session the next day several hundred bloggers lined up to get another bag of swag and to attend sessions ranging from ethics to marketing blogs. The keynote speaker was young adultÂ author Maureen Johnson.
She was a hoot and a half and sheÂ used her own books to make her presentation on bloggingÂ work. In one funny segment-she talked about how one book blogger had rebuked her about her vampire Catholic girlâ€™s school book being inappropriate for middle schoolers. Something about a stripperâ€™s pole. What she didnâ€™t know was that earlier over breakfastÂ I had listenedÂ to a blogger who specializes in juvenile books talkingÂ about her role to alert parents (on Amazon) to inappropriate age content materialÂ in books.
I was especially attentive in looking for bloggers who didnâ€™t cover the universe, but rather a special geographic area and right in front of me was Celeste Sollod from Baltimore whose blog â€œReading Localâ€ covers the literary scene in that vibrant community. Read her very literary and lucid take on the publishing industry especially this post on e-books.
Want another Michigan coincidence?Â Celeste has recently written a blog entry on author Michael Kimball and his book â€œDear Everybodyâ€. Michael happens to be an MSU grad. Also, Celeste, who is a former publishing exec, is a fan of the poet Mary Jo Salter, who is the spouse of Brad Leithauser, who recently was awarded a Michigan Notable Book Award for â€œThe Art Studentâ€™s Warâ€. Salter was raised in Michigan.
As an attendee at a convention you are always looking for takeaways to justify the expense (other than fun). Ok, other than the great view of the Statue of Liberty from the Jersey side there was the advice of Ron Hogan of Beatrice.com talking about how bloggers should not be put off by traditional literary critics who would judge bloggers by their own standards. Bottom line is bloggers are different and itâ€™s clear they are here to stay. He said there has been a war between critics andÂ bloggers.
“Thatâ€™s what I mean when I say â€œthe war between book critics and bloggers is over, [and] the bloggers won.â€
Hogan who has been blogging about books and authors for more than five years was one of the pioneers and has worked in numerous publishing positions in the industry. There were quite a number of bloggers at the event who also held jobs in the publishing industry. Publicists for books were in attendance both pitching books and trying to figure out this whole blogging phenom which has turned the industry upside down.
It’s just as likely today that a book develops a buzz online as it does with a snarky formula review in the New York Times.
It was also clear that publishers know that bloggers matter and are more than willing to talk with them. I mustâ€™ve handed out a couple hundred business cards and have already started some e-mail communication with publisherâ€™s reps.
One more coincidence: I was looking over the books of David Godine Publisher and a woman next to me said something about the striking photo of Hemingway on the book. It turns out she was the owner of The Cottage Book Shop in Glen Arbor Michigan. I told her about Michigan author Michael Federspielâ€™s new book â€Picturing Michiganâ€™s Hemingwayâ€. She was excited to see it. Booksellers and book bloggers are all about hand-selling and creating a buzz.
The most talked about trend in books at the BEA wasÂ about eÂbooks and their impact on the publishing industry. There were lots of seminars, lots of talk but no definitive answers about the ultimate impact, but publishers and authors are scrambling to adaptÂ . Google had a major presence at the BEA. Itâ€™s hard not to imagine that a few years from now fans will be lining up to have their Kindle signed by an author. How much fun will that be and what impact will ebooks have on the BEA and the publishing industry is yet to be seen.
I know I will be back for the second go around of the Book Bloggers Convention. And I have to thank the organizers who went above and beyond to make the event work for a group who has no rules. Next year hold it at the start of the BEA and I bet the audience would double in size.