Tuesday, December 31, 2013

KID LIT CON Tip: How Do You Know Which Blogs To Tell About Your Book?

This year's conference of bloggers of children's and teen literature, KidLitCon13, happened in Austin, Texas in November.

While I went to present and meet my fellow kid-lit-obsessed blogger peers, I also learned a lot from the sessions I attended.   One tip I'm especially excited about was from MotherReader, a.k.a. Pam Coughlan, in her session "Beyond the Blog for Authors and Illustrators."

A little bit of set up:  The Cybils Awards are annual book blogger awards for children's and teen literature.

Problem: How do you figure out which blogs to aim for in promoting your book?

Solution: Pam suggested that the annual lists of Cybils awards judges is a great place to start.  They list their panelists and judges by category:

Book Apps
Easy Readers/Short Chapter Books
Elementary/Middle Grade Speculative Fiction
Young Adult Speculative Fiction
Fiction Picture Books
Middle Grade Fiction
Young Adult Nonfiction
Elementary/Middle-Grade Nonfiction
Young Adult Fiction

Let's say you write MG nonfiction - just in 2013 you can see the seven round one judges (who read everything and come up with the short list) and the five round two judges (who choose a winner from the short list.) That's twelve dedicated and respected bloggers who focus on YOUR genre/age category, who should absolutely know about your book.  And the list was different last year! (And the Cybils started back in 2006!)

It's an awesome tip.

Thanks, Pam!

Illustrate and Write On, and Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Staying True to Yourself (and the Audience You Someday Hope to Have): A Guest Post By Beth Hull

A while ago, I had a really exciting opportunity for a book I thought was going to be shelved forever. Like, really exciting. Think publication. It was a small press, and that was fine. Not my original dream for my book, but still an opportunity to get it out there in the world and read by people. Maybe people who didn’t even know me would read my book. Maybe I would get fans. Maybe people would send emails begging for a companion novel set in the same world with the same people because it was just that cool. Someone might even get a tattoo of their favorite quote with a symbol of the book and send me the picture and I could tweet it and feel awesome.

Despite all those maybes (and there were plenty more), I noticed something. Not all of me was excited. While the hyperactive happy puppy part of my brain was gamboling about imagining a fan-run wiki and people dressing up like my characters for Halloween, the cranky leash-holding part of my brain was saying, “Heel, pup, because something ain’t right.” It didn’t feel safe.

So I did two things. First, I did more research on the publishing company and their books and authors. I asked around. I asked friends to ask friends to ask friends. The results were mixed. In the name of realizing a publication dream, I might have gone for it.

But the second thing I did was sit quietly and think about what I wanted. (Fine, we’ll call it what it was: brooding.) Did I want this particular book to be my debut novel? Did this book represent my best work? Would it put me on the path to writing more of the same, or would it allow me to grow and experiment? This was an old manuscript—I wasn’t even writing in that genre anymore. And what about self-promotion—how much time and energy would that take away from my new WIP?

We all know what happened in the end. Obviously, because um, I haven’t published a book. Maybe I never will. But it was important to me to follow my intuition, improve my craft, and wait. At the SCBWI Summer Conference in August, agent Steven Malk talked about slowing down and having a plan, really evaluating where you want your writing career to go.

Steven Malk addressing kidlit lovers at the SCBWI Summer Conference in 2013. I'm off to the far left--sitting next to one of my writer crushes, Sonya Sones! Thank you, Lee Wind, for permission to use the photograph.
Where do I want my career to go? I want my first book to be the best possible work I can show my audience. If I don’t give them my best, I won’t have an audience. That book I was talking about? That wasn’t my best. So I’ll slow down, keep learning, keep writing, and hope that someday I write a debut book I’m proud to share with the world—maybe not a book worthy of tattoos and Halloween costumes, but a first book that makes the audience want to read my second one.

I read this back at Halloween-time and asked Beth if she would share it here as a guest post over the holidays - she kindly agreed. Check out more of her posts at YA Muses

Illustrate and Write On, 


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Legal News Catch-Up: Google's Book Scanning Found To Be "Fair Use"

First page of the legal ruling

As reported in Publisher's Lunch in mid-November (which is why this is "legal news catch-up,")

After 8 years of litigation over Google's broad-scale scanning and indexing of more than 20 million books in libraries, Judge Denny Chin has granted summary judgment in favor of Google, ruling that their work qualifies as fair use. The revised case brought by the Authors Guild and individual authors has been dismissed.

Judge Chin's ruling is sweepingly in Google's favor, praising the service the company has provided and offering no shades of grey or nuance of interpretation in weighing whether it qualifies as fair use. Judge Chin's examination of all four factors to evaluate fair use is unequivocable, beginning with the significant first factor of whether the service is transformative: "Google's use of the copyrighted works is highly transformative. Google Books digitizes books and transforms expressive text into a comprehensive word index that helps readers, scholars, researchers, and others find books. Google Books has become an important tool for libraries and librarians and cite-checkers as it helps to identify and find books. The use of book text to facilitate search through the display of snippets is transformative." He suggests "the display of snippets of text for search is similar to the display of thumbnail images of photographs." Google Books "uses snippets of text to act as pointers directing users to a broad selection of books."

Additionally, "Google Books is also transformative in the sense that it has transformed book text into data for purposes of substantive research, including data mining and text mining in new areas, thereby opening up new fields of research. Words in books are being used in a way they have not been used before." Yet "it is not a tool to be used to read books," so it does not take their place.

On the third factor, which addresses the amount of the original used, Judge Chin finds the scanning of entire books reasonable and permissible. "As one of the keys to Google Books is its offering of full-text search of books, full-work reproduction is critical to the functioning of Google Books. Significantly, Google limits the amount of text it displays in response to a search."

On the fourth factor, which considers the effect of the usage on the commercial market for the copyrighted works, the eight years that have passed since the litigation began more or less answered the question for the judge. He says the plaintiffs' arguments that "neither...makes sense." Rather, he leans in the opposite direction, as Google has suggested from the inception of the program, saying that it addresses the discovery problem so prominent in creators and publishers minds these day: "A reasonable factfinder could only find that Google Books enhances the sales of books to the benefit of copyright holders. An important factor in the success of an individual title is whether it is discovered -- whether potential readers learn of its existence. Google Books provides a way for authors' works to become noticed, much like traditional in-store book displays. Indeed, both librarians and their patrons use Google Books to identify books to purchase." Chin declares, "In this day and age of on-line shopping, there can be no doubt but that Google Books improves books sales."
Fascinating and important to know.

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, December 19, 2013

What's the Second Most Competitive Job in America?

Based on data from the Occupational Information Network (O*NET), a U.S. Department of Labor database full of detailed information on occupations, here's a list of the 10 most competitive jobs in America.

The ranking measures the extent that the job "requires the worker to compete or to be aware of competitive pressures." Each job is scored on a scale of zero to 100, with a score above 75 denoting a job that's extremely competitive:

1. Choreographers Competitiveness score: 96

2. Poets, Lyricists and Creative Writers Competitiveness score: 95

3. Athletes and Sports Competitors Competitiveness score: 94

4. Sales Agents, Securities and Commodities Competitiveness score: 93

5. Sound Engineering Technicians Competitiveness score: 89

6. Makeup Artists, Theatrical and Performance Competitiveness score: 88

7. Music Composers and Arrangers Competitiveness score: 88

8. Real Estate Sales Agents Competitiveness score: 88

9. Coaches and Scouts Competitiveness score: 87

10. Agents and Business Managers of Artists, Performers, and Athletes Competitiveness score: 85 

Did you catch that?

Poets and Creative Writers are #2.

We have the SECOND most competitive jobs in the USA. Wow. That's excellent to use the next time a stockbroker tries to complain about how stressful their job is!  (It also makes me wonder how many of us writers practice yoga or meditate.)

The above is a fun statistic to know about, but how crazy is it that "U.S. President" didn't make the top ten?

Illustrate and Write On,

ps - Thanks to my Dad for the heads-up, and link.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The 2013 Crystal Kite Winner Profiles: British Isles' Dave Cousins (for "Fifteen Days Without A Head")

As a special treat, you get to watch Dave Cousins giving his acceptance keynote:

Dave won for the UK/Europe division for his young adult novel, "15 Days Without A Head"

I contacted Dave to find out more...

Lee: Please tell us about your book!

Dave: "15 Days Without a Head" is the story of two brothers. Fifteen-year-old Laurence just wants to be a normal teenager, but spends most of his time looking after the boys' mum, who suffers from depression and drinks too much. Jay is six; he looks like an angel, but thinks he's a dog, and has a tendency to bite people he doesn't like. When their mum fails to come home one night, Laurence tells nobody, terrified he and Jay will be taken into care if anyone finds out. Instead, he attempts to keep up the pretence that Mum is still around: dressing up in her clothes to trick the neighbours, and spinning an increasingly complicated tangle of lies. After two weeks on their own, running out of food and money, and with suspicious adults closing in, Laurence finally discovers what happened to her – and that's when the trouble really starts! The book has been described as "a tender, honest story about family, forgiveness and hope, with some hilarious and surreal moments" which I think sums it up quite nicely!

Lee: How long have you been involved with SCBWI, and can you share what you feel you've gained by being a member?

Dave: I have been involved with SCBWI since 2009, and it has changed my life! My inclusion in the 2010 Undiscovered Voices anthology led to signing with an agent and a publishing deal for 15 Days – this eventually enabled me to work full-time as an author – a dream come true! In addition, my membership of SCBWI has made me many new friends. Going to the conferences and events always fills me with renewed energy and enthusiasm, thanks to the incredibly supportive and creative SCBWI community of writers and illustrators.

Lee: Do you have any advice to share with other children's book writers and illustrators?

Dave: It's incredibly difficult to get your work noticed, let alone published – but it does happen! Once you are published, making a living as a writer or illustrator, is getting more difficult than ever. But stories are important, so my one piece of advice would be: keep writing and illustrating the stories bursting in your head and heart to be told, and don't give up!

Thanks, Dave.

I also connected with Natascha Biebow, SCBWI British Isles' Regional Advisor, to learn more about their region:

The British Isles is the largest region outside the USA with nearly 700 members. We run over 40 events each year, including the annual two-day conference, a fiction and picture book retreat, an annual Agents’ Party, the Professional series (six talks a year in London aimed at professional development on a variety of topics), the Illustrators’ series (Saturday workshops with a hands-on craft element), sketch and scrawl crawls, masterclasses and PULSE events (SCBWI Pulse provides workshops, lectures and professional development for published children’s book writers and illustrators). A network of regional organizers run local critique groups, workshops and speaker and social events across the country. We have a dynamic newsletter blog, Words & Pictures.
This is the third year in which one of our region's members has won the Crystal Kite and we are thrilled about that!

And about Dave's win, Natascha said,

“This book was first discovered in the SCBWI BI’s innovative UNDISCOVERED VOICES competition and it is thrilling to see it published and recognized by fellow members for its brilliant voice and humorous plot."

You can find out more about Dave at his website here.

And to learn more about SCBWI British Isles, visit them here.

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, December 12, 2013

A Post For Friday the 13th... What Fear Can Teach Us, A TED talk by Karen Thompson Walker

This TED talk was excellent, and very thought-provoking for those of us who craft, create and work on stories...


Illustrate and Write On, 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Congratulations to the Jane Yolen Mid-List Author Award Winner and Honorees!

The SCBWI is proud to announce the winner and honor recipients of the 2013 Jane Yolen Mid-List Author Award. This grant gives $3,000 to mid-list authors to honor their contribution and help raise awareness about their current works-in-progress. The grant was created and is generously funded by critically acclaimed children’s book author and one of the first SCBWI members, Jane Yolen. 

This year's winner is...

Eve Feldman!

Eve Feldman, 2013 Jane Yole Mid-List Author Award Winner

Eve is the author of such works as Billy and Milly Short and Silly (Putnam) and Dog Crazy (Tambourine). Eve has been a children’s book author and SCBWI member for over twenty years. You can find out more about Eve at her website www.evebfeldman.com.

Two Honor Grants were also awarded to authors Verla Kay and Deborah Lynn Jacobs!

Verla Kay is the author of Civil War Drummer Boy (Putnam) and Hornbooks and Inkwells (Putnam) among others. Learn more at www.verlakay.com.

Deborah Lynn Jacobs is the author of the young adult novels Choices (Roaring Brook Press) and Powers (Square Fish). Learn more at www.deborahlynnjacobs.com.

Jane expressed her inspiration for this award:

“At a time when publishing is changing, when delivery of story has changed more thoroughly than at any time since Guttenberg, the mid-list authors are finding it harder and harder to find a traditional publisher to stick with them. And though they backlist fine, they are not mega-bestsellers on the front end.” She continued, “Even well-known, mid-list authors are struggling. They lose editors, publishers, their books go out of print. As an upper mid-lister myself, I wanted to give back to my peers. So the Mid-list Award was born. It's not a lot of money, but it's a whole lot of recognition. SCBWI and I are saying, ‘We remember your books. We love your books. We need your books. Don't quit. Hold on. Write more.’"
Congratulations to Eve, Verla and Deborah!

You can find out more about the Jane Yolen Mid-List Author Award and all the awards and grants offered by SCBWI here.

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Publishing “In-Between” – Opportunities Abound! A Guest Post By Julie Hedlund

Julie Hedlund

I am confident that every member of SCBWI loves writing and/or illustrating above most, if not all, other activities. At the same time, I suspect the vast majority of people who join SCBWI do not do so solely for the love of writing and illustrating. They join because they want to be published.

But what does it mean to be published these days? Let’s take a brief look at what’s happened to the publishing industry over the past few years. The “traditional” model, where an author submits a manuscript to a publisher who “acquires” it, pays the author an advance and then the author earns royalties if s/he earns out the advance, still exists. In fact, traditional children’s publishing is thriving, especially when compared to other genres.

Several years ago, publishing began to change in a big way as new technologies, such as e-readers and tablets, emerged which enabled authors to self-publish and distribute their own work much more economically than had been possible in the past. We started seeing many discussions about “self” versus “traditional” publishing. These discussions have been useful, but what tends to get lost is that other opportunities to publish exist, opportunities that blend the best of both the self and traditional publishing worlds.

My first book, A TROOP IS A GROUP OF MONKEYS, was published first as an interactive storybook app for the iPad and is now available in print. Most people, upon hearing the book was published digitally, assumed it was self-published. Not so. My publisher, Little Bahalia, acquired the manuscript with the intention of publishing it first as an app. The publisher edited the manuscript, hired and art directed the illustrator, produced the app, and published it to the iTunes store. The only thing “non-traditional” about this publishing deal was the format.


My next book, MY LOVE FOR YOU IS THE SUN, will also be published by Little Bahalia in fall 2014 as a print picture book. This time, the approach we took was a bigger departure from conventional publishing. I ran a campaign (ongoing) to fund the initial costs associated with producing, publishing, and printing the book via Kickstarter. Little Bahalia, however, is still in the “publisher” role and I am still in the “author” role. In other words, Little Bahalia decided they wanted to publish the book under their name with the goal of eventually earning a profit from sales of the book. I’m not simply paying them for their publishing services, which is akin to self-publishing.

In this model, I will provide the funds to Little Bahalia to publish the book, through the first-run printing, via the funds I raise on Kickstarter. In a “reverse advance” model, Little Bahalia earns out those fees via book sales. Once they earn back the fees, the royalty structure returns to a traditional model of the publisher receiving their share, the author, the illustrator, and in this case my agent, receive their shares.

Why does my agent earn her commission? Because she helped me both develop and negotiate the contracts required to make this deal work. Freelance editor and publishing professional Emma Dryden wrote a fantastic guest post on this topic on my blog a couple of weeks ago about what is now being called “hybrid publishing,” or the “in-between” for those atmospheric writers out there.

What’s even more interesting is that in the span of time I’ve been running the Kickstarter campaign for my book, two other well-published (traditionally), agented authors have announced their own projects that fall outside the exact realm of “traditional” publishing.

Author/illustrator Katie Davis’ picture book, LITTLE CHICKEN’S BIG DAY, was published by Simon & Schuster in 2011. She and her husband wanted to write and illustrate a sequel titled LITTLE CHICKEN’S BIG CHRISTMAS, but as a self-published ebook this time. Katie’s agent consulted with S&S, got the go-ahead, and Katie published the book to the Kindle store in time for the holiday season. 

Ann Whitford Paul, of WRITING PICTURE BOOKS fame, and illustrator Nancy Hayashi recently self-published a print picture book called ‘TWAS THE LATE NIGHT OF CHRISTMAS because, as Ann said, “our book is not easily classified.” The book is a parody of Clement C. Moore’s famous poem but with a more adult slant, from the perspective of an exhausted mother in the post-Christmas chaos.

What these three books all have in common is that they didn’t easily fit today’s market parameters for traditionally published picture books. Mine because it is a bedtime poem rather than a character-driven book with a narrative arc. Katie wanted to experiment with publishing an ebook with a fast time-to-market. Ann’s was written as much for adults as for children. Yet, each book has found an audience. 

Does the existence of non-conventional publishing options make membership in SCBWI less relevant? On the contrary, I think it makes SCBWI membership even more important. Why? Because the first thing we need to do before publishing is make sure we have a fantastic book to offer, and SCBWI is the master of teaching craft.

Secondly, more publishers and agents themselves will be thinking about new and alternative ways to publish, and those opportunities will be presented to SCBWI members as they become available.

Last, but certainly not least, the connections made within SCBWI are invaluable. I met my publisher at a regional SCBWI conference. I met the illustrator for MY LOVE FOR YOU IS THE SUN, Susan Eaddy, at the SCBWI booth at the Bologna Book Fair in 2012. In fact, I first pitched my agent Erzsi Deak at that same booth. I met the host of this very blog, Mr. Lee Wind, at the 2010 SCBWI Winter conference in New York.

Gather those contacts, serve them well, and keep them close. Some of them may lead you to traditional publishing contracts. Others may lead you to an “in-between.” Either way, it’s our audience, the children, who benefit by having more books made available to them in many formats and voices.

Julie Hedlund is a Children’s author. She’s had two books published as interactive storybook apps for the iPad by Little Bahalia Publishing -- A TROOP IS A GROUP OF MONKEYS and A SHIVER OF SHARKS. A print version of TROOP was released in fall 2013.

Julie is the creator of Julie Hedlund’s Template for Storybook App Proposals and the founder and host of the 12 x 12 picture book writing challenge, with more than 500 members. She is a monthly contributor on Katie Davis’ Brain Burps About Books children’s literature podcast, and a PAL member of SCBWI.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Agents on the Diversity Gap in Publishing

This interview with a group of literary agents by Jason Low over at the Lee & Low Books blog explores what's going on with the "diversity gap" in children's and teen publishing, and where literary agents fit into bridging that gap (or not.)

A few highlights:

Lori Nowicki (of Painted Words agency)
 "Less than one percent of the submissions I receive reflect people of color in the samples."

 Abigail Samoun (of Red Fox Literary)
 "The author’s ethnicity... makes a tremendous difference when the story is told from the perspective of a person of color. Editors want those stories told by insiders to the culture."

 Karen Grencik
 "I think writing for children is a luxury that not everyone can afford."

 Adriana Domínguez (of Full Circle Literary)
 "Seeing my son at preschool, surrounded by many other kids who are also multilingual and multicultural, and who already have a broader understanding of the world, gives me hope and confirms for me that diverse publishing is not a “niche” market, it is this country’s present—and future."

 and Mira Reisberg (of Hummingbird Literary)
 "I think we need to have a kind of self-aware affirmative action in publishing where people of color are mentored, if need be, so we can have more books by and about people of color."

Read the full post here.

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Future Of Storytelling

The results of this recent study are fascinating...
The Future of Storytelling Trailer from latddotcom on Vimeo.

 The study found that
78 percent of people want to “friend” a character digitally – meaning they would receive updates via platforms like Facebook or via SMS – and would like to be able to sway the outcome of a particular decision, as they would with real friends, perhaps.
Other findings included that 87 percent of people want to be able to get more perspective on a story by seeing through a particular character’s eyes or changing the point-of-view altogether and switch to a different character.
For those of us creating works for children and teens, this study brings up a lot of questions - and perhaps, inspiration.

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A Writer Can Be... a Super-Sneaky Cybils Student: A Guest Post By Laura Purdie Salas

Laura Purdie Salas has a great idea to share

I've enjoyed being a Cybils judge several times, and this year, I decided to use the opportunity to help me grow as a writer.

 I changed categories for the Cybils awards this year. Instead of judging in the Poetry category, I've moved to Easy Readers / Early Chapter Books. (See my reasoning here.)

And what I'm doing in my super-sneaky way is I'm using this opportunity to learn a TON about the kinds of books I want to write! And you can, too.

It's like an advanced course in writing to a certain form or genre. And I'm using the Cybils nominations as my starting point, but you could do this with any great list of books, such as the NCTE Notables list, the National Book Awards long list, Bank Street's Best Books of the year, etc.

Here's what you do.

 ° Pick the Cybils category [http://www.cybils.com/] that features the form you want to learn more about. There are 11 to choose from.

° Find a partner! Buddy up with at least one other writer who also wants to improve his or her work in this particular genre. If you can get 3 or 4 other writers, even better. I feel so lucky that, as a Panelist, I have a whole group of easy reader experts (teachers and librarians, mostly). I know I'll learn bunches from them.

° Get the list of nominated books. In the first right sidebar on the Cybils site, where it says 2013 Nominations by Genre, click on your chosen category.

° Decide how many books you want to read. If you're doing a shorter form, like Poetry, Picture Books, or Easy Readers, read ALL the nominated books. If you're doing novels, maybe you want to pick a limit, like 30 books or something. Contact your library and put all of the nominated books on Reserve or request them through Interlibrary Loan. You and your partner should read the same books.

° If you're on Goodreads [www.goodreads.com], start a Cybils 2013 shelf to keep track of your reading. ° Start a folder for your reading notes.

° Decide what features you want to concentrate on. What are the areas of weakness in your own writing? My struggle with easy readers / early chapter books is structure. Sentence structure, scene structure, book structure. So that's my strong focus as I do my reading.

° Document each book as you read it! Rate it in Goodreads and, either in Goodreads or in separate documents, take notes. I start with the title, author, publisher, and page count. For the books I really like, I'm typing out the book (if it's truly a beginning reader) or a portion of it (if it's longer). Typing it out really gives me a physical feel for it and helps me absorb the structure. After I type part of it out, I run Word's readability stats on it.

 ° I'm doing this because reading level is pretty relevant to this specific category. In many other categories, I wouldn't bother with that. I also go to Renaissance Learning [http://www.renlearn.com/store/quiz_home.asp], where I can often find the word count of the entire book.

 ° Then I jot notes about what I liked and didn't like. What was fresh or stale? What did I notice that was the same or different from other books in this category? And if I only typed a portion of the book, I jot down a ONE-SENTENCE summary of each chapter. That helps me see how the main plot is structured.

 ° Spend a week or two debating and discussing with your partner once you've read all the books. Come to an agreement on the 5-7 top books out of all that you've read. Discuss the pros and cons of each title. It's interesting to see what you both dismiss immediately and what stays on the table. If you can, crown your very own Super-Sneaky Cybils winner in your chosen category!

° Think about and analyze what you found. This is the most important step of all! Re-read your notes. Look for common threads. Actually write down a paragraph or two about what you learned and what changes you want to make to your own writing.

 And there you go. It's like a graduate course in your chosen genre-only without the tuition fees and exorbitant textbook costs:>)

Laura Purdie Salas is the author of A Leaf Can Be... (Millbrook, 2012), BookSpeak! Poems About Books (Clarion, 2011), and many more books for kids. You can find more about her work at laurasalas.com. You can also sign up for her monthly e-letter for writers, where this post first appeared, at http://tinyurl.com/notyw92

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Book Talk Nation, SCBWI Authors, and YOU? A Great Program and Opportunity

SCBWI is partnering with the Authors Guild to organize and curate the Children’s Book section of Booktalk Nation!

Booktalk Nation puts on live, streaming author talks that are free to the public. The idea is to bring book talks to readers' living rooms and help out brick-and-mortar bookstores in the process. Readers can sign up for free and buy signed, personalized copies of the author's book from an independent bookstore hosting the event.

Authors can participate in the talk from their home via phone or Internet; they just need to be able to sign books at the host store a few days after the talk. The talks are about thirty minutes long, and usually involve a featured author being interviewed by another author or journalist.

It's a great way for authors to supplement their book tours and to support their local independent or one they will be passing through on a tour. There is no cost to participate in Booktalk Nation.

SCBWI members are eligible to be considered for this program.

So far Judy Blume, Ellen Hopkins, Lin Oliver and Henry Winkler have participated - and Bruce Coville will be interviewed by Ellen Yeomans about his latest title, "Paula Danziger's Amber Brown Is On The Move" today - Thursday Nov 21, 2014 at 7pm Eastern, 4pm Pacific time in the USA.

The Ellen Hopkins "Smoke" Talk page at Book Talk Nation 
Coming up, Jane Yolen will be interviewed by Heidi Stemple on December 4, 2014 about Jane's most recent, "How Do Dinosaurs Say I'm Mad?"

If you are an SCBWI member with a new book out (it needs to be released within one month of the broadcast) you can apply for this prestigious opportunity. To be considered, please send an email with your name, the title, publication date and publisher of your book to Sara Rutenberg at sararutenberg (at) scbwi (dot) org

SCBWI will select 4 people to participate in 2014.

Book Talk Nation offers great talks to tune into live - where you even get to ask the authors questions! - as well as an impressive archive of previous talks to explore! Check it out.

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Indies First - Authors and Illustrators To Become Booksellers For A Day (Saturday November 30, 2013)

Sherman Alexie has cooked up a great idea, and the American Booksellers Association is helping out.


September 1, 2013

Hello, hello, you gorgeous book nerds,

Now is the time to be a superhero for independent bookstores. I want all of us (you and you and especially you) to spend an amazing day hand-selling books at your local independent bookstore on Small Business Saturday (that's the Saturday after Thanksgiving, November 30 this year, so you know it's a huge weekend for everyone who, you know, wants to make a living).

Here's the plan: We book nerds will become booksellers. We will make recommendations. We will practice nepotism and urge readers to buy multiple copies of our friends' books. Maybe you'll sign and sell books of your own in the process. I think the collective results could be mind-boggling (maybe even world-changing).

I was a bookseller-for-a-day at Seattle's Queen Anne Book Company when it reopened this past April. Janis Segress, one of the new co-owners, came up with this brilliant idea. What could be better than spending a day hanging out in your favorite hometown indie, hand- selling books you love to people who will love them too and signing a stack of your own? Why not give it a try? Let’s call it Indies First.

Grassroots is my favorite kind of movement, and anyway there’s not a lot of work involved in this one. Just pick a bookstore, talk to the owner (or answer the phone when they call you) and reach an agreement about how to spend your time that day. You’d also need to agree to place that store’s buy button in a prominent place on your website, above the Amazon button if you have one. After all, this is Indies First, not Indies Only, and it’s designed to include Indies in our world but not to exclude anyone else.

This is a great way to fight for independents—one that will actually help them. It’ll help you as well; the Indies I’ve talked to have told me that last year Small Business Saturday was one of their biggest days of the year, in some cases the biggest after the Saturday before Christmas—and that means your books will get a huge boost, wherever you choose to be.

The most important thing is that we’ll all be helping Independent bookstores, and God knows they’ve helped us over the years. So join the Indie First Movement and help your favorite independent bookstore. Help all indie bookstores. Reach out to them and join the movement. Indies First!

Yours in Independence,

Sherman Alexie, An Absolutely True Part-Time Indie

Very cool.

If you want to participate, visit the Indies First site to sign up.

Illustrate and Write On, 

ps - My thanks to Sarah Laurenson for sharing this news with me, so I could share it with all of you.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Authors For The Philippines - An Online Auction To Raise Money For The Red Cross Typhoon Haiyan Appeal

Following the terrible events in the Philippines, AUTHORS FOR THE PHILIPPINES aims to raise money for the Red Cross Typhoon Haiyan Appeal.

From their website:
Once the auction goes live (Wednesday morning, 13th November) you will be able to bid on the items via the comments on the individual posts.
Once the auction has ended (Wednesday 20th November), we will contact the winning bidder and ask them to donate the funds directly to the Red Cross and send the confirmation of payment to us.
When we’ve received the confirmation, we’ll ask the relevant author to contact the winning bidder. (In other words, we are not dealing directly with any donations. All donations are to be made directly to the Red Cross appeal.)
If you are an author and would like to offer an item for the auction, please email authorsforphilippines@gmail.com.
There are some remarkable opportunities, like having a Character name and drawing in an upcoming Origami Yoda book, and a school visit by Award-winning author Holly Thompson (to any school in Japan or Massachusetts.) There are critiques by editors and agents, and book dedications, and signed copies, and even an Early manuscript of How I Live Now (from 2003) by Meg Rosoff (a version printed from her computer, pre-submission to her agent and editor!)

 But most of all, it's to help people in need.  Check it out before November 20th!

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Publisher Jean Feiwel - The Full "Swoon Reads" Interview

In the run-up to the 15th Annual SCBWI Winter Conference, I connected with conference faculty member, Publisher Jean Feiwel.

She'll be on the must-see panel, THE FUTURE OF AUTHORSHIP, with Paul Aiken (Executive Director of the Authors Guild), Jane Friedman (Editor, Publisher and Professor), Abbi Glines (Self-Published and Traditionally-Published Best-Selling Author), and Tim Travaglini (director of children's acquisitions for digital publisher Open Road Integrated Media.)

Publisher Jean Feiwel

Jean and I spoke about her newest imprint at Macmillan's Children's division, Swoon Reads...

Lee: So, Swoon Reads. What a cool idea, to create a crowd-sourced publishing arm.

Jean: Yeah! It happened as a result of maybe being a fan of one too many programs like American Idol and America’s Got Talent and The Voice. I think that and a combination of watching a tremendous amount of self-publishing going on, where the authors connected directly with their readers to build their sales. Somehow, the light went off in my head and I said, you know what? This is really an interesting concept.

I feel that publishers had started to create so many barriers to entry for publishing. And especially for something as straight-forward as some of the category publishing that was going on in terms of romance, and science fiction/fantasy or mystery and to watch some of the writers who were coming up strong, like Colleen Hoover and Abbi Glines, I thought – I don’t think that they necessarily would have found their way to a traditional publisher. Because, what publishers look for is more trend-based, so it was dystopic fiction or it was supernatural romance, or whatever. I think that if you’re not agented, I just think, this wasn’t going to happen. So, I thought, How do I source new talent? How do I get to people who are writing and working hard out there but aren’t going to find their way to my door?

Lee: Interestingly, it sounds that it’s not purely the votes of the public. Once the cream rises to the top, you still have a curatorial role. Right?

Jean: I do, and we do. But we’re really relying on the crowd to bring it to our attention. And frankly, if something is existing at the what I’d call the two heart level and I think it’s great, I’m not going to publish it. I really feel that it has got to be five hearts before we review it. And then, yes, the final judgment would be ours, but I really am believing that the audience knows best. And I don’t want to be the only one – or our team to be – the only arbiters of what would make a great book.

Lee: So let’s just do a sidebar for a second and have you explain about the heart system…

Jean: The Heart System – we’re right in the beginning stages, and we’re finding that people either they don’t want to be critical or they’re all family and friends and they’re rating everything five hearts. Which is not good – they’re not being discerning enough. Now, I think that’s because it’s early days, and we still are in the process of learning everything. And we really are not allowing people to game the system. They can’t game the system and keep coming back themselves. We can monitor sort of who’s doing what. At the same time, we have recently added to the hearts rating system sort of what each heart means, which we did not have when we were doing beta testing. So when you scroll over one heart it says, “Not for me.” And two hearts is “It’s okay.” And three is “I like it.” And four is “Very Good.” And five is “Swoon Worthy.” That was required so people understood exactly what they were saying with the hearts and I’m thinking that’s going to be helpful moving forward.

Lee: I’m glad you brought up that you’re aware of this sort of gaming of the system. There have been all these reports in the New York Times and in other newspapers of people who have purchased reviews...

Jean: Yeah,

Lee: ...five stars reviews on different systems – that I won’t name right now – but it’s definitely an issue. And it means when you go online and look at reviews it makes you suspicious.

Jean: Yes.

Lee: It’s great to hear that you all are on top of that.

Jean: Yeah, we are. And again, and this is something we say on the site, this is a work in progress and we’re learning as we go along. And we feel really confident in the set up, but to get everybody part of it and make them understand, it’s not easy, but everyday is better – the comments are much more thoughtful on the manuscripts. My feeling is, even when people post their manuscripts, they’re already getting something right back, because people are reading them and commenting on them and it’s really very helpful.

Lee: Okay, in your bio on the Swoon Reads site, you say you've watched the moment of Susan Boyle’s instant stardom once or twice…

Jean: (laughs.)

Lee: I wanted to talk about that idea of instant stardom, almost Cinderella concept.

Jean: Yes.

Lee: It’s a very compelling narrative, but it’s not like we imagine that Susan Boyle had never sung before.

Jean: Right. Right.

Lee: She probably worked and honed, and tried to make herself sound better and better and better even if the only place she sang was in the privacy of her shower or wherever she was.

Jean: Yes! Yes!

Lee: What was amazing was that transformative moment, and I wonder how that plays in. We have all these different shows – there’s American Idol, and there’s The Voice and there’s The X Factor, but some of these shows are more mentoring than others. Some are ‘come and show us what you have’ and others are ‘let’s work together to make you a better artist.’ I’m wondering where you see Swoon Reads in that spectrum?

Jean: We are definitely in the ‘let’s make you a better artist.’ Our whole approach is – when we find these manuscripts – when we choose these manuscripts – I don’t think any of them are going to be perfect. They’re going to require an editorial go-through. And we are building careers here and building talent. And I don’t think anything is going to be published without a degree of work that goes through it. Because, I read published books and I’m ready to edit them! …I’m not expecting to discover somebody that just comes out of nowhere. I believe that there’s going to be work done.

What I’m looking for is a fresh voice, something where I read the manuscript and I go – they know how to tell a story, they have a great sense of character. There’s going to be something in there that presents itself as exciting. And talented and gifted! But then I know there’s a road to go down in terms of making that book into a publishable book. That’s a process. And we’ve planned to involve the author – and the community – in the publishing process and say, ‘okay, you guys made this book a five heart book, we’ve chosen this book for publication, you should send us what your comments were on the manuscript. We’re happy to incorporate them and talk to the author about them. We also want to know what you think should go on the cover. We also want to talk to you about the marketing. We also want to make sure you meet the author when we send her on tour…

This is something that is part of the whole concept. It’s not just, let’s find somebody and publish them -- the old way. We’re trying to do a new model.

Lee: That’s very cool. Right now you’re in charge of three imprints?

Jean: Yes, I’m in charge of… let’s count them: Henry Holt, Feiwel & Friends, Square Fish, and now Swoon Reads.

Lee: I was wrong - Four! (laughs) What I find fascinating is that you’re doing Swoon Reads and these other more traditional versions of publishing. It’s the ‘yes, and’ version, not the replacing version. And I’m curious – to me that seems like an echo of it’s e-books and physical books, rather than e-books replacing them?

Jean: That’s right. I just feel that this is a new source. Because, again, I think that publishing is at the point where it just has to become more inclusive, more flexible, in looking for the next generation of writers or whatever that is. There’s nothing wrong with agents bringing manuscripts to us. Believe me, I love it. It means they’ve done the work out there. Or there are all sorts of other ways that we see new manuscripts. But at the same time I think there are other opportunities and other ways to go.

Lee: What do you see as the timeline to publish the first Swoon Reads titles?

Jean: It’s funny, we were just talking about that. I am not in a rush to publish, but at the same time I think to keep the momentum and the interest high, I think that we are definitely looking to publish next year. The question is when next year. How soon can we do this in a credible way, where we do choose something, or two things, or three things, that are exciting and worthy, without rushing? I don’t want to have to fill a pipeline. I want to do right by these authors and by us. So I will say we will publish next year. 

Lee: And the books will be all published both as electronic books and as physical books, correct? 

Jean: That’s correct.

Lee: Again, it’s the ‘yes, and’ model.

Jean: Yes. Because I believe in, and Macmillan believes in, the print version. We believe in supporting bookstores, that is important to our future, to our industry, to publishing, to authors. So yes, we are committed to print publishing in addition to e.

Lee: I wanted to back up a little bit and have you explain to me, why the focus on romance?

Jean: Well here’s the thing: I read Colleen Hoover’s “Slammed” maybe about a year ago, a year or fifteen months ago. I don’t consider myself a romance reader, but this was a book that I noticed was on the USA Today bestseller list, and I said, ‘what is that?’ and it says ‘published by Colleen Hoover’ so, “okay, so she’s self-publishing it” And it was like number 7 on the U.S.A. list – unbelievably high. And, we know the bestseller lists are populated – mostly -- certainly at that time, less so now – populated by brand names, so you’re looking at Patricia Cornwell, you’re seeing Nora Roberts, you’re seeing the usual suspects. So I went and got the book. I got it online ‘cause that’s the only place it was available and read it. And it’s a romance, and I loved it.

And I said to my assistant, who has since become sort of the co-captain of Swoon Reads, I said, “This is great. This is like a very satisfying romance. And she said, “This is a whole world of publishing.”

What she said is “what’s so great about romance is it’s not necessarily a happy ending, but it’s an emotionally satisfying ending.” And for someone like me, who has grown up, not only in children’s publishing, but the kind of reading I do is generally morose. (laughs) Or difficult. or thorny, or complicated, rich literary works. But there was something absolutely refreshing about reading a book that just had a straight-line romance all the way through. I just loved it. It’s the mood I’m in. I felt it was not complicated. And then, like, duh! This is a whole world of publishing that has been going on for years, whether it’s Harlequin or some of these ongoing imprints, so I am very late to the party.

The other thing about romance, is not only is it emotionally satisfying, but this fan base is avid. They are engaged. They follow their authors. They want to know everything about them. They want to be involved. They read voraciously. So in terms of creating a community, the romance readers are going to be there. If you’re offering them something that seems interesting and exciting, they will come. So, that’s why romance.

Lee: I also wanted to say something that I was so happy to see on your site, you are open to stories of women falling in love with women and men falling in love with men, not just women falling in love with men. Can you talk about that a little?

Jean: I feel that it’s a critical part of our site is to be, again, inclusive. Especially for young people at this age – we’re really concentrating on young adult romance. And I think that as kids go through the various kind of sexual explorations or changes that they go through, it’s important to be broad in what you are offering and there’s not just the traditional, again, romantic setup. We had, in our focus groups, which were small and not extensive, consistently people were interested in different pairings, of male or female and transgender. A lot of interest in that, and so that is definitely an aspect of the site. 

Lee: That’s fantastic. So, how many manuscripts do you have up on the Swoon Reads site now for people to read and evaluate?

Jean: Now, about a month in, we have about 64 manuscripts. And we have not promoted the site very widely because… I did not want the site to crash and I really wanted to be able to manage all the kinks and make sure we weren’t going to over-promise and then under-deliver. We will keep promoting and get wider and wider – and I want more manuscripts, obviously, on the site, to give readers a whole lot to go into, but that’s where we are right now.

Lee: Now you don’t imagine a single reader is going to come on your site and read all 64 manuscripts, right?

Jean: No, I imagine, and this is why we have various sorting search engines. You can sort by contemporary, you can sort by supernatural, you can sort by the Swoon index, which is something we just actually added to the site. You see that there are elements that say “heat” or “thrills”…

One of the books from the Swoon Reads site

Jean: So if you’re looking for a story that’s hot, you can sort by heat index, and see all the hot manuscripts. Or you can sort by the newest ones, or you can sort by lesbian. I think a reader will come on and will know what she or he wants to read and they’ll sort for it. Or they’ll start with somebody they know and then we do recommended, we say, if you’re choosing this manuscript, maybe you’d like to try these other manuscripts that are also up on the site that are also contemporary, or they’re also summer stories, or whatever. We think they’re just going to come on and browse.

Lee: For those four categories on the website, Heat, Tears, Laughs and Thrills, do authors choose those or do readers say what they felt?

Jean: Readers choose what they felt.

Like for me, I like a good cry, so I’m going to go for tears. I’m always going to look for those. But my assistant? She doesn’t want to cry. She’s going to make sure it’s funny. Or she’s in the mood for something that’s action adventure and romance. I think those categories are going to be pretty important to people.

Lee: And I like that it’s not the author saying, ‘this is a really hot story’ but it’s someone who’s read it saying, yes, there’s heat and there’s thrills.

Jean: Exactly. The author gets a key note, obviously they get to describe their own book. I, for one, will certainly read what the author has to say and their description, but mostly what I’m relying on when I’m reading is that I’m looking at the comments. And I’m looking at the index.

Lee: So you’re having authors create their own beta-covers?

Jean: Yes!

Lee: How is that working out?

Jean: Oddly enough, I thought that was going to be really difficult, and people were not going to be able to do it and it was going to be a problem. But as matter of fact, it has not been a problem. People are very savvy in terms of creating their own covers. There’s only a very few who haven’t done that and who are just taking the template cover that just says ‘My Swoon-Worthy Romance.” So that’s working really well.

Lee: And that’s interesting, too, as you’re creating a fan base that’s going to have an identification with a particular cover, and then you’re going to possibly put a new cover on...

Jean: Yeah. Again, we’re going to go back to the fans and say, okay, well you read this book, Union, with this cover on it. And this title – and there are often times when I’m looking at something and going, ‘oh my god, that’s a terrible title,’ but, maybe the fans will disagree. When we say we’re going to publish this, how does everybody feel about this title? And if the vote is, oh, no, let’s keep the title, we’re going to keep the title. And if they say, let’s not, or – I get to weigh in if there’s a split decision. If it’s a 50-50 kind of thing I think we’d be the deciding vote. But it’s really up to the fans to sort through this with us.

Lee: Then you end up with movie titles, right? ‘Based on the Swoon Reads’ something else…’

(both laugh)

Jean: Right! You knew this as Union, but now it’s My Big Fat Zombie Goldfish!

Lee: Well that definitely sounds like an interesting romance to read!

(both laugh)

Lee: Final thoughts to share?

Jean: We are really looking for writers and readers. We really want the site to work. It’s really a call for action. And that’s why I wanted to do this interview. To get fans, and writers, signed up.

Lee: Specifically for members of SCBWI who write YA, who write romance, what would you like them to know? 

Jean: I’d like them to know that coming to the site and being part of the site is in-and-of-itself a positive experience. Because I think that your peers are not only there to be supportive and helpful and will comment on your writing in a way that I think is productive, but we are there also. We do not comment or rate manuscripts, because again, it is up to the fans to do that, but we are reading all the time. And we have our own conversations about the manuscripts that come up. And we also try to promote through social media – if a manuscript isn’t getting read enough, we will send out a call saying, ‘hey, have you checked out this new manuscript called ‘butterfly kisses?’ It’s really something you should take a look at.’ I think that, again, it’s not you’re being published, but you are being read. And I think that’s important. And that’s many many steps away from where you are right now if you’re unpublished and just writing.

Lee: And it’s an opportunity to be Susan Boyle.

Jean: That’s right! And you can be discovered. I always say, be careful what you wish for because it can be overwhelming and amazing. But it’s also… it can be somebody’s dream come true. And that’s really our hope: Is to make somebody’s dream come true.

Lee: Wonderful. Jean, you’ve been so kind. Thank you so much for taking the time.

Jean: Yeah, thank you.

To hear Jean on the Future Of Authorship panel and take part in all the craft, business, inspiration, opportunity and community that SCBWI offers, join us at the SCBWI Winter Conference in New York City. Details and registration here.

To find out more about Swoon Reads, visit their website here.

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Book As Object, As Collector's Item, As Something Digital Can't Do...

With the surge of e-books and other digital and screen versions of books, one possible outcome for the publishing future is that physical books will become more designed, more "object," more special.

An example of this possible future taking shape is J.J. Abrams' - the director of both the Star Trek and now the Star Wars franchises - and the novelist Doug Dorst's collaboration, "S."

From the New York Times article on the book,

This being Mr. Abrams, “S.” is not a normal book. Inside a black slipcover stamped with the title, there’s an old library edition of a novel titled “Ship of Theseus,” published in 1949 by a certain V. M. Straka. The author and novel are the fictional creations of Mr. Abrams and Mr. Dorst, but the book’s edge-worn spine, labeled with a faded Dewey decimal sticker, is scuffed, and its corners dented. In used-book selling parlance, the condition of “Ship of Theseus” might be rated “good,” were it not for the tens of thousands of words tattooed in the margins of its yellowed pages by at least two different hands, both in pencil-lead gray and a riot of inks: black, blue, red, orange, purple and green.

 Tucked among the pages, readers will find handwritten letters and notes, a college newspaper clipping, a purple mimeographed telegram, photocopied book pages, postcards, an old photograph, a map scrawled on a coffee shop napkin, and even a throwback decoder ring.

“We took every advantage of publishing and the fact that it is an object,” said Mr. Abrams, who collaborated with the publisher Mulholland Books, an imprint of Little Brown & Company, and the design firm Melcher Media. There will be a digital e-book and related materials scattered online for obsessive fans, but to get the full 3-D sensory experience, Mr. Abrams recommends the hardback.

“The fun of ‘S.’ is having the book itself,” he said. “To physically hold it is kind of the point.” 
Emily Berl's photo of the book "S," as in the New York Times

It will be fascinating to see if this gives more support to books for children and teens that are also multi-layered physical objects of literary art.

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, November 7, 2013

No Query? No Pitch? That's No Problem For This Contest.

For the fifth year, Serendipity Literary Agency and Sourcebooks Inc. are hosting their YA Novel Discovery Contest.

The idea being that querying and pitching are different skills than writing, and this is a chance to have the first 250 words of your YA novel speak for themselves.

They're running the contest all of November, as a get-your-butt-in-that-chair incentive given that it's NaNoWriMo.  (But you'll want to make sure that what you submit to the contest isn't your first draft!)

Last year’s winner, Lori Goldstein, received a two book deal. Her first book BECOMING JINN will be published by Feiwel and Friends.

Check out the contest details (including the prizes and the editors who read the top 20 submissions) here.

Good luck, and Write On!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Will YOU Join in NaNoWriMo? (That's National Novel Writing Month - This November!)

National Novel Writing Month keeps a tally of participating novelists!
From the NaNoWriMo website:

National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing. On November 1, participants begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 p.m. on November 30. Valuing enthusiasm, determination, and a deadline, NaNoWriMo is for anyone who has ever thought fleetingly about writing a novel.

Of course, a first draft of a novel is just that - a first draft.

But if you've been having trouble getting that first draft on the page so you have something to revise (and ultimately, make amazing) NaNoWriMo may just be the motivation you need!

Illustrate and Write (that novel) On!


Thursday, October 31, 2013

SCBWI's INSIDE STORY is this weekend, Nov 2 and 3, 2013!

SCBWI, in conjunction with First Book, is launching its first international "Inside Story" event at select independent bookstores this November.

The pilot program will launch in ten cities. It has two purposes: to provide an opportunity for young readers, teachers, librarians, and children's book lovers to become acquainted with new releases, and to build traffic and sales for independent bookstores. A group of authors and illustrators will have a brief time to share the "inside story" behind their 2012 or 2013 publications and support independent bookstores.

SCBWI will provide publicity, volunteers for the day of the event, and special prizes to help bring in patrons, including a drawing to win a phone call from a famous author and a grand prize drawing across all bookstores to have a character in a new Almost Identical book by Lin Oliver named after them. In addition, First Book will donate a book to a child in need for every book purchased at an SCBWI Inside Story event.

SCBWI President Stephen Mooser and Executive Director Lin Oliver say,
“We are delighted that the SCBWI is partnering with First Book to call attention to the great books our illustrator and author members have created. We hope that by next year independent bookstores around the world will be a part of this very special day.”
If you're lucky enough to be geographically close to one of the participating bookstores, make sure to check out Inside Story this weekend!

Illustrate and Write On,

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Have You Heard Of The Independent E-Book Stores?

Disclaimer: The following history of book selling in physical stores is super-simplified to share my thought process.

In the "golden age" of Independent Book Stores, that's where you went to buy books.

Then Barnes & Noble and Borders kind of took over the selling of books, and then Amazon took over from them.

Independent bookstores still exist, though they're fewer in number. And they still serve an important function - curating selections is becoming more and more crucial as self-published work ups the amount of books available.

However you look at it, things have changed dramatically.

In the much newer realm of e-bookstores, We've pretty much started with the big platforms: iBooks, Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

And now it looks like indie e-bookstores are the next evolution. A recent post at Cassandra Daily highlighted these three Indie E-Bookstores:

Libiro: Fantasy author/self-publishing consultant Ben Galley and designer Teague Fullick want to help all writers get their books on the digital bookstore shelves, not just those with the backing of big publishing houses. Not only offering underdogs a better shot at exposure, Libiro also offers an 80% royalty as standard.

Tomely: New Australian e-book store Tomely provides independent authors and small presses with a DRM-free distribution platform. Tomely sees itself as sort of the Etsy of digital books, and all their titles can be sent to social reading tool Readmill in just one click, especially appealing to readers who prefer to digest their books in groups.

Kobo: When Kobo’s former primary retail partner, Borders, shuttered in 2011, the Canadian e-reader company was forced to change strategy, focusing on forging partnerships with independent booksellers. They see themselves as "the true bookworm’s e-reader." Users of the Kobo eReader, Kobo Arc tablet, or the Kobo eReading app can opt to purchase titles from their favorite local bookstores through the Kobo eBookstore. Among the long list of participating shops are Book Soup (West Hollywood, LA), Greenlight Bookstore (Brooklyn), and City Lit Books (Chicago).

It will be fascinating to see what happens in the future with indie e-bookstores and e-book sales.

Illustrate and Write On,

Thursday, October 24, 2013

SCBWI Launches New Website!

Check out what happens when you go to scbwi.org

It's our new state of the art website!

The new home page at scbwi.org

And when I say our - it's ours - yours, mine, everyone who is part of the community that is SCBWI.

Go ahead - you can Ohh and Ahh! over the cleaner, easier-to-navigate design!

What else is new?

All SCBWI events will now appear on a central searchable calendar, which means you have access to information about SCBWI events around the world. The new website also now hosts all the regional websites, so connecting with your local activities is just a click away.

The world of SCBWI is just a click away!

Nine other shiny new features that we have to tell you more about:

The Discussion Boards + Verla Kay's Blue Boards = An Awesome Community-Wide Discussion!

Those of you who use our Discussion Boards are probably already aware that we have merged with Verla Kay’s Blue Boards and brought aboard her team of knowledgeable moderators and the large community that is part of the Blue Boards. If you have not visited the Boards in a while, we think you will be pleasantly surprised with the active, vocal, helpful community that exists there. You’ll want to join in the conversation.

The Online Bookstore!

A bookstore!

New to the site is an online bookstore where both PAL and FULL (i.e., independently published) members can post their books for sale, including synopses, book trailers and reviews. The store will be linked directly for sales to Indie Bound, Barnes and Noble, Amazon or to your own website. The SCBWI will heavily promote our bookstore to drive traffic to the site, so that it will become an important option for anyone looking to buy children’s books. For those of you who are independently published and have sought alternative means of selling your books, our online bookstore will meet your needs. And for those who are traditionally published and distributed, it will provide one more place where both your in-print and out-of-print work can be discovered.

Book Launches!

Book Launch Parties!

Four times a year, beginning in March 2014, members with books (both those published traditionally and independently) debuting during the calendar year will be able to host a virtual Launch Party. Members will have access to attractive, professionally designed templates from us to help you design and build your Launch Party page—or go wild and design your own. It’s your party! There will be room for visuals, videos, reviews, a guestbook, and a message from the author. We will publicize the book launch party date both with our membership and with the community at large, reaching out to publishers, educational institutions and organizations, and the general book buying public. In these times when drawing attention to your work is so challenging, the SCBWI Book Launch Party will become a quarterly special event.  Your book launch page will stay posted until the next launch party, and then will be archived for one year. Launches will require a $25 charge to cover design and promotion.

The Speakers Bureau!

There's a Speakers Bureau!

Our new and improved Speakers Bureau is now open to all members (both PAL members and Full members) who have published a book for children. Members can post information about speaking, along with a sample video if you desire, and teachers, librarians and organizations will now be able to search for speakers in a variety of ways including by book title, zip code, Skype availability, and grade level. We are planning several new outreach programs to publicize the Speakers Bureau, to help people find you.

Blog Listings!

All members, whether published or pre-published, are eligible to list their blog in our blog roll. Those seeking to reach blogs about children’s books will have a centralized table of contents where they can find your blog. In addition, each month we will select from this listing ten member blogs to feature on our homepage. It’s a huge opportunity to drive traffic to your blog.

New and Improved Illustrator Gallery!

The New Illustrator Gallery!

We drew on a panel of art directors, agents, and illustrators to make our Illustrator Gallery entirely searchable and user friendly. Illustrators who list in our gallery can be searched based on genre, style, keyword, name, or region. Make sure to tag your images with keywords and genre descriptions to take advantage of the new search capabilities. Many illustrators find work through our Illustrator Gallery, and the opportunities for your work to be discovered are now tremendously improved.

The Bulletin Archive!

The Bulletin Archive!

After years of work, the Bulletin Archive has been completed after a comprehensive scanning. Two hundred and fifty issues of SCBWI’s bi-monthly Bulletin, representing forty-two years of articles and advice, are now easily searchable by keyword. We doubt there is any other resource currently on the web that contains this much information on the field of children’s books.


SCBWI is in production on regular thirty to forty-five minute podcasts, with interviews from leaders in our field—from editors and art directors to authors and illustrators. The first four podcasts are currently being released, and will be available for free download to SCBWI members. One podcast per month will follow. This is an amazing and free benefit to being an SCBWI member.

Video Intensives!

SCBWI will be producing three video intensives per year, with more to follow. These intensives will focus on timely and much needed topics and will be available to all members, especially those of you who are not able to travel to conferences that feature intensives. We want to make the best instruction and information available to all our members.

So go check out the new scbwi.org, update your profile, and make it your connection to the worldwide community that is the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.  Your tribe.

Huge cheers of thanks to Sarah Baker, Chelsea Confalone, Sally Crock and Josh Smith at the SCBWI Main Office for making this new website - that's been nearly two years in the making - the sparkling reality it is today!

Illustrate and Write On,