Reading a little slower than I had hoped…

BEA itself was the usual frenetic, crowded, overwhelming, and FUN experience. Wandering the booths, that is. I attended one educational session, titled “The Current Size of U.S. Book Publishing: Exploring Shifts (2008-2011) Across Format, Category and Channel” in which supposedly the “members of the BookStats Steering Committee will reveal topline results from BookStats 2012 and discuss the importance of good data to the entire industry.” They definitely discussed the importance of good data… Since the study hadn’t been officially released and the authors were unwilling to spill the beans on the results, they instead discussed the statistical methodology used to come up with the study design. I think I can speak for the majority of attendees in the room when I say we were collectively disappointed that the title of the session was so misleading. I also attended the session for book club leaders, in which the latest book club titles were promoted by publishers. It was a very useful and informative session, actually, and I came away with copies of some of the wonderful titles.

As for my reading progress, I am moving forward like a car on the Washington, DC beltway at rush hour. I do apologize; life does tend to get in the way of reading at times, especially recently having returned from a trip to New York City! I am three-quarters of the way through Oleanna, and then I shall move on to Darkness into Light. I will be a bit late on reviews, unfortunately.

BEA Blogger Conference 2012, Part 1

I will be posting a short series on some of the interesting and relevant topics that came out of Book Expo 2012 in between book reviews.  Indie books are a HUGE segment of the market now, and I have a resource or two to share with those who have chosen to take this route. I was taking notes during the sessions—especially the impressive and professional “Critical Reviews” session from the blogger convention—and I will share some of what I learned as well.

To begin. . . the blogger convention. I was both ambivalent and excited as I entered the Javits Center on Monday. Am I too old for this, I wondered? Will it be terribly commercial? Helpful? Well, those, among others, turned out to have been valid concerns. I am going to speak honestly about my own views here, and they may be controversial to some. I realize that my point of view is in the minority at this point, and it is just one humble person’s opinion, so please bear with me.


Gender: The conference was overwhelmingly composed of female attendees. Yes, there were some men, too, but if I had to give a percentage, I would guess five percent male, maximum. Not surprising, given that the two major speakers were both females and writers whose work would appeal to a female audience.

Age Range: From where I sat (at the back of the room), it seemed to me that the majority of bloggers present were under 30.  If I had to guess, I would say the largest group was the under-30 crowd, and the second largest group was composed of older attendees, over 50, perhaps. I, being “middle-aged,” certainly felt in the minority, but as I said, it was difficult to tell for sure. I’d be curious to hear other attendees’ observations.

Content of the conference:

The “networking” meals: Hmm. This is where I could get myself into trouble. First, what were “networking” meals? A group of attendees at each table and an author sitting down and speaking with (or at) them for 15 minutes.  The authors would then  rotate; most tables had a rotation of four authors. I’m not going to name any of the authors, since I also learned the difference between constitutionally protected opinion and libel during the week. . . . Some authors were very engaging and wanted to talk with us. I got a lot out of those conversations–learned interesting facts about these authors and simply enjoyed human-to-human conversation.  Some, however, just marketed their books to a captive audience. That was a disappointment and made me quite angry. Made me feel quite used, in fact. And where was the “networking”? This was a fan following for authors, a chance for them to “sell” to bloggers; it was not “networking” in any sense of the word. These authors saw hundreds of people over the week, so why would they have formed any special relationship at one (15 minute!!) event out of a large number of such events? As you can tell, I was not pleased with this aspect of the agenda. And it was during these “networking” meals when the full force of the corporate nature of this conference hit me. This is where I start getting controversial…the combination of the emphasis on “swag bags” and free merchandise, and the author-worshiping atmosphere was an axis around which this conference revolved. And I believe this is what many bloggers were concerned about beforehand. Now, I KNOW we all go because we like the freebies (we’re all human, of course), but to market (in the official conference video, for example) the conference that way . . . this is where my ambivalence came from. I was looking for a down-to-earth venue to meet other bloggers in my genre of choice. There really wasn’t much of an opportunity to do that. One way that aspect could have been improved would have been by setting up different tables for each genre or subgenre of literature, and letting us mingle. If an author had to be included, one or more from each genre would have been ideal. As it was set up, we were made to listen to book pitches for genres we didn’t even like! So, my overall assessment of the “networking” meals is quite negative.

The panels: I found the morning “Blogging Today” panel (Zoe Triska, Erica Barmash, Patrick Brown, Jen Lancaster, and Candice Levy) to be helpful, especially in terms of the advice offered on how to get one’s content noticed. Bloggers have to be self-marketers to get noticed these days, given the plethora of blogs out there. An extreme (and from my vantage point, somewhat silly) example of this concept in action was the number of bloggers at the conference handing out business cards to every person who said hello (and some who didn’t). I don’t know about the other attendees, but I was there to make personal connections, not just to force business cards on people.  Yes, one might receive a few extra one-time hits on one’s site as a result of this tactic, but consistent viewers? No. Bloggers will ensure a steady number of hits for other bloggers who share similar interests, rather than one-timers, in my opinion. So, I was reserved when it came to handing out business cards.

Twitter is apparently the key to driving traffic to one’s blog. Not Facebook, for some obscure reason (which I have noticed as well). Stumbleupon was also mentioned. Goodreads is a helpful online reading community to be involved in for networking purposes as well.

Regarding content, one suggestion to “spice it up” was to vary the content on one’s site, for example, setting up weekly features that focus on something other than books. Another idea was to write original content, as in something “meaty and interesting outside of your usual topic, in order to illustrate who you are [what makes you unique] . . .” Another piece of advice: don’t post every day if you are not inspired; if you are uninspired, so will your audience be. And one final thought was to promote imprints that the one really likes (making sure to explain your reasons why). It’s rather a different story for bloggers of self-published books, but even in this subset of publishing, one can find very small publishers and perhaps imprints one likes. As for this blog, my general focus is SP, but there are imprints of mainstream publishers that I would like to promote—those that have a penchant for signing on historical fiction authors and the smaller, more unique presses, the ones willing to take risks.

The topics of code of conduct and plagiarism came up as well. I really have to question the mind-set of bloggers who don’t understand these concepts. They are so basic to almost any field of work: no rudeness, no hypercritical comments on a personal level, and no plagiarizing. I see plagiarism in my day job as a manuscript editor, and these are supposed to be college-educated authors, PhDs!!! Plagiarism is taught in high school writing classes, for crying out loud! Need I say more? Actually, yes. In our media-rich age, unauthorized use of images on one’s site can be a problem, and to avoid that issue, it was suggested to look for open-license photos on Flikr. Excellent suggestion, thank you!

I’m going to save the “Critical Reviews” and “Demystifying the Blogger/Publisher Relationship” afternoon breakout sessions for a later post, since I have a lot to say about them and I’d like to get this post up before my train pulls in at the station.

The main speakers: The two main speakers were Jennifer Weiner and Jenny Lawson. I was there for the first, but not the second. It was an entertaining talk, just not my kind of thing.

Overall, this was a conference for bloggers to reiterate their self-importance. Yes, I found two of the sessions helpful (one made the entire conference worth the trip!), but overall, I don’t think it offered much that will be of use to me because of its corporate nature. I’m just not sure about the blogging culture and how much importance it (including this blog!) should have in the business of professional publishing. Blogging is in its toddlerhood, I believe, and will most likely change and mature over time and with the fast pace of technological developments. I do wish there had been more substantive (intellectually speaking) breakout sessions, and I’m afraid the not uncommon lack of professionalism in conduct with authors and publishers, as well as in content, may slow what could potentially be a very thriving semi-intellectual* forum. But then, I’m coming from a very different place than many bloggers, I guess. Okay, I’m stepping down from my high horse now.

*By using this term, I want to make it clear that I realize the purpose of blogging is not to write papers for a college course; I simply advocate a thoughtful, objective, and balanced approach to reviewing, as I have stated in my post titled “Advocating a Middle-of-the-Road Approach to Reviewing.” My reason for this position is that we, as bloggers, are interacting with the professional publishing community; therefore, we need to act professionally ourselves.


What I hope to bring home from BEA 2012…

As far as I’m concerned, part of the fun of BEA is the planning and the anticipation. And the planning I’ve doing! I’ve been pouring over the PW “Galleys to Grab” article, Barbara Hoffert’s “Galley and Signing Guide,” as well as the BEA website and the mobile app. So much potential for enjoyment here! I can’t believe I’ve only got two days before the train leaves the station!

So, this is my obsessive-compulsive personality’s spreadsheet of the “must do” events at BEA this year (it doesn’t include Blogger Con, but that’s a different creature altogether).  I’m wearing three hats this year: as a representative of the press, a representative of the HNS, and for my personal blog. I will be prowling the academic presses and military-political-focused publishers for work contacts, the mainstream presses for historical novels, and although this event is geared around the mainstream publishing world, there are always some small presses and independent authors at BEA, so I intend to seek them out for this blog. I’ll review enticing mainstream HF here as well.

I’m hoping to return with knowledge of how to make this blog better, more contacts and book sources, and updates on the latest trends in paper and e-book publishing. Of course, I will share what I learn here, and I will make sure to post photos and updates from the convention.

I am currently reading Julie K. Rose’s lovely work, Oleanna, which will accompany me on the train; hopefully I can finish it and write the HNS review on the ride home. Then I will begin book two of Sam Baty’s WW2 thriller series, Darkness into Light.

Thank you again for all of the review requests–I intend to catch up on correspondence over the weekend.

Historical Fiction from Sourcebooks at BEA 2012

While searching the web this morning, I discovered on Sourcebook’s website that Susannah Kearsley will be signing copies of The Shadowy Horses in booth on Tues from 10-11am. This is exciting, as I may get a chance to tell her in person how much I loved Mariana!  (description from GoodReads)

The dark legends of the Scotland were an archaeologist dream. Verity Grey was thrilled to be at a dig for an ancient Roman camp in the Scottish village. But danger was in the air — in the icy reserve of archeologist David Fortune. In the haunted eyes to the little boy who had visions of a slain Roman sentinel. And in the unearthly sound of the ghostly Shadowy Horses, who carried men away to the land of the dead.


Also, Sourcebook’s galley giveaways include A Place Called Armageddon by CC Humphries (Tues) and Before Versailles by Karleen Koen (Thurs.)

Armageddon: To the Greeks who love it, it is Constantinople. To the Turks who covet it, the Red Apple. Safe behind its magnificent walls, the city was once the heart of the vast Byzantine empire.

1453. The empire has shrunk to what lies within those now-crumbling walls. A relic. Yet for one man, Constantinople is the stepping stone to destiny. Mehmet is twenty when he is annointed Sultan. Now, seeking Allah’s will and Man’s glory, he brings an army of one hundred thousand, outnumbering the defenders ten to one. He has also brings something new – the most frightening weapon the world has ever seen…

But a city is more than stone, its fate inseparable from that of its people. Men like Gregoras, a mercenary and exile, returning to the hated place he once loved. Like his twin and betrayer, the subtle diplomat, Theon. Like Sofia, loved by two brothers but forced to make a desperate choice between them. And Leilah, a powerful mystic and assassin, seeking her own destiny in the flames.

This is the tale of one of history’s greatest battles for one of the world’s most extraordinary places. This is the story of people, from peasant to emperor – with the city’s fate, and theirs, undecided… until the moment the Red Apple falls


Versailles: After the death of his prime minister, Cardinal Mazarin, twenty-two-year-old Louis steps into governing France. He’s still a young man, but one who, as king, willfully takes everything he can get—including his brother’s wife. As the love affair between Louis and Princess Henriette burns, it sets the kingdom on the road toward unmistakable scandal and conflict with the Vatican. Every woman wants him. He must face what he is willing to sacrifice for love.

But there are other problems lurking outside the chateau of Fontainebleau: a boy in an iron mask has been seen in the woods, and the king’s finance minister, Nicolas Fouquet, has proven to be more powerful than Louis ever thought—a man who could make a great ally or become a dangerous foe . . .

Meticulously researched and vividly brought to life by the gorgeous prose of Karleen Koen, Before Versailles dares to explore the forces that shaped an iconic king and determined the fate of an empire.