My Panel Ideas for BEA Bloggers Conference 2015

A lot of people seem unhappy with the BookExpo America Bloggers Conference every year. I think the problem is that many of the topics are too basic and don’t dig deep enough into new/detailed content that bloggers care about. I’ve put together a selection of panel ideas that I think would be pretty interesting! Let me know what you think and feel free to share your own panel ideas. Maybe we can make them happen next year!

Optimizing your WordPress blog

This was a topic I actually proposed for this year, but it didn’t make it in. I don’t think it’s possible to fit both Blogger and WordPress into one panel like this, so I went with WordPress because there’s more to cover.

Takeaway:

Make your WordPress book blog the best it can be by using the right tools and configuring settings in the best way possible. Learn it all—from plugins, to SEO, to backups, to security.

Talking points:

  • Must have plugins
  • What to look for when selecting plugins (safety)
  • Ideal permalink structure for SEO purposes
  • How to enhance your SEO and the best settings to use with the WordPress SEO by Yoast plugin
  • How to backup your blog/posts
  • How to secure your blog from attacks, and other security concerns
  • How to speed up your blogging process (using content templates/UBB)
  • How to speed up your actual blog (caching)

Panel members:

  • Blogger(s)
  • WordPress expert(s)

The truth about blog followers

Takeaway:

Find out how people follow your blog and how they don’t follow. Which methods are actually useful, and which only show off an arbitrary number? Learn what methods are worth promoting and the best way to offer email subscriptions to your readers.

Talking points:

  • How do people follow blogs?
  • What follow methods should you promote?
  • Should bloggers require that people “follow” when entering a giveaway?
  • Which follow widgets should you ditch? Which should you keep?
  • Different options for email subscription services and which one you should use (Feedburner, MailChimp, Jetpack, etc.).

Panel members:

  • Bloggers
  • Maybe some kind of social media/marking expert who has insight on what methods people use to follow content online

How bloggers and publishers work together

Takeaway:

Discover how publishers and bloggers can work together to market and promote a book. Learn about how to make—and keep—publisher contacts from an established blogger, and find out exactly what publishers are looking for when they hand out ARCs and organize blog tours.

Talking points:

  • How bloggers can work with and communicate with publishers (NetGalley, Edelweiss, online forms, straight to email, etc.)
  • What publishers look for when sending a blogger an ARC
  • How publishers organize blog tours and how they invite bloggers to participate
  • How do publishers really feel about negative reviews? If a blogger posts 5 negative reviews in a row for that publisher’s books, will that affect whether or not they continue getting approved?
  • If a blogger only sticks to NetGalley/Edelweiss (no physical ARCs), are they less likely to be invited on blog tours or to publisher parties? Because NetGalley lacks that “personal” connection that comes with requesting physical ARCs (emailing back and forth)
  • For the publisher: a blogger submits a request on NetGalley, then what happens? Do they view the NetGalley profile? Visit the blog? If they visit the blog, where do they look? Do they read recent posts? Look at the review archive? About page? Do they ever recognize a requester and immediately approve/decline them because they already remember their blog? Give us a step-by-step process of what typically happens.
  • Do publishers read early reviews (submitted on NetGalley) and consider the criticisms? Have they ever made adjustments to the book based on those reviews?

Panel members:

  • Blogger(s) who have publisher contacts
  • Publisher(s) from the publicity/marketing division
  • Maybe an employee from NetGalley, if they would be able/willing to provide cool statistics, like how many people on average request a popular YA book and what percentage of those get approved

The future of book blogging

Takeaway:

Is book blogging on the rise, decline, or holding steady? Let’s look at the popularity of book reviews compared to memes, discussions, and other posts. We can’t tell the future, but we’ll try to make some pretty good guesses about what the future of book blogging looks like.

Talking points:

  • Are reviews still popular? A page view/comment analysis of reviews, memes, discussions, and “other” posts and how they compare.
  • The average “lifespan” of a blog. At what point to people quit blogging? And why?
  • What book blogging might look like in the future.
  • Will booktubing take over? Or can they exist alongside book bloggers?

Panel members:

  • Bloggers who are in a position to analyze their page views/comments on different kinds of posts
  • Someone who is both a blogger and booktuber and is in a good position to compare the two in terms of success

Coding a blog design

Takeaway:

The ultimate panel for experienced blog designers. If you’re comfortable creating graphics but have no idea how to code it, this is your panel! Learn about different coding languages, which platforms use which ones, and start coding CSS to get you started.

Talking points:

  • Broken down into two parts: Blogger and WordPress
  • In each section, discuss what languages you need to know to code a design (Blogger: XML, HTML, CSS, JS (optional); WordPress: HTML, CSS, PHP, JS (optional))
  • Discuss tutorial sites and ways you can learn those languages
  • Get familiar with “inspect element” and how it can be useful when coding CSS and tweaking a pre-made theme
  • Actual introduction to CSS and real time demonstrations

Prerequisites:

  • You’re already comfortable with designing something yourself, just not putting it into action (coding).
  • You already know basic HTML (paragraphs, bold, div tags).

Panel members:

  • A successful designer for Blogger
  • A successful designer for WordPress

What are your panel ideas for the 2015 BEA Bloggers Conference?

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I'm a 28 year old California girl living in England (I fell in love with a Brit!). My three great passions are: books, coding, and fitness. more »

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47 comments

  1. Oooh I LOVE you ideas! Although I’ve never attended BEA, I’ve been hearing a lot of not-so-good stuff about the Bloggers Conference. You’re ideas sound pretty interesting and common enough that most everyone will be able to participate. I love your idea about coding a design, especially πŸ˜€

    Maybe there should be something about bloggers and authors too? Idk what, but something? (I know that sounds very ambiguous)

    Fahima @ I Read, Ergo I Write recently posted: Against Against YA: No One Should Be Embarrassed About What They Read
    1. Thank you Fahima!

      Yeah I can’t immediately think of how to incorporate an author panel, without it being really similar to the “Bloggers & Publishers” panel, but subbing out “publishers” for “authors”. Maybe someone else will have an idea! πŸ˜€

  2. Awesome ideas! I have never been to a book conference (yet!) so I don’t really have ideas – I didn’t realize panels were so incredibly detailed! I would personally attend that publisher one and I have a friend who’d definitely be at that design one. I hope you propose them and they get accepted! And then I hope I could make it there lol!

    Berls @ Fantasy is More Fun recently posted: The Maze Runner by James Dashner | Book Review
  3. I love your ideas! Hmm… coming up with topics is not always easy, but here are some suggestions:
    * Regarding WordPress, I think a basic session would also be good for beginners like me (to define concepts, basic design, plug-ins, etc)
    * Book blogging vs book vlogging (seems like anything in YouTube has more exposure)
    * What are followers/readers looking for? Book blasts, blog tours, reviews, interviews, personal content, uniqueness, etc.
    * Blogging as a platform for becoming a writer
    * How to run a multi-blogger blog – organization and sharing tools when more than one reviewer share the same blog πŸ™‚

    What do you think?

    Liza @ Reading with ABC recently posted: BEA 2014 Recap
    1. Fabulous ideas! I particularly like these two:

      * What are followers/readers looking for? Book blasts, blog tours, reviews, interviews, personal content, uniqueness, etc.

      * How to run a multi-blogger blog – organization and sharing tools when more than one reviewer share the same blog

  4. I love your panel ideas, there is a panel for everyone!
    I imagine the first one will probably be the most successful. It’s not too technical and the same time, it is relevant to every bloggers.
    The second one is the one I would be more interested in. I like anything related to people behaviour/psychology. What people really do compared to what we think they do.
    The third one is probably good to prospect blogger. It’s tips that save you time as a beginner.
    The future of book blogging looks like a good topic for debate. I would certainly be interested in that one too!
    The last one is the only one I have some doubt about. Of course it’s a great idea and people need to learn this, but don’t you think a panel is too short to learn even the basics? It feels more like a workshop topic. But maybe you could suggest a workshop at BEA? πŸ™‚

    AngΓ©lique recently posted: Following a To Be Read list
    1. You’re right, a workshop would definitely be better for the last one. I think the problem with having any kind of super techy/design panels is that you can only be theoretical, but that only helps you so much. After a certain point it just becomes all talk, but really you need to get your hands dirty!

      I think that’s why a lot of people are unsatisfied with the design panels at BEA. Yes you can talk about design, but what people really want to learn is HOW to design, which really requires sitting in front of a computer, trying it out, and participating in critiques.

    1. Exactly! I always saw the bloggers conference as an opportunity for people who are already bloggers to meet, greet, and teach each other. But they let in a surprising amount of non-bloggers. So you have people asking questions and saying things like, “I’m thinking of starting a blog and…” The conference shouldn’t be about “how to start blogging”. It should be for people who are ALREADY decent bloggers and have a few months (or more) under their belts!

    1. Thank you Angie! It would be awesome if they took these into consideration. But then I’d feel like I’d want to attend all of them and usually you can only attend half the panels at the conference (since they go on simultaneously). Lol.

  5. I love these so much! Ashley, can you just be in charge of the topics from now on? πŸ˜‰ I feel like what often happens is people have good ideas for topics and then can’t find the right panelists or the panelists want to go in a different direction, do you get that sense at all from actually being there? (I assume you’ve been to blogger con, I can’t remember perfectly though D:)

    1. Yes, absolutely! Sometimes the topics sound great but then I go in and feel disappointed. I don’t want to name specific panels, but one example is that this year there was a panel with three people on it, all with similar but slightly different expertise. I think it would have been great for them to coordinate, put their heads together, and come up with one awesome presentation that incorporated all of their fields and ideas. Instead, they put together three separate presentations (I assume they didn’t coordinate at all!) and each took a turn. As a result, I feel like we got three vague presentations instead of one awesome, detailed one.

  6. You have a lot of really good suggestions here! I completely agree that there isn’t enough of a deep dive in the panels. I think some 101 stuff is great for newbies, but the majority of us would likely want to go more in detail.

    I’d also love to see more panels on vlogging and booktube (since I have both a blog and a YouTube channel). I found the initial vlogging panel to be somewhat helpful, and the last vlogging panel with Disney wasn’t bad per se, BUT it really was not represented properly in the description and should have been handled a bit more delicately.

    Fun side note. Autocorrect keeps changing flogging to flogging. Hah!

    Tiffany (About To Read) recently posted: Fairytale Fashions: Out of Print Cell Phone Cases
    1. Thank you Tiffany!

      You’re right about the 101 stuff. Maybe those are okay if it’s your first time to the conference and you’re a new blogger (like 1 year or less). But after that, it all becomes irrelevant. I’d like to see the bloggers conference be less of a “how to blog” conference and more of something that’s useful to established bloggers. Because, to be honest, it doesn’t take long/much to become “established”. Some bloggers learn a lot (from discussions, tutorials, etc.) in just a few months. A 101 panel won’t be of much use to them!

      There is definitely a place for vlogging, I just think it needs to be properly labeled so people know what they’re getting into. Like, I’m sure that panel wasn’t bad for people who are actually really into vlogging (like yourself), but since there was nothing about vlogging in there, it was basically a room full of book bloggers being told that “vlogging is more influential than book blogging”. Not a good idea to say that to a room full of book bloggers!

      But yeah, I think vlogging can definitely be incorporated. It just needs to be very, very clear so that the people who are interested in vlogging can attend, and not people who AREN’T interested!

      LOL at flogging!!

  7. Honestly, if these were panels, I’d pay to attend. But the panels they had this year weren’t going to benefit me as a 3+ year blogger, so why bother? I didn’t need the additional books and I was going to see or meet all those bloggers at BEA anyway.

    I’d love to attend BloggerCon, but they need to make it worth my while.

    Jennifer @ The Bawdy Book Blog recently posted: UPDATE: 2014 Audiobook Challenge!
  8. I love your panel ideas! The Coding one would be a bit difficult, if it was just a panel. A workshop would definitely be better. I was hoping to gain more insight on how publishers and bloggers do work together. That’s actually what I was hoping from that last panel on how “bloggers change the game.” Sadly, it was poorly advertised. Hopefully they won’t make a similar mistake next year.

    Amy M. recently posted: Book Expo America 2014 Recap
  9. These are all fabulous ideas and I would have loved to be in each one of them, especially the blogger/publisher panel (which is what I think some people thought they were getting with the mishap this year). I also think some of the panels just need to be broken down into smaller roundtable discussions, which would be pretty easy in the larger room, where people can sit and talk about more specific things that might be overshadowed in a large group.

    Shannon @ River City Reading recently posted: Books I Discovered at BEA 2014
    1. Yeah that’s exactly what I thought the panel was going to be.

      Smaller discussion panels would be great! It would be cool to just have a general “blogger chat” session where bloggers can break up and talk about whatever blogger things they want and anyone/everyone can share ideas (rather than having official speakers).

    1. Actually, one of the things I wanted to ask during one of the panels is the essential social media for book bloggers, because it seems bloggers are stretching themselves with every social site there is (pinterest, Google+, etc).

    2. Thank you so much! πŸ˜€ I’m glad you liked it!

      I’d say there are only two three “essentials”:

      1. Goodreads
      2. Twitter. Most of my traffic referrals come from Twitter. It’s great to advertise your posts, chat with bloggers, and make friends (which will then lead to more readers/views).
      3. Facebook. At minimum, just make a Facebook page and have your posts automatically get sent there (NetworkedBlogs does that). I don’t do anything with Facebook beyond that. I just think everyone should at least do that because it requires zero effort (after a few minutes of setting up).

      I don’t think any other social media sites are essential. It just depends on your own personal interests. For example, if you get a ton of book related mail and enjoy photography, get on Instagram and/or Pinterest. Take photos of all your bookish packages/hauls and upload them there.

      Or if you love collecting bookish quotes/photos, there’s another reason to use Pinterest and pin all your favourites.

      If you’re hating on Facebook right now (a lot of people are), give Google+ a try. I don’t really use it myself so I can’t offer much insight there.

      But beyond the three essentials I listed, I think it’s important to only participate in sites that YOU actually like and that you can give 100% to. It’s not worth using Google+ if you don’t even like it and if it feels like a chore to post there. (Same with Instagram, Pinterest, etc.)

  10. I LOVE your ideas!! These are the things that I totally want to know! I have actually been really specifically wondering about gaining contacts with publishers and about the best types of followers a lot recently. I personally love Bloglovin’ and have focused mostly on getting followers through there – I have almost 1800 Bloglovin’ followers, but I still have almost no publishing contacts because I only solicit books via NetGalley and blog tours. I’d definitely like to change that, but I’m just really not sure how.

    So, yes! If you can’t get BEA to go with your ideas, you should just organize your own blogger conference. I’d come! πŸ˜‰ (I say, as if organizing a conference is the easiest thing in the world).

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction recently posted: Top Ten Books I've Read So Far This Year
  11. Clearly you know what we are looking for! This is a list that’s spot on. The coding panel is spot on. The future of book blogging is also perfect. I’m going this year. This is my year to move away from Blogger and onto WordPress (I hope!)

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