Querying Your Opening Pages to an Agent? Get an Insider’s Feedback Before You Hit “Send”.

gI_75614_LitReactor logoGuest Post by Shannon M. Parker

Hello, loyal Ingrid’s Notes followers! Most of you know that Ingrid’s YA debut, ALL WE LEFT BEHIND will publish in 2015 from Simon Pulse. My own YA debut, CRUSHING, will publish under the same imprint in 2016. And, as if being this Ingrid-adjacent wasn’t awesome enough, she and I also have the same agent. That’s right. It’s my whole promotional strategy for my upcoming book: To scream to the writing world that I am an agent and imprint sister to Ingrid Sundberg. Because she’s that awesome. And because I admire her writing SO MUCH. I’m certain you agree. And I’m certain you know Ingrid’s route to publication. Now, she and I want to help you with your road to publication. How? Well, Ingrid invited me to chat about my upcoming online class at www.LitReactor.com that aims to polish polish polish your first ten pages—helping them stand out in an agent’s inbox.

Perfect 10

10 Ways Aspiring Authors Can Benefit from “The Perfect Ten” Workshop:

1. Indulge in a Literary Spa Day: Literacy agencies typically request opening pages as part of the query submission process. They want to know you can write more than a query letter. They want to experience the voice in your novel, get pulled in by the tension of your story. Immediately. Or they will move on to the next query—and there are always other queries to comb through.

“The Perfect Ten” will be like whitening your manuscript’s teeth for an interview, giving it that spankin’ new, professional haircut. You’ll work with the instructor (moi) and other students to make your pages pretty. Well, beautiful, really—beautifully effective.

2. Find Community: LitReactor is an online resource for published and aspiring authors. This course will give you a chance to connect with writers who are at the same stage of the process as you, while enjoying access to articles from industry greats. Where else can you find:

  • Suzy Vitello, Goddess of Prose
  • Mandy Hubbard, Agent & Author Extraordinaire
  • Chuck Palahniuk, Industry God
  • You
  • People Like You

3. Get Validation: It’s HARD to send your pages off to an agent. So hard. You crave acceptance, but the industry is filled with rejection. And the nerves and the waiting and the nerves are enough to make anyone batty. This course will help you engage with classmates to see what’s working in your pages, what already has the reader clambering for more…

And what’s not working for the reader and why.

4. Gain Critiquing Skills: This class will help you with those opening pages, but it will also provide you with tools to help you edit deeper into your work-in-progress, as well as future manuscripts.

5. End the Loneliness: Writing can be a lonely business. No one thinks it’s healthy to be stuck behind your desk all alone. So, take an online workshop and be stuck behind your desk with other lonely writers who cling to their characters for social interactions.

6. Find a Crit Partner: While there is no guarantee this will happen, it happens all. the. time. Makes sense, really. After all, you’ll be connecting with other writers embarking on the same journey.

7. Make your Pages Sing: Tighten tension; invite us to love your characters instantly; build a believable world; perfect pacing.

8. Learn From Peers: Critiquing another’s work is a great exercise for helping you determine the strengths and weakness of your own work. LitReactor provides a safe, supportive community where we all upload our thoughts, fears, dreams and writerly hopes (as well as our pages) onto a shared Discussion Board. The Board allows you to pop on when it’s convenient for you, and it allows you access to see all of your classmates’ works and the feedback they receive from the instructor and each other. There’s always strength in numbers!

9. Indulge in One Week: It’s easy to say we’re too busy and prioritize other things over our writing. But one week? This intensive will allow you to do all that other pesky stuff (like parenting, working, breathing) AFTER the course if over

10. You wanna: I know you wanna join us. I just know it…

Ingrid discusses where to start with your query process in her blog post from September 1stQuerying 101. If you know who you want to query and want your pages spit-shined, join us at LitReactor for The Perfect Ten workshop. I can’t wait to see you there! For lots of details on the class, including a daily syllabus, head over to:

LitReactor Perfect 10 Workshop Info

Thanks for taking the time to read my guest blog today.

You can find me blogging at www.shannonmparker.com

And tweeting @shannonmparker

Come. Be. Perfect. (Don’t forget to bring your imperfections!)

Shannon_HeadshotShannon M. Parker is the author of the YA novel Crushing, due out in Spring, 2016 from Simon Pulse, a division of Simon & Schuster. Her short stories have been published and won awards, but she’s happiest when writing novels. She is a proud member of SCBWI, and a passionate administrator for The Sweet Sixteens, a group of remarkable children’s authors debuting in 2016.

Shannon is an educator who has earned degrees from Saint Michael’s College in Vermont, University of Massachusetts at Boston and University of Southern Maine. For nearly twenty years, Shannon has been dedicated to eradicating adult illiteracy and believes we should all have equal access to participatory citizenry.

 

 

Querying 101

mailboxIn recent months I’ve received a lot of emails from many of you! I love mail, and thank you for contacting me to say hello. There’s been a great influx of new traffic lately and I’m really excited to chat, share, and discuss writing with you all!

However, I must admit, I’ve been confused by the growing number of novel query letters I receive. I say this because I’m not an agent, editor, or book publisher.

I’m an author.

Yes, I also do manuscript critiques to help writers hone their craft and prepare for querying. But, I’m not an editor at a publishing house. So, I’m always a little stumped when I receive a query letter, because I’m not in any position to actually publish my blog-reader’s books.

The more I thought about this, the more I’ve come to realize the problem lies in a lack of information on who you should actually send your query to. And since this blog is all about sharing information, I can help in this regard!

Who Should You Query?

The objective of a query letter is to get an agent or editor to request your book and consider you for representation and/or publication. However, that doesn’t mean you do a Google search for agents and editors, and blanket the market with your query. You need to target your letter to the proper individuals. Otherwise, you’re going to get an inbox full of rejection letters that have nothing to do with the quality of your book.

So how do you find the perfect agents and editors to query?

1) Decide if You Want an Agent

Do you want an agent? Or do you want to submit, negotiate, and work directly with a publisher yourself? I personally went the agent route, because frankly, I want to write and not worry about the business side. But there are plenty of authors who do it on their own without representation.

If you’re undecided, check out these great articles:

** If you decide you don’t want an agent, insert the word editor into the below steps.

2) Find Agents That Represent What You Write

Lit Agents bookThe number one reason your query letter is getting rejected, is because you’re sending it to someone who doesn’t represent what you write. You shouldn’t send a query for your gritty adult Noir to an agent who primarily represents picture book authors. Before you query, research and create a list of agents that represent books like yours!

How to Create Your Agent List:

  • Go to Literary Agency Websites and read the agent bio pages. These list agent book preferences, authors they currently represent, and genres they’re interested in.
  • Query Tracker.net – This is a fantastic resource. Start by searching their giant list of agents by genre. Then learn about query turnaround times, preferences, and more.
  • Writers Digest: Guide to Literary Agents – Pick up the current edition of this book (or check out their blog), to see what agents are currently looking for.
  • Book Acknowledgements – Look in the acknowledgement section of books similar to yours. See if the author has thanked his or her agent. This is a great way to find agents that represent work in your genre and age level.
  • Publisher’s Marketplace – Get a paid subscription to Publisher’s Marketplace and you can search agents to see who they represent and current deals they’ve made.

3) Research Agent Book Preferences

indexSo much of this business is about taste. An editor or agent can pass on your book based on taste alone. Give your book the best chance by researching what kind of books your list of agents like to read. Narrow your list by finding the agents interested in your specific genre and story-type. For example, you’ll find a lot of agents who represent young adult books, but do they like contemporary romantic YA or gritty sci-fi YA? You may have written the best young adult war epic of all time, but if you query an agent who isn’t interested in historical fiction… you’re going to get a rejection letter.

How to Narrow Down Your Agent List:

  • Read interviews, articles, and blog posts – Agents do a ton of interviews online. Others have their own blogs outlining their query wish lists. Using the list you made from step 2, start to read articles and blogs about these agents to get a better sense of their book tastes.
  • Literary RamblesIf you’re looking for a children’s book agent, Literary Rambles has an outstanding resource for you. Casey McCormick and Natalie Aguirre have rounded up hundreds of interviews, articles, and blog posts, and organized them by agent. Click through their agent list to read highlights from articles all over the internet.
  • Manuscript Wish Lists  – A lot of editors and agents are sharing their dream submissions on twitter. Check out the hashtag #MSWL to see what they’re jonesing for. Or check out this site: Manuscript Wish Lists
  • Go to Conferences – Agents and editors love to speak at writing conferences. This is a great way for you to see their personalities, hear them talk about books they love, and to get a feel for if they’d be a good fit for you.

4) Craft Your Query Letter

Now that you have a list of 5 to 20 agents, create a query letter targeted toward them. I’ve written many posts on how to craft a query letter. So be sure to check out the links below.

How to Write a Query Letter:

emb5) Send Out Your Query Letter

Now that you have a small, targeted list for querying, start sending out your queries. I suggest keeping a spread sheet on which agents you’ve submitted to and the date of submission. Some agents have No Response Means No policies.  Using a spreadsheet will help you to keep track of those responses.

Every time you get a rejection, send out three more query letters! Querying can be a numbers game. Remember that so much of this is about taste. You don’t need everyone to love you. You just need that one agent or editor to love you!

Querying can be a difficult and grueling process. Keep researching, adding more agents to your list, and sending out queries. Keep the faith!

There’s a ton of great information on the internet on how to find an agent and create a successful query letter. This can be a rabbit hole and a big time-suck, but you put in the time to write your book, be sure to put in the time to research agents as well!

Hungry for more? Try these great links:

Highlights from the 2014 SCBWI Summer Conference

Guest post by Lianna McSwain

Hi All! SCBWI-LA was a massive event. There were over 1,200 attendees and close to 100 professionals from the field. The conference took place over three days and included so much information I filled a notebook almost completely with notes, which I am happy to share with you. These notes cover only those events I was able to go to. It’s like a cupful of information that I collected from the fire hose.

I wish I could have been everywhere!

2014-Summer-banner-2

Friday

Meg Rosoff:

Meg Rosoff

After Lin Oliver and Stephen Mooser kicked off the conference by charming everyone with their wit and loveliness, we sat back and had our minds blown by Meg Rosoff.

Her talk dissected several academic complaints that fairy tales are harmful because they give children unrealistic perceptions of the world. The academics charged that stories such as Goldilocks and the Three Bears are dangerous because they fail to teach that bears live in dens not cottages, that they eat ant pupae not porridge and that they are more inclined to disembowel and eat small children than they are to be suitable playmates for them.

Meg Rosoff responded that fairy tales are dangerous, but not in the ways the academics say. She reminded us that fairy tales are subversive. They upend cultural norms and allow us access to our most repressed thoughts and fears.

Fairy Tales take the dark matter of our unconscious minds and put them into our hands.

She assigned us the task of going out into the world and writing those stories we’ve been told we can’t or shouldn’t write. She asked us to write subversive.


Editor’s Panel:

Lin Oliver

There were seven editors on the Friday morning editor’s panel: Alessandra Balzer (Balzer+Bray), Mary Lee Donovan (Candlewick), Allyn Johnston (Beach Lane Books), Wendy Loggia (Delacorte), Lucia Monfried (Dial), Dinah Stevenson (Clarion), and Julie Strauss-Gabel (Dutton).

Lin Oliver moderated the panel and asked the editors to begin by naming things they’d like to see more of.

Nearly everyone called for more work with voice.

The editors also called for work that was authentic, original and that surprised them.

Julie Strauss-Gabel asked that the writers take the time to get to know the editors, so that when submitting a work, the writer would know whether the work would be a good fit for that editor. Julie stated that she only publishes 9 or 10 works per year, and she needs to fall in love with them.

The other editors agreed that they too were hoping for works that the writers or agents saw as being a good fit for them. Wendy Loggia said that when an agent says to her, “you’re the best editor for this book” she feels a need to put that manuscript on the top of the pile.

Lin Oliver jumped in and recommended that writers consult the fabulous SCBWI resource called “Edited By.” This is a list of current editors and the ten books that they believe best represent the kind of work they like to publish. This list is included as a chapter in the Market Section of The Book. If you are not familiar with The Book, it is a pdf compilation of the most current information about the state of children’s book publishing available to all members of SCBWI for free, download here.

The editors agreed that while they understand that multiple submissions are the norm these days, they really all frown on submitting a manuscript to multiple editors within the same house.

Finally, Mary Lee Donovan looked for writing competence. Dinah Stevenson wanted a story with a definite beginning, middle and end and nothing over 100K words. Wendy Loggia requested that manuscripts have page numbers. Julie Straus Gable wanted stories that weren’t boring. Allyn Johnston requested stories that were readable out loud.

The editors also agreed that respectful communication goes a long way.

Judy Schachner:

Skippy

Judy let us into her mental art studio, and confirmed what I suspected all along—Ms. Schachner is a wellspring of genius! She showed us photos of her collage books. When she is creating a character and a story, she spends weeks and weeks pulling photos and compiling them into a workbook in a non-logical jumbled up way. She collages photos on top of drawings, loosely, with her editor’s eye turned off. When she has finished the book, she goes through and looks for juxtapositions that catch her eye. From this rich source material, she makes her story. I was very impressed by the amount of work she put into the generative stage, the stage before she began writing the story. Also, Judy is amazing at accents. She can slip into from a Tennessee drawl, to an Irish brogue, and then to Antonio Banderas. I’m in awe!

Saturday

Aaron Becker:

Aaron led us in a two part sing a long of “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey. Imagine half the auditorium singing the bass line, and the other half singing the tenor line while Aaron Becker sang the melody on stage. He said we sang better than the editors and agents did at his last presentation. We all sat down feeling very smug. They don’t call us writers ‘the talent’ for nothing. ;)

I didn’t realize how much I liked Aaron’s wordless picture book Journey, until I saw it projected onto a large screen, and I could immerse myself into his gorgeous artwork. Journey was the only book I bought at this conference. Aaron’s story was very inspiring, as his first book was published later in life. His story exemplifies a quote I heard earlier from Erin Murphy:

“The path to success is filled with many waiting periods that feel like failure.”

Aaron Becker


Maggie Stiefvater:

Maggie

Maggie Steifvater stomped on stage looking like a punk rock cheerleader—all tight pants, boots, and leather bracelets covering up a shock wave of energy and enthusiasm.

Maggie talked about being a thief. She steals people’s souls. She freely admits to meeting people and finding their essence. Then she puts that essence into her characters. It’s easy, she said, “just find that one thing that makes them uniquely who they are.” If someone is wearing a plaid shirt, Maggie says, that detail is useless until you know why they are wearing a plaid shirt. When you know why, you can change the details, you can know how they will act in the future. Steal their soul, she said.

Sunday

Deborah Halverson:

Deborah Halverson

Deborah started the Market Report by reminding us that the watchword for 2013 had been ‘dip’. She meant that 2012 had been higher than normal because of the Hunger Games, Divergent and the new Wimpy Kid book, so the sales of 2013 were a return to sales slightly higher than 2011, but not as high as the blockbuster 2012.

She stated that for 2014, the dip is gone. All trade publications are up. Sales of print and ebooks are up 31%.

Picture books in the last two years have been the best ever, specifically those aimed at the youngest markets. Because older kids are moving to chapter books sooner, there is a demand for heavily illustrated chapter books. There is not a lot of demand for digital picture books.

Non-fiction picture books are on the rise, though Deborah stated that they should be considered an extra opportunity rather than a driving force behind higher sales numbers. Writers should be aware that there seems to be a backlash against the common core, so non-fiction picture books need to have entertainment value apart from their ability to fill the common core niche. (A text’s compliance with Common Core requirements should be that extra hook that pleases the editor who would have bought the book anyway.) Non-fiction books that have a strong character driven narrative still sell well, and longer texts are still acceptable.

Chapter Book sales continue to grow because of titles such as The Magic Tree House, Geronimo Stilton, and Dragonbreath. These highly illustrated hybrid books help readers find their footing. Single title Chapter Books struggle for shelf space in the midst of many series which dominate the market niche.

Middle Grade is finally on the upswing. There seems to be a lot of excitement surrounding recent middle grade titles, both series and stand alone titles. Editors are eager to find the right the combination of voice and humor, which have to be spot on. There is a call for more adventure fantasy, and light humor. There is also a place for historical fiction as long as it sounds contemporary.

Young Adult sales are starting to slow down a little, except for within the field of realistic contemporary fiction. Editors are excited about stories that focus on normal kids within normal school settings. Editors are also eager to see YA thrillers and mystery stories including some speculative fiction with a thriller twist. Historical YA is still a hard sell, and paranormal titles are tricky.

Overall, the field is looking up and editors are optimistic that the market will continue to be strong.

linda sue parkLinda Sue Park:

Linda is gracious and calm but she writes like a ninja. Here is her advice for writing lean, clean prose. She says:

Take each block of text and treat it as if it were a prose poem.

Give each clause its own line so you can see which words are working and which ones are cluttering up the flow. Eliminate all clutter.

bruce_covilleBruce Coville:

Bruce advised creating a Bible for each series with detailed character studies, historical background, and the rules of the world. The more detailed the Bible, the more potential a story has for becoming a series.

At this point we were all exhausted, staggering around under the weight of our books, looking bleary-eyed for the exit.

It was a great conference.
Lianna McSwainLianna McSwain lives in Northern California with her husband and her two extraordinarily charming children. After a career in economic development and fundraising, she finally returned to her true love, writing. Lianna is completing an MFA in writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts, specializing in YA and Middle Grade. When she is not writing, she is reading and eating chocolate. Or playing music and taking improv classes. Or hiking with friends.  She rarely does housework willingly. Sometimes she just sits there, thinking.

The Silent Treatment

Empty MailboxIf you’ve every queried an agent you’re probably familiar with the no response = not interested policy. This is when an agent/agency says if you haven’t heard from them within X-amount of time, they’re passing on your project. This isn’t a new policy. It’s been around for years.

Writers hate this policy. We get a little neurotic about it. Waiting to see if someone likes us – Ahem! I mean, likes our project – is hard. How can we know if an agent “just isn’t into us” if all we get is the silent treatment?

On the other hand, agents are busy. I mean busy! One agent reported getting 20 queries a day, and at the time of the blog-post, had 967 queries in her in-box. Is she supposed to send a personal email to all of them?

This has been a controversy for a while now, and there seem to be great points on both sides of the debate.

too much spamThe agents say:

  • Not having to send rejection letters means they can actually read more query letters, request more materials, and find YOU sooner!
  • An agent’s time is valuable! They’re busy. They have their normal day-to-day duties to tend to – like selling their client’s books!
  • It’s a business transaction. Do you get a response from every job you apply to? No.
  • There’s negative karma with sending out rejection letters.
  • Agents have the right to create whatever submission policy they like.

But… some agents also say:

  • Responding to queries gives them a “leg up” on other agents. Now they have the “kindness factor.”
  • They like to send responses because it allows them to feel like they have no loose ends.

Patience ImageMeanwhile the writers…

  • Find it discouraging. A no-response can feel harsher than a rejection letter. Does the agent not respect them or their time?
  • It can make a writer feel like they are in limbo. Did the query letter even get to the agent? Was it ever considered? Did it get stuck in the SPAM filter? (To combat this problem, some agents have created auto responders which let a writer know the query was received).
  • May the mass-querying begin! If a writer knows they aren’t going to hear from an agent for months (and possibly never at all), they may start to send out mass queries. Of course, this creates more letters in an agents in-box, and the cycle begins.

Is there an easy answer to this? No.

I think an agent has every right to conduct business any way they see fit. But I do have respect for those who have sent me a rejection letter in the past. It shows me they’re a professional and they respect me. Personally, I am more likely to recommend that agent to my writer friends (even though I was rejected).

As for us writers, I think we all need to take a step back and practice our skills of patience and perseverance. The right agent is out there waiting for us – and they will contact us when the time is right.

Patience

Want to read more about this subject? Check out these other interesting articles:

SCBWI Open Letter to the Industry

Agent Natalie Lakosil’s Opinion

Agent Rachelle Gardner’s Opinion

Agent Janet Reid’s Opinion

Young Adult Literature: Still Thriving

At the end of June I attended the Independent Writers of Southern California (IWOSC) panel event Young Adult Literature: Still Thriving. The event was moderated by IWOSC member Gary Young, and featured panelists: Jen Jones Donatelli (Team Cheer Series), Ann Stampler (Where It Began), Amy Goldman Koss (The Girls, Poison Ivy, Side Effects), Lauren Strasnick (Nothing Like You, Her and Me and You), and Jen Rofe (Agent at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency, who represents children’s literature and is also Lauren Strasnick’s agent.)

The following are my notes from the event:

Moderator Question: According to the LA Times, the average teen watches two hours of TV per night and reads only seven minutes per day. Why then is teen literature so popular?

  • The adults are reading it!
  • “The average person has only one testicle…so it’s probably the same average.”

Moderator Question: Why do you think adults are reading YA?

  • The quality has gone up and lots of adults are reading YA. It’s just good literature.
  • Coming of age stories now bridge both late teen to early twenties, which it didn’t before.
  • YA is more story focused. Adult books tend to meander.
  • There’s a lot of great experimentation happening in YA and that’s exciting for both reader and writer.

Moderator Question: Who Do You Write For? Yourself? Your Reader?

  • Lauren writes for herself. She doesn’t have a teen in mind.
  • Others write with the audience in mind.
  • You have to be honest to a kid and his/her world. You can’t write what you want a kid to be.

Moderator Question: What do you think about Harry Potter and its influence on the Market?

  • One author said it was irrelevant.
  • Jen Rofe jumped in to say that it is essential! That the market is what it is today because of Harry Potter and Twilight, etc. These books created a new readership and pays for other children’s books to be published. You don’t have to like these books. But you should respect their influence.

Some comments about the publishing industry:

  • Target used to pick books for their shelves based on the covers. They wanted books that matched the color schemes of the displays they were creating.
  • Scholastic has a branch that reviews books for their book clubs. This is how you get into a book club. You want to get into the club! Your sales will increase.

Moderator Question: How much swearing and edgy content can be in YA books?

  • If you want to be in a book club then you should curb your swearing. Librarians also don’t like swearing.
  • Cursing can be unnecessary. Check and see if you really need it.
  • Kids are grappling with big issues today: sex, drug, etc.  If it is part of your character’s world then keep it.
  • Drug use (in most YA books) comes with consequences. It isn’t there unless it’s a big part of the story.
  • Powerlessness is a gigantic part of kids lives.

Moderator Question: What actually constitutes a YA book (for those unfamiliar with the market)?

  • YA books have protagonists that are 15 to 17 years old.
  • They are written from the point of view of the teen.
  • There are Adult books out there with teen protagonists, like The Lovely Bones, but they aren’t YA because the story isn’t just about teens or it is written from the POV of an adult looking at a teen, or back on his/her life.
  • YA books tend to be around 75,000 words.  But stay under 100,000 words. (Lauren’s books, however, are short. They tend to be around 30-40 thousand words.

Moderator Question: How do you see e-publishing and self-publishing affecting the YA market?

  • Self publishing and e-books haven’t taken off in the kids market like it has in the adult market.
  • If you want to self publish then you need to sell LOTS of books for a major publisher to take notice. Lots of books is 10,000 copies or more!
  • Diary of a Wimpy Kid was a self-published book that sold around 20-50 thousand copies, and that’s why it was picked up.
  • There is a community of people who exist to help you publish the best book you can (editors, marketers, etc.). You miss out on this community by self-publishing your book.
  • However, publishers don’t do as much marketing for you anymore. So if you are willing to market, market, market your own book. Then maybe self-publishing is a good route.
  • Any book needs good editing! If you are self publishing don’t forget how important editing is.
  • Self-publishing means less time writing.

Moderator Question: If you have a book-series idea, should you write multiple books?

  • No. Put everything into that first book! You want that one to sell. Then you will see about the possibility of more.
  • Leave holes in the first book that could grow into other books.

Moderator Question: Jen Rofe, what are you looking for in terms of clients?

  • She primarily represents middle grade and picture books.
  • She only has 4 or 5 YA clients, and really does a limited amount of YA.
  • She has a low threshold for teen angst.

Moderator Question: How successful do you think book trailers are?

  • They can help. It depends on the quality, etc.
  • Lauren said she made one, but she’s not sure it actually helped in book sales. (Ingrid’s Side note: I may only be one person, but I personally bought Lauren’s book because I saw the book trailer). Check it out for yourself: Nothing Like You Book Trailer
  • Check out the book trailer for The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer it’s fantastic.

Moderator Question: What is your opinion on self-promotion and contacting your audience through the internet?

  • Jen Rofe is big on her authors self-promoting their work.
  • Try and connect with bloggers. This is a great way to get press. In fact, think about having teens create a blog–tour for you. (There are groups of teen bloggers who do this).
  • Some of the authors on the panel really like blogging and using the internet. It’s a great way to connect with their audience and fans. But you have to make a personal connection with them.
  • One author made a twitter account for their protagonist.
  • Check out the author Melissa Walker – she has amazing self-promotion.
  • Beware of being inauthentic. No one like someone who is always always always promoting. Be a real human being online!
  • Reach out to High School newspapers and see about doing an interview. This is a great way to promote directly to the source!
  • There is a difference between promotion and commotion.
  • You only get a certain number of ARC’s (advance reader copies) to promote with. So think about who you send them to.

Panelist Bios:

JENNIFER ROFÉ, ANDREA BROWN LITERARY AGENCY. As a literary agent, Jennifer handles children’s fiction projects, from picture books to young adult. Middle grade is her soft spot; she’s open to all genres in this category, especially the tender or hilarious. For YA, Jennifer is drawn to contemporary works, dramatic or funny romance, and urban fantasy/light sci-fi. For picture books, early readers, and chapter books, she’s interested in character-driven projects and smart, exceptional writing. Jennifer’s clients include Kathryn Fitzmaurice, Barry Wolverton, Nick James, Samantha Vamos, Meg Medina, and Crystal Allen. Jennifer is co-author of the picture book Piggies in the Pumpkin Patch.

LAUREN STRASNICK is a graduate of the California Institute of the Arts MFA Writing Program. Her debut novel, Nothing Like You (Simon Pulse/S&S, 2009), was an RWA RITA award finalist in two categories, Best First Book and YA Romance. Her second novel, Her and Me and You (Simon Pulse/S&S, 2010), was an ALA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers. Then You Were Gone (Simon Pulse/S&S), Lauren’s third book, will be out in January 2013.

AMY GOLDMAN KOSS Amy teaches writing and has written 14 teen novels including The Girls, Poison Ivy, Side Effects, and The Not-So-Great Depression, as well as a few picture books and many LA Times Op-Ed pieces. She lives in Glendale, California, with her pets, family, and phobias, where she can usually be found hunched over, scowling at the computer.

ANN STAMPLER This March saw the release of Ann Redisch Stampler’s fifth picture book, The Wooden Sword (Albert Whitman, 2012), and her debut young adult novel, Where It Began (Simon & Schuster/Simon Pulse, 2012), a story set in contemporary Los Angeles. Her picture books, primarily Eastern European folk tales, have been Sydney Taylor honor and notable books, a National Jewish Book Award finalist and winner, an Aesop Accolade winner, Bank Street Best books, and PJ Library selections.  Ann’s next YA novel will be published by Simon Pulse in the summer of 2013, and her new PB by Kar-Ben in the spring. Ann has two adult children, and writes in the Hollywood Hills, where she lives with her husband and their dog.

JEN JONES DONATELLI is an author and journalist based in Los Angeles. To date, she has authored more than 50 middle-grade non-fiction books for tweens and teens for publishers including Enslow Publishing and Capstone Press. In addition, her fiction series Team Cheer is being released in trade paperback this July, with four more books to follow later this year. Along with writing books, Jen is also a seasoned freelance writer and regularly contributes to print and online publications including LA Confidential, Natural Health, San Francisco, Variety, MSN, E!Online, Thrillist and many more.

The Master List: 2010 SCBWI LA Conference

I’ve finally posted all of my notes from the 2010 SCBWI LA Conference!

For your convenience I have listed below and linked all of the keynote speeches and breakout sessions I attended to their corresponding posts. Be sure to bookmark this page for future reference!

2010 SCBWI LA Conference Keynote Speech and Breakout Session List:


FRIDAY:

SATURDAY:

SUNDAY:

MONDAY:

To learn more about the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and their events visit them online at: www.scbwi.org

Your Manuscript is Ready. Are you?

Author Jill Alexander and her agent Michael Bourret spoke at the 2010 SCBWI LA conference about what happens in the time between selling your first book and getting it published.

Why We Created this Breakout Session:

  • For Alexander the transition between un-published and published felt like it happened in a whirlwind and overnight. So she wanted to create this session to let everyone know what the process is like and things to be prepared for.
  • The transition is a quick one.
  • Agents often forget all the steps that authors are unfamiliar with when they are publishing their first book. Bourret’s hope is that this session will help you to navigate the choppy waters ahead!

BEFORE -Things to do before you get published:

  • Develop a Web Presence:

o   Develop a web presence in some way. Create an online hub. This should be one central place where people can find you.

o   You want to update your online hub with new content on a regular basis so that you can begin to build an audience.

o   Think about your web presence as a way for people to contact you! A place for fan mail, or librarians to say hello, etc. Some people use Facebook, but Alexander doesn’t accept minors to be her friend on Facebook.

o   Forward thinking – you won’t have much time later! Think about it now.

o   Secure a domain name and get a blog. You don’t need a fake book cover or anything, just be yourself.

  • Create your Office Hours:

o   How many hours will you spend social networking? (Twiter, email, blog, etc.?)

o   Create a calendar system for school visits.

o   Think about writing not as a hobby but as a business.

The Real Work Starts After You’ve Sold Your Book:

  • We are not talking about writing here, we are talking about the media. You will have to talk to them! You will have to get used to having an audience.
  • Think about how you will talk about your book. What was your inspiration? Have pre-packaged answers to those questions ready (or some idea) so you don’t look like a bumbling fool. Practice your responses.
  • Alexander has a post on her website of common questions she was asked when she got published. Take a look at these and practice what you would say!  Questions are here: http://jillalex.livejournal.com/16841.html

The Funny Things You Never Think About…

  • It turns out there is another author out there named Jill Alexander. Only she is an erotic writer! That can be a problem when your young adult audience starts looking you up on the internet! Alexander decided to use the S. of her middle name to differentiate herself from the other Alexander. Her agent helped her through this issue.

Revision, Revision, Revision… 

  • Revision is a long process. There are a lot of little steps along the way.
  • Revision begins with a larger letter discussing the major story issues. This is the time you SHOULD address these issues. I can be hard to change major things later on. Editors hate hearing “Is it too late to change…” The earlier in the process you deal with these things the better.
  • Later you will get a long letter with lots and lots of notes on each line (copy edits). It can be intimidating.
  • Review your copy editing symbols so you won’t feel so confused when that draft comes along.
  • Expect to read your book another 8 to 12 times!
  • You will be addressing different things each time you get your manuscript back.
  • Learn to distance yourself from the manuscript and be willing to read your manuscript differently.

Renaming Your Book:

  • It is pretty common that the name of your book will change. This can be for a lot of reasons. For Alexander the word Christmas in her book title caused it to need to change so it wasn’t thought of as a seasonal book.
  • Have a list of other possible titles ready! Try to think up 5 to 10 titles.

What’s and ARC?

  • An ARC is an Advanced Reader Copy. These are copies of your book that are sent to librarians, reviewers, etc.
  • ARC’s are great for your first signing opportunities. You can raffle these off to your blogging community for example.
  • And ARC is a precious commodity.
  • You get 5 to 10 copies of your ARC’s. They are expensive to make so make sure you think clearly about who will get them.  They should be for people who will write about your book and will help sell your book. Be prepared to be told by your publisher that the supplies are limited. Ask who they have sent ARC’s to so that you don’t double up.
  • When ARC’s come out is when the “What’s Next” question starts to come up.

The Book Launch is More of a Wrap Up Party:

  • Once your book comes out a lot of the work will already be done. It’s the end result.
  • Pub dates – this day will only be super exciting for you the author. It doesn’t mean much for everyone else. That can be emotionally taxing. Don’t try to build it up too much for yourself.
  • Bourret tries to be mindful of publication date and calls his clients on that day.

The School Visit:

  • Have school presentation ideas in mind. Put your ideas up on your blog or website for schools to see. Have some of these ideas ready by the time your book comes out.
  • Schools will ask you to come visit for free. Tell them you have a set fee. “I would be happy to waive the fee.” This way you are giving them something.
  • Alexander used to teach high school, so doing a book visit at a school wasn’t very scary for her.
  • Set limits to the amount of students you will talk to. Never do an auditorium because it’s too big and the kids don’t care enough when they are in a large environment like that. Agree to go to 3 or 4 classrooms instead.

When the Book Comes Out:

  • “Free books are at the library.” Don’t give away your book. Have people buy them! Particularly your friends and family.
  • Your contracted books (that you get free from the publisher) don’t go to friends and family. They need to support you and buy your book!
  • Don’t give your contracted books away to anyone who doesn’t have some influence.
  • When you are post-publication you will have to spend time promoting, etc. This takes away from your writing. “My time is valuable,” is an important mantra. It shows that you need to be paid. Your time isn’t free.
  • Protect your creative think time. This is different than your writing time. Driving can be a great place to have think time. To help separate creative time from business time Alexander moves to different areas of her house. One area is for social networking (twitter, etc.) another area is for writing.

Remember Your Family Dynamic:

  • Remember that the world goes on for your family even after you are published. Life doesn’t change much for them. So be sure you still make your family an important part of your day/life.
  • Remember to keep a balance. There will be less home-drama if you do.

What Is Next? Writing Your Second Book:

  • Your next book is an important thing to talk about with your Agent. You want your career to be long so you want to have a good conversation about the best choices for you. Talk about this early with your agent and publisher. Never do things in the dark.
  • Alexander though a previous book that she had written would end up being her second book, but her agent thought it might be too dark for her audience and they went with another idea.
  • Michael Bourret likes to know everything and as soon as possible. He likes you to share what you are doing because it allows him to figure out the timing. This is important for you next book but also important for other things like promotion. If you set up an interview with a broadcast but do it before your book comes out then it can be wasted publicity. Timing is important.
  • You can bother your agent! Share! It’s their job to hear from you!

A Bit About Agent Michael Bourret:

  • He represents children’s ficton and adult fiction, but he doesn’t do adult genre fiction.
  • He does represent some children’s books but he isn’t dying to see more.
  • He advises everyone to find the editor and agent who lights up when they read your book.
  • “There aren’t good or bad agents, there are only good or bad matches.”
  • Bourret suggest you find an agent before you find an editor.
  • Bourret will Google an author if he finds their manuscript interesting. See what is out there on yourself!

Jill S. Alexander is an author and SCBWI success story. Her debut novel The Sweetheart of Prosper County was discovered through the national conference critique process and ha s received a starred review from School Library Journal as well as being awarded to the 2010 Texas Lonestar Reading List. Jill’s second novel Paradise and His Smokin’ Squeezebox is set for release in Spring 2011. Visit Jill at: www.jillsalexander.com.

Michael Bourret joined Dystel & Goodrich Literary Management as an intern while studying film and television production at New York University, and began at the agency full-time in 2000. After ten years as an agent in the New York office Michael now works in Los Angeles at the West Coast office of DGLM as Vice President. Michael’s authors include Sara Zarr, Lisa McMann, Bernadette Shustack, Anne Rockwell, and Heather Brewer.