It’s supposed to read, “an embarrassment OF riches,” of course, but I need to combine the two in order to sum up my experience at the Book Blogger Convention yesterday. First of all, hats off to the ladies who organized the one-day event—I was very impressed with the afternoon panels that I attended: lots of smart people talking about content and marketing and ethics, every panel had the chance to take questions from the audience, and everyone stayed within the allotted time. Plus we each left with a goodie bag full of books and reading-related items (though I did wonder about the rubber stamp that says FAIL—handy for the next race fail, I suppose). The trouble with being on a panel is that I can barely remember what I said. I think I started out ok, but got a little mouthy later on (I may have said, “That’s a load of crap” twice)…still, there were nodding heads in the audience, and the Q&A session was especially good. I don’t like big crowds, but I do love conversation and that’s one of the reasons I blog—you can connect with others while maintaining your privacy; it’s solitude with an optional “out.” I didn’t take notes, so these are just my random memories of yesterday:
- be mindful of your tone as you review books; the length of a review may vary, but you can show respect even as you critique a book you didn’t like. Being nasty is NOT necessary—and that goes for bloggers AND authors!
- develop a theme or focus for your blog; this will then help you to “brand” your blog and get the word out about what you have to offer potential followers.
- don’t obsess over stats—there were several publicists present, and most agreed that they’ll send a book to a sincere, serious blogger whether or not she’s got a thousand followers. And bloggers shouldn’t worry that negative reviews will stop the flow of ARCs from publishers; most are simply thrilled that anyone’s paying serious attention to their books!
- do what feels right for YOU—be mindful of what others are doing out in the blogosphere, but linking to twitter and Facebook may not be right for you. Aim for QUALITY regardless of which platform(s) you use.
- How do you know your blog is having an impact? Comments are nice, and being linked to other blogs also proves you’re being heard. But my advice is: don’t be deterred by the silence. You never know who’s listening and responding in ways that simply can’t be measured.
- Thank bloggers when they link to your blog. Sometimes I do this, sometimes I don’t—particularly when there are zero comments, and so mine will be the only one. But I’m going to try to do better! And let me take this moment to thank The Dirigible Plum for her latest link to my “Open Letter”—she also has a great list of things you can do to support writers of color.
- Build alliances—this is another area I need to work on. I was sitting next to Stephen (Band of Thebes); he discussed his LGBT literary advocacy and I addressed racism in publishing. But when we were asked if we knew about the cover controversy over The Mariposa Club, we both had to shake our heads. And did you know the LAMBDA Literary Award winners were recently announced? Here’s a “friendly reminder” from Stephen: “It’s not enough to wish them well. You must buy lgbt books.”
- publishers are getting wise to the ways of the web—authors DO need to embrace the technology that makes them accessible to readers, but putting content on the web isn’t as important anymore. Authors should connect with bloggers, and respond graciously to interview requests, but understand that being “friends” doesn’t guarantee a rave review.
Ok, that’s as much as I can remember for now. I was thrilled to meet Mother Reader, and Caridad Pineiro, and Ana from The Book Smugglers (did you know she lives in the UK and has only met Thea twice!). My fellow panelists were wonderful: Terry at The Reading Tub and Wendy at CaribousMom, and thanks to our moderator, Marie (The Boston Bibliophile) for her interesting questions. Lastly, I was invited to participate because two awesome, socially responsible bloggers put my name forward, so many thanks to LaTonya Baldwin and Mitali Perkins (who wowed folks at the Children’s Author Breakfast). If either of you wants the goodie bag contents, let me know!