Monday, January 25, 2010

Alice Has Left the Nati--Follow Me Online...

As soon as I post this, I'm leaving the office and heading to the airport to got to New York for Digital Book World and the SCBWI Annual Winter Conference.

But, never fear--you don't have to miss me...

Watch my Twitter feed on Tuesday and Wednesday for tweets from DBW (#dbw) and check the DBW blog for daily reports on the event. You can also follow DBW on Twitter.

For as-it-happens conference action, stay glued to the Official SCBWI Conference Blog where I and the rest of SCBWI TEAM BLOG will cover the event live. (If you can't join the fun, we'll bring it right to your computer screen!)

Here's a rundown of our exclusive pre-conference interviews with SCBWI Winter Conference speakers (as swiped from Jaime's blog):

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Debut Author of the Month:
Libby Schm

Je suis heureux de vous informer that starting today, I'm reviving le Debut Author du mois feature on mon blog. (Those of you who contacted me for First Books: You may be hearing from in months to come.)

January's DAotM is Libby Schmais, whose YA debut is The Pillow Book of Lotus Lowenstein, released from Delacorte en Décembre. Says Kirkus: "readers of any age will savor Lotus’s panache...Chick lit par excellence." You can read a délicieuse excerpt here.

Describe your debut YA novel,
The Pillow Book of Lotus Lowenstein.

The Pillow Book of Lotus Lowenstein
is a diary book by a teenager living in Brooklyn who is obsessed with all things French. Lotus feels stifled by her life in Park Slope, Brooklyn and fancies herself an existentialist, although her real knowledge of that philosophy and actual French words is a little sketchy. She and her best friend Joni end up both liking the same guy, another Sartre aficionado, and things come to a head during a school trip to Montreal, challenging both her friendship and her freethinking ideas.

You’d published a couple of books for adults—what made you write for a YA audience?

I didn’t consciously set out to write a YA book. The character of Lotus appeared to me one day, and the voice was a teenage one, so I just kind of went with it. I think if I had decided to write a modern-day YA novel from the beginning, I would have been intimidated, because it was out of my comfort zone.

Why did you choose diary format? Have you kept journals at some point?

Well, Lotus is studying The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagan in school, a famous Japanese diary book so that’s part of the reason I chose the diary format. The other reason is that I’ve always wanted to write a diary book. So many of my favorite books are diary books, like I Capture the Castle, Bridget Jones’ Diary, The Diary of Adrian Mole, etc. And in answer to your question, I have tried to write in many journals over the years and have a stack of half-filled notebooks that are impossible to read because my handwriting is so terrible.

Like your title character Brooklynite Lotus Lowenstein, are you a Francophile and/or an existentialist?

I’m definitely a Francophile. I love French food, speaking French badly, and I have recurring fantasy about moving to the South of France, preferably near a field of lavender and an outdoor café. I’m also a bit of an existentialist, particularly on Mondays, when life seems très meaningless.

How did you end up at Delacorte? Do you have an agent?

I do have an agentthe fabulous Stephen Barbara of Foundry Media, who hooked me up with Delacorte. I actually have a two-book deal, so I will have another YA book coming out in approximately a year or so, with a totally different character, although equally quirky and misguided.

You’ve recently completed the My-Life-Is-Merde-but-Have-a-Bonnes-Fêtes-Anyway Blog Tourapalooza, you’ve got a fan page on facebook, and you blog and tweet as your main character. Did I miss anything? How are your book promotion efforts going?

Wow, it sounds so exhausting when you put it like that. Yes, that covers it, except for maybe Goodreads, which is a great site for authors. I have to say all the YA bloggers are a very encouraging and enthusiastic bunch, and they’ve been very positive about the book, so I’d say the online promotion is going well, although I always feel that I could be doing more.

Can you offer some advice to first-time YA authors?

Advice. Hmmm. Probably the same advice I give myselftry not to be too influenced by what everyone else is doing and write the story that you need to write. And don’t be so hard on yourself. Writing is not easy.

Monday, January 18, 2010

ALA Award Winners Announced...

Here are the highlights:

The 2010 John Newbery Medal for most outstanding contribution to children’s literature went to When You Reach Me, written by Rebecca Stead.

The 2010 Randolph Caldecott Medal for most distinguished American picture book for children went to The Lion & the Mouse, illustrated and written by Jerry Pinkney.

The 2010 Michael L. Printz Award for excellence in literature written for young adults went to Going Bovine, written by Libba Bray.

For a complete list of ALA medalists, click here.

Congratulations to all the outstanding authors and illustrators who were recognized!

NOTE: Printz Award winner Libba Bray is the opening keynote speaker for the SCBWI Annual Winter Conference next week in New York City. Click here to register for the event.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Conference Tips (Especially for the Less Experienced Conference-Goer):
A Guest Post by Jane Makuch...

As a follow-up to my recent post on upcoming events, today I offer some tips for attending conferences.
What follows are some lessons learned by a relatively new conference-goer Jane Makuch who I met at our Writer's Digest Editor's Intensive in September. Jane will also be attending the SCBWI Annual Winter Conference and the pre-conference Writers Intensive. She's currently revising a YA manuscript.

So many of us spend lots of money and want to do the "right" thing at conferences, but we're so often on the outside looking in. I've spent countless hours looking for do's and don't and know I still have so much to learn. Some things I have learned that I think will be helpful are:

  • Develop a 30-second pitch. Not just for agents and editors, but also the dozens of times other attendees ask, "What's your book about?"
  • Develop a 2-minute pitch for one-on-ones. So many new conference goers seem to think they need to spend the 10 or 15 precious minutes talking instead of interacting, answering questions and listening.
  • This might be elementary, but be presentable. Fit the part--show up showered and well dressed. I've been rather surprised by the lack of hygiene, sweatpants, and dirty toenails sticking out of the end of sandals...eewww! Clean and pressed doesn't have to mean expensive, but it does show professionalism.
  • No answering cell phones during classes. (Turn them off, or at least mute them.)
  • No talking to neighbors during a sessions because you're bored or scared or overwhelmed. They paid to be there also.
  • Have calling/business cards. has very inexpensive cards with quick delivery. Put blog and twitter addresses on them and use a nice size, readable font.
  • Ask people you meet at conference for their business cards. (Jot notes on the back so you can remember where/when you met them.)
  • Research the speakers ahead of time. Do you know of an agent who would be great to meet? If you have a polished manuscript, be ready to ask if you could query them. Then mention in your query that you met them at the conference.
  • Don't be bossy or rude. Never ambush an agent or editor. No knocking on bathroom stalls or hotel rooms!
  • You can't go wrong with a more formal etiquette. Kindness and respect will most likely get you noticed when presenting yourself with confidence and professionalism.

What's your best advice for getting the most out of a conference? Leave a comment!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Upcoming Events (Where You'll Find Me!)...

I always think of January as being nothing but dull dull dull and cold cold cold. January 2010, however, is shaping up to rather exciting (and yet...still cold cold cold). Here's what's coming up:

This takes place at the very cool Northside Tavern in Cincinnati. Join us for networking, give-aways, cake and various other anniversary fun. Here's my recent post about the party. No RSVP needed--just show up.

This two-day industry event in New York City is a big ol discussion of current and future strategies, tools, and best practices for consumer publishers big and small in the age of eBook and e-readers. And pretty much everyone will be there. Registration for Digital Book World is still open. (I will be there tweeting and blogging.)
Click here to follow DBW on Twitter.

ALICE RESTS, January 28

You can still register for the biggest and best event for children's writers and illustrators there is (besides the SCBWI Summer Conference). If you can't attend, don't fret--you can follow the conference as it happens on The Official SCBWI Conference Blog manned by SCBWI TEAM BLOG (Jaime, Jolie, Lee, Suzanne and me.)

Friday, January 08, 2010

Editor Interview: Andrew Karre on His First Year at Carolrhoda...

I last caught up with Andrew Karre in October 2008 shortly after he moved from Flux to become editorial director at Lerner Imprint Carolrhoda Books so I thought it was about time I check in with Andrew to see how things are going...

You’ve have just more than a full-year under your belt as editorial director at Carolrhoda Books. How did year one go?

It went very well. I work with an amazing group of colleagues and being able to work with them on the books that were in process when I arrived was a pleasure and an education. And what a great batch of books my predecessor left. It’s an impressive act to follow. Sally Walker’s Written in Bone and Vaunda Nelson and Greg Christie’s Bad News for Outlaws have been critical highlights (six stars between them), but there are so many more I could name.

I’m also very excited about what we’ve been able to acquire for 2010. I think the fall 2010 list is going to be very exciting—a great mix of new names and veteran authors and illustrators.

Has the economic climate had an effect on your line? What’s your advice to new writers on breaking in at this point?

The economy affects everything, of course, but I don’t feel like we’ve let it affect the books in terms of quantity or quality. It just means your publishing decisions need to be that much smarter.

Your company has a good online presence. Do you encourage your authors to use the Internet (Twitter, facebook, blogs, site) for promotion as well?

I don’t see how an author can start out now without some sort of online presence, so yes, I encourage. But I don’t think publishers help anyone when they simply say “go forth and do online promotion.” It’s not enough to say get on Twitter and Facebook and start a blog. There needs to be strategy and a reasonably deep understanding of how these technologies can advance an author’s career and sell the publisher’s books. It’s more work to do this author by author, but at least it has a chance of bearing fruit.

What kinds of things do you discuss on the Carolrhoda blog?

For the moment, the blog is mostly my thoughtful spot. I dump a lot of unrefined thoughts about publishing and editing and writing and whatever there. It’s also where I post submissions information.

Tell me about some Carolrhoda projects you’re excited about.

I’m excited about so many things in fall 2010, but before that, in spring, there’s a piece of narrative nonfiction for YAs that I think will get a lot of attention. It’s called An Unspeakable Crime and it’s by Edgar-award-winning novelist Elaine Marie Alphin. Basically, it’s the story of the lynching of Leo Frank in 1914. It’s a shocking and seminal moment in post-Reconstruction/pre-Civil Rights history, and there’s very little written about it for YAs (and teens were a big part of the story).

In fall, I’ve got a new picture book illustrated by CSK winner Floyd Cooper, and I’ve got three absolutely brilliant YA novels, and a new work of nonfiction by Sally Walker.

According to your blog, at the end of September you cut off accepting unsolicited submissions. Will this change in the near future?

This is temporary. I’m just way, way behind. I imagine in a couple months I will turn on the fire hose again. When I do, the blog will be the place to find out. (And Twitter: @andrewkarre)

Find Andrew Karre and Carolrhoda online:

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Writer's Digest is Turning 90, We're Having a Party & You're Invited!...

Writer's Digest is hitting the big 9-0 so we're celebrating with a birthday bash at the ubercool Northside Tavern in the Nati on Wednesday, January 20th at 7 PM.

We'll be giving away lots of writerly swag and there will be cake (and a well-stocked bar).

“All of us on staff are honored and humbled to be a part of the Writer’s Digest legacy, and this anniversary gives us a moment to celebrate and give thanks to the writing community that supports us,” says Jane Friedman, our Publisher and WD Community Leader. “Anyone who’s ever worked with or for Writer’s Digest is encouraged to join us, as well as anyone who has read and appreciated the magazine over the years.”

If you are in the area--or even if you're not--come join the WD team in anniversary revelry.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Reaching Your Target Audience Online:
A Guest Post by Greg Pincus...

Happy New Year readers! I've been away from my office for weeks, I've trudged through the snow, I'm back at my desk, and I'm starting off 2010 with a guest post by Greg Pincus.
Greg's guest post was sparked by a comment he left on Jane Friedman's There are No Rules blog which I asked him to expand on. (Click here to read the post and the comments.)

Read on
and please leave comments yourself if you can offer advice about reaching an audience of young readers online...

If you’re an author or illustrator who’s blogging, Tweeting, Facebooking or using other social networks to build your platform, you need to think strategically about who you’re going to reach online and how you’re going to do it.

Some choices are easy–you’re not likely to use LinkedIn to appeal to the kids who read your picture books. But if you write YA, in particular, you often have to make some more complex choices since your potential readership is actually online…and in large numbers.

Teens, however, don’t use the web the way adults do. As a result, most author/illustrator blogs and websites don’t attract teenage readers unless the author is already known to them. Twitter connections follow a similar pattern.

This means that if you’re offering up a “this is my journey” or writing advice or book review blog or just tweeting as as yourself, you should focus on appealing to the gatekeepers rather than teen readers. If you want to reach your core readership, you need to consider building a community around a central idea or offering up interactivity that your potential readers want and can’t replicate elsewhere. Some examples:
  • Author P.J. Haarsma built a game which attracted a huge audience that became the core supporters of his books. The game community helped test storylines and championed the books to their friends, too.
  • The women behind Readergirlz have built a community around authors, books, and reading. The site is a destination offering interactivity, changing content, and projects that involve offline participation, as well. While the site is not directly about the Readergirlz “divas” themselves, the connection to the readers still exists for them individually as well as collectively.
  • Finding underserved, pre-existing communities can be an effective path to having a teen readership, as Lee Wind has done with his blog I’m Here. I’m Queer. Now What the Hell Do I Read?. Again, the community here is not directly about Lee’s writing… and it’s a mix of gatekeepers and teens.
In all these cases, helping the community grow involves consistently creating content, understanding what your site’s readers want, and making sure your own career goals don’t come in conflict with the wants of your readers.

There are great success stories with authors connecting with their readers via social media. Ellen Hopkins’ use of MySpace and John Green’s use of videos and Twitter–where he has over 1,000,000 followers including members of his core audience–are two notable examples. For most of us, however, social media remains a difficult way to connect to a large network of teen (or younger) readers.

There are many good resources for learning how teens use the Internet. A good place to start is with the work of danah boyd and by looking at sites that already work.

Have you had success reaching your core readership online? Do you know other good ways to attract teen readers? I’d love to hear about them as, I suspect, would everyone else trying to reach them.

Find Greg Pincus online: