Will Schwalbe Opening Address
Will Schwalbe was a lot more entertaining that I thought he was going to be. He was sweet and articulate and kind of adorable.
He likes books. Which is cool. I like books, and I’m pretty sure everyone in the room liked books. I’m just not so sure he totally grasps what book blogs are all about. He wasn’t wrong, but his talk didn’t convince me he knew the scope of what book bloggers do. Book blogs are about all the things he mentioned—community, engagement—but we’re also about filtering the book world to help people connect with books they want to read. There are as many critical book blogs as there are ones that are pure promo. While book blogs can do wonders for the books and authors they love, we’re not all about cheerleading—at least I’m not, and neither are my favorite blogs.
Schwalbe acknowledged that snarky posts get traffic, but appealed to everyone to remember that we’re all people and build communities around kindness. To a certain extent, I agree, but I think “respectful” rather than “kind” should be the standard.
I am totally backing his crusade to get everyone asking the question “what are you reading?” because I agree that books are an important way in which we discuss what matters to us.
Even though it was better than I expected, I would have rather heard from someone within the book blogging community rather than an author/editor/book club enthusiast.
YA Editor Insight Panel
So, editor “insight” in this case was a euphemism for “buzz.” Rather than breaking down the editorial process, the editors basically pitched a few of their upcoming titles. I thought we would learn why these submissions stood out to them, why they felt that they fit into upcoming trends, etc., but it mostly ended up feeling like a press release.
Cheryl Klein of Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic was championing Marie Antoinette, Serial Killer, which blends the genres of contemporary, horror, ghost stories, and mysteries, but no amount of praise is going to make me pick up this book because the concept—an American girl visiting Paris sees ghosts that look like Marie Antoinette and then must discover who is murdering descendants of the queen’s enemies—is just not my cup of tea, even if you try and tell me that the class differences in the modern story mirror the class divides that sparked the French Revolution. I didn’t enjoy Maureen Johnson’s Jack the Ripper series, so I can’t imagine liking this one. I’m handing this off to a teen from the library to read.
She also talked about common core standards (which I’m sure the majority of the bloggers in attendance could care less about) and talked about Scholastic’s narrative nonfiction book, The Nazi Hunters. I will probably read this for my nonfiction read-alikes series at The Hub, because I’ve been thinking about featuring read-alikes for Code Name Verity.
Emily Meehan from Disney Hyperion talked about These Broken Stars, which was billed as “Titanic in space” and the main focus of the conversation was how they chose the cover to imply romance. Billing a book as a survival tale set in space with an epic love story featuring sharp wit, sarcasm, and peppy dialogue is sure to attract some readers. I already had this one on my Kindle (either from Edelweiss or Netgalley, I can’t remember).
Meehan also talked about All Our Yesterdays, and again, it was mostly about the cover, though she did mention it was a “love story” about two people “separated in time” and her editorial work focused on developing the “emotional core” of the book.
Deb Noyes of Candlewick Press talked a bit about Quintana of Charyn, which I’ve already read and loved, but was happy to get a hardback finished copy, even it means I have to find Froi of the Exiles and Finnikin of the Rock in hardback to complete the set, though I already own them for Kindle. I hate incomplete series on my bookshelves.
Speaking of series, she spoke about how trilogy must have a reason to justify three books, and that each installment must have its own questions that speak to the theme of the series. While The Lumatere Chronicles definitely meets these criteria, I wish more editors shared her beliefs.
Noyes then discussed Cherry Money Baby, which I was pleased to learn features a working class heroine who likes her life. This was the only realistic fiction discussed on the panel, and I liked the way Noyes framed the Hollywood lifestyle as “the alien factor” in the book.
The final book mentioned was Sorrow’s Knot, a new twist on fantasy where the magic is very much based in nature. Noyes went so far as to say the writing is as beautiful as Kristen Cashore’s which prompted me to quickly move it to the top of my TBR list.
This panel boiled down to promo, and didn’t seem at all tailored to bloggers. There was no discussion about the way that bloggers factor into editorial decisions or anything of that nature. Jen Doll of The Atlantic moderated, and while she writes the “YA for Grownups” column, I can’t say I value her opinion on YA.
There was definitely some questionable conversation around gender—lots of “this book is for boys because the cover is red and black and it’s nonfiction” and “this book we went for the girls, with the high romance feel on the cover, but even though this story is similar, we went with a more ‘boy’ cover” and other troubling comments.
YA Book Blogging Pros: Successes, Struggles, and Insider Secrets
This panel featured Cindy Minnich of Nerdy Book Club, Kristina Radke of NetGalley, Thea James from The Book Smugglers, and Danielle Smith from There’s A Book. I can’t say that I took anything away from this panel. I already use Netgalley, and I’m already doing my own thing here on the blog, which was the point all the bloggers seemed to agree on.
I really wish I would have gone to the adult panel, if only because I am less familiar with those bloggers.
The big takeaway from this conversation was that the FTC doesn’t care about negative/critical reviews, and since even reviews of books I absolutely love tend to have a critical tone, this led me to believe I have little to worry about regarding disclosures. Since I prominently note whether I received a book as an ARC from a publisher, purchased it myself, or checked it out from my library, I’ve always assumed I’m covered anyway.
And JFC to anyone thinking you can’t post the book cover images with your review. YOU CAN.
This panel was a huge waste of my time. Evie from Bookish read a laundry list of “why Blogger is not so bad” and I was confused, because when I had seen her name, I thought she was from Bookish.com. Her main piece of advice seemed to be that giveaways=more followers.
The other three panelists—Rachel from Parajunkee, April from Good Books Good Wine, and Stephanie Leary, a WordPress consultant, all talked about self-hosted blogs using WordPress vs. WordPress.com blogs.
It was a big old mess.
For some people, the terminology was too specific, and when the panelists grew frustrated answering remedial questions, basically they said “google it.”
I went to the panel specifically because I’ve been wondering if I should move off of WordPress.com to a self-hosted blog, and walked away thinking there wasn’t a need right now. I’m happy with my design, and why I wish there were some plug-ins I could use, I don’t think it’s worth the hassle. Taking time to manage all those extras myself would just take away from time I have to review.
Extending the Reach of Your Blog Online
This panel wasn’t earth-shattering for me, but as someone who is generally interested in social media both personally and at my job (where I contribute to the library’s social media on many fronts) there were some interesting tidbits.
Mandy Boles from Well-Read Wife talked about social media tools to extend the reach of your blog and interact more with readers—Pinterest, Instagram, and Vine.
I don’t currently pin my reviews to Pinterest, but it might be fun to see all those book covers on a page together (I do love Pinterest). I do have a public Instagram and Vine and do take pictures of bookish things, but it feels weird making it any more blog focused, because I mostly use them to share photos with family and friends. It’s an interesting line to navigate between social media use for personal use vs. my blog. Since I do manage accounts for work, I’m certainly not going to separate my personal/blog presence.
Boles also discussed Twitter vs. Facebook, and shared that she spent $400 to increase her reach on Facebook via ads by using a “like if you’re well read campaign” that showed her avatar. I thought it was a clever ad, but that you can’t really buy engagement. I am not really all that into Facebook, personally. I did set up a page for my blog in case that was the preferred way of following for some readers.
Eric Smith from Quirk Books and Geekadelphia’s most interesting points were about content. He suggests that not everything is about you and that sorta off topic things, especially lists or posts with humor, have a great chance of extending the reach of your blog beyond your usual audience. It’s true that reviews garner the least amount of traffic with regards to other types of posts, at least for me, so I think this advice is true.
Robert Mooney from Blogads talked a lot about what appeals to advertisers looking to pay for space on blogs— consistency, quality, and appeal in niche markets. Since I don’t do ads, this didn’t really seem to apply, but I found the discussion of Twitter tools interesting (though not particularly useful for me).
I skipped out early from the keynote to get home so I could visit NYPL before it closed to check out the Lorca exhibit (which I’ll post about later) but from what I saw on Twitter, it was terrible and I didn’t miss anything.
If anyone is still reading after almost 2000 words, the moral of the story is book blogger “convention” was not really all that useful for me as a blogger.