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Welcome back, Mira, now where were we? Oh yeah, that exclusive… Cookie and I have been real patient. Animal, well, not so much. Drum roll, please.

animaldrum

First off Tara, I’d like to respond to some of your comments regarding what can happen after you are published.

Oh, the suspense!

Getting a review in any of the top review journals is really tough because they get so many submissions and only have space for a few. Also the publisher’s marketing/publicity folks (often just one person) are so overworked and overwhelmed it really is up to the author and illustrator to get the word out these days. It also helps if you can make personal connections with their marketing/PR peeps to inspire them to help get the word out for you. Have you made a trailer for the movie? If you aren’t video savvy, Katie Davis’s video course, which I’ve taken, is terrific: VideoIdiotBootCamp.com. I’m also hoping that folks share the video of your book that we posted yesterday to help get the word out. It really is an exponential numbers game of people sharing.

I know how much heart and soul and time and sweat goes into writing a good manuscript and then the emotional ups and downs of actually getting it published only to have it fall through the cracks of the biggest retail chain because of negotiation issues that have nothing to do with you. Aaargh. It’s heartbreaking. Also I loved what you had to say about your relationship with your illustrator. You do have to trust and most times what they do far exceeds anyone’s imagination or expectations.

In terms of an exclusive offer… Here’s what I’d like to give your wonderful readers, many of whom I know ☺.

  • I’d like to provide the opportunity to register with the early bird special price of only $249 (regular price $289) for the upcoming Craft and Business of Writing Children’s Picture Books e-course starting August 26th, with this link: https://www.e-junkie.com/ecom/gb.php?c=cart&i=1111301&cl=210181&ejc=2.
  • …or the Big Bonus Craft and Business of Writing Children’s Picture Books for $279 (regular price $325) with this link:  https://www.e-junkie.com/ecom/gb.php?c=cart&i=1156535&cl=210181&ejc=2. The e-course includes over 30 lessons and more goodies than you can shake a stick. The Big Bonus includes interactivity with our Facebook group and live webinars. The offer is time-sensitive, so you need to sign up before July 29th to take advantage of it.
  • In addition, I’d like to offer an exclusive opportunity for 5 people to pitch a picture book manuscript to me at Hummingbird Literary. To win the pitch contest all you need to do is suggest some creative marketing strategies in the comments below and help to get the word out for THE MONSTORE (yes I love Tara and her book). And of course Tara gets to choose the winners ☺ (deadline July 29th). The winners will receive a special priority email address from Tara for you to send a manuscript and pitch letter describing your other projects. For ethical reasons, students who take any of my personally taught course have to wait 6 months following a course before submitting to Hummingbird Literary, but I will make an exception if any of my former or near future students win here. Also because I want to give my heart and soul to my new clients, I won’t be teaching many more of the PBA courses myself and they will either be self-paced or have guest instructors. I’ll be sad but my new venture is also VERY exciting.

For more information on the courses, check out http://www.picturebookacademy.com/writing-childrens-picture-books.html.

Mira, that’s a terrific offer, thank you! You are so generous! Thank you so much for helping me get the word out about my book, and for helping other authors polish and sell their work. This really demonstrates what a big-hearted community we have in kidlit.

Before you go, Mira, I think one of the most interesting and telling things about an agent is their list of favorite all-time children’s books. Which PBs really stand out for you and why? What about them makes them special and inspiring?

This is such a hard question to answer. I have tons of video reviews over at the Picture Book Academy in the Blog section of books that I love, but all time favorites… Wow!!

justaminuteI love Yuyi Morales’s JUST A MINUTE because it’s fun, soulful, and has a fabulously powerful elderly female protagonist who outsmarts Señor Death. Besides being a counting book, it has many other layers of meaning and importance. I also love how despite being repeatedly told that no-one would ever publish a picture book with death as a main character, Yuyi believed in her story, persisted, and eventually went on to win all sorts of awards for it. The book launched her career.

I’m a huge fan of Nicoletta Ceccholi’s art, which is positively luminous in A DIGNITY OF DRAGONS: Plural Nouns for Mythological Beasts, which has minimal, elegant text in a non-fiction format. It also has a multicultural aspect, which I love and is just so exquisitely done.

adignityofdragonsAnother favorite is VOICES IN THE PARK by Anthony Browne, which I consider a perfect book for way too many reasons to describe, Mo Willems’ LEONARDO THE TERRIBLE MONSTER for its simplicity, cleverness and underlying meaning, I SEE THE RHYTHM, another near perfect book that works on multiple layers.

I think I’m quite promiscuous when it comes to having favorite books as there are so many more that I adore.

And these are some of the many books by my super talented former students!

former_students

Also, I’m doing a free writing workshop/webinar this Wednesday with Mark Mitchell of Make Your Splashes at 6PM Pacific Standard time here: http://makeyoursplashes.com/a-writing-workshop-with-mira/. I’ll try and include these books and other favorites as part of it. If you are interested, do sign up for it soon as the webinar space can only hold a limited number of people.

Tara, what are some of your faves? I know you have a wicked sense of humor so I imagine there will be some funny ones in there from you.

Yes, I love the quirky picture books. I adore THIS RABBIT BELONGS TO EMILY BROWN by Cressida Cowell, ARNIE THE DOUGHNUT by Laurie Keller and OTTO GROWS DOWN by Michael Sussman. They are all funny, layered stories with smart kid sensibilities that are a bit longer in length than some of the more recent hits. I like more meat in my picture books. One of my favorite non-fiction picture books is by Shana Corey—THE MERMAID QUEEN. Corey, also an editor at Penguin Random House, focuses her stories on little-known but important women in history.

And finally, Mira, how would you describe your ideal client?

My ideal client with be tall and tan and young and lovely, wait, that’s a song. No. I love working with people who are smart, fun, soulful, in touch with the emotional core of their stories or art (i.e. character-driven), able to let go of their egos to work gently and collaboratively doing whatever it takes to make the story or art be the best it can be if needed, playful, culturally sensitive, warm, loving, diverse, interested in all sorts of things including non-fiction, either non-rhyming or a professional poet, a skilled artist open to possibly writing, a skilled writer open to possibly illustrating, and someone who really wants to work with me and has the patience to see the long term goals. Another quality that my ideal client will have is an appreciation for community as Hummingbird Literary will also be a community for its clients with our own group blog, our own secret social media space where folks can critique each others work and support each other with a spirit of camaraderie and celebration of creativity and life!

Before I go, I wanted to share something from my office.

The_Karen (1)

On Saturday I refinished this file cabinet with rice paper to hold Hummingbird Literary files and it’s named “The Karen” after my mentor, Karen Grencik. With time, I’ll be collaging images from our client’s books all over it. It was exciting to make.

Wow, Tara, this post turned out a bit epic. I sure had fun doing it with you and send my love to you and your readers. I look forward to see the practical and creative approaches to promoting THE MONSTORE ☺!

Thank you, thank you, Mira! I know you’re going to have a long and successful career as an agent, and I know so many people who would benefit greatly from your guidance. My best wishes to you in all your endeavors!

mirareisbergDo you know Mira Reisberg? You should! She’s the brainchild behind The Picture Book Academy, teaching kidlit writers the finer points of the craft. And now, Mira’s got exciting news. She’s launching Hummingbird Literary next week!

Mira, why did you decide to become a children’s book agent?

Well Tara, it’s kind of a wild story. I started off on the creative production end—illustrating and writing picture books—and had some success. Then I started teaching children’s book illustrating and writing at UC Berkeley Extension and San Francisco City College Extension. Some of my students ended up becoming very successful and my own books continued to sell well. I was invited to Washington State University to give some presentations and school visits and then got talked into moving there to do a PhD. It was truly the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but it prepared me for everything that has come since. After teaching children’s literature, writing and illustrating, and art education in universities for 7 years, I realized I hated the grading and how confining institutions can be and left. I decided to start my own school, The Picture Book Academy, which has turned out to be very successful with 11 students receiving 15 contracts so far just in the last 10 months. It’s been pretty amazing.

PBA-logo

Wow, 15 contracts in under a year is pretty amazing! That success cannot be ignored. What happened next?

The beautiful Karen Grencik from Red Fox Literary and I got talking and she told me that she thought I’d make a great agent and offered to mentor me. Her agency is closed to submissions except through referrals and conferences etc., so she decided to invest in me so that more people could have a shot at getting quality work out to publishers and into children’s hands. I feel like a series of doors have opened for me that I’ve walked through. Karen has been an incredibly generous door opener for me and as this is most likely the only time that she will put this much time and effort into training someone, I want to make her proud. It helps that I also see myself as a door opener too. I also see you as a huge door opener with PiBoIdMoTara, can you talk about how you came to start your own journey as a children’s book author leading up to the publication of your wonderful book, THE MONSTORE, and how you came to launch Picture Book Idea Month (PiBoIdMo)?

Being a children’s book author is what I always wanted to do, but I didn’t have the timing right until my second daughter was born. There were other things dominating my time before then—competing in figure skating on the National level, establishing a career in high-tech—but once I had my girls and I was staying home, I was immersed in children’s literature and my old feelings bubbled to the surface. I read to my kids constantly! And I finally made the time to write seriously. So I started by joining a critique group. I read hundreds of books, attended SCBWI events, studied craft guides, and began this blog in late 2007.

So when November 2008 rolled around, I read blogs of writer friends and got all jealous over NaNoWriMo. I didn’t write novels! Where was the inspirational event for picture book writers?

Well, there were none in November. So I created one. Honestly I thought only a handful of people would participate, but I suppose other PB writers were as eager as I was to have our own month-long event, because by 2012, PiBoIdMo had 750 participants! There’s also been more than a dozen contracts signed from participants’ PiBoIdMo ideas, and I’m so happy to have played a role in getting great books for kids into the world.

So Mira, what is the name of your new literary agency, and, speaking of doors, when do yours swing open? And what specifically are you seeking in submissions?

First off, Tara, yay to PiBoIdMo, where you host a month of inspiration and support for people to write a month’s worth of picture book ideas! It’s a wonderful group on Facebook and via your website and one that I love being a part of. Thank you.

hummingbirdliterary

The agency is called Hummingbird Literary. After wrestling with myself about doing this, I came up with a whole bunch of names including this one but didn’t want to use it because it’s a long name and I wanted something short. At the same time, an exquisite hummingbird kept coming right up to my window over and over, being extremely insistent, so it pretty much named itself. I also love the symbolism of hummingbirds as bringers of joy and good news and as small miracles able to travel great distances very fast, despite their tiny size. I’m also very small in size. Right now, I am particularly interested in author/illustrators, stunning illustrators, and non-fiction that hooks me in and keeps me there. Doors are opening July 28th on Beatrix Potter’s birthday (please read the submissions policy). Beatrix Potter was not only a wonderful children’s book author and illustrator, but she was also an early environmentalist, which is reflected in her books. I have a sweet spot for books that help make a better world in playful ways.

Tara, I recently did a video review of The Monstore where I spoke about how well you’ve done at keeping the text smart, fun, and succinct and let the illustrations convey a lot of information. How was this process for you and did you have any illustrator notes for James or have a say in who illustrated your book? Also another thing that I wanted to talk with you about is how your book is doing given Barnes and Nobles political situation and how it affects your book. I wanted to find out because a) I’m curious and b) I thought it might be helpful to give your peeps a peek at what can happen even after you get a contract.

.

There were exactly two illustration notes, both in the very beginning, describing the eat-your-food-under-the-table monster and the glow-in-the-dark monster. Never a note about what they looked like, just about what they did. You’ve got to trust the illustrator because their visual interpretations are far more perfect that we can ever imagine.

I did have a say in who illustrated the book. And the say was, “OMG, YES! HIRE JAMES BURKS!” after my editor and art director showed me his online portfolio.

The Barnes & Noble thing is a real sore spot. Like a bruise. If I don’t touch it, I don’t notice it’s there. But when I press it, I feel all OUCHIE.

When I signed the contract with Aladdin—the “commercial” imprint at Simon & Schuster—there was never a doubt in my mind that B&N and Borders would carry THE MONSTORE. Of course, Borders is now gone, and the B&N/S&S dispute is extremely unfortunate timing. I know sales must be suffering, despite my best efforts to promote the book online and off.

Lots of strange things happen once a book is out. You’re so happy when you sign the contract, you don’t think about this post-release stuff. Professional reviewers don’t review your book for unknown reasons, some pan it, and those pubs who give positive reviews write them like plot summaries.

I realize I should be grateful for any reviews, but I’m beginning to believe the professional reviews don’t matter as much as general public opinion. And the feedback for the book has been tremendous. Readers really love it. That’s all I ever hoped for. I’ve already received fan mail! When I hear a kid is asking their parents to read it over and over (and the parent obliges without being annoyed), I get all warm and fuzzy inside, like being tucked into a down blanket on a snow day. Knowing a book I created is welcomed in someone’s home is a pretty cool feeling.

Hopefully word of mouth will negate any damage from the B&N situation. Maybe B&N will realize they NEED this book for the Halloween and end-of-year gift-giving season. There’s still hope, right?

Mira, I promised my blog readers an exclusive offer from you. What did you have in mind?

I’d love to Tara but our conversation is so juicy—can we continue it tomorrow?

Oh, what a cliffhanger! OK, I’ll just sit here and wait. Good thing I’ve got Cookie Monster here to keep me company.

cookiemonster

bookstack$Slapping a book on a blog is not all it takes to sell it. I know you know this, but I had to explore this book-marketing-101 concept further.

I mean, it seems like a logical idea, right? Create a blog, develop a loyal following, and they’ll buy your book. Easy, peasy!

But being the curious type, trapped in Post Book-Launch Stress Disorder, I decided to don my gumshoes. (BTW, thank you for all the awesome comments on PBLSD. I want to reply to each and every one, just gimme some time. Remember, PBLSD cannot be cured with two aspirin and a morning call.)

I opened my WordPress stats. In the last six months, this blog has had approximately 75,000 visits.

Wow, right? Amazing. I can’t believe it myself.

Six months ago is when I inserted links to pre-order THE MONSTORE in my blog column (so it appears on every page on this site) and on my books page. And guess how many clicks those links have had?

7,500? That would be about 10%—not too shabby. But no.

1,500? That would be about 2%. Still pretty respectable. When I was working in marketing, a 2% response to a direct mail offer was considered average. But, nope. Not even close.

Out of 75,000 visits, links to order THE MONSTORE have been clicked on only 355 times. That’s [almost] 0.5%.

But, I have no idea how many of those clicks turned into purchases. If it’s 2% like my direct mail experience has shown, then I’ve sold 7 books.

Kinda humbling, isn’t it?

75,000 visits = 7 books sold.

Now, I realize this is very unscientific. Any statistics professor would knock my knuckles with a ruler. People have other ways of purchasing books, and I know I’ve sold more than 7 books!

But, I wanted to demonstrate that slapping a book on a website is not all it takes. That don’t do diddly.

Boy, I’ve just realized this post is really not helping the PBLSD! (But maybe it will help you!)

BTW, if you do want to crawl inside THE MONSTORE, you can by clicking below. Ya can’t blame a girl for trying!

monstorefrontcover

IndieBound.org
Amazon.com
BarnesandNoble.com
BooksAMillion.com
Chapters.Indigo.ca

“My two boys (3 and 6) loved this book. They wanted me to read it many times. Then they played Monstore games all afternoon. They made their own monsters (pom-poms, pipe cleaners, and googly eyes). They built Monstores with blocks. Then they made booby traps and trap doors with couch cushions. I can’t remember the last time reading one book led to such prolonged creative play.”

~ Amazon customer review

So my debut picture book has been out for three and a half weeks (not that I’m counting). People are excited for me. It’s finally real! They ask me how the book is doing.

Ya got me!

I’ve received two positive quasi-reviews from School Library Journal and Publisher’s Weekly—I call them “quasi” because they were more like synopses than reviews. No thumbs up or thumbs down, just thumbs sideways. I watch my Amazon rank bounce up and down. Up to 12,000, then down to 134,000, then back up again. I held book signings where a few complete strangers did show up, looked at my book, then put it back again. My township’s mayor bought two copies as gifts. Reviews on GoodReads and Amazon have been 96% positive. And bloggers have beamed over the book. Still, I have no idea if sales are brisk, average or slow. There’s no way to know.

So, three and a half weeks post-release and I’m kinda stuck.

underbooks

I call it “Post Book-Launch Stress Disorder”.

I don’t know what to do next to help promote my book. And frankly, I’m exhausted. I’m lounging with my laptop, glancing at Amazon and GoodReads, checking my inbox for messages. I know I have blog interviews to complete, but it’s tough to answer repetitive questions in new and interesting ways. And it doesn’t help that I have three books under serious consideration right now and it feels like they’re taking forever to work their way through the system. I feel very much in limbo, without direction. Maybe I need to consult with North West.

I suppose this is why so many writers have a schedule, a set routine. I am not one of those people. I have never been good with routines, tap dance or otherwise. But I see the advantage of the same-old, same-old. If I were a scheduled, disciplined person I’d be writing every day, no matter what, Post Book-Launch Stress Disorder be damned. Like Roald Dahl, I’d stroll to my writing hut, plop down in my comfy chair and grasp my Number 2 Ticonderoga, watching it fly across the legal pad. But no. I sit here. And wonder what comes next.

I never had an actual book launch party. I don’t like planning parties and it seemed like a frivolous expense. Friends assured me you only release a book once—celebrate! Plus, my husband said the party is to thank everyone who has helped me over the years, not necessarily to toot my own horn. But it felt like tooting, and frankly, I’m tired of tooting.  (P.S. To the seven-year-olds reading this, NOT THOSE KINDS OF TOOTS.)

It’s hard not to toot when someone blogs beautifully about your book, or when it winds up in a major newspaper. But I fear I may be getting overexposed. Maybe I need to consult with North West.

All this is to say I have no plan. Wednesday was the last day of school for my children and I’ve realized the summer is here and I NEED A PLAN. They’re going to camp, but it’s only half days, which leaves me little time to write. Did I say I need a plan?

Anyone got a plan for beating Post Book-Launch Stress Disorder?

monstorediyglow

Head on over to the Happy Birthday Author blog today! You won’t want to miss this incredible glow-in-the-dark monster craft!

Got any plans?

Live in north/central New Jersey?

Well, come on down! (You’re the next contestant on The Book is Right!)

Author Darlene Jacobsen and I. And me? Or is it I?

Author Darlene Jacobsen and I. And me? Or is it I?

I’ll be signing THE MONSTORE at The Bookworm in Bernardsville on June 20th, from 3:30 to 5:00pm.

Gummi worms for all!

Hope to see you there! (I’ll be the person directing people to the bathroom.)

 

So the release date for THE MONSTORE finally arrived!

Dude, I was bustin’ out!

swag

OK, I wasn’t that hot to trot. After all, I had known this was coming for three years. So my excitement was more, um, subdued.

billcosby

But inside, I was like this.

breakfastclubdance

And this.

snoopydance

And this.

edgrimley

But I soon found out Barnes & Noble wouldn’t be carrying THE MONSTORE.

At first, I thought it was no biggie.

brushoff

I would overcome!

zooeywink

But then, I slept on it.

nooooo

Somehow, I didn’t break down.

breakdown

With a little help, I kept it together.

bianca

In fact, I had something to say to that brick-and-mortar behemoth.

conanno

So I rallied the troops.

crowd

And people went to bat for me. For me?!

happyshock

They’ve even told me funny stories about how B&N has been ‘splainin’ the book’s absence. (Yeah, they got a lotta ‘splainin’ to do.)

lucychocolate

They said: “It’s with a small publisher.”

whaaat

“It has to be reviewed first.”

notreally

“It’s a Halloween title.”

duh

So, maybe this means it will be there in October?

dance

Doesn’t matter, though. My peeps got my back.

catchpug

These peeps, too.

peeps

Yeah, the response to THE MONSTORE has been pretty insane.

bynes

Oops, not Bynes insane. Stone insane.

emmastone

And the fun has only just begun.

ryanmoves

Because, remember…

musicmakers

EMU's Debuts

Today we’re welcoming Ammi-Joan Paquette, the agent who sold THE MONSTORE, to do a guest post on what originally got her excited about the manuscript, and what makes it a successful debut picture book. Welcome, Joan!Ammi-Joan Paquette

LAT: THE MONSTORE is Tara’s debut book. Was it also the first manuscript you saw from Tara?

AJP: Yes! Tara queried me with this picture book, also mentioning that she had several other projects in the works. I read and loved THE MONSTORE, and asked Tara if any of her other works were complete and available to send me. She did! The more I read, the more I loved Tara’s effusive writing, dynamic characters, and wildly inventive imagination. I was hooked.

LAT: What was it about THE MONSTORE that really made you sit up and take notice?

AJP: I think THE MONSTORE is the definition of high-concept. Right from the title you know…

View original post 528 more words

monstorefrontcoverI’ve been flipping a coin, trying to decide if I should post this. The coin rolled into my bathroom, spun beneath the toilet tank, and landed on tails, but I decided to post anyway.

THE MONSTORE has not been ordered by Barnes & Noble. And it’s supposed to hit shelves TOMORROW.

There. I’ve said it.

Barnes & Noble and Simon & Schuster continue their dispute over ebook pricing and in-store promotions, so the bookseller has cut back on orders from my publisher. Drastically.

I will say something else. It totally sucks. I don’t blame either party; it’s just business negotiations and it happens. BUT, we new authors are caught in the crosshairs. It ain’t fun. (See, it’s deteriorating my English!)

bandn\

So…what does this mean for my debut book?

It means the savvy kidlit readers will still know my book. They’ll find it at their local indie. They’ll order it online. They’ll laugh. They’ll cry. They’ll say it’s much better than “Cats”. (Nod to SNL there.)

However, it means the general public might not know my book even exists. Sales may suffer. Hope of a sequel will grow dim. I’ve worked four long years to get this book into readers’ hands. FOUR YEARS. And now because of this dispute’s timing, well, I can’t say it. I can’t. It’s not nice. And I’m a nice girl.

So this means I need you, my blog readers, more than ever.

If you have enjoyed this blog, participated in PiBoIdMo, or just have a heart of gold, I ask if you can help me get the word out about THE MONSTORE. I would be forever grateful. Together, we can make up for some of the loss the book will suffer for not being in America’s only national book chain.

Some things you can do to help:

  • Blog about THE MONSTORE. (Many of you already are. I’m so appreciative.)
  • Order it from places that already have it: IndieBoundAmazon, BN.com
  • Call my local indie, The Bookworm, and order a signed copy to be shipped to you: 908-766-4599
  • Visit/call your local B&N and ask them to order the book for in-store pick-up.
  • Visit/call your local indie and ask them to order the book. They may already have it!
  • Review THE MONSTORE on any book site.
  • Mark it “want to read” on GoodReads.
  • Let your local librarian(s) know about the book. THE MONSTORE’s ISBN: 9781442420175.
  • Set your Facebook cover/banner to this image (click for full-size, then right-click to save):

purplemonstorefbcover

But I’m also open to your ideas. Heck, I NEED your ideas. So hit me with them.

HIT ME HARD.

And THANK YOU.

Then slip on your ruby red slippers, click your heels together three times and repeat…

rubyredslippers

I’ve teamed up with my home indie in Bernardsville, NJ.

I’ll be signing THE MONSTORE at The Bookworm on Thursday, June 20 from 3:30 to 5:00 p.m.

But, if you can’t make it, you can still get a signed copy made out to your favorite kiddo. (Or yourself, or Toto the dog, as the case may be.)

Just call The Bookworm at 908-766-4599 and pre-order. Specify to whom you’d like me to sign the book. I’ll be heading over there periodically to sign copies and they’ll ship ’em out to you.

You’ll also receive one of these cool, exclusive “Grand Opening” stickers with your book…

Screen Shot 2013-04-11 at 4.44.01 PM Screen Shot 2013-04-11 at 4.43.48 PM Screen Shot 2013-04-11 at 4.44.15 PM

Some assembly required.

Sorry, Ruby Red Slippers sold separately.

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My Picture Books

COMING SOON:

BLOOP
illus by Mike Boldt
HarperCollins
July 2021

ABSURD WORDS
illustrator TBA
Sourcebooks eXplore
November 2021

"PRIVATE I" SERIES #3
illus by Ross MacDonald
Little, Brown
2022

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