Monday, June 29, 2015

SCBWI Florida Workshop Part IV- Marketing Yourself and Your Work

This is my fourth blog post from the 2015 Florida SCBWI young adult workshop. Erica Rand Silverman is an agent with Sterling Lord Literistic and Jacquelyn Mitchard is a prolific author as well as an editor-in-chief at Merit Press. Click here for Part I  (Why Write Young Adult); Part II (Querying), and Part III (Pitches).
"Connect-Be Authentic-Be Creative-Give Back-Enjoy"
by Erica Rand Silverman

  • Connecting means finding your readers and other writers.
  • Writers can be creative even in marketing.
  • When you help others (give back to the writing community) you move your self forward.
  • Be open-minded, set goals and constraints for yourself. Marketing should not be about wasting your time away from writing. It is about finding a place in the writing community.

Image courtesy Nikki Woods
  • Explore yourself as an author. Pay attention to your thoughts and ideas.  When you have a thought about writing- share it! Break down thoughts that go into your head, and think of possible ways of giving these to others. Post nuggets that will interest others. In other words, "feed the hamster." (Note: I'm trying to use Twitter for that purpose. Follow me at CbaldwinCarol)
  • Use social media to engage with your audience and market yourself. (Have you seen my Facebook posts with snippets from Half-Truths?)
  • Be yourself when you go out to schools. "Do you."
  • Consider who your readers are. How will you find them? Social media, schools, libraries?
  • Reach out to adults who work with young people. (i.e., media specialists and educators. Keeping in mind that you are giving back).
  • Have an engaging presentation which links to Common Core.  Your presentation should develop certain skills, educate, inspire, and entertain. Here are examples from Linda Phillips' book Crazy and from Joyce Hostetter's book Blue.
  • Develop a one page handout. Among other things, it can focus on comprehension, the author’s use of language, as well as figurative language. 
  • Hook up with a local book store. A bookseller will tell you who buys the most books. Start where you live or where you grew up. 
  • Create downloadables for kids. 
  • WhereYouTube is for the retail market, SchoolTube reaches the institutional market. Create an appropriate video and educators may find you there.
  • Share travel plans with your publisher who should help you find out bookstores. 
  • Do blog tours. Get interviewed on teen blogs such as The Teen Book Guru. Be available to teen reviewers; here is a youtube book review by one of my favorite teen readers and writers, Anna Graham.
  • Make a video of yourself so your publisher sees you are comfortable with public speaking and will send you out.
  • Writing is a performing art. You have to put your shyness on hold and invite readers into your world.
Image courtesy of Robert Bidinotto 

Thursday, June 25, 2015

A Not so Literary Post

I rarely blog two times a week and as most of you know, my posts are usually about reading or writing. But today I'm sharing links to my friend Barbara Younger's Friend for the Ride blog. 

Barbara blogs about menopause and all things related to mid-life and women's health issues. She has an ongoing series about ladies room doors and recently posted two blogs worth of doors I found on our cross-country trip.

Without further ado, here is Part One of The Potty Trip of all Potty Trips featuring this gas station in Broken Bow, Nebraska:

Here is Part Two, featuring these two doors from Rudy's Barbecue in Lubbock Texas to show that occasionally men's rooms doors are interesting too.

And a door that didn't make the cut, along the Sammamash River Trail in Washington:
Hope you click the above links and enjoy a quick trip across the U.S. via the potties I found along the way!

Monday, June 22, 2015

SCBWI Florida Workshop Part III- Share Your Perfect Pitch and Find Out How it Sells!

    This is my third blog post from the Florida SCBWI young adult workshop. Erica Rand Silverman is an agent with Sterling Lord Literistic and Jacquelyn Mitchard is a prolific author as well as an editor-in-chief at Merit Press. Click here for Part I and Part II.
Erica and Jacquelyn interwove their remarks
into a tapestry of great advice.
  • Don’t over reach.  You can use the “X” meets “Y” as long as you use examples that haven’t sold million copies. If you do, use a title that is known, but not over-known.
  • Don’t send a photo of yourself.
  • Don't say a family member loves your manuscript. 
  • Don't send with spelling or grammar errors.
  • Do Be concise, simple, and straightforward. 
  • Do List writing programs and classes you have attended as well as degrees and awards. Be relevant, current, and honest.
  • Do “Nuggetize” your work. Erika said to ask, "What is my books' essence?" Jacquelyn said it this way: "Find the statue in the block of granite." 
  • Do Try to include the character’s stakes in the pitch.
  • Do reference a client's work you appreciate. 
  • Do say why you are pitching to this particular agent.
  • Sometimes: Writing the pitch before you write the book helps you to conceptualize it. But writing it afterwards can help too.
[My experience is that it is helpful to write a pitch at different points while working on a manuscript. Before, during, and after!]

Image courtesy of
After their presentation, Erika and Jacquelyn invited participants to write a pitch and read it out loud. Building on a previously-written pitch, I read the following:

Dear Erica, 
I am writing to you because I met you at the Florida 2015 SCBWI conference and heard of your interest in young adult books. The other books you represent, X and X are  Y. [Where "X" are titled of books Erica represents and "Y"  is the reason I like them.]
Against the backdrop of segregation and Southern debutante society, Half-Truths is a young adult novel about an unexpected friendship between two teen girls-- one white, the other a descendent of a slave. When they discover a family heirloom that belongs to both families, their friendship is tested and proved. In the process of confronting her prejudices and fears, each girl finds a place in the New South.
Written from alternating points-of-view, my first young adult novel is complete at 80,000 words. I am the author of two nonfiction books for adults as well as many articles and stories for adults and children. I coordinated a SCBWI critique group for over twenty years, have taught writing to both adults and teens, and presented at numerous educational, library, and writing conferences. I review books and share insights into writing at and co-publish Talking Story, a digital newsletter which promotes literacy.
Guess what?

They liked it! 

Monday, June 15, 2015

SCBWI Florida Workshop Part II- Querying in the Digital Age

    This is my second blog post from the young adult workshop I recently attended. Erica Rand Silverman is an agent with Sterling Lord Literistic and Jacquelyn Mitchard is a prolific author as well as an editor-in-chief at Merit Press. Click here for Part I

Erica Rand Silverman
These notes are from Erica's powerpoint presentation.

* Research agents in advance. Find out who represents what genre.

* Don’t ever pay for query services. Using Query Tracker is acceptable.

*  Prepare your query letter carefully. Agents will respond with the same amount of care which you take. "Sometimes we hear pings within our office and know everyone is getting the same query at the same time." That's ridiculous with an office full of agents looking for everything from children's picture books to adult non-fiction. It is appropriate to reference the agent's client list and mention what you like about these books. By doing this you are showing why you are seeking representation from this agent. 

*  Don’t name drop in your query.

*  There was a phase when publishers bought self-published books because they had great sales on Amazon. This is no longer happening.

*  Don’t be overly personal. Be yourself! Your work has to be first and foremost.

*  It's all about timing: the right moment with the right person.

*  Don’t list ten different projects you have.

*  Mention your work first, then your credentials.

*  If you find someone you really want to work with don’t submit to another agent. If you do multiple submits, be transparent at the bottom of the email.

* Follow the agency's guidelines for email vs. snail mail. Email may get seen quickly, but may never be seen again. Paper will eventually get read.

*  If an agent responds with “I’m interested,” feel free to nudge if you haven't heard back in a month. If they don’t respond to your initial query, don’t nudge.

*  A big problem in publishing is not having enough time to think. Writers need to be patient!

*  If you receive more than one offer, do a happy dance and then select wisely.  You need to give agents time to respond- at least one or two weeks. It is appropriate to write, “I’d love to hear from you if you’re interested before I make a decision on how to move forward.”  Treat other professionals with respect. If an agent is workshopping your work, they’re interested. It's like dating. Don't query another agent if the first agent is subbing your work.

* Erica recommended reading this blog from Wolff Literary on  choosing the right agent.

Here are some of my previous posts on agents:

And on querying:

Monday, June 8, 2015

SCBWI Florida Workshop Part I- Why Write Young Adult?

Congratulations to Vijaya Bodach who won Rory's Promise on last week's blog.


Last Saturday I attended the Florida SCBWI's mid-year workshop. I spent the entire day soaking up information from two talented women, Erica Rand Silverman and Jacquelyn Mitchard. Since they generously agreed to share the content of their workshop, my blog posts over the next few weeks will be from my notes.  I will be listing the main speaker for each topic, but my notes include contributions from both women. 

Erica and Jacquelyn

Why Write Young Adult?

Jacquelyn Mitchard

  • Protagonist and (usually) the antagonist are teenagers. They do the heavy lifting; they're the ones who get in and out of trouble.
  • They're usually 16 or 17. 
  • Rules about writing are there. You can break them if you do it with authenticity and class.
  • Young Adult literature is relatively new. Catcher in the Rye (1950) was first YA book. 
  • Voice--the way in which things are said--is so important. "Young adult literature often expresses the alienation that even happy teenagers feel."
  • Young adult is the only segment of publishing that has been growing for 20 years.
  • The topography of teenagers' emotions is huge. "In high school they are changing on a molecular level into another person."
  • In the 20th century, psychologists realized that an adolescent had to separate from family to become his/her own person. This was reflected in literature such as The Chocolate War and The Outsiders.
  • Young adult is often written in an intimate, conversational style. Reader can connect with the characters on a friendship level. Adolescents still have enough of the child inside of them that they believe characters are real. (Reason why they'll get dressed up as a character for a book signing.)
  • New Adult is already over.
  • As an editor at Merit Press, Jacquelyn is looking for realistic contemporary fiction. "Hormones and heat, but not foul or graphic."
  • Write large, not subtle. Don’t attempt young adult if you don’t read it and enjoy it.
  • Unusual set-ups are good.  Fresh. Not contemporary slang that will give the book a shelf life of two years.
  • In young adult fiction, layers are pealed back. Emotions are up front and genuine.  The teen's survival (either physical or emotional) is at stake.
  • One half of young adult readers are adults because dark and light are more extreme.
  • Young adult brings rebels to life.  Readers can live vicariously through characters. 
  • Love and respect your teen audience.  "When you do this kind of writing you can change the world without preaching."
  • When she is in the middle of writing a book, before she goes to sleep Jacquelyn thinks, “I’m going to be X now.” This taps into her sub-conscious.
  • A book can’t be about an issue, like a parent's alcoholism. It’s about the conflict that is raised within the protagonist as a result of the parent's alcoholism.  
  • If you want to write young adult, you better be reading it. 
This is one of the books from Merit Press.
Written by my FB friend, Christine Kohler,
it's on my TBR list!


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