Tuesday, August 31, 2010

My Favorite Picture Books

It’s been a couple weeks since my last entry. It is amazing how the time flies. The last few weeks of summer vacation (my kid’s not mine) have been pretty crazy and I have been chomping at the bit to get back to business and back to a work routine. At any rate I am glad to be back with a list of blog topics.

Last week I went to a regional meeting for SCBWI. We were supposed to pick our favorite children’s book and bring it to the meeting. I found it very hard to pick just one and in fact I picked 8 and that was after only one of my boxes-o-books. I still have two large crates to go through. This is what I brought:

Where the Wild Things Are, Maruice Sendak
One Hundred Hungry Ants, Elinor Pinczes/ill. Bonnie MacKain
Big Black Bear, Wong Herbert Yee
Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!, Mo Willems
Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon, Patty Lovel/ill. David Catrow
My Friend Rabbit, Eric Rohmann
Counting Crocodiles, Judy Sierra/ill. Will Hillenbrand
Knuffle Bunny, Mo Willems

That list got me thinking about the other books that didn’t make it on the list just because they were in the other two crates. It took a while (I should have been doing other things I am sure) but I pulled my other favorites out and started my first official Favorites List. Remember that this is purely subjective and some of the books listed represent a significant period in my life and that is why they belong on MY list. If you disagree with any of MY picks then do so quietly. If you agree with my picks then by all means shout it out from the top of the nearest hill or facebook. My lists aren’t static and will be changing, especially if any of my books get published. I will mention any additions here so you can stay on top of any changes to this very important list. I will start with the books listed and categorize them as I see fit, it is my blog after all!

Picture Books: (in no specific order)
Where the Wild Things Are, Maruice Sendak
Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!, Mo Willems
Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon, Patty Lovel/ill. David Catrow
My Friend Rabbit, Eric Rohmann
Knuffle Bunny, Mo Willems
No David, David Shannon
Buz, Richard Egielski
The Spider and the Fly, Tony DiTerlizzi
The Greedy Python, Richard Buckley/ill. Eric Carle
Piggie Pie!, Margie Palatini/ill. Woward Fine
Wet Dog !, Elise Broac/ill. David Catrow
I Wanna Iguana, Karen Kaufman Orloff/ill. David Catrow
Officer Buckle and Gloria, Peggy Rathmann
Max’s Dragon Shirt, Rosemary Wells
Hey, Al, Arthur Yorinks/ill. Richard Egielski
Parts, Ted Arnold
That’s Good! That’s Bad, Margery Cuyler/ill. David Catrow
Double Trouble in Walla Walla, Andrew Clements/ill. Salvatore Murdocca
The Boy Who Lived With the Seals, Rave Martin/ill. David Shannon
Miss Nelson is Missing!, Harry Allard/ill. James Marshall
A Bad Case of Stripes, David Shannon
Verdi, Janell Cannon
The Tenth Good Thing About Barney, Judith Viorst/ill. Erik Blegvad
The Paper Bag Princess, Robert Munsch/ill. Michael Martchenko
The Stupids Die, Harry Allard/ill. James Marshall
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, Judith Viorst/ill. Ray Cruz
The Dumb Bunnies, Sue Denim;-)/ill. Dav Pilkey
Cars and Trucks and Things That Go, Richard Scarry
The Hallo-Wiener, Dav Pilkey

Rhyming Picture Books: (in no specific order)

Big Black Bear, Wong Herbert Yee
Counting Crocodiles, Judy Sierra/ill. Will Hillenbrand

Wordless/Nearly Wordless Picture Books: (in no specific order)
Time Flies, Eric Rohmann
Hiccup, Mercer Mayer
Deep in the Forest, Brinton Turkle

Teaching (ABC, Counting, Time, etc.) Picture Books: (in no specific order)
The Grouchy Ladybug, Eric Carle
Teeth, Tails, & Tentacles An Animal Counting Book, Christopher Wormell
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, Bill Martin, Jr. and John Archambault/ill. Lois Ehlert
My Little Sister Ate One Hare, Bill Grossman/ill. Kevin Hawkes
One Hundred Hungry Ants, Elinor Pinczes/ill. Bonnie MacKain

Friday, August 13, 2010

PB Market Woes (picture book not peanut butter)

Unfortunately for me the market for picture books is in the toilette. I knew this going in and in fact my first agent contact explained that to me before I even submitted anything to him. In his defense and two other agents that mentioned the difficult picture book market place they all emphatically supported picture books. They love ‘em so what’s the problem? One of the reasons given (besides being cyclical and vampires) was shelf space. That’s right shelf space. You see, you can cram many more MG (middle grade) or YA (young adult) books into the space of one picture book. It makes sense, the MG and YA books cost nearly as much as a picture book and yet take up so little space. So when it comes down to money you know how the die will roll. Less shelf space for picture books = smaller market for picture books.

Last week there was a very interesting Marketplace (American Public Media) segment about Barnes and Noble. Barnes and Noble was targeted in one of the panel discussions I mentioned earlier as a major factor in my market woes. http://marketplace.publicradio.org/display/web/2010/08/04/pm-barnes-woes-signal-book-biz-transition/  I am not sure what a world with less Barnes and Nobles means for me. Is it a movement back to customer centered independent book store or does that mean the PB market will be getting smaller?

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Agents as Career Managers?

I have always felt I wanted and maybe even needed an agent before publishing. I viewed and agent as someone with the expertise and insider info who could market my stories to a variety of publishers. I also wanted someone who could look out for my best interests once I got to the contract phase. I learned that I should be expecting a little more from an agent.

I had the chance to sit in on panels with three different agents Josh Adams, Michael Bourret and Steven Malk. All three talked about the usual duties of finding a publisher and contract negotiations. However all three talked about being so much more to their authors. They talked about managing the long term careers of their authors and illustrators. I have to tell you that I am especially excited about the prospect of a career manager. After all, I am a writer and an artist who would prefer not to be a starving writer or artist. Another interesting comment from Michael Bourret was that he wanted the author/illustrator to consider all options (including other agents) even if he has made an offer to represent a particular author. He wants it to be a perfect fit for him AND the author. I got the impression that all of the agents were seeking that perfect match. After all, they want a long term profitable relationship just as much as author/illustrator. This means that they are going to be very selective (some receiving 6000+ submissions a year) so that they will also be able to support any client with all their resources.

I had a chance to visit with Michael Bourret after his panel and I finally understood one important thing. I have a very picky sense of the art I would like to hang in my house. Oh sure, I can look at other art and think “I appreciate that piece but I would never hang it in my house”. This is also is true for agents. They may appreciate a story or the artwork but if they don’t love it then how can they fully represent an author/illustrator.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Staying Relevant in the Digital Age

This was an incredible keynote speech and relevant not only to the children's book industry but all of publishing.  It is an age old dilemma.  Sit back and follow or step forward and lead.  Sure you don't want to be the beta or laser disc but you can't have any say if you aren't at least in the fray.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Web Presence

On Monday I attended a panel discussion with Jill Alexander (author of THE SWEETHEART OF PROSPER COUNTY and Michael Bourrett (agent at Dystel & Goderich Literary Management) that covered what you should expect after your manuscript is accepted. Among other topics I was glad to hear them talk about the importance of a web presence. What is a web presence? A blog, a website, a Facebook page can be your web presence. Whatever your choice is it needs to be a hub for librarians, schools, local news outlets, etc. who are interested in your books so they can track you down.

This web presence can be as fancy as you can manage but it must be easy to navigate. They also agreed that it is important to have this presence set up before you get published. The reason being is that you don’t want to be navigating the world of edits, rewrites, signings, etc. and have to worry about setting up a website.

Obviously for me this was nice to hear since I am a ways off from publication right now and I have these things in place. I will be moving almost everything to my website in the next few months to help centralize my web presence. I will be adding an e-mail address to my web domain soon and I have installed blog software to my website (although I won’t be moving this blog there anytime soon) to help round out my web presence centralization.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010


It was a fast paced four days to be sure. Over the next few days/weeks I will share some of the important information I was able to digest. I know I will be blogging about current market conditions, peer critiques, graphic novels and of digital media formats.

But for now, I am finding it a daunting task just to put an order to all the conference goodies I picked up in the last four days. I was fairly selective but still there are business cards, illustrator “take-aways”, notes, receipts and the ever important doodles that have to be organized into potential publishers, potential agents and new friends.

I will be trying to find a happy medium over the next few days between blogging about the conference, organizing submissions, my kids and writing a new story that is starting to take over my brain.

Ok, now back to work or maybe just a few more minutes on facebook.