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where book news, agentish advice, party planning, cute animal pictures and general shenanigans collide.
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1. March New Releases: Picture Books


I have lots of client books coming out in March. It's thrilling - but it also makes it somewhat difficult to blog about all of them without this blog becoming a wall-to-wall advertisement. So instead of doing a post every time one is released, I'm going to post about them in categories. Here, then, are the Picture Books of March 2015. Enjoy!

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2. REAL TALK: $ix Figure Book Deal$

PS on top: I found some posts by other smart folk like agent Mandy Hubbard and author Jim Chines - if you want to like, double or triple-reinforce the point I'm making. But I'd already started typing by the time I saw those soooo... here you go.

One of the questions I dread most at conferences is, "how much money do books make?" I have a sort of pat answer I usually give, whilst eye-rolling. Something along the lines of "somewhere between $1 and $1,000,000." or "I dunno, how long is a piece of string?"

But let's get real. Many new authors will probably be offered $4-8,000. on a debut picture book text-only to a normal mid-sized traditional publisher. $5-12,000 on a chapter book. $8-20,000 on a middle grade novel. $12-30,000 on a YA.  I'm talking average - yes, some will be higher, some whill be lower.

These numbers will be much lower for small presses (and probably much MUCH lower for digital publishers or startups). The numbers will be higher for extremely commercial books with great crossover potential, or for an author who is well-known, or if there is lots of competition for a title or it is "hot" in some way. (The numbers may also be different depending on what rights you sell.) Still, these would be what I'd consider to be unexceptional starting offers. Nothing to get mad about, just, you know. Normal.

Yet we all know of people who got paid a lot more than that.... so what about THEM? Well, first of all, I'd say they are outliers. Yes, I have certainly had awesome six-figure debut sales. But they consist of maybe -- 10% of deals. Most are Normal. On the high side of what I quoted above, perhaps, when all the negotiating is done, but still, not megabucks.

SHUT UP JENNIFER! SHUT UP! THIS IS DAYDREAM TIME!

 OK fine. Cue the mystical bossa nova music and IMAGINE IF YOU WILL:

You're a new author - maybe you don't even have an agent yet, but you are actively querying, reading all kinds of Publishers Weekly deal announcements, and dreaming of the day your very own manuscript will go on submission and sell, too.

These magic words echo in your daydreams.... six-figure deal. SIX-FIGURE DEAL! With that kind of money, you could quit your day job, pay for your kid's college tuition in cash AND afford to supersize them fries, possibly from the comfort of your Mercedes-Benz. CHA-CHING, AM I RIGHT? Soon you'll be in a beach house, smiling gently whilst typing away on your latest brilliant novel. Everything is clean and inexplicably made of white linen or similar and somebody has brought you a cup of tea and there's a cool ocean breeze that also somehow smells of chocolate chip cookies and all the cares of your old life behind you--

Not so fast, Hoss.  Here comes the dream-shatterer. *music screeches off*

COMMISSION: If you got a six-figure deal, you probably have an agent, too. Your agent will take 15% of your income (possibly 20-25% in the case of foreign income or film deals). This is money worth spending, because without your agent, you would have probably had a lot less dough in the first place, or nothing at all. And your agent is protecting your interests and guiding you in the long-term. OK, fine. But don't forget about --

TAXES:  Even if you have a day-job, when you get paid for writing, you are also self-employed. A freelancer. As a writer, you have to pay both Income Tax AND Self-Employment Tax on everything you make writing. Does that suck? Hell yes it does. Sorry. You can expect to pay about 30% of your writing income in taxes.

Also: I might sound like a broken record on this one, but seriously, if you are going to be a career writer, TREAT YO' SELF to a good accountant who knows a lot about artists and freelancers. They will save you much money and angst in the long run, and, your accountant's fee is tax-deductible.

EXPENSES: As I said, you're self-employed. All the fun stuff like office supplies, a new laptop, travel to some conference or bookstore, HEALTH INSURANCE, etc? Probably coming straight out of your pocket. The good news is, anything related to your writing job, including said office supplies, your office space, travel for research or promo, and other self-promotional stuff, is tax deductible, at least in part, so keep good records. The bad news is, well, you have to pay for it in the first place, "tax deductible" doesn't mean free. (As far as insurance, unless you're lucky enough to have a great day job or a spouse who can provide, well... thanks, Obama. Seriously... thanks, and God bless you, Sir.)

PAYOUTS:  Most book deals in the kids book world are structured so the payments are split into 2 or 3 parts. (Many huge deals and books in the grownup world are divided even more than that!) So you get one part on signing, one part on delivery and acceptance (D+A) of the final manuscript, and sometimes one (often smaller) part on publication.

SO LET'S CRUNCH THE NUMBERS. If you luck out and get a "six figure deal" today, assuming all works according to schedule in a perfect world, and your agent doesn't have to chase down any money for you, and your publisher doesn't go under, and your editor gets notes to you in time, and you have no crises ... your deal might look something like this:

March 2015: Make the deal! Yay!  It's a nice one. 2 books for $100,000 total! Welcome to the six-figure club! :D

April/May 2015: Your agent gets contracts and negotiates!

June 2015: PAYMENT - on-signing, 20k each book, 40k total - minus 15% for agent, and let's be generous and say 25% for taxes because of that great accountant: $24,000 total

November/December 2015: Book 1 Due (for publication Winter 2017)

January 2016: PAYMENT - D+A book 1, 20k - minus 15% for agent, 25% for taxes: $12,000 total

November/December 2016: Book 2 Due (for publication Winter 2018)

January 2017: PAYMENT -  - D+A book 2, 20k - minus 15% for agent, 25% for taxes: $12,000 total

February 2017: Book 1 Publication

March 2017: PAYMENT - On-Pub Book 1, 10k - minus 15% and 25%, $6,000 total

February 2018: Book 2 Publication

March 2018: PAYMENT - On-Pub Book 2, 10k - minus 15% and 25%, $6,000 total

So you didn't make 100k, actually, you made 60k (or less), spread out over the course of four years, and probably at least one of those years you get... not much. In this example, $24k in 2015, $12k in 2016, $18k in 2017, $6k in 2018.

I mean, you know, that's not NOTHING, it's a great deal for most kids books... but it's not exactly "bathe in champagne" time. You'd make as much or more working minimum wage at the Gap for four years.

SO, what to do?

The single best thing you can do for your career is KEEP WRITING GREAT BOOKS.  Seriously. Keep writing. Success builds. Books in print, books that continue selling, may make you money for years to come. A nice fat ADVANCE is great, but ideally you'll earn out your advance and collect royalty checks for the rest of your life.

But earning out and seeing more $ probably won't happen until after the book has been released, and sometimes it doesn't happen till LONG after... and can never be counted on to happen at all. So that means that you probably won't see a non-Advance check on these particular books until late 2017 at the very earliest - probably, in reality, not until sometime in 2018. Meantime, you'll be dead of starvation. So yes. Don't quit your dayjob. Or do, and WRITE MORE BOOKS!


I could go on and on but I think that's enough out of me - maybe "how to quit your day job" can be another blog post for another day. What about you, any thoughts on this or further questions?

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3. Interview with a 7th Grader

A 7th-grader reached out because she wanted to interview me about being an agent for an expository writing assigment. Since some of these are questions that I get a lot, I figured I'd answer on the blog. Hopefully the answers are helpful to the student, and may be of some interest to other readers, as well! :-) 

1) What role do literary agents play in the writing community? 

A literary agent helps a writer navigate and manage their career. Much in the same way most actors have talent agents who help them get fancy movie roles and negotiate their contracts, or basketball players have sports agents who get them sneaker endorsement deals, authors have literary agents who help place their work with publishers. Agents also may help get those books translated into other languages and get made into movies, apps or toys. And an agent helps an author with all kinds of other business matters. Almost every book that you see in the bookstore is there because an agent helped the author place the book with a publisher.

2) Who or what inspired you to want to become a literary agent?

My friend Barry Goldblatt is an agent, and when I met him ten years ago, I thought his job looked super cool and interesting. (He represents Libba Bray, Holly Black, Shannon Hale, Jo Knowles, among many other amazing authors.) I decided I wanted to do that, too!  So I got an internship in 2006 or so, then joined my agency in 2007, and officially became an agent in 2008.


3) What did you have to go through to be a literary agent? 

Everyone has a different path to becoming an agent. Personally, before I ever started, I first worked for a decade in bookstores as a buyer and events person... So I knew a LOT about books and publishing, and a lot of authors, illustrators and people in publishing. That means when I decided I wanted to become an agent, it was probably easier for me than it would have been for somebody starting from scratch. I still started out essentially as an unpaid intern, but  I was able to move up a bit more quickly than usual.

Still, what might have looked like "overnight success" to an outsider was, in fact, the result of 15+ years of work.

4) Was it hard to get the job? 

Again, it's not really a job you apply for and interview and either get or don't get. You don't get a regular paycheck or have to wear a uniform or anything. Instead, it's a career that you build. So, yeah, it's hard to build a successful career - it takes years, and patience.


5) What was the biggest lesson you've learned so far in you career that you would like to share with fresh agents? And what is the hardest thing about being an agent?

Imagine if you turned in an assignment to your teacher on Friday... and instead of getting the grade back the following Monday, you got the grade six months later, out of nowhere, when it had been so long you'd already forgotten about it, gone on summer vacation, become an 8th grader. Now you have to go back and re-do part of that old assignment AND add an essay and make a poster for it, tonight. UGH! What the heck! You don't even TAKE that class anymore! But you have to do it, or you'll retroactively fail. Well.... that's kinda what publishing is like. ;-)

If you are expecting overnight riches and success, you will probably be disappointed. Everything in publishing is extremely slow, and patience is critical. (This is hard for me, as I am rather impatient by nature.)


As for the VERY hardest thing about being an agent -- well, agents get new clients when the authors write us what is called a "query letter." I get hundreds of query letters a week, but I can only take on maybe five new clients a year. It's definitely hard to say no to good projects... but I have to do it, every day. :-(

6) What kind of writers have you worked with? Are there certain writers you work with more than others? 

I only work with authors of books for children and young adults. Other agents have other specialties; my specialty is kids and teen fiction.

7) What are some things you need to stay organized? 

I use a paper calendar, a google calendar, and a bullet journal for day-to-day scheduling and assignments. To keep track of all my clients and their various projects, I have a lot of excel spreadsheets, plus color-coded labels in gmail, plus a paper notebook in which I have a page for each book we are working on with all the pertinent info on it. I do end up double-entering some of the information, but I have had my computer crash and lose tons of information and it was very horrible, so I always like to write things down on paper, too, rather than rely exclusively on the computer!

8) Did you have to take extra classes in high school and/or college to become a literary agent? 

Agenting is essentially an apprentice business - really the only way you can learn it is by doing it, while being mentored by a more successful agent. There are no "agent classes."

I know agents who have MFAs in writing, PhDs in Literature, Masters of Business Administration degrees, law degrees... or, like me, studied something totally random in school, like theatre or history! What you major in doesn't really matter. But what DOES matter, whatever your college major, is that you become quite good at writing clearly and reading critically.

In addition to English (writing and literature) classes, you might also find that classes in contract law, business, marketing, web development or book-keeping come in handy. But they aren't required by any means.


9) Would you do anything over the summer before or while you've been an agent to be a better agent? 

Well, sadly, I don't get summers off. :-) Probably you mean, would I suggest anything that YOU might do over the summer to potentially become an agent in the future. IF that's the case: I'd suggest you try to get a job in a bookstore or library.  

Read everything you possibly can. And don't just READ... read critically, and pay attention to which publishers make which books. If you do, you'll start to see that different publishers have different styles and specialties. Pay attention to who publishes what. This will come in handy if you become a professional book person later -- book people pretty much always talk about who the publisher is when they talk about a book.


10) What qualities do you need to be a successful agent? 

At the very least, a successful agent will probably be a great communicator, and know a LOT about books and publishing.

I hope that helps - let me know if the comments if you need clarification or have other questions.

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4. Happy Valentines Day 2015

I don't do Christmas cards (too swamped in December) or Birthday cards (too forgetful) -- but a tradition I DO uphold is to send out a Valentine each year. Hey, we may not have construction-paper covered mailboxes on our desks anymore, but it's still fun to get pretty mail on a winter's day.

The Literatentines are always drawn by one of the terrific illustrators I represent. This year, Sergio Ruzzier brought the magic with some adorably bookish little cheepers.

Much love, friends. May you have heaps of joy and excellent reading in 2015!


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5. Two New Middle Grade Novels

I'm excited to tell you about two new middle grade novels from my authors!

Somewhere between the delicious charm of Wicked and the gothic romance of Jane Eyre, COTTAGE IN THE WOODS by Katherine Coville is a spellbinding fairy tale that will surprise and delight.

Ursula is a young bear of modest means who has come to work as governess at the Vaughn estate. She’s never been so far from home, and she is frightened. Inexplicable things happen in the huge house after dark. The attic is full of odd noises and items vanish in the night. Ursula is sure she has seen a ghostly child with golden hair lurking in the shadows. And as if all this isn't bad enough, certain servants seem to hate her for no reason at all, the mistress of the house is full of secrets, and there is an uprising of violent anti-animal activity in the enchanted forest surrounding the estate. As Ursula works to unravel the mysteries of Vaughn manor, she finds herself facing ever more challenging complications from both without and within. The forest is enchanted, yes, but also threatening, and Ursula will have to grow up fast if she is to navigate her new world. 


Buy COTTAGE IN THE WOODS from Book Depository or wherever fine books are sold.



COLONIAL MADNESS by Jo Whittemore
is straight-up hilarious -- a little bit Westing Game, a little bit Gilmore Girls -- about an over-the-top flighty mother and her sensible daughter, who have the opportunity to win a relative's fortune... but there are just a few strings attached. They'll have to win a contest first.

Whoever can survive two weeks in the Archibald Family's colonial manor will inherit the property. The catch? Contestants have to live as in colonial times: no modern conveniences, no outside help, and daily tests of their abilities to survive challenges of the time period. Tori thinks it's the perfect answer to their debt problems, but she and her mom aren't the only ones interested. The other family members seem to be much more prepared for the two weeks on the manor--and it doesn't help that Mom doesn't seem to be taking the contest seriously. Do they stand a chance?

Buy COLONIAL MADNESS from Book Depository or wherever fine books are sold.

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6. Scarlett and Sam: Escape from Egypt

I was snow-trapped in Chicago much of this past week, and then off at SCBWI-NY conference, so I clean forgot to blog about the new book by Eric Kimmel - but it is officially out in the world, so you should get a copy!

Scarlett and Sam are the twin stars of a new series aimed at the "Magic Tree House" aged audience. The pair are totally modern kids who, by way of magic, are thrown into the ancient stories of the Hebrew Bible. There's plenty of danger (of course!) -- but also lots of goofy fun. About book one:

"One minute, twins Scarlett and Sam are bickering about who's going to read the Four Questions at the Passover seder. The next minute, they've been swept up by Grandma Mina's time-traveling carpet and dumped in the ancient Egyptian desert. And as if being stranded 3,000 years in the past isn't bad enough, they also find their fellow Hebrews suffering in slavery. So they team up with Moses, Aaron, and Miriam to help free the slaves. The future's looking bright! But the story they know so well doesn't turn out the way they expected..."

Buy the book at: Your local indie bookstore. Powells. Book Depository. Barnes and Noble. Amazon. Or wherever fine books are sold.

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7. Gingerbread Spies and Magic Pencils - Two Book Birthdays!

Mara Rockliff's latest picture book, GINGERBREAD FOR LIBERTY, is the delicious (and true!) story of the baker who helped save the American Revolution.

Christopher Lutwick was a German immigrant and, in the 1770's, a vocal advocate of revolution as well as possibly the most celebrated and popular baker in Philadelphia. When the war broke out, though he was too old for fighting, he was determined to help, and his friend George Washington made him the "baker general" of the army. He also had an even more significant, albeit more secretive role... to talk starving Hessian soldiers working for the British into abandoning the King. And he could do it because he was a former starving Hessian soldier himself.

This remarkable tale shines a light on a little known figure of the Revolution who worked alongside George Washington and the other heroes we all know about. And the scrumptious illustrations by Vincent X Kirsch are the icing on the gingerbread!

"This appealing concoction is a powerful reminder of the good one person can do." -- Kirkus

"A sweet addition to Revolutionary War units." --School Library Journal, starred review

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8. Logrolling in Our Time*, or, You Can't Take Blurbs With You

Blurbs. You know,  those little quotes about how awesome an author or their book is that are often on book jackets or in advertisements? Like: "Author is a certified genius and this book is a revelation!" Yeah. Those little tricky devils are the cause of no small amount of angst for all parties concerned. So here are some blurb facts and some blurb etiquette that might help. (Maybe).

FACT: * Pretty Much Everyone Hates Blurbs. * I'm gonna go out on a limb and say the majority of people in the publishing industry LOATHE blurbs. Agents and editors and publicists and their ilk know how hard they are to get, and more than that, how little most of them are worth. Authors generally dislike being in the position of begging for favors OR having favors begged of them. The process of blurbery can cause anything from mild stress to genuine anguish in its victims. :(

FACT: * Blurbs Are Mostly Worthless. *  Did I say "how little most of them are worth"?? Am I implying that Blurbs are mostly WORTHLESS? Well... no. I wasn't implying it, I was saying it. I mean look: If you are lucky enough to get a blurb from an extremely well-regarded author in your genre, you might get some of their fans to perk up when they see it. But those fans are PROBABLY fans of the genre in general, and they probably already knew about your book or would have come across it anyway, and nobody is going to read it JUST because of the blurb.

It's much more likely that a personal recommendation or review from an author - on their twitter, blog, vlog or whatever - will bring the book to fan attention. The blurb that is in the catalogue or on the back of the book is only good if somebody has already picked up the publishers catalogue or the book to look at it. So, you know, it's SUPER NICE,  but there isn't any proof that blurbs really help move the needle, sales-wise.

I've spoken to hundreds of readers, booksellers, librarians and others, and the fact is, the vast majority of the time, the blurb is not the deciding factor about whether or not they spend time and money on a given book. It's just not.
 

FACT: * Sometimes They're Not Worthless. * I can see the value of a blurb from a LEGIT FAMOUS PERSON that may help you get customers you wouldn't normally get. There are a few "legit famous person" authors: John Green, Neil Gaiman, Judy Blume, and maybe a handful of others. A blurb from one of these people may translate to a buy from some of their fans, and that is not anything to sniff at. Most famous people, of course, are NOT authors.

I am in the publishing industry, I already knew about the book X: A NOVEL, read it in galley form with no blurbs attached. But even I, hardened and cynical, raised an eyebrow in appreciation at the nice blurbs from Chris Rock and Muhammad Ali. These quotes, if printed in advertisements in mainstream publications (ie, NOT trade publications like PW that only industry people read) will likely catch the eyes of people who aren't "the usual suspects" -- customers that DON'T normally shop in the YA section or have a clue about kids books, but who will be attracted by these very high-profile endorsements.



FACT: *Blurbs Aren't Going Anywhere. * - For better or for worse, this practice of trying to get blurbs for nearly every dang novel that comes out seems to be a trend that is lasting. Part of it, I think, is that success is so ephemeral. Nobody knows what exact combination of factors causes a breakout book. Is it about Great reviews? Word of mouth? Right place right time?  Pure dumb LUCK? Or what? WHAT? Everybody wants to catch this lightning in a bottle. But there is very little that is actually within the publisher or authors' control.

You can write the best book possible. That's in your control. But virtually nothing else about the process really is. And ultimately, even the biggest, fanciest publisher can't make people write reviews or talk the book up or influence the Great Beyond to work on the books behalf. They can make a great looking package, but they can't force people to buy or read it. They can spend money on marketing but they can't guarantee that it will DO anything. So "getting blurbs" at least makes people FEEL like they are doing something to encourage the success of the book. And it probably doesn't hurt at least, so what the hey.

Here's how to live with it, with less stress:

ADVICE: * If you are a BLURBEE * - that is to say, a person whose work is in the publication pipeline, who is seeking blurbs: If the subject doesn't come up, you really don't have to bring it up. If your publisher isn't anxious about this, you shouldn't be either. (See "mostly worthless", above).

BUT, if/when the subject DOES arise, I suggest working with your agent and editor to brainstorm a list of possible authors to approach for endorsements. These should be authors that you think are actually appropriate for the material at hand -- so I would not suggest a picture book author to blurb an edgy YA. It just doesn't make sense.  It makes logical sense that your book should appeal to the same audience as the person who is potentially endorsing you.

So you have your list of awesome, appropriate names that you brainstormed. Now you and your agent and editor figure out who will approach whom. The person with the strongest connection to that author (or their agent or editor) should be the person to approach. You as the author should NEVER have to "cold-call" (cold email?) people you don't have any connection to. Nor should you ever be asked to make the request if it makes you feel uncomfortable. When in doubt, your editor should approach their editor or agent.

YOU MIGHT HAVE WEIRD FEELINGS. Like: a) They'll feel sorry for me, as they know what it's like to "need" a blurb;  b) They'll be put on the spot and feel like they "have" to blurb and then hate me; c) They'll have to say no and then feel guilty. DO NOT FEEL WEIRD. This is just part of the process. Nobody will hate you. Nobody will give a blurb unless they are genuinely able and willing to do so. And if they aren't, that's OK. Blurbs are nice, but a lack of a blurb has never killed anybody.

If you are approaching somebody - whether they are your BFF or just somebody who you know tangentially, or even a total stranger - take Curtis Sittenfeld's advice and be polite, succinct, and pre-emptively let them off the hook.  DO tell them what the book is about, and why you think it is a fit, but do so briefly. Don't say no FOR them obviously - but don't be offended or upset if the answer IS no. When you are more famous, people will be asking YOU for blurbs, and you'll remember this experience.


ADVICE: * If you are a BLURBER * - that is to say, a person who is being approached for a blurb: Value your own time and sanity. If you are on deadline or just busy with life stuff, or hell, if the book just doesn't sound interesting to you, nobody can be offended by your saying No. If they are offended, they are jerks.

YOU MIGHT HAVE WEIRD FEELINGS. Like, a) I feel sorry for the author, and I know what it's like to "need" a blurb;  b) I'm worried the author will find out I was asked and said no and then hate me; c) I'm worried if I say no this fancy classy editor will hate me. DO NOT FEEL WEIRD. This is just part of the process. Nobody will hate you. If you have time and ability and are moved to do so, by all means do it! But if not, that's OK. Blurbs are nice, but a lack of a blurb has never killed anybody.

My Personal Blurb Rules: 1) You should genuinely like the book and want other people to read it. 2) It should fit your "brand" or target audience. Would you recommend this to the same people who buy your book? 3) Don't be a "blurb whore" - if you blurb everything, your endorsement will stop being meaningful.

Your blurb rules may vary, but whatever they are, if you want to avoid burnout, I suggest you and your agent come up with a blurb plan. Perhaps it is that you NEVER blurb, or you will only blurb one book per season or year. You can always reserve the right to CHANGE that blurb plan, you aren't locked into it with manacles, but if you are approached unawares, it will give you a handy excuse to say no if the stars aren't aligning, and you can always make your agent into the bad guy. "Ah, my agent doesn't want me to blurb until my deadlines are passed" or "Oh, my agent says only one book per year, sorry!" (Agents are fine with being the bad guys). 

But if the book does sound great, and you do have the time, and you do read it and love it -- well, what the heck. If you CAN do it and WANT to do it, by all means do! Nothing will make an authors day/month/year more than kind words from an author they admire.

Did I miss anything? What are YOUR blurby feelings?



*PS: If you are too young to get the title reference: in the late 80's/early 90's there was a satirical magazine called SPY that had a feature called "Logrolling in Our Time" that showed blurbs that famous people gave each other. Quid pro quo, Clarice. (And if you're too young for THAT reference, don't tell me).

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9. RANGER IN TIME book 1 by Kate Messner

What can I say about this new series from Kate Messner?

Wellllll.... Four words:
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10. Happy 2015

Yesterday was my 7th Agentversary.

Because I know you statistics nerds like this stuff (and so do I), I crunched the numbers:

I sold 46 books in 2014*: 21 Middle Grade, 10 Young Adult, 6 Picture Book, 4 Illustration Only, 3 Nonfiction, 2 Early Readers.

That means 45.5% MG - almost as much as all other categories combined!

Of these 46 books, 24 different authors/illustrators are represented (Many of them had multiple books sold). Three of these 24 authors/illustrators are fresh-faced debuts. This year I sold books I'd been working on for years... and one book sold the fastest of any in my career so far, I sent it at 6pm and had an offer by 9am the next morning. Miracles happen! (For the record: That was for a debut realistic middle grade novel.)

While you all know that I hate talking about trends, and a lot of what I sold is due to the makeup of my list, I still think it is safe to say that, for me at least, 2014 was the Year of the Middle Grade Novel. And considering that many I sold this year will be releasing in 2015 and 2016, I'd say the coming years are looking strong for that category as well. :-)

Happy reading and writing, everyone - I can't wait to see what 2015 brings!

*I'm not counting foreign sales, subrights sales or sales where I rep both the author and illustrator - that would get way too complicated. Each title only counts once.

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11. Hanukkah Reads 2014

Looking for charming Hanukkah stories to share with your family? Well some of my authors can help you with that...

BEAUTIFUL YETTA'S HANUKKAH KITTEN by Daniel Pinkwater, illustrated by Jill Pinkwater, is a cuddly and funny holiday story for all ages to appreciate. This is the follow-up to BEAUTIFUL YETTA, THE YIDDISH CHICKEN, in which the title bird escapes from certain doom to the enchanted world of Brooklyn, NY.
Now Beautiful Yetta the (Yiddish-speaking) Chicken has made her cozy home among the (Spanish-speaking) Parrots of Brooklyn. She is like their mother. This little family is doing pretty well, even on cold winter nights. But during a snowstorm, Yetta happens upon something very strange -- a tiny ginger kitten! OY! Cats are no good for birds! But this little kitty definitely needs some warmth and love. Maybe the neighborhood Grandmother can help... at least with feeding everyone yummy latkes. Yay! Autographed copies of BEAUTIFUL YETTA'S HANUKKAH KITTEN available now at Oblong Books.

SIMON AND THE BEAR: A HANUKKAH TALE by Eric A Kimmel, illustrated by Matthew Trueman: Before Simon sails to America, he promises his family that he will get a job and send for them. Simon's mother knows he will need a miracle, so she reminds him to celebrate Hanukkah wherever he may be. Little does either of them know that this task will be more complicated than she could have imagined... This fanciful Hanukkah tale-like none you've ever read before-celebrates eight miracles: family, friendship, hope, selflessness, sharing, faith, courage, and love. A retelling of the ancient Hanukkah story is included on the last page.

Now in Paperback: HANUKKAH BEAR by Eric A Kimmel, illustrated by Mike Wohnoutka: This is the tale of Bubba Branya, a little old lady who can barely see but makes the very best latkes in town. Her rabbi comes to visit, and he brings his gigantic appetite. . . and mumbly voice. . . and growly tummy . . . and furry face. . . uh-oh!  Comedy ensues as the dynamic duo of granny and the bear play dreidel, light the menorah, and of course, enjoy plenty of yummy latkes. Kimmel's classic story is the perfect match for Mike Wohnoutka's warmly glowing new illustrations; this one is sure to delight not only little ones, but the whole family.

And a classic: HERSHEL AND THE HANUKKAH GOBLINS by Eric A Kimmel, illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman: The Caldecott Honor winning classic is celebrating it's 25th anniversary with a new edition! This is the somewhat scary and totally unforgettable tale of the ingenious Hershel, who rids a village synagogue of goblins by cleverly outwitting them.


HAPPY HOLIDAYS and HAPPY READING, EVERYBODY!

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12. CLOSED TO QUERIES 11-21 to 1-12

Hi gang,

I have a lot of travel + bookstore stuff + general busy-ness going on in the next six weeks, so as I do every holiday season, I am officially CLOSING TO QUERIES as of tonight (say, midnight eastern time) -- and I'll re-open January 12, 2015.

The exceptions being Referrals and Conference submissions.  If you are either of these, I urge you to SAY SO IN THE SUBJECT LINE. I will also, of course, look at material that I've explicitly asked to see.

This gives me the opportunity to catch up and clear out for the new year, and it is much needed. And you may well hear from me during this break, as I have a LOT to catch up on! ;-) Anything already IN the inbox before tonight will be responded to. All other new queries will be deleted.

So, what to do? Well, if you want to choose any of the other lovely agents at ABLA who are open, you may of course feel free to do so -- if you'd prefer to query me specifically, please do so today, or wait until January.

Let me know if anything is unclear! And have a great holiday season.

Jenn


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13. How Many is Too Many?

When I was a newbie, my boss told me that I should never answer the question "How many clients do you have." See, it's a question with no right answer, in which the asker can interpret the answer any way they want.

If I say a high number, does that make me sound Healthily Busy or Totally Overwhelmed? If I say a low number, am I Selective, or Lazy? And what would BE a "low" or "high" number, anyway?

Since I'm no longer a new agent, and I believe in transparency, and I love love LOVE talking about my authors - I have a list of my clients posted on my blog. You can count them if you are so inclined. (Spoiler: it's about 50). I still shy away from saying an exact number out loud, and I don't have a number that would be a "ceiling" in mind, but, you know, basically I am pretty full. I am busy enough. I don't need more clients. But I shall certainly leap to grab one if the perfect fit comes along!

I don't remember where I got this analogy but I think it's a good one: it's kinda like being an obstetrician. While I might have dozens of clients, most of them are busy gestating or taking care of books under contract that already exist - they aren't in my waiting room with their water breaking all at the same time. This metaphor has gotten a little gross now, but you see what I mean - there are only a few pressing matters "in play" on any given day/week.

So how many authors IS too many? I think of my list kinda like Mary Poppins's bag crossed with the TARDIS. Magical, flexible, sentient, bigger on the inside, and obviously able to navigate wibbly-wobbly timey-wimey stuff. There's no answer, is what I'm saying -- how much work I can do adjusts according to how much work there is to do.

If there is ever a time I am feeling burnt out or overwhelmed - I take a break and/or ask for help. If I was feeling like that all the time, I'd cut back my list -- but so far, luckily, that has not had to happen. Other agents' answers may vary -- for some, 20 clients would be their limit. Some, I'm sure, juggle 100. But I think everyone would agree that there is no magic number, and no right answer to this question.

Make sense?


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14. An EPIC POST about the Submission Process, from an Agent's POV.

A lot of authors are curious about what happens when a project goes "on submission", so I thought I'd lay it out here. I want to stress that this is from MY POV ONLY. There is no one way to do this -- other agents might have different styles, and that doesn't make them (or me!) wrong -- just different. And I'm only speaking for myself, I make no claims about what any other agent may or may not do, even in my own agency. Also, of course, a lot of stuff may be variable depending on the author, project, time of year, phase of moon, etc, so all of this is not even applicable to all projects! And now that the epic disclaimers are out of the way, on to the epic post:

MANUSCRIPTS ON SUBMISSION 101

STEP ONE: Once we've been through revisions and have a clean ms to send out, I will re-read the project. As I read, I think about the style of book it is. With a book that is really submission-ready, I'll be able to visualize what I think it will look like on the shelf. Does this FEEL like a light and fun paperback? Does it FEEL like a beautiful epic fantasy with maps and fancy gilt edges? Who will buy this book most - Librarians and teachers? Teens? Hipster parents? Doting grandparents? Based on these calculations, I narrow down the list of publishers to those who would be open to publishing this type of book. I'm also thinking about who amongst my editor acquaintance might also like the story.

STEP TWO: I create a submission list and share it with the author to see if they have any input. For example, if they worked with a certain editor before, or something of that nature. My submission strategy is to target wisely rather than widely. I don't, for example, go to multiple people at the same house. I like the editors to whom I send projects to feel they've been selected especially, as indeed they have been. You can read much more about choosing imprints and the fun game of crafting the editor submission list and all that goes into that in this post from the archives.

If I an torn between who at a given publisher might like a project, I might email or call either the boss or the editor I know the best and ask their opinion. Yes, this works. Everybody WANTS to connect successfully and find projects they love! 

STEP THREE: I either call or email the editors (unless I happen to have a meeting or lunch scheduled with them in person during this time-frame in which case I pitch in person) -- and ask if they'd like to see. 99%* of the time they DO ask to see -- I like to think I know their taste well enough and they know mine well enough that they know I'll at least show them something worth looking at, even if they end up passing. Even editors I don't know well will generally agree to look at the project because, you know, they are polite and they work with our agency a lot. :-)  Annnnd then I send it out and we wait for responses!

(* The 1% of the time they don't ask to see, that is usually because they have something too similar already in the pipeline -- like, I had a chapter book about a certain historical event go out and one person passed on looking because they have a book about the same event already coming out in 2015. So, obviously, I targeted them correctly, just somebody else was faster! That's OK, it happens.)

How do you decide between giving an exclusive and making it a multiple submission?
For me, it is nearly always a multiple submission. If I were to give an exclusive, I would explicitly state it to the editor and give a time-frame, and it would be because:

1) The author has worked with an editor before and this is the next logical book -- let's say, you have a YA fantasy out, and this is a new YA fantasy in the same world - even if we don't HAVE to show the current editor contractually, we WOULD, because it just makes sense. I like to keep good relationships going!  ... or

2) We have an option that we need to fulfill (ie, in the contract it is stated that the publisher gets first crack at anything new) -- in which case they'd only have it exclusively for whatever term the contract specified, say, 30 days ... or

3) You've discussed the project at length with an editor and you think they will LOVE it, or it was inspired by something they said, or written specifically with them in mind, or something of that nature -- in which case I'd let them know that they have a limited window head start. Not that they HAVE to get back in that amount of time -- but we'll be going out more widely after that time.

If none of these apply, then it is a multiple submission.

So what should I, the author, be doing while you, the agent, are waiting for responses?  You should be working on the next book. WORKING ON THE NEXT BOOK. Oh heavens, please be working on the next book. Outline a sequel if you like - but I wouldn't get too married to it until you have proof that somebody wants the first book. I'd rather you be working on a completely new, shiny and different project. Something you are excited about and thrilled to write! So that you will not be obsessing over the thing that is on submission.

And will you share all the responses you get with me as you get them?  When I first started as an agent, I always shared all declines immediately with my authors. But then I realized that the authors were getting majorly bummed out and oftentimes this knowledge would derail them from their work on their happy-shiny new projects! So I changed my stance on this and started doing it a little differently. 

If I get an OFFER, or a request for revision, of course I share it immediately. The same goes for a really kind/complimentary or otherwise uplifting decline. If it makes me happy to read, it will probably make my author happy to read, too, and I share. If, however, I get an ambivalent decline, a nonsensical (or even mean) decline, or just generally non-helpful decline, I just mark it in my little book as a "pass". At a certain point, when the round is winding down, around the 8-12 week mark, I'll compile all these and just give an update and 'state of the ms' report. If an author wants more frequent updates, they can ask me at any time -- some people want to know what's up more often, and that's fine. And some authors REALLY REALLY want to know every gory detail as it happens - that's fine too, they can just let me know. I happen to think it is a bit unhealthy for the majority of authors, but of course I will send as my author prefers.

How long does it take to hear back from editors, and do you nudge or give a deadline?  I don't give a deadline unless we have an offer on the table. I usually hear back on picture books and short chapter books within a few weeks -- sometimes, for novels, a few months. After 8 weeks, I'll nudge people as needed. There are often a couple of outliers who don't reply unless shaken vigorously, but the bulk of responses will come in by 8-12 weeks.

What happens if we get an offer??!  If we get an offer, I nudge everyone who is still looking immediately, letting them all know that we have an offer and that I need their responses ASAP. If that's the case, usually everyone replies immediately to either pass or express interest, and we go from there. If we do get two offers, I'll compare and contrast, and ask for improvements as needed, and the author will decide. However, if I know other offers are coming. . . .

OMG!! What if there are MULTIPLE offers?!? IS THAT AN AUCTION?? If I know we are getting multiple offers, we call an auction. (You theoretically CAN call an auction any time you want -- but I would hate to throw an auction and have nobody come! I personally only declare an auction when I know there is significant interest from more than two parties.)

The agency has "auction rules" that define what we want offers to look like and include, so that when it comes time for the author to decide between offers, they are comparing apples to apples. I'll set what's called a Closing Date (usually a week, week and a half, depending on the time of year and such) -- by which time everyone needs to come to me with offers if they are going to. Different kinds of auctions are structured in different ways, but usually auctions are either "best bids" (one round, everyone just gives their best possible offer and the author decides) or "rounds" (in which the agent can go back and forth and ask for improvements and the author decides). There are benefits and drawbacks to each, and your agent will make sure you understand what is going on when it happens!

So auction means BIG MOOLAH, yes? $$$$ WOOOOHOOO!!! $$$$$  Sorry to disappoint. Despite sounding V V Fancy, Auction doesn't mean the book will automatically sell for a million bucks. Auction just means there are multiple offers, but it does not define what those offers might be. Everyone COULD offer pocket change and belly lint! But usually auctions inspire editors to at least TRY to put their best foot forward.

What if we send it out and get ... no offers :(  ?   This happens, too, even to manuscripts I love and think will sell -- and they often DO sell, just perhaps not in the first round. Nothing to worry about. What I'll usually do is compile the feedback we've received and see if there is anything useful to be gleaned from it. Sometimes there is, sometimes there isn't. We'll discuss whether you want to revise or not, and I'll send the work out to more people and begin a new round of submissions.

What if we never ever get an offer? At what point do you consider a ms completely shopped?  Well... depends on the book, and depends on the feedback we've been getting. If we're just getting nothing useful, or no responses at all, and I don't feel I have anywhere else to go with it where the results will be different, that is quite dispiriting, and it might be time to back-burner the ms for a while and try something else, maybe revise with fresh eyes at a later date. If we're getting THISCLOSE but just not quite putting it over the top, like every editor is saying they "love it but..." -- well, then I'd be inclined to keep going even longer. I have sold books in less than a day... but I've also sold books that took a year, two years, or longer, over multiple rounds with revisions and tweaks in between. Sometimes it just takes a long time to get to that yes! So, there's no magic number of editors -- it's a case-by-case situation. The good news is, you have a lot more stories to tell, right?

Is there any question about the submission process that I forgot to answer? Ask in the comments!

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15. Happy Book Birthday to EMPIRE OF SHADOWS!

Do you like lush, richly imagined fantasy worlds? Do you like heroic adventures and palace intrigue? Do you like strong ladies with agency? Have you read Miriam Forster yet??! Today is the release day for EMPIRE OF SHADOWS, the second tale of the Bhinian Empire.

Note: This is NOT a sequel to CITY OF A THOUSAND DOLLS - it's a companion novel (or prequel) that can absolutely be read first or alone. However you will get to know some interesting tidbits about either novel by reading the other. (And CITY OF A THOUSAND DOLLS is now in paperback, with awesome extras!)  . . . but about EMPIRE:

Perfect for fans of romantic fantasies like The Girl of Fire and Thorns and Graceling, Empire of Shadows takes readers on a spellbinding journey into a world with a divided society, deadly courtiers, heroic traitors, and deeply laid conspiracies.

Cast out by her family three years ago, Mara turned to the only place that would take her—an order where students train to protect others. But Mara is stunned when guarding a noble girl in the Empire's capital turns out to be more dangerous than she could've imagined. More shocking still, Mara finds the boy she thought she'd lost forever outside the gates of her new home.

Mara knew the dizzying capital city would hold dangers. How could she have known that her heart, as well as her life, would be at stake?
Fantasy-lovers, Miriam Forster is a talent to watch, and the Bhinian Empire books are glorious reads to get lost in. Request the book from your local library, bookstore, or online at Indiebound, Powells, Book Depository, Barnes+Noble or Amazon


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16. #SupportWNDB, LOWRIDERS IN SPACE, and a giveaway!

So you've all heard of #WeNeedDiverseBooks, yes? This is a grassroots campaign that began as a simple twitter hashtag meant to highlight the lack of diversity in Children's literature, and has morphed into a super-worthy nonprofit organization that does things like fund writers grants for underheard voices, make sure there are diverse panels at trade shows and conferences, and generally raise awareness of the problem and help find solutions... and they are having an IndieGoGo fundraiser this month.

This is a project I'm SUPER INTO and I want to encourage you to DONATE TO #SupportWNDB ! Here's the link again in case you already forgot.

On a somewhat more personal note, this week I'm also celebrating the publication of a diverse book I'm so proud of, LOWRIDERS IN SPACE! LOWRIDERS is the first in a graphic novel series for middle graders; its cunning mix of humor, science and pure fantasy will appeal to both boys and girls 8-12.

Publishers Weekly says in their starred review:

Camper’s rocket-powered graphic novel stars a deliciously improbable trio: Lupe Impala, a beautiful mechanic with a mane of black hair and a limitless supply of automobile knowledge; Flapjack Octopus, whose eight arms can detail a car to a high gleam; and Elirio Malaria, a shady-looking mosquito who uses his needlelike proboscis to pinstripe cars with fantastic accuracy. Raúl the Third’s dazzling art, done with red, black, and blue ballpoint pen, fuses the energy of Mexican folk images, the naked passion of tattoo art, and the antics of Saturday morning cartoons. Lupe and her sidekicks want to start a garage, but they don’t have enough money. They enter a car competition (first prize is “a carload of cash”), find a beater, and plot their strategy: “¡Y vamos a tener que echarle ganas, to clean it!” says Flapjack (Spanish translations are provided throughout). A wild journey through space gives their car one-of-a-kind galactic magic—readers will rejoice in their triumph. As a celebration of Latino lowrider culture, too, it’s estellar.
So here's the deal. I have a bunch of copies of this book. . . and I'm going to do a giveaway. If you have a group of kids who would benefit from having copies of LOWRIDERS, send me an email. Tell me what school or group you are with, how old the kids are, how many kids there are, and anything else you think I need to know. I would like these books to go to a group of kids that would not normally be able to purchase new books! Subject line: LOWRIDERS GIVEAWAY - to JennL at andreabrownlit dot com.

And if you CAN purchase new books - well, please do buy this one. I would love to see a kick-ass culturally authentic graphic novel like this one be wildly successful - because I'd LOVE to sell lots more books like it!

Request it from your local library, purchase at your local independent bookstore, or visit Indiebound Amazon Barnes+Noble to purchase online.



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17. How Did I Find My Clients?

I read a forum post this morning quizzing agented authors on where they found their agents. The authors were very nicely answering, but most of the answers were the same: "I did my research and then sent a query letter."

Why was this the most likely way they answered? Because it's the most likely way to get an agent.  It just IS. I know the myth is that you have to "know somebody" but that really isn't true. Which got me to thinking about how my clients found ME (or, vice-versa). And I decided to bust out the chart-making tools again because I know you like that.

So let's break it down:

56% of my clients came to me because of straight up query letters, from the slush. They didn't know anybody, they didn't drop names, they weren't published before, they didn't go to conferences, they didn't meet me first - some of them I still haven't met in person, because they live thousands of miles away!

24% of my clients were people that I'd met somewhere before they queried me. These are people I met at conferences, in a couple of cases, or published authors that I met in my capacity as a bookseller. (There's also a former co-worker in the mix, an SCBWI RA, and one of my neighbors. What can I say, she's a great writer!). The thing is: All these people STILL HAD TO QUERY. It's not like I said, oh, I know you, so sure... they still had to show me something I thought I could sell.

16% of my clients were referrals. This means that somebody I really trust - like an editor who knows my taste, or an existing client - thought this would be a good fit for me, and e-introduced us. But, you guessed it: These people STILL HAD TO QUERY, and show me something I thought I could sell.

4% of my clients were inherited from other agents at my agency. They actually are the only people who were kinda "grandfathered in," and did not have to show me something new to be taken on. However, I also trusted that they could write, that they had great stories in them, and that we'd gel well - and we spoke before I took them on. Still, this does not always work out, so I feel very lucky that these have!


Moral of this story? 

96% OF AUTHORS NEED TO 
WRITE A GREAT QUERY LETTER.

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18. Happy Book Birthday to STITCHING SNOW!

My author R.C.Lewis first described STITCHING SNOW to me as "Snow White in space... if Snow were a cage-fighting tech-head with daddy issues." How could I not want to read that? And now YOU can, too, as STITCHING SNOW officially hits shelves today!


Seventeen-year-old Essie can take care of herself. She knows how to stitch up robotic drones so the men in the mining settlement remember she's worth keeping around. She knows how to use her fists to make sure they keep their hands off her. But all her self-preservation skills don't tell her how to deal with Dane, a boy who's depending on her to get his crashed shuttle off the icy ground of her desolate planet and flying again.

Dane's polite, chivalrous, even a little charming, and he gives Essie the kind of attention she's never had. She begins to trust him, which is a new (and terrifying!) feeling for her. But then he discovers her secret. She's a Princess who has been missing for years, and there will be a rich reward for returning her to her kingdom. One betrayal later, he's taking her home whether she likes it or not, to exchange for captives held by Essie's father the King. What Dane doesn't know is Essie wasn't kidnapped all those years ago... she ran away. And bringing her back home just might kill her.

STITCHING SNOW is fast-paced, voicey debut YA that will appeal to both SF fans and "people who don't think they like Science Fiction" - and Essie is a brilliant, tough little sweetheart of a character you won't soon forget.

Buy the book at your local independent bookstore via IndieBound, or at Oblong, Powells, Book Depository, B+N or Amazon, or wherever fine books are sold.

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19. Spamvertisements Are Not Your Friend

What the heck are spamvertisements? They are that thing where a totally random "marketing guru" or "social media creative" - or just intrepid author with boundary issues - starts spamming people they don't know with advertisements about their or their poor client's latest book/project. The people being spammed AT are people who are big in that specific field (like in the case of books, they would be agents and editors) -- or just generally famous, like obviously Neil Gaiman, Veronica Roth, Stephen Fry, etc. -- or are huge "professional readers", popular bloggers and the like. If you look at their timeline it will probably look something like this:

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20. Infinite Repeat = More Micah!

OK so it might be weird to have a crush on a fictional teenager but... MICAH, though. Micah is the ultimate Badboy-with-a-Heart-of-Gold from THE ART OF LAINEY. He's a mohawk'ed, punk-rock-listening dude with a troubled past who also btw is super caring and kind and a huge fan of fancy baking and would love to make and feed you a scrumptious triple-chocolate-mocha-mousse-delight. I'm just saying. #yum

INFINITE REPEAT is a novella by Paula Stokes that gives us Micah-fans what we have wanted -- a story told from his POV that gives readers a glimpse into his backstory. It takes place entirely before THE ART OF LAINEY -- in other words, you don't need to read one to read the other. So if you haven't met Micah yet, here's a great chance to do so.

Obviously I love Micah and want to read about him just doing anything pretty much... but my favorite thing about INFINITE REPEAT is the relationship between Micah and his little sister Tris, who was one of the unexpected minor-character stars in the original book. Tris and Micah are such a compelling duo, and I totally platonic-ship them. I could read their conversations and banter all day. And I love how they are constantly both pushing each other and protecting each other. LOVE LOVE SIBLING LOVE!

Anyway, listen, enough out of me. I want you to get to know Micah. INFINITE REPEAT is $1.99 and can be found wherever e-books are sold. More about the book and all buy links on the Epic Reads site.

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21. Story Structure from South Park

This has been ALL over social media in the past couple days, but it is really smart plotting advice from Matt Stone and Trey Parker, the creators of "South Park" and "Book of Mormon." Like... REALLY smart and simple advice, not just for film but also very much applicable to children's book writers. Take two minutes and watch!

If you've ever gotten a critique that your picture book "read like a series of lists" or "was more like a vignette/series of vignettes" . . .  or perhaps your novel was "too episodic" . . .  THIS is what those critiquers probably meant, and how to fix it.

http://www.theafw.com/blog/south-park-writers-share-their-writing-rule-1/#.

What do you think?

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22. Middle Grade Webinar 8/14

By popular demand (really!), I'm revisiting my Writers Digest class, WRITING AND SELLING MIDDLE GRADE FICTION. Last time I taught this webinar we had 100+ participants and it was really fun, and I hope interesting and inspiring for attendees! Here's what you need to know:

* The live webinar will be held Thursday 8/14 at 1pm Eastern. BUT! If you can't attend live, NO PROBLEM - everyone who has signed up ahead of time will get the webinar on-demand, and have access to all program materials for a year

* Everyone who has signed up ahead of time will get a critique of EITHER the first 500 words of their finished/WIP middle grade OR their query. Your choice.

* EVERY question will be answered, either during the presentation or in writing afterward -- if you can't attend and ask during the live presentation, you may simply send in your question to WD, and I will get to all of them.

This class is probably most useful for:

* Folks who are either ready-to-query or who are in the query trenches but haven't yet hooked an agent (or perhaps, have gotten rejections but don't know why!)

* Those just starting their Middle Grade writing journey (or perhaps don't even know where to start!)

* Published or unpublished writers in other categories who are considering transitioning into Middle Grade.

You can sign up for the Webinar with critique anytime until 8/14. Check out the Writers Digest website for more info or to register.

And if you have ANY questions about this class, please ask here or on Twitter!


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23. GIRL ON A WIRE Early Bird Special

Anyone who tells you magic isn’t real doesn’t know what they’re talking about. Just like anyone who tells you falling is like flying has never done either.

If you've spoken to me anytime in the past, oh, two-years-ish, you might have heard me gush about  GIRL ON A WIRE from the talented Gwenda Bond. And... its October release date is almost here! In fact...   

*drumroll* ... 

YOU CAN READ IT TODAY!

Yes I know it ISN'T October yet! This is a September surprise. GIRL ON A WIRE is a Kindle First pick. Which means, if you're an Amazon Prime member you can read GIRL ON A WIRE for free (FREE) (zero dollars!) right now. If you aren't, you can read it for $1.99 (which, let's face it, is ALMOST FREE). This deal will be going on the whole month of September. Yesssssss.

GIRL ON A WIRE is the story of Jules Maroni, the extreme high-wire walker and teen daughter of circus royalty. When somebody starts planting jinxy magical items on her costumes, it's unclear if the culprit just trying to scare her... or actually kill her. And is it all just old superstition, or could there be real magic at play? Jules teams up with the son of a rival family to solve the mystery, and sparks fly. (So yeah, it's basically Daredevil Juliet and Trapeze Romeo Solve Possibly Magical Crimes. Yessss.)

Get your e-copy today, a month before everyone else! And if you want to win a new Kindle Paperwhite, check out Gwenda's contest!


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24. New Releases - A Little Something for Everyone

Life got the best of me in September and I realize I have several books to post about now... so I'll do the new releases all in one to save your eyeballs!

For the Picture Book crowd: 
Mara Rockliff's CHIK CHAK SHABBAT is a wonderfully inclusive picture book about the multi-ethnic residents of an apartment building who, when a neighbor is too sick to cook, improvise a meal cobbling together their own unique traditions to celebrate the true spirit of Shabbat. The book is illustrated by the amazing Kyrsten Brooker and really has the feel of a modern classic already - Candlewick did a great job!

And lest you assume that this is a "niche" book, I have to tell you -- there is so much warmth, humor and heart to be found in these pages, it doesn't matter if you don't know Shabbat from Shinola, you'll get it. :-)

Buy the book: IndieBound - Powells 

For Middle Grade readers:

Kate Messner's WAKE UP MISSING, the edge-of-your-seat science thriller, is now available in paperback!

WAKE UP MISSING is about a group of kids from different parts of the country and different walks of life. In fact, they have only one thing in common - they are all hospitalized in an elite institution for brain science after having experienced head trauma. When the kids realize that something VERY sinister is going on at the so-called "research" facility, they must run for their lives -- making their escape through the dangerous Florida Everglades. This is one seriously EXCITING read - and it's especially good for any kid interested in science/medicine.

"Kate Messner combines a fascinating concept with page-turning suspense . . .  Reading this book is like a wild roller-coaster ride through the Florida swamps." —Margaret Peterson Haddix, author of The Missing and the Shadow Children series

Buy the book: IndieBound - Powells  

For the YA fans:
I wrote about Gwenda Bond's GIRL ON A WIRE  last month so I won't belabour the point, but I will say, if you think a mystery-magic-romance mashup sounds great and/or you appreciate the dazzling world of the Circus... you will probably love this book.

"The circus and its theatrical characters provide a fresh, vibrant backdrop as Bond impressively describes a range of circus performances, while threading enticing slivers of magic and romance into her story. It's a fascinating and enjoyable foray into circus life as seen through the eyes of an ambitious and talented performer."  -- PW

"The mystery is tense and nerve-wracking, and the acrobatics are gorgeously hair-raising." -- Kirkus

"With a thrilling mystery, a hint of magic, and a touch of romance, "Girl on a Wire" takes readers into the fascinating world of circus performers." -- SLJ

Buy the book: IndieBound - Powells

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25. How Similar is TOO Similar in the Great Agent Hunt?

Research agents for even a short while and you're almost sure to come up with two competing bits of wisdom: 

LOOK FOR AGENTS WHO REP THE BOOKS MOST LIKE YOUR OWN!

vs

AGENTS WON'T TAKE ON WORK TOO SIMILAR TO WHAT THEY ALREADY REP.

Guess what? BOTH these contradictory statements are true! ....Yayyy??

Of course you want to pick an agent who does the kind of books you do, and hopefully reps some authors you admire. . . but yep, that agent will likely decline if the books are too similar. I wrote a post way back in 2011 about WHY agents can't take on work that competes with what they already rep. It's all still true, so I won't rehash it here.

But if you want to be able to tell if they are two close for comfort - try this: If you break the books down into general CATEGORY, TONE and THEME - TWO of these can match. But if all three overlap, it's probably too close.

In other words: 

I could rep two funny picture books ... but not two funny picture books about Ninjas. I could rep two picture books about Ninjas, if one was funny, while the other was non-fiction/factual. I could rep two funny Ninja books... if one was a picture book and one was a middle grade. (That isn't to say that there isn't room IN THE WORLD for multiple funny picture books about Ninjas, btw... just that I personally would feel uncomfortable repping all of them!)

In the case of something like "heartfelt middle grade fiction about girls growing up" - where there are certainly lots of great books that seem to overlap... the differences might be more subtle. I rep both Linda Urban and Kate Messner, for example - two great authors, both sometimes writing in a similar space - but you wouldn't confuse CROOKED KIND OF PERFECT with BRILLIANT FALL OF GIANNA Z. You just wouldn't. On the surface there are similarities, but there's a difference at the bone. 

So if you're researching an agent who reps what you write... and you've thought about the chart and you see the surface similarities but you still think YOUR difference is different enough... you might as well try querying the agent... why not, right? Nothing to lose. Nobody is going to be mad at you - the worst that can happen is, you get a rejection, and that isn't anything to lose sleep over.

Does this make sense? Helpful, or have I muddied the waters even further?

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