Sunday, January 20, 2013

Quick Follow-Up

I realized that I forgot to say in the last post that my new personal blog, Critical Linking, has email and RSS subscriptions set up.

So if you'd like to port yourself on over, here is the link to sign-up for email subscriptions, and here is the RSS feed link.

So far, I've been posting 2-3 short things a day there and enjoying the new format.

Thanks again,

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Goodbye, Ape

This blog got me started. And it's time to officially let it go.

I write about books and reading every day for Book Riot. I've long been thinking how to keep The Reading Ape going, but anything I would do here, I can do there. And Book Riot is a significant part of my professional life now.

But I do want to keep a personal blog, so I've started a new little site: Critical Linking. It'll be about books, reading, publishing, media, and a few other personal interests. Short forms, brief commentary, the occasional longer piece. Stuff that's maybe a little too insidery for the general reader (that stuff will go to Book Riot) and maybe a little more opinionated. Or not.

If you want to keep up with me, Twitter is the best way...the Ape will live on as I keep the same handle: @readingape.

Critical Linking will have its own Twitter feed, which will just be new posts on it: @crit_linking.

Thanks so much for reading.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Ranking The Best James Bond Novels

A quick, out-of-the blue post to point you to a project I worked on all summer: ranking the best James Bond novels written by Ian Fleming. They vary wildly in quality, but the best hold up pretty well. Anyway, check it out if you're interested.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Book Blogger Uncon Debrief

8The Book Blogger Uncon took place last week, and it was, on the whole, a success. Many attendees are doing recaps and wrap-ups, and I'll refer you to them for what we talked about and how it went. I'll briefly give my own thoughts about the event, and what the future of it might be, in a relatively uncollected way.


1. Going bare-bones felt great. No sponsors or swag or programs or microphones or non-bloggers. This made it feel intimate, informal, and open. 

2. We had 23 people show up, some for part of the day. This turned out to be an in-between number. Too many really for whole group discussion, and few enough that we wanted to stay as a group. From what I have heard already, next year's prospective event is unlikely to be smaller. 

3. Our conversations were relatively broad, which I think is fine, especially for an experiment like this. With more attendees and more sessions, I think we could be more specific around certain topics. For example, a small-group peer-critique of blog design could be really useful. 

4. I also think that there is no reason to limit the sessions to "book blog" topics. Discussions about publishing, writing, technology, and a range of other topics would be fascinating. 

5. The Uncon attendees on the whole were a pretty experienced bunch, and I think some discussion of more advanced/difficult issues could have been/could be beneficial: monetization, using your blog as a stepping stone to a career, collaborative blogging, video/audio, using your blog to champion specific issues, the commodification of bloggers, and others.

6. I wonder also if a "niche" timeslot would be useful--basically a session-time where we break into "YA" and "Literary Fiction" and "Non-Fiction" or what have you. Each has there own range of sub-issues and would perhaps be worth discussing in person.

7. Based on how drained I was on Friday, I can't imagine holding the Uncon after BEA, as some have suggested. Monday is clearly the best slot. Just because the BEA blogger conference is scheduled for Monday, I don't think that should be a consideration. 

8. I floated the idea of a registration fee, mainly to pay for an expert outside speaker in web publishing (probably WordPress).It could also cover in the afternoon or some other nominal expenses (nametags, etc).I think this might also firm up registration. I'm thinking 20 bucks. 

9. The Center for Fiction was a great location, with one relatively serious drawback: no wi-fi. I'm not sure that this is a deal breaker, but I definitely missed this and think others did as well. 

10. Maybe it's because I teach writing and spend a lot of time thinking about writing, but it does seem, for a community that is centered on writing and reading, that discussions of writing don't come up more often. Might a session workshopping each other's review be helpful? Do you think people could take constructive criticism without seeing it as just criticism?

I will soon post something over on the Uncon blog formally asking if we should do an Uncon again next year. That post will also ask for feedback on how to improve things and to brainstorm ideas for the next go-round. 






Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Book Blogger Uncon Session Idea

One last pre-show session idea for the Book Blogger Uncon for me. I thought it might be both fun and useful to have a "Close Reading" refresher session. Dust off your analytical skills and practice looking at words, phrases, and sentences in excruciating detail. 

I have a bunch of exercise and examples to draw on from my teaching stuff, and I thought I might run this one sort of like a college seminar. I mean, don't we all sorta miss college?

Anyway, let me know if this sounds interesting and see you all really soon!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Book Blogger Unconference: Session Ideas

As planning for the Book Blogger Unconference ramps up: we are asking participants to blog about sessions they might be interested and willing to lead.

Here are a couple of sessions I have been thinking about:

1. Who Are You Writing For?

Often, blogging is tough because you don't really know who is reading your stuff and why they are reading it. I'd like to have a group discussion about how thinking about audience can be helpful. Are you writing for other bloggers? General readers? Avid readers? Are you writing with the industry in mind? Answering some of these questions can not only make writing easier, but clarify your vision of what you want your blog to be.

2. Blogging Hacks

This one is about sharing computing tips and tricks. I would start the session (in an A/V equipped room) showing off some of the tools I use in my daily workflow: DropBox, Skitch, Text Expander, OmniFocus, and others. Then, anyone else can share the tools they use to make their blogging lives easier. (Note: this is not primarily about publishing platforms (Wordpress, Blogger, etc) or code. Others more expert than I should consider leading a session about any or all of those things).


I have more ideas, but those are mine for now. Check out the Book Blogger Unconference site for more info. Hope to see you there.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Book Blogger Conference: It's All Happening

Thundercats are go.

The most difficult piece, finding a good, available space for a reasonable price, seems to have been solved. The Center for Fiction has offered their space, for free (so long as we clean up after ourselves) for the day of June 4. It is midtown Manhattan and so it will be easy for folks who want to hit the BEA buzz panel over at the Javits in the late afternoon to get there.

I am going to check out the space in person and talk with them soon, but I am confident it will be a good fit.

So now it's time for the next three steps.

First, the planning and discussion is moving from here to a dedicated blog.

Second, the structure of an unconference and our space means that there has to be a registration cap of 100 participants. I have no idea if that many are interested, but that's the maximum this format can really handle.

Third, registration. Over on the Book Blog Uncon site, there is a registration form. Please only fill this out if you are very likely to attend. Since there's no charge, there is no binding registration, but an accurate headcount will make planning easier, and it also lets us keep track of a waitlist should demand exceed the registration cap.


On Friday, I am going to post some information about how an unconference works, what you can expect from the day, and how you can start proposing sessions beforehand.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Book Blogger Unconference: Day 2

Well, this much is clear: there is a lot of interest in a book blogger unconference on June 4.

I have reached out to a few venues to see what space availability/cost might be. That is the only organizational step I have taken since yesterday. Tomorrow, I am going post about some next steps, but today I think some explanation and clarification might be useful before proceeding. Also, I have been contacted by the BEA Blogger Convention directly and have received permission to reprint that email below to get their take on the matter.

But first, some uncollected thoughts:

1. This isn't a revolt or boycott.

Those terms suggest some moral transgression, and that's not what is happening here. Some bloggers just want to think about doing something else.

2. The main difference is structural.

This isn't about who is speaking or what they are speaking about, it is about focusing on conversation rather than presentation.

3. There are great reasons to go to the BEA blogger conference.

The BEA bloggers conference might be a really good choice for many, maybe even most bloggers. But it's not right for me at this point and others have expressed the same. For example, if you want to cultivate relationships with publishers, the BEA blogger conference is a much better fit.

4. If you choose one over the other, you are not uncool. No one here is cool.

Again, what matters most to me is that bloggers get stuff that helps them be happier with their blogging lives. If that means that 99% goes to the BEA bloggers conference because that is the right fit for them, I am totally thrilled.


Ok, I hope that was helpful. As always, please leave a comment or write on your own blog if you want to add to the above in some way.


Here is what Joseph Vella of the BEA Bloggers Conference wrote to me yesterday. In fairness to Joe, I am not going to comment on it here, but I think it is important for everyone to see what they have to say before the next steps (if they still happen) are taken:

Hi Jeff,

Your recent blog was passed on to me and I wanted to reach out to chat with you directly. The BEA team respects your right to have an opinion but some of the things you have included in your post are not factual based on how we have approached this year's conference. I wanted to share with you so you could at least have all the information going forward.

BEA purchased the conference from Trish and Michele and has worked hand in hand with them every step of the way to gain their insights and direction on how to build this year's conference. They shared what worked and what didn't and have provided invaluable guidance on how to approach the organization and content this year. They vetted the entire program for us-from topics to speakers.

Along with this, we reached out to prior attendees (you probably received our emails) asking for participation in an online survey to share your feedback on the event. We had a wonderful response and gathered even more insights to ensure we were building and event that would be based on what our customers--book bloggers--wanted. Then, we reached out again to prior attendees (you may have also received this email) asking them to participate in an online focus group to help us fine tune what we had been hearing. Once again we gained a solid response and made modifications to our program based on what we heard from book bloggers.

As you can see, we did not create this year's event in a vacuum-BEA and Reed believe in working with our customers and listening to them to create events that will offer value and a memorable experience. This event has been created based on everything we heard directly from Trish, Michele and the many book bloggers who took time to share their thoughts with us.

Regarding the session topics you mentioned in your blog post that you'd like to see--well, many of the topics you mentioned are being covered in this year's program and we are currently recruiting speakers. Here’s a quick review:

*           Writing Negative Reviews will be covered in our session, "Critical Reviews: Fine Tuning Your Craft"
*           Dealing with Publishers will be covered in our session, "Demystifying the Book Blogger & Publisher Relationship"
*           Using Statistics and Monetization will be covered in our session, "So You Want to Make Money?"
*           Collaboration, Podcasting, and Social Media will be covered in our session, "Creating Community & Driving Engagement"
*           Niche topics (YA, Literary Fiction, Romance, Graphic Novels, Fantasy, and so on) will be addressed in our networking luncheon, "Let's Talk Blogs"

The conference is only a day so there is only so much time for sessions. In addition, there were many other things we heard from past attendees that they wanted to see-such as networking-so we built in two opportunities for that with the Networking Continental Breakfast and the Networking Luncheon. Past attendees also told us they want access to authors so we are inviting them into these networking events. We have a jam packed day with sessions, networking, authors, and two meals! One of the attractions to having the event at BEA is that there is access to BEA which means access to well over 1,000 publishers, 700+ authors, dozens of sessions of all kinds + access to the BlogWorld exhibits and a great discount to the BlogWorld conference as well. 

I hope that the information I have shared has helped to shed light on how we've been approaching this year's event and the value of BEA. Our goal is to work together with the book blogger community--and we are trying very hard to do our due diligence and do just that. We know there will be bumps along the way and we know we cannot please everyone, but I hope this will help to add some fresh perspective for you.

We would welcome your feedback to help continue to shape this year's event and the event going forward.

Thank you.

- Joe Vella

Joseph Vella

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A Book Blogger Unconference

If you are a book blogger, I want to pitch you an idea. It's an idea that came out of being unhappy with what someone else is doing and thinking that we, together, can do it better.

Most of you have either attended or heard of the Book Blogger's Convention that has for the last couple of years followed Book Expo America. Started and organized by a group of bloggers, it was a day of panels about book blogging and the publishing industry. I've been twice and loved meeting people I've known and read online, and I was looking forward to going again this year, though mostly to hang out in the hall and talk to folks.

Unfortunately, I don't think it's an event I want to go to anymore. The short story is that the convention was sold to the same company that runs Book Expo America. Since that sale, BEA has made a series of decisions that ultimately has led me to decide not to attend, including asking for blog stats as part of the registration, asking for and accepting money and reservations without providing a list of speakers, and forming panels and sessions that don't speak to me as a book blogger.

So what I want to do is this: organize a book blogger "unconference" and hold it they day the BEA Blogger Convention is happening. (I don't mind competing with it, but that's not why I want it to be that day---it's just that bloggers are going to be in NYC that day anyway.)

When BookCamp happened a while back, I thought "Man, I wish there was something like that for book bloggers." (Here is a wrap-up that gives you an idea of what this could feel like) And now seems like a good time to make it happen.

I am going to need help, but here's what I have in mind.

1. Bloggers only. All you need to be eligible is a book blog.

2. Low-cost. We are not going to pay anyone to speak or ask you to pay for a stale chicken sandwich. The registration fee will go toward the space cost. And that's it. We might consider sponsors. We might not. Worth talking about.

3. Self-run. No one knows what book bloggers want to talk about more than book bloggers. And you know what, no one is more expert on book blogging than book bloggers. Let's talk to each other rather than be talked at by others.

4. Small sessions, blogger-generated. Sessions will be informal, seminar-like group discussions. There are a couple of ways of handling this, but the key element is we decide what to talk about and we ourselves talk about it. In each session slot (say 1pm-2pm) a couple of sessions will be happening and you are encouraged to move from one to the other.


We can talk about sessions later, but I thought some examples might be helpful in imaging what this could look like:

1. Writing Negative Reviews
2. Dealing with Publishers
3. Commenting and Its Discontents
4. Peer Reviewing Blog Design
5. Using Statistics
6. Monetization
7. Collaboration
8. Getting the Most Out of Social Media
9. Guest Posts and Posting
10. Book Blogging for Beginners
11. Book Blogging for Veterans
12. Podcasting
13. Apps and Ereaders
14. From Blog to Job
15. Niche sessions (YA, Literary Fiction, Romance, Graphic Novels, Fantasy, and so on)
and on and on....


I teach at The New School in Greenwich Village in New York City and know the facilities well. I have begun the process of finding out what might be available and at what cost. I have an idea for what space there would be perfect, but this is still in the very early stage.

That said: here's what I need from you now:

1. Based only on the above, would you consider attending?

2. Would you help? I'm not even sure yet what all we will need doing, but we're going to need to work together?

3. What comments or questions do you have?

4. Get the word out. We need to get at least 30-40 people to make this worth doing, so please post and Tweet about this post and have people comment here or on your own blog. Even if you can't make it, it would be huge help. And if you think it's not for you but think it might be for someone you know, please let them know as well.

I'm really excited about the possibility here and look forward to hearing what you have to say.

-Jeff O'Neal, aka The Reading Ape

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

New Site Dedicated to Book Trailers

Just a quick note here to say that we launched a new sister site for Book Riot that collects new and notable book trailers:

Pretty simple: we search out the most interesting book trailers out there and put them in one place. Check it out, wouldya?