1st Annual YA Lit Fest in Chicago

IMG_0946Disclaimer: This disclaimer is not for bloggers but for authors who may stumble upon this post. I applaud you for putting yourselves out there for other to criticize. I appreciate you taking your time to visit book stores and libraries to touch the lives of teens.  As a librarian, I have seen the impact your stores have on teens and it’s beautiful. I used the term “blogger bashing” in jest as I did not feel bashed during the event. The following post is to give bloggers and reviewers a little insight into the review portion of writing books. 

Throughout the year, Twitter is buzzing with photos and tweets about Yallfest and Yallwest and Austin Teen Book Fest and Boston Teen Book Fest and I get so jealous because I live by two large metropolitan cities, Chicago and Milwaukee, and neither has a teen book festival.  That was until now. The Book Cellar in Chicago hosted its first YA lit fest. It was an all day event with author panels and a signing.  Featured authors included Andrew Smith, Sabaa Tahir, Jessie Ann Foley, Joelle Charbonneau, Carrie Mesrobian, James Klise, TM Goeglein, and more.

There were a couple of panels that I felt compelled to speak of.

Topic: External forces influencing writing (fan fiction, social media, other writing influences.)

Authors talked about social media such as Twitter and Goodreads and if they are on them.  A couple admitted they were

Two teens came with us.

Two teens came with us.

still on Twitter but almost all of them said they were not on Goodreads.  I knew that Goodreads could be brutal but I didn’t know that so many authors hated it-although I can see why, it’s brutal.

The topic of bloggers came up. After a couple minutes of blogger bashing, bloggers in the audience were asked to raise their hands and half of the room was bloggers.  It was quite interesting to see what authors thought about bloggers and there were varied opinions.

Some authors felt like a small number of bloggers don’t care about writing honest reviews.  They just want large blog numbers so that why can ask publishers for ARCs.  Some authors hated ARCs and didn’t think this should be a service. An author felt unlike PW, bloggers are not professional reviewers.  Some people will take offense to this sentence but everyone is entitled to their opinion, even authors. It’s the select few who purposely write mean reviews to get attention who have soured some authors. But for the vast majority who write reviews for whatever reason, our opinions are valid and we should continue to put it out there for the masses. 

Some of the authors applauded bloggers for promoting their books and they see the positive impact bloggers have in the publishing world.

As a blogger, I thought it was interesting to hear what authors thought about us and I wasn’t offended.  I like the ARC program and I, as many of you, obtain ARCs to read and review and not to try to “score free stuff.” A vast majority of us

I think the girls have a crush on Adam Selzer.

I think the girls have a crush on Adam Selzer.

have full time jobs and families and lives and we happily volunteer our time.  The fact that anyone, including authors, know we exist is awesome.

Topic: The glamorous and not so glamorous truths about being a writer.

This was about their day to day lives and release day but what I want to talk about their reaction to bloggers and reviews. Yes, more blogger bashing, LOL.

Here’s what they understandably DO NOT like:

  • Don’t personally attack them as a person or their family members.  It’s okay if you don’t like their book. They understand that not everyone is going to like it but it doesn’t mean they aren’t going to be a bit miffed about it.
  • They don’t like it when bloggers say that the author isn’t a good writer.  And I’ll be honest, I’ve said that. One author said that comments like this question her abilities as a writer and that was hard to hear and I felt bad because I have critiqued writing. I won’t do that again.
  • They don’t understand why bloggers say that the protagonist isn’t likable.  They feel like unlikable people are more interesting.
    • This one I have to slightly disagree with.  An unlikable character to me is the kiss of death.  I define unlikable as a character who doesn’t grow.  If a character is horrible in the beginning but through friendships and life experiences they grow, it’s okay if they were a bastard.
    • If the protagonist is meant to be likable, then they should be.
  • If you blog a bad review, don’t tag that author on Twitter.  You can tag them if you gave it a good review.
  • Authors have coping mechanisms for horrible reviews.  They wear the review proudly on t-shirts, they turn the review into beautiful origami, and they seek validation from peers.
  • Authors don’t like it when bloggers/reviews say the book was, “okay.” For them, that is worse than saying it was bad.  I have been guilty of saying a book was okay or meh.

    Annie & Andrew Smith

    Annie & Andrew Smith

  • They love librarians-YAY!
  • Some of the authors hate the ARC program so use your ARCs for good and not evil.

Overall, authors are people with feelings, so be respectful.

The day ended with a signing at The Book Cellar in Chicago.

It was a very informative day and I had a great time.  I brought a couple of my teen patrons and they had a fantastic time. See YA next year!

And, I get to cross Andrew Smith off my author bucket list.

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18 thoughts on “1st Annual YA Lit Fest in Chicago

  1. It’s really interesting to hear the authors take on book bloggers. I think a minority ruin the reputation of what is really a fantastic community. But I do think some people blog just for free books (or some feeling of internet celebrity) but a lot really do care about books. I am definitely of an opinion that someone can be a poor writer, and that reviewers — even if they are bloggers, and not “professionals” — should be allowed to say that. It’s an opinion, and while partly a manner of taste, there are technical elements to evaluate as well.

    • I agree with the professional reviewer comment. I took that a little personally. We all have opinions and I don’t think they should be discredited because we don’t write for a professional publication.

  2. One author said that comments like this question her abilities as a writer and that was hard to hear and I felt bad because I have critiqued writing. I won’t do that again.

    Wow, really? I mean, of course it’s hard to get criticized, but why on earth WOULDN’T it be fair game to talk about whether you liked or didn’t like someone’s writing style? That’s just as legitimate a target for criticism as anything else about a book. I don’t write a lot of reviews anymore, but for me, reviewing a book while feeling like I couldn’t criticize the writing would be like doing so with a hand tied behind my back.

    • I totally agree and I was thinking that if one is going to be a writer then one needs to develop a thick skin-that was until she said that. Some of those authors told stories of devastation over blogger reviews. It was so painful to watch. I felt so bad. I don’t know how I’m going to do reviews w/out critiquing the writing. Perhaps I’ll break it down more? IDK.

    • Can I chime in as an author on this one?

      Saying my writing style doesn’t appeal is one thing. That’s fine. That is expected, actually. I don’t expect everyone to like my writing. You’re more than welcome to tell me it wasn’t for you and you didn’t enjoy it. Telling me that my writing ability is deficient is another ball of wax. That’s where it gets personal for writers. It’s ‘I don’t like that outfit’ vs. ‘you’re an ugly human.’

      I think most writers want and need the feedback they get from book reviews to be focused on the book itself, not picking apart the author and her skills. The previous can be compartmentalized so we can keep working. The latter makes us question every word we put on the page and can be paralyzing, even for strong, confident writers.

      • Thanks for your input. I think bloggers feel there is a fine line in saying they don’t like the writing and they may not know where that line is. A vast majority do not want to “be mean” they want to be constructive.

  3. Honestly, i really don’t feel to much about authors’ complaints on bloggers. I know there are bloggers who aren’t nice and I can’t really excuse their actions but unless they’re TAGGING the author and harassing them [or directly reviewing the author], I think they’re within their rights, even if it’s a bash review. also, it’s so rude to say that bloggers aren’t professional reviewers. fine, there might be typos in reviews and we don’t have fancy degrees but it all comes down to an opinion of a book and any reader, if they wanted, could become a reviewer. they wouldn’t be a kirkus reviewer, but their points should be just as valid.

    lololol “we shouldn’t critique the writing?” that’s ridiculous. every author has a style and not everyone is going to like it. so what? if I don’t like it, how am i not in my rights to say so?

  4. I don’t know if it’s just what stood out to you, and thus what you chose to write in the post, but I’m surprised that so much of the “not glamorous parts of being an author” were related to how “awful” bloggers are. I’ve read some insightful posts from various authors about the other difficulties of writing and how hard it can be to always be expected to sound “grateful” for having been accepted into the industry, even when not every part of the process is not always what it’s cracked up to be. I think it would have been much more interesting for the audience if the authors had tackled some of those issues. Getting “bad” reviews can definitely be hard, but I think there are just so many other areas of writing that could be addressed.

    • That was what stood out. Other panels included world building and character development. I wasn’t expecting the blogger part. The word bashing was tongue in cheek BTW, I wasn’t offended by anything.
      Many of the authors were grateful to bloggers and they power that we have to promote books.

  5. Also, I don’t see any other comments about this, but bloggers are legally required to include that disclaimer. That author’s comment sheds a lot of light on his/her own ignorance, unfortunately. I hope a friend informed him/her about FTC disclaimer regulations after the presentation so he/she doesn’t continue publicly mocking a legal requirement in the future.

  6. Glad I missed that one. Really, they mocked the FTC disclosure? Let’s not even talk about the fact that bloggers are also these authors’ readers. I’m very conscious while reviewing, doing my best to word things in a way that will hopefully not hurt someone’s feelings, but I’m not going to express a false opinion to soothe these people’s egos (that’s the whole point of the FTC disclosure by the way, to assure that the reviewer is giving an honest opinion).

    At the end of the day though, what they think will not change my choice to review books. I don’t need an author to validate me as a blogger or a reader (because I am BOTH thank you).

    • The author who mocked the FTC doesn’t take himself too seriously, so I don’t think he meant it to be mean.
      I think they were referring to the reviewers who want a reaction so they act like assholes to get attention. The vast majority of bloggers aren’t like that and I’m sure authors appreciate the constructive criticism.

  7. Thanks for writing this event recap. I am new in book reviewing/blogging and it’s insightful to read the authors’ opinion on things.

    I read reviews from book blogs and Goodreads before I purchase. When I see polarizing reviews, it makes the book interesting enough to convince me to buy a copy and check out for myself if its good or bad. In the end, a review either positive or negative is still publicity.

    Jennilyn @ RurouniJenniReads

  8. Thank you for this thoughtful post. I, too, think unlikable characters ruin a story for me, but I always try to be constructive and supportive in my reviews. Just because I don’t like a book doesn’t mean that someone else might. Blogging is a fun way to connect with authors– Adam Selzer stopped by my school when he was in town visiting family years ago, and that was awesome!

    • Adam was definitely a favorite among the two teens I brought and I think I will invite him to my library for our next author event.

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