2008 Boston Globe Horn Book Awards
Entertainment Weekly's 100 New Classic Books

New "Edge of the Forest," and Blogging Thoughts

Up and ready for reading is a new edition of The Edge of the Forest, an online journal devoted to children's literature. Included in this month's issue is an interview with Gail Gauthier. In addition to talking about her books, the author, who started her blog back in 2002, told Kelly Herold,

According to JacketFlap, there are now over 700 children's literature-related blogs that are part of its network. There are probably more that haven't hooked up with JacketFlap. That's an enormous amount of content. Many of these blogs carry really good material. But there's way more material now that I'm interested in reading than I can read. My impression is that I'm not the only person in that boat. I think we've created far more blogs than the blog-reading public has time to consume.

I agree with Gail about the overwhelming number of children's book blogs, and after reading her comments, I began to wonder. What does that 700 number mean? Are some people turned off to the kid-book blogs because there are so many? Is it hard for a general non-kid-lit-affiliated person to know where to start reading? Are we bloggers reaching our target audience, and, if not, how do we do so?


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Yes, I think there is a glut on the blogosphere (not just kid-lit blogs but all kinds...although there is certainly a wealth of kid-lit blogs). I am discovering, though, that the cream is rising to the top.

The problem as I see it, and this is strictly my opinion, is that everyone wants to review books now. One week at my job (I'm a book publicist), I received no fewer than seven requests from brand new blogs who wanted me to send them free books to review. We used to love getting these requests; it meant someone was interested in our books. Now, we've had to come up with guidelines on who to send to because we've become overwhelmed by people who fancy themselves book reviewers.

And before I catch flack for that last bit, I want to say that I understand that the great thing about the blogosphere is that it gives a voice to everyone. But, to be blatantly honest, some voices are better than others. To be even more honest, some voices just want free books and a poorly written review on a blog without an audience isn't helping the publisher out nearly as much as these people think it does.

The blogosphere has reached a saturation point but, again in my opinion, it hasn't reached a stage yet where it's difficult to determine the best places to spend your time.

I have some theories as to why, but I don't really want to say them aloud :)

But, no, we are not reaching a target audience. What to do? That is the question.

That's a great question...I can get downright overwhelmed at the number of kidlit blogs out there! But our goal in creating Family Reads was not to make a name in the kidlitosphere. It was born out of all the people who'd ask us for book recommendations since they knew we're avid readers and had done lots of research to find great books for our son. And it's good to remember we all have a different circle of influence. To most of the people we know, the idea of a kidlit blog is brand new. So we're continuing to stay focused on being a resource for non-kidlit-geek ;) parents.

Does anyone ever stop blogging? All the blogs that I started reading three years ago still seem to be going strong...

I don't think people are turned off kid-book blogs because there are so many. I know that for me, at least, there being so many blogs out there means that there are many that i don't sign up for (with my RSS reader), and that of the ones that I am signed up for, I read some posts and not others (I just don't have the time to read them all). But it doesn't put me off kidlit blogs.... I think a lot of people, our target audience, haven't discovered many of the great kidlit blogs yet.... It almost seems to me like we need some general site or blog that links to many of us, and that that one site/blog needs to be advertised in various places--in the "real world" as well as online. I may be talking dreams, here. But if, say, each kidlit blogger put in $5 or $10, maybe we could advertize somewhere (after we had a site). Okay... i'm rambling and dreaming.

hey, y'all. I'm glad you're chiming in.

Brian, that's a really interesting perspective. I can see why you guys had to come up with guidelines. On the one hand, it's heartening that so many people want to review books; on the other, publishing isn't Freecycling.

Kelly, yeah, what to do? I don't think that our potentially larger audience is on the parenting or mommy blogs; it's possible they're not even on blogs at all. I wonder about this a lot.

Lori, oh, yes, keep on keeping on is what I usually do, too! That 700 number is HUGE; perhaps I've just let its shadow loom a bit too large today.

Charlotte, I've seen a few people poop out but not too many. And it is cool that so many people want to talk about books.

Cheryl, well, you could say that Jacketflap does just that--and look: 700 blogs! I think you're onto something when you say that a lot of people have not discovered the children's book blogs yet.

I think libraries and schools could do more marketing of book blogs. That's where people often go to ask for book advice. Parents are always looking for book recommendations and they will follow up on whatever we tell them. I tend to pass links on to the teachers in my school and I plan on doing more linking for parents next year.

I blog new children's literature and fiction - the blog is pretty straightforward and "booktalks" by summary in the post and lets the "comments" feature review the titles. Although my original plan was influenced by the idea of a mock newbery, the blog has been essentially a way to get new titles out there. I work as a Youth Services Librarian and hoped that the blog could be part of my system's homepage and Readers' Advisory but the administration was skittish and passed on the idea. We do not have any librarian blogs and, I think, we are missing out on an exciting and interactive aspect of bringing the library materials and the patron together. I tell young people about my blog and invite them to visit but I do not get much feedback. I am patient, however, and think that this way to booktalking will become a regular feature of library homepages.

"Are some people turned off to the kid-book blogs because there are so many? Is it hard for a general non-kid-lit-affiliated person to know where to start reading?"

Excellent questions. It didn't even occur to me that people might be turned off by the number of blogs, just that the reading public for kidlit blogs might be stretched really thin. It seems like a comparable situation to what we're told is going on in publishing--more books being published than there are readers to read them. We may have more kidlit blogs than there are people to read them. But what do you do about that situation? Is it necessary to do anything?

And as far as your question about nonkidlit people reading blogs--I wonder if many nonkidlit people do read kidlit blogs. Sometimes I wonder if we aren't all writing for each other.

This is an interesting conversation. Gail, I think we *are* writing for each other. I have one series, of sorts, at 7-Imp in which I blog about older books for parents who aren't necessarily interested in the brand-new titles. There is at least one parent who reads it religiously, it's fair to say, and I know there are others, but I think 99% of our readers are other bloggers who like to yak with us about new titles.

As for blog-reading, I used to beat myself up about not having time to read all the fascinating-looking blogs out there. I really wish I had the time. But I have finally resigned myself to checking into my top favorites whenever I can -- probably only ten or so blogs. Do I want to be the super woman who can read them all and read all the great, new ones? Sure. But this just has to be my not-so-complicated plan for now. There are just so. many. blogs. I have wee children. I have a job, too. It's too hard to keep up.

Cloudscome, yes, more handing out of the business cards to librarians and others is definitely something I should do, too. People can't read a blog if they don't know about it. Good idea.

Nan, my town's library has blogs on its site, but they get very few comments. My feeling is that the library patrons just aren't quite there yet. As you say, though, maybe it will just take some patience while everyone gets up to speed.

Gail, it's probably not necessary to do anything, but I think you're right that there are more blogs than there are readers for them. It is definitely great that there are so many people out there who want to talk about and read--and write--children's books.

Jules, yeah, it's hard to keep up. There are so many good blogs that I never get to read because I don't have the time.

I keep coming back to Cloudscome's idea of getting the word out in the non-blogging world; a little marketing never hurts, right?

This is a great discussion, Susan. I've been struggling with some of the same issues. I was away for four days last weekend, and then busy catching up when I got back, and even with spending the little time that I could scrape up reading blogs on my cell phone, my Google Reader still rapidly made it to 900 unread posts today. I want to keep up with all of these blogs, but it's pretty much impossible. I'm cherry-picking a few to catch up on, and then I'm going to have to go to "mark all as read."

And the issue of how to reach more people outside of this circle of people who have their own blogs - I completely agree. There MUST be people out there, parents and teachers and librarians, who would benefit from some of the things going on in the blogs. The question is how those people can find the stuff that's particularly useful to them, without drowning in the sheer quantity of content. I continue to think that people need jumping in points - places where they can find the content that's most relevant to them, without trying to read 700 (or even 200 or 300) blogs. I think that Nan has the right idea with her blog, though, and cloudscome with the business card thing. We need to quietly get people reading the one or two blogs that they personally connect with (e.g. because it's their own library), and then reach out from there.

Interesting stuff... I'm going to check back.

There are way too many great kidlit blogs for me to keep up with anymore. I can only reasonably connect with so many, which is why the book review wiki is so great. If I'm looking for reviews on a particular title, there are all these great blog reviews right there. I can access the info without being a regular reader of these blogs. This is also why I like posts like Jen's Afternoon Visits that round up a bunch of good links. I hate to miss out on something really interesting just because I couldn't add another blog subscription to my reader.

I have to agree with many of the above comments. As a teacher, I am "out in the trenches", so to say, just like many librarians. After building a reading community in my classroom this year, I had parents asking for recommendations. I put together a list of blogs, websites, and magazines- NONE of my parents had any idea those resources were out there. Blogs were a new concept for them, and I had to explain what a blog was. Many average parents don't put a lot of faith in the internet, I feel. They look at blogs and websites as unreliable (probably a result of the websites and blogs they have stumbled on). We need to somehow get the word out there that blogs are the "place to go" for quality book reviews.

The best advertising I have done is just passing out my blog address to parents and students. Those same parents and students then link-jump from blog to blog. It's a great way to get the ball rolling.

I've said it before, but I'm tempted to make some sort of virtual calling card so that the bloggers know I stopped by to read their posts, but didn't have the resources to come up with an original, witty comment. I just wouldn't want it to be spammy.

Alkelda, I love that idea. I was thinking about that the other day. If we read, say, a magazine or newspaper article, we might have found that we loved it, found it thought-provoking in some way, whatever, but we don't feel as if we HAVE to respond to it. In fact, unless it's online, we can't.

But I'll read a blog post, think it's great BUT not necessarily have a brilliant or witty comment, and then think, "no, but I HAVE to leave a comment so they knew I was here." It's funny that we think this way, isn't it?

I suppose we just wanna support our blogging peeps.

"I continue to think that people need jumping in points - places where they can find the content that's most relevant to them" -Jen said this and I think she's onto something here. Book reviews at Amazon, JacketFlap, Goodreads or Shelfari or LibraryThing, that link back to blogs might be the ticket. I think a lot of people are aware they can read regular-people reviews on Amazon, and many people make decisions about reading from the book lists there. The Edge of the Forest and Growing Bookworms and monthly carnivals all do similar round up type collections of book recommendations and reviews. Maybe we need to capitalize and organize around these resources and think about plans or strategies for the coming school year. Blogging is becoming so yesterday it's about time it was a common tool for parents.

These are all interesting ideas, y'all. Let's keep talking.

r.e. Amazon: When you review for Amazon, you give away your copyright. You're also writing for free for a company that makes a lot of money. I have too many qualms about it, though I do like some of the lists that people make there.

What, if anything, do you guys think is going to replace blogging? Twittering? Social networks?

This is such an interesting issue! Blogging is perhaps at the beginning of web 2.0. IBPA has a two part recorded session on "The New Live Web and Social Media Optimization" at http://www.meetingbridge.com/mwy/pmamasterlp.htm
I don't know how useful that presentation is and I haven't explored much outside of blogging (which I love even if only a handful of people read my blog.) I read a professor's blog once and she stated, "I release you from the obligation of commenting on my blog." And I get that because I tend to glean many blogs in the kidlitosphere for info on picture books which is more my thing. I do however, enjoy the witty, personal commentary on many blogs which is what makes blogging such a great medium for self-expression. In many ways it's therapy and camaraderie and the reason people continue to do it- look at all the gazillion mommy blogs. Re: getting all this great online book information out to the public at large??? I had some nice bookmarks made which I give to my local independent bookstores, preschool, teachers, parents... And if we get more parents reading to their children or more kids reading because they're excited about the books we like that's a great accomplishment!

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