By Margo L. Dill
Elizabeth Bird writes a blog we should all be familiar with: A Fuse #8 Production. This blog is so popular with children’s writers and illustrators that I was recently at the SCBWI LA conference, and John Rocco, author and illustrator of Wolf!Wolf! and Moonpowder, mentioned Fuse #8 in his talk on promotion. He said he was honored when his book was mentioned on this site, and he is a big fan of this blog. He said we should all check it out. As I listened to Rocco talk, I was thrilled to think I had already contacted Elizabeth for this column, and she was so generous with her time and answers, so here we go!
Elizabeth is a senior librarian with the New York Public Library’s Central Children’s Room (currently relocating to the Humanities and Social Sciences Library). She reviews for Kirkus, has reviewed for School Library Journal and is a top 50 Amazon.com reviewer. She has written for Horn Book Magazine as well. She is definitely someone who knows children’s books and blogging, so we can learn from her wisdom and experience.
The purpose of The Fuse #8 Production is to give readers news about children’s literary events. Elizabeth posts reviews, previews, conference reports and “anything else that strikes my fancy. Essentially, if I think it’s fun, it goes into the blog.” Since one of the most important things writers can do is read, here is a blog where you can find the titles of great children’s literature. You can also keep up on current trends and industry news.
Elizabeth started her blog after she was a librarian at the Jefferson Market in Greenwich Village for about a year and read an article in School Library Journal about blogging. She asked the New York Public Library system if she could create a blog for her children’s room. They didn’t really like the idea, so she decided to make her own personal blog for fun. “The early attempts were pretty crude,” Elizabeth said, “but soon I realized that I could post the reviews I’d normally write for Amazon.com and fill it with fun news items on the side. Before I knew it, I had a blog.”
Then Elizabeth got a lucky break. She had been blogging for a year when School Library Journal contacted her about blogging for pay. “It’s the offer every hobbyist longs to hear: We will pay you for what you would otherwise do for free.” However, she didn’t just jump at the chance, which is something all of us can learn from. She asked several questions before she agreed. Would she own her content? Could she quit at any time? Would she be edited? She said that SLJ worked with her through all these fears, and in the end, she decided it was a good deal.
Some of the content for Fuse #8 comes from her own brain and keyboard. Other information she finds and posts from trolling other blogs. “The reviews, for example, take the longest to create but are the most fulfilling,” she says. “I also will write long recaps of publisher previews, conferences. I always credit the information I find, but it’s fun to be a daily aggregator, too. On even the slowest children’s literary news day, you can usually find something.”
Some other blogs that Elizabeth loves are:
Elizabeth has great advice for us on blogging and how it can help a children’s author’s career. “Depending on where you go with it,” she says, “a blog can be an excellent bit of free publicity. These days a blogging children’s author, when aligned with the other children’s literary bloggers (we call it the Kidlitosphere), can publicize their titles free of charge and with very little effort. If you have a good blog, it can even get readers who wouldn’t normally find your books.”Since Elizabeth has a successful blog and knows a lot about Kidlitosphere, here are some tips she gives authors for using blogs as a marketing tool. “The first thing to do is research your blogs. Find the ones that are talking about and reviewing books like your own. The last thing you want to do is bug a picture book site to review your gritty YA novel or tell a YA site about how much they’re going to love your easy reader about the flatulent cow.
“You may also wish to consider creating a blog tour. This is an event where an author is interviewed on a different blog every day, maximizing the amount of people who hear about their book. Not every blogger will want to participate in this, however, so you may wish to consider starting your own blog first. Try joining the Yahoo Group called Kidlitosphere. This is an organized and very large group of the children’s literary bloggers, and the group has great information and spreadsheets that discuss each blog and what they like to review. If you introduce yourself in the comments, some people may even link to your blog on their sites. Then, when you’ve established enough of a presence, you can query people about participating in a tour.
“Book trailers for your titles are always a good idea and blogs love to link to them,” Elizabeth said. “Essentially, everything comes down to creativity. If people like what you’re doing and it seems new to them, the viral marketing will take care of itself.”
Another tool Elizabeth has in her belt is a podcast. Here’s what she has to say about podcasts: “Podcasting is fun, relatively easy, and requires more time than you’d believe. The advantage is that now I can imagine my voice traveling in people’s cars all around the country. It’s a new way of reaching readers/listeners, and I appreciate that. Authors should certainly consider looking into podcasting, whether they do their own or seek out children’s literary podcasts like Just One More Book, which have redefined the genre and are the best in the biz, no question. An interview on Just One More Book is always a good idea. Mind you, I haven’t worked on my own podcast in a long time due to scheduling issues, but I intend to hop back on that horse the minute I can.”
Elizabeth loves children’s literature, and this is more than apparent in her blog. Even though she set out to be an archivist, her love for children’s lit won over, and we can all be thankful for that! Take a minute to check out Fuse #8. In her own words, “I guess I like the genre so much, in part, because it’s something that almost everyone has some experience with. You were a child once, yes? You read books? Then my job and my blog apply to you. It’s a great conversation starter at cocktail parties, too. ‘What was your favorite book as a child?’ is a personality test for every human alive. You can learn more from that answer than 100 hours of therapy, I am convinced.”
Margo L. Dill is a freelance writer and substitute teacher living in Mahomet. She has been published in several magazines and anthologies such as On the Line, Pockets, Grit, Teachers of Vision and Missouri Life. Her first novel, Finding My Place: One Girl’s Strength at Vicksburg, will be published by White Mane Kids in late 2008 or early 2009. Visit Margo at www.margodill.com.