SCBWI Bologna 2008 Editor Interview: Fiammetta Giorgi of Mondadori Children’s Books

Fiammetta Giorgi is an editor at Mondadori Children’s Books in Italy. She was interviewed by Anita Loughrey in December 2007, as one of the speakers at the SCBWI Bologna Conference 2008 (scheduled for March 29 and March 30 in Bologna, Italy).

What made you decide to go into children’s book publishing?

FG: In 1996, I began translating fiction from German and English into Italian (translating, among others, a few titles by Christine Nöstlinger and The Sisterhood of Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares) and it was thus, almost by chance, that I discovered my passion for children’s literature.

In your opinion, what makes a good editor?

FG: You must of course study, know your market, and understand what children usually like; but more than anything, you must have the ability to fall completely in love with a book.

When you’re reading a manuscript for the first time, how long does it take you (approx. how many pages? chapters?) to figure out whether it’s something you want to pursue?

FG: I’d say 50-70 pages.

What kinds of things “turn you off” a manuscript right away?

FG: When I feel a book is artificial, when it is written on purpose to teach you something or to achieve a certain goal, when it is boring and not lively, when the characters feel false…

What is your favorite thing about being a children’s book editor?

FG: Children’s books (and the people working in the field) are often funnier, more spontaneous and creative than adult books (and those creating books for adults).

What are some of your favorite books and why?

FG: Just to name a few, Spinelli‘s Stargirl for the warm and spontaneous realism of the main character; Selznick‘s The Invention of Hugo Cabret for the innovative and extremely expressive way of mixing text and wonderful illustrations; Brennan’s Faerie Wars and Colfer’s Artemis Fowl for their humor.

Is there a character you met in a book when you were a child that changed your life?

FG: I could not say that she “changed my life,” but Pippi Longstocking was for sure a fascinating model when I was a child.

What book(s) are you proudest of having worked on? Why?

FG: There are many books that can make you feel proud, because you give children the chance to discover something precious: I’m proud to have in my catalog Hawkings’ George’s Secret Key to the Universe, for its optimism and the way in which it expresses amazing and complex concepts with immediate images. I’m proud to have La composición by Antonio Skarmeta, dealing with the difficult theme of civil war and dictatorship; but I’m also proud to have masterpieces such as Sabuda’s pop ups. I also love working with Italian authors because you feel involved in the creation of the book.

Have you worked with both fiction and non-fiction? If so, how do the processes compare? What do you like most (and/or least) about each?

FG: Yes, I work with both. I like non-fiction because usually you can work a lot with the authors and suggest new ways of organizing and developing projects, but I prefer fiction because it is more emotional.

What does the ideal cover letter say?

FG: It is difficult to find a standard because I prefer “surprising” cover letters that can express what is new in each book.

Is there any area on your list you’d like to “grow” at this time? Do you look at art samples?

FG: I’d like to work more with Italian authors. As for the art samples, I’m working a lot with our art director and we like looking for new artists.

How involved in the marketing of the book are you? What is the average marketing budget for a picture book at your house? A YA novel? Etc.

FG: I work a lot with our marketing department because we are trying to present each important book with a different approach. We work together to enhance the content and spirit of each book. Picture books in Italy represent a tiny part of the market, so we usually do not have a specific budget for a single book. For a YA novel, we can invest much more.

Cynsational Notes

Anita Loughrey writes teacher resources and children’s non-fiction. Her books have been published by A&C Black, Hopscotch and Brilliant Publications. She also writes regular features for Writers’ Forum in the U.K. about authors and the writing industry. She recently interviewed all 31 speakers for 2008’s Bologna Conference.

The SCBWI Bologna 2008 interview series is brought to you by the SCBWI Bologna Biennial Conference in conjunction with Cynsations.

To register for the SCBWI Bologna Biennial Conference 2008, please visit http://scbwi.org/events.htm and click on SCBWI@Bologna. Queries? Bologna@SCBWI.org

Friend Mondadori at JacketFlap.

SCBWI Bologna 2008 Editor-Publisher Interview: Carmen Diana Dearden of Ediciones Ekaré

Carmen Diana Dearden is editor and publisher of Ediciones Ekaré, a Venezuelan Publishing House founded in 1978, which pioneered children’s book publishing in Latin America. She is also President of the Banco del Libro, which won the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award in 2007 for their profound impact on children’s reading in Venezuela and other Latin American countries. She was president of IBBY from 1992 to 1998. Carmen has three children who grew up with Ekaré books, and they have always been willing and creative participants in the process of producing them (and Carmen claims they are the fiercest critics). She was interviewed in December 2007 by Anita Loughrey, as one of the speakers at the SCBWI Bologna Conference 2008 (scheduled for March 29 and March 30 in Bologna, Italy).

What made you decide to go into children’s book publishing?

CDD: My father was a walking encyclopedia, my mother a storyteller. I grew up surrounded by books and stories, and loved rewriting them or inventing new ones.

I studied anthropology because I was fascinated by different cultures and their oral traditions. When our work in the Banco del Libro’s libraries in Venezuela showed us there was a scarcity of good books for children that reflected our culture, setting up a children’s book publishing house seemed the natural thing to do. It was a challenge and a joy and a wonderful pioneering time.

I always wanted to work with words. And I still believe in magic.

In your opinion, what makes a good editor?

CDD: A good “nose,” i.e. intuition to know what books will work; vision and the capacity to imbue others with it; timing, teamwork, and the power of persuasion.

When you are reading a manuscript for the first time, how long does it take you (approximately how many pages? chapters?) to figure out whether it’s something you want to pursue?

CDD: The first page is usually the vital one.

What turns you off a manuscript right away?

CDD: Bad writing, long-winded explanations, stories with obvious messages, sugar-coated themes.

What are the “realities” of children’s book publishing?

CDD: Are there such things? I know there are practical aspects of the markets, the big conglomerates, the competition, the fads, the imitations, the “politically correct” frenzies, but the best part about children’s book publishing is that it is serendipitous and surprising.

What is your favorite thing about being a children’s book editor?

CDD: Watching a work of art unfold, and guiding the whole process. Enjoying the unexpected, crazy things that usually happen.

What are some of your favorite books and why?

CDD: There are so many. From Ekaré: El rabipelado burlado, (The Hoodwinked Possum, retold from the Pemón ethnic group, illustrated by Vicky Sempere) because it was the first book we published; Margarita, (by Ruben Darío, illustrated by Monica Doppert) because it is a rounded little gem; La calle es libre (The Streets are Free, by Kurusa, illustrated by Monica Doppert), because it came from a small, urban “barrio’s” real needs and the research process was so fulfilling; El libro de oro de los abuelos, (The little Latin American Book of Fairy Tales) because they are the traditional fairy tales retold with Venezuelan craftiness and part of my family tradition.

The Wind in the Willows, because I found it soothing; Sendak‘s Nut Shell Library for its humor and wonderful zany verses; Susan Cooper‘s The Dark is Rising series; Alan Garner‘s The Owl Service; Ray Bradbury‘s The Illustrated Man and Asimov‘s Foundation books because I am fascinated by fantasy and science fiction; Harper Lee‘s To Kill a Mocking Bird because I wish I had written it; Steinbeck‘s Sweet Thursday for its irreverent and appealing characters; Hoffman’s Struwwelpeter for its crazy, gory verses; Walt Kelly‘s Pogo Possum and Quino’s Mafalda comic strips for their humor and wiseness; Edgar Allen Poe‘s “The Raven” for its spookiness and rhythm; fairy tales, legends and mythology; mysteries for obvious reasons, especially Dorothy Sayer‘s The Nine Tailors which is so well written; dictionaries, because I love words.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, not only for what it’s done to children’s book publishing but because I was riveted from the start and tried to get the Spanish rights long before it became a cult.

Is there a character you met in a book when you were a child that changed your life?

CDD: Struwwelpeter. My mother gave me the book because I would never let anybody comb my hair and she thought the sight of Struwwelpeter with his unruly hair and long nails would persuade me, but it had the opposite effect. I thought it was wonderful, and all the horrible things that happened to the children in the book seemed fantastic fun. I think it gave me the power to be a rebel in many things.

What books are you proudest of having worked on? Why?

CDD: The four mentioned above: Margarita, El rabipelado burlado, La calle es libre, El libro de oro de los abuelos. All our Indian tales–Narraciones Indígenas collection — (to which El rabipelado belongs) because we were the first to start such a collection and worked with missionaries, anthropologists, and primary sources to select and rewrite them and sent the illustrators out into the field for a first-hand experience.

Our poetry collection–Rimas y Adivinanzas–(Rhymes and Riddles, to which Margarita belongs) was also a first, started with the purpose of making poetry fun in classrooms by choosing a poem and turning it into a small picture book (they are 15cm x 15cm format). The idea worked very well and it is still one of our best-selling collections.

Our Asi Vivimos collection (The Way We Live,) which was done with the intention of describing issues of our Latin American culture in which children were protagonists. Issues such as no space to play in densely populated urban “barrios”(La calle es libre); the clash between a poet and a military man in elections in a small Andean town (El robo de las Ae’s, The Theft of the A’s); the plight of an escaped slave in Puerto Rico (La peineta colorada, The Red Shell Comb); the clash between and indigenous and “white man’s” culture (Ni era vaca ni era caballo, Neither Horse nor Cow). It has also worked very well, has been the most translated one, and was totally fascinating to do.

As unique translation experiences: Ana María Machado’s El perro del cerro y la rana de la sabana. It was more of a rewrite and recreation than a translation because we had to change the characters (from cat to dog, for instance) to make the language rhyme and play in Spanish as well as it had done in Portuguese. It was done with the author herself during a book fair in Mexico; Fox by Margaret Wild, illustrated by Ron Brooks, because Ron helped us choose and work on the font to be used (his original was hand done)–a wonderfully funny and creative virtual experience!

Have you worked with both fiction and non-fiction? If so, how do the processes compare? What do you like most (and/or least) about each?

CDD: Mostly fiction. We did a nature and ecology collection (four books) and started a social studies collection which was fascinating but never made it to press.

Non-fiction is much more time consuming and rigorous, but also fascinating in the research put into it and the new things you learn. The “field work” needed in non-fiction is particularly interesting to me as an anthropologist.

Fiction can be done from an “armchair,” but tends to be more fraught with sensibilities and emotions. It sometimes feels like walking on eggshells.

What does the ideal cover letter say?

CDD: I don’t think there is such a thing because every writer is different. But basically, something short, to the point, and original.

Is there any area in your list you’d like to “grow” at this time?

CDD: Restart the non-fiction series based on social studies. Novels for ages 10 and up.

Do you look at art samples?

CDD: Yes, I look at art samples. It’s a primary source of the sort of books we publish (picture books and illustrated books). It is also enthralling, and we have discovered many wonderful illustrators that way.

How involved in the marketing of the book are you? What is the average marketing budget for a picture book at you house?

CDD: I am involved in the overall process and the strategies, but the real work is done by our marketing and promotion team, who are always full of ideas. They do it with enthusiasm and enjoyment. (I think). Another characteristic of a good editor is to have confidence in her team. It works in Ekaré.

We don’t have a budget for individual books per se, just an overall budget for marketing which we usually calculate at about 7% of yearly sales.

Cynsational Notes

Anita Loughrey writes teacher resources and children’s non-fiction. Her books have been published by A&C Black, Hopscotch and Brilliant Publications. She also writes regular features for Writers’ Forum in the U.K. about authors and the writing industry. She recently interviewed all 31 speakers for 2008’s Bologna Conference.

The SCBWI Bologna 2008 interview series is brought to you by the SCBWI Bologna Biennial Conference in conjunction with Cynsations.

To register for the SCBWI Bologna Biennial Conference 2008, please visit http://scbwi.org/events.htm and click on SCBWI@Bologna. Queries? Bologna@SCBWI.org

Cynsational Link Update & Spiderwick Movie Reminder

Part three of the interview with Editorial Anonymous is now live at The Longstockings. See also parts one and two.

Visit Editorial Anonymous. Bookmark The Longstockings, and visit The Longstockings at MySpace!

Reminder

It’s opening weekend for “The Spiderwick Chronicles” film, based on the book series from Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi! Learn more about The Spiderwick Chronicles, and I’ll see you at the theater!

Cynsational News & Links

Erza Jack Keats Foundation Speakheads Support of Programs Implemented by Public School Teachers and Librarians

From the official news release:

“Children need to learn, and they need to love learning. Instilled with a passion for acquiring knowledge for themselves,” states Dr. Deborah Pope, Executive Director of the Ezra Jack Keats Foundation, “a child can achieve almost anything.

“It is an inspired educator who can act as the living link between children and the books that can change their lives. It is the imagination of the educator that these grants are designed to support,” continued Dr. Pope.

This will be the twenty-first annual call for grant proposals by the EJK Foundation, founded by Ezra Jack Keats, the renowned author and illustrator of such books as The Snowy Day (Viking, 1962) and Whistle for Willie (Viking, 1964). The EJK Foundation has awarded over half a million dollars in grants since the minigrant program was started in 1987,to public schools and libraries in all 50 states and the US Commonwealth.

The deadline for submission of proposals for the $500 Minigrant award is September 15, 2008. Proposals are read directly after the September deadline and announcements will be mailed out in early November. Applications are only available online at the Foundation’s website: [www.Ezra-Jack-Keats.org/programs/minigrantapp.pdf].

Dr. Pope urges educators to wander around the various pages of the EJK website, after printing out their minigrant application, “There is a great deal of information about Ezra on our site. Equally interesting is the background information on the role his books have played in the classroom and in the growing importance of quality picture books for children around the world.”

More News & Links

Becky Weinheimer: official site of the author of Converting Kate (Viking, 2007). Includes events, media schedule, teen writing, biography, writer’s tips, and more.

A Valentine for Sales Reps from Shelftalker: a Children’s Bookseller’s Blog at Publisher’s Weekly. Source: Editorial Anonymous.

Author Julie Bowie has redesigned her website! Julie’s next book is My New Best Friend (Harcourt, 2008).

New Agent Interview: Sarah Davies of Greenhouse Literary from Alice’s CWIM blog. Here’s a sneak peek: “If I were an author seeking an agent, I’d be asking these questions: Is this agent well connected? Do they really know the industry? Do they understand a writer’s craft–and will they be looking to my long-term interests rather than just making a quick deal?” Learn more about Greenhouse Literary Agency.

Winners of the Jump the Cracks (by Stacy DeKeyser (Flux, March 2008)) autographed ARC giveaway were a YA reader in Florence, South Carolina; and a YA librarian in Corona, California! Congratulations to the winners, and thanks to all who entered! Note: I had a couple of queries about international entries, given the price of postage. No worries! If an international winner is drawn, I’m happy to splurge! Look for more giveaways on Cynsations in the future!

Congratulations to E. Lockhart on the forthcoming release of The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks (Hyperion, 2008)! Read a Cynsations interview with E. Lockhart.

Catching Up With Alaya Dawn Johnson from Coe Booth at The Longstockings. Here’s a sneak peek: “There’s a certain element of the invisibility of privilege, I suppose. But if nothing else, the more fantasy that’s published with non-white characters, the more non-white fans will feel welcome in the genre.” Visit The Longstockings at MySpace!

Jenny Han also interviews Editorial Anonymous at The Longstockings. Parts one and two are now available. It looks like part three is still forthcoming. Here’s a sneak peek: “…it’s not uncommon to have to talk to authors about developing secondary characters’ backstory in the author’s own head. That backstory isn’t going to come out in the text in more than small hints, but it makes a meaningful difference to the author’s attitude toward those characters, and that definitely does come through in the text.” Visit The Longstockings at MySpace!

Subscribe to Notes from the Horn Book: News About Good Books for Children and Teens! Read a Cynsations interview with Horn Book editor Roger Sutton.

Congratulations to the winners of the 2007 Cybils, and thank you to everyone who worked so hard behind the scenes! Read a Cynsations interview with YA winner Barry Lyga.

Author Varian Johnson signs My Life As a Rhombus (Flux, 2008) at 2 p.m. today at the Barnes & Noble–Round Rock, Texas (La Frontera Village 2701 Parker Road Bldg A Suite 700).

Thanks to everyone who has helped spread the work about the ongoing SCBWI Bologna 2008 series here at Cynsations! Check back Monday and beyond for more insightful question-and-answer interviews with agents, editors, authors, and illustrators about the U.S. and international youth publishing scene.

To register for the SCBWI Bologna Biennial Conference 2008, please visit http://scbwi.org/events.htm and click on SCBWI@Bologna. Queries? Bologna@SCBWI.org

SCBWI Bologna 2008 Agent Interview: Steven Chudney of The Chudney Agency

After more than fifteen years in book publishing, Steven Chudney founded The Chudney Agency, specializing in children’s books. He is based is New York. Anita Loughrey interviewed him November 2007, as one of the speakers at the SCBWI Bologna Conference 2008 (scheduled for March 29 and March 30 in Bologna, Italy).

What made you want to work in children’s literature as a literary agent?

SC: I’ve always loved books, of course, and I had long enjoyed working in children’’s book marketing. For me, it was also a timing issue. I had committed the cardinal sin of resigning from a job without another one already lined up. This was three days before September 11, 2000. Needless to say, all of New York and the world came to a standstill and most NY companies were not hiring for many months.

A wise friend urged me, again, to consider being an agent. In the past, I had dismissed the idea, but in 2001 it seemed like a good plan and I was ready for the challenge. So, I had my letterhead and business cards printed, made some calls, sent out tons of emails, and hung my agency shingle outside my door–The Chudney Agency was born.

My first job was selling paperbacks for Dell Publishing in their small telemarketing department. I have always believed that if I can sell a book over the phone from New York, sight unseen, to a book buyer somewhere in Des Moines or Anchorage, then I can sell just about anything.

Since then I have held various sales and marketing positions at Viking Penguin, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, and Simon & Schuster where I was the marketing director for the children’s division and then director of licensing development. My last publishing position was with the (now defunct) Winslow Press where I held the position of Senior Director of Marketing, Sales & Subsidiary Rights.

Throughout my career, I have sold and marketed every imaginable type of book: adult and children’s, hardcovers, pop-up books, and paperbacks to a variety of sources: wholesalers, independent bookstores, and chain stores. The last ten years of corporate publishing experience was in children’s books.

In your opinion, what makes a good agent?

SC: Love of literature, knowledge of the children’s publishing industry, tenaciousness, patience, and knowledge of the individual tastes of editors

Do you represent writers and illustrators?

SC: I represent writers and author/illustrators–an individual who both writes and illustrates picture books or novels. I do not represent individuals who only illustrate.

Do you look at art samples?

SC: Yes, from prospective author/illustrator clients.

Do you also represent other publishers or agents abroad? If so, can you tell us which publishers and agents?

SC: I have a reciprocal relationship with the Watson, Little Agency in London. I also represent Ireland’s The O’Brien Press here in the U.S., and I represent Marshall Cavendish in the international marketplace.

Do you represent on a project-by-project basis or do you take on the “whole” writer or author/illustrator (i.e., everything they produce)?

SC: I rarely take on a client based only on one project, as I’m interested in folks who have lots of books in them so I can build their careers.

At what point in a manuscript do you “know” you either want to work on the project or not?

SC: It depends, but sometimes I can tell within about 15 to 20 pages–at least about the quality of the writing and voice. With picture books it, of course, takes fewer pages and I also need to love the illustrations.

What does the ideal cover letter say?

SC: The ideal cover letter should be pretty brief (no more than one page, and not in six point typeface!) and tell me a little about the project being submitted–just enough to whet my appetite. A brief and relevant bio about the writer is needed, too.

Don’t get too personal. We aren’t interested in how friends or family members reacted to your manuscript or an author’s hobbies, etc.

What kinds of things “turn you off” a manuscript right away?

SC: Writing that really isn’t ready to be submitted, sloppy presentation, and manuscripts that aren’t properly formatted. Also, it never is a good idea to submit material not requested by the agent–make sure you send what was requested.

What was the easiest book to sell and why?

SC: I sold a first-time picture book called Sir Ryan’s Adventures by Jason Deeble (2009) to Neal Porter at Roaring Brook Press within hours after the editor opened the envelope! A simple case of selecting the right editor for the right manuscript at the right time.

Have you ever represented a book that you loved but couldn’t convince an editor to publish? What advice do you give your authors in this situation?

SC: Of course! This happens all the time, unfortunately. Sometimes it just takes a heck of a long time to place a manuscript you love, and sometimes it never finds a home.

I’ll continue to work to try to place a novel for as long as I continue to believe in it–and for as long as I can find houses/imprints to send it to. I had a middle grade novel I loved and believed it–and I finally sold it on the eighteenth submission! Other times I’ll have a frank conversation with an author, and we’ll decide to shelve a challenging novel and work on another–in hopes that one day in the future we’ll be able to go back to it.

Are you accepting new clients now?

SC: My submission status changes from time to time, and for the most up-to-date information, please go to my website.

Do you get involved with the marketing aspect of the books you represent?

SC: A little. I do discuss and suggest marketing and promotion plans with my clients, and I hope they are interested in doing as much as they can for their books. At times, I also liaise with the editor/publisher on such concerns, as needed.

Do you give editing and revision requests to your clients?

SC: Absolutely: everything that is submitted by my agency has been revised as many times as needed to strengthen it for acceptance by a publisher.

Do you specialize in any particular genre and/or are you looking for anything in particular at the moment? What are publishers telling you about the market and what they’d like to see?

SC: I handle all literature for children and teens, from young picture books all the way up to teen fiction.

Editors are always looking for wonderful, engaging, well-written books for kids: all age levels and in all genres and categories. At the moment, I feel that the era of big fantasy series being bought for a lot of money has dimmed–I think many were bought as a result of the Harry Potter success. Some performed well, but many didn’t fare as well.

So, I think publishers are looking for something other than fantasy, but can still be commercially viable and exciting for kids. I’m seeing some more interest in historical fiction. Subgenres like paranormal and vampire-themed books have emerged as a very strong fiction category.

For a while, teen novels were very hot–at the expense of middle grade novels. I think now we’re seeing a bit more demand for the forgotten middle grade category, but I think eventually things will level off, and we’ll always have demand for both wonderful middle grade and teen fiction. The picture book market still is pretty soft, and I hope we’ll see it turn around in 2008 and beyond.

How many new clients do you take on each year?

SC: This varies from year to year, so it’s difficult to say. As I work alone, you can imagine how careful I need to be with my time. I can only take on new clients if I feel I have enough time to devote to all my other clients as well.

Cynsational Notes

Anita Loughrey writes teacher resources and children’s non-fiction. Her books have been published by A&C Black, Hopscotch and Brilliant Publications. She also writes regular features for Writers’ Forum in the U.K. about authors and the writing industry. She recently interviewed all 31 speakers for 2008’s Bologna Conference.

The SCBWI Bologna 2008 interview series is brought to you by the SCBWI Bologna Biennial Conference in conjunction with Cynsations.

To register for the SCBWI Bologna Biennial Conference 2008, please visit http://scbwi.org/events.htm and click on SCBWI@Bologna. Queries? Bologna@SCBWI.org

See also a previous Cynsations interview with Steven Chudney.

SCBWI Bologna 2008 Agent Interview: Tracey Adams of Adams Literary

Tracey Adams is co-founder of Adams Literary, which exclusively represents children’s book authors and artists. She founded Adams Literary in the U.S. in 2004. The agency is affiliated to David Higham in the U.K.

Anita Loughrey interviewed her, as one of the speakers at the SCBWI Bologna Conference 2008 (scheduled for March 29 and March 30 in Bologna, Italy).

What is the book or experience that made you want to work in children’s literature as a literary agent?

TA: From my years in publishing houses, I learned that I love working directly with authors and artists, and during my early agenting years at Writers House, I discovered the joy of being on the front lines. It is tremendously exciting to me that I’m often the first to read a manuscript, and that it’s my responsibility to find just the right home for it. And it doesn’t end in the U.S. I love working with our co-agents to bring our books to young readers around the world. I have the most amazing job!

Do you have a background in publishing?

TA: Yes. I was an English major at Mount Holyoke College, and during my college years I interned at Farrar, Straus and Giroux and Greenwillow Books.

After graduation I worked in marketing at William Morrow and then in editorial at Margaret K. McElderry Books.

Before starting my own agency four years ago, I spent ten years at two large New York literary agencies. By the way, my family owned a printing company in New York City for generations, so I grew up visiting the printing presses in SoHo. It’s been said that we have ink in our veins.

How did you get your start as an agent?

TA: In editorial, I saw firsthand that agented manuscripts went to the top of the reading pile. This was somewhat mysterious to me, so when a spot opened at Writers House, I took it to explore. It was a great place to really learn all aspects of the agenting side of the business–which is quite different!

In your opinion, what makes a good agent?

TA: The best agents are passionate about children’s books, are excellent communicators, good readers, and fair negotiators. An accomplished agent knows that you never burn a bridge, and maintains many strong industry relationships.

Do you represent writers and illustrators?

TA: Yes.

Do you look at art samples?

TA: Yes, though I’m careful to say I’m not a trained artist. I’m a literary agent, and I do not rep art outside the publishing industry, unlike artist representatives.

Do you also represent other publishers or agents abroad? If so, can you tell us which publishers and agents?

TA: We represent U.S. rights for the children’s list at David Higham Associates in London.

How many clients do you represent?

TA: Approximately 50.

Do you represent on a project-by-project basis, or do you take on the “whole” writer or the illustrator or even the entire list of a publisher (i.e., everything they produce)?

TA: Our philosophy has always been (and will always be) that we represent authors, not books. We take on a client because we love and believe in their work. That doesn’t change book by book, or year by year.

At what point in a manuscript do you “know” you either want to work on the project or not?

TA: If I can easily put down a manuscript, and I’m not thinking about the story while away from it, I know it’s not clicking for me. If I don’t want to stop reading, if it has me laughing or crying or thrilled, I’m already shopping the manuscript to editors in my head as I read. If I dream about it, I know I need to rep it.

What does the ideal cover letter say?

TA: I throw away anything that says “Dear Sir” immediately. It should be properly addressed, include a one paragraph summary (think flap copy) of the work, and list any professional credentials relevant to children’s book publishing. The ideal cover letter shows that the writer has done research on my agency, and perhaps even mentions specific authors we represent.

What kinds of things “turn you off” a manuscript right away?

TA: Of course a picture book should never be illustrated by someone who is not an artist, and a rhyming text needs to rhyme. In novels, I’m turned off by telling rather than showing, whiny main characters, too much directly addressing the reader, and violence and profanity when it’s only there for shock value.

From an agent’s point of view, what are the “realities” of children’s book publishing?

TA: Patience and Fortitude. A manuscript may take time to sell, and when it does sell, there will be a lot of waiting: for the contract, for your advance, edits, another round of edits, galleys, the actual book, reviews, your royalty statements…

Some books will take off immediately, others will slowly find an audience, and others, sadly, don’t catch on. Since there is so much uncertainly in this industry, my best advice to authors is to let an agent do the business work for you–the author’s job is to do what she is best at: write. Keep writing.

What was the easiest book to sell and why?

TA: The next book by a major award winner and/or a bestselling author! No explanation needed, right?!

Have you ever represented a book that you loved but couldn’t convince an editor to publish? What advice do you give your authors in this situation?

TA: Oh, yes! I tell my authors that we haven’t yet found the right match. If it’s taking a long time to find a home for a book, the client usually will have another manuscript ready to market. We’ll put the tricky one on the back burner and start from scratch with the new one–of course we’ll first approach anyone who was interested in seeing more of the author’s work. We may very well dust off the challenging manuscript down the road!

Are you accepting new clients now?

TA: Always.

Do you get involved with the marketing aspect of the book?

TA: We are in touch with the publisher about marketing plans, we keep the dialogue going, and we communicate clients’ wishes. In certain situations, specific things may be discussed prior to acquisition. Adams Literary enjoys promoting our clients’ works through our own e-newsletter, website, and rights lists for the Bologna and Frankurt fairs. If a client is interested in additional marketing beyond their publishing house, we can refer them to freelance specialists with whom we are in contact.

Do you give any pre-submission editing and revision requests to your clients?

TA: Because I was in editorial, I value the role of the editor and I will not get in the way editorially. That said, I’m happy to read and offer suggestions before submitting–but with a light hand. I’ll do what it takes to help make it the strongest it can be, and the most marketable. I usually will not have taken on a client that isn’t going to send me a work that is ready, or almost ready, to submit.

Do you specialize in any particular genre and/or are you looking for anything in particular at the moment?

TA: We specialize in children’s–we don’t handle any adult books. Within children’s, we represent picture books, middle-grade, and teen. We don’t handle very much nonfiction. At the moment we are especially eager for middle-grade novels.

What are publishers telling you about the market and what they’d like to see?

TA: The picture book market remains tough. We are being asked mostly for middle grade and chapter books. From our perspective, the market has become more competitive for teen novels in the past year because the shelves are getting crowded.

Cynsational Notes

Anita Loughrey writes teacher resources and children’s non-fiction. Her books have been published by A&C Black, Hopscotch and Brilliant Publications. She also writes regular features for Writers’ Forum in the U.K. about authors and the writing industry. She recently interviewed all 31 speakers for 2008’s Bologna Conference.

The SCBWI Bologna 2008 interview series is brought to you by the SCBWI Bologna Biennial Conference in conjunction with Cynsations.

To register for the SCBWI Bologna Biennial Conference 2008, please visit http://scbwi.org/events.htm and click on SCBWI@Bologna. Queries? Bologna@SCBWI.org

Author Interview: Jane Ann Peddicord on That Special Little Baby

Jane Ann Peddicord‘s first book, Night Wonders, (a journey through the universe in poetry, pictures, and prose)(Charlesbridge, 2005), won the 2006 International Reading Association Children’s Book Award in the category of Primary-Nonfiction [interior spread].

That Special Little Baby, a picture book celebrating baby beginnings and toddler triumphs, illustrated by Meilo So, was released by Harcourt in 2007. Kirkus Reviews cheered, “This joyful testimony to a child’s progression is bound to appeal to a pre-schooler’s sense of pride in their recent gains.” Publishers Weekly declared, “Preschoolers will adore seeing themselves become so mature—and so will their parents.”

Jane was a featured author at the 2006 and 2007 Texas Book Festivals. In November 2006, the Austin area Barnes & Noble stores named her their Author of the Month. She currently lives and writes in the hill country near Austin, Texas.

Could you tell us about your path to publication? Any sprints or stumbles along the way?

The first speaker I heard at the first writer’s conference I ever attended, said emphatically, “Don’t try to rhyme. You are not Dr. Seuss.”

Of course, like many novice picture book writers, I was trying to write in rhyme. I took his warning seriously, but I couldn’t do anything else. I was not an English major and had studied the craft only enough to do legal writing, which as everyone knows, is not suitable for children.

So I stumbled on, rhyming everything I wrote—even a story about the Theory of Relativity. But I did take care not to sound like Dr. Seuss.

Finally, I found an editor who liked my verse about traveling through space (Night Wonders (Charlesbridge, 2005)). Oddly enough, she was from the same publishing house as that first nay-saying speaker… Poetic justice?

Congratulations on the release of That Special Little Baby (Harcourt, 2007)! What was your initial inspiration for writing this book?

That Special Little Baby was born of pure, postpartum love. Cliché as it sounds, there is no greater joy than watching your newborn breathe and stretch and miraculously smile.

This love affair continues for life, of course, but the initial jubilance eventually recedes into the background of day-to-day life.

I was reminded of those intense early years when we visited some friends who were immersed in the love of their own newborn child. As we drove out of town, I jotted down the first lines of That Special Little Baby. I had only to look at my own young teens in the back seat (at least while they were sleeping) to be transported back to those first, very special years of life.

What were the challenges (literary, research, psychological, and logistical) in bringing it to life?

I wrote the initial text in a couple of months, very fast for me. Bringing the book to life took much longer. One tricky element of Special Baby is that it goes back and forth in time. I was lucky that it landed in the hands of a talented editor, Samantha McFerrin, whose vision for the book integrated those transitions seamlessly.

Most challenging for me, being relatively new at this, was making the adaptations necessary to merge the text with the illustrations. But I’m delighted with the outcome and the lush watercolors of Meilo So that seem to carry the reader along on a rising tide of joy and accomplishment.

If you could go back and talk to yourself when you were beginning writer, what advice would you offer?

After signing Night Wonders, I was lucky enough to get a good agent (Rosemary Stimola; agent interview), and she managed to sell my next text very quickly.

This reinforced the mistaken impression that once I was published, everything I wrote would sell. But subsequent dry spells forced me to consider the truth of what editors often say to deaf ears; it all comes down to the writing.

Of course, there are factors beyond our control, like mercurial market demands. And it’s essential to find the right editor, which is where a first-rate agent like Rosemary comes in. But chances are that if a text is good, eventually an editor will take note.

So, what I would tell myself back when I was beginning (and what I do tell myself now that I am more likely to listen) is to write, write, and rewrite until you know in your bones that what you’ve written is good. Then hope for a little luck.

You have beaten the odds as a new voice in picture books during a tough market swing? What would you say specifically on this topic to aspiring picture book writers?

This sounds obvious, but don’t give up! You’ll hear statistics about the gazillion submissions an editor receives, and feel that it’s hopeless. But it isn’t. I’m convinced that the majority of manuscripts clogging editor’s IN boxes come from people who give up quickly or don’t try to improve their writing. If you keep developing your skills and submitting ever better texts, your chances of success will increase dramatically.

You’re one of the several lawyers-turned-children’s-authors here in Austin (Ruth Pennebaker, Greg Leitich Smith, Louis Sachar). What did your legal training offer that is useful in your new career?

Well, at its best, the law calls upon you to think on many levels at once and to see life from another person’s perspective, both helpful skills in writing for children. And, of course, in both lines of work it’s advantageous to be able to evoke a willing suspension of disbelief…

What do you do when you’re not writing?

When not writing, I make lunches, fold laundry, pester my son into doing his homework–all the everyday business of family life.

One thing I really like about writing picture books is that I can carry the work around with me inside my head. Whether I’m sitting in traffic or chopping celery, I can think about a line from my current story. It’s a lot more interesting than talk radio.

Another thing I like about writing for children is that you can delve deeply into one topic, like outer space, and then move on to something completely different, like babies.

How do you balance your life as a writer with the responsibilities (speaking, promotion, etc.) of being an author?

That is an ongoing challenge. I’ve made some attempts at promotion, developing bookmarks and a website. I enjoy speaking to children about the content of my books and the writing process, and am happy to speak to other venues about the books, as well.

But I really prefer writing to promoting, and have convinced myself that the best way to achieve recognition for my work is to produce more of it. So I spend most of my work day writing.

What can your fans look forward to next?

I’m finally letting go of rhyme and working on a fairy tale, which is very fun, and a middle grade novel, which may be a lifelong project.

SCBWI Bologna 2008 Series Begins Tomorrow

Reminder: The SCBWI Bologna 2008 series debuts tomorrow at Cynsations! Check back for 32 insightful question-and-answer interview with agents, editors, authors, and illustrators about the U.S. and international youth publishing scene.

To register for the SCBWI Bologna Biennial Conference 2008, please visit http://scbwi.org/events.htm and click on SCBWI@Bologna. Queries? Bologna@SCBWI.org

Reminder

Enter to win an advance reader copy of Jump the Cracks by Stacy DeKeyser (Flux, March 2008)! Read Stacy’s LJ, visit her JacketFlap, and check out her MySpace!

Two autographed ARCs of Jump the Cracks will be given away–one to a teacher/librarian and one to any young adult reader! To enter, email me with your name and address by 10 p.m. CST Feb. 13! Please also type “Jump the Cracks” in the subject line, and indicate whether you are a teacher/librarian or YA reader in the body of the message. Good luck!

Agent Interview: Jennifer Jaeger of Andrea Brown Literary Agency

Jennifer Jaeger is an associate agent at Andrea Brown Literary Agency. Note: scroll here for biographical information.

What inspired you to become a literary agent?

My aunt writes, creates, and produces cartoons and other programming for children, and when I was a teenager, she would have me read scripts and ask me my opinion. This experience sparked an interest in pursuing some type of career in the children’s market.

I narrowed it down to publishing. I knew I didn’t want to write, but I was curious about editing. I attended a children’s writer’s conference at a local book store, where two editors and Andrea Brown were speaking. At the time, I had no idea what a literary agent was, but after hearing Andrea, I realized that I wanted to do what she does.

It seemed, and is, a serendipitous combination of my skills and interests–literature, editing, education, and business.

How long have you been in the business? How has it changed?

I began working with Andrea Brown in mid-2004. I can’t say I’ve been in the business long enough to see any major changes, aside from the upswing in the picture book market.

When I first started, picture books were a much harder sell and fewer editors were willing to consider them. I find that this is not necessarily the case any more.

Would you describe yourself as an “editorial agent,” one who comments on manuscripts, or one who concentrates more exclusively on publishing issues? Why?

I’d caution to describe myself as one or the other. But I’m definitely an “editorial agent.” I’ve never sent a manuscript to an editor without having worked on revisions with my clients. These revisions typically involve big picture issues, such as plot and subplot, character motivations, etc.

There are so many strong, compelling manuscripts on editors’ desks that you don’t want to give them any reason to reject yours.

Is your approach more manuscript by manuscript, or do you see yourself as a career builder?

The Andrea Brown Literary Agency, in general, considers itself a career-building agency.

Why should unagented writers consider working with an agent?

Agents aren’t for everyone. That being said, many publishing houses are closed to unagented submissions–an agent can open those doors; agents know contracts and what acceptable offers/terms are; they can help you maintain a “clean” relationship with your editor; and agents are your advocates, your sounding boards, your biggest fans, and they’re likely to give it to you straight.

In terms of markets (children’s, YA, fiction, non-fiction, genres, chapter books, ER, picture books, etc.), what sorts of manuscripts appeal to you?

I’m most interested in fiction from picture books through YA, and I find myself drawn to projects that are literary, commercial-with-heart, and/or funny. I like multicultural, magical realism, paranormal, and reality-based fantasy.

In terms of chapter books through YA, I have a soft spot for stubborn girls who are softies at heart and underdog boys who do something brave. I like stories with emotional depth–ones that make me laugh or cry. I’m a fan of coming of age stories. I’m a big fan of middle grade/tween, and I’m currently interested in acquiring a middle grade boy adventure. Something gritty.

In regards to picture books, I like unique. For example, I recently sold a picture book to Random House (Once Upon a Twice by Denise Doyen) that is a “cautionary tale for mice” written in the nonsense style of Jabberwocky. I also like slight picture books (under 900 words).

There has been much talk about them state of the picture book market. What is your current reading on it? Do you work with author-illustrators and/or illustrators?

I find that the picture book market is picking up, and I’ve noticed more interest in bilingual (Spanish/English) projects. I do work with author-illustrators, though not many.

Are you accepting unsolicited submissions? What is the best way for a prospective client to get in touch with you?

I do accept unsolicited submissions, and our agency submissions guidelines can be seen on our website.

Do you have any particular submissions preferences or pet peeves?

I prefer submissions via email. My two greatest submissions pet peeves are queries that include no personalized greeting and queries for materials that I do not handle, such as adult literature or gory thrillers.

How much contact do you have with your clients? Emails, phone calls, retreats, listservs? What kind of relationship are you looking to build and why?

I’m in regular contact with my clients, but it really depends on what phase a certain project is in and how the client prefers to work. For instance, I have clients who prefer receiving editorial comments via email and others who like to discuss them.

For the most part, I typically communicate via email, but I call with good news and to discuss contract terms.

I’m looking to build long-term, collaborative relationships with my clients.

One of my clients put it very nicely. She said, “The Agent-Author relationship is a peer relationship with comparative advantages. Hopefully, authors can write better than the agents, and agents can sell better than authors. However, that’s not to say an author won’t hit upon a great lead for her book or an agent won’t have a great idea for her writing. Listen to each other.”

That’s the kind of relationship I look to build with my clients one in which we trust, respect, and listen to each other. We’re partners in this goal of publication.

What are the greatest challenges of being an agent?

Taking a vacation–I’m enamored with my job and have a hard time truly stepping out of that world for extended periods of time–not reading queries, manuscripts, published children’s books. And there’s always the obvious–waiting and rejections. You have to be patient and tenacious in this business.

What do you love about it?

I love falling in love with a manuscript and getting to represent it. I love pairing up my clients with editors who are enthusiastic about their writing. I love selling projects and negotiating contracts. I love seeing my clients’ books on the bookshelves.

Would you like to highlight a few of your clients and/or their recent titles?

A bulk of my clients’ projects will be released in 2009, but currently out is The Down to Earth Guide to Global Warming by Laurie David and Cambria Gordon (Orchard/Scholastic). Down to Earth was released in September ’07 to starred reviews. I’m so proud of having played a role in in this book.

Mary Peterson, one of my illustrator clients, has two projects out: Wiggle and Waggle by Caroline Arnold (Charlesbridge) and No Time to Nap by Mike Madison (Heyday Books). Mary’s illustrations are so lovely and vivid.

Milagros: The Girl From Away by Meg Medina, a magical realism middle grade about a girl who is forced to flee her island home, will be released in the fall (Holt). I can’t wait to hold that book in my hands. Meg Medina is a phenomenal talent.

As a reader, which books have you enjoyed lately and why?

Some–but not nearly all–of my most memorable reading experiences (published children’s and adult books) include The Schwa Was Here by Neal Shusterman (laugh-out-loud funny and touching); Catherine, Called Birdy and The Midwife’s Apprentice by Karen Cushman (just the type of female characters I love); the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer (I’ve never had so much fun reading a series before!)(author interview); Crank by Ellen Hopkins (heartbreaking); Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer (an all around brilliant book); The Known World by Edward P. Jones (complex and genius); and Even Cowgirls Get the Blues by Tom Robbins (I almost ditched town and became a cowgirl).

Cynsational News, Links & Giveaway

Enter to win an advance reader copy of Jump the Cracks by Stacy DeKeyser (Flux, March 2008)! From the promotional copy: “Angry that her dad (once again) fails to be at the train station when she arrives in New York City, fifteen-year-old Victoria has had it with her divorced parents and their broken promises. Earlier on the train ride, Victoria witnesses some rough treatment towards a little two-year-old boy. Victoria then watches as his teen mom stashes her son in the bathroom and exits the train. When Victoria spots the mom arguing with a guy over what appears to be drug money, she makes a split-second decision. She boards the next train out, taking the toddler with her. Victoria’s determined not to let this kid fall through the cracks, so she resolves to stay on the run until everyone responsible starts keeping their promises. Jump the Cracks is a fast-paced thriller whose action revolves around a frustrated but strong-willed teen girl who finds herself as both rescuer and abductor of a child at risk.”

Read Stacy’s LJ, visit her JacketFlap, and check out her MySpace!

Two autographed ARCs of Jump the Cracks will be given away–one to a teacher/librarian and one to any young adult reader! To enter, email me with your name and address by 10 p.m. CST Feb. 13! Please also type “Jump the Cracks” in the subject line, and indicate whether you are a teacher/librarian or YA reader in the body of the message. Good luck!

Note: winners of the the recent Cynsations giveaway of Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead (Razorbill, 2007)(excerpt) were YA readers in Palm Desert, California; Australia; Miami; and Granite City, Illinois.

Congratulations to the winners! Thanks to Razorbill for donating the books! Read a Cynsations round-table interview with the Razorbill editors.

Read Richelle’s LJ (Even Redheads Get the Blues).

More News & Links

Writers Interviewing Writers: a new blog from Kendra Saunders featuring interviews between writers in different genres, in different fields. According the debut post, “We’ll feature song writers, YA novelists, writers of fantastical short stories, fan fiction gurus, PR specialists and heroes of the role playing realms, among other things.” If you would like to be a featured writer–or would like to interview a fellow writer–for the blog, please contact Kendra by leaving a message at this post! Note: Kendra is the “author of the award winning The South Crawley Kids (Runner Up in the YA category of the 2007 Writers’ Digest Book Awards).”

What’s Fresh with Micol Ostow! from YA Fresh. Visit Micol, and her her LJ, First Person Present, which is one of my favorite blog names.

What Does a Career in Writing Look Like? from Darcy Pattison’s Revision Notes. Source: Janni Lee Simmer.

Blurb Etiquette by Justine Larbalestier. Read a Cynsations interview with Justine.

Author Name Pronunciation Guide from TeachingBooks.net. Wondering how to pronounce my name or lots of others? Find out! Source: BookMoot.

Interview with Mitali Perkins from Teen Book Review. Here’s a sneak peek: “Many of my stories are about feeling displaced, rootless, and like an alien, emotions that have defined me most of my life. Also, I’ve seen a lot of poverty in my global travels, so I write about that, too.” Read Mitali’s blog.

Review Survival: It Can Be Done! from Jo Knowles. Read a Cynsations interview with Jo. Visit Jo at MySpace!

Congratulations to Kerry Madden on the upcoming Valentine’s Day release of Jessie’s Mountain (Viking, 2008)! From the promotional copy: “Can something that’s so awful wrong have shiny bright bits of right to it? It’s slowly dawning on twelve-year-old Livy Two Weems that not every decision in life falls neatly into categories of right or wrong—and the harder the decision is the blurrier the lines get. It’s winter 1963, and just about every member of the large Weems family has a decision to make. Should Livy Two run off to Nashville to audition for that music man? Is Daddy finally ready to play his banjo again? Should the kids be secretly reading Mama’s girlhood diary? And worst of all: will Mama make them move away from their beloved Maggie Valley home? Even strong-willed Livy Two is overwhelmed by so many looming choices, but she’s as determined as ever to make her family’s dreams come true. That stubborn determination inspires all of the Weems—and leads to a tender and satisfying conclusion to Kerry Madden’s Maggie Valley stories.” Read Cynsations interviews with Kerry on Gentle’s Holler and Louisiana’s Song. See Kerry’s LJ for information on the “Book Giveaway, Old School Picture Contest!” Visit Kerry’s MySpace page.

The Holocaust in Teen Fiction: The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas and The Book Thief By Susan Whelan from Suite 101.com.

Children’s Book Insider is now at MySpace! “Since May of 1990, aspiring children’s writers from across the globe have turned to Children’s Book Insider for advice, inside info and market tips that have helped make their dreams of writing a children’s book into a reality.”

Writing for the Educational Market: “a discussion and resource for freelance writing and working for the education market” from Laura Coulter.

Austin SCBWI offers a great line-up for its April 26 conference. Speakers include: author and editor Deborah Noyes Wayshak from Candlewick Press (author-editor interview); Alvina Ling from Little Brown (personal blog); agent Erin Murphy (interview from Olswanger.com)(interview by Pam Mingle from Kite Tales, Rocky Mountain chapter, SCBWI); artist’s agent Christina Tugeau; and writing professor Peter Jacobi. See details at Austin SCBWI.

An Interview with Amy Goldman Koss from Little Willow at Slayground. Here’s a sneak peek: “I think we careen in and out of countless cliques between the cradle to grave, and the stings and squirms that go with social life and relationships are a life long phenomenon. Grown women can feel just as snubbed by other PTA moms as their daughters can by snotty classmates.”

Spooky blue ribbon books from The Bulletin of the Center of Children’s Books include Keturah and Lord Death by Martine Leavitt (Front Street, 2006) and Prom Dates from Hell by Rosemary Clement-Moore (Delacorte, 2007). See the whole list! Read a Cynsations interview with Rosemary.

The SCBWI Bologna 2008 series debuts Feb. 14 at Cynsations! Mark your calendar for 32 insightful question-and-answer interviews with agents, editors, authors, and illustrators about the U.S. and international youth publishing scene. To register for the SCBWI Bologna Biennial Conference 2008, please visit http://scbwi.org/events.htm and click on SCBWI@Bologna. Queries? Bologna@SCBWI.org

Young Adult author Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban: official author site features biography, about the book, about the worlds in Two Moon Princess, quiz, sequel information, etc. Carmen’s tween novel is Two Moon Princess (Tanglewood, 2007)(PDF file excerpt).

Tea Time at Annick Press: a new blog from “a small, independent publisher of books for kids and young adults.” Based in Toronto, Vancouver, New York. See also the Annick Press official publisher site.

30 Days to Stronger Characters: a helpful series for writers from Darcy Pattison at Revision Notes. Read a Cynsations interview with Darcy.

Remember my recent post on Spookycyn and Cynsations LJ about authors Varian Johnson, Suzanne Crowley, and Suzanne Harper? See also Varian’s own post on his SCBWI event.

More Personally

Thanks to Prof. Stiles and her Young Adult Literature class at Concordia University in Austin for their hospitality and wonderful questions last night. It was a great honor to visit with author April Lurie and discuss our own books and the field more globally. Read a Cynsations interview with April. Visit April’s blog and her MySpace page!

Cynthia Leitich Smith on Fantasy, YA, and Vampires from Writers Interviewing Writers. Here’s a sneak peek: “You can write with less subtlety because that fantasy layer already gives the reader enough distance to see more clearly. Say you’re talking about a hero feeling as if she’s on verge of damnation. In a fantasy novel, you can go ahead and show the literal gates of hell.”

Listening Library’s audio production of Tantalize goes on sale Feb. 26! Actress Kim Mai Guest is reading the book. Listen to an audio excerpt.

Learn more about the text novel from Candlewick Press.