Bookshop Santa Cruz is celebrating it's fiftieth year of business this year. Ga Lombard, Children's Section Bookbuyer, tells us how the store has remained an essential element to the town.
What sets Bookshop Santa Cruz apart from other bookstores?
Our children’s section is inclusive in so many ways. We’ve always cared about a child being able to see themselves reflected in our books. We have a diverse selection of books about science, history, politics, poetry, and art, as well as an extensive collection of graphic novels and infant and toddler picture books. One of the books I intend to promote this year is Their Great Gift: Courage, Sacrifice, and Hope in a New Land by John Coy. There are scores of successful individual immigration stories—for example, Allen Say’s Grandfather’s Journey or his autobiographical mixed media picture book Drawing from Memory—but until now, it has seemed almost impossible to write a composite immigration picture book essay without coming off like “we are the world”. Their Great Gift is clear, honest, and lovely, and it belongs in all elementary school classrooms.
What has been a successful author visit and why do you believe it was more successful than others?
You know, when we sold our thousandth copy of Voyage to the Bunny Planet, Rosemary Wells said she would visit. She arrived shortly after the 1700th copy sold. I would say I had been anticipating this visit for decades. Atinuke the British Nigerian author of one of the loveliest early chapter book series, Anna Hibiscus, visited and told stories that adults and toddlers enjoyed equally. How did she do that?
How much handselling do you do? What in your opinion makes a bestselling book?
How much handselling do we do? An inordinate amount. Readers give you clues and you attempt to find the right book for the moment.
What makes a bestselling book? Great writing or great writing with great illustration account for the bulk of Bookshop’s bestsellers.
How is Bookshop Santa Cruz involved in the community?
We sponsor author events in a range of schools. We respect our student reviewers, who are terrific. We give away hundreds and hundreds of books annually to elementary and high schools. We have writing, photography, art, and poetry contests.
Personal Book recommendation?
For this year? The paperback edition of this year’s Newbery Honor book, The War That Saved My Life, by Kimberly Baker Bradley. And the best picture book so far this year in our opinion is Frank and Lucky Get Schooled by Lynn Rae Perkins, a simple title for a simply remarkable book. An older favorite? Booksellers at Bookshop tell me I never got over the fact that the multi-award winning One Crazy Summer (it takes place in Oakland) by Rita Williams-Garcia didn’t receive the Newbery Medal.
An agent at Red Fox Literary, Danielle Smith began her career as the well-known blogger behind the online review site There’s a Book. Her children’s book reviews have also appeared in top online and print publications such as Parenting Magazine and Women’s World. Smith’s expertise in children’s literature led her to a career as an agent eager to work with many more talented authors and illustrators. Recently she was honored by Publisher’s Weekly as one of Top 40 Rising Stars in the publishing industry during 2016. Danielle’s most recent sales include Wild Blues by Beth Kephart (CAITLYN DLOULY/S&S 2018), The Queer History Project: No Way, They Were Gay? by Lee Wind (Beyond Words/September 2017), Walk Your Dog by Elizabeth Stevens Omlor and illustrator Neesha Hudson (Putnam Children’s/Summer 2017) and The Great Indoors by Julie Falatko (Disney Hyperion/2019). When she’s not got her nose in a book Danielle can be found spending time with her two kiddos and husband exploring the town they love.
What lead you to children’s book publishing and becoming an agent?
There are children out in the world, everywhere, looking for that one book; a book to tuck. It’s the book we recall as adults when asked “what was the book?” It speaks to our hearts, our dreams and even those things we don’t yet know. A young boy, my son, who couldn’t speak were it for a copy Trucks Trucks Trucks by Peter Sis and many readings over time which would bring his voice back to us. Books open worlds and change lives; I can think of no better industry then children’s publishing and no better job than a literary agent.
I began early on by reviewing children’s books almost ten years ago on my review site theresabook.com and within a few years I added print reviews to my resume. As time went on I served as a judge for numerous awards panels, including as a judge for the fiction picture book category for the Cybils awards. Originally joining forces with Fuse Literary in 2013 I had the good fortune of selling my first blockbuster hit Snappsy the Alligator (Did Not Ask to Be in This Book) by Julie Falatko. After that very successful first year I felt the need to transition to a chidren’s literature focused agency and fortunately for me both Karen Grencik and Abigail Samoun were looking to expand Red Fox Literary and made the offer to bring me over to the agency; it was an offer I couldn’t refuse and I’ve loved working with them both ever since!
When you read a submission, what keeps you reading?
The all illusive “voice” answer! To be clearer though, I’ll add that I want to be connected and feel invested in the well-being of your character, characters and/or setting. It doesn’t need to be action packed, but it needs to be emotion-packed. Help me feel something as the reader. When you send off your submission, whether it be a picture book or young adult novel choose your very best—your heart. It will be what speaks to your readers and the agent or editor across the desk.
When you offer representation, what can an author or illustrator expect from you?
All of the clients I work with can expect someone who will not only advocate for them, but will work with them along every step of the process. I have clients at every stage of their careers; regardless I always offer career guidance, editorial assistance as well as a sounding board for future projects, portfolio and illustration critiques, submission strategizing and much more. My partnership with each of my clients is just that, a partnership, and each one is different and based on what they each need. Additionally, with my review and social media background I feel particularly capable of guiding the clients I work with through the publication and marketing process as well.
What’s on your manuscript wish list right now?
Right now I’m eager to find more authentic under-represented voices; especially in the areas of neuro-diverse, Native, LGBTQIA and POC writers and illustrators. I’d love a fresh graphic novel featuring a neuro-diverse character for kids in the six to ten year old age that I could hand over to my Amulet, Lunch Lady and Roller Girl loving son.
Follow Danielle on Twitter @the1stdaughter