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by Jed Alexander

My books were too quiet.

Or that’s what I kept being told. Never mind that Margaret Wise Brown and Clement Hurd’s lullaby in prose GOODNIGHT MOON, a book about a bunny who stays in bed throughout the entire book, is and continues to be one of the most consistently best-selling books in history…according to publishers, quiet didn’t sell. My agent submitted my books to publisher after publisher and we heard the same words over and over. It’s too quiet. There needs to be more action. I always got great compliments on my art, but as much as they seemed to like the way I drew, nobody was hiring me to illustrate their books.

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So I decided to make a book on my own terms. I would make a book that was everything that publishers said they didn’t want from me. Too quiet? My book was going to have hardly any words at all. Instead of one long narrative, it would be a series of short pieces and vignettes, most of which had no perceivable plot. Even the format was unconventional: rather than typical children’s book dimensions it was a square. Instead of the usual 32 pages, it was 52. It was everything publishers didn’t want but it was the book I wanted to make. And the only way it would see print was if I self-published it.

kickstarterTo raise the money, I decided to use crowdfunding. I spent nearly a year researching everything I could about successful crowdfunding campaigns. I discovered that Kickstarter would be my best option. Though I had no experience in business or marketing, I came up with a marketing plan and budget. Though I had never made a video before, I shot my video on my iPhone and learned how to use the editing software on my Mac.

My goal was $7,000 dollars. Some of my friends told me this was too ambitious. That I was asking for too much. That I should set my sights lower. But this was how much I determined I would need to make the book that I wanted to make, and if I couldn’t make the book I wanted to make, I didn’t see any point in doing it at all. And if I failed, the only thing I stood to lose was the time I invested.

Once the campaign began, I got to work. I used every spare moment I had to promote my book. I spread the word on social media. I arranged an interview on a local radio station. I e-mailed everyone I knew.

My campaign succeeded beyond my expectations. Authors and illustrators I admired posted links to my project on their Facebook pages. My project became a staff pick on Kickstarter and one of their “projects of the day,” which meant that my video was featured on their home page. They even used my project as an example on their phone app. I raised over $10,000, well in excess of my $7,000 goal, and was able to use the extra money to enhance my book with extras like spot lamination and color endpapers.

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While a few of my supporters were friends and family, most of them were people I didn’t know who had come to believe in my project. One of them was a small press publisher who offered to sub-distribute the book once I met my goal. The publisher would put their name on it, and with the legitimacy that a veteran publisher afforded, I could get the book into libraries and bookstores and I could get it reviewed.

I made some mistakes along the way but I’ve had the opportunity to learn from them. The book has opened many doors for me. It’s gotten a number of positive reviews. I’ve held signings and done lectures and taught classes. I’ve met a lot of wonderful people I wouldn’t have otherwise met.

But most important of all, my book is being read. And if you self-publish using crowdfunding you may not be the next J.K. Rowling, but I guarantee you will have readers. Because crowdfunding not only provides you the funds you need to publish, but it builds enthusiasm for your book and an audience that you wouldn’t have otherwise had. That book that everyone rejected, that no one was willing to publish will finally have readers.

And above all else, isn’t that the reason we do this? Because we love books so much we want to make them and share them and have others enjoy them? Because otherwise you’re in the wrong business.

 

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Jed Alexander is the author/illustrator of (MOSTLY) WORDLESS, which he originally self-published with crowdfunding finances and which was then picked up by a small traditional publisher. He is represented by Abigail Samoun of Red Fox Literary. Find out more about Jed at JedAlexander.com.

Jed will also be co-teaching an extraordinary course on How to Self- or Indie- Publish with Crowdfunding starting March 23rd with Mira Reisberg. The course covers print, e-books, crowdfunding, marketing, social media, and much more.

by Hillary Homzie and Mira Reisberg

You have an idea for a book! Yahoo! It’s one of those ideas that hits you so deep in your gut that you immediately scribble it into a little notebook. Your stomach bubbles, not in an indigestion sort of way, but in a nervous-happy–giving-birth-to-a-germ-of-an-idea way. So how do you know if the idea is really picture book idea? What if it’s actually a chapter book or a middle grade novel, how do you know?

Well, you don’t. Not right away.

Of course, there are the obvious tip-offs that your idea is not a picture book. Take your idea through this list and see how it stacks up.

  1. Age of the protagonist.

These days picture books are generally geared for ages 2-7, although there are still picture books geared towards older elementary school, especially in nonfiction. Still, there’s no question that picture books are skewing younger with shorter word counts. If your primary character is in first through third grade (or ages 6-9), and is longer than 700 words, chances are you have a chapter book. And if your character is a fourth or fifth grader, chances are you have a younger middle grade novel (for ages 9-10). Now sometimes, often, older chapter books overlap with middle grade. Is Stuart Little an illustrated chapter book or an early middle grade? There is no hard and fast answer here, especially since the term chapter book has often been used in a general way to indicate a book for elementary school children that has chapters. However, often in publishing when we say chapter book, we often mean an early chapter book. Think Magic Tree House, Junie B. Jones or Geronimo Stilton. Of course, exceptions apply in everything (and really, would it be any fun if there weren’t?). But read on to help you determine where your idea fits best.

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  1. Interest of the main character.

Is your main character interested in something that will be appealing to younger children? E.g. If you’re story is about a child who’s excited about writing cursive, this means the main character is probably eight, and chances are it’s a chapter book story. If you’re an author/illustrator who has created lots of charming or edgy black and white illustrations to go with the story, chances are it’s a chapter book. Early middle grade books are also starting to feature illustrations more. This is great news for illustrators.

Page from "Notebook of Doom" chapter book series by Troy Cummings

Page from “Notebook of Doom” chapter book series by Troy Cummings

  1. Period of time.

Does your story occur over a year? Six months? You may have a chapter book or young middle grade on your hands. Now there are exceptions, picture books such as Diary of a Worm, which chronicles a character over a large period of time, or nonfiction picture books that occur over a long time like biographies. The majority of contemporary picture books take place over a brief period of time, while chapter or middle grade books usually have the luxury of taking their time with a story.

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  1. Type of protagonist.

Are your main characters animals or personified objects? Chances are it’s either a picture book or an early chapter book. Older kids generally want to look more sophisticated with “grown-up” books, but of course there are always exceptions, like the fresh middle grade graphic novel Low Riders in Space, which features a dog, an octopus, and a mosquito as main characters.

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Generally, if you like writing really short manuscripts with simple plots, often with animal characters on topics of interest for very young kids, you’re a picture book person. If you like the luxury of time and space for writing slightly longer books (from 1500 to 15,000 words) that still have pictures for slightly older kids ages 6-9, with or without animal characters, then you’re a chapter book writer (or maybe even an early reader person, but that’s a post for another day). And if you like much more complex plot lines, much longer storytelling, stories for early middle school kids, then you have an older middle grade idea.

So…what kind of ideas do you have?

Bonus info: Mira and Hillary will be co-teaching an outrageously fabulous interactive e-Course, the Chapter Book Alchemist, starting January 12th. Together and with the help of Mandy Yates, they make it ridiculously easy to write a chapter book or early middle grade during the 5 fun-filled weeks. The course features optional critique groups, weekly live webinar critiques, lots of lessons and exercises, the option for critiques with Mira or Hillary (with a free Scrivener course) and Golden Ticket opportunities to submit directly to agents and editors. Click here to find out more about this once-in-a-lifetime adventure with potential life and career changing benefits! Click here to find out more

Hillary Homzie photo by Suzanne Bronk

Hillary Homzie photo by Suzanne Bronk

Hillary Homzie is the author of the chapter book series, Alien Clones From Outer Space as well as the middle grade novels, Things Are Gonna Get Ugly, The Hot List, and Karma Cooper Unplugged (forthcoming). Some of her books are currently being made into an animated television series. Hillary teaches in the graduate M.F.A. program in children’s writing at Hollins University as well as for the Children’s Book Academy. She is also a former stand up comedienne. Visit her at HillaryHomzie.com.

mirareisbergMira Reisberg is an award-winning children’s book creative, a former kidlit university professor and a former literary agent. She is also the Director of the Children’s Book Academy and has taught many now highly successful authors and illustrators. Visit her at childrensbookacademy.com.

 

 

miraagentby Mira Reisberg

Reclaiming:

Your sister/mother/father/cousin is the artist. Your drawing is terrible. You’re hopeless at art. These are the things that you may have heard. Especially when you were a child. Voices that you’ve carried along allowing an important part of you to be silenced.

In some ways, as children’s book creative, our jobs are about accessing that child-like place of curiosity, wonder, and joy. That part that can spend solid time squatting in dirt watching a worm wiggle around in the earth and then reach out and touch it.

Making art is a bit like that. Mucking around in sometimes yucky materials, seeing what will happen if you add a touch of ochre to that blue with some titan buff instead of titanium white. Suddenly your sea is more sea like. Suddenly the endorphins are flowing and you’re in that place of child-like wonder wandering around in the right side of your brain where emotion and intuition hang out. After a while you consciously or unconsciously remember these experiments and how when you do this that happens and the colors, patterns, shapes, compositions you like, become ingrained as habit and begin to develop into your personal visual vocabulary or style. In many ways, it’s like driving a car. Alien at first then effortless after a while. If you do this, that happens. But unlike driving a car, artists are always evolving, trying new moves, new materials, new styles and new combinations. Playing in the dirt.

Playful illustrators whose style epitomizes that child-like delight with a more child-like style include the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books by Jeff Kinney, Naked and I’m Bored by Debbie Ohi, Mo Willem’s Pigeon books, Lauren Child’s books, and Todd Parr and Lucy Cousins wildly successful work that kids often look at and go “I could do that!”

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These days, like never before, publishers want author/illustrators. These days publishers are also embracing artwork that may not be technically perfect but whose spirit and originality is totally, playfully, perfect!

Revitalizing:

While realism will always be greatly valued in the exquisite works of artists like John Muth, David Weisner, Julie Downing, E.B. Lewis and many others, there is a new embrace and desire for wild, spontaneous, fresh looking art that mixes it up. Try combining different materials with collage, try standing up and using your whole body to draw with freedom, or try creating loose ink or charcoal drawings like Chris Raschka does. Try playing with new materials that you’ve never used before so that you are more willing to be a child learning new things without judgment, experimenting in the dirt. Watch that worm wriggle. Then gently reach out and touch it.

Years ago Pablo Picasso said, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” In the 1960’s Buckminster Fuller wrote, “Everyone is born a genius, but the process of living de-genius’s them.” Who’s ready to reclaim or revitalize their inner artist, childlike joy and visual genius? Take a walk on the wild side.

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Mira Reisberg is the Director and founding instructor of the Children’s Book Academy. She has been involved in the children’s book industry since early 1988 as an illustrator, writer, editor, and art director as well as working as a kid lit university professor. Over the years she has taught many now successful children’s book writers and illustrators.

Starting November 3rd, Mira will be co-teaching the Craft and Business of Illustrating Children’s Books with Chronicle Books’ Design Director and Art Director extraordinaire for fearful beginning artists, multi-published illustrators, and adventurous writers. Find out more here.

Today there’s not one guest post, but TWO. On the radio, this would be called a TWO-FER TUESDAY. But it’s Thursday. Yeah, this is why I’m not on the radio.

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My Favorite Parts of Writing for Kids by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen

So far, 2014 has been a really big year for me. I’ve had four picture books come out in the first four months of the year—DUCK DUCK MOOSE, ORANGUTANGLED, TYRANNOSAURUS WRECKS, and SNORING BEAUTY. I’ve had books selected for the Junior Library Guild, chosen as Amazon Big Spring Picks, and reviewed in the Wall Street Journal. I also joined the faculty of the Children’s Book Academy and began teaching writing.

Almost 12 years ago, I made the decision to leave graduate school in biology and begin writing books for children. In that time, there have been many highs and lows, though right now is certainly one of those highs. In light of the good fortune I’m experiencing right now, I wanted to share my three favorite parts of being a children’s author.

  1. Nobody tells me what to write about.
    Every project I take up, I do so because it is something that interests me. I get to decide what to write about, and if that means spending one day on a concept book about the bond between a mother and a son, the next day on a picture book biography of Jackie Robinson, and the next on a story of some ducks whose best friend always MOOSES everything up, I can certainly do so (and I have!). It is a wonderful thing to have complete control over what I have to work on.
  2. I can work barefoot in my bed in my pajamas.
    In the spirit of no one telling me what to do, I don’t even have a boss who makes me get dressed before I go to work! Some of my finest writing has come out of the left side of my bed, under the covers with my feet poking out.
  3. I get to create something out of nothing.
    This one’s the key. In so many jobs, people follow instructions, push paper from one end of their desk to the other, execute against a task list. I’m not knocking those jobs at all—without them, our world doesn’t work. I’m just saying that it’s very rare to be able to start with nothing—just me and my imagination (and my laptop!)—and end up with something that is real and good, that didn’t exist before, that is entirely the product of my willing it into existence. Artists are driven to create. To be able to follow that imperative and still be able to support my family—well, that’s what I’m most grateful for. That’s my favorite part.

Happy Writing!

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My Favorite Parts of Teaching and Agenting by Mira Reisberg

That part is easy–helping!! This helping boils down to helping make dreams come true, helping people improve their skills, helping to create a more level playing field with Children’s Book Academy scholarships, helping get great books and art out into the world created by great people, and finally helping bring more happiness and joy in the world (oh and having fun playing with people, words, and images).

Being a creative is hard. We live in a culture that generally undervalues and underpays us though this seems to be shifting a bit with new technologies where there is more of an emphasis on storytelling and image-driven messages.

But the payoff, and it’s big, even if it does take a long time for the money to come, is having a meaningful, heart-filled, and very fun life. I was talking with another agent this morning where we were helping each other out and it was just so lovely. That’s what we do in community-oriented organizations like PiBoIdMo, Rate Your Story, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and the Children’s Book Academy, and this is another thing that I love about what I do.

In the old days, being a writer or illustrator meant slaving away in isolation. Now we have all these fantastic resources that not only help us with our craft, but also with our hearts providing support, resources, companionship, and practical assistance. So if you are feeling isolated or stuck, just reach out and ask for help. How amazing that we can do this. I certainly couldn’t be doing what I do at any other time in history. In some ways I love what I do a little too much and having a slightly addictive personality, tend to do too much. But this is a small price for all the joy and happiness that I get from being creative and helping others. So I guess this is another thing that I love about what I do, getting to live a wildly creative life and do good at the same time.

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Tara’s Favorite Part of This TWO-FER

Years ago, I attended NJ-SCBWI events to learn about the business and craft of writing for kids. That’s where I met Sudipta. She has taught numerous picture book courses. She’s the most savvy and knowledgable instructor I know. She has taught me story techniques that no one else has ever divulged!

And now everyone has the chance to gain writerly wisdom from Sudipta. Along with Mira, she’s teaching the outrageously interactive online course: “From Storyteller to Exquisite Writer: The Pleasures and Craft of Poetic Techniques” starting May 19th. Mira and Suipta have nicknamed this course “The Missing Link” because it really is what most writers are missing in foundational knowledge. CLICK HERE for details and top secret discounts. This is the only time that Sudipta and Mira will be co-teaching this course together with the wonderful Mandy Yates assisting.

Thanks, Sudipta & Mira!

So now it’s your turn. What are your favorite parts of what you do?

miraagentby guest blogger Dr. Mira Reisberg

You’ve been pounding the keys for months or years, you’ve finally finished your manuscript and you’re ready to submit. You go to a publisher and they are only accepting agented submissions. You go to some agents and they are closed to submissions. You start pulling out the hair now that you didn’t pull out while writing your manuscript in utter frustration!! I want to explain a little about how this came to pass and what you can do about it.

A Little Publishing History
Back when I first started working in this industry, in the good old days of early 1988, first as an illustrator and then as just about everything else, it was a very different world. There were many publishing houses with many editors and art directors and many smaller independent publishers as well. It was fascinating to visit and editors had assistants and support staff that are rarely found these days. Publishing was wide-open and thriving.

But then over time, the corporatization of America started taking hold and larger publishing houses started buying smaller publishers, becoming larger corporations. Using economies of scale, they needed fewer editors, fewer art directors, and fewer assistants. Things started automating more with newer technologies stretching editors and ADs to do more. Many editors, ADs, and their assistants were let go, increasing the workload tremendously for those who remained or those who were newly hired. Big corporations started taking over or merging with other big companies increasing this economy of scale.

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Enter September 11th and the Anthrax Scare
Following the 2001 September 11th attacks, there were numerous anthrax scares, as one NBC employee tested positive and a New York Times reporter received a suspicious envelope with white powder. An increase in submissions, partly enabled by changes in attitudes to self-expression, creativity, and access to education—plus access to improved writing technologies, fewer resources of staff to deal with the increase, combined with the anthrax scare—caused many New York children’s book publishers to close their doors to submissions and only accept new submissions from agents.

Then came Amazon with its deep discounts and the recession killing off more independent publishers, further narrowing the field. Fortunately, many smaller publishers did keep their doors open to what’s known as unsolicited submissions and quite a few wonderful independent publishers like Chronicle Books and Lee and Low remain.

Today there are 5 major publishers as well as a bunch of independent or semi-independent publishers. This is not to say that the major pubs aren’t producing wonderful work or that big publishers = bad, or small publishers = good (though most smaller publishers do need extra support). That’s overly simplistic and there are truly wonderful people working at all houses and imprints, big and small making equally wonderful children’s books. I’m just talking about the narrowing of the field for submissions. Some of the major publishers’ imprints still accept unsolicited manuscripts, but for many publishers, due to the overwhelming number of submissions and reasons explained earlier, they prefer the system of having an agent act as a kind of quality screener and gatekeeper.

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Now It’s the Agents’ Time to Be Overwhelmed
These days we have a big problem with supply and demand where there are many more writers than there are agents, editors, or publishing opportunities. Also, many writers don’t do the work of learning the skills and techniques of being a professional writer, honing their craft over time, taking courses and learning the specific requirements of contemporary publishing and their specific genre. They submit their work and overwhelm agents who then close their submissions except through conferences, referrals and special circumstances.

So Back to You. You Ask Yourself, “What Can I Do Now?”
We understand that this is frustrating. Here’s a little information about what you can do to get past these restrictions. One of the best ways to get access is by making personal connections with agents and editors at conferences or through courses. There is nothing like a personal connection in any aspect of life. But remember that editors and agents are mostly overworked and underpaid. They do this work because they love books and helping others. As society changes with events in the world, we have to change with it. The thing that doesn’t change is that first impressions make lasting impressions. If you meet an editor or agent make a great impression by being warm, helpful, kind, and positive. As the saying goes, “Your attitude determines your altitude.” Of course before you submit, make sure your work is wonderful, brilliant, original, professional and publishable. But this is a given. If you make meaningful connections, chances are they’ll want to help you if they can, and besides the possibility of publishing, you might just make a wonderful friend.

To learn more about Mira Reisberg and her agency, visit HummingbirdLiterary.com. To learn about her upcoming writing course, visit ChildrensBookAcademy.com/writing-childrens-picture-books.html.

I call the agents who participate in PiBoIdMo “agent prizes”, but let me make one thing clear: you do not get to bring them home with you.

Oh, sure, I know how you’d love to cuddle up with an agent, dress them in adorable footie pajamas and read them bedtime stories, but alas, they are remaining in their respective homes. For now. Who knows? If they really LOVE your ideas, maybe they’d like to snuggle beside you? But I digress…

At the conclusion of PiBoIdMo, on December 1st, I will post the “PiBo Pledge”. Leave a comment on the pledge post if you have completed the challenge with at least 30 ideas. You do not have to submit those ideas to prove that you have them. You’re on the honor system. It’s OK, I trust you.

grandpoobahfredIf you have “signed” the pledge by commenting AND you had also registered, then you are eligible for an “agent prize”—a.k.a. THE GRAND POOBAH OF PRIZES. You will get your 5 best ideas evaluated by a kidlit agent. They’ll tell you which ideas might be the best ones to pursue as manuscripts. (Or not.)

Don’t worry–you’ll get a few days to pick your 5 best ideas and flesh them out before sending to your assigned agent.

This year we have NINE NOTABLE AGENTS participating! This means there are NINE GRAND PRIZES! I hope to add more, but these are who we have thus far.

Now…let me introduce you…let me make you smile… (wait, that’s let me entertain you…oopsie…but I bet you’re smiling anyway)…

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Ammi-Joan Paquette, Erin Murphy Literary Agency (EMLA)

joanagentJoan is a Senior Agent with EMLA, working from her home office in Massachusetts as the “East Coast branch” of the agency. She represents all forms of children’s and young adult literature, but is most excited by a strong lyrical voice, tight plotting with surprising twists and turns, and stories told with heart and resonance that will stand the test of time.

An EMLA client herself, Joan is also the author of numerous books for children, most recently the picture books Ghost in the House (Candlewick, 2013) and Petey and Pru and the Hullabaloo (Clarion, 2013), and the novels Paradox (Random House, 2013) and Rules for Ghosting (Walker, 2013). When she is not on the phone, answering email, or writing, you will most likely find Joan curled up with a book. Or baking something delicious. Or talking about something delicious she’s baked. Really, after books and food, what else is there worth saying?

You can read more about Joan’s writing and agenting process here.

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Tricia Lawrence, Erin Murphy Literary Agency (EMLA)

trishagentTricia is the “Pacific Northwest branch” of EMLA—born and raised in Oregon, and now lives in Seattle. After 18 years of working as a developmental and production-based editor (from kids book to college textbooks, but mostly college textbooks), she joined the EMLA team in March 2011 as a social media strategist.

As associate agent, Tricia represents picture books/chapter books that look at the world in a unique and unusual way, with characters that are alive both on and off the page, and middle grade and young adult fiction and nonfiction that offers strong worldbuilding, wounded narrators, and stories that grab a reader and won’t let go.

Tricia loves hiking, camping out in the woods, and collecting rocks. She loves BBC America and anything British. She has way too many books and not enough bookshelves. You can find Tricia’s writing about blogging, Tweeting, Facebooking, and other social media topics (for authors and the publishing industry at large) here and here.

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Marietta Zacker, Nancy Gallt Literary Agency

mariettaagentMarietta has experienced children’s books from every angle—teaching, marketing, publishing & bookselling. She thrives on working with authors who make readers feel their characters’ emotions and illustrators who add a different dimension to the story. She is also book curator at an independent toy store/bookstore. Read a recent publishing industry piece by Marietta here.

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Danielle Smith, Foreword Literary

daniellemsmithDanielle Smith began her agent career at Foreword Literary Agents in 2013 where she represents picture books and middle grade authors and illustrators. Her enthusiasm for children’s literature began as a young child, but grew exponentially when her own two children were born and shortly thereafter she began reviewing books at her top rated children’s book review site There’s A Book. For more than five years she’s been involved professionally with books through print and online publications such as Women’s World and Parenting Magazine, as a member of the judging panel for The Cybils awards for fiction picture books, as well as locally by serving on the board of The Central Coast Writer’s Conference.

Danielle is also a writer, represented by Pam van Hylckama Vlieg for her middle grade novel The Protectorate. She’s a member of SCBWI and can frequently be found on Twitter talking about anything from children’s books to the BBC’s Sherlock to her own parenting woes & joys.

Read more about Danielle here.

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Mira Reisberg, Hummingbird Literary

miraagentMira Reisberg came to launch Hummingbird Literary following a 25-year history in the field of children’s literature working as an award-winning illustrator, a writer, editor, art director, designer, a children’s literature and art education professor, and a teacher/mentor to many now successful children’s book creatives.

Her mission is to successfully represent all age-levels to create wonderful books that bring meaning and/or joy to children’s and young adult lives. Hummingbird Literary will have a limited number of clients so that Mira and her team can focus on building long-term careers and fruitful relationships.

Learn more about Mira and Hummingbird here.

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Susan Hawk, The Bent Agency

susanhawkSusan Hawk represents authors who write for children of all ages, babies to teenage.

Susan comes to TBA from Children’s Book Marketing, where she worked for over 15 years, most recently as the Marketing Director at Henry Holt Books for Young Readers, and previous to that as the Library Marketing Director at Penguin Young Readers Group. She’s also worked as a children’s librarian and a bookseller.

Susan handles books for children exclusively: picture books, chapter books, middle grade and YA, fiction and non-fiction. She wants a book to stay with her long after she finishes reading, and she’s looking for powerful, original writing. She’s open to mystery, scifi, humor, boy books, historical, contemporary (really any genre). Her favorite projects live at the intersection of literary and commercial. In non-fiction she’s looking for books that relate to kid’s daily lives and their concerns with the world. In picture books, she’s looking particularly for author-illustrators, succinct but expressive texts, and characters as indelible as her childhood favorites Ferdinand, Madeline and George and Martha.

Read more about Susan here.

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Lori Kilkelly, Rodeen Literary Management

lorikilkellyLori Kilkelly is an agent with Rodeen Literary Management, founded by Paul Rodeen, formerly of Sterling Lord Literistic, in 2009. After working in sales for a number of years, Lori decided to follow her passion for books. She attended the Denver Publishing Institute, subsequently joining the agency as an intern in early 2010. Ascending the ranks from intern and reader to assistant, she worked with current and potential clients as well as editors and publishers. In early 2012 Lori took on the role of Social Media Manager, creating and maintaining the Rodeen Literary Facebook page as well as Twitter and Pinterest accounts, to provide promotional opportunities for RLM clients as well as keep interested parties informed about books, news and events involving RLM. In December 2012 she began representing her first client, Toni Yuly, and has subsequently taken on an additional four clients. She represents authors as well as illustrators and is actively seeking talented Middle Grade and Young Adult writers.

Please visit here for more on Lori and Rodeen Literary Management.

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Sean McCarthy, McCarthy Literary

mccarthy small headshotSean McCarthy began his publishing career as an editorial intern at Overlook Press and then moved over to the Sheldon Fogelman Agency. He worked as the submissions coordinator and permissions manager before becoming a full-time literary agent. Sean graduated from Macalester College with a degree in English-Creative Writing, and is grateful that he no longer has to spend his winters in Minnesota.

He is drawn to flawed, multifaceted characters with devastatingly concise writing in YA, and boy-friendly mysteries or adventures in MG. In picture books, he looks more for unforgettable characters, off-beat humor, and especially clever endings. He is not currently interested in high fantasy, message-driven stories, or query letters that pose too many questions.

You can visit Sean here and follow him on Twitter here for his thoughts on publishing news, the inevitable hipsterfication of Astoria, and the Mets’ starting lineup.

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Jill Corcoran, Jill Corcoran Literary Agency

jillagentPrior to becoming an agent, Jill Corcoran worked at Mattel, LA Gear, Leo Burnett Advertising and her own company, LAUNCH! New Product Marketing. With an English degree from Stanford University and a Marketing and Finance MBA from the University of Chicago School of Business, Jill has marketed everything from Barbies to Disney toys, Kellogg’s cereal to LA Gear shoes. But when she started writing books for children, and then agenting them, she knew she found her true calling.

Jill represents Picture Books, Chapter Books, Middle Grade and Young Adult plus a select list of adult non-fiction. Visit her agency website here.

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Interesting story—back in 2009, I met Jill in person at the NJ-SCBWI annual conference after chatting via social media for months. We never really got a chance to talk in depth, so I asked if I could email her some of my picture book ideas so she could give me feedback on which might be the best to pursue as manuscripts. She agreed and I sent her a bunch of ideas, one of which was for THE MONSTORE. And the rest, they say, is history.

My experience with Jill is how these “agent prizes” came to be. I know how valuable it is to receive guidance from someone who really knows the market. Now that I have an agent myself (Ammi-Joan Paquette), I’m lucky enough to bounce ideas off her before I do any writing. But if you don’t have an agent, just how can you discern a lukewarm idea from a HOT one? Hopefully these agent prizes will give you a head start in that department.

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Yay! So those are our agents, folks.

Now I should end on a humorous note, but you know, running PiBoIdMo just wipes the witty right outta me sometimes.

Maybe…yabba dabba do?

You’ve been waiting a long time…but here they finally are: the Mira Reisberg contest winners! I will contact those of you listed here with an exclusive email address to submit to Mira’s Hummmingbird Literary.

hummingbirdliterary

Donna Earnhardt
Mary Uhles
Vivian Kirkfield
Laura Renauld
Angie Karcher

There were SO MANY great marketing suggestions, I wanted to pick EVERYONE. You can imagine why it took me so long. Once again I want to thank the lovely and talented Mira Reisberg for sponsoring this contest, and best wishes to all the winners.

penguinchacha

Next, the winner of Kristi Valiant’s PENGUIN CHA-CHA Prize Pack! It’s…

Pam Brunskill!

Be on the lookout for my email, Pam. And congrats!

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And while I have your attention, NJ-SCBWI just opened registration for a flurry of inspiring and entertaining fall events. I’ll be hosting a PiBoIdMo Kick-Off on October 1st in Manville, plus there’s two other PiBo and NaNoWriMo parties. I’ll also be teaching a picture book workshop at the Fall Craft Weekend on November 10th.

Check it all out at NJSCBWI.com and click “follow blog” so you don’t miss any future event announcements!

Happy writing to everyone! And stay tuned…some PiBoIdMo announcements are coming soon!

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.

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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

7ate9
Winner of the 2018 Irma S. Black Award and the SCBWI Crystal Kite!
black kite

As a children's book author and mother of two, I'm pushing a stroller along the path to publication. I collect shiny doodads on the journey and share them here. You've found a kidlit treasure box.

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My Picture Books

COMING SOON:


illus by Melissa Crowton
Tundra/PRH Canada
June 4, 2019


illus by Ross MacDonald
Disney*Hyperion
October 15, 2019

THREE WAYS TO TRAP A LEPRECHAUN
illus by Vivienne To
HarperCollins
Spring 2020

THE WHIZBANG WORDBOOK
illustrator TBA
Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
August 2020

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