Panel City: Shouting Out About Books!

Yesterday I had the very great pleasure of being on a panel at the New York Public Library in which the discussion centered on the different ways book professionals (authors, illustrators, librarians, booksellers, etc.) communicate about books.

"Hold it right there!" you are thinking, "Why were you included in panel of book professionals?"

Okay, you got me.  It's true that in no way do I consider myself a book professional. I was there as the "parent blogger" representative. And as a parent blogger, I communicate to others -- presumably other parents -- about books.

I enjoyed the experience and as usually happens when book lovers gather to discuss books, there was not enough time to discuss... um, well... books. One of the topics which fell victim to the clock was how exactly parent bloggers tell the public about books. 

Fortunately I have a blog where I can engage in the very self-indulgent act of talking about whatever I wish (fortunately you are able, at this point, to click away from this site if I'm too boring). So here's a few thoughts I had rolling around in my head:

1. One of the terms that kept getting tossed around was that that book professionals are "gatekeepers." While I agree that this is true for librarians and others, I don't consider myself, as a parent blogger, a gatekeeper to the world of books. When trying to decided on a catchy phrase that would describe how I feel about the parent blogger position, I decided I liked the term, "signpost."

I'm imagining one of those large hands with the pointer finger like this:

Or maybe a signpost that leads you different ways, when I write posts about different kinds of books (just to confuse you):

A signpost points you in a specific direction(s), but you, as the traveler can choose to go one way or another: pick up one book or another. Unlike a gatekeeper, I don't decided which books are available for you to choose (e.g. at the library or in a bookstore). 

2. I don't write, what I consider to be reviews, on my parent blog. Over here at Storied Cities, that's another matter, but on my parent blog when I recommend a book a write a soundbite for it. This is for a several reasons: a) because I don't really want to write lengthy reviews covering plot points and other details; b) others have already written reviews, which are easy to find if someone wants more info on a particular book (ah, the magic of Google); c) checking out a book from the library is risk-free. I don't encourage people to spend $20 on a book they haven't read yet, good review or not; d) parents coming to my blog are not (for the most part) coming specifically for book recommendations (more on this in Point 3); and finally e) surfers of the internet and many parents with small children about to spill a cup of milk all over the new couch like brevity (a description which does not apply to this post!).

3.) Even though parents are not generally coming to my parent blog for book recommendations, parent blogs are an important way of communicating about books and here's why:
  • Parents (as opposed to children) are the ones who check out and buy picture books, early readers and - to a certain extent - middle grade fiction. I don't pretend to know anything about the publishing industry, but I imagine it is the parents' wallets that put kids books on best sellers list. If I'm wrong, please tell me in the comment section, I love to be corrected and learn new things!
  • Parents who come to a blog such as mine are coming for things to do with their kids. My site traffic tells me that my Indoor and Educational Activities are what bring readers to my blog, yet guess what? My book posts are the most commented upon (on?) posts! My recent post, on how to find children's book has quickly become one of my most popular posts, receiving more hits in a week than some posts receive in a year!  I am incredibly flattered that so many readers referred to the post on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. All of this means:
  • Parents are interested in finding books other than Dr. Seuss, Goodnight Moon, etc. but they don't necessarily go to book blogs to do so. Book blogs aren't necessarily read by a large parent audience (this is a generalization, obviously there are parents, like me. who read blogs dedicated to books), but blogs about a variety of parent-related issues are aimed solely at the children's book buyer: PARENTS.
So the main message is that book pros can communicate to parents (the gatekeepers for children!) through venues not entirely dedicated to books. Libraries, schools and bookstores will always remain the most important ways to find books, but don't forget that talking about books for children can also be done alongside talk about homemade catapults, math games and getting the kids to eat a healthful breakfast!

I would love to hear more from you about this! Do you think parent blogs or other blogs written my non-book professionals have a place in the book conversation? Maybe since I'm not trained in book reviews I should stick to sippy cups? How can librarian, schools, author/illustrators and bookstores work with bloggers to promote books?

Please add to the conversation in the comments section of this post.


Roxie said...

Loved your contributions @ NYPL yesterday, Erica (I was sitting front row, by middle aisle). Particularly liked your discussion of WHERE you found books (lots of paths to good books). Not just from awards and best-sellers. As "gatekeepers," the panelists should create buzz, not just respond it. Thanks again...food for thought (and thanks also for the blogs-you-follow list...now if we just had 48 hours in the day....).

MaryAnne said...

I had a feeling you might be sitting on that panel!!!

Parent blogs play a big role in my book choices - Natalie's "What My Child Is Reading" linky is my other primary source of inspiration for new children's books to read with my kids - alongside your blog!

melanie hope greenberg said...

Erica, thanks so much for bringing my panel dream alive and rippling outward the connecting dots to the parents who are a big part of our publishing community. We need YOU parents. I just added a blog post about our panel on Saturday here: http://mermaidsonparade.blogspot.com/2012/02/event-february-4-2012-panel-at-nypl-42.html

I hope that parents will check out my Mermaids On Parade blog which goes behind the scenes of Picture Book publishing from my (author-illustrator) point of view. I show lots of picture book creative process in simple language and lots of art and images for parents, care-givers and young people. Hopefully, my postings can broaden the understanding of what it takes to get a book published and how I maintain a career in publishing and how my craft is a specialized 100% full time job and not a hobby. http://mermaidsonparade.blogspot.com/

Parents can also Facebook Friend me to see postings about my books, events and art. On FB we can also communicate with each other. Please send an intro note that you met me from this blog.

Check out my website from Erica's blog roll on the sidebar.

I hope more parents will read Betsy Bird's Fuse #8 Blog. It's the most popular children's literature blog in the United States. Fuse #8 blog is an encyclopedia of children's literature. In her fun breezy writing style, Betsy reviews of all the newest and upcoming books as well as posts industry news and tidbits. Always a great read and now you can learn what the insiders know. http://blog.schoollibraryjournal.com/afuse8production/

It Takes a Community to Create a Picture Book.

melanie hope greenberg said...

ps if you do not do Facebook and wish to receive my email updates (everyone's email is kept private) contact me to get on the list at melanie@melaniehopegreenberg.com.

Big thanks!

Jackie H. said...

I love the idea of being a sign post. Such a great point.
Also, and I've debated in my head if I should admit this, but... I did not know you and What do we do all day were the same person!! I just thought you had really similar lives. Today I feel ditzy! :)

mary kinser said...

Hi - I just gave you a Liebster Award because I love your blog! Zip over here to my blog and check it out: http://sproutsbookshelf.blogspot.com/2012/02/liebster-blog-award.html.

Raising a Happy Child said...

How cool that you were on the panel. I compare blog recommendations to crowd wisdom vs. "analysts recommendations" by professional book reviewers (this analogy comes from my professional world where I deal and contribute to both). I found that crowd wisdom (especially when it comes from non-sponsored book reviews) is usually more "on the money" than professional reviews.

books said...

I love the idea of being a sign post. Such a great point.
Also, and I've debated in my head if I should admit this, Thanks sharing....

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