Third Hand Conference Notes

Saturday, March 21, SCBWI Houston will host a free video-based plot workshop at Tracy Gee Community Center at 11:00 AM. It would be helpful to have read Al Capone Does My Shirts
The topic of tonight’s SCBWI meeting was recapping info from the Editor’s day last Saturday for the benefit of those who did not attend. There was a lot of good information, so I thought I’d post it here. Points are in no particular order.
Do your homework. Very carefully target your submissions to the right agents/editors. Use The Writer’s Market to research, but always double check agent/publisher website – things might have changed. Check agent/publisher’s website to see what books they’ve sold/published. Is yours a good fit? Read acknowledgements in books you like. Sometimes the agent and/or publisher is thanked.
Sometimes you submit something to an editor at one publishing house and it gets rejected. That editor leaves. Feel free to submit to new editor. Conversely, don’t resubmit to editor who has rejected a project (unless they as you to!) and who has moved to a different house. Keep track of the editors you send your submissions to, as well as the agents/publishers and dates.
There is apparently a market for read-aloud picture books about bakers/baking and scarecrows.
Henry Holt and Company has a great list of author’s rights in their manuscript submission guidelines.
Don’t rely on the publisher to market your books. Send a postcard to everyone on your Christmas card list telling them about your newly available book. Ask bookstores to do book signings.
The national SCBWI website has great resources available for members, including updated market information, formatting standards, and more.
Illustrators should send portfolio postcards out quarterly and MUST have a website.
Blog. Have a website.
Once your book is published, marketing is your second job. Have a plan.
One blog that was mentioned was Blue Rose Girls. They have a letter writing campaign going to lobby congress to remove warehouse inventory taxes on books so that publishers can once again support mid and backlists.
 Editorial Anonymous is a blog by an anonymous children’s book editor. There is an Evil Pages clinic in which first pages might be critiqued.
Do school visits.
Have printed bookmarks as handouts (at conferences, school visits, etc.) for each book you have published.
Regional publishers can be a great start. Some mentioned at the meeting are Pelican Publishing, Absey (website [absey.com] is down), Sleeping Bear,  Bright Sky Press, WordWright. University Presses might be good choices for non-fiction.
The editors at the conference were very upbeat and positive. There is always demand for good books.
Buy other people’s books.
Give Amazon/Barnes & Noble/Borders gift certificates to school libraries and/or teachers.
Non-Fiction is an ENORMOUS business.
School markets: Lots of visual presentation, especially photos (vs. artwork); sidebars; high demand for High Interest/Low Reading Level books.
Some Educational/Nonfiction publishers: Capstone, Follet, Enslow, Heinemann, Bearport
Whether it is fiction or narrative NF, KIDS must solve the problem (in children’s literature).
Don’t lock yourself into one genre.
Often NF is done as work for hire (flat fee, no royalties). However, the more you do, the more you build your reputation. If you write it well and are easy to work with, editors will call you with projects and you can end up with as much work as you can handle.
Narrative NF is HOT HOT HOT
Be relentlessly professional. Editors/agents are looking for reasons to reject your project. Make it very hard for them to do so.
Never send ANYTHING out unless someone else that you trust has read it.
For whatever genre you write, READ READ READ READ READ READ READ READ READ READ READ
Little Golden Books claims to be a great place for new writers & illustrators with stories about the wonder of everyday experiences, warm and fuzzy short picture books. However, they are an imprint of Random, which is a closed house.
High demand for books with boy main character/high boy interest – often sports.
Graphic novels/manga is still hot and getting hotter. Babymouse is very popular. You don’t necessarily have to be an illustrator to do GNs. Text is submitted like a screenplay. Many classics are being retold in GN format.
Make sure you know who your reader is. Kids like books that empower them. Story telling starts with the character. Character should have a life before and after the story and should make the reader think.
Make sure your book is different from what is out there and current. Use Google and Amazon to check this.
Become good friends with your school librarian. Find out what kids of books s/he wants and needs.
Everybody loves heroes. Regional biographies of contemporary Texans. History of the King Ranch.
Check the TEA website or your local ISD site. Come up with historical fiction or narrative non-fiction that integrates well into TAKS (even better if you can do creative math & science books like this). Picture books are good for this – kids do so much AR reading that pictures are novel and interesting.
Go to as many conferences/events/meetings as possible. Network network network.
It is a good idea to do story boards/dummies for picture books (even if you don’t illustrate) just to make sure you have enough story on each page for different scenes.
Always check out agents and publishers, preferably before you submit, but definitely before you sign a contract. Good resources: Preditors & Editors, Absolute Write