BlogHer'10: Book bloggers in an "evolving publishing ecosystem"

 It's hard to process everything that goes on in a conference session when you're one of its presenters, and the time goes by a lot faster. I represented book bloggers on the Writing Lab ROYO panel, "The Evolving Publishing Ecosystem," on the second day of BlogHer'10. I was the only member of the panel who isn't professionally involved in writing or publishing, and I don't do public speaking as a rule (that's why I'm a blogger), but I hope my nerves weren't too obvious to anyone but me. Most of what I remember about my participation are the times I tripped over my tongue, so it's fortunate that the session was liveblogged.

My panel members had a planning discussion via conference call a few weeks before BlogHer'10, but weren't able get together in person to map things out prior to our session. However, our panel moderator, Kamy Wicoff of She Writes, was very prepared, and from where I sat, things seemed to run well - no dead spots in the conversation, and no serious arguments either.

Part of the "evolution" of publishing is that self-publishing has become a much more viable, acceptable option for writers who aren't making inroads with traditional publishers (for whatever reason). But along with self-publishing comes a lot of self-marketing, as discussed by panel member Penny Sansevieri of Author Marketing Experts, whose company provides both self- and traditionally-published authors with services to help them do that. Then again, due to shrinking publicity staffs and budgets, even authors whose books have been published traditionally - such as panel member Carleen Brice, whose debut novel Orange Mint and Honey was published by Random House, and Kamy herself, whose last book was published by Da Capo Press in 2006 - have to do nearly as much work on their own to promote their books. Attendee Ellen Gerstein, who blogs at Confessions of an ITGirl.com and works for a traditional publisher, perceived a bias against them from the panel and spoke out in their defense. As a non-industry person, I don't really have a stake in that conversation, but as a book blogger and reader I admit to a general preference for books that aren't self-published, and based on what I've seen in some book bloggers' review policies, it isn't just me. Some of us have been burned by books of poor quality and/or overly-invested authors who took a less-than-rave review personally.

Regarding the challenges getting published the "old-fashioned" way these days, it was noted in the session that what primarily drives decisions in traditional publishing is anticipated sales to bookstores; they're the publishers' direct customers, not readers. As this is part of what's fueled the boom in self-publishing, there was a pretty apt comparison made to major-studio movies vs. indie films. However, I'd suggest that readers - including book bloggers - can influence this way of doing business, and examples of major publishers picking up originally self-published titles like The Lace Reader and Still Alice are an indicator that we do. Good word of mouth, which is likely to include support from book blogs, will send readers to bookstores looking for the books that they're hearing about...which can drive the bookstores to order and sell them. It was also mentioned that, while many book bloggers would prefer to see those sales happen at indie bookstores, publishers usually pay more attention to sales activity on Amazon, and will encourage (sometimes require) authors to link there to build their sales rank. Even so, most websites will include purchasing links to IndieBound or a major independent bookstore, as well as the major chain bookstores, in addition to the big A, so that they don't miss a sales opportunity.

My personal goal in participating in the session was to got something across about book bloggers' role as a resource for readers and authors, and I hope I accomplished that . And in the spirit of the book-blog community, I really appreciated Melissa of The Betty and Boo Chronicles and Gayle from Everyday I Write the Book speaking up during the panel and elaborating on that. Melissa mentioned Book Blogger Appreciation Week (September 13-17, 2010) as a resource for seeking out book blogs by niche, and Gayle suggested finding blogs that focus on your literary niche of interest by searching for reviews of books you've read and liked within that niche or genre. Check out those reviews, and then explore what else that blog has to offer; visit other blogs from its blogroll, and before long you'll have a list of go-to book blogs. Then, if you're like me, you'll keep finding more and more blogs to go to until that list is well into the hundreds!

By the way, it's hard to answer the question "There are SO many book blogs - which ones should I start with?"...because there ARE so many book blogs, and it depends on what your emphasis is. Author Gretchen Rubin stumped me a bit with that that question, to be honest, but it is a good one. (And clearly I missed the opportunity to say, "Well, mine, of course!") On that note, Beth Fish of Beth Fish Reads has compiled an excellent listing of review aggregators and databases.

Book bloggers are a huge source of word-of-mouth about what's worth reading, and we're eager to help bring readers and authors together. After all, as most of us know already, one thing that the publishing ecosystem is evolving into is a place where the connections between readers and authors much are more direct.

 

Part of this post were originally published at The 3 R's Blog: Reading, 'Riting, and Randomness

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