Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Fake Sci-Fi Picture Books- More Seuss Style, More Star Wars, and...More

Merry Christmas: check 'em out here on icanhascheezburger.com

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Teachers Turn the (Digital) Page and Seussical Star Wars

Sales of graphic novels have been down for a while now.

57% of Kids ages 9-17 are interested in reading books on a digital device (from the 2010 reading report done by Scholastic).

Educators are showing increasing interest in reaching and teaching kids using graphic formats and electronic formats. This isn't an aberration. There are now multiple books available for teachers and librarians on choosing and using graphic materials in education.

Get out your purple crayon and draw the lines.

And a perfect start point would be with cartoonist's Adam Watson's Star Wars in Seuss style.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Joelle Anthony's List of Overused Things in YA Fiction Updated

If your character's red-haired best friend (who is a scholarship student at a ritzy private school and is obsessed with retro music, Jane Austin and her green eyed, long-lashed lab partner) looked in a mirror, what would she see?

A whole lot of other book characters just like her.

I loved the original list that Joelle Anthony did a few years back on overused things in YA fiction. I laughed out loud. I scowled when I realized I had done at least one of those things (!). But most of all, I was happy that I had a list of things to avoid and watch for. If you wanna stand out in the crowd and pass the test for being publishable, you have to be different. And not "different" like everyone else. You rarely get the answers before the test, and here's someone giving them to you for free. Look here on her blog for the list.

The list seems like a lot of things that a middle aged writer projects from his or her life into the manuscript. Of course writers use what they know, but I agree with Anthony in her mission to get writers to think beyond the common things and what they know, to what is true for experiences for the current YA generation. Give up the retro music and get to know the present. Give up the Jane Austin celebration - girl's got enough buddies - what about Marie Curie or some other figure? Not all cheerleaders are mean. Not all nerds are nice. Ditch the SAT vocab and make up your own lingo. I honestly don't believe that a YA writer has to have a manuscript full of totally current, in the now references - it just means your work is dated before you even submit it. But, you don't want characters who are shallow imitations of the author or his or her past, either.

Yep, it's not easy. That's why they call it work. And you want to be a working writer, right?

Go for it, challenge yourself, and be glad that Joelle Anthony is out there compiling, updating and sharing the list.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Rev-Up Your Editorial Engines To Be In The First 5000 Across the Finish Line

A different route to go to get a publishing contract for your YA novel with Penguin: the Amazon/Penguin novel competition which opens in January. Go to Amazon.com/abna , but be quick - it's limited to 5,000 entries!!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Do Your Own Homework

So I say it a lot to fellow writers- if you wanna sell a book, do your own homework. It would be nice to have someone who knows your work intimately and knows enough about the marketplace, what's selling off bookstore shelves now (ie, what was being bought by agents/editors a few years back), and what agent/editor might be a good fit. But the reality is that there are a lot of things to research, and a lot of "what do I want?" personal choices that go into this decision, as well as plenty of market volatility and shifting to make anyone who does embark on the market quest go nuts.

Lucky for YA writers, Publisher's Weekly recently did a nice update on YA markets for free - so you have no excuse. Someone is giving you a start point- so go to it!

Start your homework here.

Friday, November 12, 2010

A Brief Fashion Interlude (or How to Waste Time During NaNoWriMo)

Some people love seashells, others collect stamps, and still others love to acquire ceramic Elvis figurines. I have a secret (well not anymore) passion for collecting things that carry things. I'd say "purses" but that wold be too limiting, as I also love totes and backpacks and even had a baby-carrier phase when QOE was small enough to be carried like an accessory.

My latest interest is this insanely cool handbag just made for writers with purse fetishes.


Thought I'd share. Now get back to your word count.

Friday, October 22, 2010

To Market, To Market, To Buy a Fat Hog...Holy Crap! Hogzilla!

So, we've eyeballed how much money a New York Times Best Selling author with 46 published books across five genres makes in posts from S.L.Viehl here and here.

Next question heard from many of my writing friends: how much time and effort does it take to really market your work these days?

From what I have read, seen and heard, the answer is the same answer I give and get to all the writerly questions ever posed: It depends.

Some authors do less, some do more. And what does "more" entail? Look at these cool efforts from a debut author on this post from Publishers Weekly. Go read it, I'll be right here.

So, it will be interesting to see what this author does- there are some intriguing marketing ideas in her campaign, yes? Like picking a pet, and deciding you want a cool trendy pot-bellied pig.

Part of me loves the biggest of the ideas that this author is trying -directly responding to fans as one of her characters on Facebook and having a professional actor filmed and put on YouTube in prequel material leading up to where the book starts. She gets to write more about and from her characters and stay in the creative process as a part of her marketing campaign. What writer wouldn't love that?

But part of me thinks to the future. What happens to that little piglet? Does she have to continue feeding it as she continues to write other books? At least if future books are in the same series they'll be related, and it would make sense to maintain the initial materials and marketing strategies. But if not, how long do you keep it up? Does it just fall away like so many other things these days- plenty of interaction and expectation while the product is new, then expectations slowly disappear as fans move on to other things? If you build a fan base this way, how loyal are they? Are they always going to be demanding interaction?

And what about new fans? Obviously, you want to keep selling a book, so you have to keep some material out there because (hopefully) new fans will keep coming. But to keep them interested, it means more of this great interaction. When do you write new material and projects? And when do you sleep?

I hope this totally works out in the long run- it seems like such a great thing. But I am curious to see how it plays out. What do you think will happen? Oink.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Best Reason to do NaNoWriMo This Year: Scrivener for Windows!! 50%-off Coupon!!

For anyone who has been trying to wrangle a large intricate work into an electronic format - all those pictures, clippings, post-its, outline, websites, etc. in one place - software program Scrivener has become the field standard. Hailed by critics EVERYWHERE as the best software for writers organizing any writing project that has all those little details, it has really only been used by a portion of the population because it is only for the Mac platform.

This year, if you "win" NaNoWriMo (see sidebar for link) you get a coupon for half off the software, which is already a veritable bargain at $45.00, but even better is that the developer is releasing a beta version for the Windows platform due out in 2011!


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Scratch-and-Sniff, Betty's in Middle Grade Novels, and More: New York Comic Con 2010

According to Brigid Alverson via Publishers Weekly, New York Comic Con was awash in children's titles, which attracted lots of attention. Some interesting developments: scratch-and sniff comic covers (relax, it isn't the Hulk's armpit), a Betty and Veronica middle grade novel series is in the works, and the first openly gay character added to the Archie universe will be getting his own mini-series. Read more here.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Not "Published and Listed"? You Still Rock

I hear writers complain about how elitist publishers are, and it makes me laugh, because we as writers can be too!

Last night at an SCBWI meeting I chatted with a person I'd met in a writing class a few years back. We talked about her current interest in screenwriting, and when she asked what I was working on, I responded about one of my YA novels in progress, and a completed short story I'm going to submit to a magazine. A few hours after the meeting, I realized I'd never even mentioned that I regularly get paid to write. For children!

And that got me thinking. Why am I such a snob? Why are literary and typical fiction pieces the first things that pop into my mind when talking about what I do? What's wrong with me? I get PAID to WRITE. FOR CHILDREN. It is not in typical book form, but it went through several layers of editors, involved revisions, etc.

It isn't just me. Teachers and librarians are touting graphic novels and comics as ways to get more kids engaged in reading and learning, but we don't even recognize those publishers via SCBWI (last I checked the market surveys). YALSA (The American Library Association's Young Adult Library Services Association) goes through an annual nomination process and creates a list of Great Graphic Novels for Teens, and every year a good number of those works are from traditional comics publishers. Yet, if you happen to be a writer or illustrator of a YA graphic novel by say, DC/Vertigo or Marvel, you still aren't a "published and listed" member of SCBWI.

If we can't recognize ourselves, who will?

So, if you create content or do something in a non-traditional part of the market, I'm sayin' it: you still rock.

Off my soap box, I now return you to your regularly scheduled blogposts.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Numbers in Book Titles Adding Up

Noticed today- the recent increase in kid lit titles that are about numbers or use numbers in their titles:

I am Number Four by Pitticus Lore (James Frey and co-author)

Zero by Kathryn Otashi

The Absolute Value of -1 by Steve Brezenoff

Thirteen Plus One by Lauren Myracle

Eleven by Patricia Reilly Giff

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Comics Are the Gateway Drug to Reading for Boys

School Library Journal posted an article on recent statements by the Canadian Council on Learning that comics should be supported as a tool to help boys read. See the full article here.

Gandalf, Chicken Nugget and Minions- Something for Every Kid Reader at Comic-Con in San Diego

PW reports that along with the Hollywood contingent, several kid lit people were at Comic-Con in San Diego this week. See the slideshow on the Publishers Weekly website.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Waterproofed Digital Camera is the New Note in a Bottle

A digital camera lost by a sergeant in the Royal Dutch Navy stationed in Aruba made it's way via the ocean to Florida where it was found by an American Coast Guard investigator. See AP for details (Later note: This link is broken- AP no longer shows the original article).

It is absolutely remarkable that the finder was able to track the owner down since none of the video footage or stills on the camera helped identify the owner.

But what is seriously cool is the fact that video footage found on the camera was shot by a sea turtle on accident as the camera traveled. Footage shot by a wild sea turtle!!! What a trip.

What is seriously NOT cool is that the viedo appears to have been created when the sea turtle tried to EAT the camera, accidentally turning it on. This is killing sea turtles- eating floating manmade debris that vaguely resembles a sea turtle snack of jellyfish. And now we have live wild footage of it. The good news is that the camera survived rather than entering the turtle's digestive system, so hopefully, the turtle is alive and well.

Sad environmental stuff aside, it is a pretty cool idea, and a great idea for a story- but it has been done- even before this event happened! Read David Weisner's Caldecott award winner, Flotsam. Or not so much read as get a look at it, since there are no words to read- who needs words when you illustrate like David Weisner?

And for a picture book on sea turtles eating bad stuff, try the QoE's favorite, The Adventures of Gary and Harry: a Tale of Two Turtles by Lisa Matsumoto and Michael Furuya.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Library = Borrow, Book Store = Buy

Confession time: I used to work for what was, at the time, one of the top three circulating library systems in the United States (I'm not a librarian - I belonged to the evil empire of administrative types), and it was not unusual for portions of the collection to disappear into various patrons' personal collections. To cope, sometimes we sent administrators with trucks to retrieve items from patrons who "forgot" to return (in one case) a few hundred books. Sometimes we took disciplinary action against employees who couldn't seem to find multiple things they had borrowed. And sometimes, we set up super short in-person on-site only viewings like for Madonna's book "Sex" so that everyone got time "read" the...reference text...in a small conference room alone, without the book leaving the building. Ew.

But this just goes too far. A smaller library losing 20% of it's children's collection to theft is just plain wrong. I have nothing funny to say because I am so horrified. Details at the Seattle Times.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

More New York Times Realities

So, I forgot to follow-up on the realities of a New York Times bestseller by L Viehl (aka S.L. Viehl, and a number of other pen names, and author of 46 novels across five genres). Here it is:


Sadly, there will be no more posts as the writer retired from the genreality.net blog November of 2009. But she does have a blog of her own, which I happen to like: http://pbackwriter.blogspot.com/

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Kid Lit Big on the iPad - Sharpen Your, Uh, Mice?

Publisher's Weekly reported that since the launch of Apple's iPad last week, "children's stories held six of the top ten paid iPad book-app sales spots as of press time." Check it out here: http://www.publishersweekly.com/article/455914-The_iPad_Meets_the_Children_s_Book.php?nid=2788&source=link&rid=18792588

Saturday, March 27, 2010

New Book for Graphic Novelists

This book has pretty high reviews as of this date on Amazon-what makes it different from all the other "write a graphic novel" how-to books out there?

It's written by a female and it includes glowing reviews from Stan Lee (Chairmain, POW! Entertainment and Chairman Emeritus, Marvel Entertainment) and Paul Levitz (President and Publisher, DC Comics). One of those statements is irrelevent. You decide which one. Either way, it's worth a look, yes?


Thursday, March 18, 2010

The Red Sea Parted! Young Adult Sci-fi Is Selling! The Sky Is Falling! One of These Statements Is True...

Sometimes it pays to have a popular sibling. She's hot, she's cool, she catches everyone's eyes, and you may think that the only thing you have in common is your family link and association by hidden genetics, but she paved the way and now you get some love, too. How does it feel to be young adult sci-fi and on the cusp of being the next hot thing?

YA sci-fi has been a tough sell for many years now, but with middle grade and YA fantasy cutting a path through the kid lit world like a prom queen plowing through her crowd of admirers, the stage is set. She's a senior- she's done everything there is to do (Hi Harry Potter!) , inspiring oodles of other great fantasy works, some faint copies and even shallow derivatives, and it is time to graduate and move on. Cue the neglected little sister.

Have you noticed her? She's suddenly everywhere, new girlfriend to publishing BMOC's everywhere.

Recent examples:

Egmont USA picked up Ashes, book one in a dystopian trilogy by Ilsa J. Bick.
Razorbill signed a three book deal with novelist Beth Revis for Across the Universe.
Simon&Schuster Books For Young Readers grabbed The Last Chemical Garden by Lauren DeStefano.
Disney-Hyperion snagged a two book deal starting with a work titled Cybernetic by Laura Riken.

Even better? Three of these writers are debut. And a three of them are multi book deals. How cool is that?!

Nope, I'm not an insider with amazing knowledge-I just like to see what's selling, and for the first time in a long time, it seems to be a rash of YA sci-fi. Check out Publisher's Marketplace or Publisher's Weekly Children's Rights Report for further info on these books and to stay on top of future things.

A trend is happening- catch it if you have an ignored sci-fi hottie sitting in your files-dust her off, take off her glasses, maybe invite her to your critique group for a makeover montage and start looking for a date to the prom!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

I'm of Two Minds- Where's Two-Face When You Need a Coin?

Watching the e-books and audiobooks world after the Macmillin/Amazon skirmish and the introduction of the I-pad has been frustrating. I sit in two seats ringside- one as a writer and one as a voice-over artist. I'm all over the place in terms of my reactions.

Part of me loves hard copy books, and part of me loves e and audibooks, and both parts of me really want both to exist (duh). But the e-books world is becoming very complicated for readers. Used to be if you wanted something to read, you went somewhere, you looked around and picked something and bought it. Now, in addition to just thinking about what to read, a reader has to decide what physical form to read in (physical copy, digital copy or strictly audio?), what device to read on if it is electronic and where to get it, since certain devices only play certain formats, and certain publishers are only distributing through certain content providers...sigh. I like the idea of an e-reader and would love to buy one- I'm usually an early adopter in terms of technology, but having device, file type etc. layering even more decisions on top of my already overloaded consumer brain is annoying.

I'd love to be able to just flip a coin a la Harvey Dent, but this involves coins with many sides in a variety of metals and sizes, all minted by different countries- how to know what toss wins?

The question is what will consumers do? Some interesting opinions are voiced in this post on the The Beat (Publisher's Weekly Blog on Comics and Graphic Novels). For more background, read the NY Times on the Amazon/ MacMillin situation here, and check out Cory Doctorow's thoughts on Boing-Boing, not to mention following his With a Little Help project

When the dust settles I don't know what handful of change we'll be left with, but if you make your living off of creative endeavors, hopefully it'll be legal tender.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

iPad (POW!) A Blue Chip Bet (WHAM!) for Comics and Graphic Novels? (AUUGHGHG!)

You know about the Kindle and other black and white e-readers, but now the iPad arrives and the key here is it is in COLOR, and it's a BIG screen. I personally witnessed editors from big NY publishing houses saying re: Kindle and company, that although the e-reader may affect novels and chapter books for kids, picture books, graphic novels, etc., would not be hit as hard because the readers were in black and white, and those materials would not translate well to the digital form becuase they are so illustration intensive.

In this article at Publisher's Weekly, a number of comic book and graphic novel publishers are showing enthusiasm for the iPad.

Something to ponder if you are a creator.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

When to Start Submitting? The Argument for Waiting Until You Have the Very Best Work to Submit

An unpublished writer's greatest fear is not getting published. But not many people think ahead beyond getting their name in print. If all you want is to have one book out there, that works. but if you want a career, you have to think ahead.

I'm not scared of not getting published. What terrifies me is getting published and having average sales, because then rather than being an unknown, "take a chance on me" (thank you ABBA) writer, you are a known quantity in children's publishing - the dreaded mid-list author with average sales. And that appears to be an even tougher sell. Yes, if your first book is your best book, and it is amazing and it sells, then you have the pressure of the sophomore book, and keeping up with or topping your previous book. But even best seller pros deal with that (witness Dan Brown's latest book in 2009, and the hype and criticism around any of Stephanie Meyer's Twilight sequels), and I'd rather have the opportunity to stress and panic and sweat over a sequel or a second title than no opportunity at all, which is what sometimes happens to mid-listers with average sales.

So, I obsess over what work I'd want to have published first, because it will be THE make it or break it book. A colleague recently told me that I should just get something out there to get submitting, but I hope to get practice with more rejection and submitting by doing less make-or-break pieces in magazines, etc., all the while working on my WIPS to figure which is best and has the best chance of being sold and bought. You only get one chance to be a debut author- what work will you put forward?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Editors and Agents Galore

Registration is open for the SCBWI Western Washington Spring Conference 2010, and it is full of seasoned pros to learn from! Check it out: Jordan Brown, Lisa Graff, Elizabeth Law, Lynne Polvino, Michael Bourret, Sara Crowe, Edward Necarsulmer IV and Paul Rodeen.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Work for Hire, or How to Get Work in Children's Books Quicker

A fellow member of ASWAAGS (critique group for writers in the children's market) was recently awarded his first work for hire contract for a non-fiction book aimed at kids. We were all thrilled and hounded the poor guy as we all waited on pins and needles after he submitted his audition piece, until the editor finally gave him a green light saying he was their choice. You go, Hollywood!! "Hollywood", by the way, is his critique group call sign. WHAT?!! You don't have a call sign? Go to your critique group and demand one! Bonus points if you get a name including the words "Mega", "Mondo", or "Gigantor" combined with any part of the body. No, not that one, or those either- we are, after all, writing for the children's market.

So, back to my point. Everyone says that you have a better chance to get something going in the children's market if you do non-fiction, or something for a packager. And now we have seen first hand that "they" are right.

Work for hire can be good or bad, depending on how you look at it. Good in that you get published, it happens relatively quickly, you get paid relatively quickly (and well), and there is less competition than traditional fiction routes. Bad in that everything happens quicker. You have to produce material quickly for tight deadlines (Hi, It's Saturday and I'm informing you that you got the contract, and we need the twelve chapters outlined by Tuesday morning!), and the packager or publisher usually holds the copyright. Good in that it pays decently and may lead to more paid work in the future. Bad in that you may not even get your name on the book, and it takes time away from your own projects. Good in that if you position it right, you may get more material in print to support your writing platform. Did I mention that it usually pays pretty well? Oh yeah, and the PAY is good. No more writing for free.

The best thing about a writer pal getting a contract is that you can see the process up close. I was so inspired that I went and immediately updated my writing resume and started searching for markets. It may be a great match for you, depending on your goals. Just imagine- you could change your critique group call sign to "Giganto-arm" from lifting all those hefty paychecks...