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BookExpo America and the Definition of “Press”

Those of you who follow this blog regularly know that I’m pretty passionate about books. I read many, and every week I write either an in-depth analysis of some book/writing-related issue, or I post a detailed, analytical review of a science fiction, fantasy, or horror title. In the almost two years that I’ve been at this, I’ve had the opportunity to meet and work with some of the greatest, most professional publicists and authors in the world. It’s been an awesome experience, and one that (judging by the traffic of my blog and by my Technorati ranking) it seems folks appreciate (at least a little!). And yet, this blog no longer meets Book Expo America’s “standards that are required to qualify for a Press Pass”. Which is odd, considering that it qualified last year when my readership was about 10% of what it is now.

Here’s the form e-mail that I, and many other popular book bloggers, received from Reed Exhibitions today:

Thank you for submitting your Press application to attend BEA as a working member of the media. Unfortunately you did not meet the standards that are required to qualify for a Press Pass. The standards have been determined for BEA by our exhibitors as to what are considered benchmarks of a professional “press credential”. We review all applications very carefully due to limits on the number of press passes that are issued. Unfortunately, your application does not meet the guidelines we have been given in order to maintain the expected standard of trade and general media. We greatly appreciate your time and consideration, hoping you can still participate in BEA or follow the coverage through our video and podcast initiatives.

Best regards, -R
Roger Bilheimer
BEA Public Relations Director

Despite the fact that I’ve made lots of productive relationships through BEA in the past and covered the event on this blog, I understand if they’ve established criteria that I now fail to meet. It’s their event, and the guest list is in their purview. And yet, this whole process raises a number of questions. To whit:

1 What are the “standards [that] have been determined for BEA by our exhibitors as to what are considered benchmarks of a professional “press credential”” ?
2 Why are people only getting this notice today, two months before the event and several months after registering, when hotels and flights have already been booked?
3 Are Reed Exhibitions, and their publisher exhibitors intentionally sending a message to book bloggers that we don’t count as press, that our POV on industry events is less worthy?

To be clear, I’m not grousing about the fact that I’m not getting a press pass. At this point in my blogging career, I have enough relationships in the industry that I’ll still have plenty of stuff to cover even if I never set foot on the show floor. Yes, I might miss a lot of interesting developments…but I’ll still have plenty to write about, regardless. But, Reed Exhibitions’ lack of transparency, the lateness of their communication, and its implications are all troubling.

Is this the kind of relationship Book Expo America and its exhibitors want to foster with the book blogger community? Don’t book bloggers count as press? Shouldn’t we be given the professional courtesy of clearly communicated criteria before we’ve booked our flights and hotels, scheduled meetings and interviews? In short, if book bloggers act as professional media, don’t we deserve to be treated as such?

If, like me, if you’ve got a problem with Reed’s approach to this whole process and would appreciate some more transparency, please make Book Expo America aware of it. You can tweet stuff @BookExpoAmerica, as well as e-mail I’ve e-mailed and tweeted at them asking for clarification, and I know a lot of other book bloggers are doing the same.

If you care about books and their coverage on blogs, boost the signal!

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