As he does so well, Roger Sutton touched off a good debate on his blog last week with a post called “Why aren't they called adults' books?” Don’t be confused by the title. The heart of the debate is blogging and authors, and the comments are where it’s at. No, not mine, though I obviously feel strongly about the subject. What bothers me are two things: First, the anonymous comments. Why bother? I don’t see the point in anonymous commenting. If you’re going to say something interesting, by all means, get credit for it. More importantly, I am troubled by the characterization of author blogs as self-centered, boring busy-work foisted on authors by publishers. I will say right off, that I absolutely respect authors’ decisions not to blog. There are good reasons not to. It’s not for everyone, and if it distracts you from your work, then don’t do it. But it seems like some commenters are rejecting author blogging for the wrong reason: perceived uselessness. Yes, there are dull and useless author blogs that aren’t much more than posts about what the author had for breakfast. Big deal. Don’t read them. That’s the beautiful thing about the Internet. It’s relatively easy to filter the junk and it costs nearly nothing to do so. (You could say the same thing about books: any given person probably thinks the vast majority of books are uninteresting, but we don’t reject book reading on that basis.) Before you reject blogging as a waste of time, you need read some of its better practitioners and judge for yourself whether the world of children’s book writing isn’t well served by their existence.
It might have been possible in decades past for books to succeed without the long-term advocacy of their authors (and in rare cases, it still is), but I don’t think we should take for granted that the end of those days is entirely lamentable. I think a book culture that fosters more engagement between authors and readers (particular young readers, an inherently mutable readership) is probably a healthy one, and I’m pretty sure that authors stand to benefit eventually from their status as key role players in the promotion of their books. This is not an easy time to be an author in some ways—but then again, it’s not an easy time to be [fill in the blank] in the book industry. But the online community that has sprung up around books for children is a good thing and a huge bright spot for the future. Of this, I am confident.