February 23, 2009

Lots of Stuff Happening

Today has been one of those crazy days when everything seems to be happening at once. My first foray into virtual book tours will begin on March 1. I’ll be appearing on Kathy Stemke’s site and I’ll be hosting Ransom Noble. It should be interesting. I’ve been working on completing a new interview and that’s exactly what I started out doing this morning.

Then I received an email from an old friend of mine. We lost touch a few years ago. The last time we spoke was right after 9/11. He told me that he had been trying to find me for long time. He’s been working on a memoir type book about growing up in the Bronx and wanted my input on it. We were in the same Kindergarten class together and were friends right through high school. After that, he moved to the west coast and I’ve only spoken to him sporadically since. He’s got a friend out there who would like to make a movie out of this memoir, but he needs the completed book first. This should do wonders for my writing since it will force me to go exploring through the nooks and crannies of my own childhood. Without going into particulars, I have to warn you that if this book is turned into a movie, there’s a very good possibility that it will have an R rating.

Then, I received an email from my publisher. It looks like my rhyming picture book, “If I Could Be Anything” will be the next book to be published after “The Sister Exchange”. I was a little surprised since that book was the most recent submission I made to Guardian Angel Publishing. But it’s nice to know what’s coming so I can plan for the book’s release.

Finally, Kai Strand is a member of my critique group, The Prose Shop. She interviewed me and several other members of my group. She posted the interviews today. If you would like to see the interviews of some very talented writers, please visit her blog at http://cleanwriter.livejournal.com/

Whew! I’m exhausted, but in a good way. Now what did I do with those new interview questions? …

February 10, 2009

More from the SCBWI Conference

I’m a veteran of three SCBWI New York conferences. I’d like to attend more, but my schedule and day job won’t allow for it. But I still think its well worth the effort. It gives me chance to meet other people in the industry and gives me a better perspective of what’s going on with children’s books in general.

The SCBWI Conference was held in a new location, at the Grand Hyatt on 42nd St. I have to say that I’m a fan of this new location. It had a better layout than the last location I was at on 6th Avenue and it had better amenities. I hope SCBWI picks this location again for its conference next year.

Anyway, the main thing I came away with from the conference is that the children’s book publishing industry is still in fairly good shape. There have been layoffs at some of the houses, but the overall consensus was this is a necessary adjustment being that many industries are being forced to tighten their belts. Also, children’s books may fare better than adult publishing through this recession, because parents tend not to skimp on their children. So a parent may forego buying a book for themselves, but they’ll probably still buy a book for their kids. Also, there will still be distribution opportunities for libraries and schools as well. So as someone who will be releasing their first book in the middle of a nasty recession, that made me feel a little better about my book’s chances.

But the effects of the economy were still very evident at the conference. I attended a workshop with an editor at Delacorte who informed us halfway through the workshop that she had been laid off last week and couldn’t accept any submissions from us. She gave us her former boss’s email address to send submissions to instead. I felt sorry for that editor. Having to do that workshop must have been terrible, knowing that you have no job but you still have to represent your former company. But I also felt terrible for the attendees who wanted to submit to Delacorte. There was no real connection or networking opportunities to made from this workshop. I feel like everyone involved got short-changed here.

But I’d say that overall, the conference was a success and I took a lot away from it. I’m already looking forward to next year.

February 2, 2009

Time to Rethink the Marketing Plan

I went to the SCBWI Winter Conference in New York City over the weekend and I think that it was pretty productive for me. For the uninitiated, SCBWI stands for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. The writer’s intensive was very helpful. I received feedback on two manuscripts that I think will really help make them stronger stories. I’m going to start revising them shortly.

One thing of interest, during the morning session of the writer’s intensive I was sitting next to a man who had pictures of barnyard animals taped to his bright yellow shirt. He also had some phrase written on the back of his shirt that I couldn’t make any sense of.

It turns out that that the phrase on his back was the name of his unpublished book and the barnyard animals were the characters. Apparently he thought that this was a good idea to get himself noticed by editors. It was, but I don’t think it was in the way he anticipated.

I know that for published books, some authors do all kinds of stuff to get themselves noticed. But that’s OK, they’re promoting a published work and they’re trying to get the book buying public to pay attention and buy their book. They have to compete with TV, the internet and all the other distractions of daily life. So for me, published authors get a pass on whatever method they choose to promote themselves and their work.

But in a writer’s intensive where people in the industry are actively evaluating your unpublished manuscript, that kind of wacky stunt just doesn’t fly. It’s the same kind of stunt that you see on American Idol when someone who can’t sing a note, shows up in a gorilla suit. And it get’s the same results. It’s all about the writing, period.

The agent at my table was a good sport though. Before the manuscript was critiqued, this writer stood up to show all the barnyard animals on the front of his shirt and then turned around to show the manuscript’s title on his back. The agent smiled and said “memorable.”

The story was a little less memorable. It was a cute enough idea and the writing itself was alright, but it had a completely unworkable plot. Unfortunately, I think he really believed that he was going to walk away from the intensive with a book contract.

I saw him at another table for the afternoon session. The yellow shirt was gone, replaced by something more conservative. I think he got the message and rethought his marketing plan.

I hope that he takes the comments and uses them to write a stronger story and perhaps next year, he’ll come back as a stronger writer for it. I really hope that he leaves the yellow shirt at home too.

I’ll try to write more about the conference, a little later this week.