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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Va Festival of the Book, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. Virginia Festival of the Book

Next week I will be packing up the car and heading south for the Virginia Festival of the Book. It takes place in my hometown of Charlottesville, so it's always a mix of visiting friends and family, visiting schools, giving book talks, and enjoying an early dose of spring. In the past I've flown down. But this year Bruno and Tilda will join me and given the mountain of stuff a traveling baby requires, we decided to drive. I am mildly terrified of 10 hours in the car with a toddler, but very excited about the festival.

This year I'll be visiting 5 schools (including the first elementary school I ever attended!), giving a couple of weekend events, and will be interviewed on the local news. I grew up watching my hometown news, so that will be an extra thrill.

If you are in the area, the festival is well worth checking out with hundreds of events around town. But most especially, come join me if you can for these gatherings:

Making a Picture Book with Anna Alter
Sat. March 24th, 2012 - 10:00 AM

A StoryFest Event! Anna Alter shares her latest picture book. Children learn how a book is created from start to finish and then participate in their own art project. Original artwork from Anna's books will be on display. Anna's own books available for purchasing and signing.

CitySpace--Charlottesville Community Design Center
100 5th Street NE

Book Signing at Alakazam
Sun. March 25th, 2012 - 1:00 PM

Author and illustrator Anna Alter shares her book A Photo for Greta and an art activity with her Alakazam fans.

Alakazam Toys and Gifts
100 E Main St

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2. Virginia Festival of the Book

I am just settling back into Boston after a lovely in week in Charlottesville (my hometown) at the Virginia Festival of the Book. It wasn't quite as warm as other years, I didn't get to wear flip-flops like last year, but we did hit 70 on Wednesday! And I got to see some flowers in bloom before returning to the arctic north. Here is a little preview of spring for those of you weathering March in New England:

I was especially pleased to see these, clearly someone had an advance copy of What Can You Do with an Old Red Shoe?:

The festival itself went great! I visited three head start programs, two elementary schools and met the most delightful librarians. On Saturday I threw an event open to the public at an art center with my mom, a local art teacher. The response was overwhelming- families began arriving half an hour before we planned to start, and quickly filled the room! As most authors will attest, its pretty challenging to draw people out to book signings these days, so I was really quite thrilled to see such a crowd. I was lucky enough to have my dad the photographer there taking pictures, he got this great shot of the room during my talk:

I began by comparing my very first book to my most recent, then went about explaining all the steps in between:

I finished by drawing some of the characters in RED SHOE:

Then invited kids to come color them in, which was a big hit:

After the talk kids rushed our recycling craft table, grown-ups had a peek at the original art for the book and I busily signed books and chatted with folks. All in all a great day! Its going to be a lovely spring.

3 Comments on Virginia Festival of the Book, last added: 4/6/2009
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3. Nonfiction Monday: My Unseen Books

I write a lot of work for hire books. Last year, I wrote about 15 of them, including 10 poetry collections and 4-5 nonfiction books, in addition to testing passages and other shorter projects.

I'm used to not having any control over how the book looks. I write the words, other people create the book using those words, and that's that. And I'm okay with that.

What I'm not okay with is the fact that sometimes, when writing for packagers, I don't even get to see the book!

The first thing I noticed is that, even when writing directly for publishers, if I'm writing leveled readers, I usually only get 2 copies of the book instead of the standard 10-20 copies I get for most other projects.

But then, as I've worked with several packagers over the past few years, I'm having trouble even getting 2 copies on some projects. I have two books in particular that I've been trying to track down. One of them, I've been told by the publisher (after the packager said she was having no luck getting any copies for me) that I'm welcome to order my own copies from customer service. After I check my contract to make sure it doesn't include any author copies, I guess I'll do that. I had searched the company's website and because my book was part of larger reading comprehension kit, I couldn't even find individual books listed.

The other one, I've emailed the packager repeatedly, and the project manager has just said she's getting no response from the publisher. It's a large publisher with many imprints, and, again, I can't find my book specifically. Again, I need to check my contract before I decide what to do next.

For packagers and for leveled readers (and I'm often doing leveled readers for packagers) I had gotten at least a couple of copies, even when it wasn't in the contract. But now that I'm seeing a pattern develop this past year, I'm going to make sure I carefully check the contract for author copies. And if it's not there, I'm going to try to negotiate it into the contract. 

Not only does seeing the final book give me satisfaction (hopefully!), it also helps me evaluate the quality of products being put out by a certain publisher or packager. That helps me to decide whether I should write for that company again. I don't want to write a bunch of books that get produced so cheaply or poorly that I'm embarrassed to have my name on them!

So, the hunt continues for my two most recent orphan books, one about earthquakes and volcanoes, and another about homelessness. And I really don't have time to mess with it!

Have you guys encountered the same thing? Has anyone been able to put this into the contract?

Check out the Nonfiction Monday roundup later today at Anastasia Suen's blog! 

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4. Choosing an Agent versus a Packager

I have a book idea, a self-help feel-good book, with a line of products. I am not a writer, so I am not familiar with this industry. I have obtained much information from your site, I just found out about book packagers, but am still in need of a direction. I believe I need trademarks, etc. The line of products compliment the book, and visa versa. My vision is enormous. I was researching the team that put together The Secret, but Beyond Words Publishing only want to hear from agents. It's still just an idea, but I have this burning desire to try and bring all this to fruition. Do I contact a book packager with this idea? Do I need an agent? Do I need an investor? Any advise would be helpful.

If you are writing nonfiction it never hurts to think big-picture and imagine the products, calendars, and other merchandise that can go along with your book. In fact, that’s why an agent can be so important, by negotiating a contract that allows you to control all of those possibilities when the time comes. However, this is not the job of a packager and not necessarily the job of the publisher. Let me explain each role a little bit further and then explain how these products based on books come about.

Typically a packager is an idea generator. Usually they come up with their own ideas in-house and approach licensees to put their name on a project. The ASPCA, for example, has a guide to dogs. I would have to check the book, but I would bet that’s a packaged product. In other words, someone approached the ASPCA about their idea, hired the writers, photographers, and designers, and sold what was essentially a finished product to the publisher. This contract probably did not include things like calendars or pads of paper since that’s something the ASPCA might want to pursue on their own.

In some cases packagers will approach a company to do a small line of products that are sold in bookstores. They might approach a blog like (I’m making this up, folks) BookEnds, for example, and ask us to put our name on a mini-writing kit or the copyeditors cards. Again, they would do most of the work, while we would supply them with the known name.

What you are looking for, however, is a literary agent. Rarely, very, very rarely—in fact, I could probably say almost never—does a book sell alongside all of the merchandise ideas. The Secret, The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook, or even Chicken Soup for the Soul, whether packaged or agented, were only dreamed up as books first. Once they took off and had the successes they did, merchandise followed. No one would have ever bought the calendars, games, or other merchandise for any of these titles had they not been bestsellers first.

So my advice to you is to start slowly and build big. Your first task is to write an amazing book proposal, find an agent and a publisher, and sell the heck out of it. Once you’ve made that book a major national or international success, you can easily move on to products and the other merchandise ideas you have.


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5. Trip to Virginia

I've just returned from a week in my hometown of Charlottesville, Virginia doing school visits for the Va Festival of the Book. This was my second trip down for the festival. Its fun for me to attend because not only do I get to visit schools in the neighborhoods where I grew up, but I get a little dose of spring before it arrives here in Boston.

In Charlottesville the daffodils are in bloom:

The forsythia is bursting yellow all over:

And the friend's house where I stayed sits next to a fully blooming plum tree that floats tiny pink petals all over place:

Ah, the good life. Sitting on porches on warm afternoons, waving a lazy hello to the neighbors. I can't say I was thrilled to return to the grey cloud that is Boston in March.

When I wasn't staring wistfully at the flowers and trying to soak up as much sun as possible, I was touring around local schools and doing my school visit presentation. I think this is the most public speaking I've ever done in 3 days. I visited 5 schools and gave 14 talks to more than 1000 kids.

The last day I was there was the most intense... on Thursday schools were closed due to a bizarre incident on the highway that runs through town. Charlottesville is a pretty peaceful place so it was fairly shocking that someone would sit on the side of the highway and shoot at cars. Fortunately they caught the guy pretty quickly, he was caught on video shooting at a bank awhile back, in a bright orange Gremlin. Did he want to get caught?

Anyways, as a result of the schools shutting down when I was supposed to visit them, I needed to fit two days worth of visits into one. I began on Friday at 8 am and gave 2 presentations at one elementary school. I hopped in my car and drove to a second school and gave another. Then I drove back to the first school and did 2 more talks. Then finally to a third school where I gave one more talk. Normally I don't do more than 4 talks in one day, it was a marathon for sure!

I was greeted by enthusiastic librarians who did a phenomenal job of prepping the kids (so important). One in particular went above and beyond decorating the school before I came:

I don't have many shots of the larger groups I visited, but here is one of me (midsentence of course, ha, pics of me talking are always super nerdy) visiting a Head Start program. This was my first time visiting Head Start, and was a fun reminder of my preschool teaching days (the kids are SO tiny). Here I am making a drawing with some 4 year olds, they came up with this character which they named Tina the Turtle:

Favorite quote from the week:

Me: "Does anyone know what happens when a book gets published?"
First grader, in a sweet southern accent: "They fancy it up!"

2 Comments on Trip to Virginia, last added: 4/3/2008
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6. On the Road Again and Nikki Leigh

I know, my authors are groaning again as well, "You're sick." and "You need to rest." are their favorite sayings right now, but I have to tell you, a little bit of heart failure is not going to keep me from selling books and seeing old friends.

I am excited about this weekend. It will be my first time at the VA Festival of the Book. Katie Hartlove (Erotiqué Press) and I will be heading in on Friday to get ready for a day of selling books on Saturday. You'll want to check us out; we will have some really AWESOME deals. I'm just saying.

But I am mostly excited because I will get to see and chat with one of my favorite people again. I met Nikki Leigh online several years ago and she has become a bit of a role model for me. She is not only a great author, but an excellent business woman, a promotional guru, and a pretty neat gal. That's right, I said it.

Nikki does something that few can, she writes non-fiction that teaches and entertains at the same time. What she teaches is marketing and promotions for authors, as well as business techniques for everyone. I was fortunate enough to be featured, not once but twice in her book 365 Foolish Mistakes Smart Managers Make (w/a Shri Henkel).

Nikki is one of those people who welcome you into her world and makes you want to stay and learn. I am currently reading an advanced copy of her upcoming book Book Promo 201. It is captivating. Not a word you usually hear where non-fiction business books are involved, but it truly is. My Palm T/X and I have bonded over the last couple nights with this book and we are both very happy. We love this book.

If you are an author, or a business person, you need to look into Nikki's books. She makes learning ainless. None of like to admit that we don't know what we are doing, but I will say right now, that before I started reading Book Promo 201, I thought I had it all going on. But I have learned so much throughout the pages of this book.

This isn't just for authors. If you have ANYTHING to promote, Nikki is your gal. Check back in a couple days for my official review. This was just random praise.

If you are in the Charlottesville, VA area on Saturday March 21, 2009, you should look Nikki up and tell her I sent you. Then after you talk to her, come on over to the Echelon Press table and take advantage of our great deals.

Karen Syed

9 Comments on On the Road Again and Nikki Leigh, last added: 4/6/2009
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7. What Is a Packager?

I knew the time would come when eventually someone would ask me to explain what exactly a book packager is because, yes, when Jacky and I originally started BookEnds we began as packagers, and so many of you let it slide for so long that I guess it’s time I explain what that means.

Book packaging—sometimes referred to as book producing—has been an integral part of publishing almost since the beginning of publishing time. Just like writers need agents, publishers need packagers. Packagers essentially make a very complicated book project easy for a publisher to take on.

In some ways a book packager is a mini publisher: they do everything a publisher does with a book except distribute, sell, market, and publicize. A packager’s primary job is to make complicated books easy for a publisher to publish. In other words, the packager takes on the responsibility of editing, designing, hiring writers, getting approvals, and finding artwork for a book. While many packagers deliver books to publishers only when they are printer-ready, others work to put the project together but still rely on the publisher for final editing and design. Obviously how much a publisher pays for a book will determine how much work the packager is required to do.

One perfect example of a packaged product is New York Public Library Desk Reference. Just one of the many reasons why this is a prime example is that it’s a licensed book. In other words, because you’re putting someone else’s name on the book you’re going to be required to get approvals and permissions throughout the process. A royal pain for anyone, and especially a publisher, but something packagers do very well. While I don’t know the intricacies of how this particular book was packaged, what I can surmise is that when Stonesong Press packaged this book for Macmillan Publishing they took on all of the responsibility for hiring authors (in this case contributing editors), designing and editing the book, obtaining necessary artwork, and getting all permissions and approvals from the New York Public Library.

Most projects sold by a packager are sold on proposal alone. An agreement has already been reached between the packager and the licensor and a proposal is put together by the packager’s editorial team. Writers and illustrators are only hired after a publisher’s contract is in hand. Once a deal is made the packager will know exactly how much money (based on the advance they received) they have to hire the team necessary to create a great book. Rarely do authors writing for packagers receive royalties. Usually the advance is divvied out, almost in totality, to writers, illustrators, and designers, and royalties are reserved for the packager and licensor.

To learn more about packaging you can go to the American Book Producers Association web site, and for some interesting tidbits on packaged books . . . many R. L. Stine titles, The Pill Book, a series of books based on the television show Charmed, almost any desk reference you run across, and Backyard Bird Song.


9 Comments on What Is a Packager?, last added: 9/10/2007
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