Multi-published author, Lisa Amstutz, offers a helpful post for writers who are trying to traditionally publish their first book and experience long periods of time waiting for answers.
[Let me interject that published authors wait, too. In fact, I double dare you to find a published author that doesn’t!]
Remember Newton’s first law, “…a body in motion stays in motion?” It was meant to describe a physics concept but it also applies to writers — pre-published and published. We must keep moving toward our goals. Lisa helps us realize there are many ways to augment the goal of debut and sharpen our skills and connections in the process.
What do you do while waiting that augments your career?
The ARC, celebratory flowers from hubby, and a lovely note from the team at Charlesbridge.
Opening a package from your publishing company is a complete treat. Especially when you have an idea the package might contain the Advanced Reader Copy (ARC) from your latest book. It did and I am over the moon about this one.
On the cover alone, I adore the detail on the tree bark and foliage, the sweetness of the bear cub’s face, the rich sunny yellow behind the tree. And the font choices, oh the font choices! So many to consider and these are perfect. Artist Susan Swan and the design team at Charlesbridge have given readers a feeling of grandeur yet made the cover engaging and inviting. I CANNOT wait to hear childrens’ reactions.
There are a few more sneak peeks of interior spreads HERE and they are equally awesome. Stay tuned for the book trailer currently under production with PookyHonk Productions.
I’ve started a new FAQ series for people who are ready to start submitting to agents. If this is you, I hope the series is helpful! Click HERE and through the magic of my virtual gnome’s hat portal, you’ll be transported to the right place. See you there!
Recently, a client who is working through the stages of my Find Me an Agent Match, Please service shared that fear gets in her way of submitting. When we discussed it further, she and I were both surprised to learn she did not have a fear of failure; she had a fear of success. It took some time to peel back the layers of this fear but she was open to learning why she, a grammarian at heart, sent out query letters with glaring sentence construction mistakes and obvious typos. She had even made the unforgivable error of addressing a query to “Mr. X” when it was directed to “Ms. X.”
Although her projects were ready for submission, she wasn’t.
When I asked her what success looked like to her, she described a fairly dramatic scenario where she’d be on the road most of the time promoting at book fairs and presenting at book signings and school visits. Although this was exciting, it was daunting because she is a single mom of two children and because public speaking gave her the heebie-jeebies. We discussed how this scenario might actually play out. She realized she could say yes to people who had offered to help. She could find a balance between home and book life. And, she could send out submissions that reflected her years of work, talent, and her promise as an author.
Is fear of success — or failure — getting in your way? Take some reflection time and see if you can let it go.
Many thanks to my friend, Nancy Castaldo, for hosting the cover reveal of STRETCH TO THE SUN on her blog, Naturally Speaking. Nancy is a multi-award winning author of middle grade and early reader nonfiction and activity books. She’s also an environmental educator, naturalist, and photographer. In fact, many of her photographs are used in her books. Here are some of her most recent titles:
Part one of this two-parter offered a small window into the Bologna Children’s Book Fair 2018. Now I want to focus on what it means for an individual creator to attend an event like this.
I guess I can only say what it meant to me as a first-timer. Hopefully something will resonate with you! Herewith are my takeaways:
POV: our world is only as big as our experience. After eleven focused years in the children’s book industry, I have a fairly decent feel for the US market. However, I learned at the Fair that many publishers outside of the US use very different illustration styles, make very unique books, and take what appear to be risks in illustration and content I never would have considered possible. Question: how can I/we push my work into fresh territories that I now see are possible? How can my work land on the front end of the curve?
there are a. lot. of. books. being. published. I still can’t fully assimilate the vast worldwide industry of children’s book making and selling. This is exciting because it is a clear indication the market is robust. But it can also be paralyzing in that could there possibly be a story left untold? kind of way. Question: how can I/we create a story that is uniquely mine to tell?
foreign rights are important to the longevity of a book. They aren’t something to glaze over in your contract. (oops) I learned at the Fair that if the rights for your books aren’t sold soon after it launches, there may be a market for them later. For example, multi-published author Miranda Paul shared that her book about siblings, Mia Moves Out, was of interest to a Chinese publisher because China is now experiencing more families with siblings. Interesting, right?
The pub house may have new buyers or may have changed their interests in general. Question: how can you be your own foreign rights advocate? Miranda held a showcase for her books and had reached out to possible foreign rights people in advance of the Fair. She had discussions with them at the Fair and if they expressed interest in a title, she passed their contact information on to her agent and/or publishing team. Other SCBWI people made these kind of connections at the Fair and goodness, it was exciting!
engaging with people at the Fair is important. We never know where our engagement might lead. One friend was invited to speak at an event because she met the organizer at the Fair. Another had “interesting discussions” with an agent. Question: in what ways can I reach out and offer something memorable for new contacts to take with them? Bring your engaging bookmarks, business cards, and/or other small and easy to pack trinkets displaying your contact information to share.
once again, SCBWI offers safe harbor in a windy sea. The stand is ready for action the moment the Fair opens and is available until it closes. It’s a place to reconnect to old friends, make new ones, and at the end of the day, know that you are with your special people. Question: how can I grow my circle of SCBWI friends and include these new people in my writing framework? SCBWI always makes a big world smaller and this is very apparent at the Fair. If you are putting off going because you won’t know anyone there, start your day at Stand 26 B 76.
diverse perspectives make things much more interesting! I spent time with people from Australia, France, Spain, Switzerland, Singapore, and Poland. We chatted about our unique challenges and opportunities. Each conversation opened my eyes just a bit wider to the world outside my own. Question: what can I learn from other perspectives that might inform my own work?
There are so many ways in which this experience broadened my horizons. I hope you’ll put the Bologna Children’s Book Fair on your bucket list.
I’d seen pictures of the Bologna Children’s Book Fair and I expected it to be big. I expected a lot of people making foreign rights deals and of course, a lot of children’s books. But I never expected so much intensity around and respect for the art of creating books for children. Every time I pushed the turnstile into the venue — called BolognaFiere — it was as if I’d left a typical world full of typical happenings and landed in a special place that was created only for and about children’s books. Every person there (approx 27,000+ of us) came because they wanted to know more, do bookmaking better, and/or explore what was possible.
So what does it look like inside the Fair? Several very long and light filled-halls are chock-full of booths — or “stands” as they are called there — showcasing books and child-related products from all around the world. Ever wonder what the country Slovakia is publishing? Head to stand 22 C 4. Or want to see what the Scandinavian Publishing House views as its best new titles? That’s stand 26 A 68. Or maybe compare the illustration styles of the Cambridge School of Art (stand 25 B 110) with Changjiang Children’s Press (26 B 127)?
Here is a list of all the exhibitors and a map of the venue. Wow, right?
Then there are “conferences” – short presentations/workshops/masterclasses on many, many topics such as illustration, packaging, apps, translation, toy design, etc. etc. This year, there were 250 different conferences, many presented in Italian, Japanese, Chinese, and English. At one conference, I heard a translator who looked as Midwestern USA as person could but spoke with a beautiful command of Japanese. Really, one could keep busy just attending conferences. Here is a view from my… um…refueling station.
The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrator’s booth (stand 26 B 76) was a happening place and home base for book creators from around the world. Highlights were the Dueling Illustrator’s competition (in which two illustrators are read part of an unpublished manuscript and asked to draw an image for it on the spot, in front of an audience, in a short amount of time!) and showcases where SCBWI members shared their books and often, their art-making for visitors. Here is a Dueling Illustrator’s competition with intrepid SCBWI Advisory Board Member, Bologna Book Fair coordinator for SCBWI and author, Chris Cheng, reading the manuscript selection to two illustrators:
Here is SCBWI Michigan co-Regional Advisor and author/illustrator, Leslie Helakoski, during her busy showcase.
Also, the Fair celebrates the “best of” -– such as the best illustrations submitted for selection (displayed in the photo to the left) and gives out prestigious awards (Bolognarazgazzi Digital Award, New York Times Best Illustrated Children’s Books Award, Silent Books Award, BOP – Bologna Prize for the Best Children’s Publishers of the Year, etc.).
And just to keep things interesting, the Licensing Trade Fair happened simultaneously so we were treated to various life-sized licensed toys in our midst.
Fascinating books are being made and sold in almost every corner of the Earth. If we believe, and I do, that children’s books often represent our current culture and our hopes for tomorrow, the Bologna Children’s Book Fair is an opportunity to see our whole wide world under one roof.
What does all this mean for a creator? For your own work? Scroll down for Part Duo.
Janie Reinart over at GROG posted about creating our personal mission statement. This exercise seems like it could be a bit “woo-woo” but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Following our path starts from knowing where we want to go.
Here is my mission statement: to write stories that help children understand the world and their place in it, to exemplify a supportive, professional perspective, and to provide leadership and connection within the children’s literature community.
It’s a little wordy but it works for me.
If you don’t have a personal mission statement YET, take a couple of minutes to read Janine’s post. Create your statement. Then post it on GROG and here, too. Okay? That makes it real.
Remember, we can change our mission statements as our perspective changes. And it’s not graded or judged. This work is all for you.
I follow agent Jessica Sinsheimer on Twitter and she offered this great behind-the-agent- curtain look at why (most) agents don’t give feedback (very often). (Parentheses are my own. Some agents do give feedback and some give it occasionally, but I certainly understand the spirit of Jessica’s thread.)
So it’s very common for writers to ask why agents don’t give feedback. The answer, usually, is that we’re busy–but that’s hard to grasp on a concrete level. Today, the lovely and talented @BenFaulknerEd mentioned reading tons, and out of curiosity, I did the math to compare.
Jessica Sinsheimer @jsinsheimFeb 6 So we get (I did the math awhile ago) an average of 39.98 queries a workday times 5 days = 2,158 pages/month from queries. I probably read an average of 2/10 of the included pages, so that’s 1 query + 2 pages times 2,158 = 6,474 pages/month.
With a 7.5% request rate (2.99/day times 5 (M-F) times 4 (weeks in month) = 59.97 manuscripts. If I read 20 pages each on average (keep in mind many are picture books), that’s 1,199.4 pages of requested material/month + 6,474 unrequested = 7,673.4 pages a month of submissions.
Now, I strongly suspect the 7.5 percent is high (this was calculated maybe two years ago?). But even say it’s 3 percent now, that’s 1.1994 requests a day, times 5 (M-F), times 4 (weeks) times 20 (average pages read) = 479.76 requested pages read/month.
So, yes, we are busy. No, we are not sitting here cackling like “Haha, I know exactly how to fix her manuscript, and I’m not telling her! Why? Because! Bwahahahaa!” Much as I receive a lot of correspondence to this effect.
I suspect a lot of agents have similar inboxes (I’ve heard everywhere from 10-50 average queries a day). Many probably have lower request rates (perhaps closer to 1-2%). Many have assistants, interns, teams. However, I suspect that 0% of agents enjoy making writers wait.
Keep in mind that I don’t get all day to read submissions. I actually spend more time on clients, meetings, my own submissions, contracts, and the like. I’m pretty much reading during downtime–evenings, weekends, subway, train trips, plane trips, waiting in line.
Things I could do to be faster (of course I’ve considered them!): 1) Not respond to queries. This would save about 30 seconds from each, times 39.98 times 5 (M-F) times 4 (weeks) divided by 60 (convert to minutes) = 399.8 minutes a month, or 6.6633 hours.
2) Let readers make all of the query requesting decisions for me. Now, if you know me at all, you know I am waaaaayyyyyy too much of a control freak to let that happen. I read all queries myself.
4) Drink more coffee, sleep less. I’m up to two coffees a day, one tea. Just tried the Starbucks app for the first time today (it was weird–too easy). I think that’s enough. Otherwise I’ll just run around all day. And bad things happen fast if I don’t sleep.
5) Give Up Everything Fun And Just Be An Efficient Human, Dammit: Believe me, I’ve tried. Strangely, this makes me miserable and worse at my job. I do need some degree of happiness in my life to be able to function as a creative person–which an agent is. Always. So. That’s out.
So, that’s where I’m at. Do I still expect lots of “Agents are so mean because they don’t give feedback” emails? Yes. And the check-ins at three weeks? And the “I am so tired of agents being SO UNPROFESSIONAL and NOT GIVING ANY FEEDBACK” tweets? Yes.
And there’s one now. Cool.
You may be asking, “Jessica! Why in the world are you doing side projects when you have all of this happening?” The answer is that, for me, it’s easier to keep moving. A change, for me, even if just a setting (office vs coworking space vs home) is more restorative than a rest.
And I get genuine energy and pleasure out of connecting people. I think all agents do. Makes me feel like what I do is meaningful. And that means so much more than numbers could.
Keep in mind that there are a LOT of “Dear Sirs” and “I have published the next bestseller please take it on or else here’s my number” queries. At time of tweeting, I have 6 “Dear Sir/Madam,” 2 “Next bestseller,” and 1 “Next JK Rowling” queries waiting. Do I try to keep up? Yes! Do I achieve inbox zero? No! Inbox 100? No. Do I try to keep in touch about delays? Yes! Do I always manage to check in with everyone when things take a long time? Sadly, no. Am I constantly feeling guilt about making so many people wait? Yes. Yes, I am.
Do I suspect some agents just manage to be faster through…magic? Better systems? Better coffee? Not sleeping? Working harder? Being better at life? Yes. Definitely. This is just where I’m at, now. Catch me in a few years, and things may be very different.
Replying to @jsinsheim@BenFaulknerEd Wonderful thread. I’ve however had only 1 unanswered question about all this. Perhaps cause I’ve hardly ever asked! And it’s this: with soooo much reading, doesn’t reading fatigue set in badly enough to color your judgement? Do you then respond well mostly to formulaic writing
Jessica Sinsheimer @jsinsheimFeb 6 The opposite, actually. I feel like I’m reading for voice, energy. A lot of things–unusual things, specific things too–make me go “Oh, I’ve seen five of those this month already.” But a query that feels like it’s alive on the page? Shockingly rare, and I love it.
Carrie Pearson’s Blog
Sharing insights on writing children’s books and the publishing industry, and offering trinkets for creators and educators because you rock.