Friday, May 27, 2011

Armchair BEA: Bloggers and Blogging

The best thing about blogging is meeting others who share your love of books and reading. I suppose some people might like speaking out into the void but I think most book bloggers like the interaction with other book lovers. We never get tired of talking about books, do we? So one of the best things about going to New York for Book Expo America last year was meeting some of the bloggers that I'd already got to know online over the years, and meeting some new ones too.

I have to say I'm always pretty shy when meeting new people, or in new situations, so being at BEA and the Book Blogger Convention, I was a little out of my element, to say the least. On top of that, I was super jet-lagged the whole time I was there. There is a 13 hours time difference between Tokyo and New York so my body was on a completely opposite schedule!

It's also hard to meet up with bloggers on the BEA floor as everyone is rushing around to different signings and panels and whatnot. But I did manage to meet up with Stephanie (Stephanie's Written Word) and a few others for a very quick lunch one day at the Javits Center, and bumped into a few other bloggers here and there.

Otherwise, it was some of the extra events outside of BEA that allowed for a little more of a chance to chat. Harper Collins sponsored a Celebration of Book Bloggers Event one evening, and that's where I chatted briefly with Simon Van Booy (author of The Secret Lives of People in Love, and Love Begins in Winter), and met Wendy (caribousmom) and her husband, and Avis (she reads and reads), among others. It was a lively evening and even though I didn't get to meet or talk to many people for long, it was great to at least see many of the bloggers I was familiar with like Trish (Hey Lady! Whatch Readin'?), Candace (Beth Fish Reads), and Amy (My Friend Amy), to name a few.

Celebration of Book Bloggers
Wendy (caribousmom) and Simon Van Booy at the Celebration of Book Bloggers event

There was of course the Book Blogger Con reception on Thursday afternoon, which was another good chance to mingle. I also tagged along on a couple of dinners that were planned that week and so got to spend some time with Amanda (The Zen Leaf), Amy (Amy Reads), Anna (Diary of an Eccentric), and Serena (Savvy Verse & Wit).

These are just a few of the bloggers I met in New York last year. Apologies to anyone else I met but didn't mention here. It was great to meet everyone and I only hope that next time I'm able to go to an event like BEA, I'll be more awake!

Book Blogger Con Reception
Book Blogger Con Reception 2010

As for today's Armchair BEA writing prompt, about blogging tips and best practices, I've been blogging for over five years now, but over the last year there have been a lot of things in real life that have kept me from blogging as much as I used to. In many ways, I'm a good example of how NOT to blog, says the one who has been blogging very sporadically, and not keeping up with commenting or visiting others blogs nearly as much as I would like.

If I am to give any type of blogging advice, it would be to decide what you want from your blog, and be yourself. I often find that the blogs I'm most interested in are those where the blogger's personality comes through in their reviews and general posts. This helps you differentiate yourself from all the others too. Blogging should be fun, not about trying to do what everyone else is doing.

Personally I've never really understood the people who are all about the numbers. No way is wrong of course, that's the beauty of blogging. It's your blog and you can do whatever you want with it. But for myself, I'd much rather have a smaller group of readers that I can connect with than a whole bunch of strangers reading it in silence. Not that I don't love the lurkers out there too! I have never been, and will probably never be one of those bloggers that everyone knows, and that's ok with me.

So, what has worked for me? I didn't have a specific niche when I started blogging, but I think my focus on Japan and Japanese literature has helped to set me a little bit apart from other blogs. It has also helped me to find other bloggers who share my love of JLit and literature in translation.

And the best way to build up those relationships is to visit and comment on other blogs. This is where I've failed quite spectacularly lately but I'm thankful to have built up some good relationships before these "bad times". I've said it before, but book people tend to be good people. They're like good friends who'll stick with you through it all.

Maureen Johnson
Maureen Johnson at Book Blogger Con 2010

Twitter has been a good bridge as well. Even when I have been absent on my blog, I've been able to still connect with book friends there. And that casual online social interaction has kept me sane during some of the difficult times. Of course, Twitter is also a good way to share your blog posts with perhaps a larger or different audience, and to connect with publishers. In fact, as I'm typing up this post I'm enjoying reading some of the tweets of what's happening at the Book Blogger Convention taking place right now, from the perspective of bloggers and publishers alike. It's almost like being there!

By the way, if you haven't yet, don't forget to check out my Armchair BEA Giveaway for two of the books from last year's Book Expo America. And thank you to all of the Armchair BEA organizers, it has been a fun way to celebrate this week of books!

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  1. It's really nice to hear about your experiences from last year. It's a pity that you couldn't go this year, but maybe it would be disappointig, after last year's success.

    I agree that I also rather have a group of followers that comment a lot than a much larger group that read in silence or just skip my posts completely!

  2. One of my highlights from last year's BEA was meeting all the bloggers, like you! I was just talking to Kip about it, and that is something I was disappointed to miss this year.

    I agree about numbers. I hardly ever even look at my stats (usually just when I'm asked about them). For me, half the fun of blogging is just sharing my thoughts with other like-minded people. I veer away from books all the time, and then come back...and like you, I appreciate when other bloggers also share some of their personal life.

    Great post, Nat!

  3. I'm so glad I found your completely gorgeous blog through Armchair BEA. I like the fact that you focus on Japanese literature-it certainly makes your blog stand out. Thanks for the photos and news from last year's BEA-so that's what Wendy looks like! ;)

  4. >Blogging should be fun, not about trying to do what everyone else is doing.

    agreed. and i'm so grateful for the twitter safety net when blogging becomes too overwhelming. still being able to keep in contact with friends through twitter is essential.

  5. Great post! BEA is exactly as you described it here - I love it!

  6. Twitter is a great place to drop in and touch base with people when you just can't commit to a blog post. Thanks for posting your BEA experience.

  7. I suspect that I would be at BEA standing on the edges!

    Great post!

  8. I just adore your picture of Wendy and Simon!

    I'm still torn between envy and horror when I look at BEA photos, I must admit. The crowds! I can't figure out how I can tolerate the London tube just fine but when I look at photos of BEA I actually start to feel as if I'm going to hyperventilate. It just looks so scary-crowded, to me. But, I would so love to meet up with other bloggers.

    I am also totally disinterested in numbers. My blog is a place to purge, really - to babble about the books and people and places I love.

    Great post, Nat!

  9. Judith - I would love to go again sometime. I think it would be better the second time as I'd have an idea what to expect and hopefully be more prepared. It would be really nice if it moved out of New York since it's such an expensive place to stay!

    Wendy - Thanks, Wendy. Meeting you and your husband was definitely one of the highlights for me last year. :)

    bibliophiliac - I'm glad you found it too. I'm just finally getting back into a blogging groove again so hopefully things will get back to normal around here.

    lisa - Everyone should be on Twitter! It really is a nice way to stay in touch with book friends away from the blog.

    Sheila - It was fun to see everyone's posts about this year's BEA, even if I was a little jealous.

    Chris - The only downside to Twitter is those darn time zones. Which means I'm often on at different times to you guys in North America.

    Marg - It was pretty overwhelming at times, and I did a lot of just wandering and observing. Was still a great experience though.

    Nancy - The London Tube can certainly get pretty claustrophobic, especially during rush hour. It was quite crowded at BEA but I think living in Tokyo prepared me. ;)


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