Tuesday, March 17, 2009


Over the weekend, I became fascinated by the reactions to the panel on book publishing at South by Southwest. It seems to have caused quite the uproar. Here are a few of the reactions that caught my eye:


They all bring up interesting and valuable points. Yet, everything seems to focus more on the marketing and selling of the books, rather than their creation. Obviously marketing and selling are important, and I’m interested in both of those things. But frankly, what I’d love to hear and talk more about is how finding and creating stories is evolving. Yes, the new media is connecting books and authors and readers, which is essentially the business of publishing, and we need to explore it more and never stop exploring and pushing boundaries.

But how do editors and authors use all of this new available stuff before there’s a finished product? After all, editors aren’t gatekeepers. Ok, sure, we have to say “no” to things, but that isn’t what we like doing. We like saying yes. We like finding an author, a voice, a story that completely blows us away. I want to be able to help give kids and teens stories that help them live, and think, and cope, and laugh, and have opinions, and make choices. I want to find writers who have meaningful things to say and to help them say it and put it out in the world in the best possible way. I want to help them make their ideas and words shine. I want to read good books. Whatever formats “book” comes to mean. That's why I wanted to be an editor, and why I love being one, and I think that passion and a critical eye are always going to be valuable commodities.

The stories that I find sparkling and brilliant might not be the same ones another editor is attracted to. And I might not connect with one that another editor finds irresistible. But we’re all working to get the stories we believe in out there, because there are so many different readers in the world. Are new media tools best used by us to find the writers we connect with, too, then?

The conversations about “new think” have mostly revolved around adult book publishing, but I’d love to see more about children’s and YA publishing. After all, that audience is the one that's truly going to bring in the next era of reading, aren’t they?


  1. I absolutely agree. Books influence children in ways we will probably never know until they're grown. And even then, we might never see what made the changes inside them. But when they read, they--far more often than adults--are able to live life through a fictional character.

    My fifteen-year-old son is living proof to me of how influential books can be in a child's life. For him, books are like air, and his insight for life is full of wisdom uncommon in a boy his age.

    The same can be said for my twelve-year-old daughter, and my eight-year-old son. They live to read, and the lessons taught in the books they choose come out in daily actions and discussions.

    I admire your passion for children's literature.

  2. Hi, just started following you on Twitter and found my way over to your blog - nice to meet ya! :)

    As for your post here, if I hadn't been such a voracious reader growing up, there's no way I would have become a writer. I lived to go to the library and wander through the stacks of children's books, wondering what I would uncover next. At the time, the adult section was across the way in another wing and it used to mystify me to think of those books as not having pictures in them. Well, at least right up until I discovered The Hobbit, lol...

    As far as social media goes, I would love to see more editors getting involved with Twitter and Facebook as a means of potentially scouting new talent (not like you all don't have tons of other work to do ;) ) to work with. Since so much of social media is about developing relationships, authors who take the time to do so are potentially setting themselves ahead in terms of readership. Of course, most authors don't even get this: it amazes me how many NYT bestselling authors are on Twitter and while they may have a few thousand followers, they themselves follow only a dozen people. That's not a relationship (er, well, maybe it is for some).

    In any event, look forward to speaking with you. Best wishes for your continued success!

    -Jon F. Merz