Monday, July 6, 2015

SCBWI Workshop Part V- Building A Lasting Career

This is my fifth post from the 2015 Florida SCBWI young adult workshop with Erica Rand Silverman, an agent with Sterling Lord Literistic, and Jacquelyn Mitchard, author and editor-in-chief at Merit Press. Click here for Part I  (Why Write Young Adult); Part II (Querying); Part III (Pitches); and Part IV (Marketing Yourself and Your Work). In this post they both share what it means to build your career beyond one book.

Both Erika and Jacqueline used the language of romance to discuss aspects of the publishing business  Jacqueline said, "Acquiring a manuscript is like dating. Sometimes if it doesn't happen in the first twenty minutes there's a flaw in the machinery."  She also said, "If I fall in love with a manuscript I'm hoping readers will fall in love with it." Erika called the process of finding the right publisher for a book "matchmaking."
  • When your book is accepted by a publishing house you’re bringing people into the "Circle of Trust" about your story.
  • After you sell your first book, keep writing. You want to feed your audience by giving them something similar. It is more strategic to keep going with same genre as your first book, if possible.
  • Going from your first to second book can be hard. Write what excites you, not for the market, not your agent, and not your publisher. Sometimes with a second book you actually know about the industry, so you end up writing for your agent, editors, publishing house, or fans. Don't forget: You still need to just write for you.  Your first book might be easier because it’s been in you for so long.
  • Don’t disturb your own momentum. Start your second book as soon as possible. If your book does or does not sell well-- either one can mess with your head. 
  • Don't forget the secondary (institutional) market. Make sure your book is nominated for state lists and awards. Librarians will be your best friends; cultivate these relationships.
  •  Say thank you and remember people. Keep personal relationships with people you meet. Don’t act like a diva or take yourself too seriously. Don’t be high-handed with book sellers. Everyone is a spoke in the wheel. Make friends with people in the industry.
  • Embrace opportunities. Both work for hire or intellectual property projects might supplement your career. (Personal note: Nine years ago my last publisher, Maupin House, asked me if I would be interested in contributing to their Craft Plus series. Since my own motto is "Never say no" (to writing requests!) I accepted the assignment and was glad I did.
  • Make friends with your publishing team. Have realistic expectations but inspire the people you work with to think creatively.  “I have thought about A and B can you help me with C?” Fill out your author information sheet keeping in mind that it will help the marketing team at your publisher.
  • Market yourself and your books. You can’t depend on your publisher.  “No matter who you are, you have to hustle,” Jacqueline said. Your agent and your publicist will work together getting you traction (visibility) so that more people will connect you with your book. These things feed into each other. You want to be known as a networker, and an accessible human being "without being slutty." 
  • Keep attending conferences, workshops, and industry events.
  • Strategize your publishing schedule with your agent and publisher. Ask, "Why are you publishing the book now?" Books published closer to awards are more likely to be in people’s minds. Do you want to publish in the summer when school is out? Near the holidays? It's okay to question and be your own advocate. Ask, “Tell me how I can help." Make it a partnership and become a part of the publishing strategy. But don’t become too obsessed with the business side. 
  • Jacqueline warned, "Writers write. Don’t be a three-ring circus. Be the best one ring circus you can be.”

Monday, June 29, 2015

SCBWI Florida Workshop Part IV- Marketing Yourself and Your Work

This is my fourth blog post from the 2015 Florida SCBWI young adult workshop. Erica Rand Silverman is an agent with Sterling Lord Literistic and Jacquelyn Mitchard is a prolific author as well as an editor-in-chief at Merit Press. Click here for Part I  (Why Write Young Adult); Part II (Querying), and Part III (Pitches).
"Connect-Be Authentic-Be Creative-Give Back-Enjoy"
by Erica Rand Silverman

  • Connecting means finding your readers and other writers.
  • Writers can be creative even in marketing.
  • When you help others (give back to the writing community) you move your self forward.
  • Be open-minded, set goals and constraints for yourself. Marketing should not be about wasting your time away from writing. It is about finding a place in the writing community.

Image courtesy Nikki Woods
  • Explore yourself as an author. Pay attention to your thoughts and ideas.  When you have a thought about writing- share it! Break down thoughts that go into your head, and think of possible ways of giving these to others. Post nuggets that will interest others. In other words, "feed the hamster." (Note: I'm trying to use Twitter for that purpose. Follow me at CbaldwinCarol)
  • Use social media to engage with your audience and market yourself. (Have you seen my Facebook posts with snippets from Half-Truths?)
  • Be yourself when you go out to schools. "Do you."
  • Consider who your readers are. How will you find them? Social media, schools, libraries?
  • Reach out to adults who work with young people. (i.e., media specialists and educators. Keeping in mind that you are giving back).
  • Have an engaging presentation which links to Common Core.  Your presentation should develop certain skills, educate, inspire, and entertain. Here are examples from Linda Phillips' book Crazy and from Joyce Hostetter's book Blue.
  • Develop a one page handout. Among other things, it can focus on comprehension, the author’s use of language, as well as figurative language. 
  • Hook up with a local book store. A bookseller will tell you who buys the most books. Start where you live or where you grew up. 
  • Create downloadables for kids. 
  • WhereYouTube is for the retail market, SchoolTube reaches the institutional market. Create an appropriate video and educators may find you there.
  • Share travel plans with your publisher who should help you find out bookstores. 
  • Do blog tours. Get interviewed on teen blogs such as The Teen Book Guru. Be available to teen reviewers; here is a youtube book review by one of my favorite teen readers and writers, Anna Graham.
  • Make a video of yourself so your publisher sees you are comfortable with public speaking and will send you out.
  • Writing is a performing art. You have to put your shyness on hold and invite readers into your world.
Image courtesy of Robert Bidinotto 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

A Not so Literary Post

I rarely blog two times a week and as most of you know, my posts are usually about reading or writing. But today I'm sharing links to my friend Barbara Younger's Friend for the Ride blog. 

Barbara blogs about menopause and all things related to mid-life and women's health issues. She has an ongoing series about ladies room doors and recently posted two blogs worth of doors I found on our cross-country trip.

Without further ado, here is Part One of The Potty Trip of all Potty Trips featuring this gas station in Broken Bow, Nebraska:

Here is Part Two, featuring these two doors from Rudy's Barbecue in Lubbock Texas to show that occasionally men's rooms doors are interesting too.

And a door that didn't make the cut, along the Sammamash River Trail in Washington:
Hope you click the above links and enjoy a quick trip across the U.S. via the potties I found along the way!

Monday, June 22, 2015

SCBWI Florida Workshop Part III- Share Your Perfect Pitch and Find Out How it Sells!

    This is my third blog post from the Florida SCBWI young adult workshop. Erica Rand Silverman is an agent with Sterling Lord Literistic and Jacquelyn Mitchard is a prolific author as well as an editor-in-chief at Merit Press. Click here for Part I and Part II.
Erica and Jacquelyn interwove their remarks
into a tapestry of great advice.
  • Don’t over reach.  You can use the “X” meets “Y” as long as you use examples that haven’t sold million copies. If you do, use a title that is known, but not over-known.
  • Don’t send a photo of yourself.
  • Don't say a family member loves your manuscript. 
  • Don't send with spelling or grammar errors.
  • Do Be concise, simple, and straightforward. 
  • Do List writing programs and classes you have attended as well as degrees and awards. Be relevant, current, and honest.
  • Do “Nuggetize” your work. Erika said to ask, "What is my books' essence?" Jacquelyn said it this way: "Find the statue in the block of granite." 
  • Do Try to include the character’s stakes in the pitch.
  • Do reference a client's work you appreciate. 
  • Do say why you are pitching to this particular agent.
  • Sometimes: Writing the pitch before you write the book helps you to conceptualize it. But writing it afterwards can help too.
[My experience is that it is helpful to write a pitch at different points while working on a manuscript. Before, during, and after!]

Image courtesy of
After their presentation, Erika and Jacquelyn invited participants to write a pitch and read it out loud. Building on a previously-written pitch, I read the following:

Dear Erica, 
I am writing to you because I met you at the Florida 2015 SCBWI conference and heard of your interest in young adult books. The other books you represent, X and X are  Y. [Where "X" are titled of books Erica represents and "Y"  is the reason I like them.]
Against the backdrop of segregation and Southern debutante society, Half-Truths is a young adult novel about an unexpected friendship between two teen girls-- one white, the other a descendent of a slave. When they discover a family heirloom that belongs to both families, their friendship is tested and proved. In the process of confronting her prejudices and fears, each girl finds a place in the New South.
Written from alternating points-of-view, my first young adult novel is complete at 80,000 words. I am the author of two nonfiction books for adults as well as many articles and stories for adults and children. I coordinated a SCBWI critique group for over twenty years, have taught writing to both adults and teens, and presented at numerous educational, library, and writing conferences. I review books and share insights into writing at and co-publish Talking Story, a digital newsletter which promotes literacy.
Guess what?

They liked it! 

Monday, June 15, 2015

SCBWI Florida Workshop Part II- Querying in the Digital Age

    This is my second blog post from the young adult workshop I recently attended. Erica Rand Silverman is an agent with Sterling Lord Literistic and Jacquelyn Mitchard is a prolific author as well as an editor-in-chief at Merit Press. Click here for Part I

Erica Rand Silverman
These notes are from Erica's powerpoint presentation.

* Research agents in advance. Find out who represents what genre.

* Don’t ever pay for query services. Using Query Tracker is acceptable.

*  Prepare your query letter carefully. Agents will respond with the same amount of care which you take. "Sometimes we hear pings within our office and know everyone is getting the same query at the same time." That's ridiculous with an office full of agents looking for everything from children's picture books to adult non-fiction. It is appropriate to reference the agent's client list and mention what you like about these books. By doing this you are showing why you are seeking representation from this agent. 

*  Don’t name drop in your query.

*  There was a phase when publishers bought self-published books because they had great sales on Amazon. This is no longer happening.

*  Don’t be overly personal. Be yourself! Your work has to be first and foremost.

*  It's all about timing: the right moment with the right person.

*  Don’t list ten different projects you have.

*  Mention your work first, then your credentials.

*  If you find someone you really want to work with don’t submit to another agent. If you do multiple submits, be transparent at the bottom of the email.

* Follow the agency's guidelines for email vs. snail mail. Email may get seen quickly, but may never be seen again. Paper will eventually get read.

*  If an agent responds with “I’m interested,” feel free to nudge if you haven't heard back in a month. If they don’t respond to your initial query, don’t nudge.

*  A big problem in publishing is not having enough time to think. Writers need to be patient!

*  If you receive more than one offer, do a happy dance and then select wisely.  You need to give agents time to respond- at least one or two weeks. It is appropriate to write, “I’d love to hear from you if you’re interested before I make a decision on how to move forward.”  Treat other professionals with respect. If an agent is workshopping your work, they’re interested. It's like dating. Don't query another agent if the first agent is subbing your work.

* Erica recommended reading this blog from Wolff Literary on  choosing the right agent.

Here are some of my previous posts on agents:

And on querying: