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A Book Blogger Roundtable Discussion

In this day and age, book bloggers are a vital part of spreading word of mouth about books. I see this firsthand through my day job, where I direct online publicity campaigns for AuthorsOnTheWeb, a division of The Book Report Network, and through freelance projects. I interviewed a handful of bloggers that will be attending the Book Blogger Convention on May 27th to find out how long they have been blogging, why they are headed to the Javits, and what they hope to see at this year’s convention.

How long have you been blogging about books? How and why did you start your book blog?

Tirzah ( I’ve been blogging since 2006. I started because there basically wasn’t a website that provided me with all of the bookish information that I scoured the Internet for. I wanted to connect with other readers who felt as passionate about YA as I do, and I was a little bored. It was very, very easy to create the blog and just start writing about the books I was reading. It wasn’t until an author contacted me and asked me to review his book that it occurred to me that blogging could turn into something more, and then the challenge was to really “invent” my online persona. I had to decide what I wanted my blog to be about and create that. Luckily, as this was 2006-2007, this was before the boom in book bloggers out there, so I was able to establish myself more easily than a book blogger looking to start out in 2011. And though my blog has evolved a lot in the past five years, my mission is still the same: to tell you all about the books I’m reading and loving, especially those that tend to be overlooked, to start discussions, and to get teens reading, especially those who don’t like to pick up books.

Thea ( The Book Smugglers started all the way back in 2008, when my fellow LOST-addicted forum friend Ana discovered that in addition to being super-geeks, I was also a like-minded reading fiend with a book-buying addiction, and asked if I wanted to start a book review blog with her. She would do romance, I would do speculative fic, and voila! The Book Smugglers was born.

Jen ( I started my book blog in January of 2008, so three and a half years. I started it as an off-shoot of another blog. My sister, who lives in California (I live in Ohio), said she enjoyed my blog when I talked about family stuff but wasn’t as interested when I talked about books—she’s a nonfiction reader, I’m a fiction reader. So I decided to make my book-talk separate. The original blog fell by the wayside, though, because I was far more interested in talking about book-related stuff!

Jael ( I started my blog last year (in April). I was at a point where I was bored with everything, especially my job. I thought starting a book blog would be good for two reasons: one, I could express myself creatively, and two, I could learn about new books out there.

Sarah ( My Reading the Past blog turned five in March. I started it because it seemed like the important conversations about books were taking part on blogs, and I wanted to add my own contributions.  At that time I mostly posted news blurbs and reviews of older historical novels, but then publishers and authors found me.  Now, in addition, I publish reviews of new books as well as interviews and guest blog posts.


What made you decide to attend this year’s Book Blogger Convention? Did you attend last year’s convention? Have you attended BEA or any other trade conference prior to the Book Blogger Convention?

Jael ( Last year I did a Google search for book-related conventions. The first thing I saw was the website for the Book Blogger Convention. I signed up for it immediately. Later I found out I could also attend BEA. If I had known about it a little sooner, I would have attended more days at BEA. Instead I was only able to attend the last day the exhibit hall was open. But that one day was amazing.

I was like a kid in a candy store. I didn’t know where to turn. I was exhausted at the end of the day from carrying around all the books I got. Imagine my surprise learning I could have checked a small suitcase and put my books in it throughout the day. That walk to the convention center was a breeze in the morning, but walking back to Penn Station in the evening felt like climbing a mountain.

This year, I made sure to take off for BEA and BBC in January. I want the full experience. I’m going all three days the exhibit hall is open!

Thea ( I attended and was given the great honor of being a panelist at the BBC last year, so I was thrilled when I was invited to attend and reprise my role as panelist in 2011. The folks that run the convention have done a fantastic job of connecting bloggers, publishers, authors and other industry professionals and I am ecstatic to be involved in any way.

In addition to attending the inaugural Book Blogger Con last year, I also attended BEA for the first time in 2010—and it was a phenomenal experience. Not only did Ana and I finally get to meet, face-to-face, the many wonderful industry contacts we have been corresponding with for years, but we also got to connect with fellow bloggers and discover tons of new authors and titles. BEA is, no joke, a book-lover’s nirvana. There’s nothing better.

Sarah ( I wanted to attend because I’d attended last year’s show and had a great time. The panels and speeches were educational, but I attend primarily to meet other bloggers in person, as well as authors, publicists, and other people involved in the publishing industry. The energy and enthusiasm among the group last year was incredible, and I made many wonderful new contacts at the book blogger reception on Thursday night—and caught up with online friends. Everyone I met was dedicated to book blogging, and they all know how to have fun, too. I’ve attended BEA for the past eight or nine years as a librarian and an editor for the Historical Novel Society.

Jen ( This is both my first BEA and my first Book Blogger Convention. I was invited to be on a panel at the Book Blogger Convention and that really motivated me to work on making it possible to attend. As luck would have it, my day job has some work they’d like me to do at BEA, so I was ultimately able to finagle the time and money for the trip.

Tirzah ( I haven’t been to BEA before, though I did attend the Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association‘s annual trade conference last fall. I have other blogger friends who have been to BEA and went to BBC, and they highly recommended it, so I’m excited to go.

Where did you travel from? Will you be seeing other BEA panels (or Blogworld/New Media Expo) or did you come specifically for the Book Blogger Convention?

Thea ( Believe it or not, book blogging has transcended “hobby”/”obsession” status for me, and this past fall I began attending New York University to earn my master’s degree in Publishing (with a focus on digital books and applications). I’ve been living in NYC since September, so the Javits Center is just a trip on the A/E train. I currently work at Rodale in the digital books group, so I’ll be checking out the digital zone and many of the panels dedicated to the tumultuous e-book landscape while at BEA.

Sarah ( I’ll be traveling from Charleston, Illinois, a little university town south of Champaign-Urbana, and I’ll be there for BEA too

Tirzah ( I’m coming from Michigan! I plan on attending a couple of BEA panels, some publisher events, and meeting up with friends in New York in addition to BBC. It will be a week packed full of bookish fun.

Jael ( Sometimes living in New York has its perks, and this convention is one of them. I’m just a 30-min train ride away. I’m still in the process of planning my BEA schedule. I’m looking forward to the audiobook panel on Wednesday. I’ve never listened to an audiobook, so it would be nice to see a different perspective from a physical book.

Jen ( I will be traveling from Lorain, Ohio. I’m in Northeast Ohio, near Cleveland. And yes, I’m hoping to attend several BEA panels. Had I known before making my travel plans, I would have liked to have attended ABA panels as well, but since I don’t arrive until 12:30 on Monday, I’ll have a hard time making any of those. Maybe next time!


What session(s) at the Book Blogger Convention are you most excited to see?

Sarah ( All of them, really—there’s at least one session in each time slot I want to attend. The Blogging for a Niche Market will feature one of my fellow historical fiction bloggers, Amy Bruno, and it’s great to see part of the program dedicated to our little corner of the blogosphere. I also want to see Navigating the Grey Areas of Book Blogging, because I’m curious to hear other bloggers’ responses to these serious issues.  Likewise for the Ask the Publicist panels—I don’t know if I have specific questions I’d like answered, but I’m interested to hear your and others’ perspectives on blog-related issues.

Tirzah ( I haven’t yet decided which ones I’m going to to go to—I’m having a hard time deciding between them!

Thea ( Besides the Ask A Publisher session, the Navigating the Gray Areas of Book Blogging panel—how to survive internet kerfuffles, netiquette, author relationships/professionalism, etc—sounds like it should be good! Hopefully some provocative discussion will ensue.

Jen ( Since this is my first time attending, I’m really just excited to see all of it and soak up whatever I can! I still feel like I’m learning the tricks of this blogging business every day, and I look for inspiration where ever I can find it.

Jael ( The session I’m looking forward to is Blogging for a Niche Market. I like a variety of books. I read YA, memoirs, historical fiction, mysteries and chick lit. It leaves me wondering if I should focus one type of book. It’s hard because I like everything.


Have you met with any other book bloggers in person before?

Jen ( Oh yes! I’ve met Trish from Hey Lady! Whatcha Readin’? We were able to meet up at the 2010 L.A. Times Festival of Books, where I also met up with my friends Pop Culture Nerd and Le0pard13. I’ve also met Jenn from Jenn’s Bookshelves. She was in Cleveland for work and we were able to get together. And my wonderful friend Lesa from Lesa’s Book Critiques is originally from Ohio. I was able to meet up with her when she was here for a visit. Naomi, who blogs at The Drowning Machine, lives in the Columbus area. We’re able to get together every now and again, usually in connection with book events.

I’m looking forward to meeting a lot more of my online blogging friends at the BBC!

Jael ( I met a bunch of bloggers at BBC last year. I’ve followed their blogs since then. I would like to meet Kristi from The Story Siren just to see if she is just as bubbly in person as she is on her blog.

Tirzah ( Yes! For a while Shanyn from Chicks Love Lit and I lived in the same town, and I’ve met a lot of Midwestern bloggers at signings and author events in the past. I created a Facebook group for us to connect and keep each other informed of signings and author events in Michigan because we all love going out and supporting authors, but sometimes it’s hard to learn about these events because they’re not always advertised very well. This way, we can keep updated about who is coming to MI and we usually can get a group together for the event. We make a day of it by going out to lunch beforehand, usually with the author(s), and attending the signing. We’ve really noticed a spike in the amount of signings that are happening in Michigan over the past years, which is really exciting.

Sarah ( I think the first time I met other book bloggers in person was at BEA two years ago, when NetGalley had a “blogger signing” at their booth.  Many authors and others would come up to the booth not knowing what a blog or blogger was, so we would educate them and introduce them to our sites.  Things have changed a lot since then.  Bloggers are more of a fixture at BEA, and I feel that, for the most part, publishers have made bloggers very welcome.

Thea ( I’ve had the pleasure of meeting many book bloggers in person prior to this year at last year’s BEA/BBC and the LA Times Festival of Books.


On a personal level, who are your favorite authors and what genres do you like to read? Where do you live? What other information would you like to share about yourself?

Jen ( Well, I’m a niche blogger. My blog focuses on my great love of crime fiction. Among my favorite authors: Robert Crais, Michael Koryta, Alafair Burke, Craig Johnson, Marcus Sakey, Gregg Hurwitz, James Lee Burke…I could really go on and on. The genre is filled with brilliant writers. One author outside the genre that I really enjoy and always make time to read is Pat Conroy.

I’m from Lorain, Ohio. By day I work for the National Association of College Stores. And I’m an overly doting mother to my pets: 2 chocolate labs and 4 rescue cats.

Jael ( I don’t know that I have a favorite author, but my favorite book all-time is A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. I have several copies of that book. I think I was in junior high the first time I read it. I loved that a character could enjoy the simple things like reading. I’m that way (most of the time).

Sarah ( I read mostly historical novels, all types and eras, but also contemporary mysteries and some fantasy fiction. Sharon Kay Penman and Kate Morton are two favorites.  I enjoy learning about new time periods and cultures, and I also appreciate any novel that tells a great story.

Tirzah ( I’m a junior at Ferris State University in Big Rapids, MI, where I’m studying English, French and Spanish. Even though a lot of my reading time is eaten up by books required for my lit and language classes, I still love to read fantasy, especially fairy tale retellings, historical fiction, contemporary books with strong voices, and lately I’ve really been getting into steampunk. I’m very open when it comes to what I read, and I’ll try anything!

Thea ( Although I will read anything with a compelling story, my poison of choice has to be speculative fiction—that is, science fiction, fantasy, and horror, of both the adult and young adult variety. Some of my favorite authors include the ineffably fabulous Neil Gaiman, Stephen Baxter in all his hard sci-fi glory, Jacqueline Carey and her intricate world-building and relationships, and Juliet Marillier with her singular gift for romantic historical fantasy. I seriously could go on and on forever about my favorite authors so I’ll leave it at that!


Last but not least, I asked Trish, Michelle and Rebecca, organizers of the Book Blogger Convention, and Jennifer Hart, VP, Associate Publisher of Harper Perennial and Harper Paperbacks, how they each got started in blogging. See the companion story about the genesis of the Book Blogger Convention.

Trish ( I’ve been blogging about books since September 2007. I started blogging because I’d been reading some other blogs and thought it would be fun. I started blogging about some nightmares I had, and it pretty quickly became a book blog.

Michelle ( I’ve been blogging about books since 2009–in fact my two year “blogiversary” was just May 17th.  I actually started my blog on a whim.  I’d been searching online for book recommendations and found some really great blogs to follow.  I liked writing and wanted to continue to brush up on my skills in that area so I decided that blogging about books might be a good way to have some fun and continue to flex my writing muscles.

Rebecca ( I started my blog in July of 2008, so I’m just coming up on the third anniversary. At the time, I worked for a chain bookstore, but none of my coworkers read the same kind of books I did. I was looking for a reading community and a creative outlet, and blogging gave me both.

Jennifer ( We have been working with bloggers for at least 4 years, as blogs began proliferating on the web. At that time I started Book Club Girl, a blog that focuses on books for book clubs and covers books from all houses, not just those from Harper. It wasn’t difficult to convince my colleagues that it was worth it, but I don’t think any of us could have predicted how starting that blog, as well as the Olive Reader (the blog of Harper Perennial), would connect us so closely with so many book bloggers all over the country.



  1. Sounds like this was a great round table with lots of useful info exchanged!

    I was wondering how bloggers of this calibre and experience such as yourselves are taking on the digital revolution and phenomena like Amanda Hocking, the self-published wonder?

    Are your book reviews limited to books published by traditional, legacy publishers or have you discovered new ways to find interesting books?

  2. Wiley Saichek says:

    Claude, thanks so much for the nice words! Glad you liked the roundtable! As to your question about books published by traditional publishers versus other means, it varies from blog to blog. A lot of book blogs have review policies that state what kinds of books they accept for review consideration. Hope this helps!

    All best,

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