I was thrilled by the invitation to attend the inaugural Random House Penguin National Book Bloggers Forum held earlier this week at the offices of Random House in Sydney. I was one of around 40 book bloggers to attend the event who made their way from all over Australia.
The day was launched by a warm welcome speech from Director of Marketing & Publicity, Brett Osmond that showed his passion for publishing. He was especially encouraging of book bloggers, and readers, imploring us to connect with each other and Random House online. “When you connect books with readers magical things will happen.”, he said, and this is what drives him in the face of a changing industry.
Next to speak were Eva and Ellie, two of the Random House digital publicists. Their presentations focused on building a digital media presence with the help of Google Analytics in particular, and across social media in general. I learnt I probably don’t take my blog seriously enough, and that there are a myriad of ways to improve and increase my digital reach including studying my stats (which I usually ignore) to learn more about my audience, make better use of keywords and links, directly engage the community with ‘calls to action’ and implementing content planning. These are all things I am going to be looking at in the near future.
Sneh Roy was the first guest author to address us. A food blogger who has met with great success with the Cook Republic and recently published her first cook book with Random House, Tasty Express, she spoke to us about her experience as a blogger of 10 years, emphasising the importance of finding your voice, having strong content and developing community and relationships. She also spoilt us with a lovely morning tea which included this tasty Burnt Butter Caramel Slice.
Morning tea, and lots of chatter, was followed by the publicists of Random House previewing some of the new releases we can expect from Australian authors. These included titles such as David Malouf‘s The Writing Life, Julia Gillard’s autobiography, My Story, A Fatal Tide by debut author Steve Sailah and Hooked: The Secrets of A Sydney Call Girl by by Samantha X. You can also expect Seven Letters from Paris by Samantha Verant, He Who Must be Obeid by Kate McClymont and Linton Besser and Australia’s Hardest Prison: Inside Long Bay by James Phelps. I am especially looking forward to the release of Eden, which is a sequel to the fabulous Hades by Candice Fox.
Young adult readers can look forward to the third book in the Chasing the Valley series, Skyfire by Skye Melki-Wegner, Intruder by Christine Bongers and Are You Seeing Me? by Darren Groth and Felicity from PenguinTeen introduced Masquerade by debut Australian author Kylie Fornasier before showing off Richelle Mead’s latest, Silver Shadows and Afterworlds from Scott Westerfield.
Lunch gave us all a chance to chat over sandwiches and treats. I was so pleased to finally be able to meet face to face with the women I have worked with on the Australian Women Writers challenge for the past three years! I also had a chance to talk with some other lovely people, check out the full list of attendees at Random House or in this twitter list
We were all suitably impressed by the identity of the surprise guest author who joined us after lunch. Judy Nunn, popular Australian actress and author of 12 books, spoke about her work, her writing and graciously fielded questions from an awed audience. I really enjoyed her talk and to top it off we were given signed copies of her latest book, Elianne, which I am now dying to read.
Judy was followed by Bruce McCabe with an interesting story about his journey to publication. He self published his book, Skinjob, which by rather circuitous means made it into the hands of a well respected agent and is now being published by Random House in June. I was fascinated by the inspiration for his novel and his belief in himself and his story.
Following Bruce we heard from Brandon Van Over, the Managing Editor of Random House, with advice for the aspiring writers in the audience. I think I was the only one there not currently writing the next Australian publishing sensation! Brandon particularly addressed the blog to book phenomena and let us know that publishers are reading blogs looking for potential authors.
Next up was a preview of what we can expect from international authors over the next few months. This included Courting Trouble by Kathy Lette; Time and Time Again by Ben Elton, and both Lee Child and Kathy Reichs will be adding to their series oeuvre. We were treated to a wonderful book trailer for John Cleese‘s memoir and Russell Brand’s The Messiah Complex. Murukami fans can expect Colorless Tsukura Tazaki and his years in pilgrimage, and you can also look forward to Perfidia by James Ellroy, The Children Act by Ian McEwan.
With the day nearly over, we were given the opportunity to talk amongst ourselves but unsurprisingly the audience mainly wanted to ask questions of the publishers and so it became a Q&A session fielded by Kirsty Notfke, the wonderful Random House publicist and organiser of the Forum, and Felicity V from Penguin Teen. Honestly, the eight hour day flew by in what felt like minutes and everyone was reluctant to leave at the close of the forum, even without the draw of champagne, cake and a generous swag bag!
The events of the day were eagerly tweeted, facebook’d and instagrammed by all those in attendance. You can check out the #NBBF14 Twitter feed for more details. Everyone felt the forum was a huge success and we are all hoping Random House will host the event again next year. Look out for an announcement in 2015!
I would like to personally extend my thanks to Kirsty and the Random House team for all their hard work, generosity and passion for books, and book bloggers!