For those of you who may not have seen it, the latest SCBWI Insight newsletter has features on media strategy, an exclusive from the Andrea Brown Literary Agency, trends in children's books, illustrator information and advice from Marla Frazee:
Be Real: A Social Media Strategy That
Martha Brockenbrough, Author
People are always on the lookout for the silver bullet of
social media: that one foolproof thing that effectively promotes a
book. There isn't one, and the fact is, you're far more likely to shoot
yourself on the foot than strike it lucky. Unfortunately, 2015 has been
the year of the gaffe, the pile-on, the career-toasting debate.
High-profile writers such as John Green, Andrew Smith, and Meg Rosoff
have found themselves in the social media red zone, and it's been
Part of the frenzy-which started with content in books, comments to a
newspaper, and a reply to a detractor's Tumblr post-is due to the fame
of these writers. But another part is the nature of the beast. Social
media is a terrible place for complex, nuanced discussions. Twitter is
especially bad, because character count is limited and angry tweets
pile up like astonishingly fast. For controversial stuff, Facebook and
Tumblr are better, as long you take the same care you'd use in a
Rofé, Senior Agent, Andrea Brown Literary Agency
Rofé is a senior agent at Andrea Brown Literary Agency where she
represents picture books through young adult. Middle grade is her soft
spot and she's open to all genres in this category, especially the
tender, hilarious, or zany. She is always looking for fresh and
distinct voices; stories that simultaneously tug at her heartstrings
and make her laugh out loud; "adorkable" heroes; and big,
developed worlds. In picture books, she enjoys character-driven
projects and smart, exceptional writing. Jennifer also represents
illustrators and author/illustrators. Some of Jennifer's clients include
Meg Medina, Christina Diaz Gonzalez, Crystal Allen, Barry Wolverton,
Eliza Wheeler, and Mike Boldt.
in a query letter catches your eye and makes you request a manuscript?
First and foremost, a query letter that is professional
always catches my eye---you might be surprised to know that I (and my
colleagues) receive many query letters that aren't professional. What
do I mean by professional? Your query letter includes a proper
greeting, a concise and clear description of the work, and a brief and
relevant bio. Writers and illustrators should consider the query letter
a cover letter for a job application, or even a first job interview.
What will make an employer take notice, and what won't? A big component
to being professional is following the agency submission guidelines (if
you don't, I delete). Finally, a query catches my eye when it's clear
that the writer or illustrator is prepared---she has done research
about me, my list, and the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.
Beyond that, much of the process is subjective---do I
connect with the illustration style or writing? Does the story pique my
interest? The summaries on jacket covers (or on bookstore websites) are
a good guide for writing the kind of summary you use in a query. When
you read a jacket cover, what makes you want to start the first
the shelves profiles an independent bookstore or library on what books
readers "can't put down," what booksellers want, and how authors
and illustrators can get involved in the community.
Kimberly Jones of Little Shop of Stories in Decatur,
Georgia, tells us what's on the shelves.
What trends do
you notice in children's book sales? What are the current hot reads?
Graphic novels have always been exciting to kids, but more
parents are starting to be okay with their kids selecting a graphic
novel over a traditional chapter book. Also, with graphic novels like El Deafo, Sisters, Boxers
and Saints, and
Roller Girl, it's easier to show the parents that these
books have merit.
The Illustrator Info column is intended to give concrete
help to working illustrators. You'll find
brief interviews full of practical information and advice.
Lilly Malcom is the Executive Art Director and Associate
Publisher of Dial Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Penguin Random
House. As an art director, she has had the privilege to work with many
talented illustrators, among them David Small, Jon Agee, Jerry Pinkney,
Judy Schachner, Tao Nyeu, Zachariah O'Hora, Erin EitterKono and Jen
Corace to name a few. Lily enjoys working with longtime professionals
as well as first time illustrators. She is always on the lookout for
unique memorable characters and stories with a strong visual
When an illustrator has more than
one style, do you like seeing them in one portfolio or does that throw
I'm fine with multiple styles as long as they are executed
well. But it's not something you have to have in your portfolio. It's
better to master one style and keep working at it. That said, if you
are excellent at realistic painterly work as well as a loose free
line---then go for it! We're looking for all sorts of styles and if I
stumble upon something unexpected, that's great.
But really the focus should be on making your portfolio
strong and captivating. You need about 15 or so pieces that are compelling
and geared towards children's publishing. Sometimes you only have one
chance to show your work, so it must be your best. If your strength is
animals, then start with those pieces and move on later to people. Be
sure to show characters with expressive faces, engaged in different
activities. Show that you understand settings, moods and that you're
capable of continuity between scenes.
And if you have a favorite character you've created,
definitely put that in too. We've created books based on one image that
we've loved and have asked for a story to be created around them. Also,
I like sketches when they are included. It shows how artists handle
their line and you get to see a bit of their process. This can always
go online if you don't want to put it in your portfolio.
Frazee's books have received a couple of Caldecott Honors, a
Boston Globe Horn Book Award for picture book, and a Golden
Kite Award. A few have even popped up on the New York Times
bestseller list for a minute. Her newest picture book Is
Mommy? written by
Victoria Chang, was selected for the Fall 2015 Kid's Indie Next List
and is loving celebration of short, ugly, mean, boring, old, messy
The best advice I ever received regarding my work was
delivered to me by Linda Zuckerman, who eventually became my first
editor. I was young, eager, and terrified, and I sat across from her
desk in her San Pedro satellite office of a big New York publisher,
while she looked at my portfolio. She told me that my illustrations
weren't narrative enough. They weren't telling their own stories. Or
expanding on the text. And my characters, she said, were too
commercial. Stereotypical. Generic.
I didn't know how to process this for many years. But
once I started to understand, my career began.
"sleigh ride from
Draw This! is our monthly prompt word for illustrators.
Going forward, we will feature one winner and one runner-up. The winner
Don't worry, we'll still have the beautiful gallery depicting all the
month's entries available.
December's prompt is . . . "sleigh ride from
To view all the "sleigh ride from Hell"
This! is our monthly writing prompt. We
are spicing up Write This!. Going forward, we will choose ONE winner
and ONE runner-up to appear in the following month's INSIGHT so agents,
editors, and your colleagues have yet another way of hearing your
writing voice. The winner will receive a piece of SCBWI swag and
The November prompt was
ride from Hell"
Dashing through the snow,
Horses breathing filled the air.
All alone on this moonlit night,
Going fast without a care.
Clipping along at this hasty pace,
The tree I did not see.
One horse went left, the other right;
The tree made two of me....
Dancer. With dread, they both watched Rudolph wolf down Mrs. Claus's
holiday chili a couple of hours before take-off. Dancer groaned,
"it's going to be the sleigh ride from hell, roped up behind that butt.
He's going to be lighting up at both ends."
We're taking a break for the
holidays, but Write This! will return with a new twist in February.