Friday, April 28, 2006

Conference Notes

I went to the NY Illustrators Conference on Monday. I thought the dummy reviews were really helpful so I have a few thoughts on those below. I also posted my notes from the panel discussion.

Dummy Review Thoughts
It's all subjective. I had 4 dummy reviews on the same story. There were a few comments that were universal, so those are things that I need to change, but there were also conflicting opinions on some things, and that's where it all comes down to personal taste. So basically you have to decide what's right for your story, and whether you agree with the critiquer or not.

Another interesting thing was that 2 of the critiquers didn't have many suggestions for my dummy. They basically liked the story and illustrations. Since that didn't take much time, I was able to show them a second dummy. They both liked the second dummy better than the first. The second one is much more rough, and still needs lots of work, so the fact that they liked it better gave more credence to the changes for the first dummy suggested by the other two reviewers.

Panel Session:
Lily Malcom – Art Director at Dial
* Been in the business for 12 years.
* The PB market will come full circle. It’s a tough market now, so they have to focus on the bottom line more, but they are still looking for fresh new talent.
* Doesn’t want to see landscapes, still life paintings, etc in a portfolio
* Likes to see people, animals, emotion (humor, sadness,etc.), visual narration (with different levels of stuff going on in a scene).
* Acceptability of digital art depends on style. She doesn’t like just computery art, but if it’s more than that and shows some art sense, that’s good. Also like combination of digital and non.
* Portfolio mistakes: too many styles in one portfolio, with only 1-2 pieces in each style. If you have multiple pieces – enough to really show that you are capable in each style, then it’s it’s ok to show more than one style.
* Lily gets 10-15 art samples a day, and many are repeat artists that she has worked with before.
* She has Tuesday portfolio drop offs.
* It’s not always that the illustrations aren’t good, it’s more just whether it’s right for Dial or not.
* Marketing and sales has a say in illustrations/books, and Barnes and Noble sometimes has a say in it too.
* On the other hand, marketing and sales are in the field and can bring back insight on market and what’s selling.
* Publishes first time illustrators a lot (3-4 new illustrators out of about 20 or so books a year).
* Send in complete PB ms when subbing.
* Illustration beats a query letter. SASE for sample returns if needed.
* Loves double whammy of author/illustrator, but try not to walk away if they want text and not art.
* Do homework and see if the publisher will take your kind of work.
* Look for honest criticism (other artists, critique group, etc. not mom or friend who knows nothing about kids books)

Edward Necarsulmer – Agent at McIntosh & Otis
* The market will cycle – stay confident.
* Doesn’t like cartoony / computery images. Digital should be part of the process, rather than the only thing.
* Likes lighter, funny, every day things.
* Cautious about art, but likes portfolios that show versatility, people, movement, etc.
* Reps both art and text. Has maybe 1 client who is illustration only. The other illustrators are also authors.
* Marketing role is important now. It’s reality, and you need sales and marketing in your corner. The editor is also a sales person for your book.
* Calls the slush pile the "discovery pile"
* Play to your strengths.
* Will look at SCBWI stuff. Prefers query first, and make sure to include SASE!
* Loves author/illustrators
* Art should speak for itself, but query can be helpful to say why you chose to send your art / ms to them
* Advice for new illustrators: don’t give up, try to have ills appear in a way that he understands – cohesive fashion / narrative / part of story
* McIntosh &Otis reps Ed Young

Michele Burke – Editor at Knopf/Random House
* 4 years in the business
* Remain optimistic
* Likes to grow authors & illustrators with the house
* Doesn’t like cartoony / mass market art
* Likes art that tells a story, character driven, very expressive, narrative
* Collaborates with designers and not opposed to digital art
* Portfolio mistakes: stuff that’s not child friendly or appropriate for kids books
* Keeps an open mind about all other art
* Most things go to art department, but she does get some things and keeps an art file
* 1/3 – 1/2 of what she looks at is new
* Each season they have a brainstorm / artfest session to find illustrators for the PBs that don’t have them yet.
* Marketing and sales has input, especially for novel jackets. They are in the field, have experience, know what sells, and why or why not.
* Gets hundreds of unsolicited manuscripts a year, and publishes maybe one of them
* Loves author / illustrators, and likes to see the whole PB ms right away (no need to query first)
* Do your research, read and look at books, and see where you want to be.
* Do what you enjoy and feel you are best at and not what the market is telling you to do

Saturday, April 8, 2006

Poconos Conference Notes

2006 Poconos Conference

I got there the night before the conference started, so I had a chance to have dinner with Mindy and meet new friends like Leslie, Marie, and Ann. And the next few days, it was fun to meet Kelly, Rita, Julie, Pamela, Natishia, Kim, Janice, Ann Marie, Karen…and a whole bunch more people (I am so bad with remembering names, so please forgive me if I accidentally left you out, or jog my memory if I’ve forgotten your name, and I will add you.)

And now for the notes.

Luckily, Cheryl Klein has posted the notes from her talk here:
Other comments that she had:
- They are looking for authors and illustrators that have a unique voice and style – something extraordinary / special.
- The focus of your book should be the overall emotional effect or journey. When editing, cut everything that’s not contributing or distracts from that.
- Publish 10-15 hardcover literary books a year (1/2 of the list are foreign books)
- Accepts queries from new & unagented authors – include something that shows what the book is really about, emotional content, or a small excerpt, etc.
- Start a story by getting the reader hooked first and not doing an info dump. You can time release back story in a novel. Examples where this is done well: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, and the first Harry Potter book.

Lindsey Barrett George
- Something must happen to a character in a book (even a pb)
- A pb has to work on many levels. Some examples: art, text, story, counting, friendship, etc.
- Her editor rejected one of her picture books. She looked at it again, found the core of the story and deleted everything else. (She kept only one verse from the whole thing.) She said that everything in the pb should be about the core of the story. BTW, that pb is now one of her most popular and best selling books.
- A Picture Book Is About
- Turning the pages, and how each picture follows the other ones
- Pictures and text that both tell a story. Sometimes pictures, sometimes text. They must balance each other out
- It doesn’t have to have a happy ending, but it does have to have a satisfying ending
- It is about an emotional reaction of experience
- Three Steps for an author/illustrator making a book
- 1. Writer’s job is to write an engaging story
- 2. Designer’s job is to make them want to know what happens next (page turns)
- 3. Illustrator’s job is to make them love and/or care about what you draw

The rest of these notes are from general sessions

Heather Delabre
- On inappropriate anthropomorphism: "If there’s no reason for them to be animals, they should be people, not kids with fur" (or feathers). To test for whether or not they need to be animals, she said that you should take out the animal stuff and imagine them as human characters. If that works, then nix the animals.
- Brevity is the key for a synopsis

Mark McVeigh
- Dutton is phasing out chapter books and easy readers, so you shouldn’t sub them
- They are also not doing novelty books anymore, like lift-the-flap books.
- Don’t send email subs.
- Send query and synopsis – even for a pb!
- Synopsis should include character, plot, & setting.
- The synopsis should be succinct, but intriguing.

Mary Lee Donovan
- Their list is 50% Walker UK, and 50% Candlewick
- They try for an international audience
- No email subs.
- Has eclectic tastes
- Likes complete novels

Julie Romeis
- Looking for new, fresh, American voices
- MG
- Contemporary stories
- They try for an international audience (Bloomsbury UK too)
- Likes fun, commercial, really kid friendly books
- No email subs

Tuesday, April 4, 2006

Holy Mail Call Batman!

After being out of the office for a week (our office was closed), the nice folks from the post office called me to make sure I was there to receive my mail, then 3 separate mail carriers stopped by to deliver it. The first was a man I'd never seen before, who obviously has some anger issues that he decided to take out on the manuscripts he was delivering. The second was our regular mail carrier - she's really nice, and funny too. And the third was our regular USPS package guy - he's very nice as well, and he held some boxes for us that normally would have been returned to sender. Oh, and a new UPS guy stopped by too.

It was a busy day for YA manuscripts in my office. Now all I have to do is read them all :0)