Friday, January 27, 2012

GIMME GIMME! Conferences, bloggers, and Bitterblue

Ok, first things first-- I am a book blogger. Many of my friends are book bloggers. Most book bloggers are lovely, nice people who don't throw punches over ARCS. I'm talking about a few bad apples giving the rest of us a bad name.

Second things second, I have no problem with non-librarian bloggers at ALA. We're all spreading the book and literacy love, right? We're working together in creating a bookish world, yes?

Basically, I feel compelled to write a post about some really appalling blogger behavior I've seen at recent ALA conferences. I was first going to write this post after the 2010 Annual conference in DC but never got around to it. Last weekend sparked these feelings again.

At Annual in 2010 (I didn't go this summer because of the arrival of the Kung Fu Princess) I was talking to a marketing rep in a booth when someone SHOVED me (into a table!) in order to get at an ARC. I had bruises. Plus, I knocked down a display. Now booths are crowded and we're all carrying big bags and there are a lot of people. You will be bumped and jostled and probably get a few bruises, BUT. Don't push and shove. Seriously. I can't believe I actually have to say that. DON'T CAUSE SOMEONE BODILY HARM JUST TO GET A FREE ARC.

At MidWinter, I did NOT witness the following, but people I spoke with did:

1. Taking 5 copies of an ARC and saying "now I can do a giveaway!" NO NO NO NO NO. You need to share. If you want extra copies of an ARC for a giveaway, ask the rep. They'll probably send you some AND they may even hook you up with extra stuff too. Reps are nice like that. If you want an extra copy for a friend or your teen group or something, ask the rep. Sometimes taking an extra copy isn't a big deal, sometimes it is. ASK.

2. Taking ARCS that are the only copy on display or labeled "Display Copy Only. DO NOT REMOVE." When the person who witnessed this called them out on it, THEY YELLED AT HER. Yeesh. Another thing I can't believe I have to say: Seriously, if it says "don't take" DON'T TAKE IT. If you want a book thusly labeled, ASK THE REP. They probably have extra copies that they ARE giving away. Or they'll send you a copy. Or they're giving copies away later. The only exception is on the last day when booths are packing up. Publishers often give away their display copies then, but still YOU HAVE TO ASK.

Because of the large influx of bloggers and non-librarians, because of behavior like I've mentioned above, and because the down economy means this is all coupled with fewer ARCS all around, publishers are trying to order the chaos.

One of the ways they're doing this is by only giving out certain titles at certain times. Often these are titles where the author is there (so they're saving them to be around for the signing) or where it's a book they're heavily promoting (the "you can't have it YET" can create excitement and buzz) OR it's the ARC that EVERYONE wants and they want to be fair about handing them out. I've also seen it where you can only get an ARC if you also buy a backlist title by the same author. (This happens when the author is there AND it's the hottest ARC of the conference.)

But here's where the problems come in. ALA is a professional conference for librarians. There's SO MUCH MORE going on than the exhibit hall. We're working. We have professional development and commitments. Basically, I'm just finishing up working 12 days in a row. And my missed weekend? Not only was I working those days, but I was working 12+ hour days. It's fun and I love it. I am NOT complaining about it, but... it's still work. (And not to say that blogging isn't also work, but it's not my day job. It's not what keeps a roof over my head and food in my baby's belly.)

So, all those hard-working librarians who are there for the librarian conference? They get screwed on timed book releases. (Now, yes, if you talk to the rep they can probably help you out, but if it's that super popular ARC? The one you want to read to see how many copies to order for your library? The one you want to start building customer buzz for now? The one your Teen Advisory Board or book club or whatever will be fighting over and sharing to build Word-Of-Mouth buzz among their friends? The reps might not be able or willing to help you out.)

Enter the case of Bitterblue. As you're probably  know, Bitterblue is the companion novel/sequel to the immensely popular Graceling. It's publication has been delayed for YEARS. This is a HIGHLY anticipated book and frankly, I'm surprised they're even doing ARCs for it. It was hands down the MOST coveted ARC of the conference. It was only going to be given away at 3 on Sunday. Reps told us to come by around 2:30 to get a number or get in line (depended who you talked to.)

Now, Sunday afternoon is a really popular time for committees to meet. I was in a meeting. Many of the people I was chilling with were in a meeting. So... the librarians were getting screwed.

But then, 9:30 on Sunday morning (30 minutes after the exhibit hall opened) there was already quickly growing line for the Bitterblue giveaway. Most of the librarians there can't spend ALL DAY in line for 1 book. (Not to mention how crazy a line like that would have gotten and blocked traffic and everything!)

Now, in the publisher's defense, when the line was pointed out, it was disbanded. I didn't hear any complaints about how the actual hand-out of books went. Also, I know at least 1 librarian who explained that she was in a meeting and was able to still get a copy.

AND in defense of timed book releases in general, most publishers would be cleaned out during the opening night reception, before many people have even arrived. A book like Bitterblue would have been wiped out in 10 minutes on Friday night. And it would only take that long because it would take a few minutes to find the booth.

So... what are the answers? What are the solutions? ARE there answers or solutions?

How can we make this better and easier for everyone? Will it stop being an issue as we move to more and more egalleys?

Can we at least stop beating people up?

(And for the record, this isn't me being bitter about not getting Bitterblue. I was one of the few people who wasn't interested. I had to read Graceling for a training a few years ago and enjoyed it, but never read Fire and don't plan on reading it.)

The pictures decorating this post are books that I wanted an ARC for but isn't being ARCed or the publisher didn't have any at the conference. I just want to give them some love.

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Abby said...

I don't know what the answers are, but I do know that ALA executive council knows there is a problem and that publishers have complained to ALA higher-ups about it, too. I believe they (and we) are brainstorming solutions and all ideas are welcome!

Jennie said...


That's great to hear. I understand the idea behind the timed book release and I can't think of anything better, but it still has a lot of issues. I think most publishers understand the librarian conundrum and are willing to sneak you a book before the release, or mail you one... but... what about the book we don't already know about and want?

I'll be interested to see what ALA and publishers come up with...

GreenBeanTeenQueen said...

I don't know what the answers are. I have noticed that it's gotten a bit crazier as more and more non-librarians attend ALA. I think everyone just needs to remember manners and not be an ARC hog. I hate seeing giveaway posts for ARCs shortly after BEA and ALA-I feel like the only reason ARCs were grabbed were to up the blog stats.

MotherReader said...

I know that BEA is a more open landscape, but I see the same sort of frenzied entitlement there - and it baffles me. I waited in line at a booth to get a book signed by an illustrator I admire, to have turn interrupted by someone who asked me to move so she could get a picture of the booth because she was a book blogger! I'm sorry, is my personal moment interfering with your blogging ability? Then when in shock, I moved slightly over, she preceded to talk the illustrator who was signing my book, taking my time because - and yes, she said this, she had an important blog!

The multiple copies thing is crazy too. I stood in line to get ONE signed copy of each book which I GAVE AWAY as prizes. I didn't keep one for myself. And if there was a signed book that I wanted to keep, I didn't ask for another "because I'm a book blogger."

Kristin McIlhagga said...

Thanks for this post - it really gives perspective on the whole process of obtaining arcs and other give aways at the conference.

I was in Dallas last weekend, it was my first ALA conference and I am a non-librarian. One of the things that I was most concerned about/aware of was the fact that it was not my usual "turf". I figured that there were unspoken and spoken rules and knew that I wouldn't necessarily know them. Thankfully, the second day I was there I had a lovely committee colleague who has been to numerous conferences offer to guide me through the exhibits. She introduced me to people, explained how to ask for arcs and f&g's, and gave me a general overview of the "rules". As a first timer and an outsider - this was priceless.

Maybe ALA could send out a note about conference etiquette to first timers and put it in the program. Part of me says that it is sad that it needs to be said, but at the same time there is something to be said for having it in writing. It reminds me of professional orchestras that are now including a page in programs about concert etiquette.
At the end of the day, even if it is in writing, people will still choose to ignore etiquette, rules, and what I consider to be common courtesy. But maybe with posts like yours, the lovely librarian who showed me around, and an introduction for newbies - it will get a bit better.

Lastly I'd like to say that as a non-librarian attending the conference for the first time, I was overwhelmed with the generosity, kindness and welcome from experienced attendees and librarians. I come from the world of education conferences where this is not always the case. I look forward to attending in the future! (I even wrote a blog post while I was there titled, "I love librarians").

Beth @ More Than True said...

I love this entry, but I have to tell you that this made me laugh:

"A book like Bitterblue would have been wiped out in 10 minutes on Friday night. And it would only take that long because it would take a few minutes to find the booth."

It's funny 'cause it's true. *sigh*

There were a number of ARC books that I wanted to get for collection development reasons, so I asked the reps. Sometimes, they had a copy stashed away. Sometimes, not. I wish I'd though to ask if they could send one to the library for me!

As you know, I reluctantly gave away about half of what I collected the night before leaving... to people who will read them and review them and probably pass them on to teens. Now I'm even happier that I could help get those books into their hands.

Jennie said...

MotherReader-- that reminds me at ALA 2010, I had waited patiently to talk to a rep about some library tie-in stuff they were doing with a book and how my library could be involved. When a someone stepped between us and started ordering ARCs. Like not even "Do you have a copy of X, Y, and Z?"" but "I need a copy of X, Y, and Z"

Kristin-- some written dos and don'ts might go a long way, actually. It still rankles me that 'don't shove' needs to written down, but I've seen a few post-midwinter blog posts with bloggers glorifying in such behavior!

Beth-- At least 2 of the books that you gave ME will be featured and given away at our MG girls book club next week. They will be very very happy.

Jennie said...

Sarah-- I know! I used to really prefer Midwinter, because you didn't get the craziness of Annual, but that's changing. I'm also sad when I see the massive giveaways RIGHT after ALA. What was the point in grabbing the books? Give the book away after you've reviewed it! Or, if you come home and realize that you accidentally ended up with multiple copies of something or something you didn't actually want (look, it happens) ask your local library is they could use them/want them.

DianeRChen Kelly said...

Thanks for the conversation. Since I've moved back to elementary, my middle school and YA blogging is of books that interest me personally. Each of those covers you included were books I'm waiting to read and I understood why there were no ARC's. Of the single-copy-only-ARC's I did bring home, I immediately set up a table in my office so other teachers and parents could come in to help me review and rejoice in the new books coming. We are sharing our love of these books. Most of us go out and buy the finished book, too. I give my teen titles away to my former students and teachers at the middle/high level after I review. Since I drove this time, I was happy to take two bags of books home. When I'm flying the next trip, I'm going to limit myself to ten titles only. I'll take photos of the rest, write the ARC's titles on my business card, and check on netgalley to see if they're available. I love reviewing galleys on my KindleFire. If I have ever behaved badly, please forgive me. I may take publisher's time while I am asking them to show me the top 2-3 titles they have coming out that season that they simply cannot wait to read. Usually these are not books with ARC's.I wonder if you have any ideas how to limit the arc craziness?

Jennie said...

Diane-- I don't have a problem with people taking ARCs for personal interest (especially in the way you're describing) or non-librarians talking to reps. I have a problem with rudely interrupting other conversations (but you're more than welcome to JOIN a conversation!) and pushing people and hoarding ARCs or taking multiple copies JUST for a blog giveaway as soon as you get home.

I don't know how to fix it, but I'm hoping conversations like this can help

Anonymous said...

Hi, this is a great conversation. Thanks for starting it. I've never been, but have been the happy recipient of ARCs that I could share with book club kids, and when I worked for CPL many years ago, read ARCs to prepare for future school visits. Even had the privilege of having kids come in to read ARCs for BFYR. Needless to say when I say two young ladies with a whole wack of books from ALA, their several day haul, making a vlog about their crazy good giveways for all these books they'd grabbed I, no. no. what are you doing? That is not what ALA is for, to provide you with all these arcs so you could use them for your blog-the majority of there readers being adults who happen to like YA and MG (love that they do btw). Like you, I don't think that is the majority, but there seems to be more and more of this happening-maybe the more spotlights placed on this will make those who doing it to stop and listen to what is being said by those who are concerned and why there are concerns. Right now, there are reactions that are appearing that are more about how librarians are snobs, bloggers are just as good as you, we deserve these books just as much, and you bet I'm gonna tackle someone for a book (hah hah)...and on it goes. Heh-in other words I am hoping that more and more opening up this can of worms will be the step to resolving it? Yeah-I'm not sure of what will work. Basically I have just rambled on...and on...and...thanks again for getting us talking and thinking!

Jennie said...

Thanks Deb!

I have seen some comments that bloggers shouldn't be allowed at ALA, which I don't agree with. If nothing else, there is SUCH an overlap between librarians and bloggers that it would make things worse. Also, I think that bloggers and librarians are working towards many of the same goals.

Really, just stop hogging, follow posted rules, don't cause bodily harm, and don't be a jerk. I mean, I never thought I'd have to do a blog post about how you shouldn't cause bodily harm to grab an ARC. And it hurts that bloggers, when called out on this, think that librarians at a librarian conference have no right to complain.

Jennie said...

Also, I know at least one blogger who is doing a massive give-away mentioned in the comments that it wasn't planned-- but once she got home she realized her eyes were bigger than her reading stomach. That's something I completely understand. I mean did you see my post on my TBR pile?

It took a few conferences before I learned some self-control. But, at the same time, I never pushed anyone. Or took multiple copies.

Shirley said...

Thank you for mentioning this. I was there and heard of people taking five or six ARCs at a time and heard the reps mentioning bloggers in particular. That's not a good way to get known. Even if it's only a few, we all are hit with the consequences.

cleemckenzie said...

I suppose in any large group some will be rude and inconsiderate. As an author I've seen a bit of that at ALA. In fact, I was amazed last year to see some guy wheeling a cart filled with ARCs. He didn't seem the least embarrassed by his abuse of the opportunity ALA presents.

Thank goodness most of the bloggers I met were courteous. They got their free book, thanked the publisher and me.

Ms. Yingling said...

How sad. ARCs are great, but I almost prefer to get a copy of the book from the public library. Less pressure. The world would be a nicer place if everyone were just more POLITE.

tanita✿davis said...

Here, via Leila's blog.

Thanks for actually blogging about this - I had a few book-related meetings and luncheons and stuff at ALA 2010, and felt like I wanted to just sort of take a wander and look for ARC's - mid-afternoon, late after those timed book releases - and I still experienced a lot of angst and physical pushiness from some people. I fled, and kind of forgot about it. I didn't pick up a single ARC, and I decided that was JUST FINE.

I hadn't realized it was some book bloggers, and that really bugs me. And, bums me out.

Marta said...

At the dog park I visit, there are several signs with the posted rules. "Anyone with an aggressive dog will be asked to leave immediately." "Dogs must be under voice control at all times." The worst offenders will always offend, but, for the most part, things are surprisingly civil and self-policed.

Jen said...

I was at ALA in Chicago the last time it was here, and for the most part, people seemed relatively polite, although there were some instances of people behaving badly. I've seen librarians and non-librarians cut in line, push people.... generally, just not be polite and respectful.

I appreciate your post, and was nodding my head ..... it's true what you said, that most librarians can't just wait in line for a long time because we're in meetings, etc. I like that the book bloggers attend things like ALA, because they give authors (and reading) a lot of support. However, from what I've seen, there are also bloggers who seem to go to ALA solely for the purpose of grabbing as many books as they can carry .... and I doubt they learn anything about the library world while they're there.

Ok ... rant over. I guess I will just hope for polite behavior the next time I'm at a conference.

Audrey (Bibliosaurus Text) said...

I was at ALA and noticed a lot of this behavior. I spotted bloggers that I know from online, who are not librarians, with multiple copies of the same ARCs in their bags, crowding out people as a huge group of them let their friends shove their way into publisher's booths. I had 30 minutes Friday night and 15 minutes Saturday morning to spend at the exhibits. That's it. I would have liked to have seen better behavior and manners.

Rebecca Herman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rebecca Herman said...

I'm a blogger and I've been to BEA 3 times - I've yet to go to an ALA conference, the next one anywhere near here is 2014. I do hope to go if bloggers are still allowed. Perhaps I'm the odd one out with ARCs, I don't get how people take 100+ just cause I can't think of 100 books I'd want even if everything I could possibly want was there! I have no problem with someone who grabs a book or two for a friend who couldn't make it and really wanted it, but taking 5+ copies is just wrong!

(Deleted and resposted cause of typos)

Allison said...

Such a great, thoughtful post- and what a good discussion in the comments.

It's pretty crazy, these stories about shoving and grabbing. I definitely think it's got to be just a small group of horrendously behaved individuals ruining it for the rest. I think most book bloggers are courteous and want to make a good impression.

Anyway, I don't know what to say, but I just hope people will behave this summer at Annual! Wishful thinking? Last time I went was in 2008, and I think book blogging has gotten a lot bigger since then. The landscape will be different this time around, huh?

Kim said...

Thanks for this post. I honestly had no idea this was going on the exhibit hall! You hit on a good point that most librarians are there working during Midwinter. I was there for the Emerging Leaders program and I got to briefly visit the exhibit hall on Friday night after our workshop. It was so overwhelming in there, I didn't know where to start! I actually felt bad about taking ARCs and galleys. I didn't know that you could talk to the rep and possibly get an ARC mailed to you. It was my very first time at an ALA conference and I think you hit the nail on the head when you said there should be a guide for first-timers. Though it is VERY sad that you would probably have to include things like "no shoving" as well.

Pixie said...

Just coming across this post because of all the current blogger ALA drama. Figured I might offer up a suggestion - have you tried asking bloggers to get you an arc? As a blogger, we have done this not only for the Liberians that review for our blog, but for other Liberians. Maybe if they can't get you a copy they would definitely be willing to share. Great post BTW.

Jennie said...

Yeah, I can honestly say that it never occurred to me that the best way for a librarian to get an ARC (which is a necessary professional tool) at the librarian meeting is for the librarian to ask a blogger to do it for her.