Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Business: E-books and Libraries - what's the vision?

One of the shakeups happening as our industry continues to move into the future is the controversy over exactly how downloading ebooks to your tablet should work... when you're not buying it, but rather getting it as a loan from your public library.

As reported in Publishers Lunch, as of February 10, 2012, Penguin

"will no longer offer additional copies of ebooks and audiobooks for purchase via Overdrive" and is severing their ongoing relationship with the vendor. 

Penguin and other publishers are concerned about security (especially in terms of over-the-air delivery to tablets like the kindle).

Authors want to make sure that they're fairly compensated - a library can loan out a physical book to only one patron at a time, and only so many times before they need to buy a new copy.  But a digital copy could be loaned out to multiple patrons simultaneously - and because it's digital, there's no wear-and-tear.

And library patrons (Readers!) want to be able to get e-books from their libraries.

In Australia, they have a system called "Public Lending Right"

Public Lending Right (PLR) and Educational Lending Right (ELR) are Australian Government cultural programs which make payments to eligible Australian creators and publishers in recognition that income is lost through the free multiple use of their books in public and educational lending libraries. PLR and ELR also support the enrichment of Australian culture by encouraging the growth and development of Australian writing.
They have that system in Britain, too, where authors get about six pence per library loan.  (In U.S.A. currency, that would be about nine cents.)

One possible path forward for publishers in the U.S.A.?

Following productive discussions between the ALA leadership and executives from Penguin, Macmillan, Random House, Simon & Schuster, and Perseus, there is some talk about at least one pathway to what some believe is an appropriate model for now: lending ebooks to patrons from within library branches, the same way physical media is lent, rather than lending ebooks online. 

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, February 23, 2012

World Read Aloud Day: An Interview With Dianne de Las Casas

SCBWI is teaming up with Lit World to help make World Read Aloud Day a transformative event!

Worldwide at least 793 million people remain illiterate.

As a global literacy movement,

World Read Aloud Day is about taking action to show the world that the right to read and write belongs to all people. World Read Aloud Day motivates children, teens, and adults worldwide to celebrate the power of words, especially those words that are shared from one person to another, and creates a community of readers advocating for every child’s right to a safe education and access to books and technology. By raising our voices together on this day we show the world’s children that we support their future: that they have the right to read, to write, and to share their words to change the world.

To find out more, I skype-IM interviewed Author, Storyteller, Founder of Picture Book Month and Proud SCBWI Member Dianne de Las Casas about World Read Aloud Day and how she's getting involved.

Lee: Hi Dianne! Thanks so much for agreeing to talk about World Read Aloud Day!

Dianne: It is my pleasure!

Lee: I love the mission of the project: "Imagine a world where everyone can read..." - is that what got you involved?

Dianne: Yes, I love LitWorld's message of global literacy. Plus, I write picture books, which are meant for the read-aloud.
Lee: So I saw on twitter that you've booked the day with skype visits. Tell us about that.

Dianne: As founder of Picture Book Month, participating in World Read Aloud Day was such a natural fit. I love their mission of a global literacy movement. Kate Messner, an amazing author, who is the Skype Author Visit Queen, organized a page on her site that lists authors willing to Skype with schools on World Read Aloud Day. I wanted to be involved so I placed myself on the list.

Lee: And then schools contacted you?

Dianne: Yes, the schools contacted me. I have five schools booked in the US and Canada for half-hour Skype Author Visits. It's going to be a very busy day. LOL

Lee: Wow! And what will a skype visit include - I'm guessing you reading one of your books out loud?

Dianne: I will definitely storytell/read one of my books and do a Q&A session with the students who range from Kindergarten to 6th grade. I am going to highlight Dinosaur Mardi Gras

and Blue Frog: The Legend of Chocolate.

In addition, the schools can access my online, free downloadable activities that accompany all of my books.

Lee: Very Cool! Would you recommend getting involved in World Read Aloud Day to other SCBWI members?

Dianne: Yes! Do it for the cause. But it's also a great way to get good book publicity.

Lee: I'm glad you brought that up - everyone's volunteering their time and expertise, but it's building your readers and platform and yeah, helping contribute to a wonderful cause - a world where everyone can read.

Dianne: Laissez les bon temps rouler! Let the good times roll!

And she even ties it up with a Mardi Gras sign-off! Thanks, Dianne!

Additional information on World Read Aloud Day can be found here.  You can also check out the the suggestions in the Read Aloud Day Activity Kit (PDF) or come up with your own creative ideas to get kids reading!

And share your experiences on March 7th with SCBWI - email your photos and stories to

chelseamooser (at) scbwi.org 

Highlights will be complied into an article for the scbwi website and publication in the May/June Bulletin.

Illustrate On, Write On, and Read Aloud!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Business: Agencies Helping Clients Self-Publish E-books

Via Publishers Lunch comes this news from Nelson Literary Agency, the latest literary agency coming up with "ways to help their clients self-publish" or, in the language of the agency, answering the question: "what is an agent to do if clients want assistance making backlist titles available in eFormat?"

Their Digital Liason Platform, according to Kristin Nelson, lets clients "self-publish their content within a supported environment." It differs from a publishing house model in that "our clients maintain full control of their titles. They are not granting them to us. They have full say on covers, editing, pricing, etc. The program is voluntary so if they want to participate on our DLP, they can, but they are also welcome to handle their backlist themselves."

NLA offers a full-service and distribution-only option, with authors asked to commit to a two-year term of license on the full-service model "since we undergo all the expense and that would be rather uncool for a client to let us do that and then pull the title a month later." In the full-service model, the agency handles the file conversions; connects clients with designers, copyeditors, publicists; distributes through all venues; and "uses our individual leverage with all the venues to promote."

Interesting to see how so many aspects of our kid lit industry are changing.

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The 100 Story House... and other ways physical books are finding new life... and new readers

The 100 Story House project from documentary filmmaker Julia Marchesi and artist Leon Reid IV is a fascinating take on what Julia was noticing going on in her Brooklyn, NY, neighborhood:  people were leaving books they were done with out on their stoops, for passers-by to take at will. 

So Julia and Leon teamed up and have launched a kickstarter campaign (fundraising from the grassroots up) to fund their vision of the 100 Story House, a six foot tall sculpture of a Brooklyn brownstone home with windows that open to allow anyone to access the books inside. 

A rendering of what the completed project will look like - the little books on legs by the side are intended to express that books have their own lives in this, their own temporary home...

Free, with a take-a-book, leave-a-book ethos, The 100 Story House is one of a string of projects aiming to get physical books into more physical hands. 

In the UK, where the phone booths are iconic but increasingly irrelevant in our age of cell phones and mobile devices, James Econs took an abandoned booth,

built library shelves above the phone space so it would still be usable, and then filled those shelves with books, calling on people to take a book and replace it...

He calls it the world's first "PhoneBoox."  He also dubbed his action "Socially Beneficial Creative Vandalism."

And then there's the very cute "Little Free Library" Project, where they're setting out to get these:

All over the world.  Their mission? 
  • To promote literacy and the love of reading by building free book exchanges worldwide.
  • To build a sense of community as we share skills, creativity and wisdom across generations.  
  • To build more than 2,510 libraries around the world--more than Andrew Carnegie!

Illustrate and Write On,

ps - I found out about all these cool projects via this Trendcentral report.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Do You Have An Artist Statement? Make Coming Up With One Your Valentine's Day Resolution

The 2012 Year of the Dragon stamp

I liked this Brian Klems' tip from Writers Digest, and while Valentine's Day is closer to Chinese New Year (Happy Year of the Dragon, everyone!) I think it's well worth considering:

Your New Year artist statement: You do have one, don’t you?
From those first drafts to that Pulitzer Prize party, I believe that your writing should be inspired by something much deeper than getting rich or getting famous or getting even with your ex. It should cohere with your own personal vision or belief system.

This is a good time to look within yourself and ask some tough questions about what you write—and why. How much does creative writing actually matter to you? Why do you even bother? Your honest and highly personalized answers will help you write a brief artist’s statement. I’m not talking anything Hallmark or biblical here. I’m talking about a simple, heartfelt statement that will sustain you over the next year. It will help you to balance your writing with working and parenting and commuting. It will serve as your daily reminder, your check-in with your creative self.

For illustrators as well as writers, I think this is a great exercise:  What's your Artist Statement?

And yes, please share it in comments.

Here, I'll be brave and share mine first:

"My mission is to write the books that had I read them as a kid would have changed my life." 

There.  That wasn't so hard.

Now it's your turn.

Illustrate and Write On,

ps - This post is a great illustration of how the 2012 Comment Challenge worked:  I went to Linda Gerber's blog (she participated in the challenge), and the Writer's Digest article was a link in one of her posts.  This blogging and social media stuff is cool, isn't it?

pps- you can find the stamp image and more info about the 2012 Year of the Dragon design by Chen Shaohua here.

ppps - Happy Valentine's Day!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Business: Amazon and "The Publishing Ecosystem On The Brink"

The Authors Guild published this article "Publishing's Ecosystem on the Brink: The Backstory" on their website, detailing Amazon's impact on the publishing industry.  It's essential reading, covering and explaining concepts like "the agency model" for ebook pricing, the blackout of MacMillian's buy buttons, the loss of Borders, Amazon becoming a publisher, and so much more.

Here's an excerpt:

Burning Down the Houses

Brad Stone’s Businessweek story discusses Amazon’s campaign to prevent other booksellers from securing a foothold in the booming e-book market and the company’s furious reaction to Random House’s decision last March to adopt agency pricing for e-books, just as five of the other “Big Six” trade publishers had the previous year. (Before agency pricing, Amazon could sell e-books from Big Six publishers at deep discounts, taking losses at a rate that Barnes & Noble could never afford to match. See How Apple Saved Barnes & Noble, Probably for more.)
Mr. Stone writes that after Random House’s March 2011 agency-pricing announcement,
Amazon could no longer run the best play out of its playbook – slash prices and sustain losses in the short term to gain market share over the long term. … “For the first time, a level playing field was going to get forced on Amazon,” says James Gray [of UK bookseller John Smith & Son and formerly of Ingram Content Group]. Amazon execs “were basically spitting blood and nails.”

Amazon’s response to Random House’s move was stunning and swift:
The next month, an Amazon recruiter sent an e-mail to several editors at big publishing houses, looking for someone to launch a new New York-based publishing imprint. “The imprint will be supported with a large budget, and its success will directly impact the success of Amazon’s overall business,” read the e-mail, which was obtained by Bloomberg Businessweek.

And of course, Amazon has announced it is launching its own publishing imprint.  Go read the full article at the Author's Guild site.

And in related news, regarding the new deal Houghton Mifflin Harcourt struck with Amazon, Josie Leavitt, An Independent Bookseller writing in Publishers Weekly, responds:  What Fresh Hell Is This? 

"This move by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt underscores that the publishing playing field is shifting away from indies. Amazon is turning into the Walmart of the book world who dictates prices with threats of Buy Now buttons being removed, the insidious price checker app, etc."


"I’m tired of publishers I’ve supported wholeheartedly for the entire time I’ve been open, now forcing me to choose between buying some of their books and supporting the very company that seeks to put me out of business, or not buying the books at all and potentially losing those sales to the company that seeks to put me out of business."

And the reaction to Amazon becoming a publisher is growing into a boycott of Amazon.com titles

"Canada’s Indigo Books and Music has joined forces with U.S. bookstore chain Barnes & Noble in refusing to stock or sell any books published by online rival Amazon.com – including upcoming titles by James Franco, Deepak Chopra and Ian McEwan – with both chains now accusing the online giant of using predatory tactics that weaken an already struggling book industry."

Illustrate and Write On,

My thanks to Darcy Pattison for reprinting the Author's Guild article in her Fiction Notes newsletter.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Maurice Sendak is Interviewed on the Colbert Report

There's a lot of buzz in the kid lit and publishing community about this two-part interview Maurice Sendak gave to comedian Stephen Colbert.

Here's a taste

Stephen Colbert:  "Every celebrity is out there cashing in on chidlren's books and I. Want. In.  What's it take for a celebrity to make a successful book?  What do I got to do?"
Maurice Sendak:  "You're started already by being an idiot."

Be forewarned, if you're easily offended, don't watch: It includes political views and censorship and frank talk and marker sniffing ...and lots of laughs.

part one

part two

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Innovations in Book Marketing: Sara Wilson Etienne's HARBINGER

Starting a new series of case studies in book marketing, Sara Wilson Etienne shares about the marketing she's done for her debut YA novel, Harbinger, out today.

When I sold my first book, Harbinger, a year and a half ago, I thought I was ready. I had a website with a blog. I had an active Facebook page. I had a husband who was great at graphic design and web stuff. What more could a girl ask for??? Then I figured out…

Promotion can really suck.

Turns out, promoting yourself can be awkward and expensive and a ton of work. Shockingly, it’s not fun to feel like a telemarketer interrupting people’s dinner. Talk too much about your book and people get tired of listening. Talk too little and no one will hear you. And there are people everywhere telling you WHAT YOU SHOULD BE DOING OR ELSE. Or else your book will never make it onto the shelves of Barnes and Noble. Or else you’ll never get a second printing. Or else pterodactyls will time-travel forward to personally shred every copy of your book.

But I also found, as I dipped my toe into the promotional water, that I did love doing some things. I loved emailing one-on-one with YA book bloggers…it was so great checking out their websites, getting to know them, seeing what was going on in that part of the world. I also loved chatting with people in the infinite cocktail party that is Twitter. And I loved doing things that let the world of Harbinger sneak off the page and into our real world. And I realized that was the first important rule when promoting your book.

Pick something fun. Something you’re good at. Something that fits your book.

I picked the Holbrook Academy website.

My husband, Tony, is an artist and a technical genius. We love fitting my words and his pictures together to make something new…for example, he illustrated a map of Holbrook Academy for the end papers of Harbinger. As well as a wonderful tarot card illustration. Together we dreamed up a website for the school in my book, Holbrook Academy. We matched scenic, slightly corporate pictures with the creepy doublespeak of Holbrook.

It was fun to dream up the website for my world, but when I talked to Putnam about it, they asked me an important question: what would keep people coming back to it once they’d been there and looked around?


Yikes! Yes, as we have all seen from the flurry of Superbowl ads this week, good promotions have entertaining content.

Around that time, one of my artist friends asked if he could get an early copy of Harbinger so he could create my first piece of fan-art. I loved the idea! And the light bulb didn’t just go off, it exploded in my head! Harbinger-inspired art would be great content! This is something that fit my book and something I could put together well.

It’s not a coincidence that my main character, Faye, is an artist and a ton of my friends are also artists. All my stories come out in words, so I’m in awe of people who create visually. So I reached out to illustrator friends of mine and the Holbrook Academy sketchbook was born.

I gave twenty-five incredible illustrators and artists advance copies of Harbinger and asked them to pick a moment, a character, a scene that they loved and create a piece of art around it. Then I reached out to YA book bloggers and asked them to reveal the pieces of art.  This is where I stumbled across the next important part.

Think outside the box. But not too far outside.

The responses I got from bloggers were excited. Blog tours were something they recognized, but this was a new twist. An art blog tour. People were psyched about the idea, but they still knew what to do with it. I also sent the bloggers fun swag along with the ARCs, a plush figurine from the book (made by one of the artists), a Holbrook Academy brochure, and a lanyard with the date of Harbinger’s release....unique, but still familiar.

picture by the Fable Faerie, one of the YA Bloggers who got the ARC and swag

Even though I was asking other people to do a lot of work, I was overwhelmed by the support people showed Harbinger. The artists got involved and thought about more artists that might want to join in. Then people thought, if we’re making art, why not have a gallery show?

The real-world gallery show is on March 3rd, at The Hive Gallery in downtown LA.  Details are here on facebook. The online gallery is here.

As the art came out and bloggers posted it, more bloggers got interested. This is what you want, you want energy to snowball. You are only one person. Your voice is only so loud. But as it turns out, with other people’s help, you can build a megaphone.

Get other people involved and excited, and your book will become much bigger than yourself.

That same rule applied to the Harbinger book trailer too. I live in Los Angeles, so it seemed a crime not to make a live action book trailer. I talked to a friend of mine about it and he talked to his friends and soon the trailer got bigger than all of us. I’m not going to say much more about the trailer, since I’ve already written a whole blog post about it. Except I will say this, once people got excited, the trailer became an unstoppable force.
Shooting the Harbinger trailer

As your book goes through the steps toward publication, it stops being yours… first your agent, then your editor, then the design team, then bloggers, and finally readers!

This is what you want…for other people to feel excitement and ownership over your book. For people to make your story theirs.

That is what a good book promotion idea can do for you. It may still be a lot of hard work, it might cost some money, but turns out…it doesn’t have to suck.

Thanks Sara!

Inspiring, isn't it?

Here's the trailer for Sara's debut, "Harbinger"

Illustrate and Write... and Market Your Books On!