BEA/BBC Aftermath: Connections to conversations outside the official agenda

BookExpo America

I’ve said it before; I like to look for the connections. On the day I moderated the “Blogging for a Niche Market” panel at the 2011 Book Blogger Convention, I contributed a guest post to Armchair BEA talking about the opposite of niche – the concerns and interests bloggers share regardless of the specific content of their blogs.

Despite the fact that it’s being held just down the 5 Freeway in San Diego this year, I won’t be attending the 2011 BlogHer conference. Instead, I traveled cross-country to participate in the second annual Book Blogger Convention and make my first visit to Book Expo America.

BEA is a trade show attended by more than 20,000 people. Book Blogger Con is a small, focused conference – a type of blogger gathering that’s been gaining in popularity recently. BlogHer is an “all things to all bloggers” event with several thousand participants and a varied range of programming, including the parties it’s incorporated into its official schedule.

I went looking for the connections and commonalities, and discovered that there are more than might be immediately obvious. I found enough for a multi-part post that I’ll be publishing over the next few days; I hope you’ll stick around for the whole thing, and weigh in with your thoughts!

Today, I’m talking about topics that may not necessarily be on the conference agenda, but are definitely on conference-goers’ radar.

* Some of the same conversations are happening, although the time, place, and participants are different.

I was swimming in the shallows of the mom-blogger pool when I attended my first (and their fourth) BlogHer conference in 2009. (Now I’d say I’m sitting on the deck and occasionally dipping my toes in.) BlogHer is not strictly a conference for mom bloggers – a point they’re careful to emphasize – but moms with blogs probably comprise the biggest chunk of attendees. At that point, bloggers were already getting a sense of their influence and marketing power, and as marketers became a bigger presence both in and around the conference, discussions about the best ways to “work with brands” were popping up everywhere. The somewhat related topic of “monetization” of blogs – running ads, using affiliate links, writing sponsored posts, etc. – was also generating a lot of conversation. As there are no single definitive answers to either of those questions, the discussions are ongoing.

In only its second year of existence, the Book Blogger Convention’s attendance doubled in 2011, and I heard from several people who were repeat participants that there was a much larger industry presence (publisher reps and authors – those are the “brands” book bloggers work with) than there was in the first year…and there seemed to be some mixed feelings about how welcome that was. I also heard questions in a few sessions about making money from blogging, but they didn’t really get much traction.

I get the impression that there’s some ambivalence in the book-blog sector about monetization and marketing. Although many of us are enthused about the idea of reading and writing about books all day long, getting some financial rewards out of blogging is rarely that straightforward. But for those who accept that, the opportunities to capitalize on our growing influence are there, and are likely to grow; we really should be opening up the conversation about them.

The connection: You don’t have to be at a conference that focuses specifically on your blog sector to get into conversations relevant to your blog. Having said that, what comes out of those conversations at a specialty conference may be more specifically applicable to your blog.

Full disclosure: I’ve run ads on this blog through the BlogHer Publishing Network since 2008, and I think I’ve gotten far more rewarded by traffic (circulation of my posts within the network) than by money ($50 in ad revenue is a big year). However, blogging has opened up some other opportunities to write for pay, and that’s actually where the money is for many bloggers – not in the blogging itself. One of those opportunities, my freelance reviewing for Shelf Awareness’ new Consumer edition (a gig I applied for, and got, in response to their ad; they did not approach me) may actually lead to my working less with publishers directly.

And I’m still spending lots more money on books than my book blog makes (although there are plenty of books I haven’t had to buy, and that is a form of compensation).

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