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.