Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

4 Questions for Barney Saltzberg


Barney Saltzberg is the author and illustrator of close to fifty books for children, including Beautiful Oops!, Arlo Needs Glasses, Andrew Drew and Drew, and the best-selling Touch and Feel Kisses series with over one million copies in print. Additionally, he's recorded four albums of music for children.   


When an illustrator has an idea for a book with a non-traditional format, what is the first thing they should do?

Check the marketplace to make sure this idea hasn't already been done. Build a book that reflects what you are thinking so people can see what you have in mind. Or, if you don't have the paper engineering skills, draw a detailed vision of what you are thinking.


What is the biggest difference between submitting a book to a publisher that has a traditional format vs a novelty format?   

It's really not that different, aside from either sending in a working interactive dummy or the details of how it works along with a storyboard.

I would imagine some book dummies you make are somewhat intricate. Do you mail your dummies to publishing houses or do you photograph them?

If it's an editor I have worked with before, sometimes I video the book with my phone and send that. Otherwise, I send a dummy via mail.


What is your best advice for SCBWI members who are interested in exploring novelty formats?

Make sure there is a different slant to what you are submitting. There are a gazillion touch and feel books. What is different about what you are submitting?  I have a series of touch and feel books that are all based on kisses, Animal Kisses, Peekaboo Kisses. It helped create a brand.  As a side note, I realized I needed to build my books while I was conceptualizing them.  My book, Andrew Drew and Drew wasn't something I could just write about.  I had to start folding paper and drawing simultaneously.  The same is true for Beautiful Oops! and Chengdu Could Not, Would Not Fall Asleep. When I find a piece of paper a certain way, I have an "ah-ha" moment. I know what I can do with this!  I call it thinking with my hands.


SCBWI Exclusive with… Jordan Hamessley


Jordan Hamessley is editorial director at Adaptive Books; A Division of Adaptive Studios. Founded in 2013, Adaptive secures orphaned content from feature film studios, award-winning playwrights and bestselling authors then works to create new value in these revitalized projects while allowing its studio partners to significantly participate in its success and reformat for a more traditional, film/TV version.


How does Adaptive Studios work?

Adaptive Studios is a production studio that develops industry-vetted abandoned intellectual property to create products for multi-media distribution in areas such as film, television, apps, social media storytelling, and digital & traditional publishing.  Upcoming projects include the re-launch of Project Greenlight on HBO.


Can you tell us about the publishing arm, Adaptive Books?

Adaptive Books, the publishing imprint of Adaptive Studios, publishes eight to ten titles each year, from middle grade and young adult novels to adult fiction. Our mission is to find under-appreciated and abandoned Hollywood content and find new mediums for those works. We typically buy unproduced screenplays from film studios and then determine what works in the property and then develop it as a book. Once we know what the book property looks like, I reach out to agents and authors who might be a good fit to tell that story. My goal at Adaptive is to breathe new life into abandoned content and then find the perfect author to tell that story. Every project is a true collaboration with the author. They aren't simply novelizing a script, they are bringing their own voice and ideas to the table. In fact, in most cases I never share the original script with the author. Each book is given a strategic marketing plan using innovative digital marketing techniques, as well as traditional methods. Our current books in the market include the critically acclaimed YA novel The Silence of Six by Andre Norton Award Winner E.C. Myers; YA novel Coin Heist; middle grade novel Shadow of a Doubt; and The Adventures of Black Dog: Beached Whale, a picture book based on the iconic Black Dog Tavern on Martha's Vineyard.


With the changing climate of children’s book publishing, where does Adaptive Books fit in?

Adaptive Books is constantly seeking new ways to reach our readers. Due to our founders’ experience as film, tv, and digital content producers, as well as our relationships with many of the filmmakers from Project Greenlight, we create film quality level book trailers that feel more like short films than a trailer. We’re very active in the social media sphere and are always learning about the latest apps and websites that teens and media fans are using. On the day-to-day publishing side, I see Adaptive Books as the perfect home for that mid-list author who is looking to break out. Our list is small, but mighty with a full marketing plan behind each title. There’s no getting lost on this list.


How does your team work?

I’m based in New York City and the rest of the Adaptive team is based in Los Angeles. We spend a lot of time on the phone and Skype talking through the latest scripts we are reading, the proposals we’re working on, and the latest updates from our authors. We’re a very collaborative team. Most members of the Adaptive team read every sample that we get for a new project and offer feedback from that point until an author is hired and we finish the editorial process. We bounce ideas back and forth when it comes to which authors should write a certain book, cover design, and putting together our marketing plans. 


Once you have found a property that your team loves, how do you find writers?

Once we’ve decided on a project to move into the publishing program our first step is putting together a “spark page.” That is a three to five page document that outlines the major characters and plot of the book. Sometimes we have a particular author in mind for a project and we’ll reach out to them through their agent to gauge their interest. Other times, I reach out to agents who I know have authors on their list that fit the project and see if they have someone who would be interested.


After the book is written, how is it published?

Every book published by Adaptive is published traditionally and digitally. We are distributed by Ingram Publisher Services and our books make it into all of the major accounts.


How did you arrive at Adaptive?

Adaptive was the perfect next step for me after spending time in the traditional world at Penguin Young Readers and then Egmont USA. While at Penguin, I acquired original chapter book and middle grade series and also led multiple licensed publishing programs. My licensing experience working on film and tv properties is used daily at Adaptive. I also developed several IP projects while at Penguin and that experience is key to working with my team in developing our “spark pages” and matching the perfect author with the right project. When I was at Egmont, I was primarily editing original middle grade and YA fiction, working closely with my authors throughout the editorial process. In my career as an editor I have made it my goal to make my relationships with my authors true collaborations. I give detailed feedback and I’m always happy to get on the phone and talk through any questions or issues they may have as they work on their books. 


How can our members submit to you to be considered for one of your projects?

For submissions, I'd like to see the first ten pages of a YA or MG novel, along with a bio of the author and their preferred genre. I'll read the subs and keep the authors in mind for future projects. 


On the Shelves BookPeople


Meghan Goel, Children's and Young Adult Book Buyer of BookPeople in Austin, Texas, tells us what's on the shelves.    


What trends do you notice in children's book sales? What are the current hot reads?


I would say that the most interesting trend we've seen recently is the re-invigoration of the picture book category. Sales have certainly been driven by some key bestsellers over the last few years like I Want My Hat BackDragons Love Tacos, The Day the Crayons Quit, and The Book with No Pictures, but the trend reaches beyond those key titles leading to very healthy sales across the board. Current hot reads in our store would include What This Story Needs is a Pig in a Wig and Last Stop on Market Street in picture books, Echo and Circus Mirandus in middle grade, and Ember in the Ashes and Challenger Deep in YA.

How do you choose what books to order? Do you use a publishing rep?

I meet several times a year with sales representatives for almost all of the publishers we do business with, whether that's a dedicated in-house rep for a publisher or a commission rep who handles a number of different houses. In terms of how to decide what to order, obviously some numbers are driven by an author's sales track and some are motivated by trends or genre, but really it comes down to a gut reaction to what I like a lot and want to put in front of our customers.


What would you like to see more of from authors/illustrators in terms of community involvement?

I think that the community of authors and illustrators we work with in Austin is wonderful and does a lot. Really I just encourage authors and illustrators to just keep us in the loop about upcoming releases, pull us into their launch events so we can help make them special, to stop by and sign stock, and to be open to ideas. I love pulling local authors into programming we're developing instore or with schools!


How do you handle author/illustrator visits? Can authors/illustrators contact you directly?

We host a large number author and illustrator events throughout the year both instore and at schools. The best person to start with for an instore event would be our Marketing Director. 


What is your favorite part of being a bookseller/manager/librarian?

I love finding creative ways to help engage kids in our community and inspire them to grow into enthusiastic readers.


Personal book recommendation?

My favorite new book to recommend right now is Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan.

Bologna International Children’s Book Fair


By Susan Eaddy

January 2012; My artwork made it into the SCBWI Illustration Gallery at the Bologna Book Fair! Wow! Maybe I should go?! It was on my bucket list. Not sure if I could justify /quantify expense vs. opportunities… but heck. I was going to make it happen and see what happened! At this late date, hotels weren’t available; flight prices were ridiculous. But my dear stewardess friend arranged a standby seat on the less traveled flight to Venice and shared the frugal traveler’s option of monastery lodging. I flew to Venice, took the train to Bologna and bunked at the monastery.

I’m a worrier. If you’re one of those supremely confident travelers; STOP right here! This article’s not for you. If, however, you are a little bit scared, but intrigued and determined to see what the Bologna Book fair is all about, then read on.


My worries:

Navigating foreign systems; money, trains, buses, taxis, hotels

Blowing my budget

Being alone in a foreign country

Navigating the Fair

Making the most of my opportunities



Purchase some Euros through your bank before you leave the states. The fees may be higher, but worth it to avoid exchanging currency at the airport in your jet lagged state.

Once there: ATMs are your friend.



Book flights early. The 2016 Fair is April 4 -7. Start looking in August. Here’s an article about timing:


Also check prices to Venice, Rome or Milan with train fares to Bologna. Flight plus train ticket may not be cheaper but if you plan to tack on some sightseeing it gives you an extra city to explore. Train reservations are available online.


Once there: Get city and bus maps and bus tickets at Tourist Info in the Neptune Fountain Piazza.


Punch your ticket when you enter the bus. You may be tempted to ride for free. Only Jiminy Cricket and the occasional ticket checkers can help you decide if the fine and a public scolding are worth the risk.

There’s also an unreliable Fair shuttle, which will sometimes surprise you by showing up. Or double up with a friend or three and taxi to the fair.



Book early! There are apartments, hotels and my favorite, the monastery.


The Fair:

Illustrators can submit five illustrations for consideration in the Mostra degli Illustratori and receive free fair admission whether your illustrations make the short list or not. (NOTE: This is NOT the SCBWI BIG gallery.)


Even if you don’t submit, Illustrators get a reduced price.


Writers need to buy a pass:


All alone:

NOT! The SCBWI booth is your hub, and home away from home. You’ll be surrounded by friends you’ve never met before.


Making the most of your opportunities

Apply for a personal or regional showcase with Chris Cheng

Schedule portfolio reviews

Bring promo materials

Read the program. Attend the talks.



SCBWI Bologna Website:


For a pageful of tips contact me at

For a blow-by-blow account, here are my Bologna Sketch Travel blogs:






Finally, was it worth the money, time and worry? For me, YES! The opportunity to illustrate My Love for You is the Sun by Julie Hedlund, was a direct result of my 2012 trip.  You NEVER know where connections will lead. But even if a book hadn’t come to fruition, the inspiration and knowledge gained by being in the heart of the Children’s Book World forever changed my outlook and was worth every penny, and even the wringing of hands.


I hope to see you in Bologna in 2016!


Diversity: What Can We Do About It?


The movement to increase diversity in children’s books is on. 

As a community, it’s taken us too long to get here, but today, our industry is at last engaged in an ongoing conversation to ensure that the lives of all young people are reflected and honored in their literature.  Such diversity, which includes people of color, gender diversity, people with disabilities, LGBTQIA, and ethnic, cultural and religious minorities, serves not just to mirror our readers’ lives, but to offer all young people a window into the many experiences that make us human.  What could be more important?

That we have recognized the urgent need for more diversity is a crucial first step.  But it’s just a first step.  We can’t sit back and congratulate ourselves when there is so much to be done to implement our goal.  We need to expand the universe of diverse authors, illustrators and editors, and create more opportunities for them.  We need to assess what each of us can do to help the effort.  For some of us, that will be primarily a support role, helping to change and elevate the diversity conversation.  Others may choose to study how to write cross-culturally with responsibility and authenticity.  We need to learn how to make diverse books successful in the marketplace.  Author Andrea Pinkney, who founded the Jump at the Sun Imprint at Disney, says, "Right now, the publishing industry has an auspicious opportunity to redefine the success model for diverse books. Let’s consider success as more than just sales figures, but include how well a book impacts a community or addresses a timely issue.  Let’s look at a book’s entire life and achievement, not just immediate sales figures.”

Your membership in the SCBWI automatically puts you at the heart of this conversation.  As an organization, we have been at the forefront of supporting diversity efforts, by offering grants that celebrate diverse authors and illustrators, establishing partnerships with organizations such as We Need Diverse Books and The Children’s Book Council Diversity Board, and by populating our conferences and Board with talented people from diverse backgrounds. But as individuals we can all do more.

I’ve surveyed many of our industry leaders and asked them what each of us can do to promote diversity.  Here are a baker’s dozen of concrete and specific suggestions.


1. Offer support to aspiring writers and illustrators from diverse backgrounds. (I.W. Gregorio, VP Development, We Need Diverse Books)


2. If you are judging a contest or award, look for diverse stories that can open up opportunities for writers and illustrators not to feel pigeonholed. (Jenn Baker,  VP Social Media/Diversity Festival, We Need Diverse Books)


3. Politely point out to organizers of book fairs, festivals and panels when their participants are overwhelmingly white or male or abled or straight. (I.W. Gregorio)


4. If you are planning any kind of book event, do not ask diverse authors to appear only in presentations focused on diversity.  (Hannah Ehrlich, Director of Marketing, LEE & LOW BOOKS)


5. If you are a bookseller, teacher or librarian, do not pigeonhole diverse books by bringing them out only for “themed months” or holidays.  All displays should have a diverse component.  (Hannah Ehrlich)


6. In your conversations with peers and the public about diversity, shift the paradigm from “the difficulties and challenges” of selling diverse books to a positive focus, emphasizing the opportunity to redefine the success model. (Andrea Pinkney, author)


7. Be active on social media about this issue.  Follow authors, agents, publishers, librarians and teachers who are succeeding in moving the diversity needle. (Andrea Pinkney)


8. Make a conscious, strategic decision to buy and/or support more diverse books, and do it in a sustained fashion.  Be conscious of supporting books whose covers represent diverse content and characters.  We need to give diversity a face.  The more we show diversity, the more it becomes the norm.  (Andrea Pinkney)


9. Talk about diverse books (on social media and elsewhere) when they resonate with you.  Passionate word of mouth is the best bookseller!  (SCBWI)


10. When you are visiting schools, libraries and kids, talk about more than your own books.  Promote a diverse reading list.  We are all book-talkers and your positive talk helps get these books into the hands of readers.  (SCBWI)


11. If you are a diverse author or illustrator, get on the road and make your books visible.  Your presence can help win fans across the spectrum of diversity. (Justin Chanda, VP and Publisher, Simon and Schuster Books for Young Readers)


12. If you chose to integrate diversity into your own writing and illustrating work, do it in an authentic, respectful, accurate manner.  Research needs to be done, experts consulted, text and illustrations vetted.  This is especially critical if you are choosing to work cross-culturally. (Louise May, Editorial Director, LEE & LOW BOOKS)


13. Check out these two important links: and and make them part of your regular online reading. (SCBWI)


There is much still to be done to establish true diversity in children’s books.  As with any important task, it may seem overwhelming to us, and the tendency is to leave it in the hands of decision makers and  policy setters.  But nothing is farther from the truth.  As one of my heroes, the Dalai Lama, once said…“If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.”  Let’s each one of us be the mosquito!   —L.O.