2023 Arrived and a Blog Is Still Here: What Does the Future Hold?
The timeline works as follows:
- 2005 – Blogging is new and hip and cool. I start a children’s literature blog and promptly name it after a 1989 Century Buick car part (there were reasons).
- 2006 – School Library Journal starts collecting a roster of children’s literature blogs and scoops up A Fuse #8 Production.
- 2011 or so (the internet isn’t sure about this one) blogging is declared dead.
I mean, I was as shocked as you are to learn it. But apparently I’ve been participating in a dead format far beyond its intended lifespan. You’ve all heard the stories of the little Mars rovers, Spirit and Opportunity, that lived far past their “warranty dates.” Perhaps the same thing holds true for children’s literature blogs?
With a new year dawning it’s understandable that I might wax nostalgic about the early days. I remember the year I organized a conference of kidlit bloggers in New York City at the main location of New York Public Library. I remember the book awards we created (the Cybils, which are still going strong) and all the people who were involved in the community.
In 2022 my friend Jules Danielson finally hung up her hat on the remarkable and long established Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. But look around here at SLJ and you’ll see that the blogs are still going strong. We’ve just had to change a bit over the years. Travis Jonker is still creating 100 Scope Notes, but he also makes books and podcasts on the side. Group blogs like Good Comics for Kids continue at a rapid clip. Speaking of group blogs, sites like Nerdy Bookclub and We Need Diverse Books are always being updated. And, of course, the prediction blogs like Heavy Medal or Calling Caldecott that try to ascertain what might win the children’s literature awards given out by the American Library Association aren’t flagging.
Let’s also discuss how the rise in blogging led to a lot of people discovering opinions and voices they never would have found otherwise. From Debbie Reese’s work at American Indians in Children’s Literature, started in 2005 to Edith Campbell’s, also started in 2005 (it was a good year) they’ve been blogging ever since. See the comments of this post for more links from Debbie.
In the wider world, blogging has given way to the subscription model Substack, a paid service. But here at A Fuse #8 Production, the content is still free to see (with the occasional strategically placed ad on the side, of course). Not that my content today looks much like what I did back when I was starting in 2005. These days you’ll find more interviews and cover reveals. I don’t do “Fusenews” posts or “Video Sunday” round-ups, partly because newsletters like Publishers Weekly’s Children’s Bookshelf does them so well, and partly I haven’t the time. I introduced the idea of doing 31 Days, 31 Lists of my favorite books from the year about 5 years ago, and that’s turned out particularly well. And, as ever, the reviews are my staple. I love writing them.
Recently I worried that since I wasn’t writing original posts quite as often, perhaps I was just phoning it in. But I’ve come to recognize that when blogs started to disappear, they left a significant gap in the marketplace. When a publisher wants to get the word out about a book, what do they do? They can pay for advertising, but if you’re a small publisher you just don’t have a ton of money to do so, and if you’re a large publisher you’ll only be able to highlight a few titles from your upcoming season. Publishers used to take books on “blog tours” which, let’s be frank, were never all that impressive. Now they’ve discovered that there just aren’t that many places to promote their wares.
Blogging that does carry on survives because it fills in where publications cannot. I can host a guest piece from a Ukrainian author one day, and then talk with a new author about difficult topics the next. Where else can this happen? On the pages of Publishers Weekly online or SLJ, sure, but where else? It turns out, thanks to the decrease in blogging, my site fills a need.
I don’t fool myself that blogging will ever return to where it once was in the marketplace. But as we enter into 2023, let’s make one of those new year’s resolutions I keep hearing everyone talking about. I vow the following:
- That I will work hard to highlight books and voices that might get ignored by the other publications.
- That I will try to make myself do a review a week (remember when I used to do one a day? Ugh!)
- That I will not feel bad if I conduct a Q&A or cover reveal or guest post here as long as these pieces aren’t mindless filler.
- That I will keep on blogging for as long as I find it fun. And right now? It’s still one of the most enjoyable things I do.
Happy new year, everyone!
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About Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird is currently the Collection Development Manager of the Evanston Public Library system and a former Materials Specialist for New York Public Library. She has served on Newbery, written for Horn Book, and has done other lovely little things that she'd love to tell you about but that she's sure you'd find more interesting to hear of in person. Her opinions are her own and do not reflect those of EPL, SLJ, or any of the other acronyms you might be able to name. Follow her on Twitter: @fuseeight.
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