Once BEA offered the opportunity for seasoned book bloggers, but more important, new book bloggers the chance to experience an industry they’ve fostered a lifelong love for, engage with other bloggers and professionals in the industry, and also view (and read) titles to consider from many publishing company’s own roster of books set for release later in the year. My first Book Expo America in 2010 was positively overwhelming- veritable sensory overload- but my experience that year and subsequent years was always very positive, empowering, and I strongly felt that there was some kind of mutual respect between bloggers and publishers, and that there was an eagerness to share new, upcoming titles with us, and for many of us to have the opportunity to engage in conversation with them in kind.
This year’s Edelweiss Bookfest, the first of its kind, was a virtual convention that promised to match that same exhilaration many of us veteran bloggers felt at the former Book Expo America. While many of the panels themselves were very interesting and varied, covering a wide array of different genres galore, and there were clearly labeled meet-up rooms where you could interact with fellow bloggers and book reviewers, there was still a sense of crushed spirits for many new bloggers, who were experiencing their first convention in the form of a series of emailed declines carrying with them a sinking, dispiriting sense that maybe this whole blogging thing might not be all that fun or exciting by any means, not if checking out titles and requesting them in what Edelweiss considered their galley space was more akin to everyone’s own shared nightmare of the fruitless job searches out of college that amounted to spending hours on a job application only to confront the bitter reality that submitting your meticulously written/edited application and resume is really just jettisoning it off into what many of us call the blackhole, something we tacitly accept as it likely will never be followed-up on. It can perhaps feel a little more hurtful to get a declined ARC request by way of blogging, something we see as an escape from reality. But for an event that emphasized it as opportunity to check out new titles, it’s even more disillusioning for new bloggers.
To be fair to publishers, there are many reasons for a declined request, which may have nothing to do with your blog personally. A declined request to review a title either through Netgalley or Edelweiss could be as a result of the timing of your request being too close to the on-sale date of the book, or perhaps they had a certain set of blogs already in mind long before you had submitted your request. They might not even know that you had sent in your request under the impression that somehow the books featured at Edelweiss Also another point raised by a friend of mine is that the publishing industry is facing their own setbacks related with the pandemic we’ve just been through. That is why the delay in requests being met is only to be expected, and that is not the issue. I sincerely doubt there is an issue on the publisher’s end, but it does appear to be an issue with Edelweiss’ marketing and promotion of this event serving as an opportunity for bloggers-new and old- to have the opportunity to read some of the newest titles coming out later in the year.
As a seasoned blogger, who had just returned to blogging after taking a break for 2.5 years, I was very disheartened to read the difficulty beginner bloggers felt in getting possible review copies of books at Edelweiss. Having gotten my first decline for an ARC promoted through this convention, I returned to reflecting on this response from fellow bloggers, dismayed that the exciting prospect of attending their first publishing industry convention would end up being a series of unfortunate missives from Edelweiss notifying about several declined requests. And I am nowhere in the camp of receiving multiple declined requests all during the actual event, and personally, I am use to them at this point as I understand there are limits set by publishers for purposes of effective marketing. But it just feels
I think Edelweiss overpromised themselves in many ways, especially to bloggers and reviewers. I saw several representations prior to the event, which I would believe a new blogger might be willing to spend the $60 on an event they thought might allow them opportunity to obtain new titles to review on their blog, a way for this fledgeling blog to gain some traction. BookExpoAmerica provided me a way to build my blog that Edelweiss BookFest did not replicate whatsoever for newer bloggers. There was the unspoken assumption that Edelweiss has been viewed by most publishing companies as mainly a place for booksellers and librarians to check out new titles, but if this assumption holds any veracity then that makes this a potential case of false advertising from Edelweiss, who employed inclusive language that welcomed bloggers/reviewers with the expectation that they stood on even ground with librarians and others who usually attend these conventions, as welcome patrons to an event where we are above all supposed to feel encouraged to explore new titles for our blogs.
This blog post is not meant to be written as any kind of stern condemnation or criticism borne out of ire, but rather I wanted to perhaps write a reflection on the event in hopes it can start a constructive, positive dialogue about ways that Edelweiss Bookfest might be able to improve for next year. Feel free to leave your thoughts below in the comment section, as I think there’s space to discuss the positive and the negative about this and any convention.