Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Business Hydra 1, Jazz Cat Manuscript 0

I've listened to a lot of grousing from artists and writers alike about craft versus commerce, but for me as a newbie, it's a no-brainer. My family cannot exist on Top Ramen alone, I have no skill in the area of "suffering" for my art, and I would like to have something published before I have to depend on Depends. Writing in a vacuum and ignoring the market would kill my budding career.

I have been debating which of my projects get my time and which will sit. A NaNoWriMo novel whose first page garnered an "I'd read more" from both an agent and an editor at the SCBWI Spring Conference gets top billing, but I need something else to work on in between marathon bouts with the novel.

I ran most of my more interesting works past both of my critique groups to gauge reactions, and all met with positive interest, so it comes down to the reality of marketability.

My inner business geek reared her misshapen many-headed hydra self from the dark recesses of my mind, and snapped teeth at my jazz cat story. The heads hissed, "It's taking up precious time that could be spent on a more marketable work!" "Maybe later when you are actually published!" and "Feed me Seymour- Hey! Is that Brendan Fraser?"

After wiping the drool off of the floor from head number three, I have put the jazz cat to bed for now.


Thursday, June 4, 2009

Editor - Krista Marino

Post Western Washington SCBWI Spring Conference 2009 :

These notes are from material I found on-line, a one-on-one critique of one of a work-in-progress, and any other information gleaned from the opening panel of presenters at the conference.

Krista is a San Diego native, where she began her career as an editorial assistant at Harcourt Children's Books, working for Michael Stearns (see post from last week on agents from the Spring SCBWI conference). She continued working at Harcourt in New York, and moved on to became an associate editor at Delacorte Press (part of Random House Books for Young Readers). Her title at Delacorte these days is Senior Editor. Oh, yeah, and there's this little ting about being named SCBWI Member of the Year in 2006...

Krista's just looking to fall in love with a middle grade/young adult story. She doesn't do cute- she's more on the darker edge of fiction (she has not been buying much of lighter fare lately), but she does like works with comedy in them. She prefers quality over quantity. As many of the works she's edited in the last few years are trilogies or series, she is now looking for amazing stand-alone books.

Some acquisitions from the last six to nine months:
Books in the Celebutante series sold by agent Michael Bourret
Kiss My Book sold by agent Michael Bourret
Carrie Ryan's next YA novel by agent Jim McCarthy
Victoria Laurie's next two YA novels by agent Jim McCarthy
Maze Runner series by James Dashner by agent Michael Bourret

Dystel & Goderich Literary Management (both of the above mentioned agents work there) seem to have a lot of success selling Krista what she wants to see.

Some recent or soon to be released books:
Forest of Hand and Teeth by Carrie Ryan (agent Jim McCarthy)

As I type, I have a ticket to a nice warm place for a two week vacation burning a hole in my pocket (although by the time you read this, I will already be there and blogger "scheduled posts" will be posting this for me), and I am running-out of time to aggregate information, so here are the places I found Krista Marino on the web:

From Alice's CWIM blog
A couple of posts including paraphrased notes on the "best way to run a career" from a speaker panel in 2007, and Krista's thoughts on writing for teen boys in 2006.

Shelli's faeriality.blogspot.com:
An interview with Krista in February 2009 on marketing advice and her publishing house.

SCBWI-AZ The Journey interview in 2007:
An interview with Krista from 2007

And, if you are SCBWI International member, you can access the full transcript of a moderated chat by Stephen Mooser with Krista Marino in 2006. It's nice and lengthy with lots of information.

My critique session with her was great. Given that my meeting with her was in the last hour or so of the conference before the last keynote speaker, she was still alert, kind and thoughtful for the ten minutes we had. She has edited a number of YA novels in my general genre with styles that I thought were similar to mine, and I was curious to see how she would react to the voice in the work in progress that I did for NaNoWriMo 2008. I actually did not get a chance to run the piece by my two critique groups until after the deadline to submit the pieces for the manuscript consultations, so what she saw was pre-critique group. Her reaction to the voice and humor were positive, and she provided some excellent criticism that will help guide my revisions, and also showed that my critique pals' suggestions were on the mark and the changes I've already done are in the right direction.

If you get the chance, and your work is in the right arena for what she likes to read and edit, I highly recommend a manuscript consultation with her.

That's it for now, and this concludes my posts on editors and agents from the conference.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Editor - Connie Hsu

Post Western Washington SCBWI Spring Conference 2009

These notes are from information I picked-up from attending sessions from this editor.

Connie Hsu is an assistant editor at Little, Brown and Company Books for Young Readers (referred to hereafter as LB) which is a group within Hachette Book Group USA, and home to Stephanie Meyer (you know, Twilight). LB is known for being more commercially driven, more about the best sellers.

They are always looking for more multicultural books, and they are a little concerned that although young adult paranormal and fantasy books are still popular, the market may be saturated. They are looking for romance - commercial, beachy reads. They already have vampires and ghosts. In picture books, the more character driven picture books are doing well.

LB has moved to a paperless submission process, and only accepts submissions that are agented, editor-requested or are Hachette employee referrals. The editors use e-readers.

A "no" to a manuscript from one editor at LB is a no from the whole house. And once a manuscript is declined by an editor there, it is a wholesale NO on that work unless they ask for revisions. So make sure you (or your agent) really know what an individual editor wants.

The LB submission process is very selective and they have a long string of steps that includes two committees a manuscript must pass before being acquired. Since the beginning of this year, Connie has received over 200 submissions. Of those, she has only taken ten to the initial committee of editors that have the power as a group to accept or reject a manuscript. On two of those works she had spent a lot of time working with the author to revise over a course of months.

None of them made it past the committee to be acquired.

Thus far, she has only actually acquired two books overall.

This editor is pretty funny in person. She says she takes everything- picture books to young adult, but not as many picture books- she only likes them if they are about dead animals. She claims she likes the morbid and the strange, and that she is "young, hungry and completely weird".

She says that the e-book market is indeed growing, but that it will not affect picture books much due to the nature of picture books. She does think, though, that it may affect paperback sales.

Connie says alphabet and counting books are uphill battles- the more elements you add on make it even harder to do right, because they are for three-year-olds, so sophistication and too many elements don't speak to that audience.

She generally likes alliteration, but watch out for starting a picture book for example, with a lot of hard consonants in a row- difficult to read.

She loves it when animals talk about their humans. And speaking of animals, in picture books, she likes real 100% true animal stories- Marley and Me, Chowder, but not so much fiction starring animals.

Connie will look at a manuscript no matter what. If it is not for her, but she thinks the writing is strong, she may take it down the hall to a co-worker.

In queries, Connie thinks you should be able to describe your book in 200 words or less.

She does not care as much about plot, story and concept- she cares about the writing. If she likes the voice and talent, she'll ask for more.

Next time: Krista Marino