Give 'em the Old Razzle-Dazzle, Razzle-Dazzle 'em.
I just never know what's going to start a debate or not these days. On the evening of the 16th I was minutes away from beddy-bye and I saw I hadn't fulfilled my write-five-blog-posts requirement of the day. Pfui. So I did some digging in my older unpublished drafts and found this little article Jen Robinson had conjured up from the Chronicle of Higher Education regarding n+1. Fine. Good. Post it and sleep. A day's work done.
Next day, all is well. A couple more comments on that pup than I'd expected, but whatever. We've covered the whole Should We Write Negative Reviews topic so often I didn't think it'd get very far this time. My bad. Then while on dinner break at work I notice that I'm getting hits from Roger's blog.
Uh-oh. Roger likes to think. Thinking takes effort. I slooooooowly go over. Maybe... maybe it's a link to that adorable tricycle I posted about the other day.
Yeah, no such luck. In the piece This is why I don't have a blogroll. Or friends (danger, Will Robinson, DANGER) Roger has indeed seen the aforementioned piece. Does he agree with my take on it? Not a jot. Which is fine, because I like his points, even if I don't agree with each and every one. Oh but, bloody hell. Is that 23 comments to the piece? Yes it is. And what's more, I'm finding myself in mighty hot hot hot water. Most notable? This bit by the mysterious B.E.M.:
Interesting topic, Roger. I agree with SDL. The New York-area librarians have always gotten the year-round swag and party invitations that those of us in the hinterlands will never see.
The only difference is that now, children's lit blogs have exposed that part of the business to the rest of the world, since it seems there are bloggers who can't refrain from gushing about their latest social engagements, rubbing elbows with publishers and authors, under the ruse of giving the rest of us poor slobs relevant news about our field.
From the gossipy reports I've read, they seem to be very easily dazzled and, yeah, it makes me question their credibility as reviewers and as members of a book jury.
It does seem like some bloggers are being used by the promotional division of publishing companies, and it doesn't always sound like they realize this is happening. Obviously, it benefits the publisher to cozy up under the guise of friendship, to tell the bloggers how interesting and brilliant and important they are. (Bloggers must already be preconditioned to believe this -- why else would they have a blog in the first place?) And what a boon for the publisher -- free advertising! It'll be interesting to see if blogs quickly become yet another means to reach consumers.
PSSST! I think B.E.M.'s talking about me!
Well, duh. Who else do you know who lives in New York, goes to publisher parties, and lets people know about them? That's me, dude. Me me me. And I don't have to be preconditioned to believe in my own interest, brilliance, and importance to read between the lines on this one. Perfect strangers calling into question the legitimacy of my reviews and committee status? Must be springtime. You can smell it in the air. *sniff* It's love.
Geez o' petes, people. If you don't want to read a gossipy report of what Random House, Little Brown, or Greenwillow's putting out for the season, you do not have to. I'm not required reading. Unless, y'know, I'm on a curriculum or something. Then you're kinda screwed. And I blog just to be told how lovely I am? Um... is that why anyone blogs? Has blogging become so cool that the minute you make one you're drowning in praise and cupcakes? I started mine because I was already writing reviews on Amazon which, while fun, didn't get me much in the way of feedback. Then I added in some daily tidbits. The fact that I go to publisher parties has as much to do with location (NYC) as blogging.
But all that aside, the question here (and Roger himself notes it) is the legitimacy of my blog reviews when not five minutes ago I was sharing a sweet sweet chocolate chip cookie with a marketing associate, telling me about their latest season. And I can yak on all day about how cookies do not buy my love and how I just wrote a critical review of a Little Brown book not two weeks after I reported on their soiree... but what's the point? If you think that my love can be bought, then that's how you see me. That's fine. Disregard me or whatever. Does it make any difference that a cookie won't make a bad book good or a mediocre title interesting? Between every reviewer and reader there is an essential level of trust. If I tell you where I've been and what I've seen, am I less dependable than the other reviewers who've done the same but kept their lips locked? It's an interesting question. Is this a case of someone being criticized for having a personality or for failing to take into account the gravity of their self-appointed occupation?
It brings to mind the current debate being held over whether or not ALSC should tell the spouses of people in the publishing industry to keep from serving on committee panels. If your hubby works for Random House and you find yourself on the Caldecott committee, the thinking goes that you should excuse yourself. So where does one draw the line then? What if you used to work for Random House, became a librarian, and now want to serve? What if you just happen to piggyback on Random House's previews and they give you swag? What if they send you free books in the mail? What if last night you went to see a friend's co-worker's husband's band perform and the drummer was a Random House children's editor? How easy a sucker for their charming ways are you anyway?
And why do I write about publisher parties? Because they're what I wish I could read more of myself. I confess to loving Mediabistro's book party info. I wish more people would talk about events here and there (and NOT in the NYC area). So what I do is I write what I myself like. In the process, publishers see what their competitors are doing. Librarians see the new titles due out and how the publisher is trying to sell them.
But enough babble. What's at stake here is my reputation. Can you trust me even if I'm fed cookies at a presentation? Yes. I can meet an author, talk to an editor, look at an ARC, and still not like a book if it's bad. That's the long and short of it. I know plenty of charming writers, but charm doesn't last when the person's not around. Words written on paper does. And if those words are poorly organized, that's all that matters. So I tell you what. I'll make a concession here. If B.E.M. is right about one thing it's that if I'm going to a publisher's house and looking at their etchings (so to speak) I shouldn't go drooling all over them in a public forum. Especially if I'm going to turn around and sock them in the jaw the next day. I'll make a deal with you. I'm still going to the parties, but I'll suck all the personality out of my pieces. No more will you have descriptions of shoes, cute editors, or colorful shirts. Zippo mentions of food or lighting, or that undefinable smell that surrounds the authorial speaker. None of that. It's in the past. Instead, a rote categorization (with as much personality as I can decently allow) of their upcoming season. That's it. No more. No less.
For other interesting topics, including whether or not blog tours are just extensions of publishers' far-reaching marketing arm and establishing kidlit blog standards, go to Roger's piece and read the comments.