Wednesday

More Things You Do When You Own Your Own Press...

Websites.

You get to update lots and lots of websites. There's Amazon and Barnes & Noble (which Boss does) and the other major online retailers as well as all sorts of industry sites like Bowker's Books in Print.

And then, of course, there is my own. I have finally got the CBAY Books site all prettied up with accurate covers and an authors page. Curious about what my authors look like? Click on over and take a look.

And since at the moment I'm the webmaster for the Blooming Tree site (except for the store. I take no responsibility for the store.), I've gotten that site all updated too. Make sure you hit refresh on the home page you can see the new graphic with all of our 2008 books. I'm particularly pleased with that. And as soon as Marketing provides me the copy, I'll have all our authors and links to their homes on the web on that site as well.

Now, I'll stop tooting my own horn.

Back to work.

More Trailers

Tricia wasn't the only one. Here's one for the book Dragon Wishes by Stacy Nyikos.

Tuesday

Debut Month

This month, CBAY's books debut. That's right. The very first two books to ever come out with the little Children's Brains are Yummy logo on the side will appear. The printer is finishing up with them as I write.

It's a bit scary, really.

Alright terrifying.

Whenever a book I've worked on comes out, I always have a small twinge of worry. I suspect that it's the same feeling parents have when they have to introduce their child to a new situation. I wonder:
  • Will anyone like the book?
  • Will anyone like the book enough to buy it? This is even more key when it's a CBAY book -- something I have my own money invested in.
  • Will anyone love the book as much as I do?
  • Will anyone even know the book exists?
Fortunately, I have marvelous, fabulous authors who are trying to alleviate my worries on that last one.

David Michael Slater of Book of Nonsense (Sacred Books, Volume I) fame has been working non-stop with his publicist to make as many people aware of his book as possible. In fact, he was so pleased to be selected for the ABC Best Books 2008 Catalog that he talked me into printing up stickers celebrating the fact. Admittedly, I wasn't hard to persuade.

And Tricia, who wrote The Emerad Tablet (Forgotten Worlds, Book 1) has been speaking at conferences all over the place this fall. And look at the cool video she did for her book.



My authors are the best.

Monday

NO Conference last weekend

These past few days I had the pleasure of meeting the Louisiana SCBWI when they had the Boss and me come down and speak at their annual conference. Maggie Lehrman from Abrams Books and Helen Lester of Tacky the Penguin fame rounded out the speakers. Unfortunately, I can't tell you what any of them spoke about since I spent their presentations in a different room doing manuscript and portfolio critiques. I hear they were all fabulous and insightful, but I don't even know what topics they covered. However, I can tell you all about my presentation.

I must first preface this with a little background information on how I ended up going to this conference. Originally when they contacted Boss, they wanted her and the art director to speak. Our art director had a family event last weekend, so she couldn't attend. The conference eventually decided that I, a mere editorial director, could come in her place but only if I spoke about something that would be pertinent to illustrators.

I racked my brains trying to figure out what to do. Fortunately, almost all of my critiques were standard editorial fare although they skewed more towards picture books than I normally receive. So that was fine. But I still had to write a speech that was pertinent to the illustrators, interesting for the authors, and within my realm of expertise since I'm not an art director. I started and stopped a dozen presentations. I asked other people what they thought I should talk about. I just could not figure out what my speech should be.

Finally, I realized that I know all about the art side of books after all -- don't I hire illustrators and design the interiors and covers of some of our books? Didn't I completely build the current Blooming Tree website from scratch? I know all sorts of stuff that's pertinent to illustrators. And so my presentation was born -- Book Production from a Graphic Perspective.

Friday

Banned Book Debate Hits Home

I love it when the universe organizes things for my own personal satisfaction. We're about to enter banned book week, and books are now being challenged right here in the Austin metropolitan area.

I know. Who'd a thunk?

Then I had the dilemna of where to write about it. After all, I've been running all that Banned Book stuff over at Bookpeople's kids blog, but this is a local issue, and if Bookpeople is viewed as taking a side, there could be all sorts of financial ramifications. And at the beginning of a recession, the last thing the store needs is boycott during the holiday season.

Finally, I decided to go ahead and post over there, but I added not one, but two disclaimers to stave off people verbally firebombing the store. The post and my views on the local challenged book controversy can be found here.

I'm hoping this turns into a well-reasoned debate and not people name calling. We shall see. And I shall edit those I find inappropriate.

And Austin authors: what do you think about this happening in our own backyard? I have to admit I was surprised.

Wednesday

High Fantasy, First Person Point of View

Whenever you build a secondary world, a fair amount of your book is going to necessarily be devoted to world building.  This is true regardless of whether or not you are doing a low, portal, or high fantasy.  After all, you have to introduce your world to the reader.  And the more different the world, the harder it may be for the reader to visualize.  The easiest way to describe something is to relate it to something you expect the reader to know.  This is why figurative language can be so effective.  But if you have a really different world, it can be hard to describe it to others especially if you world requires new slang and jargon.

So, most high fantasies are written in third person.  Even with a close character point of view, there's a little more room to fudge when you're somewhat omniscient.  You have to be careful, but by using figurative language and other cheats, you can relate your world back to ours.  For example, if you have genetically engineered animals in your world, but the world doesn't call it genetic engineering, you might be able to mention the term genetic engineering at some point in the narrative.  It would depend on the tone and how jarring the term is to the overall flow of the text, but at least there is a chance you just might be able to sneak it in.

This is not an option in a first person narrative (or for that matter a third person point of view that is so close that it might as well be a first person like the Harry Potter books or Lyra's portion of The Golden Compass).  In these books everything has to be consistent with the character's knowledge.  Using the example above, if the character has never heard the term "genetic engineering," then the term had better not ever pop up in the text.  The character simply wouldn't have thought of those words.  If you use them, you've broken character.

What's worse for a first person narrative (and not for a third person regardless of closeness) is that most first person narratives assume that the reader is also a member of that world.  So, there is no way for there to be references from our world because not only would the character not realistically think of them, the reader shouldn't be able to understand them.

So, if a first person high fantasy is so difficult to write why does anyone do it?

The answer is that most don't.  Most high fantasies are in the third person because ultimately in is a more natural way for the author to write.  You have more opportunity to relate to our world and an implied reader who is of our world, not the secondary world.

However, there are a few books that take on this challenge, and they do it well:
  • Homeward Bounders by Diana Wynne Jones
    Jones gets around the whole reader being a part of the secondary world by having many secondary worlds in this book.  The first person narrator jumps from world to world in his quest to go home.  Since he's supposed to be recording a record for someone who didn't know that the other worlds existed, Jones is able to explain all of the worlds.  And although the narrator doesn't come from our world (hence it is a high fantasy -- technically the book is a science fantasy) it is close enough to our own that we understand what he talks about.
  • Sorcery and Cecelia or The Enchanted Chocolate Pot by Patricia Wrede & Caroline Stevermer
    This book is set in a world that is similar to Napoleonic Britain -- but a world with magic.  The two characters are writing letters to one another, and so they assume the reader (the other character) is already acquainted with the world.  However, the world is not so dramatically different that the reader has no difficulty catching on, especially if the reader has read any Jane Austen.
  • Flora Segunda by Ysabeau Wilce
    This world is not even remotely similar to ours, and has very few, very slight parallels to our own.  In fact, at some point I decided that the setting (the Republic of Califa) is our California.  Is there any reason for me to think this?  No.  It's just my brain's way of trying to relate the world to our own.  That or the clues are so subtle that I picked up on them subconsciously.  Either way, the book's world is fascinating, and the main character jumps in with full slang from the first sentence.  There's no doubt that this world ain't our Earth anymore.

Tuesday

For the Fantasy Writers Out There

I like fantastic children's books.  They're my favorite type of kid books.  In fact, Fantasy and Science Fiction were my focuses when I did critical work in grad school.   I thought it might be fun if we spent some time discussing fantasy writing.

And I thought we'd start with the trickiest fantasy to write -- first person high fantasy.

Before I go any farther, let me define a few of the jargony terms I'll be using.  I tried to write this post without them, but it got too convoluted.
  • Primary World -- Our world.  The realistic, normal everyday world we live in.  Planet Earth.
  • Secondary World -- The fantastic world that is fundamentally different in some way from our own.  The difference could just be that it has a different history.  The world in a science fiction story that occurs on a different timeline from ours (ex. Hitler won WWII is a popular one) is a secondary world.  In a traditional fantasy like Lord of the Rings, Middle Earth is the secondary world.
  • High Fantasy -- A fantasy that takes place entirely on a secondary world.  Also thought of as "Sword & Sorcery" fantasies, they almost always take place in a pre-industrial society.  Examples include Eragon, Goose Girl, and Sabriel.
  • Low Fantasy -- A fantasy that takes place entirely on our world.  Supernatural or magical stuff infringes on our world.  Most ghost stories are low fantasy.  Some examples include the Harry Potter, the Percy Jackson, and Sister Grimm books.
  • Portal Fantasy -- The main characters transition between a primary and secondary world by some means.  In The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe, the Pensieve kids transition from England into Narnia.  The wardrobe is the portal between the two worlds.
And this is starting to become a little long.  Tomorrow:  first person high fantasy -- why it's hard and a good example

Sunday

My Banned Book Reading Report

All right. I took my own challenge. I have finally managed to read a book I hadn't read before that has been banned or contested somewhere. Before I tell you which one, I would like to point out that I've read a bunch of new books that I think will get contested or that I'm surprised haven't been contested.

So, here's my book. Drum roll, please.

Sylvester and the Magic Pebble
by William Steig.

I know what you're thinking. You haven't read this before? And it's true. I hadn't. I wasn't read to much as a kid, and once I could read not at all. I missed the whole picture book part of youth, which is probably why I don't have a lot of interest in them today. There just isn't a whole cache of fond picture book memories floating around my brain.

However, I broke away from my usual comfort zone and read a picture book. And I enjoyed it. It's a classic, award winner for a reason.

Now the text is too long for a modern picture book. Picture books are still trending to the minimal word to wordless picture book with long stories like Sylvester becoming rare. However, that doesn't make Sylvester any less charming.

I also enjoyed the change in point of view in the story. Flipping back and forth between Sylvester the stone and his parents gives added depth to the plot. After all, it wouldn't be all that interesting to follow Sylvester's month as a rock. Nowadays, though, books are more rigid in their viewpoints.

In fact, Sylvester reads more like a fairy tale than a modern picture book. I loved reading it, and I recommend it to others.

And if you were wondering why it was banned, police associations in 12 states asked librarians to remove the book because the police in it were drawn as pigs. Now, all the characters are animals, and the police are not portrayed negatively, but on the page they appear, they are drawn as pigs.

Wednesday

More Musings on Banning Books

Possibly because I've been typing up all those banned book notices for the other blog, I have become a bit obsessed with banned books and the results of banning books. One of the things I've been turning over in my head is the way banning a book impacts sales -- it guarantees them.

So, it has always seemed to me an odd paradox. If you want a book to never be read and disappear from the face of the earth, why on earth would you create a media maelstrom and loads of publicity? This drives curiosity about the book which drives sales. By telling people that they shouldn't read a book it almost always guarantees that they will.

If I had a book I didn't want people to read, I would start a word of mouth campaign telling people why it wasn't worth reading. Some people might read it, but most will assume you know what you're talking about. A negative word of mouth campaign is insidious and almost impossible to combat. If one of my friends tells me that a book isn't worth reading, I'm less likely to read it. If someone in the news tells me I shouldn't read it, I go find the nearest copy.

What I'm trying to get at, is that I don't understand the point of trying to get a book banned. It always has the opposite effect of what the banners intended, and it almost always puts the banners in a negative light. No one likes to have someone else tell them which of their freedoms (in this case freedom of the press) should be restricted.

I think we should all start a campaign for the inclusion of all books regardless of your opinion of them. Any book that makes it through the arduous publishing process deserves its place in the market. It may not be a book you like or approve of, but that just means that you weren't the intended audience.

I challenge every reader out in the kiddie-litosphere to read at least one banned book before the end of Banned Book Week on October 3. Then feature that book on your blog. If possible, try to pick a book you might not even like all that much. After all, there probably is someone out there who would appreciate the book. If you need ideas for banned books, check out my daily listings at BookKids Recommends or the ALA's Banned Books Week site.

Read. Post. Fight Censorship in all its forms.

Tuesday

International Literacy Day

I had no idea yesterday was international literacy day. How rather appropriate that I decided to devote the day to ranting about banned books on various blogs. After all, one of the joys of learning to read is the ability to broaden your horizon. However if someone else picks which books you are allowed to read, it becomes much more difficult.

However, the goal of literacy is noble all by itself. Fortunately loads of people in the kid-litosphere have decided to discuss the topic. Even better, the fabulousJen Robinson has compiled a list of folks chatting about this topic.

Have a looksee at all the great articles celebrating reading and the written word.

Monday

Ban Those Books

Now as some you may know, the slogan of CBAY Books is to publish "The Banned Books of Tomorrow." The idea behind that is my publishing philosophy. I try to publish the books that are perhaps a bit more controversial than most. You know, the books where the gods are super-humanoids not deities (Emerald Tablet) or where Adam from the Garden of Eden is a wee bit insane (Sacred Books, Volume III).

Because these are the kinds of books that some people find objectionable, these are the types of books that often end up challenged in school libraries. And with my first two CBAY Books releasing in October of this year I fully expect to see both books to have been challenged by this time next year.

But until we can celebrate my banned books, let's take some time to think of other books that have been banned in the past. Over on the BookKids blog, I've discussed the issue of banned books and Banned Book Week. Also over there, I'll be trying to mention a Banned Book a day through the end of Banned Book Week on October 3.

Join us on the other blog to celebrate those books that have been affected by censorship.

Wednesday

Where Have All the Titles Gone

There's an old (to me) folk-ish song that the Kingston Trio sings where they wonder where all the flowers have gone. In the song you learn that the flowers have gone to young girls who give them to young boys who turn into soldiers and then die in combat. I know it. It's a happy, upbeat song.

But it got me wondering, where have all the titles gone? Because of the recession, book patrons have cut their spending, bookstores have cut their inventory, and so presses (including our own) are reducing the number of books we put out a year. We're dropping our original hardcovers down from 5 that come out this year to 3 definite hardcovers. Now we have more than 3 books coming out next year, but many of those are coming out as paperback. It's what the chains want, and they are what sells better.

So, what are agents and authors doing with these extra manuscripts? Since fewer books are being acquired right now, are people just holding on to them until the market turns around?

I once read how a big name author (I won't say which one) experienced a period where he/she wasn't being offered the advances he/she and his/her agent felt he/she warranted due to a downswing in the economy. Instead of selling the books, he/she chose to hold onto them and resubmit to different publishers when the market picked back up.

What do you think about doing something like that? Would you? I'm curious to see how the recession is affecting authors. I know how it's affecting publishers, but what about you? Feel free to comment and discuss in the comment field below.

Tip of the Week 8/27/08

Tip of the Week: You can never have a manuscript accepted by an agent or for publication if you fear the possibility of rejection.

Now, that little pearl of wisdom is neither new, nor particularly unique to me. However, that doesn't mean it isn't true or valid. Lots of people do not want to submit because they fear the response. And I do understand how difficult it can be. No one likes to think that someone won't like them and their stuff. But, if you are so scared that they won't like you, you never will know if they do.

Tuesday

Agent Information

I'm constantly asked things like, "What agents are taking new clients?"

That's a valid question that I don't always know the answer to. After all, I only tend to talk to agents about their current clients, not clients they are hoping to someday have. And agent's are like editors -- they look for the stories that are going to move and inspire them. Nothing is more transparent than an agent trying to push a book they have no faith in.

Normally, I just refer people over to the GLA Blog, but today I found another link as well. Over on the Gottawrite Girl, she shares a lecture she attended at her local SCBWI conference given by Linda Pratt. There's information on the types of books she's interested in and how to submit.

Thursday

Worst Story Line Ever

So, I hear there's a writing contest out there for the Worst Story Line Ever. I'm not running it, but I can think of several Worst Story Lines I've read over the years. But I'm not going to submit someone else's work. That would be cheating.

If you would like to wow the world with your purple prose and other examples of wretched writing, go to the GLA Worst Story Line Ever Writing Contest here.

Write on, man. Write On.

Wednesday

Beachy Fun

I've been on the beach for the last few days for a little fun on the sun and a wedding. I had never been to Yelapa before, and it was a very neat little, secluded place.

I had intended to get lots of reading done, but the place had such a high, never-ending humidity, that I was afraid to get my reader out. It ended up spending the entire vacation hiding in a dry bag in my luggage. On the plus side, it still works. On the negative side, I didn't get much done.

Instead I read the first two books in Pullman's Sally Lockhart series. I had read them before, but I couldn't remember them. I also knew that I never read the third book, and I wasn't sure why.

Now I know. After reading the first 2 books, I don't feel any need to read the third book. I had it with me, and I tried to start it, but I just didn't get into it. In fact, I went and bought an adult mystery at the Borders in the Phoenix airport.

I hate that I don't want to finish the series (especially since I already bought all the books). I'm a completist and dislike not finishing what I've started. It's going to have to join the ranks of series like the Ulysses Moore series or the Warriors of even the Gossip Girls where I just didn't feel the need to read after a certain book.

What series have you not felt the need to get past the first, second, or third book?

A Good Home Library

I read an ALA list the other day that recommended books for parents to buy when building a "high-quality" home library. I talked about that list and my impressions of it yesterday on the BookKids blog that I manage.

Needless to say, I didn't like the ALA list much. Today, I compiled my own list here.

I limited myself to 5 books in each category and a whole bunch of other rules I mention in the post. Let me know what you think about the books. Of course, keep in mind that I'll be posting other staff members' recs as well. I think among the group we should end up with a fairly diverse list. So, I skewed a little fantastic.

If you do have a comment, feel free to leave it on the BookKids site. Don't post something inappropriate, but don't think you have to come back here to discuss stuff. The site's a regular blog just like this one. (And it might be nice if to the casual observer -- say my boss -- that it look like people are engaging with the blog. I'm just saying.)

Sunday

Post #301

This post here marks the the 301st post on this here blog, at least according to Blogger. I haven't actually counted the posts myself (I have a bit of a life) so I'm taking the machine's word for it.

Now, 300 successful prior postings seems like a lot to me. I feel I should get some kind of award for having come so far -- or something like that. But, when I sat back and thought about it, I realized that 300 posts actually puts me kind of far behind. When I started this, I originally had planned to try to post at least once a day. Since I've had this little creative outlet for around 2 years, 3 months, I should actually be bragging about the 800th post. Hmmm. I seem to be slacking.

But regardless, the magic number 300 has made me reflective about this blog. I've been evaluating the stuff I've been doing and the responses so that I can figure out how to make things better. I really liked how the pitch series went. I'm considering doing a similar style series/contest on queries in the fall. I hope to have all the pitch contest winners read by then. (I'm over 3/4 through, but I'll be contacting everyone at once.) Other series I have considered are:
  • First pages
  • Marketing plans
  • Series proposals


But now comes the feedback part of the evaluation. What do you all think? Is there some topic you're dying for me to cover that I haven't even thought of? Do you prefer that I start interviewing folk every now and then? Or should I start talking about books again on this blog and not just do all my book review talking over on the BookKids blog? Let me know what you think in the comments. I am definitely open to suggestions.

Thursday

Tip of the Week 8/7/08

Tip of the Week: Immerse yourself in your subject.

Now when you are writing a book that requires lots of research like nonfiction or a historical novel, you obviously have to learn all about your topic. If you don't, you will have a hard time writing a convincing book.

But even if you have written a contemporary teen mystery, you should be well versed in other books in that genre. Not only do you need to know the competition, you also need to know what others have written so that you can modify your story to keep it from being too similar.

However, you do have to be careful that you aren't overly influenced by the books you read. You don't want to subconsciously be plagiarising someone else's work. So, I recommend reading similar types of books before and after you write your work, but saving comparable works in your genre for the editing phase.

For example, if you are writing a midgrade mystery, read some adult mysteries while you are planning and writing your book. This will acquaint you with mystery conventions without directly influencing your work. Then, while you are editing, read a few midgrade mysteries to see how other authors handle issues that are unique to children mysteries as opposed to general mysteries.

Tuesday

Animated Books

There have been books based on movies. There have been movies based on books. Now authors are going a step farther by writing and animating short films based on their own books. A novel marketing idea, indeed.

The latest one that I know about would be the one done for the new Sir Fartsalot series. You can see it on You Tube here.Intended to become a viral video, Penguin and the author hope that the short will drive traffic to the author's site, and consequently, result in sales for the book.

Now, I don't know how well you can truly orchestrate a viral video. By it's very nature, people have to feel they've discovered something and then pass it on. Something that is marketed as being an intended viral video (that's how it was talked about in our store's newsletter) in my mind slightly defeats that purpose. However, I'm talking about it and passing the link along, so what do I know.

I do like how this goes beyond the standard book trailer. It has it's own self-contained plot but still introduces us to the main character. I definitely think it is more kid-friendly and kid-centric than the average book trailer. I think that any author that has the resources or technical capabilities should at least consider this as a possible marketing opportunity.

Monday

Gabbing about Ghosts

If I have a chance, I'll do a second post today about writing, but I have posted over on the BookKids Blog today. I mentioned some of my new favorite ghost books. Curious? Go here to find out what I chatted about.

Thursday

Tip of the Week 7/31/08

Tip of the Week: Characters are Real People Too

Now I haven't developed that disorder where I can't tell reality from fiction. I don't mean that I take my characters out to the movies or sit down to share a refreshing cup of tea. My characters aren't the tea drinking sort.

What I mean is that all of your characters are real within the confines of your fictional world. They have pasts, presents, and (if they aren't killed off) futures that you as their creator ought to know about. These backstories probably won't make it into your actual novel, but they will help you know how your characters react. They give you a reference point for grounding each of your characters, no matter how insignifgant or minor the character is for this particular story.

And knowing this backstory might someday provide you with a whole different story to tell.

Tuesday

Mission Name: Back on Blog

Yesterday, a friend gave me a pointed, yet subtle, reminder that I had not posted recently. And of course, my friend was right. I haven't been able to post for the past 10 days or so. But for once, I have a good excuse. I was at Spy Camp. Or to be more accurate, I was in co-charge of a day spy camp for girls aged 9-14 based on the Kiki Strike series of books. (I also came down with a mild case of flu, but that is a different story all together.)

At the camp, we spent the week trying to keep a secret treasure out of the hands of those who would loot it for their own personal ends. To do this, we had to "break into" several buildings, including the state capitol, and do a fair amount of reconnaissance. My character was the tech/theft expert and did things like pick pockets and crack encrypted messages. I also made every kid a fake Delaware ID to go with their alias. They were laminated and based on an organ donor card instead of a real ID, but the kids got a kick out of them. Here is what mine looked like:



On a side note, it turns out I'm kind of good at faking IDs. Perhaps I should give up publishing for a life of crime. It would probably involve less risk.

And should you ever discover that you need to create an alias, here are the same tips I gave the kids:
  • Use a name that is similar, but not too similar, to your own. For instance, my alias was Mattie which sounds an awful lot like Maddy, one of my real nicknames. I never once failed to turn around when someone called my name. Nothing gives away a fake name faster then forgetting that it is your name when someone is calling you.
  • Choose a friend's birthday as your alias's birthday. You need a birthday you can remember, so instead of choosing a holiday or just randomly making one up, choose a friend's. However, try to choose a friend that would not come up on a standard comprehensive background check. So, no parents or close relatives and not your best friend since you were 5.
  • Try to choose a street name and number of a place that actually exists in the town you are claiming to live in. It would take authorities that much longer to discover the location's inauthenticity.
How do I know so much about this? Well, it's not from an active life of crime. It's amazing what you can pick up from murder mysteries and shows like Law & Order and Without a Trace. I also think it's common sense.

Wednesday

Tip of the Week 7/16/08

I've probably said this before, and I know I'll say this again, but please, please, please remember:

Tip of the Week: Check a publishing house's or agent's website for the most up to date submission information.

At the very least, look at the latest edition of the CWIM or similiar publication for the information in them. Do not use an out of date copy of one of those books. It's bad enough to send stuff to publishers who are no longer accepting submissions, but it is even worse when the submissions are addressed to people that haven't worked at those houses for years. Do your research beforehand, and save yourself lots of time, trouble, and postage in the future.

Saturday

Happy Buried Editor's Birthday!

That's right! Another year has gone by, and yet again it is that national holiday, the Buried Editor's Birthday. For those of you who are new, it's a day of great feasting and celebration and occasionaly fireworks. In France they call it Bastille Day (Bastille must be French for Buried Editor), and for some reason have got the date wrong by two days. But we shall forgive them. All is forgiven on Buried Editor Birthday, especially this year. For this is a special birthday year. I'm not going to say how old I am, merely that it ends in a -0.

So, have a lovely, cupcake filled day. Hopefully the parades haven't been to much of an inconvenience on your way to the park, or shopping, or heaven forbid, work.

Friday

Question of the Week

How much are you willing to forgive edits required if you really like a manuscript? I think people have the idea in their mind an editor will only accept something if it is absolutely perfect, but if this is really the case, then how come there is so much editing done after acceptance?

If I really, really love an idea, I'll work with the author to try to bring that idea out. I've been known to have people do three or four major rewrites and then still do polishing even after that. When I have the time (so not right now), I like to work with people on their manuscripts. However, that being said, I don't actually acquire a manuscript until it has been rewritten into a fairly workable state. It may still need line editing, and it will definitely be copy-edited, but the manuscript's bones are now there. I don't acquire until then because I don't want to buy a manuscript and discover the author can't rewrite. Nothing is more frustrating then that.

Thursday

Where does the time go?

It has occurred to me that maybe one of the reasons I'm not posting quite so much on this blog has something to do with the fact that I'm now running 2 blogs at once. Yes, that's right. There are now 2 whole places where you can read my brilliant prose.

Of course, for all my musings on writing and getting published, you should stay tuned right here. But for interesting stuff I've read and my opinions on actual published books in a non-writing capacity, you will have to head on over to the BookKids blog. Yes, this is a BookPeople sponsored thing, so there will be event postings and the like that will most likely be interesting only to the people who live in Austin. But, there will also be book reviews and book talk about kid and teen books over there as well. For instance, I wrote all about my love of fantasy and Diana Wynne Jones here.

And the best part about this blog is that it will be (ideally) contributed to by people other than just me. You can read our book buyer's opinion of stuff. And really, how often do you get to read the honest opinion of a children's book buyer? (Other than on the PW sponsored blog Shelftalker, I mean.)

Wednesday

Tip of the Week 7/9/08

Tip of the Week: You can never have too many budgets.

There is just no such things. And right now I don't mean personal finances or watching your bank accounts. In this instance I'm talking about having different budgets for all the different resources you need to work on a book. For instance:
  • Time
    I don't care what the song says, time is not on your side. Between personal lives, other jobs, and that colossal time-sucking internet, there is never enough minutes in the day to write, edit, or market a book. Even if writing is your full time job and you have the discipline to sit at your computer for 8 hours a day typing away, there still isn't enough time. Because, of course, there is always a potential distraction. There are school visits to be made, and email to be answered. There are conferences to speak at, and blogs to be written on. And all of these things are important for your career as an author. You have to do them, but they take up time that you now don't have to spend, well, writing. So, make yourself a time budget (or as others call it, a schedule), and then whenever possible, stick to it.
  • Money
    Well, this one is fairly obvious, but budget your money. Unless you really and truly write for fun and never intend on trying to publish (and if that's the case, why on earth do you read this blog?), then you are professional, if unpublished, author and should treat your writing like you would any other business. And that means watching what you spend. There are all sorts of costs associated with being an author besides printer paper and envelopes for mailing submissions. There are monthly website hosting fees, potential travel costs, and promotional expenses. And have I mentioned postage? Sending manuscripts can get pricey, especially if you insist on tracking a package. Although your advance will repay and help subsidize these expenses, you don't want to go bankrupt. So budget your money, and spend it on what you think is the best investment. And always try to do as much for free as possible.
  • Plots
    Now this one probably seems a little odd. After all, how do you budget a plot? What I mean here is to not put every clever idea you've ever had into one story. There are two reasons for this. First, you probably plan on writing another book someday, and you don't want to dry up the well on your first visit. Second, if you put every clever idea you've ever had in one book, you can conceivably overwhelm the reader, thus losing the impact the idea would have had if it had stood alone. For instance, think of all the clever things Rowling did when she created Harry Potter. She made one very cool world. But if she had introduced you not just to Diagon Alley, Hogwarts, and the general wizarding world, but had also thrown in Hogsmeade, St. Mungos, the Ministry of Magic, parseltongue, and oh, by the way Harry, the reason Voldemort can't touch you is because you contain a piece of his soul, well, that might have been a bit much for one book. And then she wouldn't have had anything to surprise you with in the next 6 books.

Those are some basic things to consider when budgeting. I'm sure there are many other things you can budget as well, but these are some of the biggies.

Tip of the Week 7/2/08

Tip of the Week: Do not let pressure overwhelm you.

Last time I posted, over two weeks ago, I mentioned that I had a bunch of deadlines to meet. I'm still trying to meet them. One by one they've started pouncing on me, and one by one I'm scrambling to meet them. This has lead to a rather stressed-out me. The result is that I'm like a lidded pot that's been left on the stove. The pressure is building, and I'm in danger of boiling over.

This is not good.

So, I'm trying to take my own advice, and not let the pressure completely overwhelm me. If I do, I'll become so overwhelmed that I'll no longer be able to function at all, and then nothing will get done. Here are some steps I'm trying to keep myself from caving while under this pressure:
  • Make lists. - I know that lists can be daunting. Sometimes seeing everything that needs to be done is worse than just having everything pressing around in my head. But lists are good, even long ones. You can group similar tasks together and prioritize. And there's nothing more satisfying than checking or scratching through an item on a list.
  • Keep others updated. -- Let people know where you are on a project. That way if you need help or are running out of time, people know. They are also a lot more understanding about why you're suddenly freaking out about the temperature of your salad if they know that you have 20 pages of catalog copy due in 2 hours and only 7 pages written.
  • Do not disappear. - If you're going to miss a deadline, let people know. Don't stop answering the phone or checking email. Just because you're avoiding it does NOT mean the problem has gone away. Sure, no one is going to be happy that you've blown a deadline, but the earlier you let them know, the less upset they'll be. If you don't tell anyone and then become impossible to contact, you'll merely agitate everyone further.
While at work today I made my To Do list for the long weekend. I won't lie. It's daunting. But, there was one item on it that I think might interest some of you. I've downloaded onto my reader all of the submissions I have so far received during the pitch contest. I will start going through those this weekend. I can't promise to get through them all, but I'll get through as many as possible. I can promise to be done with all of them by the end of this month. So, don't exactly sit at home waiting for emails, but I will start contacting all of you again as I work through the submissions. Again, thank you for all of your patience.

Now, I head off to go back to being (start humming the Queen song now) Under Pressure bah dah bum bum Bum bum bum bah dee dum Under Pressure.

Tip of the Week 6/18/08

Tip of the Week: Do not let deadlines sneak up on you.

This would be an example of practice what I preach not what I do. I have let several deadlines sneak up on me and all come crashing together. It means that my postings for the next few days are going to be sporadic at best. I also won't be able to go through my pitch submissions until the beginning of July. So, thank you all for sending those winning chapters in. Now it'll just be a few weeks until I can get back to you.

Saturday

Time for Democracy in Action

I have 2 similiar covers that I'm considering for one of our fall books:

Cover 1Cover 2

Which do you prefer? Vote below.

Friday

Question of the Week 6/13/08

I admit that I'm cheating a little bit. I didn't have time to answer the actual questions I got because of the pitch contest. But I thought this particular question was germane to our current discussion. Originally it was asked over on the GLA blog. Chuck answered the question, and then I felt the need to add my own, long winded opinion. Here I've duplicated, with permission. (Chuck is very nice.)

One of (my group's writers) is co-authoring a book. She wants to know if she and her co-author would be advised to pitch this book to agents together at our upcoming conference, or if they should they pitch separately, maximizing their coverage. What should they do?

Chuck's Answer:
Depends. I recently pitched a book to an editor with my writing partner nowhere in sight. It didn't matter because I knew answers to questions. If these writers are a two-headed monster (perhaps one knows the material, the other the marketing), then they should stick together for sure. Presenting together tends to give off a professional approach. To me, at least...

If time is an issue, then you they want to split up. At our conference in LA last weekend, we had some long lines for a few agents and hundreds of writers running around. We keep the pitch time very short so the line keeps moving; but if you truly fear you will be missing face time with agents you really want to see, then split up down the stretch.


My brilliant additional two cents:
I agree with Chuck, but I thought I’d add my own perspective on the matter too.

As the editor who was pitched the book, I can tell you that Chuck is right in his case. He does know all the answers to all the questions, and if he doesn't, he finds out quickly enough. I've actually never had any contact at all with his co-writer. Everything she says comes through Chuck since he was the one that pitched the book. In this example, Chuck has become the point person for this team. Although I would love to meet the other author, it is not entirely necessary.

However, if neither author wishes to take the lead, then the two should always try to communicate simultaneously using teleconferencing or CCed emails, and you should pitch together at the conference. Everyone should have equal say in all decisions anyway, but in this case you would also want equal access to the editor or agent. If you start by pitching separately, the person who actually physically does the pitch becomes the de facto leader of the team simply by having a longer, even if by only a few days, relationship with the editor/agent.

Finally, before you decide whether or not to split up, you both need to consider your own pitch skills and styles. If you pitch best as a team with each of you bolstering and hitting ideas off one another, then pitch as a team. Also, if one of you is a vastly superior pitcher, consider pitching as a team or having only one person do the pitch. What you do not want to do is pitch separately if either one of you is a poor pitcher or if your styles of pitches are going to be radically different. You don't want to break each others confidence in one another over something as unimportant (in the overall scheme of things) as a three-minute pitch. Practice beforehand and make certain you are both confident and calm before you go pitch separately.

Any ideas of your own on this subject? Leave us a comment. I'd love to see this open into a discussion.

Thursday

So many pitches. So little time.

I have officially responded to every person who entered the pitch contest.

If you didn't get an email from the pitch contest email address, let me know ASAP.

I tried to do these as quickly as possible so that I could get them all done tonight before bed. So, that means that I had to take a few shortcuts. I apologize now if I
  • misspelled something or added or missed a word in a sentence
  • addressed your email to the wrong person, wrote the title to the wrong book, or classified your book in the wrong genre
  • sent you something resembling a form email


If I asked to see some or all of your work and there was nothing wrong with your pitch, I did indeed send you a form email. My reasoning was that I wanted to get back to everyone as fast as possible. Since I'll be looking at your work in more detail when you send me whatever I've requested, I plan to give you a more personal response at that time.

However, if I did not ask to see your work or there was something wrong with your pitch, I did not send a form email. I individually composed every single one of those messages and hopefully those of you who received them will now understand why I did not ask to see your work. In almost every instance it was because it was a book that would not work with our list for some reason. I tried to give that reason in every case.

I would like to end by saying that all of the pitches I got were good. Clearly all of them had been thought out in advance and carefully crafted. Not a single one left me at a complete loss as to what the book was about. A few of the pitches left me asking a question or two, and I passed along my comments to those authors. Overall though, these were some of the better pitches that I've ever been presented. Bravo to all 28 of my entrants.

And everyone who didn't enter, give a metaphorical round of applause to our contestants. It takes guts to present your work to a complete stranger. These folks were a brave lot.

Patience Please

I'm so sorry, but I'm not all the way through the pitches yet. I'm going to finish them tonight and email all of you then. So, although no one has complained yet, I just wanted everyone to have a status update before the panic set in.

On the up side, I finished the ARC for Stacy Nyikos's new book, Dragon Wishes. It's downright splendid if I do say so myself. And Regan did a fabulous job on the cover. Perhaps I will post a sneak peek in the next few days.

Wednesday

Juliet, oh Juliet, wherefore art thou?

If you were wanting great love advice from one of the world's most famous lovers, who would you ask?

I would want to talk to Juliet. After all she was a teen in love with a guy her parents hated so much that she had to fake her own death to be with him. Granted that didn't exactly work out as planned, but she has suffered for her love and probably has some great advice.

At least, that's what lots of people believe. Every year the city of Verona receives tons of letters addressed to Juliet asking for advice. Since the end of World War II, there's been an entire club devoted to answering those letters. And it's while they're in Verona studying Shakespeare and answering letters for the Juliet Club that the six characters in Suzanne Harper's new book, The Juliet Club, come together.



Suzanne was in the store the other day signing copies of The Juliet Club and her other teen book The Secret Live of Sparrow Delaney, so I sat down with her for a chat.

It turns out that she got to do lots of research for this book while she was writing it. Now normally you don't "get" to do research; you have to do it. But in this case it sounded like a whole lot of crazy fun. Suzanne can now:

  • Do an Elizabethan dance

  • Stage-fight with swords

  • Speak some Italian - she liked this so much that she continued her lessons.


And if that wasn't enough, Suzanne got to visit Verona in Italy not once but twice. The second trip was for four days, and while she was there, she actually had the opportunity to visit the Juliet Club and read some of the letters that teenagers have sent in.

Got a question for Juliet? You too can write her. Send a letter properly stamped for international mail to:

CLUB DI GIULIETTA - THE JULIET CLUB
via Galilei 3 - 37100 Verona
Italy



And check out Suzanne Harper and her books.

(Originally posted at the blog I do for BookKids.)

Sunday

And They're Out of There

The pitch contest is officially done, finished, complete.

Thank you to everyone who sent me in a pitch. There's just a couple shy of 30 for me to read tonight and tomorrow. I hope to contact by Thursday the folks with manuscripts I would like to see. Hopefully on Friday we'll be able to go through the winning pitch to see what did and did not work.

And speaking of Fridays, I want to bring back Tip of the Week Wednesday and Question of the Week Friday. Now, obviously I can come up with Tips, but I always need help with questions. Specifically, I need someone to ask me one.

Anybody, any question. I'm not picky.

Pretty please.

There are no stupid questions. And like my professors used to say, if you're wondering about something, someone else out there is wondering too. So, use the comment section of this post to ask me some questions. Otherwise I will be unable to fully share my broad, sage, and utterly fabulous wisdom.

Friday

Last Day of Pitching

Just as a reminder, this is the last day of the pitch contest. If you're planning on entering, remember to email the pitch in to pitchcontest@gmail.com by the end of the day. I'm excited with the number of entries. If you don't remember how to enter, scroll down a couple of posts and look at the rules. You could still squeeze one in.

Wednesday

Post-BEA

I am wiped.

There is no other word for it. Between all the walking and meetings and occasional drinks (I am not much of a drinker), I am exhausted.

Still, so much got done in one short week. For me it was mostly about meeting people. There are so many formal, informal, and social parties that are designed purely for networking, and I went to as many as possible.

So who did I meet?

So many folks I met were bloggers. Here's a few of them:
  • Chad Gervich -- Very cool guy that I met courtesy of Chuck and Brian at Writer's Digest. He has all sorts of tips and advice for those of you interested in screenwriting. In fact, if you're not tired of practicing pitches, he's doing his own screenwriting pitch practice over on his blog. Go on over and try it out. The terms are different, but the ideas basically the same.
  • Scott Ginsberg -- one of the top 100 business bloggers out there, Scott cohosted a class on blogging where I learned (but didn't necessarily utilize) a ton. I'm working on shorter sentences. Here's a picture of me with Bob Barker and the 24 hour name-tag wearing Scott.
  • Tracy from Jacketflap.com -- Whenever I speak about getting published at a conference, I always name Jacketflap as a good resource. It's a great place to network and to read editor and agent opinions. I'm syndicated there as well as all the major children's literature blogs. It's a brilliant idea and wonderful site. Here I am with some Jacketflappers including the founder Tracy.

So, I know this isn't the most extensive list ever, but hey, I'm shy and not everyone blogs. Besides, I'm not going to list every agent, editor, or scout I met. That would be insane.

Go take a glance at my new friends. I'm sure they'd welcome the company.

Thursday

Pre-BEA

Before BEA officially kicks off (and by kicks off I mean the exhibit hall with all of the freebies opens), there is all sorts of stuff for folks to do. The booksellers have an entire day of education, the authors had a whole day courtesy of Writer's Digest to hone their craft, and I'm finishing my third day of Publishing University put on by the PMA or the Independent Book Publishers Association as they're now called. It has been a fantastic few days of continuing ed. Even after several years in publishing there is always something new to learn. I've been doing P&L (profit & loss sheets -- it's one of the main ways a publisher can determine if a book is profitable and therefore worth buying) for years, but this morning I learned a new and better way to write out my P&Ls that will provide more information for more people than just me. And that was only one of the many classes I've attended.

But tomorrow, the real fun begins. First thing tomorrow morning I'll be there with the rest of the huddled masses ready to begin our day of pilfering. Those publishers have tons of stuff for the taking, and I plan on taking.

Tuesday

Final Pitch/Pitch Contest Rules

I'm in sunny if slightly chilly (in my opinion) LA about to start my BEA experience. And since tomorrow I'll be listening to folks pitch me their masterpieces, I figured there was no better time or place to talk about our last installment of pitches.

Now tomorrow I'll be participating in the Writer's Digest Pitch Slam. It's advertised as a type of speed dating for authors with agents and editors. The authors will have three minutes to pitch each of us and get our response. I'll tell you after I experience it tomorrow, but I suspect that three minutes is not going to be very much time at all. Normally at a conference you have 15-30 minute intervals to meet with the editor/agent of your choice. However, in all honesty, three minutes is about all you have to get our attention. I, and other editors, have been known to ask people if they are perhaps working on anything else when the book they are pitching me doesn't interest me. And 15 minutes can be a very long time if the author only does non-fiction, something I don't acquire. So, for the great pitch contest I promised, we're going to work with pitches that take about 3 minutes. Now since this is going to be a written contest, we're going to assume that 500 words is equivalent to 3 minutes of talking. And also since a pitch is really a dialog between the author and editor/agent, I'm going to post some questions that you should answer. This won't be a true pitch, just like making up answers for interview questions you read online isn't a real interview, but I think it will simulate it close enough. So, pretend you really are about to pitch me. After all, I'll be requesting the winners' manuscripts just like I would at a real pitch session. You've got the same things at stake. And keep in mind the stuff we've discussed before. This may be a longer format pitch, but it should still have the hooks, the main points, and the conciseness of the early pitches we worked on. Finally, I asked my friend and pitch expert extraordinaire, Chuck for some friendly advice for you pitch practicers. Here's what he said:
  1. Don't pitch unless your novel or proposal is done. If the agent is interested, it will lead to an awkward admission that your work is not done, or you say nothing and simply go home to hastily put the rest of the work together.
  2. Don't pitch a series. Pitch one book. Trust me - the talk of a series will come naturally down the road. Be patient.
  3. Stick to the main story. If you can avoid character names, don't mention them. If you can avoid telling us what race of being they are, great. The more names and occupations and races of beings and character backstory tidbits you throw in, the more convoluted it becomes. There will be a time to flesh out the details, but the pitch is not it.

All of it is excellent advice and applicable to this competition. And now for the competition itself . . .

The Buried Editor's Perfect Pitch Competition
How this works:
  1. Submit only one pitch.
  2. Pitches must be a children's picture book, chapter book, midgrade or YA novel. No nonfiction, no adult, no exceptions.
  3. Pitches may not exceed 500 words. You can go under but not over. 500 words is a lot of words. Try to go under.
  4. You must answer all of the following questions. Pretend they came up naturally in the course of our conversation about your book.
    • Do you see this book as part of a series?
    • What marketing (or promotional or cross-promotional) potential do you see for this book?
    • Have you had anything else published?
    • What do you think your main competition for this book would be? (OK, this one doesn't always come up in a pitch session but you should ALWAYS know the answer to this one.)
    • What else are you working on? (Do not take more than 50 words to answer this one.)

How to enter:
  • Email your submission to pitchcontest@gmail.com by June 6. On June 7, I will no longer accept submissions and may delete the account. Don't email me questions or anything but your pitch. Post questions in the comment section of the blog.
  • Title your email with whatever age you've written for. Ex. Picture Book Pitch or YA Pitch
  • Include your pitch and the answers to all the questions in the body of the email. Don't include anything else. I don't need a bio or a synopsis or three chapters. We're practicing pitches not queries. I only want to see pitches.
  • I know this one will seem obvious, but email me from an email address that works. I need to be able to get in touch with you, especially if you are a winner.

Prize:
The winner(s) will be asked to submit their full manuscript to me by July 1. So, don't pitch anything that isn't done. Since I am actively acquiring and sincerely looking, I will request as many manuscripts as I am interested in. There could be no winners; there could be dozens. We'll just have to wait and see. But the Grand Prize Winner with the best pitch will have their pitch posted here and analyzed for the betterment of all (pending the pitcher's approval). That way we can all see why a certain pitch worked and hopefully improve all of our pitches for next time.

Any questions? Post them here. If I've been unclear about something, you're probably not the only person who has a question.

Get those pitches tuned up. I'm looking forward to seeing them.

Friday

Wind and Hail and Rain, Oh My!

I had truly planned on getting the rest of the pitch stuff up yesterday, but a tree fell on my house the night before last, and well, this became less of a priority. We do finally have electricity, but as far as I know, the cable and internet have not yet come back. Thank goodness for work place internet. I would hate to be completely cut off from the rest of the world.

However, here is where you should pitch people. This is not going to be as comprehensive as where you shouldn't pitch. If you are pitching at the wrong time or place you'll instantly know and should stop. Even if you are in a situation that I describe below there can always be outstanding factors you can't anticipate. Remember, that like the pitch itself, the timing of your pitch needs to be flexible.

    Feel free to pitch me (and other editors and agents):
  • At conferences -- One of the main reason we go to conferences is to meet new authors and be pitched new and exciting projects. After our sessions and during pre-arranged pitch sessions, we expect and anticipate being pitched. Don't disappoint us or miss your chance.
  • During a meeting you've set up with us. If you've gone to the trouble to arrange the meeting, and we've agreed to meet with you, don't chicken out. Come prepared to pitch. The exception would be if we've arranged to meet over something else like a newspaper article on an upcoming book or for some charity. Then, it could be inappropriate and awkward for you to throw in your pitch.

Actually, now that I think about it, that's pretty much it. You're limited to conferences and workplace meetings, should you be able to make one. This is why your pitch needs to be so dynamic and well-rehearsed. You don't get many in person chances to lob your book at an editor or agent. You have to make the most of it.

Monday

Elevator Pitches Cont.

I hope you didn't think we'd talk about elevator pitches only once. An elevator pitch is the most important pitch you'll learn to make. Admittedly, the chances of you actually being in an elevator with an editor or agent is pretty slim, but this is the perfect length pitch for most situations. When you are the lucky person designated to pick up the editor/agent from the airport, this is the perfect pitch to start the conversation about your books. If you happen to end up at a table with an editor or agent at a dinner or luncheon, again, find a way to work in your pitch. Basically, your elevator pitch is your number one way to introduce (in person) your work to the gatekeepers of the publishing world. Work it in every opportunity you have although do make sure that it is at least tangentially germane to the conversation. You want to wow the agent/editor in question with your witty conversation not jar them with your random book pitch. Try to never miss an opportunity to bring your book to a gatekeeper's attention.

Now that I've whipped you into a frenzy of pitching, let's discuss the proper etiquette for pitching. After all, even the most brilliant pitch will fall on deaf ears if you are acting in an unprofessional, rude, or flat out annoying manner. Like everything in this world, there is a time and a place for pitching. Let's start with the times and places that it is never appropriate to pitch.
    Never pitch to me (or anyone else) if I'm . . .
  • In the bathroom -- No matter how public a restroom, what you do in there is (in my opinion at least) a very private thing. I don't care if I'm just washing my hands, I do not want to hear about your book. It could be an 80k word YA novel that sets entirely in the bathroom of a truck stop, and I'm still not going to want to hear about it in a bathroom. Find me in a more appropriate place.
  • In the middle of a conversation -- I know this one should be common sense, but I still have people interrupt other people so they can get in their book pitch. Let's face it. It's rude and annoying. Just wait your turn like everyone else.
  • I'm on the phone -- this goes with not interrupting conversations. Just be polite and wait for the call to end. During conference hours, a call has to be pretty important for me or one of my colleagues to take it. Let us talk to our boss or spouse or kid in peace.
  • Working -- I, like most people, do not generally wait until I'm in public to do my work. I try to find a nice quiet secluded place to hole up and get stuff done. If I'm frantically scribbling or typing or reading in public, I'm probably in some sort of terrific time crunch and can't spare a second for an interruption, not even for the book that will make my professional career. So, don't interrupt. Even if I'm polite, there's no way I'm giving you the attention you and your book deserve.
  • Working at my other job -- Okay, so obviously this is NOT a problem for most of the other agents and editors on this planet since they all tend to only have one job and work in nice offices in glass buildings where the random author can't wander in off the street and accost them. I do not have that luxury, and I find it awkward and uncomfortable to be pitched stuff when I was just trying to handsell you a book seconds before.
  • Having a personal life -- Admitedly, agents and editors are not celebrities. Most people don't know our names, let alone our faces. We are not stalked by the paparazzi and we don't get asked for autographs during dinner. But people do meet us at places and business meetings, even ones in our home town. And then there is always the chance we will run into them again. Don't get me wrong, I like to talk about books and writing and to discuss stuff with authors in my free time. I'm happy to say hi or exchange harmless chit chat. Just don't pitch me your book when I'm in the middle of a movie or at dinner with my husband.
  • Incapacitated in some way -- Let's face it, if I'm having a nervous breakdown, crying, drunk, or something, there is absolutely no point in pitching to me or anyone else in a similiar state. Generally that sort of stuff is rare at conferences but it can happen. I personally can get motion sick in pretty much every vehicle known to man including roller coasters, elevators, and golf carts. When this happens and I find myself thinking that the sweet oblivion of death cannot come soon enough, I'm probably not going to have much interest in your book.


Well, this is starting to get a little long. In my next post, I'll discuss places you should pitch.

Wednesday

Fourth Floor Kitchenware, Loungewear, and Perfect Pitches. Going Up.

Imagine you're in the elevator at a conference and a brilliant children's editor (like say me) and her handler get in the elevator too. This brilliant, amazing editor (like me) turns to you and introduces herself and after learning you are an author asks you what you are working on now. What do you do, author? What. Do. You Do.

Why, you launch into your elevator pitch, of course.

An elevator pitch is almost identical to what a bookseller does when he/she handsells a book to a customer. It's a small paragraph that teases the potential reader whether it is an editor or a 12-year-old kid to want to read the book. This is not the same as a book's jacket copy. Again, this is much vaguer than a synopsis or jacket copy. Like a one-sentence pitch you still want to make sure that you tell what the genre and audience is, but that's where the similarities end. In this type of pitch you want interesting sentences that tell more about the beginning of the book rather than the overall plot. This is your chance to make your book sound as appealing as possible in the shortest amount of time. After all, you would only have around 15 seconds in an elevator ride.

Here's a sample of the difference between jacket copy and an elevator pitch:
Jacket copy for the Book of Nonsense:
The book is ancient, ravaged and full of utter nonsense. But the moment it enters Daphna and Dexter's lives, bizarre things begin to happen. Why is their father, who found the book, suddenly so distant? Is the old man who took it from him some kind of hypnotist? Why is a giant, red-eyed boy menacing them? And what does their thirteenth birthday have to do with all this? Daphna and Dexter can't stand each other, but they'll have to work together to learn the truth about the Book of Nonsense - before their lives come apart completely.

Elevator Pitch for the Book of Nonsense:
This is my newest midgrade fantasy book, The Book of Nonsense. In it, the father of a pair of twins discovers a book that can't be read because the words constantly move. It turns out the book is magical, and that an ancient man wants it so he can control the world. After he steals the book from their father, the twins have to get the book back and save their father from the old man's spell.

This is literally the pitch that I used on every librarian at TLA when giving out copies of the reader. It must of worked because very few gave me the reader back.

Despite the similarity in length, you can see the difference between the two. The first does not work as a pitch because of all of the questions and the level of detail. In the actual spoken pitch, all but the most major plot arcs are eliminated. There is industry jargon that is unnecessary for a jacket summary. We still don't name any characters or give details of place unless necessary. But we still have enough stuff to pique interest and intrigue the reader to want to hear or discuss in more detail.

Now. let's see you try to do elevator pitches. Since this is normally a verbal not a written pitch, be sure to read it out loud to yourself to make sure it sounds good. You don't want to use words you don't how to pronounce or that you will stumble over.

I would like to say I was very impressed with the pitches and comments the last time. I look forward to seeing the same level of quality on this set.

Thursday

One sentence pitch

We're going to start small with our pitching and work our way up to the big stuff. Fortunately, the smaller the pitch the more likely you are to use it. After all, most of the time you only have a few seconds or minutes with an editor, agent, or possible reader of your book. With the exception of pre-arranged appointments, you are rarely going to have 10 or 15 minutes to just sit back and chat. And if time is really short, you may have to try to pitch your book to someone in a single sentence. For example, you go to a conference to hear an editor speak. After the session there's a huge line to speak with the editor. By the time it's your turn, the editor's handler looks stressed and annoyed and the actual editor looks a bit harrassed and overwhelmed. This is not the time to go into a lengthy discussion of your book. Instead walk up and give the editor your one sentence pitch and ask permission to send the manuscript. The editor will say yes or no and give any pertinent information on how to submit if it wasn't already covered in the session, and both of you can now move on. And trust me, the editor is greatful that you were able to be so concise, clear, and professional.

But what exactly is a one sentence pitch? It's exactly what it sounds like. It's where you have to distill the very essence of your entire 60k work novel into one itty-bitty sentence. And I do mean a small sentence. This is not the time to try to write some convoluted complex-complex-compound-complex sentence. Come to think of it, there is never a time to write that kind of sentence. You want a simple, clear, oftentimes compound sentence that tells what kind of book you've written, the intended market, and a very brief synopsis of the plot. This is not the time to get into the characters or subplots or mention the riveting plot twist on page 239. Your sentence will need to be a bit general in some respects but still show how your work is different from all the other books on the market. Here are 2 examples of one sentence pitches:

The Emerald Tablet -- In this midgrade science fiction novel, a telepathic boy discovers that he is not really human but a whole different species and that he must save a sunken continent hidden under the ocean.

The Book of Nonsense -- In my new midgrade fnatasy novel, a pair of twins must reclaim from an ancient evil a powerful book which if read could be used to enslave the world.

In both sentences, I did similiar things. I mentioned the genre (science fiction or fantasy) and the intended audience (midgrade). Had I been speaking to someone not familiar with industry terminology like a kid or parent or other potential reader, I would not have used midgrade but would have said something like "kid book" or "book for middle schoolers" or something like that. Remember to adapt your pitch to the person your pitching to. After that I gave a extremely brief synopsis. There are no character or place names. The words Benjamin and Lemuria (Emerald Tablet) or Daphne or Dexter (Book of Nonsense) did not appear. The person being pitched doesn't need to know the specifics right now. Save that for when you have more time or the person shows more interest.

Now, both of these sentences only take a moment to read, but they took forever to write. Do not get discouraged if yours also takes forever.

Now I think it is time to practice. This is not the pitch contest I was talking about earlier, just a little practice. Feel free to post your one sentence pitch and to comment on others. However, if you do comment, you MUST be kind and polite. We are all trying to help one another not show our own superiority. I will remove any comment that is rude, offensive, or just plain unkind. I look forward to seeing everyone's attempts.

Tuesday

Blockbuster Releases Coming Soon

I have gone through my TLA footage, and it is lackluster at best. It seems that the lens isn't as good on this camera. It doesn't have as wide of a range. So, although I contemplated not putting anything up, there is a priceless piece of footage with me and a plunger. I will not go into more details. I'm still editing the footage, and I hope to have it up tomorrow or Friday. You would think that less footage would mean faster editing, but no. Also I'm trying new software, and it goes poorly.

But enough about TLA. BEA is just around the corner. Time to start preparing for that. At BEA I'll be participating in a marathon pitch session where authors have 3 minutes to pitch their book to me. And unlike most conferences I attend, I will not be automatically accepting for submission anything that comes my way. I will be discerning. I will be discriminating. I will be difficult. Soooo, I thought that for the next few weeks, we could concentrate on the pitching aspect of selling books. After all, a book gets pitched many times during its life. You pitch to me, I pitch to my boss, we pitch to the chains and independents, and the booksellers pitch (or handsell) the books to the end reader. And then if a reader likes it they pitch (or recommend) it to their friends.

My plan for the next few weeks are simple. I'll talk about pitches. I'll coerce other people to talk about pitches. We'll all practice different types of pitches, and this will all culminate in a pitching contest where I'll allow the winning pitches to submit their manuscripts. I know that might sound like a lame prize, but keep in mind that Blooming Tree & CBAY no longer select unsolicited submissions from anyone except agents. Except for personally meeting us at a conference, there is no other way to get your manuscripts in front of our eager little eyes. So check back Thursday when I'm going to discuss the famous "Elevator Pitch."

Saturday

Back Again

I have finally gotten back to Austin after a day with the family in Dallas. I am utterly exhausted, so no movie tonight. We'll see what I manage to get up after work tomorrow.

Friday

End Days

We've come to the last day of TLA. I'm actually here in the convention center at the Maximum Ride Internet Room. Yep, that's right. Even something like the Texas Library Association manages to find corporate sponsorship for their stuff. No one is immune. I would like some corporate sponsorship for my corporation. It seems unlikely.

I was to tired to list the readers I was excited to get, but I've got a few moments until the exhibit hall opens, so I'll do it now.
  • Skulduggery Pleasant 2: Playing with Fire -- I'm not a big fan of sequels. I often love the first in a series only to be vaguely disappointed in the second book. Sometimes the third book redeems the series, sometimes it only makes it worse. However, in the case of Skulduggery 2, I liked it just as much as I liked the first book. The tone and voice are still just as witty and sarcastic. I actually found myself grinning on the train last night as I commuted back last night. I rarely make an expression while reading. And the story itself was still an exciting fun read. So, look for the book when it comes out. Atrocious new jacketing aside, it's going to be a fun book.
  • Hunger Games -- Collins Gregor the Underlander series (I forget the actual series title) would be an example of a series that fit the usual excellent first book/downhill from there series. Still, I know she can write a good first book, so I grabbed her new one, Hunger Games. Much to my glee, it's a science fiction real game story - kind of a survivor TV show with more violent outcomes. I read 80 pages on the train this morning, and now I don't want to man my booth but sit in a quiet little corner somewhere and finish the story.
  • Madapple -- This reader has been floating around for a while. It's apparently a brilliant but disturbing book that no one knows what to do with. I'm dying to read it.
Those are my top picks of readers, the ones I was most excited to find laying around for the taking.

But now it's back to Blooming Tree and our own books. This last day is only a half day, thank goodness, traditionally with a lot of last minute sales and networking. I have to say that contact-wise, this has been my most productive TLA yet. I met an author who is now going to work up a chapter book series proposal for me, and even some poetry that might be coming my way. I'm so pleased, that chills are running down my back. Or it's still just insanely cold in here.

Wednesday

TLA (Throughly Local Awkwardness)

Today the festivities began. The exhibitor hall at TLA (Texas Library Assoc. conference) officially opened and the attendees flooded in to visit the booths and snag as much free stuff as they could carry in their 4-9 canvas bags. Actually, they more trickled than flooded. The mass surge witnessed in last years TLA vlog was singularly lacking. In fact TLA has been in all honesty a wee bit dull this year. Of course constantly repeating the spiel: "These are our free readers for this season. On this side is our midgrade fantasy, and on this side our midgrade science fiction. Both will come out in October. We do picture books all the way through young adult. Here is a copy of our 2008 list. The full catalog can be found online." -- becomes soul sucking after a while. But I do that every year when I man a booth whether it's at TLA, the Texas Book Festival, or somewhere else. That's the nature of the beast. No, this year there just aren't all that many exciting readers to grab from the other houses, and the attendee enthusiasm seems to be lacking as well. Maybe they're all just tired before they wander to our booth, or maybe it's Dallas sucking the life out of them. It's hard to tell.

But the result of all this (and my lack of sleep -- those books didn't come until 8:15 last night) means that the footage I got for my blog is less than stellar. I think I can safely call it blah. So, in the hopes of getting better stuff in the next few days, I've decided that I'm going to do a composite video of my whole experience instead of a day by day account. Trust me. This will be better for us all.

Tomorrow instead of a video, I'm going to chat about the readers I am excited to have grabbed.

And speaking of grabbed ARCs, over 400 Emerald Tablets, all I brought in fact, were grabbed today, and all but 40 of the Book of Nonsense (I brought over 500 of those) were snatched up. We think that sets a Blooming Tree record for first day TLA. Great job PJ and David! I'm so excited that people are showing interest!

Tuesday

101 Best Websites for Writers

So my friend Chuck just sent me the funniest email in the world. Apparently in the most recent Writers Digest magazine, they list, in their opinion, the top writing websites, and this little blog is listed -- as an agent. So, needless to say I'm tickled pink that someone over there (not Chuck) thought my blog worthy of mention. BUT, I am over the moon at the thought that this person didn't pick up on the fact that I'm an editor, not an agent. I was so excited, that I had to read the email to my husband. He did not see the humor.

"Aren't they basically the same thing?" he asked.

Sigh. Some people can just be so naive.

Personally, I would have thought that my screen name, Buried EDITOR, would have been a dead giveaway, but what do I know. And since submitting to an agent is almost exactly the same as submitting to an editor, all the same rules apply. If you're stumbling on to this blog thinking you would be reading an agent's musings on writing, then I hope that you still find something of use.

And if you want to see the sites Writers' Digest chose last year, click here. I have it on great authority that this year's sites won't be put up for a few weeks. I wonder if my site will still be on it, and if so, where it will be placed. Any gueses?

On the Road Again

That's right guys and gals, it's that time of year again. The one, the only, exciting TLA begins again today. The other Blooming Tree folks are already in Dallas unloading and setting up our booth, but I'm still here in Austin waiting for the Emerald Tablet ARCs to arrive so I can chuck them in my car and leave. Then I'll be on my way to the big-D-little-A-double-L-A-S. And in case you were wondering, I will be documenting this again this year with a less than exciting video montage. Stay tuned. The Buried Editor is going multi-media.

Monday

Another One Bites the Dust

Wow, a whole month has gone by since I've last had a chance to post. I can't believe it went by so quickly. April seems to be just cruising by too. I can't seem to catch up!!

But I have been busy and productive. I haven't been slacking off these past weeks. I'm crazy excited because the second CBAY book, The Emerald Tablet, by P J Hoover will be coming back from the printers at the end of this week. There was a minor crisis this morning when they discovered an extra dash in the ISBN. However, no one I know actually types any dashes when entering an ISBN, so I made the executive decision that all was well. This way, I still get them in time for TLA.

Speaking of which, TLA is now around the corner. If you're going to be in Dallas next week, get an exhibitor area pass and come see me at the Blooming Tree booth. We'll be giving away lots of CBAY readers and selling the BTP books dirt cheap. Also, a panel of our crafty writers will be speaking on multiculturalism. I hear it's going to be a good time had by all.

Finally, I'm in the works on a new exciting project that I can't talk about until I have the details finalized with my co-conspirator. But as part of that project, I will need to write a book proposal. Now I realize that book proposals are relatively rare in the children's fiction side of publishing that I normally focus on, but they are common in adult writing, especially the non-fiction market. So, should you ever find yourself in need of a book proposal, I have compiled a handy-dandy checklist of things you should include. Since I don't pretend to be an expert at all things book proposals, I used the handy book Bestselling Book Proposals by Rick Frishman and Robyn Freedman Spizman as a reference. The book was a simple, clear how-to guide. If you ever need to produce a book proposal, I highly recommend reading their book.

And once you have that proposal all ready, head on over to the bestest guy ever, Chuck's blog, and learn how to find yourself an agent to represent it.

Well, I have an editorial meeting that I must go prepare for. It's also the last night for one of my editors. They all grow up and leave the nest so soon . . .

Saturday

45 Seconds of Fame

Some people get 15 minutes, but I revel in my 45 seconds of fame. This morning between 7-7:30 AM, much to early for normal humans to be awake, I was on the news talking about one of my favorite books to handsell, The Night Tourist. Since I didn't manage to get up this morning, I can't confirm that it actually aired. But I did film the segment yesterday, so I will just assume that I am now an Austin celebrity.

Friday

More Definitions for Your Viewing Pleasure

Acquisitions editor - (n.) an editor with the ability to submit book ideas for publication to the publisher. I (Chuck) am not an acquisitions editor, as I edit and update three directories each year. Coworkers, however, are acquisitions editors, and can take pitches for books in the Writer's Digest Books imprint. I (Buried Editor) am an acquisitions editor, and take pitches at conferences for children's books.
(Similar, but not the same, is a submissions editor, which is a more common term in magazines. A submissions editor on staff will review all queries that come in.)


Board book - (n.) a small format picture book for children under the age of three. The book is printed on thick cardboard like paper that is impervious to ripping and baby drool.

Clips - (n.) In journalistic terms, a sample of a writer's published work, usually from a newspaper or magazine. Editors often mention that clips or clippings should be mailed or e-mailed when an author queries them with an idea.

Comp copies - (n.) free copies of a book that an author receives from the publisher. The number varies from deal to deal. Comp copies are also sent out to authorities on the book's subject so they can provide positive testimonials or blurbs for advertising copy.
(I, the wondorous Buried Editor, have never referred to them as comp copies but as Contributor Copies or Author Copies. See, we can all learn something new.)

Denouement - (n.) French for an untying. The denouement of a novel or story follows the climax; it represents the unraveling pf the complexities of a plot, and the clarifying of the story's details and misunderstandings.


F&G: stands for Fold & Gather - (n.) The picture book version of a galley. They are not bound but show the picture book in all its four-color glory. It's then sent to reviewers and the like.

MS: stands for Manuscript - (n.) The typed, double-spaced, in-a-standard-font version of an author's work submitted to a publishing house.

PB: stands for Picture Book - (n.) A book for younger children that has sparse text and big, colorful (or occasionally black and white) pictures. Generally they have 32 pages. They are more difficult to write than most people realize, and despite a recent microscopic turn, the market for them has been sluggish at best for a while.

Tuesday

As you may have noticed, (or if you're seeing this someplace other than blogger you probably haven't) I have a list of important publishing terms and my own unique definitions on the side of my blog. However, there were several important terms I overlooked, so my friend Chuck over at The Guide to Literary Agents and I are compiling a new, more comprehensive list. The ones in normal print are mine, in italics are his. Chuck's are also slightly more serious.

The Buried Editor & GLA's Irreverent Literary Definitions, Volume 1:

To Acquire - (v.) The act of accepting a manuscript for publication. A work is not officially acquired until the contracts have been signed. Until then, it's in the process of being acquired.

ARC: Advanced Reading Copy - (n.) A bound copy of a book given to reviewers, booksellers, and other interested members of the industry for the purpose of creating excitement prior to the release of the book. Although these are not the final copy, they tend to be pretty damn close with cover art and some interior illustration. Although not the same thing as a galley, the words may be used interchangeably.

Galley - (n.) A bound version of just the text of the book (or article, if writing for magazines). There is little to no illustrations and the cover is a solid color with release data printed on the cover. Used for the same purposes as ARCs.

IRC: International Reply Coupon - (n.) International postage so that countries who don't use American currency stamps can mail back your submission and/or notification of rejection.

Sic - Latin for thus or so. Usually [enclosed in brackets] or (parentheses), sic is inserted after a word, phrase or expression in a quoted passage to indicate that the word or phrase has been quoted exactly as it was written, even though it may seem strange or incorrect (e.g., there was a spelling error in the quote).


Slush - (n.) Unsolicited manuscripts submitted to a publishing house. They tend to accumulate into mountainous piles.

Stet - Latin for let it stand. Editors and proofreaders place the word stet in the margin of a manuscript to indicate that a marked change or deletion should be ignored, and the copy typeset in its original form.

Vet - (v.) A term used by editors when referring to the procedure of submitting a book manuscript to an outside expert for review before publication. A manuscript is usually vetted at the publisher's expense.

Monday

The Old Days

I just finished reading Charles Shields new book I am Scout, the teen adaptation of his adult biography on Harper Lee. Although I found it fascinating, I think it's a bit dry and dull for younger kids but good for older readers and adults uninterested in reading the full version. It's what I consider to be a good biography. There aren't any made up conversations or imagined scenes, just good old fashion research and documented quotes. It's the kind of biography I wish was written more often for kids.

The thing I found most interesting in the book wasn't the fact that Harper Lee grew up next door to Truman Capote or that she was instrumental in helping him research In Cold Blood. No, I found her relationship with her editor to be the most fascinating part. I know that this was much more common in the past then now, but Harper had a very personal relationship with her editor. They worked together for 3 years editing To Kill a Mockingbird. Harper used to spend weekends at her editor's summer house to escape New York City. They were close friends, and her editor nurtured both Harper and her writing.

Now days I don't think anyone, even the writers and editors living in New York, that have this kind of relationship. No one, certainly not the editors in bigger houses with their firm deadlines (as opposed to my looser ones) can afford to contract manuscripts that require 3 years of rewriting. I simply can't start from scratch with an author. I can't simply say that this person writes well and may someday develop a story. No, the book has to be fairly far along and require little major input from me. It's why editors prefer agented manuscripts. They just tend to be farther along. Even with authors that have sent me drafts in earlier stages and that I feel I've somewhat nurtured, I know that I haven't had the same impact on their lives and writing that Harper's editor had on her.

In some ways this makes me sad, but in other ways I understand the necessity. Publishing is still a business, and business decisions have to be made. Books that are interesting, but just not there have to be passed on for books that are ready and marketable. I wish that I could spend leisurely weekends discussing children's literature with my authors here in town, but I work in a bookstore on Saturdays, and my authors have other lives as well. Very few of them are full-time writers. And though I may lament it, I don't think the good old days of writing are coming back. Tony Randall in the movie "Down with Love" has an excellent line right after Renee Zwellger book becomes an international bestseller. Although I may deplore the sentiment, I still can't help smiling at the truth of it. Tony congratulates Renee and tells her that her book is a prime example of why they all went into the book industry in the first place -- for sales.

Friday

Innovation in your submissions

I thought I'd take a moment to remind everyone of the places where it's good to have innovated, creative ideas in the stuff you submit to editors & agents:
  • In the text - Great new ideas for characters, in plots, or in settings. There's nothing more exciting than a brand new style of story, as long as it makes sense.

  • In the marketing plan - Now, you often don't need to submit a marketing plan with your submission, but if someone asks to see one, here is an excellent place to show your creativity. Postcards and bookmarks are great, but everyone does them. If you have a great, practical idea for getting your book in the public's eye, then now's a great time to tell us.

  • In your pitch - Like anything, you want to have an eye-catching, interesting pitch when you go to sell your book. You should be able to describe your project in one interesting sentence.


Places you should not show creativity in submissions:
  • Submission packaging - Send your submission in a normal envelope or box with the submission bound by a rubber band or large binder clip. Do not use ribbon or string to tie up your manuscript. Knots are a pain to deal with. And don't wrap your submission like a present. I've had more than one submission sent to me in wrapping paper. It's unnecessary and just adds another layer between me and your work.

  • Submission formatting - I know I've said it before, but double-spaced, standard 12 pt font (Times, Arial, etc.), one inch margins. Don't deviate.

  • Submission spelling - This is a pet peeve of mine. I don't read phonetically so sounding out words can be an absolute nightmare for me. Jim's dialogue in Huck Finn was incomprehensible. Spell stuff the normal way. This isn't the 1600s. We have standard spelling now.


I just thought I'd share this friendly reminder. We recently had an influx of creativity in strange places.