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<<October 2016>>
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1. Guest Post: Traci Sorell on Signing with a Literary Agent

Kansas State U. Powwow with son Carlos & cousin Matthew Lester (senior)
By Traci Sorell
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

I had no idea how beneficial an agent could be when I attended my first SCBWI conference in October 2013.

I quickly realized how much about the industry I did not know.

I began to network with other children's writers, especially fellow Native Americans, and when it came time to look for an agent, I utilized that network extensively.

I questioned fellow writers with representation, especially those from Native/people of color backgrounds, about their experience. I asked how agents had presented themselves at conferences or other events. I read agent online interviews and social media posts.

I wanted my agent to be a steadfast partner with a strong work ethic. It is a long-term relationship, so both people have to be dedicated to maintaining it. I required someone who was excited about my work and associated with a well-respected agency.

Traci's Reading Chair
Ideally, I wanted someone who had editorial experience that reflects what I write—fiction, nonfiction, and Native/POC subjects. To be honest, this makes for a small submission list, so I did expand beyond that.

When I communicated with agents via email and telephone, I tracked whether what they shared reflected my list.

My gut got an extreme workout when I received two offers of representation on the same day. I cannot stress enough the importance of developing and checking in with trusted mentors.

Ultimately, I accepted Emily Mitchell's offer of representation with Wernick & Pratt Agency. She met every single item on my list. Her clients contacted me quickly and gave their honest feedback about her representation.

Emily had vetted me with my editor at Charlesbridge, her former employer. We had both done our homework.

To me, it is kismet that Emily presented at that first conference I attended—and in my home state of Oklahoma too! That day, she shared her desired client attributes—voice, authority, pragmatism and flexibility. I'd like to think I resemble her list, too.

Cynsational Notes

Follow @TraciSorell 
Traci Sorell writes fiction and nonfiction for children featuring contemporary characters and compelling biographies. She has been an active member of SCBWI since August 2013.

In April 2016, Charlesbridge acquired her first nonfiction picture book, We are Grateful: Otsaliheliga, from the slush pile.

The story features a panorama of modern-day Cherokee cultural practices and experiences, presented through the four seasons. It conveys a universal spirit of gratitude common in many cultures.

Traci is an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation. She grew up in northeastern Oklahoma, where her tribe is located.

She is a first-generation college graduate with a bachelor's degree in Native American Studies from the University of California, Berkeley, where she graduated Phi Beta Kappa.

She also has a Master's degree in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona and a law degree from the University of Wisconsin. Previously, she taught at the University of North Dakota School of Law and the University of New Mexico.

She also worked as an attorney assisting tribal courts nationwide, advocated for national Native American health care, and directed a national nonprofit serving American Indian and Alaska Native elders. She now lives in the Kansas City area.

See also Story to Contract: Traci Sorell’s Incredible Journey by Suzanne Slade from Picture Book Builders. Peek: "Be grateful. Every day. If you approach your creativity and the process of writing from a place of gratitude, it opens you up. You will be more aware of story ideas, available to hear critiques that improve your craft, and connected to others around you in the kidlit world. Gratitude opens up receptivity."

Emily Mitchell began her career at Sheldon Fogelman Agency, handling submissions, subsidiary rights, and coffee. She spent eleven years at Charlesbridge Publishing as senior editor, contracts manager, and director of corporate strategy. After a brief post-MBA stint in the non-publishing world, Emily returned to children's books at Wernick & Pratt.

Her clients include Geisel Honor winner April Pulley Sayre, author/photographer of Best In Snow (Beach Lane, 2016); Caron Levis, author of Ida, Always (Atheneum, 2016); and Frank W. Dormer, author/illustrator of The Sword in the Stove (Atheneum, 2016) and Click! (Viking, 2016).

Emily holds a bachelor's degree in English from Harvard University, a master's in secondary English education from Syracuse University, and an MBA from Babson College. She lives outside Boston.

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2. Guest Post: Jaclyn Dolamore on Writing Beloved Books

By Jaclyn Dolamore
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

I've moved into indie publishing lately, where it is entirely my choice which books I release into the world. So, I've been thinking about branding.

One thing it has taken me a while to realize is that just because you don't write the most popular thing and you get some bad reviews because of it, doesn't mean you need to change anything.

My second novel, Between the Sea and Sky (Bloomsbury, 2001), is my favorite of my published books. Its review average on Amazon and Goodreads was never great, which initially made me feel like there was no place in the world for what I most love to write.

However, as the years have gone by, I've gotten many fan letters for that book from both kids and adult women who tell me it's one of their favorite books and they've read it many times. It took me all those years for the fan mail to trickle in before it finally dawned on me that it is the most beloved of all my books, as far as I can tell.

My brand is: cozy romantic fantasy about a couple in healthy relationship with lots of details about food, clothes, and domestic life, and bits of humor. The fantasy backdrop is more in the "courtly politics" vein rather than physical action, although there is a little of that.

The characters are always somewhat on the fringe of society, your lovable outcasts and weirdos, and if I've done my job, you keep reading because you find the characters delightful and you want to know what happens to them and see them find a place in the world.

Betsy the Cat
They are the kind of books you might read when you're sick or having a bad day; where the characters are friends, the world is home, and you can trust that your heart won't get ripped out of your chest.

A lot of readers like having their heart ripped out of their chest. They give me reviews that say they wanted more action, more magic, more highs and lows. It's always tempting to listen to the bad reviews instead of the good.

And sometimes I love reading stuff that is epic, sweeping, dark. But when I try to write it feels like when I wear my disco dress with the fluttery sleeves. I love that dress but it just isn't me the way my plain 1960s navy blue librarian dress is.

Other people might even like the disco dress better, but it doesn't matter, I still would be happier living in the librarian dress.

As a reader, too, the cozy reads are the ones that fall apart on my shelf, because I pick them up again and again. So I realize now that it is more important to keep writing books that are the most me, and retain those readers who appreciate them too, than it is to try and chase the next big fantasy bestseller.

Cynsational Notes

Jaclyn's books include:
  • Magic Under Glass (Bloomsbury, 2009); 
  • Between the Sea and Sky (Bloomsbury, 2011); 
  • Magic Under Stone (Bloomsbury, 2012); 
  • Dark Metropolis (Hyperion, 2014); 
  • Glittering Shadows (Hyperion, 2015); 
  • The Vengeful Half (Self-published, 2016); and 
  • The Stolen Heart (Self-published, 2016).

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3. Will print die?: When the inevitable isn’t

Mark Twain is reputed to have quipped, “Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.” Such hyperbole aptly applies to predictions that digital reading will soon triumph over print.
In late 2012, Ben Horowitz (co-founder of Andreessen Horowitz Venture Capital) declared, “Babies born today will probably never read anything in print.” Now four years on, the plausibility of his forecast has already faded.

The post Will print die?: When the inevitable isn’t appeared first on OUPblog.

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4. What do the classics do for you?

This week, Oxford University Press (OUP) and The Reader announced an exciting new partnership, working together to build a core classics library and to get great literature into the hands of people who need it most, with the Oxford World’s Classics series becoming The Reader’s "house brand" for use in their pioneering Shared Reading initiatives.

The post What do the classics do for you? appeared first on OUPblog.

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5. Very short facts about theVery Short Introductions

This week we are celebrating the 500th title in the Very Short Introductions series, Measurement: A Very Short Introduction, which will publish on 6th October. Our expert authors combine facts, analysis, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make often challenging topics highly readable. To mark its publication editors Andrea Keegan and Jenny Nugee have put together a list of Very Short Facts about the series.

The post Very short facts about theVery Short Introductions appeared first on OUPblog.

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6. Writer Wednesday: A New Release Every Two Months?

Now that I'm officially going indie, I can do exciting things like set my own production schedule. Why is this so exciting? Because over the years, I've had to either months between releases or releases stacked so close together it was tough to market my books. No more.

I have 2017 and 2018 mapped out and my release schedule looks like this:

That's two months between releases. Will it be tough? Yes! But I think the schedule is going to keep readers happy, and I work better on a schedule so I think I'll be happy too.

Right now, my January 2017 release is so close to being completely finished (and it's only September!). My April release is with my editor, and I'll be polishing up my July release to get that ready for my editor as well. Things are looking good so far. :)

Do you like when authors release books a few months apart?

*If you have a question you'd like me to answer from the other side of the editor's desk, feel free to leave it in the comments and I'll schedule it for a future post.

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7. Monday Mishmash: 9/26/16

Happy Monday! Monday Mishmash is a weekly meme dedicated to sharing what's on your mind. Feel free to grab the button and post your own Mishmash.

Here's what's on my mind today:
  1. Only One Week Until After Loving You Releases!  I can't believe October 3rd is almost here! 
  2. Editing  I'm finishing up a client edit this week in time for a new one on October 1st.
  3. Two Work Days With Extended Hours  This week my daughter has student council and chorus after school, so thus begins my longer work hours on Tuesdays AND Wednesdays. 
  4. 2017 Publication Schedule  I'm going to be releasing books every two months in 2017. Stay tuned for more information on that this Wednesday.
  5. Fall!  My favorite season is here! I love the smell of fall, specifically the smell of October. October has been my favorite month all my life. There's something special about it.
That's it for me. What's on your mind today?

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8. Writer Wednesday: Self-Publishing Costs

With the number of authors moving in the direction of self-publishing, I've decided to share some things you should know before you dive into self-publishing as an option.

First, understand that the costs are all on you. You are the publisher, so you are responsible for editing, cover design, formatting, and promotion. The good news is that you get to make all the decisions and hire the people you want to help you with your book. Let's break down the big costs involved.

Editing:  There are a lot of great editors out there and their rates differ. You have to do your research and find one that's affordable and offering the type of edits you're looking for. Don't skimp on editing though. I'm not just saying that because I'm an editor. I'm saying it because every author (I don't care if you're famous or not) needs an editor.

Cover Design:  Again, there are a ton of designers out there and they all have different prices. Premade covers are also an option, and they are less expensive. The difficult part is finding one that works for your book. Join some Facebook groups for cover design. Designers post covers, sales, and even ask for suggestions for future premades. They're also happy to work with you on custom made covers.

Formatting:  I know a lot of authors who do their own formatting. Print is a pain, but it's not that difficult. You can teach yourself to do it. There are tons of programs to download and convert your file to all the different ebook files, too. Or you can hire a formatter. I hire a formatter for my ebooks and I format my print books myself.

Promotion:  This is the one that makes all our eyes twitch. I have a social media manager, and she's worth way more than her weight in gold. You can hire a publicist or blog tour companies, or you can choose to do the promotional efforts on your own. Just keep in mind they take a lot of time, so plan accordingly. Advertising is available on Facebook, newsletter subscriptions, and book sites. Teaming up with other authors to offer a big giveaway is also great for exposure and it's inexpensive.

Now this is just touching the surface, but I hope it gives you and idea of what to expect when you go into self-publishing. Yes, you will have to put out money, but the good news is that whatever money comes in from sales is all yours. See which efforts work well for you and where you need to focus that money. It took me years, but I taught myself cover design. I'm lucky enough to have a graphic artist for a sister and she bails me out when I can't do something, but you can learn different aspects of this business and lessen costs that way. I've been on both sides of publishing, and I've made it a point to learn every step along the way. The experience has been so valuable.

*If you have a question you'd like me to answer from the other side of the editor's desk, feel free to leave it in the comments and I'll schedule it for a future post.

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9. Writer Wednesday: Going Indie

I recently made a big decision for my writing career. I've decided to go indie. Why now after I've had many books traditionally published? To be honest, I've been burned too many times in this industry. I know as writers we aren't supposed to talk about this, but I'm going to anyway. I've been burned by both publishers. And it hurts. Really hurts. As writers we put our dreams in the hands of others and sometimes that works out great. I've had some really great experiences. Fantastic support and more than I've ever dreamed possible.

But that isn't always the case. Sometimes your dreams are shattered by the people you thought were going to help you succeed. I will not be naming names because that isn't the point of this post and I choose to focus on those who have helped me succeed and for whom I'm forever grateful. The point of the post is that I finally realized I have to do what's best for me, and right now, that's going indie. I want control over my career. Yes, it's a lot of work. A LOT! But I've worked in this industry long enough that I've been involved in each aspect of publishing, and I believe I'm ready to take on this challenge. And it will be a challenge. I have no doubt about that.

Does this mean I'll never seek a traditional deal again? Of course not. I've learned not to say "never" because it's like tempting the devil. ;) But for now, I'm going indie and I'm really excited about it.

What decision have you made lately that was tough but for the betterment of your career?

*If you have a question you'd like me to answer from the other side of the editor's desk, feel free to leave it in the comments and I'll schedule it for a future post.

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10. Writer Wednesday: Cover Clones

Today's topic comes from Sheena-Kay, who posed the question:

How do you avoid ending up with duplicate covers to other authors? Especially with use of stock photo images? Is digital manipulation enough and is going custom always viable with meager pockets?

Duplicate or similar covers happen more than we'd like. There's even a list on Goodreads called cover clones. And I have books on that list. It happens because of stock images. Those images are bought countless times. In fact, my cover for Touch of Death even appears on a slot machine! So how do you avoid this?

The only way to be absolutely sure your cover image won't appear anywhere else is to have it custom made, either by means of a photo shoot or illustrator (who promises not to sell that image to anyone else). That can be costly though. So if you have to use stock images, you want to make sure that the image is manipulated enough to make it unique. 

Filters, layers, zoom, and rotation can all be used to help. Filters will create a different effect on the photo, playing with lighting and contrast. Layers are wonderful because it means you are using other images and layering them together to create a new image. Zooming in on a photo will remove background and can sometimes make the original image hard to recognize if it's an extreme close-up. Rotation is good, but it doesn't change the image much. Using a combination of all of these would yield the most results.

So if you want a unique cover, you can accomplish that with stock photos as long as you do enough manipulation. But keep in mind that your cover model WILL appear on other covers. It's going to happen if you use stock photos. But you can change that model's hair color, eye color, clothing color, etc to make her slightly different.

Do any of you have books with cover clones?

*If you have a question you'd like me to answer from the other side of the editor's desk, feel free to leave it in the comments and I'll schedule it for a future post.

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11. New Work

A few new paintings for part one of Johanna Stein's short story, The Iron Cross, to be published in Cricket Magazine.

Oil on paper, various sizes.

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12. Writer Wednesday: A Little Perspective

Since I became a part of this crazy world that is book publishing, my goals and perspective have shifted several times. At first, I dreamed of book deals and best-seller lists. Then I learned that this industry is can be harsh. I'm not talking about bad reviews from readers. I'm talking about the industry itself. It's slow. Publishers go under or don't honor contracts, which leads to rights reversions. Agents can come and go as well.

I've been through a lot, and it's made me change my perspective. I no longer stalk my spreadsheet when my agent has one of my books on submission. It's not that I don't care. I definitely do. But I've come to the conclusion that not every book needs to be published traditionally. So if a good publisher wants my book, that's fantastic. If a book doesn't get picked up, I know it's not the end of the world. I'll hire a great editor and self-publish. If I have too much time between releases, I look at the books I have written, decide which would be better suited for self-publishing, and get that in the works so readers are continuing to get new books from me.

Being a hybrid author is freeing. I don't feel the stress I once did in this industry, and I'm much happier for it. Has your perspective changed after being in this industry for a while?

*If you have a question you'd like me to answer from the other side of the editor's desk, feel free to leave it in the comments and I'll schedule it for a future post.

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13. Goodnight, Grizzle Grump!

Published by HarperCollins (October 2015
My first picture book as author and illustrator!

- Grizzle Grump's page on the HarperCollins site

FIVE STARS- San Francisco Book Review

"This is a good choice for read-alouds and great fun, especially for those readers who can appreciate a good nap." - Kirkus Book Review

"Goodnight, Grizzle Grump! is a great bedtime read. Warm and funny illustrations and the use of repetition are sure to connect with readers." - YA Books Central

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14. George Brown, Class Clown & Shark School

Burps and sharks! I've been fortunate to illustrate some super fun chapter books over the years but George and Harry are like sons to me! I've worked on over 25 books combined on the two series.

George Brown, Class Clown (Grosset Dunlap, Penguin Random House) latest is It's a Bird! It's a Plane! It's Toiletman (#17)!

Find out more at George's own website. Or purchase the books here-

Shark School (Simon & Schuster) upcoming release is Tooth or Dare! (#7) in November 2016.
Find out more at Harry Hammer's own website. Purchase the books here-
Simon & Schuster

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15. Monday Mishmash 7/4/16

Happy Monday! Monday Mishmash is a weekly meme dedicated to sharing what's on your mind. Feel free to grab the button and post your own Mishmash.

Here's what's on my mind today:
  1. Happy Independence Day!  I hope everyone has a safe and happy Fourth of July! 
  2. Blogging Break  Just a reminder that I'll be on a blogging break for one week beginning this Friday. I'll return to blogging on Friday, July 15th.
  3. Computer Issues  I've been putting off adding memory to my laptop, but it's causing serious issues now so I really need to do this soon.
  4. Editing  I'm editing for a new client this week.
  5. New Author Logo  Since I'll be self-publishing my new adult and adult titles, I decided I wanted an author logo to put on the back of the books where a publisher logo would go. Here it is! (I love it!) 
That's it for me. What's on your mind today?

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16. Ask PubCrawl: Breaking into the Industry

We here at PubCrawl try our best to elucidate different aspects of the industry for you via our posts and podcast, but we are also available to answer questions (as best we can) if you email us or send us an ask through Tumblr. PubCrawl alumna Alex Bracken used to do a feature for us called Ask Alex where she would answer more industry-focused questions, and we’ve gotten a few about publishing programs.

From Bev:

Hi, I hope I’m directing this question to the right place—I’m a graduating senior English major and I’m potentially looking at two options in Professional Publishing programs for the summer, NYU SPI and the Columbia Publishing Course. Does anyone have any insight into what the differences are between the two? From what I can tell, Columbia seems more focused on book publishing: is this true, and can anyone testify to whether this helped you more as a writer? I know that Columbia doesn’t provide a professional certificate and that NYU does, but I’m not really sure what a professional certificate merits. Overall, I’d be extremely grateful for insight from anyone who employs students from these programs (or doesn’t) or anyone who’s attended or had experience with either. Thank you!

Hi Bev, I have not attended a professional publishing course, but I have known several people who have, including our very own Alex, who wrote about summer publishing programs here. In her post, she says that it appears that Columbia focuses more on book publishing while NYU focuses more on digital/magazine publishing.

As for whether or not this has helped anyone as a writer, I can confidently say probably not. Both of these professional programs are focused on the business of publishing, not the craft of writing. However, if you are looking for insight into how the industry works, they ‘re incredibly useful and enlightening. A few of my editor colleagues attended these programs before and after they began working in publishing, for various reasons, and they say the mileage they’ve gotten from them depends on the work they’ve put into it. Another one of my editor colleagues used to teach a seminar about editing at NYU.

As for who employs students from these programs, I do know that the Big 5 routinely recruits from these programs; one of my good friends went to CPC and she was hired based on her interview from their job fair. I would say both publishing programs are about equal in terms of post-course hiring; like any industry, the connections you make are just as important as what you learn about it. In addition to publishing courses, I would highly recommend internships. Each of the Big 5 and other midsize and small presses offer them, as well as literary agencies. I got my start in publishing via an internship at a literary agency; I did not attend a publishing course.

From Liv:

Hi Pub Crawl! I was recently accepted to Columbia’s Publishing Program at Exeter College and can’t wait to get started! It’s might hope to find a career in book marketing or publicity. However, I’m a little concerned and have a couple of questions I hope you’ll be able to answer… 1) I just graduated with a Bachelor’s of Business Administration, so I don’t exactly have an extensive education in literature studies. How essential is it to be familiar with the classics and/or things like common literary themes, narrative structures, critical theories, etc. when you work in publishing? 2) For the past couple of months, I’ve been trying to learn as much as I can about the industry (that’s how I found your amazing blog!), but I was wondering if you might have any recommendations for other sources? Thank you so much! Sorry that this is such a long message. Love you guys and your posts! Best, Liv

Hi Liv, many people who work in publishing did not major in literature in college. Some majored in communications, and others majored in the sciences. It is not essential to be familiar with the “canon” of literature to work in publishing; all you need is a genuine love and enthusiasm for books. I was an English major in undergrad and I can tell you that as an editor, I employed exactly zero percent of the knowledge I gained in class. Academic criticism has no place in publishing. And even some of literary terms you might have learned in school mean something different in the business, like genre. I would also argue that studying writing and not literature is far more useful in the industry, in terms of narrative structure and tropes. As an editor, some of this would be important, but to be honest, as an editor, I was more concerned with whether or not the book I was editing was a good story (if fiction) and/or written in a clear, engaging, and readable way (if nonfiction).

As for other sources on the industry, I would recommend you check out the archives of Kristin Nelson’s blog Pub Rants. She is a literary agent, so much of her advice is author-focused, but she also has incredibly useful information about contracts, royalties, and money. If you’re interested in an editorial perspective, I would recommend you check out Cheryl Klein‘s website, where she’s posted some of her speeches and talks, and will be coming out with a nonfiction book about editing and writing.

Hope this helps, y’all! If you have any more questions, let us know in the comments or via email and Tumblr!

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17. Come Meet LEE & LOW BOOKS at ALA 2016!

It’s that time of year again! The annual ALA conference is just around the corner and we would love to meet you! We’ll be in at Booth #1469!

ala annual conferenceSee below for our signing schedule as well as a few other events we’ll be participating in:


Friday, June 24

Lee Bennett Hopkins (Amazing Places), 6:00-6:45 PM

Saturday, June 25

G. Neri (Chess Rumble), 10:00-10:45 AM

Susan L. Roth and Cindy Trumbore (Prairie Dog Song), 11:00-11:45 AM

René Colato Laínez (Mamá the Alien), 1:00-1:45 PM

Kimberly Reid (Perfect Liars), 2:00-2:45 PM

Sylvia Liu (A Morning with Grandpa), 3:00-3:45 PM

Sunday, June 26

Monica Brown (Marisol McDonald and the Monster), 9:15-10:00 AM

Lulu Delacre (Olinguito, from A to Z!), 11:00-11:45 AM

Karen Sandler (Tankborn Trilogy), 12:00-12:45 PM

Gwendolyn Hooks (Tiny Stitches), 1:00-1:45 PM



Join LEE & LOW representatives at the following panels:

Saturday, June 25

Director of Marketing & Publicity Hannah Ehrlich at the Library for All panel: Diverse Books from Across the Globe, 10:30-11:30 AM, Hyatt Regency Orlando, Room Regency Ballroom T

Publisher Jason Low at Ideas Exchange: Increasing Diversity in the Publishing and Library Workforce, 2:45-3:30 PM, Convention Center, Room W414CD

 Sunday, June 26

LEE & LOW Book Buzz: Diverse and Fabulous Books from LEE & LOW, 3:30-4:15 PM, Convention Center, Room Exhibit Hall – Book Buzz Theater

Monday, June 27

Pop Top Panel on Bilingual Books: The  State of Bilingual Children’s Books, 9:00-9:50 AM, Convention Center, Room Exhibit Hall – PopTop Stage

Hope to see you there!

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18. Writer Wednesday: Protecting Yourself as an Author

Over the past several months, this industry has seen many publishers go south. I'm referring to them closing for various reasons and/or getting exposed for not paying their authors. First, let's be clear that I'm not going to name any publishers or speak ill of any either. The intent of this post is to simply inform authors and help them in seeking a publisher for their work.

One question that seems to pop up a lot in writer forums is how to know if you're signing with a "good" publisher. To be honest, sometimes you can sign with a great publisher and then that publisher is bought out, which changes everything. Other times you sign with a publisher that has good intentions but winds up going under. And other times still, things look great on the surface but there's another world happening behind the scenes and it's not good in the least. 

So what's an author to do? The best advice I can give you is to find out which authors are with the publisher you're interested in and then contact those authors to hear what their experiences have been like. I have people do this with me all the time, and I'm very honest about my experiences, both good and bad (and yes, there have been bad ones). Also, if you notice an author has left that publisher, find out why. Keep in mind that nondisclosure agreements might keep some authors from dishing the gory details, but that should also send up a red flag. Nondisclosure agreements are set in place for a reason. As a writer, you should question that reason.

Please, research and contact authors to find out what's really going on outside of the public eye. Protect yourself and your work.  

*If you have a question you'd like me to answer from the other side of the editor's desk, feel free to leave it in the comments and I'll schedule it for a future post.

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19. Guest Post: Linda Covella on Going Indie: Tips & Advice on Self-Publishing in the YA Book Market

By Linda Covella
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

Thinking of going indie?

Self-publishing can be a fun, exciting, and rewarding endeavor. But get ready for an eclectic collection of hats, because you’ll be wearing many. It’s important to realize you’re selling a product that should be of the highest quality.

Here are some tips and resources to help you through the process.


By the time you’re ready to publish, you should have already gone through developmental editing of concept, character, and plot issues. Now, you need a proofreader/copy editor.

Don’t rely on a random friend or relative. Keep self-published books a strong and respected force in the market by having your manuscripts edited professionally or by a trusted, experienced critique partner. (Whenever you hire an outside service, be sure to have a contract.) See my list of editors from author recommendations.

Tip: Other indie authors can be a great resource for any self-publishing questions.

Cover Design

Your cover should be unique while blending with other books in your genre (a fine line to walk).

There are three cover options:

DIY: Royalty-free images are available online, such as this site, which you can use to design your cover.

Pre-made covers. Google “pre-made book covers,” and you’ll find quite a few.

Custom cover design. I’ve compiled a list of recommended cover designers. Bibliocrunch and Girl Friday Productions offer editing, cover design, and other help for indies on a budget.


Do you need an ISBN (International Standard Book Number)?

Not necessarily, but most retailers and publishers require one. (Amazon.com does not.)

With an ISBN, your book will be more discover-able by readers, bookstores, and libraries.

Currently the price for an ISBN (purchased through Bowker) is $125—not cheap. And you need one for the ebook and paperback of each title. If you plan to publish several books, you can buy them in bulk at greatly reduced prices; they never expire. Some businesses buy ISBNs in large quantities so they can then sell them at reduced cost.

There’s some controversy about the validity of these or “free” ISBNs, so obtain one from a reputable source. See Joel Friedlander's article on ISBNs and the ISBN website.

Formatting and Publishing

Depending on where you decide to publish your book, you may need help formatting your manuscript. It’s free and easy to publish ebooks through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), and they accept Word docs. Amazon’s print service, Createspace, is free and requires only a PDF. They also offer professional publishing services.

Smashwords is an ebook publisher, accepts Word docs, but has a style guide that must be followed.

Smashwords has distribution agreements with all major online retailers and with Baker&Taylor, which libraries use to purchase books.

Draft2Digital publishes ebook and print books. They accept simple Word docs with no style guide to follow. They offer editing and cover design as well, and distribution agreements.

Smashwords or Draft2Digital? Here’s one blogger’s analysis.

IngramSpark is a print and ebook publisher with distribution agreements. They have a style guide to follow, and you may need a professional formatter. See blogger Linda Austin on IngramSpark vs. Createspace (book doctor Stacey Aaronson says it’s beneficial to use both)!


To price your book, check other books in your genre. A common price for ebooks is $3.99.

The freebie can be a good marketing tool when you have a series: offer the first book for free in the hope that the reader will buy the other books in the series.

Experiment with pricing; see where that “sweet point” is. Just remember, you’ve worked hard and deserve to be paid a reasonable price.

Marketing and Promotion

Once you’ve published your book, the real work begins. As an indie book publisher, marketing and promoting is a never-ending job! Here are some tips and resources:

Local schools, libraries, and bookstores. Ask if libraries and bookstores will carry your book. Contact schools to do author visits. Author Alexis O’Neill’s blog is a great resource on school visits.

Subscribe to newsletters for publishing news, tips, classes, freebies, and generally “knowing your industry.” Some good ones are:

Follow blogs, including those of your favorite YA authors. If you use Wordpress, you can follow tags in your reader to find others with similar interests. Good blogs for self-publishing include:

  • Chris McMullen. Lots of info on Amazon, other self-publishing tips.
  • Bookbaby (another ebook and print book publisher). They had a recent Twitter chat with YA author Lauren Lynne.
  • IngramSpark has a blog on their website with self-publishing information.
  • Of course, Cynthia’s blog, Cynsations!

Guest blog on YA authors’ blogs. Most bloggers love having guest posts. Come up with an interesting topic and ask!

Join SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators), check the website for resources, sign up for their newsletter, and get involved in your local chapter (you can join forces with other authors for book signings, etc.).

Use Social Media

  • Get your books noticed through accounts on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram, and other social media sites.
  • Join some young adult author and reader groups on Facebook and Goodreads to meet and learn from other YA authors, and to expose your books to readers.
  • Create a website. Pay someone or DIY with sites such as Wordpress.com and Wix. This article showcases some “stellar” author websites.


It’s tough for indie authors to get reviews. Ask for reviews on your website and social media. Put a request at the end of your books. Here’s one list of bloggers who review books. Though the title says middle grade literature, most will also review YA books.

Do a blog tour (usually done when your book is newly published), and many of the bloggers will review your book. These businesses, among others, handle blog tours. Some specifically target YA audiences, but be sure to pick a blog tour company that lines your book up with YA bloggers.

Enter contests. Prizes can add credibility to and exposure for your books. There are many free contests and others, such as RONE, Chanticleer, and Literary Classics, have entrance fees. These three all have YA categories. And, of course, there are the biggies from ALA. See which awards accept indie books.

Advertise. Occasionally having a sale on your book and advertising can help boost visibility. Advertising prices and results vary. Most, if not all, of these promotional sites have YA categories. Missing from the list, but popular with authors, are The Fussy Librarian and Bookbub (expensive, but results can be worth it).

Self-publishing has lost its earlier stigma of “vanity publishing,” and readers are embracing indie authors and their books. Indies have discovered the advantages of self-publishing: control over content and cover design, higher royalties, and quicker time to market.

Do the research, put out a quality product, work on marketing, and you can find success and satisfaction as an indie author.

Cynsational Notes

Linda Covella’s varied background and education (an AA degrees in art, an AS degree in mechanical drafting & design, and a BS degree in Manufacturing Management) have led her down many paths and enriched her life experiences. But one thing she never strayed from is her love of writing.

Her first official publication was a restaurant review column for a local newspaper. But when she published articles for various children’s magazines, she realized she’d found her niche: writing for children. She hopes to bring to kids and teens the feelings books gave her when she was a child: the worlds they opened, the things they taught, the feelings they expressed.

She is a member of the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). She lives in Santa Cruz with her husband, Charlie, and dog, Ginger.

No matter what new paths Linda may travel down, she sees her writing as a lifelong joy and commitment. Find Linda at Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Goodreads, Pinterest and YouTube.

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20. Picking a Category

A note: This post was written in February and programmed here to fill a hole in my programming. Normal blog posts will resume in the next few weeks, but I just wanted to put some fresh material online!

Recently, I worked with a client who had written, by all accounts, a middle-grade novel. It has fantasy elements, an eleven- or twelve-year-old protagonist, rich themes that have to do with the coming of age time period, etc. etc. etc. But my client hadn’t really thought of the work as MG. Instead, he’d envisioned it as a crossover, perhaps close to THE BOOK THIEF in terms of potential market reach. Basically, he wanted to tell a story and then let the market decide where it fit.

We ended up having a lot of very interesting talks about this idea. Long story short, however, that’s not really how it works. When you’re writing something, you want to have some idea of where it will fit, per my recent “Writing With Market in Mind” post. If you gently leave it up to the publishing gods to decide, you may not get very far. First of all, agents and editors like writers who pitch their projects confidently and know at least a little something about the marketplace.

For all intents and purposes, the project in question seems very MG, even if that was never the client’s conscious intention. And if it walks like a MG, and it quacks like a MG, if my client doesn’t pitch it as a MG, he’s going to get some raised eyebrows. Furthermore, if he doesn’t pitch it as a MG, it may just get slotted into that category by agents and editors alike anyway. If he were to query adult fiction agents with the project, as I’ve described it, I guarantee most would say, “This isn’t my wheelhouse, this sounds like MG. You should be querying children’s book agents.”

You can always say, as my client did, “Well, I sure would like to tap the crossover audience and sell this to children and adults, please and thank you.” Wouldn’t that be nice for everyone? Most people would love a crossover hit like THE BOOK THIEF or THE CURIOUS INCIDENT OF THE DOG IN THE NIGHT-TIME. Selling the same book to two different markets? Yes, please.

The problem with a crossover is that you can’t aim for one, however. I have said this before and I will say it again (and again and again). The only person to decide that is a publisher, and most won’t take the risk of trying to publish across categories. This strategy is reserved for only a tiny fraction of all books that go to print. And sometimes, a crossover only becomes a crossover when it’s published in one category first, then the other, and it happens to gain traction in both.

What I’m saying is, it’s a lot easier to set some lobster traps than it is to drag the whole of the sea. At least with the former strategy (picking a concrete category), you will probably catch some lobsters. With a wider net, you may catch everything, but there’s a big chance you’ll catch nothing, or a whole lot of garbage.

Many beginning writers think that putting, “This book will appeal to everyone from age 1 to 101!” is a huge selling point. Who wouldn’t want to sell to everyone from 1 to 101? That’s, like, billions of people. Why wouldn’t a publisher want to sell billions of books? Unfortunately, this line of thinking is delusional. Any marketer will tell you that your catchment area is too big. What a one-year-old likes is very different than what a 101-year-old likes and that’s actually a good thing.

So I advised my client to either a) become okay with the idea of pitching his story as a MG, or b) edit the story and weave in several elements that would give it more appeal to the adult fiction marketplace. This isn’t too far-fetched because there are a lot of books set during the “coming of age” period that go on to publish in the adult realm. That 9-12 or 13-18 age range isn’t just for children’s novels. The revision route is obviously the taller mountain to climb, but, if it fits the client’s vision for the book better, then it’s what has to happen.

The jury is still out on what this client will choose to do, but I wanted to bring the situation to everyone’s attention, because it contains some valuable truths about “picking a lane” and thinking about the category of your own work.

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21. Wondercon’16: IDW Plans to Publish a Plethora of Books and Make a Mint on Movies

Left to right: Dirk Wood, Vice Present of Marketing,  David Hedgecock, Managing Editor, Scott Dunbier, Special Projects Editor, and Greg Goldstein, President and COOBy Nicholas Eskey San Diego publisher IDW have grown steadily beyond their beginnings of comics. Though comics are still their main focus, the company in recent years has expanded beyond that and into other forms of entertainment. At this year’s Wondercon, IDW Entertainment represented by Dirk Wood, Vice Present of Marketing,  David Hedgecock, Managing Editor, […]

1 Comments on Wondercon’16: IDW Plans to Publish a Plethora of Books and Make a Mint on Movies, last added: 4/10/2016
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22. How and When to Catch the Elusive Publicity Department — Part 2 of 2

Hi all! Stacey here with Lizzy Mason, Director of Publicity at Bloomsbury Children’s Books. This is the second of our two-part series on How and When to Catch The Elusive Publicity Department. Last month, Lizzy provided a typical publicist’s timeline. Today, she gives us her thoughts on everything from swag to freelance publicists. Lizzy, take it away.
  • Swag—Fact #1: people like free stuff. Fact #2: it doesn’t really help to give people free stuff that they won’t use and that people won’t see. So even if your book is about, say, bird watching, are you really going to get sales of your book by handing out expensive swag like binoculars with your book’s title on it? (Hint: no.) The best swag is simple. Bookmarks, pins/buttons, postcards, tote bags, and posters. If you want to make a few more expensive items for giveaways closer to on-sale, that’s cool too, but make sure it’s something people will use. I have a dozen sticky note pads, lanyards, and bracelets (even suntan lotion and a manicure kit) that will never see the light outside my cubicle walls.
  • Blogger Requests—Do not forward blogger requests piecemeal to your publicist. Yes, we’re known for being organized, but we’re also dealing with massive amounts of email. (Currently, I have more than 24,000 emails in my inbox. Not including the ones I’ve filed.) Keep an excel spreadsheet of requests (include name, blog name, address, email, and stats) and send them all at once about 5 months before on-sale. If someone requests an ARC after that, start a new list or refer them to your publicist (check with them first to be sure that’s okay). Also, please don’t put your publicist’s email address on your website. There should be a general email you can use for the publicity department or publisher.
  • Events—I don’t recommend doing events before on-sale unless you have backlist you can promote. In that case, bring your fancy swag for the new book! But if you don’t have a book to sell, it’s really just not worth it. People have short memories, even if they take your bookmark with them to “pre-order when they get home.” Save your time, money, and energy for when you have a book you can sell.

If you want to do events locally, check with your publicist for help arranging them. It’s best if we know what you’re doing. For several reasons, but mostly because if we know about an event, we can be sure the store orders books and gets them on time. Local bookstore events can be a great way to support the book, but don’t expect that the bookstore will bring a crowd for you. They’ll do their part with promotion, but you should be inviting your friends and family.

Are you traveling anywhere within the US around your publication date? Let your publicist know and they may be able to arrange an event. Especially if you’re going somewhere where you know a lot of people who may come out to see you.

Regional trade shows are another great way to meet the booksellers at bookstores in your general region. There are eight indie bookseller fall trade shows: NAIBA, NEIBA, SIBA, MPIBA, Heartland Fall Forum (for MIBA and GLIBA), SCIBA, NCIBA, and PNBA. (Google those acronyms!) Ask your publicist if you could be pitched for a signing, especially if it’s within driving distance. Your publisher may be willing to cover travel costs if it’s further away, but don’t expect that they will.

  • Announcements—Don’t announce anything without telling your publicist and marketing team. Sign a new deal? Going to a festival? Got a blurb? We can help with these announcements and determine the best time to make them. And, even just from a bandwidth perspective, it’s worth combining efforts.
  • Balance—Yes, the squeaky wheel gets grease. It’s true. But it’s all about balance. You want to walk the fine line between being a squeaky wheel and being overly persistent. So don’t email your publicist every time you have an idea. Gather your thoughts and put them into one email, then give him/her at least a few days to get back to you. Sometimes we have to research something or get an answer from another department. Silence does not mean we aren’t thinking about you. Also, anything you can do on your own, especially research, do it!
  • Freelance publicists—There are some amazing freelance publicists, but some are better than others, and some are better at working with your publisher than others. If you want to see what else a freelance can do to supplement your publisher’s plans, by all means, check into it. Some agents work with freelancers regularly and can suggest a few, some of your author friends might have recommendations (or warnings), and your publicist might even have some thoughts. I don’t always think it’s necessary, but it depends on what the publisher is doing. Definitely talk to your publicist, your agent, and your editor before hiring a freelancer.

Also, one last thing to know: I hate saying no. I hate it in my personal life, I hate in my professional life. I have trouble even saying no to my cat. Seriously, that’s why she’s so fat. So please respect the “No.” When I say we can’t cover your travel costs or pitch you for something, there is a reason. And I hated saying “No” just as much as you hated hearing it. Please don’t make me say it twice.

Congratulations on being published and good luck! I hope to see you at an event, conference, trade show, or festival one of these days!

Lizzy picLIZZY MASON is the Director of Publicity at Bloomsbury Children’s Books. She previously worked in publicity at Disney, Macmillan Children’s, and Simon & Schuster, and graduated from Manhattan College (which is in the Bronx) with a degree in Journalism and a minor in English. Lizzy dedicates whatever spare time she can to reading and writing YA fiction. She lives with her husband (and his comic collection) and their cat Moxie (who was named after a cat in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials) in Queens, NY. Follow her @LizzyMason21.


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23. Traditional or Self Publishing?

How Do I Decide

Did you know I have an e-book available on Amazon?
How Do I Decide? Self-Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing can help authors figure out which path to take.
How Do I Decide? is a concise, definitive resource that will guide you through the decision, allowing you to ignore the noise and hype and focus on the right path for YOU. This is a fair and balanced approach that avoids favoring one choice over the other—and instead shows you how to determine which best fits your own situation.
About 50 pages jammed full of insider information, How Do I Decide? gives you the facts you need to make an informed choice. It walks you through the various steps of the publishing process so you can determine which road best suits your personal goals, temperament, and level of previous publishing experience.
How Do I Decide? is brief yet comprehensive, and includes:
• an overview of the current publishing landscape
• an outline of the path to publishing
• a user-friendly checklist to help you figure out your path
• pros and cons of traditional publishing
• pros and cons of self-publishing
• An eye-opening infographic that’ll help you decide
• A “quiz” to streamline your decision-making process
• Additional resources with links to further information
The e-book is only $2.99 on Amazon. Check it out if you’re considering which path to take!
(Cover design by the fabulous Nicole Miller.)
Publishing coach

The post Traditional or Self Publishing? appeared first on Rachelle Gardner.

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24. Guest Post: Lee Wind on Little Pickle Press’ 7 Steps To Changing Children’s Publishing… And Our World

Little Pickle's first book
By Lee Wind of Little Pickle Press
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

Little Pickle Press is an award-winning creator of high quality, high impact media and products for children and teens.

From our founding in 2009, we’ve done things differently. Here are seven steps we’ve taken to lead—and BE—the change we want to see:

1. Be Responsible.

Print all titles, not just the environmentally-themed ones, on recycled paper, with soy inks, in the Americas.

And lose the dust-jacket on picture books. They’re not kid-friendly, or necessary.

2. Make every project count.

“Media For A Better World” isn’t just a slogan, it’s a guiding principle.

From Your Fantastic Elastic Brain, one of our growth-mindset picture books, to Spaghetti is NOT a Finger Food, a chapter book highlighting the challenges – and triumphs – of an 8-year-old boy with Asperger Syndrome, to Breath To Breath, a powerful YA novel-in-verse inspired by the true story of a survivor of child abuse, every Little Pickle and Relish Media story makes a difference for the better.

3. Give Back.

Forge partnerships with organizations that promote the same values we do in our titles.

Like how we donated 15% of net sales of What Does It Mean To Be Kind? print books to the Great Kindness Challenge, along with thousands of e-books to schools who participated in their spread-the-kindness challenge. And how 15% of net sales of our Farm2Table app go to KaBOOM!, to support their efforts to bring active play into the lives of kids growing up in poverty in America.

Teaming Up: What Does It Mean To Be Kind? written by Rana DiOrio and illustrated by by Stéphane Jorisch, three-time winner of Canada’s Governor General Literary Award for Children’s Illustration, and The Great Kindness Challenge that reached over 5 million students!
Farm2Table is an iPad adventure that helps kids explore where their food comes from. It’s based on The Cow in Patrick O’Shanahan’s Kitchen, written by farmer and agriculture writer Diana Prichard and illustrated by Heather Devlin Knopf. For this app, we teamed up with KaBOOM!, who believes that “cities need to be designed with opportunities to play everywhere.” Patrick would certainly agree!

4. Innovate.

We’re early adopters of technology, focused on what can make things better. Even our submission platform with Authors.me changes the game, with an eye to empowering authors throughout the submission process.

5. Be Kind.

It’s our mission: “Little Pickle Press is dedicated to creating media that fosters kindness in young people—and doing so in a manner congruent with that mission.” And kindness, as our founder Rana DiOrio explains, “is not simply being affable. …We define ‘kindness’ as treating others as one would wish to be treated in similar circumstance, and we consider it the foundational concept upon which civilization was built and the key to society’s future.”

So when we heard about Library For All, and how they’re using technology to spread literacy in Rwanda, Haiti, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Cambodia, and Mongolia, we donated our entire digital library to the cause.

Students reading Library for All titles in Cambodia

6. Walk the walk.

From who we partner with to the wheat straw paper in my printer, as a B-Corp, everything we do and every decision we make is driven by sustainability, and the question, what’s going to make our world a better place for us all?

7. Be Grateful.

What we’re doing is working. We’ve won awards (85 so far), and our titles have gotten some great reviews (Jerry Greenfield of Ben & Jerry’s said What Does It Mean To Be An Entrepreneur? “inspires young dreamers to find the courage to be doers.”)

Maybe most of all it’s hearing from kids, teens and their caring adults about how our stories have made a difference to them that lets us know we’re on track.

Comments like this one about our picture book Ripple’s Effect, from John A.,

“Just recently I was chatting with a first grader about his experience being bullied. It's hard to get over those kinds of hurdles as a child. What a great book for kids who are smart, fun, and joyful except when they are around ‘sharks.’

"Every child can be a great influence but the power of a positive kid in the midst of adversity can change lives. Children's literature needs this book. I'm glad it's here.”

And we’re grateful for the opportunity to share with you.

As a thank you, for the next month, please use the promo code CYN35 at checkout on our website to receive 35% off your entire purchase.

Students reading Library for All titles in Cambodia

Cynsational Notes

Lee Wind is the Vice President of Digital, Communications and Community Engagement at Little Pickle Press.

Spaghetti is NOT a Finger Food (and other life lessons), written by Jodi Carmichael, is a nominee for the Mantioba Book Awards’ John Hirsch Award for Most Promising Writer.

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25. Fiction and Non-Fiction Blend Picture Books

I often work with clients who are writing a blend of fiction and non-fiction in their picture books. This is a tough proposition to publish. Let me explain what I mean. The book features characters and a plot, and also a sizeable number of facts. For example, a girl finds an unusual frog, learns that it belongs in a rain forest, and journeys there to return it. In the process, we have a character with a strong objective, plot points, as well as a lot of interesting information.

In theory, this is a great idea. We have all the charm and imagination of fiction, as well as that all-important educational value. So what goes wrong with this type of manuscript? It lies in the non-fiction part that the writer is attempting to attach to the fiction. There are two problems that usually arise. Too much information, and too little.

When there is too much information, that means the character and plot elements of the fiction part are too thin. The issue is usually that a person really wants to write non-fiction, but they worry that it won’t have enough pizzazz in the marketplace, so they try to spice it up with a protagonist. There are characters, but they don’t do much of anything, for example. It’s if we had Dora the Explorer but we didn’t know anything about her. She just had a name and a little bit of a personality, but she was only really there to have a learning experience. A glorified tour guide, if you will. In my original frog premise, it would be if the girl just went to the rain forest (without a frog or a mission to return it) and walked around, learning about the various plants and animals. There’s technically a fictional “frame” on this book (the girl whose eyes we are seeing things through) but it’s mostly non-fiction.

My recommendation, in that case, would be to rewrite the manuscript as straight non-fiction. It’s going to be easier to place, anyway, if it’s easier to categorize. A fact-based look at the rain forest (or any other topic) without any distracting character element is the bread and butter of school and library NF picture book programs. The lesson? You don’t have to tack a character on to a manuscript if your passion is non-fiction. If you are qualified to write factually on a subject, do your best at that and pitch it as NF.

When there is too little information, it raises a lot of questions. It would be if the girl went to the rain forest, had some really awesome adventures, but only learned about one plant and two other animals. Why that plant? Why those animals? Why those facts about that plant and those animals? If your goal is to teach, why not teach more comprehensively? Why pick only five facts to span the course of a book?

I recently encountered this issue in a client’s premise. (I’m going to change the details of the premise for the sake of confidentiality.) The writer a century’s worth of decades, let’s say the 20th century. And their character stopped in each decade for one page. They learned one thing about each decade. Why that thing? Out of everything that happened in that decade, why that one thing? The educational element was too thin.

If you’re going to cover a topic (the 20th century), then you need to pick a specific angle and really dive in. A picture book on the 20th century isn’t going to sell that well, no matter how charismatic your characters are. It’s too broad. Now, a tour of the Roaring 20s? Getting there. Maybe just the music of the Roaring 20s or the fashion of the Roaring 20s? Very specific. A character recreating the fashion of the 1920s for a fashion show? Bingo. That represents a good blend of fiction and non-fiction.

I would say that a good blend of fiction and non-fiction is the Magic Schoolbus franchise. The class is always up to something. There’s action involved, a mystery to solve, etc. The learning happens almost “under the table” as they pursue an objective. But the books are chock-full of information, and they represent a very comprehensive look at a particular topic.

If you find yourself stuck halfway between fiction and non-fiction, make sure you have enough substance for each category, otherwise, you may be better off committing fully in one direction or the other.

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