Yeah, yeah; I know it's been days that I've been promising I'd wrap this up already. Well, here goes. After a congenial but slightly rushed lunch, we all headed off to the 1:10 session, "The Bridge Between Authors and Book Reviewers: A Conversation" with Laini Taylor and Jen Robinson. I enjoyed the discussion of the differences between author blogs and kidlit blogs (and, of course, between kidlit blogs and other kidlit blogs). I learned that some authors really get annoyed if a blog review's got too many spoilers in it, which is something I really try to avoid in any case. Lastly, I was reminded that blogs can be a creative tool for writers as well as an information resource. TadMack and I used to spend a lot more time exploring this aspect of our blogging lives as part of an online flash fiction group; unfortunately, I haven't had time for it lately. Maybe I ought to get back to that someday soon...
At 2:10, we were treated to a very entertaining talk on Book/Blog Promotion via Social Networking Tools by the very funny Greg Pincus. He talked about search engine optimization and the idea of titling your blog posts in a straightforward, easily-searchable way. He talked about the idea of making one's book or blog a brand in the marketing (argh!) sense--giving it a recognizable style; and about using Feedburner to publish and even combine feeds. He's even put together a handy wiki site on book promotion via social networking. In the event of my actually publishing a book someday, I will be ever-grateful to Greg, since authors seem to be given increasing responsibility for marketing efforts. Little did I know, when I left my actual marketing job, that I'd end up having to do marketing anyway. Sigh.
At 3:10, we again split into two group sessions, one on Managing a Group Blog, with the Class of 2K8/2K9, and one on Balancing the Personal and the Professional on your Author Blogs with Sara Zarr (see doodle at left). I took copious notes at this one, partly thinking of, again, my...er...authorial future, but mostly thinking of TadMack since she can actually USE this information. :) Sara talked about the fact that your author blog is the one part of your PR that you actually have control over, and it portrays the persona that you want to show to the world. As such, you don't want to be shy--remember to share your good news. It's the kind of thing that can help you connect with your readers. By the same token, you don't want to be too much of a downer, so it's worth thinking about limiting the bad news you post. This is probably good blogging advice in general, methinks.
She extended this advice to remind authors to always be professional, and if there's career-related news such as a new book deal, it's a good idea to ask your publisher before you post about it. Similarly, don't exploit your private life (or that of your family) for blog purposes. More people, she pointed out, are reading your blog than you think. Other good advice: Be a champion of other authors, e.g. Cynthia Leitich Smith. With controversial posts, try to be compassionate about other points of view. Protect your creative time--don't let blogging take over entirely (Hmm.). And be aware of what your comfort level is in terms of topics of online conversation. Great session!
After all the sessions were over, there was an hour-long meet and greet in the main conference room. Authors and illustrators set up book displays, and conference attendees got to wander around and enjoy cool freebies and great conversations. My personal highlights of the hour: Getting a signed copy of the new Babymouse book, complete with a little cartoon drawn on the spot by Matthew Holm. Talking to Worldweavers author Alma Alexander and having her tell me that the Readers' Rants review of Gift of the Unmage generated some of the highest site traffic she's had. Getting the cutest postcard from Johanna Wright. Talking to Anastasia about how strange it is that little boys can be born obsessed with vehicles. Getting a comic chapbook from Sara Ryan and talking about how she and her husband worked together on comics (something Rob is persistently bugging me about). I know there are more great moments.
At dinner, I shared a table with Alkelda, Adrienne, Barbara Shoup, and Bridget Zinn, with a few others drifting in and out. I was pleased to see that MotherReader chose my handmade book that I donated as a raffle prize, and that Adrienne chose the autographed copy of TadMack's book that Alkelda donated. Woo hoo! I received a raffle prize by proxy thanks to Alkelda's winning, and generous, spirit--a copy of Ellen Emerson White's Long May She Reign, which I've already read, enjoyed, and procrastinated about reviewing.
The evening provided even more opportunities to meet and greet, as we congregated in the downstairs bar & grill to welcome newest Readergirlz diva Holly Cupala. They gave out copious amounts of Readergirlz pins, prizes, and even jellybeans. I like it when people give me jellybeans. Or chocolate. Or any kind of food, really, short of olives (which I hate) and walnuts (which I'm mildly allergic to, and also kinda don't like).
Anyway, a few more highlights of the evening: Cat's cradle expert demo from Adrienne and Alkelda. (Really brought back memories!)
Zombie puppet show, with Betsy Bird and many others of whom I don't have photos. A wonderful and encouraging conversation with April Henry. Having breakfast the next morning with Colleen, the Readergirlz, and a few others, and getting some much-needed writing encouragement. And you know what? I came back energized and revitalized, in a lot of ways, from being around such a friendly and enthusiastic crowd of writers, illustrators, and bloggers. I mean, jeez, this week I wrote a new novel chapter AND a 1500-word article.
Upshot: I'm so glad I went.