BookCamp Round-up - Part 1

October 4, 2010

On Friday I attended BookCamp Vancouver 2010, a free publishing conference out at SFU Harbour Centre, sponsored by SFU's Canadian Centre for Studies in Publishing, and BookNet.

Below are some take-away thoughts, impressions and tips from my day. Many sessions ran concurrently so this is just a snapshot of what I managed to take in.

The UnConference

BookCamp is presented as an "unconference", in which the sessions and panels are more of a dialogue between panelists and the audience, and audience participation and knowledge-sharing is highly encouraged. I wasn't sure how this would work, but it did, and surprisingly well. One session Skyped in panelists from across the continent. The topics for the last session of the day were brainstormed and voted on during a break beforehand.

Sessions were well-organized, well-moderated, and informative. Attendees and topics ran the gamut from writing, publishing, promotion, e-books, libraries, and new media.

And did I mention it's all FREE? And that I got plied with cookies, coffee, and sandwiches? For FREE? A big thank-you to BookNet for keeping it FREE. Gratis. FREE.

Session 1: Feeding the Social Media Beast Without Getting Bitten

Kimberly Walsh & Hannah Classen, moderated by Sean Cranbury

The panelists run CBC's online book club. The panel discussed setting up an online community and incorporating various social media elements.

It's a long process to develop online relationships and engagement with readers. It won't happen overnight. One thing that helps is to develop and encourage super-users: these are the people that are everywhere on your website or forum, follow you in other locations like Twitter and FaceBook, and are the first to talk back and comment on your content, and talk together about it or spread it to the outside world.

Drawing people in via contests works. If you are starting a bookclub, make sure your readers are having a conversation, and that you have a strong source of content on a blog or website.

General social networking tips:

Focus on a couple of areas of value - you don't need to be everywhere. Ie, if you don't have time to blog, just do Twitter. Or if you hate Twitter, just blog. Be careful of your time management, and your resources. Use the right tools, practice multi-tasking, and budget your time and schedule. Host most of your content on your own website, then broadcast to FaceBook (which becomes just a channel). Twitter is the most interactive channel (natch). You can use exclusive content on each of these channels to differentiate them to readers. Other tools for reaching out include Cover It Live to moderate live discussions, and UStream.

Watch what you're putting out there. Develop a thick skin - in many instances you'll just have to suck it up and take the bad with the good. Don't engage trolls. It can sometimes be difficult to separate the troll from the simple negative commenter. There is a difference. However, the commenter will enhance the discussion. A troll, you just want to shut down. The division between personal and professional online life is less clear. For the panelists, they represent the CBC brand. An individual writer runs the risk of having their online presence essentially become their entire professional brand.

In terms of content generation, find a balance between giving or pushing content, and being responsive to what your commenters want to see. It can't all be about broadcasting.

People don't schedule their consumption of content as much anymore. One of CBC's books club's goals is to drive people to radio content that is not necessarily on the radio anymore, but streamed online.

Part 2 tomorrow.

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