Sunday, May 31, 2009

BEA: Book Bloggers

The second program I went to was about bloggers and publishers. The event was organized by Jennifer Hart of HarperCollins and

The bloggers: Stephanie's Written Word; Beth Fish Reads; Maw Books Blog; Booking Mama; She Is Too Fond Of Books; My Friend Amy.

The thing with blogging and bloggers is that there are so many of us; with such different aims; that it's really hard to say here is one blogger or one panel that gives the "answer" for everyone. So for everytime I agreed with something (wishing that people who pitch a book to my website would read the website to know beforehand whether or not it fits), there was something I didn't agree with (the nature of the relationship between publishers and bloggers.)

There was also a bit about blog tours; I think that could have been it's own panel, what with the difference between tours like the one ChasingRay has organized since 2007, where bloggers decide who to interview and there is a variety of authors, and ones that are focused on one author at multiple blogs which are generated by authors/publicists.

There was a nice turn out; and I think it would be interesting to have a joint panel with those featured in the Book Review 2010 panel. For example, I kept wondering if the morning panelists would say that the afternoon people were writing reviews, or recommendations.

For another opinion, see Publishers Weekly report.

EDITED TO ADD: Especially since the question of publisher/blogger/author relationships came up in the comments here, I want to add a link to what Mrs Giggles (Everything Romantic) had to say about this aspect of blogging. She says at the end of her post: "I am going to be frank here and say that I personally do not appreciate the idea of blogs being sold as promotional vehicles for authors."

EDITED TO ADD: And another take on the panel from Babbling About Books and More. Good discussion in comments.

EDITED TO ADD: Colleen continues the conversation at Chasing Ray, noting "the publishing industry (organizers of BEA) want to get a handle on the lit blogosphere." The conversation continues in the comments, with some misunderstandings cleared up (or perhaps understandings muddied?) I also find out that Ed Champion was the tall guy at the back of the room. Ed says in the comments, "So when there's talk about being publishers' pawns and the first wave isn't invited to the table, and the second wave isn't willing to check history, then, yeah, there's a problem."

My scattered notes:

* online marketing & influence of bloggers, especially with shrinking mainstream media

* blogs cover every genre

* "more perfect union between publishers, booksellers, and blogs"

* blogs are "more than just a review to give exposure to your products"

* independent bookstores: about featuring bookstores, visiting them, working with them re interviews/tours

* to publishers, "we don't know your expectations", "when do you want a review"

* it's our pleasure to review books for you

* please actually read our blogs if you are going to send up pitches/books

* communication issues: publishers not always clear about who to contact for books/to send reviews

* this is an unpaid hobby, publishers/authors don't always seem to understand that

* bloggers don't get paid

* there are varying degrees of seriousness of bloggers

* what do/should publishers/booksellers "give back" (for the reviews? coverage?) on blogs; some want publishers to link/blog/tweet about review/interview/coverage

* some publishers give no response "not even thank you" for coverage

* publisher sponsored giveaways should be promoted by publisher

* various blogger directories mentioned (all either created by individual or people submit themselves)

* discussion on "what publishers look for" at blog re statistics, comments, etc.

* discussion on advertising

* question about age/race/ethnicity of bloggers as panel was white women

* "personal relationships with publicists" (some past wank about a disrespectful letter?)

* "encourage authors to comment positively"

* finding the right blog, blog tours, mixed feelings about Amazon linkage, traffic, times to post

© Elizabeth Burns of A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy


Jen Robinson said...

Your posts make me wish that I had been there, Liz. Of course, I wish that anyway, but that's beside the point.

Not sure which, if any, of these sessions Pam was able to attend, too, but it sounds to me like these sessions offer up some nice suggestions for panels or sessions for the KidLit conference. Seems like every session has discussion trains that could be an entire session on their own.

Natasha @ Maw Books said...

Great write up Liz and I'm excited you were able to attend. I'm curious on your thoughts about publisher/blogger relationships. Could you expand on that?

Stephanie said...

Thanks for writing about our panel. I'm glad that you found it informative!

Liz B said...

While bloggers may (or may not) get review copies from publishers, I think the relationship is simple and basic: we get ARCs (either from BEA/NCTE/ALAN/ALA/etc or more targeted, with publishers mailing them to us); we let the publishers know if (and when) we post a review. They want buzz; we give buzz.

I post (or don't) on the schedule I think works best for the readers of the blog, not the publishers. And I'm pretty sure that when Kirkus or SLJ or NYT publish reviews, it's not based on what the publishers would prefer.

I have heard (at panels & in conversation) concerns about blogs simply being unpaid PR for publishers.

I strong, strongly disagree with this and correct people. Bloggers have integrity; they are not part of a publisher's PR machine, even tho (as people posting reviews etc) we are part of their overall PR plan. Bloggers do not sell themselves for an ARC. Absolutely not!!

So I'm very cautious about what happens between publishers & bloggers; and how that is viewed; and how that impacts what a person is doing.

I think this is an exciting time because so many book people can connect and communicate; and what we are doing shows to me that mainstream media's faltering book coverage is due to their own failures to tap into what it is people want to know about books, etc. And yes, publishers are struggling. But I see my focus as more towards the readers; not the publishers.

MotherReader said...

Jen, it's safe to say that Pam talked a bit in this discussion and most definitely got out there. In fact, it's mentioned specifically in the Publishers Weekly article.

Dawn - She is Too Fond of Books said...

Thanks for posting about the panel, Liz. Yes, we tried to cover a lot of ground, and the very interactive audience helped us expand the topics!

Re: integrity in blogging reviews/recommnedations. I agree with you wholeheartedly -- this is not "unpaid PR for the publishers". We write (and spread the word) honestly - the good, the bad, the 'meh'

So glad you could attend; thanks for your feedback!

Liz B said...

Dawn, part of the reason I put up where I got an ARC (ie from publisher, etc) is to try to be transparent about the relationship (I also have a sidebar of publishers who send books). Of course, now I have to take all the BEA books and note "BEA" in them so I don't confuse them and I can post correctly about source.

Someone once said it doesn't matter to the blog reader where the review book comes from. I think it does, even if they don't realize it.

When I was in law, there were "captured law firms" who had only one client. One. Really, it was practically an inhouse law department that for various reasons needed to look like a law firm. (that is short explanation).

I think its possible (but hasn't happened yet, to my knowledge) to have "captured blogs" if we aren't careful...blogs that have one publisher and so are little more than that publisher's PR. And it would also be possible for a reader to not realize the "independent" looking blog is really only reviewing books from Publisher ABC.

Hey, if Publisher ABC wants me to be a captured blog, it will cost more than ARCs. I don't think there is anything wrong with that type of relationship, if it's transparent, and if the blogger is being paid for it.

So am I a little overcautious?

Yes. I realize that!

Jen Robinson said...

Don't know how I missed that mention, Pam. But I don't have trouble imagining that you had something to say on this topic ;-).

Liz, I think the captive blog thing is a good one to watch (one might choose to do it, but to watch to keep from doing it by accident). I receive books from quite a few publishers, but I have one publisher that sends me a LOT of books. Just yesterday I was picking candidate titles for the 48 hour book challenge, and I made a conscious effort not to let books from that one publisher dominate my selections. That was before reading your comment, and you've made me that much more determined to keep an eye on this.

And people do notice. I was mentioned on Reading Rockets the other day, and Joanne Meier said: "I appreciate ... the fact that Jen isn't selling or endorsing any particular publisher." (Now that I think about it, Joanne probably inspired me to make sure that my 48HBC list was diverse).

Sorry for rambling...

Natasha @ Maw Books said...

Oh, I totally agree wholeheartedly about a blog becoming a single publisher's PR outlet. I've always been one to say that I'm wary of bloggers who only blog books from one source. I don't think that anybody should review books for publishers only. Right now, I'd say my blog is a healthy division of books from my own collection, library and review copies. And I only get review copies of books that I honestly think sound appealing to me in the first place. Absolutely, like Dawn said this is not "unpaid PR for publishers."

Chrisbookarama said...

I listened to the panel on Blogtalk Radio yesterday- although I wish the sound quality had been better. But I can't complain about that. It was an interesting discussion. I'm glad I caught it.

I don't think I would like to be 'captive.' I really enjoy my independence. I don't think I've come across those blogs yet. They must be rare.

Colleen said...

It's amazing to me that after a couple of years of doing this the Blog Blast Tours still get lost in the same discussion as author tours. We are so different - and we are different for a reason and I think readers appreciate that we organize the whole thing ourselves.

Reading these blog posts and comments on the panel the one thing that jumps out at me is that there is not any one way to categorize or address book bloggers. Everybody is in it for a different reason and trying to find some kind of universal voice to the lit blogosphere seems.....well I was going to say pointless but I'm leaning more towards silly.

I've never heard of any of the bloggers on this panel - which doesn't mean they aren't great and wonderful. But I guarantee you they weren't speaking for me just as I would not be able to speak for them.

Liz B said...

Late to add to the party. In all honesty, many of the bloggers were "new to me," but thats because a, last year b/cause of the Printz I did little searching for new blogs, and b, I don't read adult book blogs and the bloggers appeared to be mainly adult books (tho once I added them to my bloglines I saw a mix on some blogs of childrens/YA.) To me, that shows how big our lunchroom is; but it is all one lunchroom. We have much in common. But we are also quite independent -- each have our own ways of blogging -- so it's very very hard to have any "one size fits all." But frankly that is what I like about blogs. The unique voices and interests.

Wendy said...

Thanks for providing some balance to this discussion (especially in the comments!!)

I agree completely about the relationship with publishers issue - I accept books for review, but I review them on my own schedule. I am always honest (even when my reaction to the book is negative) and I certainly don't accept books from only one source.

I believe there is some misconception about book blog tours - I do tours and I have always been asked for HONEST reviews. The author is never guaranteed a bunch of positive reviews. How the tour is structured is individual to each if there are canned interviews, that is the choice of the blogger. I know I try to be more creative than that myself...

It is impossible to categorize bloggers under one title (ie: lit bloggers vs. book bloggers as two groups) as there is so much overlap as well as individuality - as it should be!