Had I not finished Minders of Make-Believe: idealists, entrepreneurs, and the shaping of American children’s literature mere days before attending KidLit 08: Bridging the Worlds of Books and Blogs, I would’ve experienced the conference differently. I’m sure I would’ve enjoyed the sessions and the people I met just as much, but I wouldn’t have seen them/us, as I did, representing a sort of living, not-yet-written next chapter in Marcus’s history.
As I read Minders of Make-Believe, I kept thinking that in this –sorry– small world of literature for youth in the U.S., we’ve always been fighting the same fights, worrying about the same things. A few examples:
What stories are “appropriate,” and who can tell them?
Whose voices are heard and whose are left out?
How far off are the tastes of librarians, publishers, and reviewers from the tastes of actual young people?
Are tie-in products a good idea? (Did you know that Disney made Ferdinand the Bull toys in 1936?)
How do new technologies affect publishing? (Radio, television, and movies all shook things up way before we started debating about videogames and the Internet.)
At the conference, when the book bloggers discussed how authors should or should not approach them, they reminded me of editors or agents talking about the protocol of querying manuscripts. “Don’t just send something without knowing the kind of books I review.” “Don’t email to ask why the book you sent hasn’t been reviewed yet.” “Don’t send something addressed to “Dear Blogger.”
I thought a lot all day about the increasing importance of online reviews. They’re accessible and persistent, and it’s so easy to interact with the reviewer. I’ve thought for a long time that the increased ease of interaction between authors and readers that comes with the Web is influencing publishing, and will influence it even more strongly as the next generation of writers, for whom that ease of interaction is a given, comes of age. But yesterday was the first time that I really recognized how much reviewers are part of that shift, as well.
I liked Greg Pincus‘s point about “setting yourself up for a happy accident” by using clear, descriptive post titles and subject tags to make it easier for people to find you when they’re searching for whatever it is you’re writing about. As you know if you’ve been reading me for a while, I am thus far a tag-free blogger, but he certainly presented good reasons for taking the time to tag. We’ll see if those good reasons are sufficient to overcome my disinclination.
The session at which I took the most notes was, appropriately, Sara Zarr‘s fantastic presentation about balancing the personal and professional on your author blog. My notes, verbatim:
— Your blog is your most controllable publicity — you are your own PR rep
— Don’t be shy about sharing good news, and don’t advertise your bad news
— Find your own private, uncensored writers’ community, separate from your blog, for venting
— Be a champion of other authors
— Don’t write anything you wouldn’t want your editor or your agent to see
— With both personal AND professional news, ask if you can share before posting
— “High risk” posts on hot-button topics can bring high rewards, but COMPOSE them
As much as I enjoyed both the official sessions and the conversations in between, it was a long, overwhelming day, and I fled after the group photos.
But I’m very glad I decided to go.