Thursday, July 31, 2008

Going to Market!

...But I know I'll be a book some day
at least I hope and pray that I will...

All this week, we've talked about how a story becomes a book. And now that we've got the book made, we need to sell it... and that's where Jennifer Laughran comes in.

Jenn... you wear three different hats in the book world (Jenn is also an associate agent at Andrea Brown Literary Agency), but today we want to know about your role as a "gatekeeper". You're a buyer and events person for Books Inc., one of the bigggest and best indies in the country. And that means you help decide what the store will carry, and what it won't. I guess what we all really want to know is how you decide what to buy? We know the publishing houses send sales guys (and gals) out to the stores, but how do you pick your books when there's so much to choose from?

Larger publishers send the buyers a lovely sales kit, full of catalogues, marketing materials, ARCs, etc. The buyers paw through them. The sales rep comes to visit. We go through the catalogue page by page with the sales rep, looking up info about each title as we go. For example, what numbers past titles by the same author or on the same topic or in the same series have done. We then use those numbers, combined with the spiel the rep gives us, to decide how many of each title to get, and what to skip. The reps know us and our stores needs very well, and are a tremendous help. They are not just trying to be "boosters" -- the best reps are very very honest about what they think will do well for us, and we trust them.Smaller pubs, we just go through the catalogues on our own, in the same way.

Are there certain kinds of books you absolutely won't carry?

There is no genre or type of book that we categorically "will not carry" -- we cater toward our neighborhood clientele however. So since most people in my neighborhood shun shiny Disney character books and love thinky hardback literature type books -- I tend to go heavy on the latter and very light on the former. At a different store, this equation would certainly be different. We do have 10 stores, and I think that each location has a different looking inventory because they are really customized for the neighborhoods.

And once they're in the store, how long do you keep them around? If you really love a book, will you keep it on the shelves forever?

Every buyer has their own formula. For me, adult hardcover fiction has about 8 weeks to sell before I start culling down (from 5 copies to 2, for example), and I will return all copies if it hasn't sold in 12 weeks. Simple reasoning - adult hardcover relies greatly on publicity to sell. If the publicity hasn't hit and done its job in that time, it isn't going to, and there are more books vying for attention and shelf space every week. Paperbacks and books about specialized topics have more time. And so do children's books in all categories. Children's books rely very much on word-of-mouth, and on being embraced by teachers & librarians, etc., to start picking up steam. Some of our bestselling kids books are ones that have been out for years now, while new ones might languish for a while before they start going. Still, do we keep them forever? No. It has to sell some copies. If I or one of the other booksellers loves-loves-loves a book that is maybe getting overlooked, we'll write a "shelftalker" -- that is the little card with a recommendation that goes underneath the book -- and that will usually give a favorite title a good boost. Then it doesn't get returned! Yay!

Do you order many books you don't like, but that you know will sell? Do you ever direct someone away from a book you don't like?

I don't like lots of things. In fact, I would go so far as to say that I don't like MOST things. So, I order things that I think my customers will like. I don't tell people my personal feelings about a book unless they ask me directly, and even then I'll hedge and be diplomatic. "You know, that isn't MY favorite, but it got terrific reviews and it is selling really well, so..."

Are there any secrets to handselling? What are you pushing right now?

It is just like selling anything, I suppose. You try and figure out what the customer wants and how you can quickly customize your pitch to them. A librarian is looking for books for a different reason than a grandma or a six-year-old. They might all end up with the same book! But how I sell it will be different for each person. There are other secrets, of course, but I can't tell them, or I'll be kicked out of the guild. And what I decide to push varies from day-to-day. Come shop in my store, and I'll sell you something nice.

Is there any way an author can effectively suck up to you so that you'll handsell their book?
Besides writing a great book?


How much does the book's cover matter, in terms of what you order, and also in terms of what seems to sell?

A lot.

Do blurbs matter a lot?

Not for kids. Maybe for adults who are clueless and just grasping for any sort of information about the book and need a reason to pick one book over another. If there are two gigantic middle-grade dragon books with blue covers and glitter, you might pick the one that has a blurb by Neil Gaiman over the one with the blurb by Joe Schmo, cause Neil Gaiman is an expert, right? But then again, if you don't like Neil Gaiman, your preference will go the other way.

In addition to being a buyer and an agent, you run the wickedly successful Not Your Mother's Book Club. How'd that come about? Why do you think it's been such a hit? What's different about it?

I wanted to bring awesome YA authors to the kids in my neighborhood, and do fun events rather than boring typical "author visits" or some book club where it is like homework. I try and make our events more like a party, and I give away lots of free stuff and have food, etc. And the kids respond really well.

Do you think in-store events like that affect sales much, or are they more about the community of the bookstore?

Both. The sales may not be huge on the night of the event - but in the long-term, they are definitely up for that book and the authors other books. And the YA section as a whole has probably tripled in size and sales.

What's been your best event so far?

Mmm... there have been a lot of great ones. I liked "GOTH PROM" with Holly Black and Cassie Clare, that was fun. We did a HUGE event for Stephenie Meyer when the last book came out -- about 500 people -- but we also hosted a private lunch for just 12 kids and Stephenie. That was amazing! And we did a party at a cafe with Sarah Dessen that was absolutely phenomenal -- it was a couple of years ago, and the kids that went to it will remember it forever.

And what's on your nightstand?

My "nightstand" is actually a wooden chair with -- hang on, let me count -- um, about 45 books on it. But the ones at the top are the ARCs for Forest of Hands and Teeth from Delacorte, and Eon from Viking.

Last question-- you juggle a lot, as an agent, buyer, event planner. What's the hardest part of your job?

Finding time to read

Thanks Jennifer! Our book is almost there! It's been bought and now it is heading for the shelves...

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

At the Editor's Desk!

...It's a long, long wait
While I'm sitting in committee...

Our story is making amazing progress! Very few ideas make it to manuscript form, fewer still get the agent's nod, but now that it has reached the editor's desk--we'll know if it has any shot of all of ever getting on the shelves! Today we have Andrew Karre, acquisitions editor for Llewellyn Worldwide and FLUX to discuss his role in taking a story and turning into a book:

The basic outlines of the book publication process are fairly consistent: agents send me manuscripts, I read them, I talk to the agent, then the author, I pitch the book to an acquisitions committee comprised of other editors and publishing types, I make an offer, we negotiate, everyone agrees, and a place in the catalog is born. Then the comes the hard work of revision, editing, packaging, promoting, and finally selling. Every book hits these marks along the path, but every book, in my experience, also takes a few detours—and that’s often where things get interesting.

In the case of Debbie’s book, there was a rather severe detour followed by an abrupt and very fortunate for me U-turn. I just looked, and my memory is correct. I have an unsent, unfinished rejection letter in my files for Debbie’s book. I don’t remember exactly why I waffled so much on the book, but almost two years ago I wrote to her agent: “Thanks for sending Swimming with the Sharks. Unfortunately, I didn’t connect with this one”. I didn’t even finish the sentence.

What does this mean? I think it’s a good illustration of how capricious and gut-level publishing decisions can be. My concern was probably whether I had an adequate vision for the book, from content to packaging, and whether we were well suited to publishing and selling the book. It was never a question of whether the book was “good enough,” rather it was a question of whether the combination of Flux and Debbie and Debbie’s novel was good enough. At some point in the course of writing that rejection, something must have occurred to me that made me change me conception of how we could do the book.

Almost exactly two years later, I’m very glad we did. Debbie’s revisions were thoughtful and made a good book better. I think the package is eye-catching and intriguing. And Debbie herself is easily one of our most popular authors with publicity. It’s a good match. I’m glad I didn’t screw it up.--Andrew Karre

Wow, what an inspirational story! Thanks for giving us the insight into how an editor evaluates a manuscript! Further proof that going from story to book is not as easy as it looks. Now our story is set to be published, it's getting ready for the big leagues--and now must pass muster with another group of folks--book sellers!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

On to the Agent!

Well, it's a long, long journey
to New York City....

Our story idea has become a manuscript and now must leave the author's hands--a very scary prospect indeed! But in the hands of a great agent, our story will have a fighting chance. So let's take a look at "How a Story Becomes a Book" from the agent's perspective:
Agent Erin Murphy at the Erin Murphy Literary Agency

For me, a manuscript starts becoming a book when I read a query letter and writing sample and immediately get excited about sending it to editors--a list of possibilities blooms in my mind, and I start thinking about how it would turn into a different book with different editors and publishing houses, and weighing which directions seem best.

But of course I need to read a full manuscript first! If the writer is already a client, that's a much quicker process, obviously, than if it's a writer I'm considering representing, whom I need to get to know a little and determine if we're a personality match. It doesn't matter how much I like the writing if the writer and I don't seem like we'll mesh, and it doesn't matter how much I like the writer if I'm not fired up about the manuscripts.

I work with my clients to revise and strengthen manuscripts before sending them to editors, so how quickly things go depends on how quickly the author works and how jammed my schedule is at the moment. We're not trying to make a manuscript perfect, and I don't have an expectation that an editor will sign it and publish it with few changes beyond copy editing and proofreading--I just want to eliminate any problem areas that might give any editor (or the rest of her acquisitions committee) an excuse to say no.

When a manuscript is getting close to presentable shape, I'll start mentioning it to editors and gaging early interest, honing my pitch and sharing with the client which aspects seem to spark the most oohs and aahs. I compile a list of interested editors and those I haven't mentioned it to yet, but whom I'd like to include when I send it out. I make a second-tier list, as well, which is mostly made up of long shots (more a match for the editor's personal interests than her publishing house's particular slant, for example) and editors who have sister imprints on the first-tier list, because I want to avoid any in-house conflicts. I also determine how widely I want to send it out, which is a decision made individually for each client and each manuscript. If we're uncertain which direction to go with revisions, we might test the waters with just one to three editors to start with, so we can try a different version if needed. If the client already has a relationship with an editor, we'll start with just that person, or that person and just one or two others. But if a manuscript feels like the kind of thing that lots of different editors might be interested in, and I feel really strongly about it selling quickly, I'll send it to a larger group.

When it's time to start sending it out, I email a pitch to editors I haven't mentioned it to before (or pitch it by phone), and send a little reminder to others who have expressed interest, to let them know it will be coming, and then I follow it up by sending the manuscript with an email that includes the pitch, an author bio, and any other pertinent information. If it's an especially wide submission that seems to have a lot of early interest, I'll make sure to point this out to editors so they will move more quickly with reading it.

From here it's a matter of waiting, nudging, juggling interest from multiple people (ideally), taking offers, negotiating a deal--and then it's in the editor's hands. The overall process is roughly the same for every manuscript, but the time line varies greatly depending on the manuscript, the client, the situation, the time of year, the editor, the publishing house....If an editor is especially eager, this process of signing a book can go very quickly--a matter of a week or two. If editors are busier than usual or we don't get any early nibbles that I can use to nudge along the others who are considering the project, it can be weeks before we have a sense of whether an editor is interested enough to pursue it or not. And the same variation goes once an editor wants to take it to the next stage (editorial meeting, then acquisitions meeting)--many houses have these meetings weekly, but some only monthly, and during a busy convention month, meetings are often canceled. An editor may hold a manuscript back from going to a meeting until the schedule clears a little, so she can spend more time on it with others on the committee to give it the best shot, or she may push it through quickly because the urgency will seem more persuasive.

Obviously, everything does not go the same way every time, but this is roughly how I handle it, with variations to allow for the individual needs of each project and each client--because in the end, that's my goal: Making each writer I work with happy and reaching toward each writer's idea of success by building one publication on another. --Erin
Thank you Erin! The process is exhausting, and it hasn't even started yet. We still have to get to the editor! Next stop: Andrew Karre with Flux !

Monday, July 28, 2008

How A Story Becomes A Book...

Do you remember that cute Schoolhouse Rock song all about how the little Bill fights his way through all the red tape and goes through all the committees in order to become a Law? Well, it is the same long and complicated trek a story idea takes to becoming a book on a shelf. This week we're going to follow the path a story takes from idea all the way toward its goal of becoming a book on a shelf--from author to agent to editor to book store buyer! Today we're going to talk about how story ideas form and what authors go through to get them down on the proverbial paper!

"The reason I started writing The Gollywhopper Games is well-documented in my acknowledgements (and in some resulting reviews). But wanting to write a book that might appeal to a lover of Charlie and The Chocolate Factory provided a huge set of challenges. Dahl had already claimed candy. Dahl had already claimed a spot as a top master. So how could I craft a book one particular 5th grader would love without being derivative of a master work? I'd give you a replay of my process, but my methods of brainstorming are near-impossible to document. They do, however, involve doodling, massive amounts of pacing and utter disregard for household chores." Jody Feldman author of The Gollywhopper Games

"I was a model booker for years, which gave me lots of material for the book. I worked at two busy agencies, but I was always scribbling down story ideas onto notepads instead of working. Sometimes I’d be interviewing a model, looking at her portfolio, and a detail about her photos would strike me as interesting or funny, so I’d say, 'Excuse me just a sec,' then I’d whip out my notepad and start jotting away while the poor girl had to wait. I also took notes when models made comments I liked, usually something like, 'I’m an excellent actress, as long as there’s no dialogue.' Years later, I referred to all those notepads when I sat down to write BRALESS IN WONDERLAND. I guess I only pretended to be a model booker. I spent most of my time scribbling. I should probably give my ex-boss her money back. " Debbie Reed Fischer author of BRALESS IN WONDERLAND and SWIMMING WITH THE SHARKS

"I paid for my writing time. Seriously. After my third child was born, I hired a babysitter to come for three hours a day, three days per week. I would need a sitter to go to any other job, I rationalized, so why not for being a writer? It is amazing how much you can get done in three hours, especially when those hours are costing you money. However, it’s not the cheapest way to write. Until I sold a book, my job actually cost me more money than I earned. But it was so worth it! I never would have finished my novels without it." Jenny Meyerhoff author of THIRD GRADE BABY and THE IMPOSSIBLE SECRETS OF ESSIE GREEN

Tomorrow our story must head to agent Erin Murphy at the Erin Murphy Literary Agency!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Day 5: Brooke Would Like to Thank...

the academy? One of the best parts about being a debut author is getting to write your dedication and the acknowledgements--you know the place where the author thanks everyone including the mailman and sometimes makes little inside jokes or refers to friends with nicknames? And most of us enjoy reading them because they give us a little glimpse into the author's world, and sometimes even into the research for the book.

So who did I thank in my acknowledgements? Pretty much everyone! When it is your first book, you try not to forget anyone because who knows if you'll ever get the chance to again. I imagine by my third book I'll be thanking the inventor of shoelaces or my cat, but for this book it was all about my friends and family and those who've supported me for day 1. And, not only that, but I wanted to include fun little details that were personal and special to me--like my Aunt's bookshelves which were the first place I ran to in her house. And my Granny's map of the world that was filled with colorful pushpins. And then there were my writing friends who helped me with things like the craft of writing or how to prepare a query letter and were there for me through all of the stress, sometimes with Dark Chocolate (aka Edgy Chocolate). And of course, you always want to thank your agent, editor, and the wonderful folks working behind the scenes to make your book an actual book.

Probably the best and hardest part of the acknowledgements was writing the dedication. There was really no question about who to dedicate Undone to. Not only did my father, who supported me 150%, pass away before I even landed an agent, but he was someone who made sure to never leave anything in his life undone. The way he led his life was inspiring, and I know that his influence was what made writing and getting Undone published possible. Yes, it is bittersweet that he can't be here to enjoy this with me, but I know he will always be cheering me on.

Awesome! And we'd love to thank you for spending the week getting to know Brooke and helping celebrate her launch! Be sure to come back next week when we talk with authors, agents, editors, and other publishing professionals as we go through the entire process of taking a story from idea to hardbound book!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Day 4: Brooke'sTop 10 Favorite Books!

Here they are in no particular order.... My Top Ten Favorite Books!

Dracula by Bram Stoker

It's been more years than I will admit since I last read this one, but I can still close my eyes and be right there in Dracula's castle!

Summer Sisters by Judy Blume

This one resonated with me--I had a friend just like Caitlin. In the book, a girl says that everyone says that, but it's true.

Joy School by Elizabeth Berg

The epitome of an older boy crush. What girl couldn't identify?

The Black Stallion by Walter Farley

Horse + shipwreck + island= amazing!

The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis

My imagination <3>

Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

Team Edward. 'Nuff said.

The Outsiders by SE Hinton

Groundbreaking, raw and lyrical. Plus gorgeous boys.

Looking for Alaska by John Green

Boarding school books are always a fave, but this one is special.

Sarah Dessen-Can’t pick just one

They're all so good, so clever in such a real and simple way. She has a gift for being every girl in every town.

It’s Happy Bunny-Jim Benton-Can’t Pick Just one

Sarcasm at its most perfect.


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Day 3: A Tour of Undone

Welcome to Kismet, Colorado!
(fictitious home of Undone)

Kismet is a fictionalized mish-mash of cities in Colorado. One is Evergreen, Colorado, which is an upscale bedroom community just up the hill from Denver, much like Kismet is.
Here are some pics of the reservoir that Serena and Kori go to hang out.

This is beach where Kori skinny dips!

Many of the details that turn up in Kismet came from my years living in the mountains of Colorado. The extreme degrees of difference between the wealthy and the working class is very much a factor in most of Colorado’s mountain towns—you either live in a mansion of a log home or an apartment that hasn’t seen new carpet since the 1960’s. There is no in between.
Vail's once infamous Saab police car
And my favorite pizza place, Beau Jo’s, even makes an appearance. In RL, the original location is in Idaho Springs, Colorado. You must go if you ever are heading up I-70 on a ski trip.


The trip Serena took with Cole was to The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park made more famous by Stephen King’s The Shining. In the movie it is called the Overlook Hotel.

In real life,The Stanley Hotel is haunted.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Day 2: Interview with Brooke!

Time to learn a little bit more about Brooke Taylor and how here debut novel Undone came about!

So, where do you do most of your writing? What's it look like? (maybe include a picture if you can get it!)

I don’t have one specific place I write from, I just drag my laptop out and start typing away. Most of my actual writing occurs in my car as I’m driving. That is when my mind goes into story mode! I usually have music playing that may or may not eventually become part of the book's unofficial playlist.

Can you tell us how the book came about? How did you begin writing it?

I saw a license plate with CCCCCF8 on it, and it triggered all sorts of ideas. F8 for “fate” had a gamer feel to it that soon gave birth, if you will, to my main character Serena. Serena told me about her best friend Kori and then Kori pretty much hijacked the story. As you can tell, it is character driven.

And how did it find a publisher? Give us the *real* dirt!

I found my publisher the traditional way, through an agent. Walker is a division of Bloomsbury, and Bloomsbury also has it’s own YA imprint. Typically you will work you way throughout a house, hitting the imprints in order, never simultaneously. So we submitted to Bloomsbury’s YA imprint first, and the editor said Undone was a little to edgy for her, but she felt Walker would be perfect for it, and sure enough it was a great fit.

Did anything surprise you or caught you off guard when you were writing your book?

I was a little surprised at just how much was going on in my character’s lives, but then I remembered how it was in high school. How important everything was. And then it just seemed right.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Welcome Brooke Taylor!

What better month to launch a debut novel than the hot hot month of July! And have we got a hot one for you! Please help us welcome Brooke Taylor and her novel Undone to the shelves!

Kori Kitzler is the “dark angel” of her high school: beautiful, mysterious, the subject of rumors. Serena Moore is just an average girl: unassuming, not sure exactly who she is or who she wants to be. But then a seemingly chance encounter ignites a friendship—allowing Kori to draw Serena into her world.

When the girls are given an assignment to list five things they would never dream could really happen—their five ways to tempt fate—Serena doesn’t take it very seriously. But then a tragedy leaves Serena shocked, alone, and in possession of Kori’s five secret impossible possibilities. Can Serena complete her best friend’s list, or will she leave Kori’s dreams Undone?

Brooke Taylor has woven a complex, thought-provoking story of fate, friendship, and the ultimate ties that bind you to the people you think you know best.

Brooke Taylor lives and writes from her country home in Oklahoma where her pets are a constant, but happy, distraction. She doesn't remember a time when she didn't have a book on her bedside table or an idea for a story in her head and she fully admits to getting a little giddy at the sight of a floor-to-ceiling bookcase. When she’s not reading or writing, she enjoys horseback riding, going to the lake, and traveling.

“I started UNDONE intending to write a book about fate and what happens when you start living the life you’ve always envied. As the characters started opening up and coming to life, UNDONE became much more than just a careful-what-you-wish-for novel. It also became a novel about friendship, family, and the secrets we keep from the people we are closest to. And there’s nothing more fascinating than the need or desire to lead a secret life.”

Stayed tuned all week for more about Undone and Brooke Taylor!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Shameless Saturday!

Ellen Booraem’s The Unnameables is a Junior Library Guild premiere selection for Fall 2008!! Congrats, Ellen!

Catch an interview with Brooke Taylor and a review of Undone at In Bed with Books. Also check out her guest blog at And Another Book Read to find out what is real and what is fake in Undone.

Bewitching Season got a great review in the July issue of Locus magazine (and it just happened to be their YA issue!) and the 2009 Children's Writers and Illustrators Market, published yearly by Writers' Digest, is out...and has an interview with Marissa Doyle about Bewitching Season and writing historical fiction.

Nancy Viau’s Samantha Hansen has Rocks in her Head reviewed by TeensReadToo!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Recommended Resources: Writing Advice

Last, but certainly not least, we recommend the following awesome Internet sites for writing advice! Whether you need help in learning the rules of the craft or simply need to research plot elements or character traits, we've checked into it all:

"Website of Newbery winner Linda Sue Park features lots of suggestions and exercises for writers, including a useful handout on novel structure and a great article on the importance of reading." Elizabeth C. Bunce

"Darcy Pattison hosts a wide variety of guest bloggers, including many of us from the Class of 2k8! And Darcy is the Queen of Revision - be sure to check out her thoughts on the editing process. Also The Rejection Collection is a must-visit site for anyone who is bummed out about a recent rejection. Read rejection letters sent to writers all over the country, and then read what the authors think about them. A scream!" Kristin O'Donnell Tubb

"Author Cynthea Liu has some of the best advice for writers out there. Her site answers pretty much every possible question about both the business and creative sides of writing for children and teenagers." Jenny Meyerhoff

"The Blueboards totally rule! A wonderful and truly community-minded place for kid lit writers to give and receive news, advice, and support, or just be silly together. If you have a question about anything in the world of children's books, someone here will know the answer." Marissa Doyle

"Lizzie Skurnick's Fine Lines is the best writing about YA on the web. She's brilliant and thoughtful and funny and nostalgic but also biting, as she writes about the best books of our youth. She's awesome (and she just landed a book deal!)" Laurel Snyder "There are a great group of authors there, and a different one is featured either weekly or monthly. Many of them blog on their redroom page. They have interesting discussions. These discussion are geared toward an adult audience and are of more interest to a librarian, bookseller or teacher." Stacy Nyikos

"Author2Author is a blog I do with 4 other authors at different stages of our careers. I just finished a three-part writing series on beginnings, middle and ends. So we do craft-related posts, but also talk about things we are going through, like one person is looking for an agent, one person is recently repped and doing revisions hoping to sell her book." Lisa Schroeder

Through the Tollbooth "OK, I'm part of this group, so of course I love it! Nine Vermont College MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adult grads who have gone on to publish picture books and/or middle grade or young adult novels each take a week to blog about the craft of writing. We also interview other authors, editors, agents, and general book lovers! I've learned so much from my fellow Tollboothers, including 2k8er Zu Vincent. Some weeks are very analytically minded, some are instructional, some inspirational, and some are just plain fun. We've just started monthly reviews of craft books, too." Liz Gallagher "You will howl with laughter at this site. They 'collect artifacts of adolescent expression' - diary entries, artwork, poems, songs, short stories, etc. - all written in those 'tween-to-teen years. A gold mine for YA authors. WARNING: Although these entries were written by teens (from years past), the material can be explicit. The site is geared toward adults, and is definitely *not* for younger readers." Kristin O'Donnell Tubb

"To get in touch with my inner teen, I hit sites like The Diary Project and Post Secret. They remind me what real problems and daily life look like." Brooke Taylor

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Recommended Resources: Authors to Stalk

Stalk other authors? Who would do such a thing? We would!! And so should you! Here's a great list of authors we can't stop checking in with:

"Maureen Johnson’s blog is hysterical! Don’t read it while you are drinking unless you enjoy expelling liquid through your nostrils." Jenny Meyerhoff

"I love Debbi Michiko Florence's blog. She is so warm and honest and as an added perk gives great book recommendations!" Daphne Grab

"Meg Cabot is totally brilliant and would easily find work as a stand up comedian in an alternate universe." Brooke Taylor

"I don't know why I check Neil Gaiman's blog every day but I suspect I'm just deeply envious of anyone who can jet around, have a family life, and still write prolifically. He is entertaining on a variety of topics, from eyebrow waxing (not his) to progress reports on the latest book. And there are bees. " Ellen Booraem

"Tamora Pierce is not just a fantastic storyteller, she's a great role model for girls and young women. Check out her essay on how to write her a fan letter, and then show it to every girl in your life." Elizabeth C. Bunce

"On her blog, Lowry Updates, Lois Lowry posts on all sorts of topics from a small daily incident to an idea she's researching to answers of readers' questions. It's all very thoughtful and written with that certain Lowry twist. I love to stop by for a peek." Barrie Summy

Liz Gallagher take author stalking to a new level:

David Lubar "Mr. Lubar is just hilarious. His blog is pithy."

Cynthia Lord "One of the kindest authors on the planet, Cynthia Lord shares tidbits from writing and life, and her writing life."

Laurie Halse Anderson "Follow along as Laurie writes, runs long races, writes, introduces us to her family, writes, tells us about where she lives, and writes."

Mary Pearson "Mary is another great writer to live vicariously through, conference-wise. It's especially fun to read her journal lately, as great things are happening for her latest, THE ADORATION OF JENNA FOX. Share in the celebration! "

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Recommended Resources: Best MG/YA Reads

Writers of KidLit are almost without fail readers of KidLit, and the Class of 2k8 debut authors are no exception. As if our TBR (to be read) piles weren't tall enough already, we can't wait to get our hands on more great YA and MG books. Where do we find them, you ask? Well besides the beloved treks through the shelves at our local independent book stores or consults with our favorite librarians, we also hit some great websites:

"A great place to find the best in children’s literature is The PlanetEsme Book-a-Day blog, run by the amazingly talented Esme Raji Codell. She blogs about picture books on up." Jenny Meyerhoff

Brooke Taylor & Liz Gallagher agree that Slayground, aka Little Willow, is a must check for great YA and MG books.

"The girl is a voracious reader, truly. She gives monthly favorites out of the gagillions of books she reads, and she even takes the time to break them down into categories -- from picture books on up. Some are spankin' new or pre-release, and some are gems from years past." Liz Gallagher

"After posting about a book I liked on Little Willow’s site, she immediately responded and had several personal suggestions. They were all amazing, right up my alley, and books I’d never heard of! I also consistently watch TeenReads and TeensReadToo for new books." Brooke Taylor

"I am a big fan of the teen bloggers like Another Book Read and Trainspotting Reads. I'm also a big fan of the Compulsive Reader and who doesn't love Book Chic? They all read a ton, write terrific reviews and have great taste in books." Daphne Grab

"I love to sample YA books through Dear Reader. Each week they feature a new book, and each day they email you a five-minute reading portion of that book." Jody Feldman

"Professor Nana, aka The Goddess of YA Literature, aka Teri, teaches library students about YA, middle grade, and kids' lit. She also writes books about books. And she reads a ton! And she shares what she reads! She's also a good person to live vicariously through when you don't make it to a conference." Liz Gallagher

"Flamingnet has won accolades for its reviews as well as its contributions to libraries nationwide. Good people." Debbie Reed Fischer

FYI: Class of 2K8 books Undone and Braless in Wonderland have both been honored the Flamingnet Top Choice Award! YAY!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Recommended Resources: Publishing Advice

Yesterday we compiled an awesome list of place to check the who's and what's of the publishing world, so today we'll tackle great resources for those looking to get published! How to query, who to query, and how to avoid rookie mistakes and make sure your manuscript is ready for the big leagues. "Smart, practical advice, straight from the horse's--er, my editor's mouth. Arthur Levine Books editor Cheryl Klein, a popular draw on the writing conference circuit, routinely posts transcripts of her lectures and handouts, which are filled with approachable, hands-on advice for everything from submissions to plotting and revision." Elizabeth Bunce

"To learn more about the publishing biz, I hit several editor blogs: Editorial Anonymous, Brooklyn Arden, and not for the faint of heart: Evil Editor. I also make daily visits to PubRants, my agent's blog." Brooke Taylor

"The Rejector is the blog of an anonymous assistant to a literary agent who is amusingly cranky and opinionated and usually has commonsensical things to say about the publishing world. And Writer Beware, the scam-hunting Better Business Bureau of the writing world." Marissa Doyle

"My agent, Kate Schafer Testerman, has a new blog called Ask Daphne, which I check regularly. It's particularly useful if you're trolling for an agent (which I'm not, obviously)--she answers questions and volunteers information about what agents like her are looking for and how to avoid turning them off (sort of a kinder, gentler Miss Snark). But she also offers news and opinions about industry buzz." Ellen Booraem

"Andrew Karre's blog for Flux. It's usually brief, thought-provoking, sometimes funny." Debbie Reed Fischer

Monday, July 14, 2008

Recommended Resources: KidLit Industry News

Grab your mouse and get ready to start clicking, because all week long the Class of 2K8 debut authors will be sharing their favorite Internet sites for everything from writing tips to industry news. We'll even be telling you which KidLit author blogs we love to stalk!

Today we're focusing on industry news!

"The Purple Crayon’s 'who’s moving where page' is a great place to find out about personnel changes at publishers. I like to check it out every couple of months or so." Jenny Meyerhoff

"I'm not sure it's news as much as feisty opinion with a touch of gossip, but I find myself checking Read Roger, the blog of Hornbook Editor in Chief Roger Sutton, at least every other day. Topics range from Why Adults Read YA Literature to What to Wear to the Newbery Awards. Always engaging and informative. " Ellen Booraem

"Jen Robinson finds all kinds of neat info and her blog is chatty and fun. AND I love the inside scoop Lila provides at Bookshelves of Doom, plus the sarcastic humor is right up my alley." Daphne Grab

"Cynthia Leitich-Smith's blog Cynsations amazes me--I don't think anything KidLit escapes her. I also love Seven Impossible Things and my new fave is Librarilly Blond for her great sarcastic humor mixed in with KidLit hot topics." Brooke Taylor

"The place I go for industry news, new books, and who's moving and buying in the industry is a well worn net mat: I like that they have a little of everything from books, to editors, to industry movers and shakers and all the latest on what's happening in the world of publishing worldwide." Stacy Nyikos

"Carol Hurst has news on kidlit, curriculum info, reviews, reading lists, and more." M. P. Barker.

"I can be very lazy, so I subscribe to several industry e-publications that come to me ... including Shelf Awareness (daily enlightenment for the book trade) ; PW Daily (and sign up for Children's Bookshelf as well), Publishers Lunch, and School Library Journal's Extra Helping (click the Newsletter link). Much of the info in these free daily newsletters may not directly pertain to me, but I learned in a previous job that it's important you know what's going on in your industry at large." Jody Feldman

Thunderchikin, aka David Macinnis Gill "David Macinnis Gill's first novel, Soul Enchilada, is coming out next winter, and it looks hilarious and wonderful. But that's not the main reason I read his blog. I read 'cause he's witty and succinct -- and because, as the president of ALAN, he's able to offer industry tidbits. He also introduces a great selection of YA books!" Liz Gallagher

"As If Authors raises awareness about book-banning and censorship. I'm always shocked every time I read what's in the news." Debbie Reed Fischer

Saturday, July 12, 2008

It's Saturday and we're shameless

Shameless Self-Promotion At Its Best.
Check us out!

Jennifer Bradbury:
What kind of a teen was she, anyway? Read the Cynsations interview to find out!

Daphne Grab:
Daphne is all over Estella’s Revenge! Just look at this review of Alive and Well in Prague, New York. And here's an interview, too!

Daphne was also guest author this past Thursday on Story Siren’s blog.

And she's on Bookluver , too. Bookluver calls Daphne’s novel an “amazing debut.”

P.J. Hoover:
Be sure and read a fine review of The Emerald Tablet on Trainspotting Reads.

Brooke Taylor:
Brooke has been busy getting ready for the launch of Undone. She’s been spotted doing interviews on Little Willow, and she’s Author of the Month at Harmony Book Reviews!

P.J. Hoover and Brooke Taylor:
Both these gals, and their awesome books, get lots of attention from Book Review Maniac.

Nancy Viau:
“I absolutely loved Samantha Hansen Has Rocks in Her Head,” says Story Siren. “The plot itself is not only charming but it is multi layered.”

And David Macinnis Gill (ALAN president) has this to say about Nancy’s book: “The perfect book for the tween science geek!”

Debbie Reed Fischer:
Debbie’s book, Braless in Wonderland, is also on Story Siren.
“This was an extraordinary novel!"

Jody Feldman:
The Gollywhopper Games is featured on YouTube! Click and listen to why Common Sense Media says Jody's book is a "another great choice" for readers this summer.

Teri Brown:
Read all about Teri (and find out about that tattoo!) on Sharon Pajka West’s blog.

And finally,
Kudos to Daphne Grab, Marissa Doyle, and Donna Freitas for their books! Alive and Well in Prague, New York, Bewitching Season,
and The Possibilities of Sainthood are all July Books at ALAN.
Check out the reviews!

Thanks for listening, and have a wonderful weekend, full of plenty of time to sit back, relax, and READ!

Friday, July 11, 2008

One famous author

The famous author, who has stopped in for a miniview today, is none other than the hilarious Jeff Kinney!

Congratulations to The Reading Zone who guessed the correct answer yesterday. They will receive a signed galley of Jeff's Diary of a Wimpy Kid Do-It-Yourself Book /Amulet Books, October 2008. Reading Zone: Send your mailing address to theclassof2k8 (at) gmail (dot) com to claim your book!

Jeff's been busy the last year or so with his mega-successful books: Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Rodrick Rules, but he was nice enough to take some time to answer a few questions.

Jeff, how did the idea for Diary of a Wimpy Kid first come about?

My dream was to become a newspaper cartoonist, but it never panned out. I spent a few years developing strips, but only met rejections from the syndicates. I really wanted people to see my cartoons, so I decided that if people were going to see my work, it was going to have to take another form.

What character do you relate to best and why?
I think I relate best to Greg, and that’s not a good thing. Greg can be petty and cruel, and I think that’s how I was, at times, as a kid.

So, Jeff, how about spilling some top-secret info? Can you give us some idea of what may be in store for Greg, Rodrick, Rowley, or one of the other characters?

In future books, the Heffley family will go on a vacation together … I think there are a lot of comedic possibilities there. Greg will find love and heartbreak. I think that when Rowley grows up, he’ll be a healthy, happy adult, but Greg will be the victim of his own shortcomings.

In one sentence, tell us the best part about being on the New York Times Best-Seller List?
The best thing about being on the New York Times Best-Seller list is sharing space with all of those great authors (real authors) like Stephenie Meyer, J.K. Rowling, and Brian Selznick!

We've got news for you, Jeff. You ARE a real author! Thanks for stopping by!

Our week of miniviews has come to an end. Check back tomorrow (Shameless Self Promotion Saturday) to see what great things have been happening to 2k8 Class members.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

One aspiring writer (and a quick giveaway)

For today’s miniview, we talk to Pamela Ross (a.k.a. WriterRoss if you’re a fan of Verla Kay’s boards). And that header up there--One aspiring author--should read "An inspiring author" because Pam can dish out some serious inspiration for those who are hard at work at their craft. Pam loves picture books and novels, and it’s her dream to have one of these published. But as we know, dreams sometimes work in mysterious ways, so Pam’s first success has been with non-fiction books (Capstone Press), magazines, and writing greeting card copy.

Pam, tell us how you got started writing for children?
There has never been a stage or age when I was anything but a writer. I was writing stories and submitting them to magazines when my friends were playing Hide and Seek, Hopscotch, and Spin the Bottle. (Not necessarily in that order.) I wish I still had the books I wrote as a child. My mom and dad thought I was the most talented kid on the block-- but they also had a thing for keeping the house neat and my stories mysteriously disappeared into trash bags. (If you grew up in apartments like I did in Brooklyn, you would understand: there was barely enough room for a family of five to change their minds there, let alone giving me space to create and keep my masterpieces. At least you can say I learned about rejections, er, recycling, at a tender age.) I grew up, went to law school, and wrote when no one was watching. I thought: I love this but I don't know what to do with this passion. Other people are authors. I am not an "other" person. Other people write books. I will read them.

I can remember the precise moment when The Calling whispered in my ears. Or to my eyes, truth be told. I bought my first computer. A friend had to tell me how to make it Do Something after I pushed the ON button. I taught myself everything I know (and I am proud of this achievement because before learning how to work a computer, the most challenging, scientific thing I had done was change a light bulb). I connected with a computer software fanatic at a computer store. I have no idea how this man knew about a program called GEnie, but he told me there were people there who talked to one another ON THE COMPUTER. There were other writers there. Like Me. He talked me through the steps and voila! I found a children's writer's forum. I saw the name Jane Yolen. Jane YOLEN? Be still my heart. She was real? She was ONLINE? Yes. She. Was. Magic! She wrote messages to people and answered questions. So, of course, I asked a question! A few hours later, there was a response. For me. From Jane Yolen. I printed out the message out and saved it for posterity. I could not believe writers could write to one another. And care. And help. And share information. I was hooked. I went on to study all the children’s writers I loved best. I joined SCBWI, and became a conference junkie. I read all of the "How To" books, took classes, and wrote and wrote. Children's books connected with the writer in me and the soul in me. I've never looked back.

Are you querying editors? Agents? What’s your process?
As of this writing, I have nothing circulating. I am not happy about this. Frustration takes a horrific toll on a writer and you are looking at one, frustrated writer. Thank goodness for redemption and time and ambition and blank slates. I know what I want to be when I grow up, and I’m going to make it happen. I have been read and personally rejected by some of the best editors in the business. I have a list of editors I love and editors I would love to work with one day. I have a lovely list of editors who welcome my writing with open arms and have asked for more, more, more. The only person I can blame is myself for not being more Out There and on the editors' desks as we speak. My friends will yell if I confess this in public: I have never multiply submitted in my life. I know. I am a relic. Put me in the Museum of Natural History. I am the perfect candidate for an agent because as much as I like to talk about writing, selling my own and selling myself is something I am rather shy about doing. I am studying and learning as much as I can about the literary agents in the business that I feel would most connect with my writing. Is there an e-Harmony dating service to match authors and the perfect agent? Sign me up.

In one sentence, tell us where you’ll be in ten years.
I pray one day (hopefully in less than ten years) many passionate readers, will look for my books in their libraries and bookstores and feel as if they are home in the pages of my writing.

Pam, we wish you only the best! It will happen.

Today’s post was an in-depth (and sort of long) look at an aspiring writer. Tomorrow, we have the spotlight on a HUGE author whose writing and drawings are for middle readers, but his books are read and enjoyed by kindergarteners, teens, and adults, too. Put your best guess in the comment area, and the first person to get it right, gets a signed galley of his latest.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

One debut novelist from the Class of 2k9

Today, you're in for a treat. Kristin Walker is in the house! She's a 2k9-er with a fun attitude whose novel will be published by Razorbill next year.

Tell us about your book. It sold just a few weeks ago, right?

Yes! My novel is a YA called MARRIAGE ED., although I hope that title is short-lived. (I'm terrible at titles and names. In fact, earlier drafts of this manuscript had three characters named Carl.) It's about high school seniors who get paired up for a course in marriage education. The results are hilariously disastrous. Or disastrously hilarious. I can never remember which.

What's been happening in the last few weeks?

One word: Revisions. They want to publish the book next summer, so I'm on a schedule tighter than an elephant's jock-strap.

How is becoming an author different from what you envisioned?

I'm still waiting for the paparazzi to stalk me.

And shouldn't there be long, languid hours reclining in a rowboat, composing gems of prose that will instantly sell at auction for seven figures?

What one word describes your emotions at this point in your career?

Excited. No, terrified. Okay, exciterrifited. (Hey, I’m a writer; I can make up new words if I want to. It says so in the rulebook.)

We can't wait to read MARRIAGE ED.! And good luck with the Class of 2k9, Kristin!

Tomorrow we hear from an aspiring writer who is anxiously waiting for The Call. And on Friday, we've come up with an author whose books keep boys (and girls, but mostly boys) cracking up for hours.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

One top-notch NYC agent

Today we have Dan Lazar in the hot seat!

Dan is a senior agent with Writers House, and he represents authors who write for adults and children. More info on this hard-working, very personable agent can be found on his PublishersMarketplace page and on Agent Query.

Dan, what gets your attention in a query/submission? In other words, do you know in the first line, first page, or do you continue reading, hoping something pops in your mind and you say, “This is great!”

In a query letter, you want to be evocative and specific. Don't say, "Jane Doe is quirky." Instead, say "Jane Doe likes polka dots and never steps on cracks." It can be hard to pin down a plot in just a few lines, but if you can bring the letter to life with atmospheric details from your story, the voice will shine through. As for what works in a submission, see Question #4.

What books were your favorites as a kid? What are your favorites now?

As a kid, I must have read THE PHANTOM TOLLBOOTH a hundred times. I also loved Avi (I actually just reread WHO WAS THAT MASKED MAN ANYWAY!), Lloyd Alexander, Bruce Coville, Gordon Korman. I'll even admit that I read my sister's copies of Babysitters Club and All American Girls... Some of my favorite books I've read in recent years include MIDDLESEX, THE AMAZING ADVENTURES OF KAVALIER AND CLAY, BROKEN FOR YOU (which I worked on) and STIFF.

Anything special you’re looking for?

Middle grade and YA-- but middle grade especially. I'm very hungry for boy middle grade. We need more!

Tell us the first sentence of a book you fell in love with:

I'm going to cheat and slip in 2! Two of my beloved middle grade authors won me over with these first lines:

SAVVY by Ingrid Law opens with:
"When my brother Fish turned Thirteen, we moved to the deepest part of inland because of the hurricane and, of course, the fact that he'd caused it."

And THE CHICKEN DANCE by Jacques Couvillon opens with:
"My sister's name was Dawn, and my mother said she was named that because when she was born it was like the sun had just risen. My name is Stanley."

Thanks for stopping by, Dan!

Another miniview (a.k.a mini-interview) appears tomorrow. We'll feature a debut novelist from the Class of 2k9. We know that 2009 seems like a long way off, but that class is working hard already!

Monday, July 7, 2008

A Week of Miniviews!

What’s a miniview, you ask? It’s a mini-interview, of course! These are short, oh-so-sah-wheet bits of info from folks who have different perspectives on the children's publishing biz. Don't blink, or you just may miss something. This week, you’ll hear from:

One hard-working, independent bookstore owner

One top-notch New York City agent

One debut novelist from the Class of 2k9

One aspiring writer


One famous, contemporary children’s book author


Today, we talk to Vicki Erwin. Vicki is the owner of that charming bookstore called Main Street Books in St. Charles, MO.

Located in historic St. Charles, Main Street Books is a cozy, warm escape into the world of literature. If you’d like to buy a new novel, check out a guidebook, browse the children’s section, attend a book club, or rub elbows with an author, then 307 South Main Street is the place to be.

Vicki, please tell us about your bookstore.
We are a general bookstore, located in an historic district in an historic building -- which can present challenges. Our store is on three levels. What we call the mezzanine houses the picture books and readers, a major part of our business. The early chapter, middle grade and young adult titles are on the second floor of the store. We separated these from the younger children because we wanted this age to feel a sense of having their own place. The books are shelved in a hallway and displayed on tables in the kitchen. We have bean bag chairs and a sofa that they often take advantage of! I estimate half of our space is children's books.

What children's programs have been most successful? Why?
Our most successful children's programs have been in partnership with local libraries. Partly that's because we don't have space available for big programs. It's also partly because we combine our marketing efforts to reach a larger audience. A book being featured in the newspaper or on local television also nudges sales.

What is the most exciting part about being a bookseller?
There are so many exciting parts! One is matching the right reader with the right book. It's wonderful when they return to tell you how much they loved a book. Another great part of bookselling is discovering a wonderful book early on and feeling like you have a role in the presentation and building of that book -- telling people about it, promoting it, etc. Finally, just having the opportunity to see everything and read so much is a dream.

In one sentence, tell us how bookstores are changing.
We have to be better than ever to compete, so SHOP LOCAL!

Thanks, Vicki. We love our indies!

Tune in tomorrow for another miniview. We'll be featuring a top-notch NYC agent from a world-reknown agency.