Tuesday, September 30, 2014

So you wrote a book, and self-published it.

And now you are wondering why no libraries are buying it or bookstores not in your neighborhood will carry it. And when you find out that libraries (and bookstores) depend on book reviews, you wonder why you can't get your book reviewed?

Well, Roger Sutton, editor of the highly respected Horn Book Magazine, has written a letter of explanation:

Dear self-published author:
I can imagine how frustrating it is to have your book refused possible review coverage by the Horn Book simply because it is self-published. But here is why that situation is unlikely to change anytime soon.
If we met at a party or something, I, and I think my colleagues at the other review rags, would tell you that we don’t review self-published books because there are too many of them. More than half a million such titles are published every year in this country, and I’m guessing children’s books account for at least 100,000 of those. Right now, I’m dealing with about 8,000 titles a year of traditionally published children’s books, of which we review approximately 5,000. If we were to commit to giving self-published books the same level of scrutiny we give to what we already cover, I would need to increase our staff exponentially, which is not going to happen.
But that is only a portion of the answer. The real problem is that most self-published books for children are pretty terrible. Ten years ago, I would have said that “most self-published books are pretty terrible” without feeling the need to specify children’s books in particular, but self-publishing for adults these days is demonstrating considerably greater skill and sense of audience than it used to, especially when it comes to niche topics and genre fiction. Why has the same maturity not come to self-published books for young people?
I think it has to do with the way people approach writing books “for children.” If a gardening enthusiast or a paranormal fan self-publishes a guide to lilacs or a vampire novel respectively he is likely to be imagining a reader like himself. But people writing “for children” tend to have set themselves up as Lady Bountifuls, handing down stories from above like plates of healthy vegetables. They perceive virtue in what they are doing–and virtue is no place from which to begin a book. Just about every adult I  ever met has “a great idea for a children’s book” that is always an AWFUL idea for a children’s book, and, thanks to the greater ease of self-publishing, those books are coming to light. Quick, Henry, the Flit!
A related problem is that while many, many people want to self-publish their children’s books, far fewer actually want to read them. I know librarians and booksellers who have had self-published books pressed upon them by the author, but they have searched in vain for an audience. This is mostly because a) the books are pretty terrible and b) the books aren’t filling any kind of need that isn’t already being met by established publishers. This hasn’t always been true: back in the 1960s through the ’80s, there was a demand for counterculture-friendly children’s books that was not being met by publishers, thus very tiny publishers sprang up with books like Heather Has Two Mommies. While we did recently see a pro-pot picture book, I’m finding it difficult to otherwise think of subjects that scare the mainstream off. Did you really think your anti-bullying book was giving us something we didn’t already have?
Thus my final point. Self-published children’s books seem remarkably ignorant of the great history and scope of children’s literature. You don’t need this awareness to write a good or even great book for children (I know several  worthy children’s book authors who pay no attention to the field or its heritage) but you do need it to publish a good or great book for children. (Or even a terrible one. Trade publishers publish bad books all the time, but they publish them for good reasons.)  An editor isn’t there to “fix mistakes.” His or her most important job is to understand what contribution your story makes–or doesn’t–to the big world of books and readers. That’s what is most missing from self-published books for children today.

Found on the Horn Book website.  More good information about books can be found there.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

You gotta practice in order to become good at something

How do you get to Carnege Hall?

In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell writes about the 10,000 hour rule, which basically states that in order to become a successful professional it takes 10,000 hours of practice. He uses examples, like how The Beatles played in Hamburg non-stop for two years honing their skill before they even recorded their first track.
So the best advice anyone can give to any young person, no matter what their pursuit: 
I'm approaching the 10,000 hours.  
How about YOU?

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Attend KidLitCon

You have till next Friday, Sept. 26th to register for Kidlitcon 2014  (Sacramento, Oct 10th and 11th)!
If both days are too much, there's the option of registering for just Friday or Saturday....

Kidlitcon is awesome-  it is the most kindred spirit filled conference possible for us introverted children's book readers and writers.  Plus there will be great authors to meet, and scads of books and swag to go home with -- for instance, Chronicle Books  just wrote in asking "how many of each title should we send...."  And there will be tasty eats and drinks (thank you, Lee and Low for sponsoring refreshments for Friday afternoon's Author Meet and Mingle!).

Even if you can't yourself go, please feel free to spread the word to any book bloggers, or any other sort of people who love reading and talking about children's books, who are in the Sacramento area (loosely defined as the whole western part of the country)!
And if you are going, any mention of Kidlitcon in your own social media would be swell.

And you don"t have to be in the western part of the country to go!   Many people are flying in from other parts of the country.

If you blog about kidlit, work with kidlit, write PB, middle grade, or YA books or just love it, this is a can't miss conference. The program looks great, and since the theme is Diversity, it's a great chance to continue the conversations we've been having online about how to bring greater diversity to children's books.

And --  if you work with children's books, if you're an author, or even if you make money blogging about children's or YA books, you should be able to deduct the cost from your taxes!" (check with your accountant.  I deducted it, myself.)

Thursday, September 4, 2014

2014 ALA Speeches are online

Did you miss this June's American Library Association conference. If so you missed the Newbery/ Caldecott banquet .  Well videos of the speeches of the award winners at the banquet are now online on the Association for Library Service to Children's webpage.

Click and enjoy.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Nonfiction Monday has moved

Happy September 1st.

In case you were a Nonfiction Monday fan, this roundup of multiple blog posts about fantastic Nonfiction books for preschool and Elementary school readers that appears every Monday has moved to Facebook.  What does this mean?  It means that you can discover these links all week long, not just on Monday.  It's just that we try to put the links up on Mondays.

If you are not presently a Facebook member, it's easy to join just to read messages like these. You don't have to establish and keep posting on your home page/ your wall. You CAN just pop on to check out these reviews and then log off again.  (Facebook doesn't care)  On the other hand, you might just discover that some of your favorite authors are on Facebook and, if you are doing an author unit, this would be one place to find lots of information about them.

Please check this out. You'll be glad you did.  You can either follow the above link, or type in Nonfiction Monday in the search block to quickly jump to it.

Edited to say, it's been moved again.
It's back onto WordPress at this address:  http://nonfictionmonday.wordpress.com