Just as book authors participate in book signings, a group of book and lit bloggers will take part in a “blogger signing” at this year’s Book Expo America
This Sunday, Edward Champion will sit behind a table with two other people at the Book Expo America, the largest annual book trade fair in the country, which this year takes place in New York City from May 28 to May 31. Champion will have a pen in hand, ready to greet any fans or wayward BEA attendees that make their way to his booth. If they place something in front of him, he’ll gladly sign it. The scene will be similar to the hundreds of other author book signings that will occur at the Book Expo that weekend, with only one difference: Champion doesn’t have a book to promote.
In addition to his freelance book reviewing and journalism, he has spent years recording podcasts and blogging, and he’ll be joining approximately 40 other book and lit bloggers for what may be the BEA’s first ever “blogger signing.” The event is sponsored and organized by NetGalley, a company that specializes in ebook versions of book galleys.
Kat Meyer, who was hired a few months ago to blog for NetGalley, had joked with Fran Toolan, the company’s owner, about the possibility of such an endeavor. But what was first a tongue-in-cheek suggestion quickly turned into a serious idea for how to connect bloggers with not only their avid readers, but also the publishing industry whose books they constantly promote.
“So we just floated the idea out there and got a tremendous response,” Meyer said. “[Toolan] tried to include everyone who showed an interest and I think he’s got about 42 people now stretched out over Friday, Saturday, and Sunday of the Book Expo. The bloggers will be paired up or on their own for half hour slots. And it is actually good timing because Melissa Klug from Glatfelter Paper is going to create little trading cards for us.”
These trading cards, presumably, are what attendees will be able to get signed, considering that most of the bloggers, by definition, have nothing physical to promote. Meyer explained that the bloggers will have a table within the NetGalley booth and Toolan will act as sort of an unofficial MC while a screen displays Twitter feeds and pictures of the bloggers and their blog logos.
“The way that a lot of the publishing industry has treated the bloggers from the onset was that they’re the red-headed stepchild, they seem to have different roles, and maybe they shouldn’t have special access to the book and the author,” Meyer said. “This event is both representative that the bloggers have gotten more respect from the industry, and that the bloggers themselves have high standards. I don’t know if this attitude [from publishers] has changed so much, but bloggers have definitely become more visible. And I think that for the bloggers having their name out there, being seen, they’re going to get more attention from the publishers that prior to this haven’t paid much attention, or haven’t felt comfortable working with them. I think overall it’s great for everybody, not just bloggers, not just the publishers, but across the board. Every person who works in the industry is going to come to terms that there needs to be a new protocol for how to deal with new media in terms of bridging that gap. There’s not going to be a PR person in the middle anymore, and bloggers can go straight to authors, bloggers can go straight to whoever makes the product.”
Though Champion had heard that there may be blogger playing cards to sign, he said he’s up for putting his pen to anything. “I will happily sign The Catcher in the Rye,” he joked “Because JD Salinger isn’t going to sign it so I’ll happily put my name to it.”
The blogger said that he looks forward to the event, not because he expects a big turnout — he’d be happy if only two people showed up — but because it’s a departure from the corporate pretentiousness he has seen from many of the major publishers at the Book Expo. Champion said he feels much more at home with the small press authors with the titles often overlooked by book reviewers, and he thinks that the blogger signing will fit into this same kind of atmosphere.
“On a fundamental level, this is essentially a great way for bloggers to meet up,” Champion said. “And I actually think that I approve of the blogger signings because I hope it will bring a number of people together in a way that possibly, I suppose, combats the fragmented nature of the blogosphere right now. I have to sort of put my finger on what’s wrong with the blogger community right now and it’s kind of this sort of fractious ego we’re seeing. Twitter and things like the blogger signup are positively good ways of bringing the community together, however crazy it is.”