Avoiding the Echo Chamber

by Greg on October 3, 2012

This past weekend, I attended and spoke at the 6th annual KidLitCon, a convention for those who blog about children’s literature (and those who are interested in those who blog thusly!). It was great, as always (and you can get a sense of it from co-host/organizer Betsy Bird’s wrap-up).

My talk was about a topic that I’m quite passionate about -  Avoiding the Echo Chamber: Bringing the World of Children’s Literature to the World. And it illustrates something I love about KidLitCon: I was speaking to kidlit bloggers about how we have to stop speaking only to each other, and everyone was cool with that.

I will quickly add here, as I did there, that I love my fellow children’s literature peeps. A lot. And we should be talking to each other online. In fact, one of the great joys of the internet is that it helps us find like-minded people. We form groups. We find our tribe.

But…

Most of us don’t live in just one tribe, online or off. We wear different hats at different times. And it is in those areas of overlap and intersection that we can all work to spread the word about children’s books.

Our put another way… those fantasy baseball players you hang out with? Some are moms, some are dads, some are aunts and uncles and grandparents and teachers and journalists and and and. All of them are possible book buyers or word spreaders.

Now, it’s not like you’d go into that group saying “BUY MY BOOK!” or demanding conversation be about books in general. But conversation does move around, and if folks know you’re a trusted source on children’s literature, you’d be surprised how often they’ll ask for or listen to suggestions you might make.

This is, of course, the essence of my talk at its simplest. I also gave practical steps to take to find different tribes, how to act when you’re out playing in traffic, how to listen and gain information, and much more.

The points I hit are true no matter what business you’re in. However, we have an advantage in our field: unless you’re giving a hard sell on your own stuff, folks don’t tend to get upset about someone who is excited about kids reading books. It’s viewed as a good thing, ya know?

Avoiding the echo chamber is key for authors and illustrators hoping to increase sales, yet it’s also important for all advocates of children’s literature. There’s nothing wrong with us talking to each other. I still do it a ton. I simply want to urge everyone to branch out, think bigger, and help bring the world of children’s literature to the world.

As always, I’m curious to hear what you think (whether you were at KidLitCon or not)!

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Susan Stephenson October 3, 2012 at 11:36 pm

When I was building my platform as a writer, I broke the rules. Instead of sticking with my name as my brand, I chose something quirky I liked for my blog: The Book Chook. I also didn’t stay focussed on kid lit. I diversified into my interests in education, particularly literacy and creativity.

What this has done: well, probably nobody has heard of Susan Stephenson, and publishers certainly aren’t beating a path to my door to publish my children’s fiction. However, the blog itself is doing well, and it attracts quite a bit of traffic. Mostly that traffic is not for my book reviews. But what i hope is traffic that arrives via google or links might check out reviews while at The Book Chook, or even an article urging parents to read to kids. I’d be ecstatic if they did.

One thing that works for me as a blogger: not choosing to be yet another writer talking about writing to a small audience. I deliberately pitch my articles at the book buying public: parents, teachers, librarians. A wonderful and quite large audience.

So Greg, this is my long-winded way of saying I agree about the echo chamber. I would have loved to make it to Kidlit Con, but value the cyber support I get in the kidlit community anyway. However, reaching out to the wider community makes good sense if bloggers are comfortable with that.

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Greg Pincus October 5, 2012 at 12:12 pm

Thanks for sharing your story, Susan. I think that some percentage of the folks who come for one thing end up seeing the other things we’re offering. As an example, folks who read my poetry at GottaBook don’t all come here for social media talk… but SOME, in fact, do.

And the rules exist to be broken :-) But you knew I’d say that!

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Carol Grannick October 4, 2012 at 3:37 am

Your post definitely hit home with me, Greg, especially since I’m actually better at speaking to my in-person and local online “tribes” than to a lesser known Children’s Lit community online.
And just as you’ve said, many of those people come to me for writing and editing advice and book recommendations. And the best result for me is that when I’m introduced, it’s as a writer.

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Greg Pincus October 5, 2012 at 12:15 pm

One of the points I always like to make is that our own comfort level matters. To wit, the advice that “you have to blog!” is false if blogging is going to make you miserable and surly. There are places I am more comfortable interacting online and offline, too. And that’s totally fine and, as you show, can still lead to the same positive results.

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Tristan Bancks October 10, 2012 at 2:33 am

Thanks Mr Pincus.
I have just been catching up on some of your sagely advice after a couple of weeks away from the webs.
Once again you hit the spot with a fine reminder. I’m going to hit my ferret-racing and star-nosed-mole appreciation chatrooms with subtle kidlit references that’ll have them blazing a trail to their local indie bookstores ASAP.
Hope you’re well.
T.

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