KidLitCon 2011, Part V

Finessing Your Inner Zoo by Richard Jesse Watson. Watson had a tough job: the post-lunch session! Watson did this by starting off with some pig stories. No, really. Not only did it wake us up and engage us, it also demonstrated the use of voice — and isn’t blogging about finding one’s voice, sharing that unique voice?

Watson also had the audience participate in some exercises, including finishing these sentences: “My fire burns higher when . . .” and “in five years I . . .” Both of these tied into finding one’s voice. Watson then shared posts from his own blog to illustrate what he meant, and how his blog reflects his voice. So, really, the best thing to do at this point is go read some of Watson’s posts at My Inner Zoo, such as Art Begets Art.

Moving Beyond Google Reader: Taking Your Blog to Where Your Readers Are by Jen Robinson and Carol Rasco. Jen began by admitting that she’s not reading as much blogs via RSS anymore, and she’s down to reading 1 to 3 blogs a day. To find them, she follows lists or keywords on Twitter instead. I was like “wow,” because lately I’ve been reading less blogs, also, and wondering if it was just time management or something else. Like Jen, I click through from links on Twitter; so it was great to hear Jen talk about being aware of the many ways that people come to blogs and blog posts, and to try to be in all those places (without, of course, running oneself ragged!)

So, basically, RSS is not enough. To go where the audience is, also be available by: email, Twitter, Facebook, Google Plus, etc. Luckily, there are ways to do this where one post is found in multiple ways. FeedBlitz or FeedBurner can be used to email posts to readers, or to create newsletters.

Carol spoke about blogging, including blogging as part of an organization. She also spoke about using timed tweets (she uses co-tweet); bufferapp was also mentioned. (As an aside, what do you use for timed tweets? I’m trying to find one that works best for me.) Back to Carol — she spoke about the benefit of being online, in multiple ways, and how that brings RIF to the attention of more people. (Me: isn’t that what we all want?)

Jen asked (and I’m throwing it out to you!): what else is there? What else are people doing?

Someone asked about Tumblr, and I’ll just say I’m very tempted to start one.

Blogging Diversity: Prejudice and Pride by Lee Wind; panelists Sarah Stevenson, Brent Hartinger, Sara Ryan and Justina Chen.Wow, wow, wow, This was another “you had to be there” panel, with so much discussed, and some great insights and observations and passion. I’ll try to capture a little bit of it for you. Lee began with an easy question (not), who has the right to tell the story of a minority character? Sara Ryan, librarian, began with a librarian answer (love her!) — recommending a book. Writing the Other: A Practical Approach by Nisi Shawl and Cynthia Ward.

Some quotes (and I didn’t always get who was saying what), “no one is every going to perfectly represent another. . . . we write to connect.”Do you have the right to write a character that isn’t you? Yes.” Justina Chen said, “What is the universal truth? What is the emotional truth? Then do your research to write from a strong stance.”

Sarah said, writing is “about the story I’m ready to tell, not one I’m allowed to tell or supposed to tell.”

Sarah asked, “what do we mean by authentic stories?” which then played right into Lee’s next conversation starter, the danger of a single story. The danger is not that the story isn’t true, but if that story is the only story being told, it’s the single story being told, and that — reducing it to one story — is what creates problems.


KidLitCon 2011, Part IV

Tears, Sweat, and True Blood: DIY Marketing in a Post-Twilight World by Holly Cupala  and Shiraz Cupala. As with the Teaming Up presentation, the Cupalas presentation was both about the particular (what Cupala has done to promote her own novels, Tell Me a Secret and the upcoming Don’t Breathe a Word) and the universal (marketing in general, for both book bloggers and authors). I also liked that the Cupalas were matter of fact, talking about, well, the facts. Like most books get budgeted for less than $5,000 for promotion.  Or that part of the reason for Twilight‘s success was Meyer’s online engagement with her fans.

Holly spoke about the things she did to promote her first book, and had a handout of Seventy-Two DIY Things You Can Do To Market Your Book. I love how her approach was pretty much, it’s your book, so you can do this. Things she did included blog tours, trailers, sample chapters sent to bookstores, swag, and an audiobook. Yes, Holly and Shiraz produced their own professional-level audiobook with a professional narrator, Jenna Lamia.

Shiraz discussed, well, the practical things, such as the “The 4 Ps” that I’m sure would get nods from a marketing audience but, for the most part, got blank looks (at least from me): Product, Price, Place, Promotion; sometimes now also called the 4 Cs: Consumer, Cost, Convenience, Communication. He spoke about why people buy books, what impacts the direct decision to buy a book, the loss-leader approach to series pricing (i.e., what some may be familiar with from Amanda Hocking’s pricing the first in a series at less than the sequels). One thing that was said that I think needs to be bolded: only 12 % of teens buy books online. (So, personally speaking, as people talk about the brave new world of shiny ebooks and ereaders, remember, not every reader has access to the Internet or access to a credit card that makes such direct purchasing possible.) Also covered: the difference between above the line advertising, which is what consumers think of as advertising, as below the line things which consumers don’t think of as advertising. Shiraz spoke about word of mouth promotion, the type of authentic conversation about a book that a publisher cannot generate. (I’ll insert to add that this is why the FTC is concerned about how things that are paid for are indeed marked as advertising, so that the reader knows the difference between what is a paid promotion and what is authentic conversation.)

Holly spoke about how their approach to her second book, Don’t Breathe a Word, will be different from that of Tell Me a Secret, based on what worked last time, based on creating the need “spike” of sales, and, also, their own time and availability. For example, this time around they will again do videos because that garnered the most attention last time. However, they are going to have a more DIY approach this time.

Going Deep: The Hows and Whys of Blogging Critically by Kelly Jensen, Abby Johnson, Julia Riley and Janssen Brandshaw. Long term readers know this is a subject near and dear to my heart, so let me start off with saying what “blogging critically” means to me. It doesn’t mean “negative reviews.” It doesn’t mean not liking the books. It means, when the initial reader response is “I loved/like/hated the book,” answering “why” in the blog post. But enough of me, on to Kelly, Abby, Julia and Janssen (and Abby and Janssen participated virtually via Google Plus, which meant special guest stars of Janssen’s baby and husband in the background!) But first, Abby also explored at her blog, Abby the Librarian, the issue of why blogging critically.

Why blog critically, indeed? Abby said that as a librarian, she uses book blogs to make decisions about what to purchase for her library. (My aside: yes, blogs are used for purchasing!)

Things to look at while blogging critically: plot, character, setting, pace. By looking at a book critically it helps a reviewer figure out why a book worked or didn’t work; why that “meh” reaction or “I loved it” reaction happened.

And, critical reviews offers something more meaningful to those reading your blog. It’s especially helpful to back up that discussion with textual evidence (i.e., quotes) (personally speaking, one reason I love blog reviews is it allows longer reviews that includes quotes to illustrate what did and didn’t work about a book).

How long should a review be? (And let me give a shout out to my favorite book blogger who uses haiku to blog critically, Emily Reads). As someone who tends to blog with longer posts, I was relieved to hear Kelly say, “it’s not an issue of length, it’s an issue of substance.”

As to the big question of, can you use publisher copy or write your own plot summary, the panel agreed either is a valid approach with one caveat: cite whether or not you’re using the publisher copy.

What about spoilers? Who is your audience, Abby asked. If it’s gatekeepers, you may need some spoilers; with teen readers, not so much.

Finally, the recommended “tool kit” of things ou can look at when writing critically about a book: character development (is it fleshed out? believable? authentic?), dialogue (say it out loud, does it sound like something someone would actually say?), pacing, language & writing, voice, and reader appeal. And don’t forget — when reviewing an audiobook, talk about the narrator!

KidLitCon 2011, Part III

The Keynote by Scott Westerfeld.

And now, Saturday, which began with such a spectacular keynote from Scott Westerfeld that all I can say is “whoa.” It was, in itself, wonderful. Beyond that, it was a perfect illustration of how to promote a book (Goliath) and oneself without being, well, — how to put it? Without being “me me me” aggressive/pushy.

Westerfeld did this by stepping back and not talking about his Leviathan Series. Instead he spoke about topics within the series from a more universal approach. It was, in a world, brilliant. At this point I’ll also add how much I admired how Westerfeld interacted with the attendees, which included staying for most of the con. (I, of course, was ridiculously awkward in my saying “hi” to him. Oh well!)

Point: I don’t want to rehash Westerfeld’s keynote, because, well, sad to say but truly — you had to be there. So if you have a chance to hear him? Go. Go because Westerfeld is smart, engaging, funny, and thoughtful. Go because he talks about creating stories. If for no other reason, go to see how one terrific way of how to promote a book.

I will say a few things: Westerfeld spoke about the interaction between text and image and story, something I find personally fascinating while professionally frustrating (working for a library for the blind and physically handicapped, where books are either in Braille or audiobook, it can be a bit “argh” to realize the Braille reader or audio listener may get a different reading experience due to this interaction). He called the Sears, Roebuck catalog the Internet of its time. (Remind me sometime to explain why I sometimes call Moby Dick like reading on the Internet.) Talking about the history of illustrated novels led to talk about why they fell out of favor led to talk about Westerfeld’s own illustrated novels, including working with the illustrator, Keith Thompson. His keynote was beautifully crafted.

Teaming Up: How Authors and Bloggers Can Work Together for Successful Promotion by Suzanne Young and Sara Gundell. Young, the author of several books including this year’s A Need So Beautiful, spoke from an author perspective and Gundell, of Novel Novice, represented bloggers. Young and Gundell spoke both globally, to all authors and bloggers, but also specifically, mentioning the ways they have worked together to promote both Young’s books and Gundell’s blog. This last part is what I cannot emphasize enough: this is not about “how to promote authors” or “how to promote blogs”; it is about doing both.

Let’s back up first: the key question for both is how to meet? How to start teaming up? I love when answers are so simple that I think “of course.” The “of course” here is start by going to local book signings and book events. Authors will be, including authors who may not be signing at that event; book bloggers will be there, because, well, books. If you’re not going to such events because it’s not “your” book or you’re too busy etc., you’re missing a chance to connect in real time. For those who don’t have such opportunities (and just check out your local bookstores, especially independents, before saying you don’t), there is always Facebook, Twitter and blogs, and commenting and talking there. (Seriously, there are people I interact with on these sites that I don’t realize at first are authors because we’re engaged in real conversations, because the content we both put up is beyond “buy my book” or “read my blog”.)

Young and Gundell shared some of the things they did such as a videos for Young’s book, So Many Boys, that then appeared on Gundell’s blog. This creation of truly unique content served to cross-promote both book and blog. Of, as with their Team Get Some series, the promotion is YA in general but also, of course, promotes the two people running the series. Their point wasn’t “do this” for your book or blog; their point was “connect” and then brainstorm to create something new, something different, something unique. What I also took away was treat each other as equals, as partners, as a “team”, not as an author who can do something for your blog or a blog that can do something for an author. Another sensible suggestion for both: that blogs look at newer authors, and authors look at newer blogs, when looking for someone to “team up” with.

KidLitCon 2011, Part II

 Day One, Part Two. I should point out that for most of the conference, there were choices between two panels. Much like saying to someone, “do you want ice cream or a brownie? no, you cannot have both.” 

One is Silver and the Other’s Gold: A Discussion on Blogging Backlist vs. New Releases, and Why It Doesn’t Have to Be Versus by Maureen Kearney, Jen Robinson and Melissa Madsen Fox. To be honest, I sat down in this session believing that I don’t blog enough backlist titles, I do too many new releases, and that this panel would energize me to review more older titles.

I came away energized to review more older titles, yes; but also with the realization that I am blogging backlist titles and didn’t even know it. One of the first things the panelists said was that, for the purposes of the panel and blogging, they defined “older books” as ones that had a publication date of six months or older. Yes, that’s right; six months. As Maureen explained further at her blog, Confessions of a Bibliovore, “For the purposes of our discussion, we said that “older” meant it was published more than six months ago. While that sounds massively silly, the topic came up at last year’s KidLitCon that publishers have a window of three months before and three months after the publication date of a book that seems to be the golden time for the publicity blitz. After that, it’s on to the next thing. So six months? Collecting Social Security.”

While the six months may cause some authors to pull out their hair and throw their laptop across the room, really, the good news is that blogs aren’t limited to what the publishers perceive as the “golden time.” (Actually, I would love to have a bigger, in depth conversation about this, the time period, what it means in terms of book sales, etc. As pointed out at the panel, some of it, from the publisher point of view, is simple time constraints: six months after a book’s publication, the publishers are concentrating on the then-current new books.)

Reasons for blogging the backlist: it builds trust with your readers when you blog a book they’ve read; it allows a blogger to review an entire series; books that are available in paperback are being currently reviewed, which helps those buyers who only buy paperbacks; and it’s freeing to review books without being driven by the external publication date. Also, often as bloggers, we blog about the books we have access to and those books are the older titles. Also, “books are all new to [readers] if they haven’t read it before.” Blogging older titles also helps deepen a blogger’s own knowledge of children’s literature, and to see books in a historical context. Examples for this included being aware of dystopian YA before now; reading The Dark is Rising against the backdrop of Watergate.

Melissa of Book Nut gave what may be my favorite quote about blogging: “My blog is for me … I blog for me. Everyone who reads it is just coming to my party.”

How to Build a Better World With Your Book Blog by Chris Singer. Singer spoke about his blog, Book Dads, that was originally begun by others. The original purpose of the blog was examining the portrayal of fathers in media, but, especially under Singer, it has expanded its mission to promoting literacy. Singer discussed not just his blog, but also his personal history (such as working in Uganda) that led him to this mission. As sometimes happens (especially, it seems, at kidlitcon!) discussion turned also to reviewing books versus recommending books and critical blogging. Different organizations that were mentioned for working with for promoting literacy included RIF, LitWorld, Reach Out & Read, First Book, We Give Books, and Books for Kids. (I’m also mentioning Kids Need To Read, founded by P.J. Haarsma, who attended the first Kidlitcon in 2007 in Chicago.) Singer spoke about different ways that could work; or also creating projects, such as Bucoseh, the book drive for Haiti.

KidLitCon 2011 and RIF

KidLitCon and RIF have teamed up!

As Colleen Mondor explains at Chasing Ray, “What we decided was to shift things just a bit, both by moving away from publisher donated ARCs as raffle prizes and also toward a long term partnership with one organization. Ultimately what we came up with made sense in so many ways that in retrospect it was one of the easiest things we decided. I am delighted to announce that KidLit Con is now entering into a partnership with Reading Is Fundamental which we hope will extend for many years into the future and make a powerful difference in the lives of many.” This was also posted at the KidLitCon website.

At Rasco From RIF, Carol Rasco of RIF says : “Not so very long ago I received an email from Colleen Mondor of Chasing Ray; she is serving as a co-chair of the upcoming KidLit Con in Seattle. In the email Colleen shared in lieu of the usual closing banquet’s fundraising auction at KidLit Con, she and co-chair Jackie Parker-Robinson wished to have the attendees raise funds for RIF prior to arriving and as a long-term project as well. From that point plans have been made, and yesterday Colleen announced the debut effort in what will be a KidLit Con partnership with Reading Is Fundamental. To have a partnership with this incredible group know as “Kidlitosphere” is the ultimate endorsement for an organization with a mission like that of RIF; and for those of us affiliated with RIF, we are humbled and grateful for this new official partnership.”

As of August 23, Carol Rasco shared the current fundraising efforts at the KidLitCon website: “At this point the Kid Lit Con Fund at RIF stands at $1056! And that is in a very short period of time…applause, applause! I am so thankful on behalf the children and families who will get a new, free book to call their own because of your generosity! I noted on Friday night there were those making these gifts in honor of individuals and groups. Here is the list thus far of those gifts; please note all honor gifts but the first one have been given anonymously (for various reasons which we will certainly honor).” One of those anonymous donors had some nice things to say about me; I am touched and flattered. Thank you!

KidLitCon 2011

I have my plane tickets, I have my hotel reservations, I gave a program proposal that has been accepted, I just have to remember to actually register for KidLitCon 2011. Details, they’ll trip you up all the time. Here’s the list of people who have been better about registering.

What are they registering for? Take a look at the schedule. Here are some highlights, with my own comments:

Friday, September 16 is the preconference, AKA the reason why I’m flying out Thursday night.

And here is one of the first sessions: Bloggers and Writers and Pubs! Oh My! Presented and facilitated by Pam Coughlan (aka MotherReader) and Liz Burns (why, yes, that’s me!). Description: “In Bloggers and Writers and Pubs! Oh My! the panel will explore the relationships of the various members of the children’s literature industry. The age of social media is blurring the already indistinct boundaries between reviewer and author, blogger and publisher, author and publicist. The opportunities of this new communication and collaboration are extraordinary, but the questions are also increasing in terms of disclosure, standards, and professionalism. This panel hopes to address these issues with input and questions from the attendees.”

Other sessions on Friday include 

Managing the Privacy Line: Your Blog, Your Kids, Your Readers, and You Presented by Marcia Lerner, Andrea Lampman, Eden Kennedy; 

The Future of Transmedia Storytelling: Angel Punk, Pottermore, and Skeleton Creek Presented by Amber Keyser, Devon Lyon, Matthew Wilson, and Jake Rossman; 

One is Silver and the Other’s Gold: A Discussion on Blogging Backlist vs. New Releases, and Why It Doesn’t Have to Be Versus Presented by Maureen Kearney, Terry Doherty, Melissa Madsen Fox, Jen Robinson;

Group Blogging: Strategies for Success Presented by Elissa Cruz, Wendy Martin, Rosanne Parry, Katherine Schlick Noe

Building a Better World With Your Book Blog Presented by Chris Singer

and, finally: Wine Reception and Meet and Greet.

Then, the conference itself: Saturday, September 17th

with, drumroll please, Keynote by Scott Westerfeld!

Programs for Saturday include:

Forming Author – Blogger Collectives to Support Book Promotion Presented by Stasia Ward Kehoe

Who Are You Online? Social Media and the Professional Persona Presented by Karen Kincy, Chelsea Campbell, Denise Jaden, and Mindi Scott

Going Deep: The Hows and Whys of Blogging Critically Presented by Kelly Jensen, Abby Johnson, and Janssen Brandshaw

Tears, Sweat, and True Blood: DIY Marketing in a Post-Twilight World Presented by Holly and Shiraz Cupala

Give Your Blog a Voice: Podcasting in the KidLitosphere Presented by Michelle Ann Dunphy and Allison Tran

Building Your Online Brand Presented by Amanda Hubbard

Convergence: Social Media Life, the Publishing Universe, and Everything Presented by Greg Pincus

Finessing Your Inner Zoo Presented by Richard Jesse Watson

Moving Beyond Google Reader: Taking Your Blog to Where Your Readers Are Presented by Jen Robinson and Carol Rasco

Teaming Up: How Authors and Bloggers Can Work Together for Successful Promotion Presented by Suzanne Young and Sara Gundell

The Fantastic New World of Book Apps for Children Presented by Mary Ann Scheuer, Elizabeth Bird, and Paula Wiley

Teaming Up with S in SCBWI Presented by Joni Sensel

Blogging Diversity: Prejudice and Pride Presented by Lee Wind

and then, yay, DINNER!

See you in Seattle! 

Now, I just have to register.


Colleen Mondor at Chasing Ray has all the current information on KidLit Con 2011.

What is KidLit Con? From my post explaining KidLit Con 2010:Four years of planning, arranging, meeting, having fun. Where does the time go? Oh, there are other conventions and conferences in a year: booksellers have BEA, librarians ALA, teachers NCTE. Still, none of them are just about the bloggers and while some of us meet at those events, those meetings are an add-on, not the prime event. KidLitCon is the prime event. It’s held over the weekend, so people don’t have to worry about vacation time being used. Topics are geared just towards bloggers, whether the bloggers are authors, publishers or readers. It also moves around the country, so that the responsibility for planning doesn’t fall on the same shoulders over and over.”

I’ll also add that this is for anyone who blogs about children’s literature or young adult literature — bloggers and authors.

So far, I’ve been to Kid Lit Con 2007 in Chicago, 2009 in DC, 2010 in Minneapolis and, fingers crossed, I’ll be in Seattle for KidLit Con 2011.

More on last year’s event is at Kidlit Con 2010: Building a Real Community (my article that first appeared in SLJ’s Extra Helping) and my blog post.

Back to 2011!

As Colleen explains at Chasing Ray, this year’s Kidlit Con is September 16 to 17 at the Hotel Monaco, Seattle. The main event is Saturday, but there is also a precon planned for Friday. Chasing Ray has all the information about prices and what is and isn’t included, etc. Keep an eye on the Kidlit Con website, Facebook and Twitter for details.