SCBWI

Society of
Children's Book Writers
and Illustrators

SCBWI Tackles Book Launches for its Members

 

On December 1, the SCBWI will throw its first ever Book Launch Party.  Three launch parties will follow in 2016—Spring, Fall and Holiday.  Our Book Launch Parties will provide a special forum for SCBWI members to publicize, promote and sell their new books. For a $25 fee, you can purchase a page, design and individualize it yourself, populate it with photos, videos, reviews and even a contest. Your page will put forward what you’d like viewers to know about your book. Every launch page will feature a BUY button where viewers can connect to Amazon, Indie Bound or your website to buy the book.

Creating this Book Launch Party initiative is a radical step for SCBWI, an authors’ and illustrators’ organization. But we felt the time had come to do it. The children’s book marketplace is full of high-quality first-rate books that never achieve the success they deserve. The SCBWI will now include in our mission statement the goal of helping our members increase recognition and sales of their work. Our community needs to come together to help creators have their work discovered and find a way into the hands of readers.

Even though marketing dollars for children’s books have always been modest, publicity and marketing were the responsibility of the publisher.  Well, those were the good old days and they’re gone. Today, we are expected to have a social media presence and platform. We are busy blogging, tweeting, instagramming, skyping school visits, forming marketing coalitions with colleagues, conducting real and virtual tours—an endless variety of tasks to make our books known.

Publishers still do what they can, but often their marketing budgets lean to high profile authors, high concept books or lead titles that are pre-destined for success.  If your book isn’t one of those, you have to be The Little Engine That Could.  That goes double for independently published authors or those published by a small or regional press.  Sustaining a career in children’s books requires marketing know-how, gumption, and commitment to the process.  That’s a tall order, and hard to accomplish on your own.

Enter the SCBWI Book Launch Parties. We have created a space where ALL our members can launch their books.  You design the page, make it your own, and fill it with personality. On December 1, it goes up on our busy SCBWI website. Our job is to drive traffic to the site.  We will contact bookstores, libraries, community and parent groups, newspapers, bloggers, and trade associations.  We will advertise on Facebook and other media platforms. Our goal is to make SCBWI’s Book Launch Parties a destination for buyers to discover new books—to discover YOUR book.

It is said that “A rising tide lifts all boats.”  By banding together for our Book Launch Parties, we all benefit. Every book, whether it be from a best-selling author or a brand new illustrator, gets its own page.  There is power in community, and together, we can turn a ripple into a wave.

I hope that if you’ve had a book published in 2015, you will create a Book Launch Party page. (LOG IN to scbwi.org and click MY BOOK LAUNCH PARTY on your profile page.)  If you have a book coming out in the spring, sign up for the Spring Book Launch Party as soon as it’s available.

If you don’t have a book coming out, then come and visit the parties.  Don’t worry, we’ll send you an invitation soon.  Look for it!  And come visit again and again.  Buy books.  Support your community!  Remember, we need to be the rising tide that floats ALL our books.   All books matter.

 

Lin Oliver is an author and Executive Director of the SCBWI.  She and her partner, Henry Winkler, will be launching two books in the December 1 Holiday Book Launch Party.

 

 

Bonus Read: Discover Your Artistic Side: Nourish Your Muse in Different Ways

 

By Suzanna E. Henshon, PhD

 

When was the last time you drew a picture?  Sometimes we spend so much time at the keyboard that we forget to nourish our creativity and our muse.  But when you try a different activity—like painting, drawing, or even visiting a museum—you may discover that your creativity is nourished in new and exciting ways. 

 

Where do you start?  Think about what you enjoyed years ago, perhaps even going as far back as your childhood.  Maybe you won’t go on and become a professional artist, but you can still use art to nurture your creativity.  Why not give it a try?

 

Ideas can be difficult to come by.  You are thinking verbally, limiting yourself to thinking about your story in words rather than other methods.  What do I mean?  When we consider stories, they are written on paper, of course.  But the story is really a rendition of a three-dimensional experience.

 

That is where art comes in.  Whether you are listening to music, drawing a picture, or painting a scene, you are engaging a nonverbal area of your creativity.  And you are developing the right side of your brain, which is critical to writing.  When we start writing, sometimes we end up only using only the logical (left) side of the brain, but when we engage in creative activities we activate the right side of the brain.

 

"What if I'm a terrible drawer?  Or painter?"  You probably aren't terrible; you are just untrained and "out-of-shape" with that sort of activity.  Your skills may be rusty, but no one says your paintings have to be as great as Monet's.

  

When I enrolled in both a painting and drawing class this fall, I didn't have a specific goal in mind.  I just decided to enjoy it.  And so far I have. In drawing, I focus on capturing the shape of an object, its perspective on paper.  In painting, I depict the light and colors of objects; it's all about developing a sense of color, perspective, and bringing a three-dimensional setting to a one-dimensional space. 

 

I'm gaining a better appreciation for artists in general, for people who are able to bring things to the page.  And I've started to think like an illustrator in my own fiction.  Now when I'm writing, I visualize how a scene might appear, if rendered, upon the page; this is particularly useful if you are writing a picture book.

 

So, how can you go about discovering your artistic side?  Most of the time it is there, waiting patiently for you, and it's not that hard to get to. 

 

Listen to some music.  When you listen to music, you feel the rhythm of words; this relaxes your mind and acclimates it to writing.

 

Sit down and draw a picture of your setting.  Don't worry about where this setting will fit into your fiction; just enjoy creating place, whether it is real or fictional.

 

Paint a scene. I painted a sea landscape, complete with waves that are floating onto the beach.  As I worked, I started to think about the texture of the water and the different hues and tones that create an outdoor setting upon the canvas.  I started to think visually, instead of just literally.

 

When you explore your creativity in different venues, you may just come up with a new and exciting story idea, character, or setting.  So don’t limit yourself to hitting the keyboard.  Think outside the box, and write the story only you can share with the world!

 

Suzanna E. Henshon teaches creative writing and composition at Florida Gulf Coast University.  She is the author of several books, including King Arthur's Academy: Descriptive and Narrative Writing Exercises and Mildew on the Wall.

 

 

On the Shelves A Children’s Place

 

Billie Bloebaum from A Children's Place in Portland, Oregon, tells us what's on the shelves.

 

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

Original graphic novel content is continuing to gain steam. There are a lot of interesting stories being told in this format and the books themselves appear to fit nicely into that space between early chapter books and meatier middle grade fare. And, as the readers get older, there are graphic novels with more challenging content. We do especially well with graphic novels aimed at a female readership. I think this is at least in part because there are series like Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Timmy Failure and Nate the Great that are marketed to boys, but, with the exception of The Dork Diaries, there isn't much similar that's marketed to girls. And it's not that girls can't and don't read those series, but Greg Heffley isn't going to face the same experiences as a ten-year-old girl. Having women like Raina Telgemeier and Victoria Jamieson and Dana Simpson creating graphic novels that speak to these girls and reflect their lives and experiences is huge. Honestly, if Ms. Telgemeier were to ever do an event at our store, she would be greeted like a rock star by her adoring fans.

What the current hot reads are depends a lot on what we've read recently and are enthusiastically handselling. For me, that means Martha Brockenbrough's The Game of Love and Death, which I think is just amazing and beautiful and I could gush over it for days. And I am Princess X is a really well-done blend of realistic teen thriller and graphic novel, so it appeals to a wide demographic. On the picture book side, I'm enamored of The Secret Life of Squirrels by Nancy Rose. It's one of those books that is so cleverly done—Ms. Rose sets up props in her back yard and waits for the squirrels to come interact with them and then takes pictures and creates stories around those pictures—that all I really have to do is put it in someone's hands and it all but sells itself.

 

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

?Ordering is based on a lot of factors, but experience–and the instinct born of that experience–is probably the greatest. My co-worker Kira and I do the bulk of the frontlist ordering and, between us, we have nearly thirty years of bookstore experience. And, yes, we meet with publisher reps every season. They provide us with a lot of good information that can help us decide to bring in a book we might otherwise have passed on or vice versa. The bottom line, though, is "Can we sell it?" There have been books we've loved that we don't bring in because we know that we don't have the customers for them. And there are always those books that one or both of us don't care for that we know we have to carry because we know they're going to be asked for by name.?

 

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

?I think one of the most important things authors and illustrators can do is to partner with local schools to offer…well, whatever they can. Teach an art class. Volunteer to read to kids or to help tutor reading classes. And partner with your local bookstore to do non-traditional events. Offer to do a story time or lead a book group or something outside of the traditional reading-and-signing. And, for goodness' sake–SHOP LOCAL. In the time leading up to publication, get to know your local bookstore as a customer. Then, as publication date gets closer, be in contact with them to verify that they'll have your books in stock (chances are, if you're a customer, they recognized your name in the catalog and ordered your book automatically) and offer to sign them. And then, when the book is on the shelves, send your friends and family and random strangers? to that bookstore to make their purchases.? You can bet if you create a relationship with your local booksellers, they'll be one of the best advance teams you could hope to have.

 

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

As a small, children's-only bookstore, we  don't have a huge events program. We do a lot of story time visits with picture book authors. Traditional reading-and-signing -style events are more rare, mostly because our space is so very small, but we do them as often as we can. It's fine for authors to contact us directly—especially if they're local?—don't be pushy. Sometimes, we have to say "no" and it's nothing personal. And, if you're contacting us about doing an event for a book you published through Amazon, please be aware that we're automatically going to say "no" and we'll also be offended that you even asked. 

 

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

?My favorite part of this job is that moment when you put a book into someone's hands knowing that you've just played matchmaker for the perfect book/reader couple. And when that reader comes back and thanks you and asks you for further recommendations? That's just such a rush. I can't think of a better feeling.

 

Personal book recommendation?

? Just one? Not going to happen.

The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough because it still makes me feel all warm and nostalgic just thinking about it.? Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee because it's a great adventure story with a pair of non-traditional female protagonists, especially for a Western. (One is Chinese-American and the other is an escaped slave.) Yeti and the Bird by Nadia Shireen because it's a sweet picture book about friendship featuring a yeti and a very lost little bird and the illustrations are just charming. A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki? which, yes, is an adult title, but two years after reading it, it's still stuck in my head and I still love handselling it.

 

4 Questions for…Laurent Linn

 

Laurent Linn, art director for Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers,  art directs picture books, middle grade, and teen novels, including The Blessing Cup, by Patricia Polacco; All Different Now, by Angela Johnson, illustrated by E. B. Lewis; DRAW!, by Raúl Colón; Better Nate Than Ever, by Tim Federle; and the Rot & Ruin YA series by Jonathan Maberry. Laurent is on the Board of Advisors for SCBWI, and is Artistic Advisor for the annual Original Art exhibit at the Society of Illustrators in New York. He is also an author; his debut teen novel, Draw the Line, comes out in 2016.   

 

For a while, people were saying that the picture book is dead.  True or false?  How would you characterize today’s market for picture books?

Happily, that is false. Since there is no form of storytelling for children as special and personal as a picture book, I’ve never believed the picture book could be dead. For a while the sales definitely went down substantially, but there were many reasons for that, mainly the economy. Then came the uncertainty of ebooks and what that might mean. Now, of course, we’ve seen that the ebook format has had no bearing on picture book sales at all. A couple years ago we might have seen ebooks making up 2% – 3% of sales, but now it’s not even 1%. Not surprising, given that the picture book is such a unique and special thing. In my opinion, not only is looking at a “picture book” on a digital device not the same as a printed book, it’s a lesser experience. It’s not a video game or an animated story so it really doesn’t fit the technology. A child can have ownership of a printed picture book, and that can’t be replaced. Think about the books you had as a child. I still have most all of my favorites from back then, and I imagine most people have theirs as well. It becomes a personal object that has great meaning and comfort. Apart from the need for that in a child’s life, we’re also seeing the good news that picture books are selling better and better. The economy is improving, schools and libraries are buying more books it seems, and independent bookstores are happily doing better than they have in a long time. They are great champions of picture books, as we know. Also, I think authors and illustrators are more and more creative with unique and needed ideas for books. And we on the publishing side are also always figuring out how to make better and more special picture books, from the “big” books (that will reach a large audience) to the “small” books (that may not reach everyone, but will hopefully reach those kids who need them most).

 

How is the art and style of today’s picture book different from those of five or ten years ago?

For illustrations and book making, technology has definitely changed what a picture book can be, and it continues to change, as we know. Certainly, using digital software to create art has grown immensely and many illustrators have discovered unique ways to incorporate computer software into their art making. Some artists work exclusively on the computer, some use it as just one of their tools (drawing the line art by hand but coloring it digitally, as one example), and many don’t use the computer at all. It’s incredible how, in addition to using traditional media, digital tools can help an illustrator create her special, unique vision. But many illustrators work traditionally only, so digital isn’t right for everyone, and that’s great. Also, technology has changed how we print books. With the latest scanning and printing technologies, we can replicate the original art and refine specific areas of the art to look exactly like the artist and art director intended. Of course, there are still limitations, but with the variety of printing and binding options we have now, we have new ways to make a picture book a true work of art overall. And on the design side, what we can do with type and lettering and general design is limitless. The art and type can now be organic and feel as if it all exists in the same universe of the book.

 

What do you find to be the creative stumbling block of many illustrators trying to break into the field?

Without a doubt, it’s finding their own unique style. And it’s a very difficult thing! We’re surrounded by influences and inspirations, and often feel internal pressures to make our art look like what has already been successful. It’s a tricky balance to use inspiration and influences in one’s art yet make it distinctly one’s own, like no one has seen before. Another challenge is finding ways to “step back” and assess one’s illustrations as someone else would see them. We’re often too close to our art to see it that way. While there are many ways of finding one’s unique style, in my experience there’s no better way than by going to SCBWI conferences and workshops. The national ones are a wealth of information and connections and inspirations, and the smaller regional events offer a more personal one-on-one experience. Not only do illustrators have opportunities to have their own art assessed by others, but they get to see how all kinds of fellow artists create and experiment and find their styles. 

 

How can a prospective illustrator attract your attention?

I think the previous question relates to this well. I’m always on the lookout for unique styles that aren’t derivative of other illustrators. Every manuscript that an editor may acquire has its own mood, emotional levels, and potential visual world. Finding the right connection of artist to story isn’t a science by any means, but an illustrator's art samples and previous work can show so much of what he or she might bring to a story. How real their characters feel, how unique their visual “voice” is, is their art humorous or serious?, for older kids or younger?, etc. And, of course, do they draw well? I’m also looking to see who is continually experimenting and creating new art, challenging themselves to get better and try new things (whether art techniques or subject matter or intended age range). There are so many talented illustrators who are serious about their craft, have unique world views, and love what they do—their art will stand out for sure.

 

 

SCBWI Tackles Book Launches for its Members

 

On December 1, the SCBWI will throw its first ever Book Launch Party.  The following year, three launch parties will follow—Spring, Fall and Holiday.  Our Book Launch Parties will provide a special forum for SCBWI members to publicize, promote and sell their new books.  For a nominal fee, you can purchase a page, design and individualize it yourself, populate it with photos, videos, reviews and even a contest.  Your page will put forward what you’d like viewers to know about your book.

The children’s book marketplace is full of high-quality first-rate books that never achieve the success they deserve. We’re planning to offer a remedy to that. Every launch page will feature a BUY button where viewers can connect to Amazon, Indie Bound or the author’s website to buy the book.

Creating this Book Launch Party initiative is a radical step for SCBWI, an authors’ and illustrators’ organization. But we felt the time had come to do it. The SCBWI will now include in our mission statement the goal of helping our members increase recognition and sales of their work. It’s no longer enough to help people get published. Our community needs to come together to help creators have their work discovered and find a way into the hands of readers.

Once upon a time, as so many children’s stories begin, sales, publicity and marketing were the responsibility of the publisher.  Well, those were the good old days and they’re gone. We are expected to have a social media presence and platform. We are busy blogging, tweeting, instagramming, skyping school visits, forming marketing coalitions with colleagues, conducting real and virtual tours—-an endless variety of tasks to create a place for our books.

Publishers still do what they can. The truth is, though, that marketing dollars are modest for most children’s book departments, and often we see those dollars go to high profile authors, high concept books or lead titles that are pre-destined for success.  If your book isn’t one of those, you have to be The Little Engine That Could.  That goes double for independently published authors or those published by a small or regional press.  Sustaining a career in children’s books requires marketing know-how, gumption, expertise and commitment to the process.  That’s a tall order, and hard to accomplish on your own.

Enter the SCBWI Book Launch Parties.  We have created a space where ALL our members can launch their books.  You design the page, make it your own, fill it with personality. On December 1, it goes up on our collective site.  The SCBWI will do everything in our power to drive traffic to the site for every book listed there.  We will contact bookstores, libraries, community and parent groups, newspapers, bloggers, and trade associations.  We will advertise on Facebook and other media platforms.  It is our sole goal for SCBWI’s Book Launch Parties to become a destination for buyers to discover new books—to discover YOUR book.

It is said that “A rising tide lifts all boats.”  By banding together for our Book Launch Parties, we all benefit.  Every book, whether it be from a best-selling author or a brand new illustrator, gets its own page.  There is power in community, and together, we can turn a ripple into a wave.

I hope that if you’ve had a book published in 2015, you will create a Book Launch Party page. (LOG IN to scbwi.org and click BOOK MY LAUNCH PARTY on your profile page.)  If you have a book coming out in the Spring, sign up for the April Book Launch Party as soon as it’s available.

If you don’t have a book coming out, then come and visit the parties.  Don’t worry—we’ll send you an invitation soon.  Look for it!  And come again and again.  Buy books.  Support your community!  Remember, we need to be the rising tide that floats our books.   All books matter.

 

Lin Oliver is an author and Executive Director of the SCBWI.  She and her partner, Henry Winkler, will be launching two books in the December Book Launch Party.

 

 

SCBWI Exclusive with Beverly Horowitz

 

SCBWI Exclusive with Beverly Horowitz, VP & Publisher of Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House Children's Books.

 

Beverly Horowitz began her career in the editorial department of Little, Brown and has held positions as publicity/promotion director at Bradbury Press and Academic Marketing and School and Library marketing director at Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Beverly has never stopped being an editor. She works with Judy Blume, Louis Sachar, E. Lockhart, Laura Hillenbrand, Caroline B. Cooney, Wes Moore, and many other beloved and debut authors. Throughout her career, she has been an advocate of First Amendment rights and has fought against censorship.

 

Over the course of your illustrious career, what are the most significant changes you’ve seen from a business perspective in the field of children’s book publishing?

The health of the book industry is actually better than people think. It’s interesting and happy news that brick-and-mortar bookshops are still alive and well. The other thing that is noteworthy is that big-box stores such as Target and Walmart have kept their book departments; some have even turned over more shelf space to books for teens and kids. There’s no denying that these stores focus on bestsellers, but still, kids are getting books and developing the reading habit. It’s wonderful that the general public has better access to books.

The narrative has been that ebooks are surging, and once-loved physical books are disappearing. But the plot has twisted sharply. The fact is, kids are reading more and they love physical books. Ebooks are easy to carry once you own a device, and they’ve augmented the market of readers, but the physical book still holds an important place.

The children’s book and YA book editors and authors and illustrators have finally gained greater respect from others in the industry and beyond. We always deserved the respect, but the profitability of our books has tipped the scales.

Nonfiction is not only for school projects or required book reports. There is terrifically entertaining as well as educational nonfiction for girls and boys.

 

One big issue the publishing industry faces might very well be its biggest opportunity: People who don’t read. How is publishing trying to bring people back to books?

If you think about the people who don’t read, they usually fall into one of these groups:

Those who actually have trouble decoding words so that reading isn’t easy or appealing and therefore they don’t want to do it. We need to teach all kids to be able to read. Imagine the misery and shame of not being able to read.

People who haven’t found a book, author, or genre they like and respond to so they feel lost and don’t know how or why they should spend time reading. How do we get better word of mouth about selecting and finding great books?

People who think reading is “non-active” and somehow don’t realize how entertaining a book is. What a splendid way to use your imagination and enter new worlds and see relationships and choices made. We need to make reading cool, a cool thing to do.

The books that have been turned into films are known beyond the reader marketplace—these titles become part of pop culture—and then nonreaders want to read what’s being talked about. We need to get the idea of talking about books out as a good way to have a conversation.

 

What trends are you seeing now?

By the time we identify a trend, it’s almost over! I prefer to start a trend, but that often happens by chance. The most important thing is not to copycat what’s working already, but to change it or elevate it. The contemporary novel about real-life issues seems to be working now, but those books have always been around. Often the trend has to do with packaging—the visual makes a great deal of impact. Indeed, what goes around comes around. From coloring books for older kids, teens, and adults, to nonfiction that is easy to read and full of facts, to exploration of complex problems in fiction—as well as friendship and family and all the daily life issues kids and teens face, depending on who is naming the trend—some of the same bubble up after maybe five years or a decade and become recognized again.

 

What final words of wisdom can you impart to new authors?

I believe that pace, characterization, and structure are the basics. I love a well written novel. Imagine that the actions of characters on a page—not actually real people—can make you laugh or cry and care about what happens to them!  Even inventive ideas need work. Think, revise and never lose sight of the fact that an author is asking a person to stop doing whatever he or she is doing to join and spend time with the book the author has written. That’s a huge “ask,” so be sure your book truly delivers in an honest and entertaining way. Writers should also be readers. For me it is a joy and responsibility to spot talent and help a writer.  I say be optimistic as well as realistic because the creative process is so mysterious.