amtrak train white horse tavern

BEA Wrap-Up Part 1 – New York & BEA Bloggers Conference

amtrak train white horse tavern

Even though I’m still in New York City waiting to hop on a train as I type this, BEA 2014 is a wrap for me. I opted out of the last day of festivities for two reasons: the thought of BookCon crowds was enough to make my head spin and I had absolutely no room left in my suitcase to bring home anything else. But it’s been a wonderful whirlwind of a few days; way too much to fit in one post. I’m going to break down Tuesday and Wednesday in today’s post and Thursday and Friday later this week. Are you ready for the craziness and all the photos?

Let’s start by talking about how amazing trains are. I’m so glad that I was able to avoid the stress of an airport and sail right into Penn Station by 2:00 Tuesday. Even though there was a freak rainstorm just as I hit the streets of New York with my two suitcases, I went with it and rolled into my hotel a little drippy like it was no big deal. I was finally able to meet Rory from Fourth Street Review and Leah from Books Speak Volumes, who were my wonderful roommates through this adventure, later in the evening. We met up with Marisa from The Daily Dosage to grab some much-needed food and drinks from White Horse Tavern, which is a spot frequented by literary greats like Dylan Thomas and Hunter S. Thompson.

bloggercon 2014 javits maureen johnson

Wednesday was BEA Bloggers Conference. Despite the negative things I’d heard in the past about conference organizers not understanding what bloggers wanted, I had high hopes that things might turn around this year based on the schedule of panels. The day started on a high with Maureen Johnson‘s keynote: she was charming and funny and seemed to have a real understanding of the importance of blogging (beyond “being nice” to authors). Her keynote focused on the idea that traditional media outlets are all clamoring so hard for an audience that they often resort to sensational click bait topics when discussing books. She suggested that it would be in our interest to break those articles down, since we have the space to do it, which I thought was really smart (and timely, since so many bloggers are looking for ways to break out of simply posting reviews).

Then there were the panels. The first one I attended was described as: “Design 201: Taking your Blog to the Next Level. This session is intended for advanced bloggers with more than 3 years’ experience who are confident with their blog design but are looking for interesting new ideas and cool features.” I think there was a bit of a disconnect between the description of the panel and what was put in front of attendees. There’s not much I want to change with my blog design, which is the reason I chose to attend the session for bloggers with 3 years’ experience even though I’ve blogged for just over a year. I went in looking for those “interesting new ideas and cool features”, but ended up hearing how you shouldn’t clutter your sidebar and why you should have a way for people to search your site. Those are absolutely great tips! I just don’t see how they’re relevant for an advanced session.

Unfortunately, the panel wasn’t done there. Remember what I mentioned with the disconnect between the description of the panel and what was put across? One of the panelists was the CEO of BookLikes. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the site, it’s similar to Goodreads, but it also has a blogging component built-in. Now, I have no problems with BookLikes or the CEO himself, but why would bloggers who are “confident with their blog design” be itching to jump ship to a site that has limited blogging features? I could see BookLikes being featured in the Design 101 panel (maybe), but the fact that the organizers thought it would be right for the 201 session goes to show that there are still miles of misunderstanding going on.

The Technology 201: Ad Networks panel was a great example of bloggers and businesses coming together for a session that was informative and well beyond a sales pitch. Florinda from The 3 R’s Blog and Swapna from S. Krishna’s Books did a great job as moderator and blogger panelist with LitBreaker and BlogAds. This post is already ridiculously long, but if anyone has any questions about joining an ad network, feel free to leave them in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them based on the experiences I’ve had and the new information I was able to round-up from the panel.

harper collins bea fall previewI ended up leaving early into the afternoon, but keep your eyes peeled for posts from other attendees about one of the later panels, which I heard was a bit of a disaster (UPDATE: Leah has some suggestions for reviewing BloggerCon and Rory’s great BloggerCon post is up now, too). I was super thrilled to be invited to a Fall Preview at HarperCollins, where we were loaded up with tons of upcoming titles and had the chance to hear the buzz around all of them. What am I most excited for?

HarperCollins also knows how to throw an amazing party, which was a pretty fantastic chance to catch up with a bunch of bloggers in person.

the strand bookstore new york

Like BloggerCon, I left the HarperCollins party a little early so I could meet back up with Leah and Rory and we could head over to the Bookrageous Bash at Housing Works Bookstore. It was another great event with even more familiar faces (but unfortunately it was a little too dark for photos)! When Leah left for a different party, Rory and I decided to take a late night trip to the wonderland that is the Strand Bookstore. After wandering through the seemingly never-ending rows of stacks, pointing out dozens of books we have read and talking about how being a book blogger turns you into a “not so normal” reader, we limited ourselves to a few books before heading back to the hotel. Had we known my slightly tipsy sense of direction would lead us on a bit of a several-miles-in-the-wrong-direction adventure, we might have fueled up before hand. That just meant we needed a $1 slice of pizza from the corner shop by the time we got back.

Can you believe BEA hadn’t officially started by this point? I need a nap.

  • Awww that sounds like so much fun! Can’t wait to read part 2 :)

  • Words for Worms

    Oh my gosh, I love these adventures already! I can’t wait to hear EVERYTHING ELSE. And you got to go to parties?! So fancy.

  • Anita LeBeau

    I love listening to your adventures!! Would love to hear about the advertising panel tips. Looking forward to next part.

    • Was there anything specific you were wondering? They talked about some of the pros/cons about advertising: like some people feel that it’s selling out, but on the other hand it can make you appear more professional to publishers who visit your site.

      With both LitBreaker and BlogAds, you can apply any time, but you need to be prepared to share your statistics (daily/monthly pageviews, etc.). They both have similar sized ads, so you want to make sure that you have space somewhere in your theme for a banner ad across the top or rectangle/square on the side.

      Personally, I’ve had a great experience with LitBreaker and would totally recommend applying to go with them.

  • Ciska van der Lans

    THAT book store is drool worthy!!

    • Isn’t it?? I found 5-10 books I wanted just looking at one section in the R’s…it was incredible. I could have spent hundreds of dollars if I actually looked through each section!

  • Way to whet our appetite for that later panel. Now I want to know all about the disaster. :) Or I mean :(, I guess. Either way, I still want to hear about it. I’m glad, though, you had a “wonderful whirlwind” as you put it. Can’t wait to hear more, both the good and the bad.

  • Your issues with the “advanced” topics are spot-on. Everything you mention belongs in a beginner session. Not cluttering up your sidebar? Come on!

    When you said this post was already too long I was like, wait what??! Nooooo don’t end now! I can’t wait to read your other posts!

    • It was just so frustrating to think you’re going to actually find out something new and useful, but end up sitting through an hour of basics. Ugh.

  • Jenn Lawrence

    It was so great to meet you!

  • Books on the Table

    Sounds like so much fun! I haven’t been to BEA in a few years, and I wish I could have gone this year. I’m looking forward to attending when it comes to Chicago in 2016.

  • So fun! I’m so glad you decided to do a recap. I loved reading this. I definitely still want to attend BEA and BEABloggers one day to meet my fellow bloggers and also to bitch about the disconnect that the BEABloggers folk don’t seem to understand. I’m afraid I would enjoy that component a little too much. ;)

    • Ha! Honestly, I always said that even if it ended up being bad again, it would at least be something I could have an opinion about…so I don’t really regret trying it out.

      • Do you think you’ll return one day or is once enough? lol

  • JoAnn @ Lakeside Musing

    Thanks for sharing your adventures… can’t believe you did all this before the “main event”!!

  • I’m definitely impressed that you’re wrapping up before even leaving NYC. When I’ve gone to BEA, I’ve needed a few days after getting home to recover and even think about summing up! LOL. I so very much wish there was a train from my area to NYC. That would make BEA attendance a million percent easier. I’m not that far away, but the lack of a nearby train is such a hassle.

    Looks like you crammed your first two days full of bookishly great times, except for that unfortunately mis-directed panel. Look forward to reading the rest of your recap and living vicariously! :-)

    • Not going on Saturday meant that I had a few hours to rest up in the hotel and I knew there were things I didn’t want to forget (I feel like I’m already letting things slip for my second post!).

  • Sounds like it was fun! I’m really impressed that you were able to write up a recap post before leaving NYC! It’s really nice that you were able to meet up with other bloggers and attend a preview event! It sucks that BEA still hasn’t figured out how to cater the event for bloggers well.

    • I was really bummed by the blogger conference because I had such high hopes that they might have fixed things this year. I’d say it was about 50% helpful and 50% fluff, but sadly, that’s not nearly where it should be by now.

  • Wow! Looks like you made the most of your time in New York! I hope you’re having a nice relaxed recovery day.

  • Booksnyc

    It was great to meet you and glad you had such a great time in NYC! I am so glad you got to Housing Works and Strand – two of my favorite hometown bookish places.

    • It was so nice to meet you, too! Housing Works and the Strand were so great, I’m so glad I was able to make it to both.

  • Love this post! I’m so glad you were able to go and it’s been nice to live vicariously through your updates and photos. I’d love to hear more about what Maureen Johnson had to say. Ohhh and maybe a separate post bout the ad network stuff? Hint hint, lol.

    • I wish I had taken better notes during Maureen Johnson’s keynote, but I was pretty sucked into what she was saying – now I don’t remember all the details! Hopefully, someone else will recap and can do it a bit more justice. I DID, however, take good notes during the ad networks panel, so that post could be in the future!

  • Laura @ Shabby Rabbit

    I am soooo looking forward to going next year!!! As a blogger AND (by then) a bookseller. I can’t wait to read part 2! Hopefully I’ll find someone to go with because it looks way intimidating to try on my own!

    • It can definitely be intimidating at first, but it’s nice to wander around by yourself a bit, too, and hunt down the things you’re looking for once you get the swing of things.

  • This makes me a whole lot of happy- even though the panels sound like a mixed bag. That’s exactly what I found the year before.

    And you got to go to so many parties!

    • I definitely think if I go again next year I’ll be skipping the blogger portion, but I’m glad I gave it a shot this time around.

      Most of the parties were open invite, but they were fun!

  • Silver’s Reviews

    What a great post. I was at the BEA and the Blogger Conference. Sorry I missed meeting you.

    I agree about the panels. The one I attended in the afternoon was misnamed. That was a disappointment.

    The Speed Dating Session Friday afternoon was FANTASTIC. I loved it.

    BEA was good this year. I went Saturday as well. It was too crowded with the BookCon folks. :)

    THANKS for sharing.

    Elizabeth

    • I wish I had had the chance to meet you!
      The Speed Dating was SO great – it’s definitely going to be a big part of my next post :)

      • Silver’s Reviews

        AWESOME…all those books and those wonderful folks telling about the books was the best part of the day for me. :)

        They did an amazing job.

        I actually thought I missed it because I stopped down around noon to see where it was being held and saw a speed dating event was taking place, but luckily it was for children’s books. I was upset thinking I missed the time or it was changed.

        I am sure we “ran” into each other but were not aware of who each other was.

        Can’t wait for your speed dating post.

  • Don’t worry about length. This post wasn’t nearly long enough. I loved the pictures and the info. At some point I may get back to you about Ads on blogs, but for now it is too much for me to think about.

  • Also It would be interesting to know who does the programming for the blogger con. Is it actual book bloggers? It sounds to me like they have people who want to talk/ push their product and then they make up panels to fit around them, even if the fit is less than ideal. Perhaps it is time for new people to take over the blogger component. That being said however, London and Frankfurt do nothing at all for blogger, so at least BEA is acknowledging us.

  • So fun! I’m pretty sure Amtrack doesn’t run from VA to Atlanta – but you should totally consider coming down in August for the Decatur Book Festival. I’m looking forward to BEA Chicago! :)

    (Way better pizza :>)

  • I think I’ll take the train instead of the bus from Boston, when I DEFINITELY go to BEA again next year! (Missed this year and last year) Looking forward to your next update!

    • The train was so nice and easy, I feel like I don’t want to take a train on the East Coast again! Super excited for next year!

  • Kim Ukura

    I agree with you about the parts of BEABloggers that I attended. In theory, it should have been better than in the past because the panel topics seemed a lot better. But, in general, I thought the panelists were not that great… which is part of the disconnect. Bloggers want to learn from other bloggers, but BEABloggers just seems to refuse to see that. After two tries at this one, I am definitely out for future iterations.

    • I think once was more than enough for me, too, especially since it doesn’t seem to be changing any time soon.

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  • Jennine G.

    Still sounds like a blast. And taking the train would be way cooler for me than flying. I’m paranoid airports will lose my luggage!

  • Sounds frenetic and fun! And don’t feel bad about getting lost — I lived in New York for three years and I was constantly getting lost. It was ridiculous. When I first moved to New York, I met up with another book blogger (yay!), who gave me the most useful piece of New York navigation information: Even-numbered one-way streets run east (even / east), and odd-numbered one-way streets run west. Seriously saved me from getting lost approximately 1000 times.

  • That sounds so much fun! I’ve been watching everyone’s progress and really want to go next year. Glad you had fun!

  • I have been blogging for 3+ years and I found that the Design 201 panel felt more like 101 part two. The ad panel may have been relevant, but I felt kinda scared off by their less than optimistic delivery. I believe the disaster panel you mean was “How Bloggers Have Changed the Game.” I actually enjoyed it for what it was, but I believe most of the bloggers in the room were a bit miffed, because it was mislabeled and instead about vloggers.

    • The Design panel is the one that I found to be most frustrating, because I really had high hopes for it. As for the ad panel, I think they were trying hard to make sure it didn’t come across as a sales pitch, which I appreciate (especially in comparison to the alternative). And that’s the disaster panel I was thinking of. I just read a post from the author who was on it and it really does seem like it was a misunderstanding, which (again) comes down to some poor planning on the part of BEA.

  • This was an awesome post! Like another commenter, I didn’t want it to end. ;)

    Bummer about the Design 201 panel. :( I agree with what you said about the BookLikes guy. I’m sure he’s great, but BookLikes doesn’t seem relevant to blog design. Anyone who’s more than a “casual book blogger” is going to want their own site — not something on BookLikes. BookLikes is more for a very casual beginner who might want to *try* blogging. But anyone who’s serious will be on Blogger or WordPress. So I don’t think he was a great choice for a design 201 panel. :(

    I personally will attend the Blogger Conference every year, even if I don’t love the panels. I mostly love it because I meet a ton of bloggers there (sometimes it’s easier to do during the conference than BEA) and I love the book giveaway at the end!

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  • This sounds like such a cool experience! I’m sorry to hear the blogging con wasn’t so good. The negative feedback last year is a big part of why I decided not to spend the money to come. Maybe next year though, just because it’s such a great way to meet other bloggers :)

    Also, Caitlin Moran is publishing a new book?! Awesome. Count me in!

    • BEA itself was totally worth it, I just wouldn’t spend the extra money for the BloggerCon again. Hopefully we’ll be able to meet up next time!

  • The Strand Bookstore was so amazing! I actually spent more time there than at BEA, of course, I only went to Book Con, which was a disaster. I got fed up with the pushing and shoving crowd, and endless lines blocking booths, and left after an hour. I spent at least a couple hours at The Strand and ended up buying 14 books!

    • Just looking at one shelf in The Strand was like the whole of a normal bookstore, it was so crazy! Glad that was an upside to your trip. I hope you’ll go to all of BEA as a blogger one year and skip over the BookCon part!

  • Gayle Weiswasser

    Great meeting you at BEA! I am glad we connected. :)

  • Sheila DeChantal

    Sounds like you had an amazing time! I wish I would have made it to STRAND this year.

  • Harvee

    A great experience, all in all, it sounds like….Sorry I missed the Harper Collins party and BEA….maybe next year. Hope to meet you, if I get there!

    Harvee

    Book Dilettante

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