National Book Bloggers Forum

six books

Participants at the National Book Bloggers Forum received a pile of Random House/Penguin books.

This week Random House and Penguin organised a National Book Bloggers Forum in Sydney. Held in the week of the Sydney Writers Festival, staff from the largest publishing house in the world mixed with over thirty book bloggers for a day of book talk. I was fortunate to be one of the bloggers who attended the Forum.

Bloggers are writers and they are writers who know how to engage their audience.  Random House recognises this said the publisher’s Managing Editor, Brett VanOver. Random House regards bloggers as having the kind of potential that would make them authors of books people want to read.

VanOver pointed out that the days of publishers nurturing authors while they hone their writing skills through several books are gone. Now publishers need writers to be fully formed by the time they publish their first book. Publishers regard blogging as a process where budding authors can develop their skills. Through blogging writers develop a confident voice VanOver observed. Bloggers are already published authors, they already write on a theme. The challenge that VanOver identified is that bloggers have to move from a personal perspective to a universal one if they are to have a book published.

“A truly great idea will have a life”, VanOver reminded us. That thought reminded me of comments earlier in the day made by Sneh Roy, winner of the Best Australian Blogs competition in 2013. “Don’t be bogged down by trends”, Roy said in her talk. She advised us to be confident in our ideas and to develop them further. “Content takes precedence over everything else”, she stated.

This is what I like about blogging. It is a medium where quality content is valued. I enjoy writing the occasional light-hearted post, but I mostly enjoy having a place where I can explore ideas deeper than can be done on any other public forum on the internet.

Effective blogging is about thought leadership. A true leader does not sway their opinion in whichever direction public opinion may be leaning at a particular point of view. Yet a true leader does not entirely ignore others. Bloggers have to engage an audience and help them connect to the idea that is presented. They have to persuade their readers that what they say is true. Above all they have to listen to others and become insightful in the way the world works.

Roy reminded us of the importance of supporting our blogging community. Bloggers love engaging in a conversation online. They love comments on their blog. It is important that we read the work of other bloggers and comment on their posts. “It’s about building relationships” said Roy.

Five women

Some bloggers who are part of the Australian Women Writers’ Challenge met up at the Forum. L to R: Elizabeth Lhuede (founder of the Challenge), Michelle, Shelleyrae Cusbert, Paula Grunseit and myself.

In this spirit I have created a Google spreadsheet listing all the bloggers who attended the day. Drawing from the list of participants’ blogs on the Random House blog I have drawn from each blog the name of the blogger, and other information if it is disclosed such as the twitter handles of the bloggers and their names. I have also listed all the posts that participants have written about the day. I hope that you will go to that list and explore the work of some great book bloggers.

You can read these posts to learn about the books that Random House and Penguin promoted during the day. We received a wonderful swag of books which are photographed above.

The authors who have written these books exhibit the quality that VanOver emphasised during his talk – confidence in their writing. A writer’s job is to convince the reader about the ideas the writer puts forward. If the writer is not themselves convinced of the idea the reader will immediately detect it.

VanOver’s final bit of advice to budding authors was emphatic. “Write your arse off and read your arse off”. This is what a book blogger does. As we were reminded throughout the day, book bloggers are well on the way to greater things.

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The fact that Random House and Penguin initiated a forum for book bloggers says a lot about how important they regard book bloggers for their business. This was reinforced this weekend by a publisher which is part of Australia’s vibrant independent publishing sector.

In a an article that I recommend you read about gender issues in Australia’s Speculative Fiction community Alisa Krasnostein of Twelfth Planet Press made the following remarks about the book reviewing project, the Australian Women Writers’ Challenge (AWW):

Twelfth Planet Press has directly benefited from the AWW Challenge in exposure through reviews and book discussions that have increased the awareness of many of our authors and their work, and has brought to the attention of a greater audience our press’s existence. As a press that publishes Australian women, we’ve found many readers interested and sympathetic to our work through the Challenge. It’s not a coincidence that readers who find us via this challenge tend to be readers who really understand what it is that we do at Twelfth Planet Press.

As the Australian Random House Director of Marketing and Publicity, Brett Osmond, said to the bloggers at the start of the Forum, “We want to acknowledge you are part of the book publishing industry”.

Book bloggers take a bow. You have been embraced by the Australian publishing industry!

If any of the participants at the forum would like me to alter their details on the NBBF14 spreadsheet I have created, please email me at perkinsy1 at gmail dot com.

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9 thoughts on “National Book Bloggers Forum

  1. Great post, Yvonne. It was such a wonderful day. The google spreadsheet is a great idea. I intend to go through it and discover more of the great Aussie blogs out there!

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    • Thanks Rochelle. It was a great day. It was great to get some insights into publishing and meet bloggers from outside the ones I know from online. I loved the fact that so many young bloggers attended. Who said young people don’t read books any more?

      I’m glad that you are going to check out the blogs on the spreadsheet. With the Sydney Writers’ Festival on last week I have only had a chance to glance at the blogs, so I’m looking forward to a bit of quietness this week so I can explore the blogs myself. From what I have seen so far there is some great blogging in that list.

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      • I think a lot of people who don’t read think nobody reads, but I know heaps of younger people who read and have some great blogs.

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  2. What Snah said about not writing to trend really struck a chord with me because I don’t. It defeats the purpose of why I started blogging in the first place.
    That being said, I should maybe try and put my own spin on some of the things that people want to read about. It could be a creative challenge!

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    • Yes it is a balancing act, but the way I see it is that a blogger should write about what interests and excites them. Once they have decided what to write about, then they should work out how to connect that idea with their audience. We can’t work in isolation from the world. I agree that pushing oneself to look at books that other people want to read, where the book is reasonably close to your own interest, is a good way to broaden our world and challenge ourselves. I put my review of Kristina Olsson’s book, Boy, Lost in that category. It was getting lots of reviews and has been shortlisted for awards many times as well as winning one. I’m a bit sceptical about memoirs, but I figured that there must be something special about the book so I read it. Not surprisingly I found that there is something special about it and that is why it has received so much attention.

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      • I suppose that I’m lucky in that a lot of the books I review are fairly popular with the YA crowd. But you are absolutely right: we don’t work in isolation. And writing is communication. So it’s kind of important to make whatever you write about as interesting and engaging for audiences as possible. Otherwise you’re really just shouting into the wind.

        I really was to give “Boy, Lost” a go. But I don’t usually read memoir either: I’m a fiction reader first and foremost!

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  3. Great post! And great work on the shared document! I also loved Sneh’s comment about focussing on content. It’s easy to get stressed about stats and comments etc, but I like to think that if we’re producing passionate and good quality content… we should be happy!

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  4. Pingback: EVENT: National Book Bloggers Forum 2014 – Book Thingo

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