Monday, 4 January 2016

SCWBI Insight newsletter

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:


Hot Topic 
Be Real: A Social Media Strategy That Works   
By 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 awful.

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 face-to-face discussion.
SCBWI Exclusive with . . .
Jennifer Rofé, Senior Agent, Andrea Brown Literary Agency 
Jennifer 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. 
What 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 chapter?
On the Shelves   
Little Shop of Stories 

On 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. 
Illustrator Info 
4 Questions for . . . Lilly Malcom
The Illustrator Info column is intended to give concrete help to working illustrators. You'll find
informative, 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 narrative. 

When an illustrator has more than one style, do you like seeing them in one portfolio or does that throw you off?
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. 
Best Advice Ever
Marla Frazee

Marla 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 mommies!
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.
Draw This!  
"sleigh ride from Hell"     
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 Hell" 
To view all the "sleigh ride from Hell" submissions, 
December's Featured Images:
Mike Cressy
Dean Norman 

We're taking a break for the holidays, but Draw This! will be back in February!
Info Links 

A collection of blogs, news articles, and other must see links
click here flat icon
for authors and illustrators.
How a Writer's Mistakes Can Sabotage Careers and Hurt Others

Boost Your Blog Traffic: Link

Writing Tips from a Pulitzer Prize Winner:  Link 
What I Learned from Self-Publishing: Link 
Write This!    
Write 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 bragging rights.
The November prompt was
"sleigh ride from Hell"

Winner: Sharon Weber
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....

Runner-Up: Frances Nadel

Dasher nudged 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.

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