We're back from the Book Blog panel, which was a considerably different affair than last year's get together. This year's lineup - M.J. Rose, Mad Max Perkins, Robert Gray and the indefatigable Michael Cader - took a more sales and business oriented approach to the question of blogs and their role in the promotion of books. The panel was moderated by Mark Dressler who directs the educational programs for BEA. (Forgive the shitty picture - camera settings were incorrectly set.)
The panel was - perhaps appropriately - punctuated by periodic Tourettes-like outbursts from an attendee who did subsequently depart. (We thought it might have been a ULA intervention.) The group chatted among themselves and then took questions from the audience.
A few general points, and then a few comment highlights:
* BEA (and Dressler) do need to consider a lesson in Lively Panels (and in audience control). We're surprised at how static and uninvolving a panel touching on the one of the most dynamic developments in the publishing world can be. Although there was good information offered, to be sure, it was (at turns) a somewhat stuffy affair. They had projection screens - why not use them? Why not live blog? Why not create a blog on the fly and show people how easy it is, how it all works? OK, not the point of this panel, true, but we were disappointed to see it reduced to yet another typical business conference dry panel.
* Michael Cader gets it. He has since day one. He's a man who has perceived and grasped the potential of blogs from their earliest moments, and he's full of sensible and thoughtful things to say. He's a man to listen to.
* Mad Max owns a bitchen Gandalf costume.
* Robert Gray is one of the most thoughtful booksellers we've ever met and makes us wish - for a brief moment - that we lived in Vermont. Except for the cold and the snow and stuff.
* MJ Rose is a tireless creative marketing presence - should our novel ever see the light of day, we're sure to pick her brain.
Herewith, a sampling of some of the choice bits:
MAX: Perceives blog dialogue as an "aesthetic issue" ... examining questions of quality ... invokes LBC and adopts an encouraged wait and see pose ... Observes that the nature of blogging is that it's idiosyncratic and will be difficult for publishers to capture the influence of blogs without stripping away what blogs are about ...
GRAY: Focuses on a new two-way line of communication, in his case between editors and booksellers .... Something that has never happened before ... Notes that for the prior 13 years, he's had no conversations like the ones he now has with editors on a regular basis. He also expresses mystification - as do the others - as to why more booksellers haven't embraced the form ... and points out that he can cause 500 copies of a title to move out the door.
CADER: Blogs has transformed the internet into a medium for writers. He suggests that if you think there are a lot of blogs now, the real imminent blog explosion will be exponentially greater ... He also speaks of the great strengths of blogs - "transparency and divestiture of control" - as the things that make them so difficult for publishing to embrace.
ROSE: Reports on readers who have abandoned MSM book coverage and now rely on book blogs as their primary source of book information.
OK, that's it for now. We've convened briefly in the wireless area with Sarah, Laila, Ed and Bud, and now we're breaking for lunch. No more panels today, but expect more updates tomorrow once the floor is open for business. And we'll tell you about tonight's parties, if we're not too hungover ...