I had the pleasure of attending Kidlit Con in Minneapolis this weekend. It’s the annual conference of the Kidlitosphere, the people who blog about kids’ books. The conference was also useful for writers; there were panels on blogging platforms and practices, on author blog tours, on virtual school visits featuring the Skype-d in looming disembodied head of Nick Glass at Teaching Books. (Take home message from that panel: you might want to think twice before pouring yourself a soda near your mic when you’re being Skype-d into an auditorium full of people.)

It’s a bit scary as writer to go to these things–you realize all the things you should be doing that you’re not. Like, oh, blogging, blog tours, virtual school visits, and other things that one does, on occasion, to publicize one’s books. You could hear the steady undercurrent of stressed mutterings from the writers in attendance about building their online presence–or maybe that was just the voices in my head.

The keynote speaker was Shiver author Maggie Stiefvater–who described herself as the poster child for blogging. And indeed she is: she started her blog years ago and over time built a massive following that does things like show up at readings, buy her books, and tell other people to buy her books. These are good things, I’ve heard. And if your DeLorean time machine still works and you can go back to 2004 and start a blog, you totally should–but how do you get a new blog noticed now? As we talked about last week, there are book trailers, but they seem fruitless unless you can do one like this.

The conference also featured a panel of book publicists–Laura Lutz from HarperCollins, Steven Pomije from Flux, and Lindsay Matvick from Lerner. Kelly Barnhill, a Minneapolis author with a middle-grade fantasy coming out next year, asked the question on all of our minds: “What can writers do to help you?” We poised our pens, sucked in a breath, and prepared ourselves. The publicists looked at each other and then Steven Pomije leaned into the mic and said, “Write books.”