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YALSA's Blogger Summit Precon

A few weeks ago at ALA, I participated in a preconference sponsored by YALSA called the Blogger's Summit. I was asked to be part of the panel on blogging and talk about my blog, reviewing, and any other questions that came up. I was thrilled to be on a panel with Gillian Engberg, who an Editorial Director at Booklist and Sarah Flowers, who blogs with her son Mark at Crossreferencing-a great blog you should check out! Here are a few things we talked about on my panel:

-Blogging is a great tool to stretch your reviewing muscles as a librarian and expand your reader's advisory.
-Blogging is a fantastic way to have more in depth reviews and discussions of books-Mark and Sarah's blog is very much a back and forth discussion of books and they do a lot of Mock Printz discussion.
-Blog for yourself and don't worry about an audience.
-Blogging is different than reviewing because you can expand more in a blog (whereas reviews are typically limited to 130-170 words) and are more of your personal opinion than a review for purchase like professional journals.
-There is a difference between negative reviews and critical reviews/posts. You can post about books you didn't enjoy, but make sure you explain why and what the flaws were, what didn't work for you, etc. Don't just be mean and say you didn't like something.
-Get books from your library or home or bookstore. Don't worry about getting books sent to you-that's not something that you should worry about at all and if you want to start blogging, use what you have around you-those are the best resources.

There were three other panels that followed about marketing your blog, authors who blog (Sarah Dessen, Holly Block, Gene Yang, and Laurie Halse Anderson), and publishers who blog. There were a few highlights from the author panel:
-They said they love bloggers because it helps spread word about their books. They wanted bloggers to know that while they do love blogs, they are busy and aren't always able to respond to requests for ARCs, interviews and guest posts. They also don't often read reviews of their books.
-Several authors compared Twitter to an online water cooler and explained that social media is their way to talk to others when they spend the day at home writing which I thought was a fun way to describe Twitter.

But the panel I found most intriguing was the publisher panel. All three publishers mentioned that they work with bloggers and do blogger outreach, but mentioned some key points that I think are great to hear, no matter how long you've been blogging:

-Be polite. This was stressed multiple times throughout-publishers love talking to bloggers, but they stressed that they appreciate when emails are professional and kind. They respond better to kind emails than to emails demanding everything be sent to a blogger.
-It's OK to ask for books, but don't ask for everything. Again, tying in with the be polite statement-don't demand books and don't ask for everything. Also, please ask for current things coming out, not a sequel that is way down the line or something that is older.
-Build up your blog before you ask. Don't just start a blog and expect books to be sent. Like the first panel, the publishers mentioned using books you own, your library and bookstore as a great starting place. Blog reviews don't have to be of current books and in fact, all the panels mentioned how reviewing older titles are great (the authors and publishers especially love this attention to back titles!). Build up your blog, practice your writing, and once you've been blogging for a few months (I say a year to make sure you stick with it-it can be hard work!) then branch out.

I really loved hearing everyone's thoughts on how they blog, what they look for in blogs and how blogging is expanding. Thank you YALSA for asking me to be part of the panel! I had a great time and loved connecting and sharing with everyone.

Any other great blogging tips you've come across or learned as you blog?


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