KidLitCon 2012: What I learned as a publisher

Since KidLitCon, an annual conference for children’s book bloggers, took place right here in New York City this year, I had the happy chance to attend for the very first time, and I also spotted several other publishing people in attendance. I don’t know how the bloggers felt about us publishing folk dropping in on their conference, but hopefully they didn’t mind too much. There were some pretty open discussions of publisher/blogger/author relations at various points, so I don’t think anyone was holding themselves back on our account. And from the publisher standpoint I was glad to be there to listen, in addition to the fact that I am personally a bit of a fangirl of lots of the bloggers who were there and it was fun to meet them face to face.

Betsy Bird
The inestimable Betsy Bird

There are lots of other great recaps of KidLitCon up around the blogosphere, so I thought I’d just list a few of the things I took away from the conference on the publishing side of things:

1. Don’t forget your friends.

There are many different levels of familiarity and relationships, even when you’re just talking about the Internet. As the women of From The Mixed-Up Files of Middle Grade Authors explained in their panel on community building, some people are readers or browsers while others are followers, fans, or even true friends, and friends/fans should not be taken for granted. For those people, that might mean scheduling an in-person meetup or just emailing to say hello.

The important thing, I think, is that those levels – reader, follower, fan, friend – are not set in stone. With the right book, conversation, or connection, relationships can deepen and become more meaningful.

2. “Google is forever.”

As Greg Pincus explained in his session on avoiding the echo-chamber, once something is up on the Internet you can NEVER really take it back. So think through what you post, and make sure whatever you are putting out there adds *value* as opposed to just trying to sell something. I think this is especially true for authors and for us as publishers: there is a lot of noise out there, so don’t just add to it through self-promotion. Instead, contribute to conversations in a meaningful way.

A panel on whether reviews have gotten too nice

3.New authors should be put in werewolf cages when their books are released. They can be fed, though.

Author Maureen Johnson suggested this unorthodox but elegant solution to the problem of authors responding to negative reviews of their books. If you are an author (or author’s wife/husband, editor, agent, or personal bodyguard) don’t do it! If you want to respond to a blogger who has reviewed your book, pop online to say “thank you” and then, if need be, go drown your sorrows offline in a pint of ice cream. And if you are a publisher or agent, teach your authors that there is a right and a wrong way to respond to bad reviews.

BONUS: What blogs do your favorite bloggers read?

One last thing I loved, and I think it even came up as kind of an afterthought, was the discussion of what some of my favorite bloggers read themselves. During a panel on whether reviewers have become too nice, Betsy Bird, Liz Burns, Monica Edinger, and a few other reviewers shared some of their own favorite blogs. The ones most mentioned were Pink Me, The Book Smugglers, and Bookshelves of Doom, which was pretty much a universal favorite.

The takeaway of the day, besides the general fact that bloggers are awesome, is that blogging and reviewing is constantly evolving. Luckily, the community of bloggers is a supportive one, so there’s a lot everyone can learn from each other and a lot that everyone can do together.

And my other takeaway of the day was these amazing Charles Dickens postcards that I picked up at the NY Public Library’s Charles Dickens exhibit during a break:

M is for Abel Magwitch, H is for Miss Havisham

All in all, a good day.

Recaps & more recaps: A Fuse #8, Bookshelves of Doom, SLJ, Nova Ren Suma, The Cath in the Hat, and Jon Yang.

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