Well I’m back from a whirlwind of a trip to New York after attending The Book Expo America 2014 event. It was a fantastic trip that I would consider doing again mostly because of the experience of being surrounded by like minded book fanatics of bloggers, librarians, bookstore owners, publishers, authors and educators. I can’t say enough positive things about that experience.
Unfortunately my travel experience was something similar to Planes, Trains and Automobiles, minus the trains part. For some reason transportation was not my friend on this trip being subjected to flight delays, poor connecting shuttles (dropping you off nowhere near your destination), unruly and angry cab drivers and a flight mix-up leaving me on stand-by. But that’s adventure for you, I guess.
Meeting up with Rory from Fourth Street Review upon arrival was a great way to start this journey. Her blog is eloquent, witty and intelligent and found she was the same in person. We navigated the confusing connecting shuttle from LaGuardia, only to get lost (my fault). At least I took some photos as my hair grew larger with the humidity and covered in a sheen of sweat. She didn’t judge.
I later met up with Shannon from River City Reading and Leah from Books Speak Volumes for a night out. They were also wonderful in person and made the experience easier as I navigated this trip solo. We headed to White Horse Tavern, known as a literary gathering place for writers as well as musicians.
But I was mostly excited to attend the BEA Blogger’s Conference on Wednesday before the expo began. My blog is only 14 months young and I was looking for some insight and expertise to help grow my blog into what it was intended for: to reach readers and share the love for literature. But also incorporate social media in a way to connect with others and write engaging posts to build a community. Sadly, I didn’t get what I was looking for but here are some little snippets for those who couldn’t attend:
- Maureen Johnson, YA author, was an excellent keynote speaker to start the conference off right. She talked about being at the conference because she wanted to and to talk about the things she loves: books and blogging. She also mentioned that a book review is a piece of writing and to stay true to the affection for the material; focus on the reading without detracting, what’s your intention as a book blogger? Stay away from “click bait” to attract numbers as opposed to clear, relatable content. She was witty and engaging and then my notes fell away.
- All courses were set up into two categories: blogs that are less than three years old and blogs over three years old. But this is where I think there is some discrepancy. Labeling courses based on how old a blog is is irrelevant. I know bloggers who have been blogging for numerous years and still don’t have Twitter account. And then I know bloggers who are just starting out who seem like pros. Anyway…
- Design 101: Creating a Picture Perfect Blog: The main points were where to find graphics and icons without copyright issues, suggested design programs such as Photoshop, GIMP, Paint.net (I brought up PicMonkey). Also, discussion was focused on readability, the usage of colors and typeface. Clean and easy to read is the trend right now and make sure your blog fits the mood and your personality. Try to use templates with mobile options since most people read on the go. Minimize clutter on sidebars, keep important content above the fold. I am still trying to find the right graphic/logo which fits the blog, but didn’t get much feedback besides being told to consider hiring someone for hundreds of dollars…not an option. Ashley Evans from Nose Graze and Jeremy West from Jeremy West Design had some good information and reminders of how to keep your blog looking it’s best. Again, maybe pertinent information for really new bloggers…but if you are a blogger who is resourceful and knowledgeable with the basics, go to Design 201. I might have had some questions answered.
- Technology 201: Ad Networks: After feeling a little let down, I decided to go to an “advanced” session and the panel was great. Florinda Pendley Vasquez- The 3R’s Blog, Swapna Krishna- S. Krishna’s Books, Jason Chambers – Litbreaker and Henry Copeland-Blogads had much to say about how much of a blog is viewed with native advertising versus sponsored posts and again really try and use a template that offers mobile viewing options. More people spend time on Twitter and Facebook, so also use headlines that attract readers to repost. I have had no problems with Litbreaker and find it easy to use. Another great resource mentioned was Tap Influence. The take away was that advertising on your blog is fine, you are not a sell-out, but just make sure your comfortable with which program you sign up for. And always read the fine print!
- Lunch was accompanied by an interview with Stacy Morrison, Chief and VP of Content Programming of BlogHer. I didn’t take many notes for I was hungry and talking to new blog friend, Erin of Read at Home Mama. Basically the gist was “define your tribe”, which I guess is more of know who your audience is, or who you want your audience to be.
- Vlogging & Podcasting: I was curious about this but still not interested in turning my blog into a vlog. Maybe as a feature once a month but I prefer writing. I would recommend listening to podcast Bookrageous (Josh Christie was on the panel). I find their book podcasts entertaining and very informative.
- Engaging Your Readers: Take Your Writing to the Next Level: had a great panel with seasoned bloggers Mandy Boles-Life Between Books, Nicole Bonia –Linus’s Blanket and Sheila DeChantal-Book Journey. This was a main reason why I went to the conference. There was a great discussion about how to engage readers and keep your blog fresh and inviting. Most book bloggers aren’t reviewing a book everyday if managing the site solo. So here were some excellent suggestions and comments about blog posts:
*Ask readers questions to prompt responses. Bloggers want readers to comment and engage, ask opinions.
*Use things and events from daily life to spark conversations. Discuss hot topics.
*Blog about interviews, mention spoilers at the end of the post (with warnings), create lurkers.
*Be creative: participate in memes, books to movies, food pairings, book club books, kid’s corner, playlists, etc.
*And one I am going to start using: ‘What drew me to the book?” I make lists and lists of books I want to read but then forget why I picked it up in the first place. Who recommended it? Why did I want to read it?
This post definitely goes against “keeping it short” (300-800 words) as suggested at the conference but I didn’t want to leave anything out for those who couldn’t attend. All in all, I would attend it again if some changes were made:
- No blog age requirement for classes. Instead ask bloggers what they want to learn prior to attending and then try to focus on those queries. Age has nothing to do with experience (in this case 🙂 )
- Leave more time for blogger networking. Yes, there are days after to chat in lines but it’s really not an option when you have an agenda and want to spend some time networking with publishers. The last thing you need is a notepad to carry when you arms are filled with galleys.
- Have an honest to goodness Q & A with a varied panel. The questions can be submitted in advance so featured panelists can come ready to answer.
I can’t think of anything else right now. So….
Bloggers who did attend, what was missing or what did you learn?
Bloggers who didn’t attend, what would you have wanted answered?
Maybe we can start our own online forum to help one another.