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After seeing some alarming comments on Read Roger and Facebook I feel the need to point out something I thought everybody knew: the Horn Book, like our sisters at SLJ, Booklist, and BCCB, does not charge authors or publishers for book reviews. Publishers Weekly and Kirkus do offer fee-based reviewing services but these are in addition to (and labelled as such) their regular reviews, which are free. Personally, I think reviews you have to pay for are a waste of money and a source of the worst kind of mischief.
People have also questioned the relationship of advertising pages and review coverage, and this is totally fair game for examination: do advertising dollars buy reviews in a quid pro quo arrangement? Absent the presence of damning emails or something, I think it would be hard to prove either way, because advertisers tend to spend their money in places that are saying nice things about their products. This is not absolute, though: I once heard our wonderful ad director Al tell a marketing director at a Big Five publisher that they should be buying more ad space because we were giving them so many good reviews. Her response? “Sure, but how many of those are starred reviews?” It’s never enough. But, no, at the Horn Book we don’t review (or star) books on the basis of who is buying advertising pages. (We do offer products such as Talks With Roger that are paid for by publishers but are clearly labelled as “sponsored content” and are separate from our review coverage.)
Something I have intuited (or outright heard) from some publishers, large and small, is that they think of reviews as part of their promotion efforts. This makes sense from their point of view, in that they use reviews for marketing purposes. But we don’t work for the publishers, we work for our readers. Smart publishers know that this is in their best interest.
Thank you all for your comments, here and on Twitter and Facebook, about the question of reviewing books from self-published authors. I am learning a lot. Hey Zetta Eliott–how about another article from you for our pages on this subject?
A number of commenters have suggested that the Horn Book begin a column highlighting the best of self-publishing for children, but I don’t think this does our readers much of a service. We (he said, drawing his emeralds warmly about him) are not interested in reviewing the best of a certain manner of publishing; we are only interested in the best. The Horn Book Magazine has the luxury of not being a comprehensive review source (TheHorn Book Guideis that, but if I invite self- and e-publishers to add to their already heavy workload, Kitty and Katrina and Shoshana will quit), instead reviewing only those books we think are the very best for young people. As Pat Hughes, with admirable generosity, pointed out, there are plenty of great books that aren’t reviewed by the Magazine, books that get starred reviews elsewhere and even books that win a Boston Globe Horn Book Award. Sometimes it’s that we have a demurring opinion, sometimes we like a book but like other books more, and sometimes we are just wrong. This is why God gave us morethanonereviewjournal. To publish a column of “the best of self-published” is to review with an asterisk.
Here is what I want to try, as an experiment. I invite self-publishing authors to send me ONE book that he or she thinks is comparable in quality to the books recommended in TheHorn Book Magazine. I strongly advise that you read a few issues to see what kind of books we like and what aspects of a book we consider in arriving at our judgments. Be forewarned that I may publicly mock any entry that provides egregious evidence of someone not having a clue; I will also tell you on this blog about the books I like.
Call it a contest, although, unlike most other contests, or, erm, review sources for self-published writers, there is no entry fee. The prize(s) will be a review written by me for the March/April 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine. I RESERVE THE RIGHT NOT TO GIVE A PRIZE IF I DON’T RECEIVE A BOOK I THINK IS GOOD ENOUGH. The winner(s) and selected runners-up, if any, will also receive a year’s subscription to the Magazine. Here are the rules:
1. Send one copy of one book (either a finished copy, f&gs, or a bound galley) before 12/15/14. It must have a publication date of January 2015 onward. Include ISBN, price, distributor, and email contact for you. It must be a book intended primarily for young readers within the range of 0-18 years. Only printed books (hard- or softcover) may be submitted and they will not be returned to you. You will not be provided with an acknowledgment of receipt.
2: Mail the book to:
The Horn Book Inc.
300 The Fenway
Palace Road Building Suite P-311
Boston, MA 02115
Do not call me. Do not visit me.
3. Make sure it arrives by December 1st and is marked “Selfie Sweepstakes” on the package. Entries arriving after that date or without that marking will be discarded unread.
I don’t know or care if these rules set a high bar or not; they represent what we expect from all publishers. I am very interested to see what I get, and I will keep you posted here on Read Roger about the progress of the submissions. Please put any questions in the comments here, and feel free to distribute notice of this contest among your fellows.
Writers today have more choices than ever when it comes to getting their work in the hands of millions. They can self-publish an eBook, hold out for a traditional publishing deal or do a combination of both, otherwise known as hybrid publishing.
Hybrid publishing uses aspects of traditional publishing (someone is doing the marketing for you), but you’ll still need to see this as running your own business. In our latest Journalism Advice column, we got the inside scoop on the financial realities of hybrid publishing:
The truth is, hybrid authors will need to put aside marketing and production funds to produce a high-quality book. That is not to say you can’t enjoy a high cash flow as a hybrid author, but you need to determine if you are willing to take a bit of a financial gamble. “I hesitate to say it’s a model that leads to success because success varies from author to author,” says Brooke Warner, co-founder of hybrid publisher SheWritesPress.com. “For us the parallel measure would be that a book ‘earns out’ its expenses, meaning that it breaks even. Many more than 10 percent of our authors are breaking even, so for me, this is an exciting place to be.”
The full version of this article is exclusively available to Mediabistro AvantGuild subscribers. If you’re not a member yet, register now for as little as $55 a year for access to hundreds of articles like this one, discounts on Mediabistro seminars and workshops, and all sorts of other bonuses.
“Don’t Ball the Boss” is a whopper of a good time. If you’re offended by homosexuality, cussing, or super hot British actors, do not read. This hilarious and irreverent short story is featured in The Stoneslide Corrective today, and I dedicate every word to the adoring Cumber Collective and/or my Cumberbitches (depending on how you identify). Definitely rated R.
Don’t Ball the Boss by Sara Dobie Bauer
Rule number one: don’t fuck the boss. Even if he is doing that thing he does when he’s nervous. He pulls on the cuffs of his dress shirt. I don’t think he even knows he does it, and the movement makes me want to rip that Dolce and Gabbana shirt right off. I pretend not to watch.
There are five of us in his hotel room. His driver is in the restroom; then, there’s his tailor and me. His blond agent sits on the edge of his bed with her smart phone. She’s talking to someone and says, “Not her. Don’t make him sit next to her at the premiere.” I can tell she’s eating this up, the way America is eating him up, the way I would love—Jesus, I’m fucking starving.
I give myself permission to look at him when he addresses me.
The tailor, an old dude with glasses like Olivier in Marathon Man, drapes a tuxedo coat over his shoulders.
“How’s the fit?”
I casually address six feet of British politeness and fold my hands over my crotch. “Perfect, sir.”
“I keep telling you not to call me sir. Call me Nicholas.”
Not Nick. I’ve noticed no one calls him Nick. And tonight is his night.
A friend called a week ago and asked if I was looking for work. In Hollywood, shit, we’re always looking for work. I’m a personal assistant to the stars, and I’m real good—like Meryl Streep at Oscar time good. They say I’m discreet and subservient; stars like that.
So my pal calls up and tells me there’s this up and coming British star on his way over for a movie premiere. The film is huge, the kind that makes back its budget in a night, and this Brit plays the bad guy. He’s never been to Hollywood. He needs someone who knows the right barbers, tailors, call girls …
That’s where I come in: David Baron, assistant to the stars. And I’m not given to flights of fancy.
I’ve assisted maybe a hundred newbie celebs over the years and felt not a twitch in my pants. I took one look at Nicholas Pike and thought about quitting because PA’s don’t fuck the client. In the business, we tell stories about PA’s who did. They end up as homeless hookers.
We’re standing around, waiting to leave for his big movie premiere, and his agent won’t shut up. God, I hate her, been listening to her ever since Nicholas got here. She’s too blond, fake blond, and her British accent isn’t like his. Nicholas is all Oxford-sounding; she’s like the wenches in Oliver Twist. She has terrible style, too—wears pink lipstick, and nobody outside 1985 wears pink lipstick.
She’s giving Nicholas the time breakdown for tonight’s movie premiere, and he’s rubbing the space between his neck and shoulder. He’s been doing that a lot, but unlike the cuff pulling, this isn’t a nervous twitch. He injured his neck doing a stunt for a film he’s making in England. I know this because he told me. He tells me a lot of things.
He’s never once in his life considered smoking a bad habit.
Without a stylist, he would have no idea how to dress himself.
Finally, he believes his sudden and newly realized status as a sex symbol makes no sense. (Quote: “I’ve had the same face since I was twenty!”)
I explained to him days ago it’s all about the role. A role can make somebody, and although I haven’t seen him play the villain, I have no doubt: he’s made it. He’s been doing appearances all week, me at his side, and when we step outside the limo, it’s mania. Women are everywhere, screaming his name, waving pictures for him to sign, and he does sign them. We’ve been late to every single appearance this week, because he loves signing things, having his picture taken. He loves his fans, and I wonder if this is a British thing. He has more manners than an auditorium full of nuns.
I’m his assistant, yet he makes sure I order first at restaurants. He holds the door—for me. He smiles at me in crowds, apparently to make sure I’m all right, and it’s his manners that do it. The manners make me want to fuck him, just shove him against a wall somewhere and swallow his protests with hot, sloppy kisses.
There was a New Yorker article that made the rounds about six weeks ago. Why am I writing about it now? Because I just bought a house and I’m super slow. Besides, let’s face it: You get your breaking news from Facebook and Reddit and wherever else. If you’re trying to get it from my blog, I…I feel terrible for you and I’m sorry.
The article in question calls out “The Scrounge of ‘Relatability‘” by Rebecca Mead and it’s a great think piece. It goes into a brief history of the word “relatable,” takes some pot shots at Ira Glass, and completely denounces the concept of relatability as the act of readers or viewers demanding “a flattering confirmation of an individual’s solipsism.” Whoa, whoa, whoa, The New Yorker. You look a little tense. Take a seat, loosen your tie. Would you like a drink? You seem a little…peaked.
I’ll be the first to admit that I talk a lot about the concept of relatability as it, ahem, relates to writing fiction, especially for picture book, middle grade, and young adult readers. And no, I did not have an epiphany reading this op-ed piece about how that’s stupid and “hopelessly reductive” to advocate. I still believe that relatability is very important when targeting younger readers, because one has to take their mindset into consideration. Today’s MG and YA readers, especially, thrive on connection and are going through a lot of stuff that they don’t have the facilities or life experience to process yet. Good stuff, and negative stuff. And a lot of the time, they run into problems when they feel alone. They are bullied, they are abused at home, they feel like they have no voice, something secret gets out about them and they feel like they have no control over it, etc. etc. etc. Readers in these age groups want to read to form relationship.
And relatability is a natural extension of wanting to capture a readership that craves connection. Do we make each character an Everyman meant to emulate and capture the widest possible audience by having the most generic (more relatable?) traits possible? No, nobody said that. I would argue that even the more quirky or odd or unsympathetic characters in fiction are relatable by virtue of how weird they are. Because we all have, at one point or another, felt like a profound freak. And even if they’re not the same kind of profound freak, we find solace in their freakishness.
One of my favorite “weird” characters is Beatrice from Natalie Standiford’s How to Say Goodbye In Robot. I have a lot in common with Beatrice and a lot absolutely not in common with her. But something about her is so damn relatable that I can’t stand it. Why? I believe it’s because the character is so specific. She feels real. A lot of detail went into her creation. She is the very opposite of the wide net Everygirl trying to be all things to all people. And yet she’s as relatable as any character I’ve read.
Rebecca Mead says that relatability is a pox because it somehow demands that a work to “be somehow accommodating to, or reflective of, the experience of the reader… (who) remains passive in the face of the book or movie or play: she expects the work to be done for her.” Again, I disagree. Those works that pander to the audience and try to grasp the loose concept of relatability might maybe fall to this flaw.
But when Natalie Standiford was writing Beatrice, I don’t think she was coming from a place of “I have to construct this girl to appeal to all.” She wrote a quirky and TRUE character. Now, what’s true about Beatrice to you might be very different from what’s true about Beatrice to me. And that’s okay. The fact remains that there’s just so much there to choose from about this rich and complex characterization.
Instead of producing a cookie-cutter character and a one-size-fits-all book to strive for Rebecca Mead’s portrayal of relatability, Natalie Standiford created a work where relatability was a natural byproduct of a lot of tough, honest, and incredibly specific characterization and plotting. Nobody cut any corners, in fact, I bet it was harder to write someone so nuanced.
Long story short, I think that PB, MG, and YA readers are precious. And if they’re anything like I was in those age groups, they are searching. They crave connection. If the idea of relatability urges writers on to write even better characters and stories for readers who will very much flourish when relating to the work, I’d say it’s an amazing thing. Let The New Yorker see the glass as half-empty, I see it as half-full of great inspiration and potential for writers.
(Also, and not to ruffle any feathers with my off-the-cuff attempt at humor, I am a damn theatre major and I think that a lot of Shakespeare sucks. It’s a rigorous mental exercise, and a lot of fun to perform, and it revolutionized the English language, and all that is fine and good, but, as a modern woman, I’m happy to leave it at that without putting it on a pedestal. I’ve read the complete works once, when I was young and full of idealism. And you know what? Ain’t nobody got time for that!)
Late last week, Publishers Weekly released its 2014 Salary Survey. While many of the findings were what you would expect—i.e., overwhelmingly white, female employees working longer hours than the year before and with a little more pay—they still manage to leave you feeling, well… a bit disappointed.
Cue Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror” and read on.
Let’s start with the (kind of) good news: 85% of respondents are at least somewhat satisfied with their jobs. We’ve also seem to have (modestly) overcome a fear of total sector collapse, with 54% of us reporting we are very or extremely confident in the industry’s future. (more…)
Cartoon Network will open its own imprint at Penguin Young Readers Group.
Here’s more from the press release: “The new ‘Cartoon Network Books’ imprint will publish fun and interactive formats such as Mad Libs ®, original fiction novels and chapter books, Activity and Doodle formats, non-fiction handbooks, gift sets, and kits. The 2015 launch will feature books based on the hit shows Uncle Grandpa and Steven Universe, followed by Clarence, the upcoming We Bare Bears, and the return of ThePowerpuff Girls in 2016.”
The two organizations have been partners in publishing books based on the Adventure Time, Regular Show, and The Amazing World of Gumball TV series since 2013. To date, more than half a million copies of those books have sold in the United States market. What do you think?
The post below is written by my editorial client Scott Plumbe, who came to me for the first time last year with a highly illustrated MG story about a fox named Theo who has some family secrets and a fascinating adventure across India and the Himalayas. It’s been really great working with Scott, and when he decided to independently release his book with a subscription model, I approached him to write a few articles about his experience.
I’m sure that a lot of my readers are curious about independent publishing and Kickstarter. As a freelance editor, I’m seeing more and more clients self-publishing or pursuing alternate paths to seeing their work in print or digital release. If a guy can make tens of thousands of dollars off of a potato salad, why can’t books get funded?
Here’s Scott’s first article about his process. I’ve contributed to his Kickstarter. If you’re curious, you can find the link here.
The past few weeks have brought about a massive change of direction for me. I am officially starting a Kickstarter campaign. This post is the first of three in which I’ll share my crowdfunding experiences before, during and after my campaign.
I’m an illustrator who has always had a desire to tell my stories through words and pictures. Comics and graphic novels may seem the obvious choice, but the complexity of my story, The Unlucky Fox, isn’t suitable for either. Instead, I’m creating an illustrated novel of 60,000 words and over 100 pages of full-colour illustrations.
After much consideration, I’ve chosen to launch the story through the crowdfunding platform, Kickstarter. I’m offering potential backers a monthly subscription to the story. Every four weeks, backers receive a fresh chapter replete with newly completed illustrations.
Why crowdfunding instead of other emerging or traditional avenues? Being a freelance artist who has never sought representation, I have a strong streak of DIY in me. And without that characteristic, I don’t think anyone could undertake a crowdfunding campaign.
There are numerous crowdfunding options out there, including Indiegogo. I like the inherent risk aspect of KS — it’s all or nothing! If a campaign fails to meet its target, no money is collected from your backers. This prospect weeds out a lot of potential creators who are not as confident. It places those campaigns that do launch with KS amongst a community of like-minded creators and entrepreneurs. I believe the core KS users are creative types. That means artists, designers, innovators and makers — people accustomed to calculated risks. And let’s face it. As a debut writer, I’m a risk! By choosing KS and sharing the process of bringing my project to life, I hope to reduce the unknown and gain some support along the way.
What kind of preparation is involved?
I took a full year to decide on my current path. During that time, I followed KS projects and undertook a major revision of my manuscript. I also sketched out a list of ideas for possible rewards and sourced suppliers. I’ve spent the last six weeks putting that plan into action. That means finalizing the rewards, writing my pitch, making the video and a website to support it all. I also poked around and made a list of blogs and local news outlets to send press releases to.
Why an incremental subscription release model?
From a traditional publishing perspective, as a first-time author I have many challenges. Not only is it a hurdle to promote the work of a debut author, but add on top of that my desire for accompanying colour artwork! It has taken nearly four years to bring the manuscript this close to completion, but I still have heaps of artwork to finish. I decided to take my cue from the world of comics and TV serials and break up the delivery of the story. Interestingly, some anecdotal evidence from friends in the gaming industry suggests that many game studios are moving away from the traditional Hollywood ‘tentpole’ model, pushing projects forward with incremental expansion instead. They deliver their content in small doses, rather than one big launch. Studios are taking less risk and getting instant audience feedback as they progress. In their case, the result is a product that essentially has no end and can lead to a more empowered fan base.
What are your risks and challenges?
I have many! Most are obvious, while others are specific to my story. In particular, the chance of not connecting with an audience is notable. The KS community is primarily adult, not the young teens my novel is written for. But encouragingly, there have been several successful campaigns for young readers. Most notably, Augie and the Green Knight that earned nearly $400,000 in pledges. Of course, this is the exception and not the rule!
Well, I guess it’s time to hit LAUNCH!
I’ll check back in when my campaign is underway.
Query letters are supposed to be catchy, succinct, and intriguing. They’re also a pain in the ass to write. As I prepare to sell my manuscript, Bite Somebody, I must first prepare a dreaded query letter. That’s where you come in.
Kindly read the following query letter and tell me if it a) makes you wanna read my book and b) flows and/or makes sense. If all goes well, maybe I’ll mention you in the Acknowledgments.
Bite Somebody Query Letter: First Draft
All Celia wanted was her first bite and a cute boyfriend.
She expected her life to change when she became a vampire, but she’s the same chubby, awkward Pretty Woman-loving girl she’s always been. Abandoned by her maker, the opportunity for change arrives in the form of Ian, her new neighbor at Florida’s Sleeping Gull Apartments.
Ian is a goofy ex-surfer who likes Jeopardy and, to her surprise, Celia. Despite the nagging of Imogene, her only vampire friend, Celia can’t get her fangs to go “boing” at the right time, and her first bite seems less and less attainable.
When Ian makes his romantic move, Danny, Celia’s jerk of a creator, returns for a favor. He wants to harvest Ian’s human blood, because Ian’s blood smells like Christmas wrapped in bacon and they could make a fortune. But the last thing Celia wants is her cute boyfriend dead.
Bite Somebody: A Bloodsucker’s Diary is a 75,000 word YA paranormal romance parody set at the beach, and nothing and nobody are what they seem.
My name is Sara Dobie Bauer. I’m a vampire enthusiast and fan of Christopher Moore and Gregory Maguire. I earned my creative writing degree from Ohio University and am the official book nerd at SheKnows.com. My short fiction has appeared in The Molotov Cocktail, Stoneslide Corrective, and Solarcide.
A full synopsis and manuscript are available upon request. Intelligent vampire fans who don’t take themselves at all seriously thank you.
I stumbled upon a blog post by popular Kiwi Children’s book author – Joy Findlay – who was my special guest on Author Interview Thursday in 2013. Joy has more than 60 published children’s books and I have several of them on the Kindle app on my tablet. A lot of her books have achieved best seller status on the Amazon store.
The children’s book market is evolving and its important children’s book authors and publishers stay close to the grapevine to discover what new trends are pushing this market.
Over summer, I got an email from Amazon asking if I’d be a beta tester for their Kindle Kids’ Book Creator. Sadly, as I was on holiday and then in the middle of a house move, this was not possible. Fast forward to early September, and Amazon announces the launch of the Kindle Kid’s Book Creator. I recently read a book by Deborah Bradley that was formatted really nicely and she said it was created using KDP’s Comic Book Creator. I thought to myself that if she achieved those results with that program, It’d be interesting to see what a program specifically designed for Kids books can produce.
Joy Findlay has done an awesome job giving a step-by-step guide on how to use this new tool by Amazon and ends the post with her opinion on the advantages and disadvantages. It’s a great read and I know you’ll enjoy it. Click the link below and head over to Joy’s blog. Remember to leave a comment or question as I’m sure she’ll be glad to know you stopped by and will gladly entertain your thoughts. Enjoy.
Judy Platt is celebrating her 35th anniversary at The Association of American Publishers. The organization honored Platt with a lunch in DC today. As Director, Free Expression Advocacy, Platt heads up the AAP’s Freedom to Read Committee and the AAP’s International Freedom to Publish Committee.
In her tenure with the group, Platt has led the AAP’s advocacy work against book censorship since before Banned Books Week started 32 years ago. She has been the AAP’s liaison with Banned Books Weeks since the movement began. During that time, Platt has seen book censorship movements evolve.
“I’d say that in my early years at AAP the majority of censorship was focused on sexually explicit materials, or ‘pornography’ and efforts were made to keep such materials away from adults as well as minors on the questionable assumption that access to such materials resulted in anti-social behavior,” she told GalleyCat via email. (more…)
In my career, I’ve worked a lot with rhyming picture book texts. Not on my agenting list, unfortunately, since the market for rhyming picture books was (and remains) tough. Of my dozen or so picture book author clients, most were author-illustrators who could bring a unique art voice and sense of balance between text and image, the rest were prose picture book writers, and only one worked exclusively in rhyme. Tough odds. The rhyming one did get a book deal during our work together (the absolutely charming GOODNIGHT, ARK by Laura Sassi, illustrated by Jane Chapman), but I heard over and over again from editors that rhyming was tough.
Well, let’s leave rhyming out of it and talk about rhyming’s black sheep sister for a minute: rhythm. If you want to write rhyming picture books, I would actually argue that rhythm, not rhyme, is king of the genre. Most people get so caught up in finding the right rhyme that their rhythm is all over the place and completely sinks the manuscript, almost before it gets started. Are you writing in rhyme and failing to count your syllables? Disaster lies in that direction.
The biggest mistake people writing rhyming PBs make is letting rhyme dictate story. Why does the dog have fleas? Because it has to eat cheese in order for the rhyme to work? Wrong. You’ve written yourself into a prison and you’re going to keep sacrificing the integrity of the story just to hit your rhymes. That’s not great.
The second biggest mistake, as you might be able to guess, is not paying attention to rhythm. If you aren’t yet familiar with syllable counts, iambs, trochees, and all the other trappings of verse, it may be worth your while to get a high school or college poetry textbook. That’s right. A textbook. Because there is stuff to learn about rhythm that was so intricate that you quicky repressed it in the 9th grade. People have been hammering away at poetry for centuries and centuries. Give their hard work at least a cursory nod and study the poetic form before you throw your hat in the ring.
You could have the most beautiful rhyme in the world but if the read-aloud factor isn’t there, and it’s pitted like a road after winter, with starts and stops, your rhyming picture book will go flat. And if you aren’t reading your work aloud as you compose or edit, especially for rhyming picture books, what, exactly, are you doing?! That is absolutely essential, because how it sounds in your head probably isn’t how it sounds out in the air.
Ideally you compose for content (story) and cadence (rhythm). Those two come first and foremost. Only when you master rhythm can you even think about incorporating rhyme.
Until 11:59 p.m. (Atlanta, Georgia time) on October 20, 2014, I'll be accepting pitches for articles in the 2016 Writer's Market. Sometime in the end of October, I'll start making assignments. If you're interested in pitching an article idea or three, read on.
What I Like So, what do I prefer? The best way to figure that out is to read a recent edition or two of Writer's Market. (Order the 2015 Writer's Market here). Anyone familiar with the book will know that I'm looking for articles that will help freelancers find more success from a business perspective.
Previous articles have tackled queries, book proposals, taxes, record keeping, business management, and more. If you're an experienced source and can interview other sources, that is ideal. However, I'm unlikely to assign featured interviews with writers (as I tend to tackle those myself).
I'm also not interested in articles on the craft of writing. While I think those pieces are extremely valuable, they're just not a good fit for Writer's Market. If you're in doubt, go ahead and pitch it. Read the full guidelines to learn how.
CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS: 2016 POET'S MARKET Running until 11:59 p.m. (Atlanta, Georgia time) on October 15, 2014, I'll be accepting pitches for articles and original poems in the 2016 Poet's Market. Sometime in the end of October, I'll start making assignments. If you're interested in pitching an article idea or three-or submitting original poems, read on.
What I Like As with Writer's Market, the best way to figure out why I like is to read a recent edition or two of Poet's Market. (Order the 2015 Poet's Market here). Anyone familiar with the book will know that I'm looking for articles that will help poets find more success, including articles on business, promotion, and the craft of poetry-which is one major difference between the two books.
Here's another major difference: I'm seeking previously unpublished poems! Yes, I want article pitches, but I also want poems. I will choose between 10 and 20 to publish.
So get together your article ideas, dust off your previously unpublished poems, and start submitting. But first, read the full guidelines to learn how.
What I’d like to do is take that idea a step further and invite you into my brain. It’s fascinating to see what someone does, externally, on the daily. But what are they thinking while they do it? Well, below is what I’m thinking these days. Of course this shifts and morphs based on external situations and forces. For example, a few weeks ago I was thinking “Is summer almost over? How did that happen? I need to go on vacation, quick!” and about 6 months ago I was on the red carpet at the Divergent premiere and thinking “Theo James looks rather dashing in his suit!” But now that I’m back into the the swing of things for work, that’s on my mind most. So come on over and take a peek and what’s in this crazy thing I call a brain. These are not in order of priority. Thoughts don’t work that way!
1. What do I need to print to take home with me today? It’s Friday, and that means the weekend provides some serious reading time. I’ve been more cognizant of having a work/life balance, so I won’t take home 3 full manuscripts this weekend because it’s unrealistic and I will forget what my husband’s face looks like. I’m going to go for: 1 contract for review, 1.5 manuscripts (both which do not need line edits), and a synopsis that I’ve been working on. And yes, I still print my manuscripts. What’s it to you?
2. Where are we with XX contracts? These days contracts are taking longer and longer to negotiate with publishers. With all of the industry upheaval, each side is trying to look into their crystal ball and figure out the new and vitally important things we need to ensure are in the contracts to cover our needs. In my case, the needs are the needs of my authors. Right now I have 7 outstanding contracts on my personal list that I wake up thinking about almost every day, even if it’s just for a minute or two. Of course I have a badass contracts person handling them, but we go over them together weekly.
3. Damn. B&N didn’t take any (or very little) copies of title X. What can we do to help the book get the exposure it needs for readers to find it? I can only speak for my agency, though I know colleagues at other companies have the same worries about this. In this ever-changing industry, it’s getting harder and harder for new voices to be discovered. We’ve cultivated a Client Care program that focuses on: publicity & marketing (both traditional as well as school & library) as well as educating authors/illustrators to give them the tools they need in today’s publishing world.
4. This work is just not at the level it needs to be for me to take it on submission. This happens more frequently than I think people talk about, and not just with queried project. Even with clients I’ve worked with for a long time. We can both do a ton of work on it, but it Just. Isn’t. There. And I have to be the one to break that news. But I wouldn’t be doing my job if I was sending out work that wasn’t up to snuff with the competitive market. It would be doing a disservice.
5. This manuscript is amazing! Where am I going to submit? This is always, always going on in the back of my head as I start to approach submission time for a project. It’s like I’ll be reading and email and suddenly think “ya know who would be perfect for project X….” and I jot it down. This goes on over and over until submission time comes, and then I’ll sometimes share my sublist with the team to see if they have any thoughts or ideas to add. I love this part of the process. It’s all about sharing a great story with the right person.
6. I should tweet/FB/pin/post about that. “That” is referring to whatever awesome thing one of our clients is doing. But of course, I don’t want to be just a self-promoter online, so I also try to balance it with enough social media that’s simply for funsies. It’s a lot of work to be mindful of that balance!
7. What is the next big industry thing to happen? Of course I don’t always have a prediction here, but sometimes I do. And in either case, we’re always touching on the big items in our weekly meetings (at the very least) and how they affect our clients. Right now, it’s the Amazon-Hachette business. We have Hachette authors, and this whole ordeal has really affected their sales. This is the kind of thought that will lead me back to thought #3! And of course we’re discussing who is going to be the next publisher that will be in this situation.
8. I can’t make the email stop; make it stop! Yes, I actually have this thought. Sometimes the sheer volume of email becomes so heavy that all I can think is “stop!” At that point I usually take a walk, have a coffee, come back and plow through. But with it being so easy to stay connected these days, the workload has shifted with a heavy emphasis on email.
9. I wonder if there’s a book in this? I’ll be reading an article, having a discussion, reading a script, a web comic, watching a youtube video…whatever! And usually somewhere in the back of my mind there is something connecting dots and thinking about book potential. If I’m still thinking about it a week later, that’s usually when I’ll bring it up in our weekly meeting.
10. I need to follow up with X person on Y thing. There is a lovely app called Mailbox, and without it, I would go crazy. It will pop something back into my inbox when it’s time for me to follow up, based on a pre-determined date/time that I set. I don’t even remember what I did pre-Mailbox. I think I always had 10 or so To-do lists going at a time (I still do this a little). Either way, there is ALWAYS things to follow up on. Where are our cover comps? What’s the eta on the publicity and marketing materials? Where is our payment? Did you lock in that date with the venue? Have you had a chance to review our contract notes? How are revisions going? etc, etc. A lot of the work I do is about keeping things moving. I don’t want anything to slip through the cracks for our clients. And also, I have an amazing, godsend of an assistant who takes over most of this follow-up so I can focus on bigger picture items. Like “how many books are selling for title X?” And yes, I just snuck in an 11th thought to this top ten list!
There you have it. And that’s just the Top Ten (11)! I’d love to hear about what goes through your mind on the daily, too. Please share in the comments!
Joanna Volpe is a literary agent who represents all brands of fiction, from picture books to adult. When she’s not reading, she’s either cooking, playing video games, or hanging out with her husband and chihuahua.
Ronald Miskoff and Liz Fuerst, two professors from the Rutgers University Department of Journalism & Media Studies, have compiled a digital anthology entitled 9/11 Stories: The Children.
The stories were sourced from the 9/11 Student Journalism Project. The participating student reporters spoke with 20 children who lost a parent and 1 parent who lost a child from the September 11th attacks.
The book itself contains original interviews, photographs, and videos. The funds generated by book sales will be donated to a 9/11 educational foundation under the direction of the North Jersey Media Group.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) has hired book editor Rick Wolff to launch a line of business books. In his new role as Senior Executive Editor, Wolff will develop and edit about 10-15 titles a year. He starts in HMH’s New York office on September 15th.
Wolff comes to HMH from Hachette Book Group where he has spent 23 years publishing business books. In his tenure, Wolff has served as the Editor-in-chief/publisher of Warner Business Books and Grand Central’s Business Plus imprint. He has been instrumental in editing and publishing many bestsellers including Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad Poor Dad.
“I have long wanted to expand our business publishing here at HMH, and Rick is the perfect person to lead that effort. His experience is unparalleled, and his track record speaks for itself,” stated Bruce Nichols, Senior Vice President and Publisher at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Perhaps you’ve heard the one about a journalist who arrived at Joyce Carol Oates’ home to interview her? “I’m sorry,” said her assistant. “But she’s working on her new novel right now.” “That’s okay,” said the journalist. “I’ll wait.”
With over 40 novels written — averaging two a year — Oates makes us all look bad.
While there’s no average time for writing a novel, a decade certainly sounds like a long time. And it feels like it too. Throughout the nine years I worked on my latest novel, I worried that I’d never reach the finish line, and even if I did, readers would no longer be there to cheer me on. I was convinced that when it came to publishing, slow and steady won no races.
What gave me hope was keeping in mind some great role models: Donna Tartt published her second and third novels eleven years apart. Loorie Moore spent fifteen years between novels; and my favorite example comes from one of my all-time favorite writers: Marilynne Robinson spent twenty-four years between her acclaimed first novel Housekeeping and her second novel, Gilead.
“Maybe it’s a question of discipline, maybe temperament, who knows? I wish I could have made myself do more,” said Robinson in a 2008 Paris Review interview. “I wouldn’t mind having written fifteen books.”
“Even if many of them were mediocre?” asked the interviewer.
“Well, no,” said Robinson.
Exactly. Once I accepted the fact that ultimately what matters most is writing the book I wanted to write — a book I would love to read — I calmed down and learned to respect my own, deliberate process. Following are some lessons I learned that helped me get there:
1) It takes the time it takes. A novel takes as long as it needs to take to say the things you need to say in the way you need to say them. Worrying about arbitrary deadlines does not influence the creative process. Nor should you be concerned about “timeliness” or literary trends, which are completely unpredictable elements. My novel is set in Detroit and Lagos, Nigeria — both are places in the news now. Who could’ve planned for that?
2) Gifts from the Universe will appear: The longer you work on a novel, the more happenings in the world that can enhance your plot. For example, the Afro-beat musician Fela Kuti figures prominently in my novel. Just as I was writing a final draft, I learned that Fela had performed in Detroit in the exact year my story takes place, and that the long-lost “live” recording of that concert had just been released on CD. That information fit beautifully into my plot — a gift that would’ve been lost had I published the book sooner.
3) The story gets to marinate. Fresh ideas and plot twists will come that only time and a deep familiarity with the material can bring. With more time you get to do more research, receive more feedback, do more revising, read more widely for inspiration. Most importantly, you get to let the work sit for a while. When you return to your story with fresh eyes, you can be more ambitious with its structure or themes. Here’s a line from my journal on the eve of my eighth year working on the novel: “It’s so me, this book. And yet it’s ambitious in a way it took me a long, slow way to be.” As all cooks know, marinades deepen flavor.
4) You will not be forgotten. No one loves you less as a writer because your book is taking several years to finish; In fact, anticipation breeds excitement. On the eve of Into The Go-Slow’s publication, I am both awed and humbled by the many friends and strangers who’ve reached out to say, “I enjoyed your first book, and I can’t wait to read your new one!”
5) Time breeds confidence. Because my new novel was so lovingly (and painstakingly!) crafted, I know who I am now as a writer. Here’s another quote from my journal in 2012: ” For the ninth-year anniversary of writing this story, do this: Don’t let up. Be relentless. Let your maturity show in the form of bravery on every page. Use all this living hence to imbue the work with wisdom.” The evolving years between novels have allowed me to become a fearless storyteller.
A final thought: Think of the long-term work spent on a novel as a personal playground in which you get to slowly work through concepts — themes and characters and POV and descriptions of place, and context. That kind of free play can yield wondrous surprises. Slow-burn writing is also a great way to learn how to balance personal-life demands and the desire to just write.
Know this: no time is ever wasted. Every year you spend on your work is another opportunity to document your creative journey, and grow as a writer. Now why would anyone impose a time limit on that?
Bridgett M. Davis is the author of Into The Go-Slow, released September 9, 2014 by Feminist Press, and the debut novel Shifting Through Neutral, a finalist for the 2005 Hurston/Wright Legacy Award.
Touted by Time Out as one of “10 New York Authors to Read Right Now,” Davis is Books Editor for Bold As Love Magazine, a black culture site; her work has appeared in The Washington Post, Essence, O, The Oprah Magazine, and TheRoot.com.
She is a professor at Baruch College, CIty University of New York, where she directs the Sidney Harman Writer-in-Residence Program. She is also curator for the Brooklyn reading series, Sundays @…..
Don’t Confuse Independent Publishing with Self-Publishing
Indie, Independent and Small Press Publishing Are So, Soooooo Different from Self-Publishing, Vanity Presses and Pay-to-Publish “Publishing”
I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a zillion times: yes, dear author-to-be (and those already published), there is a difference between self-publishing, vanity presses, pay-to-publish, a small press, and independent publishing. Don’t mix them up. Don’t get confused.
She quotes Wikipedia:
The majority of small presses are independent or indie publishers, thismeans that they are separate from the handful of major publishing house conglomerates, such as Random House or Hachette. The term ‘indie publisher’ should not be confused with ‘self-publisher’, which is where the author publishes only their own books.
Defined this way, these presses make up approximately half of the market share of the book publishing industry.
This is a great article if you're confused about any of these terms. Go and check it out.
Unfortunately, I feel the term independent publishing (Indie) is going the same way so many words have already gone--Verbicide. It is used so frequently in the wrong sense that it's original meaning is becoming lost.
Today I’m really excited to welcome Laurisa White Reyes to the blog. I met Laurisa a few years back at a writing retreat, soon after her first novel, The Rock of Ivanore, had been picked up for publication by Tanglewood Press. Of course she was pulsing with excitement and we all wanted to sit next […]
We at CAT agency are so happy to help Launch the wonderfully friendly new series about the Hamster Humphrey and his Tiny Tales from Penguin Putnam! See his first two books here, and a little video about how he is created by our artist PRISCILLA BURRIS https://vimeo.com/104481200
Here’s the deal: I don’t like the fact that you have to “build a platform” these days, any more than you do. But I get weary of writers complaining about it. I get frustrated by hearing that publishers are “abandoning writers” and “bringing nothing to the table.” I know it’s hard to market your books — I feel your pain — and yet I dislike it that people saying that publishers are shirking their duties by “leaving it all up to the author.”
Publishers did not create this brave new techno-world we live in.
It is not the publishing industry that has created this society of ubiquitous electronics, Internet noise, YouTube, X-Box, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Vine, and the decline of reading. It is not the publishing industry who put a computer in more than half of all American households, allowing millions of folks just like yourself to write books they want to sell.
It is not the publishers who brought our society to a place where it’s no longer possible to “market” books the old-fashioned way. It’s not the publishers’ fault that average human beings everywhere are being bombarded with literally thousands of pieces of information every day, making it more challenging than ever to draw a person’s attention to one little book.
The fact is, publishers are doing everything they can dream up, and everything they can afford, when it comes to marketing books. They have the same limitations you do: Time and Money. But they’re coming up with new ideas and innovations all the time.
Publishing is an “old world” industry, figuring out, day by day, how to thrive in this “new world.” We all face these challenges together. We all have to figure out how to get people to want to read our words… to want to PAY to read our words. We all have to figure out how to get our books to rise above the “clutter” and get the attention of readers who are willing to pay for them.
Those of you who find yourself bemoaning that “writers are expected to do everything” and concluding “we might as well self-publish” — perhaps the self-publishing route will work out better for you. For certain kinds of books and certain authors, it’s working out great. Give it a try!
But I want to point out that publishers are still in business because of the value they bring to the table — not just in marketing but in every aspect of the editing, production, and selling of books. It is harder these days to sell books than ever before, yes, but publishers are more than just a business selling widgets, they’re entities who take seriously the responsibility of preserving and disseminating the written word. And so publishing persists, despite the challenges, despite our changing world.
Part of the value publishers bring is a sense of history, a sense of tradition and permanence. Many authors still want to be a part of that. It’s about great stories and important thoughts. It’s about legacy. It’s about a dream. People in publishing still see this dream as worth it. They’re willing to swim against the tide because publishing isn’t just a business, it’s a life, it’s a calling, it’s a passion.
To all writers who believe in the dream, who have the passion, who feel called to the legacy — I’m right there with you, and so is everyone else who has staked their livelihood on this crazy, unpredictable, totally unrealistic business called publishing. Thanks for being here, and hanging on for the ride. To those who are frustrated by the ways it seems publishing can’t meet your expectations, I commiserate with you and I apologize that things aren’t the way we wish they could be.
To each and every author, I sincerely wish the very best for you as you seek your own way of getting your book to its intended audience. I am doing my best to be a positive and helpful part of this process.
The Molotov Cocktail is self-described as “A Projectile for Incendiary Flash Fiction.” Understand I don’t usually write flash fiction, but something about the magazine: the look, the content, the attitude … I had to be part of it.
The perfect opportunity arrived when we had a garage sale two weeks ago, and I realized I hate garage sales. While sitting there, watching people dig through my belongings, I wrote an essay with only Molotov Cocktail in mind. Blessing of blessings, they accepted it.
For your deviant enjoyment, TheMolotov Cocktail presents “You Need My Shit.” (Oh, you really do.)
You Need My Shit by Sara Dobie Bauer
My husband suggested I keep my revolver in a little box during our garage sale just in case. It never occurred to me to be worried about people robbing my African statue that looks like it’s taking a shit.
Seven AM in Phoenix feels like living in a stove set to three-fifty. People show up and dig through piles of clothes I used to wear. Strange the things you remember, like how I once posed for a female friend’s camera in that corset with the red skull on the front.
There’s this one guy who shows up in a suit and tie. He laughs when I tell him he’s overdressed. He’s too friendly. I think about my revolver in the little shoebox at my side. Then, he goes into his Jehovah’s Witness spiel, and I think about the gun even more.
Diversity is a really hot topic in the Kid Lit world these days. At the recent SCBWI International Conference in LA, hundreds of people attended a panel about diversity and a chat afterward. You hear the word being tossed around all over the place, and sometimes I wonder if everyone is talking about the same thing.
Blame it on my days in high school debate, but I always like to define our terms when talking about something that could mean many things. When I think about children's books/literature, I think of diversity coming in three ways.
First, there is a diversity in authors and illustrators. From what I've seen, the Kid Litverse is full of a diverse cross section of authors and illustrators. Dozens of various ethnic and racial origins are represented. Just off the top of my head I can think of Asian, Hispanic, African-American, Native American artists in every age level of our industry. I know many LBGTQ authors and illustrators, men and women. I know some of almost any religious affiliation. Sure it could always be a higher number, which is I think where the discussion starts. It's not that publishers don't want diverse authors and illustrators, nor do they discriminate. Talent is talent. It seems to me the challenge is encouraging, mentoring, and training more people, letting them know their voices are necessary and welcomed. There are many ways we could do this--scholarships for under-represented groups to attend conferences/schools/events, mentoring programs, and contests. SCBWI is on the forefront of this, offering a wide variety of opportunities for everyone, and some special programs for under-represented groups.
Second, there's diversity in the publishing industry. As we all know, the publishing industry does not always embrace change very fast. But there are publishers out there--Lee and Low comes immediately to mind--that particularly focus on diversity in their publishing program. Plus, with the rise of self-publishing, access is there for anyone of any age, gender, ethnic or religious background. The discussion continues into the blogosphere, where there are numerous blogs and other resources where diversity in literature is the frequent topic.
Third, we're talking about diversity in the characters portrayed in children's books, and this is where the discussion can get heated, but I also find it the most interesting. White, middle-class characters have dominated children's literature for decades. But, as we all know, kids come from all sorts of diverse backgrounds, skin colors, religions, genders, sexual identities, and economic status. In the last few decades, we've seen a few more characters of color, particularly in picture books, which is terrific. And in the last decade, we seem to be getting more ethnic backgrounds represented in novels, too. I think we need more LBGTQ characters. I'd love to see more characters with metal illness, handicaps, autism spectrum syndrome, ADHD. More characters from around the world. Not just Americans with different colors of skin, but different cultures from all over.
Here's where I think things get challenging when we talk about diversity. Who's writing or illustrating these characters? Some people feel strongly that the author/illustrator come from an authentic place in presenting these characters, by which they mean, I think, that only a Native American can authentically write or illustrate a Native American character, for example. I would love to see more people writing characters from their authentic experience, but I also don't think we need to limit ourselves.
Writers and illustrators have always portrayed characters outside of our own experience. We write about historical figures, when we never lived in that time period. We write fantasy, when we've never fought a dragon. It is possible to write characters that are outside your own personal realm of experience. That's why research is so useful and important. I am currently writing a book set during WWII in which one of the main characters is a Japanese American girl. I am Caucasian, so how can my character be authentic? Lots and lots of research. I have another WIP that includes a Native American character. I may not be Native American, but I grew up in a town just outside one of the nation's poorest reservations, and I had daily interactions with Indians both on and off the reservation, so I think I have a fairly authentic grasp of their struggles and issues, even though they are not my personal struggles and issues. I am a female, but one of my latest books is in first person from the point of view of a teenage boy. Again, I live with my teenage son, so I have a pretty good picture of his male voice and viewpoint. I have written gay characters, lesbian characters, and more. Because, basically, I think there are some universalities about our human experience that allow us to imagine and put ourselves into the shoes of people who might be different from ourselves by focusing on what unites us.
To me, this stance isn't a cop out. It's an acknowledgement that an African-American author, for example, is in the best position to authentically portray an African-American character. However, if that author wants to write about a white, middle-class character, I have no problem with that. If he is a good writer, he should be able to manage it. And I think if I do my homework, I can manage to portray an African-American character if I want to. And I want to portray diverse characters. I hope we all do.
I'd love to hear what others think about this.
For more information about diversity in children's literature, check out the We Need Diverse Books campaign, which just recently announced its inception as a 501-c3 non-profit organization.
And look for our Boise SCBWI conference next April, where we plan to focus on diversity in children's literature.
Bespoke print magazines are undergoing something of a quiet-but-steady resurgence. At least, that’s the way it looks to me, admiring the works of such magazines as Cereal, Another Escape, and Smith Journal, and a few in between from afar. (I mean, if you haven’t been following what’s happening with Bristol Independent Publishers (BIP), you’re missing […]