Quick tour of Bologna. I have more pics, but I’ll start with these. Enjoy.
Quick tour of Bologna. I have more pics, but I’ll start with these. Enjoy.
Wifi access hampers my ability to share tidbits from our SCBWI Bologna conference in a timely manner. With the expectation of instant access to information these days, a 48 hour delay from spotty service feels frustrating.
Hard to imagine the days of old when written word travelled by foot, horseback or boat.
Here are my hastily-typed notes from Monday’s conference.
Fiona Kenshole: Taking the Mystery out of the Movie Deals
“I am a personal shopper for filmmakers.”
What are movie studios looking for?
The Holy Grail = a story that appeals to boys and girls and is contemporary and relatable.
We often option book of Genesis, but make the story of Moses.
Small independent producers still make lovely films from non-brand books.
Each film takes for years to make. I’m looking for options in 2020.
The studio investment in a film is so huge, movie studios need merchandising to make their investment profitable.
Fox is the most book-friendly studio.
Warner – 180 options each year, make 10% of them each year.
Development process — from book to script and beyond.
When reading a book, the magic of the journey is the interpretation inside your head. Film is about what people say and people do in on the screen as you watch.
Book to film: 1 page = 1 minute = $1M!
Sometimes we work for three years to sift for the nugget of the story to craft a good screen-play adaption.
Dressidea Cowell – “How to Train your Dragon” – “superficially, the film is not like the book, but the theme is still there…!” Book optioned in 2003 for 2010 debut.
“Take the money and run!”
“Be careful what you wish for.”
Ellen is the award-winning author of twenty children’s nonfiction books, and six New York Times bestselling young adult novels-in-verse. She also critiqued one of my manuscripts — giving me thought-provoking ideas on a change of characters…and perhaps a non-fiction book, as well.
Her thoughts on the Young Adult (YA) market and how it’s changing:
YA authors should write for readers aged 11 to 70, but aim at the older teen.
Why write YA ?
YA writers – we feel responsibility to our readers, we write better literature.
It helps if you’ve never quite graduated.
Where will your journey start? Don’t underestimate your readers.
Start with a premise:
Has it happened to you? Your family? Kids? Someone you know? Or maybe it happened to someone you read about. Or hear about.
“Tricks” about teen prostitutes – I spent a week in Vegas with Vice Squad, talking to teens on the street.
Build characters: 2 month process before ever putting words on paper.
Hugely important to have characters relate to readers.
The adorable Richard Peck received the National Humanities Medal in 2002, the first Children’s book writer to receive the award. His remarks at SCBWI conference had us laughing and cheering. I’m thrilled to share his advice to writers of children’s books.
“Stories for the young must move in a straight line to where they should go.”
Our opening lines – our minefield.
Are we writing with invitation simplicity?
EB white uses simple language: “Where’s papa going with that ax.”
As authors, we can doom ourselves with our own words.
“You are writing for a generation of youth whose facebook pages grow hot into the night, long after parents go to sleep.”
In the lonely front of the classroom, I was handed another career – writing. When you’re a teacher you have no time for your own problems. As a writer, you have no time for yourself either because your characters are clamoring for attention.
“My students kicked the living autobiography out of me.”
Children’s book writers: “We have a higher calling, a deeper craft.”
“If Earnest Hemingway had really caught all those fish, or climbed all those mountains, or loved all those women, he would never have had time to write…nor the need to.”
While the text message is always fiction, it is never literature.
Social networking: A book unites, what the computer divides.
Nobody but a reader ever became a writer…
Twice as many college graduates get degrees in social work than in literature or foreign language combined.
“If you can’t find yourself on the page, you’ll go looking for yourself… in all the wrong places.”
Kristen Nelson of Nelson Literary Agency, Stephen Chutney of The Chutney Agency, Francis Plumpton of Richards Literary Agency, Sarah Davies of Greenhouse Literary Agency, Rosemary Stimola of Stimola Literary Studio, Marcia Wernick of Sheldon Fogleman Agency, Kendra Marcus of BookStop Literary Agency.
Kristen Nelson – What grabs our attention? The turn of a phrase, character resonance…not action for action’s sake.
Rosemary Stimola – Don’t wax nostalgic, that’s an adult thing. Kids don’t look back.
Sarah Davies – Titles sell books. Invoke an intriguing spirit of the story through the title.
Kristen Nelson – Interested in simple writing. Need to write complex concepts with simple language.
Marcia Wernick – Rhyme needs to work really well. Otherwise, no point. Need brilliant writing to pull off rhyme.
Rosemary – Rhyme: what’s the driving force? Story should be in the driver’s seat. Rhyme shouldn’t drive the story.
Sara – Don’t force words into the rhyming line to tell story.
Kristen – Read your own words aloud. Smooth out dialogue.
Stephen– A decent middle grade = 40-45k words. You can always tell a novel in fewer words.
Kristen – I see tons of manuscripts about “waking up…in a dream…etc.”
Marcia – First few lines need to draw reader in – grab reader, throttle them.
Kendra – What is your book about? Why should I care? We also read tons of: “First day of summer vacation…”
Rosemary – If your character is starting summer vacation, start it!
Rosemary – A times, language gets in the way of the story. I’m not against imagery, but my attention is pulled away from the story.
Sarah – Agents see lots of overwriting, easy to overload a pieces with adverbs and adjectives. Keep it simple!
Rosemary – Take care with “regionality” – words, descriptions unique to a certain place. May not be understood across areas.
Rosemary – Spiraling: story moves forward then slips backward. Not good.
Sarah – I see “travel” stories each week. Not too interested in stories to teach children about “places.”
Rosemary – Photographic novel in fiction (unless you’re the photographer) is harder to sell, but nonfiction might work.
Nelson agency — learn more at: www.pubrants.blogspot.com
Kendra – publishing is a pendulum. It will swing back.
Marcia — picture books: market is quite fierce
Publishing Today: from Idea to Marketplace.
Dierdre McDermott of UK WalkerBook Publishing, Stephen Roxburgh of Namelos US electronic publishing, Gita Wolf of Tara Books in India, Sara Grant of Working Partners UK, Tessa Strickland of Barefoot Books UK, Sarah Foster of WalkerBook in Australia & New Zealand, and Neal Porter of Roaring Brook Press.
Question: Digital revolution – is this hopeful news? How is the revolution affecting your editorial/publishing process?
Sarah Foster – We make it up as we go. Agents don’t think through what they’re asking editors for.
Stephen Roxburgh – Publishers don’t know what to do with e-books. They don’t know how to re-gear. Business model has to be dealt with. In the meantime, books are being withheld. Model – it’s a partnership. We split 50-50. But we don’t know what we’re splitting. It may be 50% of nothing.
Dierdre – A good story is good story. No matter the medium.
Question: Is the picture book is the last book standing?
Tessa – Books not going away. Just like TV didn’t do away with books. Making our books available e-books. YouTube videos from picture books. Internet plays an absolutely central role in what we do.
Gita – Marketing question. We use internet/youtube We have oral storytellers. We put the bards (who sing) on YouTube. Book is the intermediate step.
Neal Potter – Penguin did iPad models of books. Spot: DK Guide to Rome (GPS map). Vampire Academy series. Changed my feelings about digital books. GPS applications of DK is revolutionary app. Allows us to go beyond the 32 page format. 32-page format is a great economical model – works to constrain authors/editors.
Question: Print on Demand model. Do authors and illustrators still need publishers?
Tessa – Illustrators enjoy online media. Blogging is a great medium for writers. Marketing directions really exciting.
Stephen – Traditional publishers brought set of capabilities to the table. Access to distribution from publishers. Traditional set of functions on the table will change. Publishers need to give authors what we need.
Neal – Editorial process. It’s what we do. It depends on how authors value what we do. As publishers have gone more corporate. Editorial process diminishing with how fast market process moving.
Sara Grant – Glad I never took to market some of my apprentice novels – aka – garbage.
Stephen – Brilliant editors let go. You can find editorial help outside the publishing houses.
Question: How is this changing editorial process?
Sara Grant – New generation of editors – proactive about the type of fiction they want to create.
Tessa – 25% new authors.
Neal – 25% new
Dierdre – 2 new – finding new picture book writing hard.
Stephen – 80% new.
Sara – 1 new writer – great training writers to work with editors.
Sarah – majority new.
Question: How do you find voices?
Sara – Online forum, speak at conferences, form online with sample writing. Collaborative effort, not original stories
Gita – We travel a lot to find best artists, community art. We find only one or two people each place who are willing to work in a new art form or format.
Question: Global market – which countries are the fastest growing?
Gita – Is India really as hot a market as hype would have it? Not convinced.
Neal – Americans are great navel gazers. We’ve avoided selling our books across the world. Americans are more culturally insular. To turn it around, I come here to Bologna to see what I don’t see in U.S. – new and fresh.
Dierdre – If your book can make it to America, you can make it everywhere. Millions of people with money to spend. Good books will go anywhere.
Sara – Find an agent with an international base.
Stephen – Distribution. In cyberspace, everything is around the corner. Not today, but talk to me tomorrow.
Question: How important the BUZZ is to make the book survive?
Neal – Issue of maintaining or starting the buzz. Authors must take proactive role in selling book. Editors and marketers cut from budgets. What money is left is concentrated on big names. Blogging, networking, facebooking helps authors. How do you separate the quality sounds from the rest of the noise?