It’s the age old question, one we hear every day at SCBWI: How do I sell my children’s or YA book to a publisher? Well, there is the traditional way—get a good literary agent who submits your manuscript to publishers and wait for the offers to come in. Historically, that’s been the best route, the SCBWI recommended path. But times are changing, and new paths to publication are emerging. The Internet has proved to be a powerful one.
Using the Internet and all of its various platforms—Facebook, Twitter, blogs, Tumblr, Instragram,YouTube, and personal websites—has become an effective means to develop, display and promote ideas, concepts, creators and content for new books. Review the sales stories, and you’ll see that authors, illustrators and book properties are being actively discovered by publishers who are literally trolling cyberspace to find new talent, new ideas and proven content.
Last year, Simon and Schuster‘s Atria Publishing teamed up with United Talent Agency to launch Keywords Press, an imprint designed to give “digital influencers” a book based platform. It’s first release, the YA novel Girl Online, was based on video blogger Zoe Sugg’s (aka Zoella) wildly popular YouTube series. Although Sugg received a great deal of “editorial input” on the novel, Girl Online broke records by selling over 78,000 copies in its first week of release in the UK—more than Harry Potter titles! Other YouTube hit series are finding homes on the lists of traditional publishing houses. To highlight just a few: Marcel the Shell is coming out from Razorbill (an imprint of Penguin Random House) and The Secret Diary of Lizzie Benett is coming out this month from Touchstone (an imprint of Simon and Schuster). The lyrics to the viral YouTube music video hit "What Does the Fox Say?" has become a popular picture book from Simon and Schuster.
We all know that Diary of a Wimpy Kid was first developed for the website www.FunBrain.com, and after it accrued over 20 million views, Jeff Kinney proposed it as a book to Abrams, a natural thought given its pre-established fan base. Although Wimpy Kid was originally pitched as an adult book, the editors convinced Kinney to aim the book at kids. Of course, it’s now a record-breaking franchise….that originated on the web.
It’s not just the mega hit properties launched on the web that have become best-selling books. When we surveyed SCBWI members, we found hundreds of success stories about children’s and YA books and their creators that owe their existence to the Internet. Here are just a few.
From Twitter: Editor Kat Brzozowski of Thomas Dunne Books (a division of St. Martin’s Press) tweeted that she was interested in YA novels about music, theatre and dance. (She used #mswl, a hashtag used by editors and agents that stands for manuscript wish list—check it out on Twitter). She was contacted by Emily Keyes of Fuse Agency, who sent her a YA manuscript from her client Katie M. Stout. Katie’s novel, Hello, I Love You, a novel about the world of K-Pop, comes out June 9, all because of Twitter.
From Blogging: Donna Bray, of the aforementioned Balzer + Bray, read a story in the New York Times about a student named Aaron Philip who had cerebral palsy. Donna went to Aaron’s blog, and impressed with his voice and his story, contacted him and got a writer to work with him. Next year his memoir This Kid Can Fly will be published by Balzer + Bray.
From Facebook: Jean Feiwel, founder and publisher of Feiwel and Friends (an imprint of Macmillan) received a Facebook posting from a friend with a photo of a dog and his two-year-old boy co-napping. It was from the blog, Momma’s Gone City, by Jessica Shyba. The lovable photos became a viral sensation. Jean Feiwel, herself a dog lover, got in touch with Jessica on Facebook first, then was contacted by her agent. The result was a picture book Naptime with Theo and Beau, that came out in January. In a three-book deal with Shyba, Feiwel will publish Bathtime next year.