Next year at BlogHer…or at BookBloggerCon? Conference Conundrums

Just a few weeks ago – while we were at Comic-Con, actually, two weekends before BlogHer’10 – I told Tall Paul that after attending for two years running, I wasn’t sure about going to BlogHer next year. We had already decided we wanted to go to Comic-Con again (we’re anxiously waiting for online registration to open, and we really want the four-day passes this time!). Sure, the event is crazy and crowded, but it’s just so much fun – as Amy put it, it’s “mad addicting.” Also, despite the crowds and craziness, it’s somehow relaxing – probably because I’m just there as an attendee and spectator, with no particular goals. In addition, for the last couple of months, I’ve been thinking about a trip back to New York next May. I loved being part of Armchair BEA this year, and I’m still lukewarm on Book Expo America (a trade show, essentially, where I’m only on the outskirts of the “trade”), but assuming there IS a second annual Book Blogger Convention, I’d really like to be part of it.

And then BlogHer had to go and announce that the 2011 conference will be held in San Diego, on August 5th and 6th. That’s just down the I-5 freeway, it’s accessible via Amtrak – and it’ll happen in the same venue as Comic-Con, just two weeks later. I’m reconsidering my reconsidering; a Southern California BlogHerCon is really hard to pass up! Between that and Comic-Con, Donna has suggested that I make it easier on myself and just get a place in San Diego for the summer.

There’s no denying that the location is attractive – and not needing an airline ticket to get there will keep the cost down! There will be costs for parking if I drive there on my own, or the price of a train ticket if I decide not to take my car, but both are less than flying. BlogHer also makes things easy to arrange: register online for the conference at one website – and do it before February 28, while the subsidized blogger rate of $199 is still available – and once the hotel-room block opens up, reserve for that on another. The conference events and lodgings are held in the same physical site (or two physically attached sites, in the case of San Diego). BlogHer has successfully negotiated a $199-per-night (or lower) on-site hotel room rate for its last few conferences; most people split their costs with a roommate anyway, but not having to hunt down a place to stay scores high for me. And in addition to the conference programming, the fee includes breakfast, lunch, breaks, and cocktail parties for both days; it’s actually a pretty good package.

The convenience/cost-control factor is one reason I’ve chosen BlogHer over BEA for the last couple of years. BEA did offer an “Affordable NYC” program to help 2010 attendees find good hotel rates (hopefully that’s a regular thing), but travel via taxi, shuttle, or public transit is necessary to get from the hotel to the Expo site at the Javits Center, and attendees are on their own for food. Costs add up, and that’s not even factoring in shipping home all those books!

I read an insane number of blogs across a variety of niches and topics, but I identify as a book blogger. This was the year I really wanted to get book bloggers to BlogHer in numbers that would get us noticed. It didn’t happen – but there was Book Blogger Con, and I understand why that would be first choice. If it had been announced before I bought my BlogHer’10 ticket, I’d have chosen it too – and being at BlogHer’10 actually reinforced that to some extent. BlogHer gets bigger every year, and it’s not hard to get lost in the crowd; in partial response to that, smaller, more niche-oriented conferences have been emerging over the last few years. And when your particular niche doesn’t seem to be represented, it’s easier to opt out.

In answer to that second point, I’ll repeat what I said last year: if we don’t show up, there’s no reason to program for us. Having said that, I was excited to be part of this year’s programming as a book blogger (and if some of our community’s more prominent members had been there, I might not have had the chance!). Besides, there are issues and concerns shared by bloggers regardless of niche: technology, improving our writing, and forming community connections are just a few. And there are other ways we have more in common than you might think. While we might use different specifics, there are analogies:

  • “Brand events” aren’t unlike the publisher tours some hosted during BEA Week, and even local author/bookstore events could be seen in those terms
  • Bloggers who highlight particular publishers’ imprints and promote small presses are acting as “brand ambassadors” who develop relationships with companies and blog about them
  • Conference swag=free books!

It’s also easy to forget sometimes that not all avid readers are book bloggers, and being part of a more general blog conference offers the chance to connect with a broader potential audience. There were always follow-up questions, including reading recommendations, when I told people I blog about books. Also, did you catch BlogHer’10’s post-event write-up in Shelf Awareness?

“Finding your tribe” is a concept that comes up at BlogHerCon fairly often. While I still wish more of them would come to BlogHer, it appears that my tribe is more likely to come together at the Book Blogger Con and BEA, so I’m really leaning toward going to them in 2011. Still, having BlogHer in San Diego next summer means it might not have to be an either/or choice. Yes, I know it’s my decision, but I’d love to know your thoughts – and any plans you’re already making for 2011 conferences!

The only conference that’s not negotiable right now is Comic-Con 2011, so I know I’ll be in San Diego at least once next summer!

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