Held at the Hilton in Manhattan on October 21, Penguin and BlogHer, the community and media company created in partnership with women in social media, hosted BlogHer Writers '11, a full day of events "designed for women who want to start on their path to publishing." The conference, which was limited to 200 attendees from blogging and writing backgrounds, featured breakout panel sessions and mentor brainstorming sessions with agents.
Barbara Marcus, strategic innovations advisor for Penguin, started the day with a welcome address to attendees about what's happening now in publishing. "Blogs to Books," a general session followed, with Penguin editors talking about how a blog can become a book. Neeti Madan, agent with Sterling Lord Literistics, told how she found Jenny Lawson, blogger on TheBloggess, liked her voice, and she's now slated to author Let's Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir for Amy Einhorn Books. And while the panel reiterated that voice is important for turing a blog into a book, Rebecca Hunt, an editor at Penguin, said editors are "tired of one-note gimmicks. We're tired of funny pictures of cats," so she stressed, as did her fellow panelists, the importance of an idea that can be quickly grasped, as well as a solid following online.
The first breakout sessions of the day were titled "Publishing 101" and "How to Turn a Book or Two into a Writing Career," designed to split the attendees by their publishing experience, a breakdown that Matthew Boyd, publishing and special marketing manager at Penguin, said was "about 75% beginning writers, 25% writers who already had a book or two and wanted to know what to do next." At the latter panel, Carleen Brice, author of Children of the Waters, brought up the statistic that only 5% of writers can make a living entirely from their writing. When the panel was asked how to get a publisher excited in a second book after the first book only did respectably, Jane Schonberger, a writer/producer and editor for Blogher, said, "They'll probably ask you what you're doing on the self-promotion front. The answer to that might be the tipping point."
Earlier this year, Penguin began sponsoring BlogHer's Book Club (a feature on BlogHer's site, which draws 27 million unique visitors per month), and, according to Boyd, sponsoring a conference for BlogHer "just seemed like a natural fit." For BlogHer Writers '11, Penguin worked closely with BlogHer, coming up with ideas for panels as well as bringing in 80% of the panelists, mentors and agents. "Our main goal is getting closer to the bloggers," said Boyd, saying how important it is to put a face with the blogging voice, an interaction that occurs over the internet.
Boyd said, at the moment, Penguin has no future conferences on the horizon, but another one is certainly possible: "I wouldn't be surprised given the reception this conference is getting."