SCBWI LA 2011 was a great mix of learning and inspiration.
Fortunately I steered clear of the X-bar celebrations that carried on after the Pyjama Ball. So I was up bright and early Sunday morning to listen to agents, Tracey Adams, Barry Goldblatt, Marcia Wernick and Tina Wexler talk about the Current State of Children’s Books
HOW IS DIGITAL PUBLISHING AFFECTING AGENCIES?
Tracey Adams – always look for best ways to work with companies doing the best work. Working with new publishers.
Barry Goldblatt – nothing new, just the way things are done is new.
Marcia Wernick – digital book is more supportive of print book. Doesn’t think it replaces way stories are out there. For agents, most of our job is to be your advocate or business advisor.
Tina Wexler – agent helps you plan career, manage business.
IS THERE A GENRE THAT’S DRYING UP?
Picture book authors and illustrators will be pleased to know that none of the agents thought picture books were at risk, despite the current e-publishing concerns.
All the agents were very generous with their information sharing but if there was one criticism I had of this panel it was that the conversation seemed to stray from the topic at times and never quite get back onto it.
I was interested to know how much editorial input the agents give, but Tracey Adams was the only one who really got a chance to respond to this topic. Her comment was:
I help the author get the manuscript ready in its best form to submit. I respect role of editor. Ready to submit doesn’t mean ready for publication.
SOME OTHER QUOTES FROM THE SESSION
Barry – I don’t go out with a manuscript unless I love it. Nothing is more exciting to me than letting an author know you have just sold their first book.
Marcia – in illustration portfolios I look for character and emotion.
Marcia – Voice helps you envision a character, get a sense of who they are.
IF YOU COULD FIX ONE THING IN THE PUBLISHING BUSINESS, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
Agents had different views on this topic, but some of the answers were:
- Higher royalty for e-books
- Book stores come back.
- Royalty cheques more regularly.
I would have liked this panel to go a bit longer so we could have got more of a sense of each agent’s differences, but seeing the topic was The Current State of Children’s Books, there wasn’t really room for that sort of discussion.
The next session was Gary Paulsen’s keynote speech. I have been a big fan of his books for some time so I knew this would be special…and it was.
Gary Paulsen’s life as a child was incredibly hard. He was one of the ‘unprotected’ children that Donna Jo Napoli talked about on the first day of the conference.
He was the son of alcoholic parents and was totally independent by the time he was 7 1/2 years old.
He said that school didn’t work for him. He hardly attended school and it was thanks to caring librarian that he developed a passion for reading.
He has an overwhelming belief in young people that drives him to write.
His intense desire to tap deeply into the human spirit and to encourage readers to observe and care about the world around them has made him popular with young readers and earned him many awards.
Gary Paulsen moved me with his stories, but he also inspired me to reach deep inside myself and be the best writer I can be.
The next session I attended was an editorial conversation between agent, Michael Bourret, Editor, Julie Strauss-Gabel and author, Nova Ren Suma. I came away without session notes but with the feeling that writing can be a rewarding and fantastic experience when an author, editor and agent work together as well as these three appear to.
Next on the agenda
My series of LA Adventure blog posts will continue next Tuesday when I talk about my session with Krista Marino, Perfecting Your YA Voice. I learned a lot from that one.
See you back here then.