Event Recap: The Philippine Readers & Writers Festival 2016

Over the last weekend, National Book Store and Raffles Makati sponsored The Philippine Readers & Writers Festival 2016. It’s a simultaneous-events thing featuring different people from local publishing industry. There were also book signing events from international authors, Adam Johnson, Anna Todd and Paula McLain.

Photo: National Book Store FB page

The event that I was most interested to attend was Book Blogging 101: Growing Web and Social Media Presence to Promote Books. The power panel consisted of Eunice Moral of Nerdy Talks Book Blog, Kate Manalo of The Bookaholic Blurbs, Hazel Ureta of Stay Bookish, Lyra Gill of Defiantly Deviant and Kai Agito of Amaterasu Reads. I felt that meeting these top book bloggers and hearing about their success stories would motivate me in continuing this book blog and they did not disappoint. I had a great time and it was worth waking up early on a Sunday morning for! My sister who went with me enjoyed the panel as well even though she was not interested in book blogging before. The event was a gold mine of tips and I feel that I must share some of them here.

On finding the right platform
  • Hazel started out in Tumblr, then Wordpress, then moved on to self-hosted Wordpress. She said that Wordpress is convenient for her because of its plug-ins.
  •        Kai is on Blogger. She said that free Blogger is good for those starting out because it’s free and user-friendly.
  • Kate was also on Tumblr first, then she is on Blogger now. She has recently bought her own domain. She had an experience on working in Wordpress before but finds Blogger more suitable for her.
  • Lyra is a big proponent of Blogger. She said that she created a sports blog in Wordpress before but could not, for the life of her, figure it out.
  • Eunice has a book blog but found that her niche is in bookstagramming, which is posting bookish photos in Instagram.
  • Each panelists agreed that the right platform depends on the user. Try creating blogs in different platforms and choose which one is the most convenient for you.

On focusing on a book genre
  • Kate opts for high fantasy and dystopia, but not erotica.
  • Lyra said no more dystopia for her.
  • Eunice has no specific genre and reads a bit of everything.
  • There are pros and cons on choosing a specific genre to blog about, according to Hazel.

On blog aesthetics
  • Lyra advised to make a simple blog design. If not comfortable with doing it on your own, ask someone for help. Lyra asked Hazel to design Defiantly Deviant for her.
  • Hazel is an authority on all things pretty and designed some of the prettiest blogs out there, e.g. Pop! Goes the Reader and Twirling Pages, but she encouraged everyone that doing your own design is doable and fairly easy.
  • In summary, the panelists stressed that too much design and a bad layout hurt the eyes and will drive away followers of the blog. Use up to only three variety of fonts and stick to a color palette that suits the brand of the blog.

On book photography
  • Eunice has a huge following on her bookstagram account (an impressive 26.6k followers), because of her perfect bookish photos. She said that a professional camera is not necessary on taking beautiful photos as she uses her camera phone for her photos. She advised that good angling and lighting are the more important aspects. Taking good photos is also not about spending too much money but more on creativity and if you love what you do, creativity will come out naturally from you.
  • Kate also shared her bookstagramming experience from buying cartolina for background and buying flowers for props.
  • Hazel showed us the camera that she uses for taking her photos.
  • Lyra relayed that she tried bookstagramming for two days but decided that it was not for her. (I feel you, Lyra)
  • Kai asked her co-panelists about how long does it take for their photo sessions, what hashtags to use to generate likes, if they have joined any photo challenges in IG, etc.

    On writing book reviews
    • Kai said that as much as possible, she writes reviews right after reading the book and does not care about the length of her reviews as long as she gets to let her book feelings out. 
    • Lyra on the other hand, waits for about two weeks before writing her review so as to let her book feelings simmer down. She said that she gauges the book’s effectiveness on how much she was able to remember about the book.
    • Before starting on a book, Kate checks the ratings but does not read reviews from other reviewers. This is to avoid being influenced by their opinions about the book. She stressed out the importance of building your own style and format in writing reviews.
    • Regarding books that they did not like and/or finish, the girls have opposing take on things. Kai does not write DNF reviews while Kate and Lyra write DNF/negative reviews. But all girls agree that the author should not be tagged on social media in negative reviews. Also, on writing negative reviews, the reviewer must be careful to delineate between a book review and an author review. The review must focus on the merit/demerits of the book and not sound as a personal attack on the author.
    • Hazel suggested other creative formats of reviewing a book: listicles, GIF reviews, letter format, etc. To add value to book reviews, bonus contents such as own book photo or book quotes could be added.
    • Regardless of the style and format, Lyra emphasized that being honest with book reviews is what’s most important.

    On establishing social media presence
    • Twitter is the most preferred social media platform for both Lyra and Kai. The girls consider Twitter the easiest way to link blog posts and interact with favorite authors and fellow book enthusiasts.
    • Kate encouraged joining in on twitter chats. She relayed that the book community on twitter is one of the best online communities there is.
    • For twitter chat hosting, Hazel suggested having a promotion graphic and a hashtag which the chat participants could use.
    On time management
    • Lyra admitted that there was a time when she got sad when she can’t keep up with her blog schedules but has now found that posting when she wants to post is what works for her.
    • Others bloggers, like Hazel, keep schedules. Hazel even designed her own blog planner to cater her needs.
    • Kate stresses that reading and blogging requires time and commitment but it does not have to reach the point of feeling forced to do these things because what matters is having fun.

    On connecting with publishers
    • The panelists shared tips and things to consider when sending review copy requests but also threw caution that getting a review copy comes with the responsibility to timely read and review the book.
    After the panel proper, a lot of questions were raised by the participants. I asked our panelists if they maintain separate social media accounts for their blog and for their other personal stuff. Hazel, Kai and Eunice have separate personal accounts. Hazel does not want her personal tweets/posts shared publicly. Kai has other interests such as anime that she want to tweet about/post on another account. And Eunice wants her IG feed and following to be purely bookish things. Kate and Lyra both have no separate personal accounts from their book blog social media accounts. Lyra said that when she tweets/post about other things, she sometimes meets and gets comments from bookish people with the same interests as her.
    The panelists looking serious here while taking questions from the participants

    After running out of time from answering lots of good questions raised by the participants, the panelists hang around some more to greet, shake hands and take photos with the participants. While waiting for my turn to approach the panelists, I approached and introduced myself to JM of Book Freak Revelations. I told him that I recognized him from one of the many twitter chats he has hosted. He was super friendly and took pictures with us in his camera.

    When it’s my turn to take a photo with Kate, she handed me a tote loaded with books and bookish swags. She must’ve seen a weird combo of joy and puzzlement in my face so she said that the tote was supposed to be raffled off during the panel but there was no more time so she decided to give it to any participant anyway. Of all the people in the room and I was that one lucky person standing beside her at the right moment to receive the giveaway! 

    With Filipino YA author, Mae Coyiuto

    After the book blogging panel, my sister and I took our lunch then went in on a panel for aspiring young adult fiction writers. One of the panelists was Filipino YA author, Mae Coyiuto whose book, The Year We Became Invincible, my sister read and enjoyed. My sister got her book signed and we went our merry way home. 

    How about you, fellow book wanderer, have you been to the Philippine Readers & Writers Festival 2016 as well? What panel/s did you go to?

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