Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Conference Countdown Commences...

It's a busy busy week here at CWIM HQ. I'm trying to cross out everything on my to-do list before I head to L.A. on Thursday for the SCBWI event, so I only have time for a few quick reminders today:

  • Reminder #1: I'll be blogging about the SCBWI conference while I'm there. Don't forget to check out my blog for the conference from my perspective.
  • Reminder #2: I'll be debuting the CWIM e-newsletter later this week, so don't forget to sign up.

Friday, July 27, 2007

I'm interviewed on Writer Unboxed...

A recently did an interview about CWIM with Therese Walsh of Writer Unboxed. Here's the link.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

08 CWIM Preview: Interview with Jo Knowles...

Over the next few weeks, I'll be posting previews of features and interviews that appear in the 2008 CWIM, which will be in stores in early August. (Just this minute Greg the Production Guy handed me two advance copies! A nice morning surprise.)

Today I offer an abbreviated version of my Q&A interview with debut novelist Jo Knowles. Jo's first book, Lessons From a Dead Girl, offers readers a powerful, often uncomfortable journey into the world of abuse and healing, chronicling the complex relationship between main character Laine and her best friend/tormentor Leah, who, Laine learns at the book’s opening, has died.

Jo's journey to publicat
ion was helped along by winning grants and awards including an SCBWI Work-in-Progress Grant for a Young Adult Novel in 2002, which attracted the attention of her agent Barry Goldblatt. And she won a PEN New England Children's Book Caucus Discovery Award in 2005, which lead to a contract with Candlewick. She's a member of the Class of 2k7 collective.

Would you recommend contests and grants to other writers pursuing publication?

Absolutely! There are so many good things that come out of applying for a grant. First of all, you have to write a synopsis, which is very hard but really forces you to think about your manuscript and what it’s about. I guess that sounds pretty obvious but when you do it for the first time, it’s like a revelation!

Second, I think submitting a sample of your work, say 10 pages, makes you look at those pages in a really intense way, through the eyes of the most critical reader you can imagine. Every sentence counts! Since doing this I now revise my manuscripts in roughly 10-page chunks, which usually translates to two chapters for me. I look at those chapters and work on how they stand on their own. It’s a great exercise.

Third, getting that call is the biggest thrill! At the time I got the call about the SCBWI grant I had been through some tough times in my personal life and was feeling pretty hopeless. I remember hanging up the phone and sitting on the floor and crying. It was wonderful! And then soon after that I received a letter from Barry Goldblatt (he’d read the notice about the grant in the SCBWI Bulletin) asking if I’d be interested in submitting my work to him. He’d only been in the business for about a year or so at that point, so I was really lucky! And then when I applied for the PEN award I’d sort of sunk to that hopeless place again. I’d had some close calls with revision requests, but I was beginning to feel like maybe I just didn’t have what it takes. A good friend of mine, Cynthia Lord (author of the Newbery Honor-winning Rules), encouraged me to give it a shot so I decided to take a chance on Lessons from a Dead Girl, a manuscript Barry hadn’t actually shopped around yet because I had nearly given up on it. I was totally shocked and thrilled when I got the call and found out I won.

Any tips on catching the eye of judges?

Hand in your best work. I know that sounds a bit simple, but really I think you have to make those first pages sing, just like the first pages of any book. How can your first sentence hook the reader? What would make the judge keep going? Read the pages out loud, have someone else read them to you, read all the first chapters from your favorite books and think about what it is that makes those resonate with you. Don’t just hand in any old thing for the sake of submitting. Respect the judges’ time and only submit if you have something you’ve put your all into. Also, follow the rules to a T. Don’t hand in more pages than requested. Follow the formatting guidelines. If the submissions say the excerpt should come from a completed work, don’t hand in something you’ve only written the first chapter of. Be professional.

You’ve admitted that you were a little nervous after sending me your manuscript to read. Are you apprehensive about your book arriving in stores?

Well, I’m a natural worrier but of course this is the biggie! I know that the subject matter of Lessons from a Dead Girl is a tough one, so there could be strong reactions to it one way or the other. This is a story that I felt had to be told though, and told with honesty, however painful or uncomfortable it might be. I look back to Robert Cormier and how brave he was to cut right to the truth in The Chocolate War and really in all of his books. He’s not afraid to write about ugly things. Ugly things exist. I think that’s the beauty of his work: he knows how to draw that curtain open and do it in a way that isn’t sensational, but real.

As a first-time author, were there any surprises during the publishing process? What has your relationship with your editor been like? With your agent?

It’s funny but I don’t think there have been too many surprises. The biggest surprise was getting an offer! My editor, Joan Powers, is wonderful. She is very straightforward, asks lots of questions, and trusts me to answer them in my revisions. I certainly don’t think she ever shied away from asking tough questions, and I really appreciate that. My agent, Barry Goldblatt, is terrific. He’s become a good friend who knows and cares about my career and me. Barry has a reputation for being “brutally honest” but I think I should set the record straight right now and say he also has a huge heart. You have to be honest in this business. That may sound harsh but dishonesty will only lead to disappointment later. Barry knows that, and I think by being honest up front he is giving aspiring writers a huge gift. Writing is hard, hard work. But if you keep at it, if you keep revising, keep listening to the feedback rather than feeling it, you will get better, and you will succeed.

Monday, July 23, 2007

HP7: Moving Right Along...

Here are some early sales numbers for last Harry Potter title released over the weekend. (You may have heard something about it.)

  • Borders: 1.2 million (in first 24 hours)
  • Barnes & Noble: 1.8 million (in first 48 hours with 560,000 in the first hour alone)
  • Amazon: 1.3 million pre-orders
And what about the Friday night parties?
  • B&N: 1 million plus visitors
  • Borders: 800,000 plus
And guess what--someone already told me what happens. And the spoilers I'd read on the Internet the other day were wrong wrong wrong.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

My First (and Last) Harry Potter Party...

Last night after I had dinner with my friend, we decided to pop in Joseph-Beth, our local independent bookseller, to get a glimpse of how the Harry Potter release party was shaping up. I'd never attended a Harry Potter event (since I've never purchased or read the books), but I figured this was my last chance.

It was only about 9:30, but the store was already abuzz--it was transforming. And it was not just the decorations and banners. As the mostly costumed readers filed in, you could feel something in there air. There was a buzz, an energy. The excitement was so thick you could cut it with a knife. There were toddlers with parents, teens, tweens and lots of adults.

A store employee told me they were expecting about 1,000 people and had gotten in "a couple thousand" copies of Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows.

My friend ordered her book through Amazon. But she figured that UPS wouldn't deliver it until later in the day, so she planned to head to the grocery store first thing in the morning to get another copy so she could start reading as soon as possible.

We only stayed at the bookstore about half an hour. As I was walking out I began to have some regrets. I was sorry I wasn't in on this, that I hadn't read the books and that I wasn't going to cheer at 12:01 when the first person was handed the first copy and I wasn't going to stay up all night and read it. And I was sorry I had gotten online on Friday and read a bunch of spoilers.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

PW Children's Books Fall 2007...

Guess what just landed in my inbox? The Publishers Weekly Children's Books Fall 2007 issue! It's chock full of info on "nearly 3,000" upcoming books with cover illustrations thrown in here and there, along with colorful full-page ads from many many children's publishers. It sort of like a collection of mini publishers' catalogs.

The cover features a darling illustration by Sara Varon that I discovered after ripping off the ad-cover "Introducing '70s girl Julie Albright," American Girl's newest character who seems to have stolen the exact outfit I wore for my class picture in the fifth grade.

If you want to grab a copy of this issue from the newsstand, the cover price is $12.

Some (Very Exciting!) Harry Pottery Stuff in the News...

Interesting piece in the PW Daily today about Scholastic's investigation of Deepdiscount.com who apparently shipped copies of HP#7 to some 1,200 buyers--and the books began arriving yesterday. So PW is talking about investigating for breach of contract and asking readers who have gotten the books early to not open them until July 21 at 12:01 along with everyone else caught up in the Potteracious frenzy.

The kicker (and this is not mentioned in the Publishers Weekly piece) is that one of the guys who got his copy early (and apparently alerted the media) sold his book on eBay for $250 plus shipping to (wait for it)... Publishers Weekly. What fun!

I'm very amused by all of this--all the hyping and the party planning and speculating and counting down and the breaching of contracts. It's refreshing and wonderful that a book can cause so much commotion when it has absolutely nothing to do with Oprah. Perhaps one day, in a world free of Harry-hype, I will finally crack open book one and see if I can finally understand all the fuss.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Houghton Mifflin Buys Harcourt Ed Division...

It's been all over the publishing newsfeeds, but in case you have haven't read about the Harcourt Education business being purchased by Houghton Mifflin, here's a link.

Writer's Digest Books Editors on the Road...

I've been sitting around my office this morning trying to get some work done, but I keep getting distracted by my excitement for the upcoming SCBWI conference in L.A. (I keep pulling out the schedule trying to decide which sessions to attend, thinking about who I want to set up breakfasts with or meet for drinks, and generally loving the idea of being in that lovely hotel, and in a place sans humidity for a few day with a bunch of other people who love books for young readers.)

You know where you'll be seeing me, so I though this would be a good time to tell you where you can find a couple other Writer's Digest Books editor in the very near future.

First my man Chuck Sambuchino, our resident conference junkie. Chuck, editor of Guide to Literary Agents and assistant editor of Writer's Market, is a busy busy bee:

  • First he's speaking at the Harriette Austin Writers Conference this coming weekend, July 20-21, in Athens, Georgia. Topics: Building Your Freelance Portfolio and What You Need to Know About Agents. Chuck says at least three literary agents will be attending and taking pitches.
  • Next up is the Writers' Conference at Ocean Park, August 13-17 in Ocean Park, Maine. Topics: How to Get Your Writing Published and Writing for Magazines (he's been on the staff of several).
  • From Maine Chuck flies straight to Nashville, Tennessee, for Killer Nashville, August 17-19. Topics: Writing the Killer Query Letter, Playwriting 101, and Where Is My Audience: Locating Markets.
And my esteemed leader, editorial director Jane Friedman, has a lot on her plate as well. (And not just conference travel--Jane is responsible for our Writer's Digest Books, HOW Design, TOW Books and Betterway Books lines, both acquiring and editing titles. Not to mention keeping me in line.) Here's where Jane will be presenting this summer:
  • Jane will spend the last weekend of the month in Muncie, Indiana, for Midwest Writers Workshop, July 26-28 held at the Ball State University Alumni Center. Topics: The Best Online Resources for Writers and Book Marketing 101.
  • Next she'll hit the Willamette Writers Conference in Portland, Oregon, August 3-5 held a the Portland Airport Sheraton Hotel. Topic: How to Avoid Sabotaging Your Writing Career. Jane will also be taking pitches.
  • Finally it's off to Cali, for Sacramento State's Summer Writers' Conference August 10-12 on the Sacramento State University Campus. Topic: How the Book Publishing Industry Works (including how to get published and develop your writing career).
If you're in the vicinity and can catch these events, I encourage you to go meet Chuck and Jane and hear them speak. They are both seasoned conference presenters and both are very knowledgeable and approachable.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Harry Potter in the News (surprise surprise!)...

Today I discovered a couple of interesting Potter pieces in the media. First The New York Times ran a piece saying the claim that reading the Harry Potter books helps turn kids into book lovers is overblown (which, if it's true, is unfortunate).

A Publishers Weekly article reveals that the Nielsen people have come up with a report offering all sorts of Potter-related statistics on books sales and movie sales, what they call The Potter Effect. Here are a few choice stats:

  • Scholastic has spent from $300,000-plus to $900,000-plus on promotion for the various Harry Potter titles with a total of $3.6 million spent on U.S. promotion for all Potter-related books.
  • 27.7 million copies of Harry Potter books have been sold in the U.S. since 2001.
  • 51% of people in the U.S. are aware there's a new Harry Potter book coming out. (Do the the other 49% live under rocks or in biospheres or something? How do they not know?)
  • 28% of people in the U.S. over the age of 12 have read at least one of the books. I am not among them--I've not read any of them.
And Emma Watson of the Harry Potter movie franchise is rocking some Chanel during the many appearances the cast is making promoting the upcoming movie. She's been all over the fashion blogs I read while I eat breakfast.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

2008 CWIM Cover and First Official Update...

Look over there (or over there)--it's the 2008 CWIM in all its purple fish glory! And, although the book is yet to hit stores, I have my first official update. I just heard from Associate Editor Allison Ruffing that the August/September 2007 issue will be the last for Guideposts Sweet 16. After that it's ceasing publication. So when you get your book you can draw a big red X through that listing in the Magazines section.

Monday, July 09, 2007

New Newsletters & Blogs by Market Books Editors...

I started the month of July by taking many days off work. Now I'm back in the office and down to business once again. (And happy to be here after several days of Murray's Potty Training Boot Camp, which was not particularly enjoyable for any of us. Any tips for a stubborn almost-3-year-old who is simply against potties are welcome.)

My first order of the afternoon is to invite you all to sign up for my CWIM newsletter which will debut later this month. The CWIM newsletter will include some industry news, an interview here and there, market info, news on upcoming conferences and various other things I think you'll be interested in reading about. The newsletter will come once a month, so it won't jam up your inbox, so why not sign up?

We are also offering new newsletters by other knowledgeable market books editors: Guide to Literary Agents' Chuck Sambuchino, Novel & Short Story Writer's Market's Lauren Mosko, and Poet's Market's Nancy Breen. Writer's Market editor Robert Brewer has been sending a newsletter for ages. If these topics don't appeal to you, please tell your writer friends.

We've had a couple new blogs debut recently as well--Chuck's GLA Editors' blog and Nancy and Robert's poetry blog, Poetic Asides.