Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Westside Writers Schmooze Talks About Getting Publishing!

A Career in Children's Literature means
you have to find the balance between
inspiration, craft, and business.

In a final whirlwind of information and goodwill before our summer hiatus, 38 of us gathered on the second Wednesday of June to talk about the business of getting published.

We discussed ways to break through, including Slush piles, Contests, and Networking.

We talked Query Letters. Cover Letters. Writing that darn synopsis.

We looked at RESEARCHING editors and agents (and how not to get overwhelmed by it)

We hit on Conferences (like the upcoming SCBWI International Conference here in Los Angeles, SCBWILA10) Business Cards, doing your homework, websites, blogs, creating an online presence for yourself, and having that "elevator pitch" ready to go (it always comes up!)

Much of the information from this night was drawn from the following resources, which we recommend as excellent starting places for feeling your way around the Web and learning how Children’s book publishing works.

A Few Resources (not endorsed by SCBWI)

Getting Started

--This is the first link under “Resource Library” on SCBWI’s main Web site. Viewable by the public, including non-members. Includes FAQs, articles on how to format your manuscript, etc.

--If your SCBWI membership is current, you can also log in at the Web site to check out the directories and resources SCBWI provides in their “Resource Library.” (Agent Directories, Book Festivals, etc.)

Useful Blogs on Query Letters and How Publishing Works

Mary Kole, Andrea Brown Literary Agency:
Filled with wide-ranging, helpful answers debunking common quandaries we wrestle with as children’s book writers. Children’s book specific!

Jill Corcoran, Herman Agency, Inc.:
Click on the Labels listed on the left to sort posts by topic. Categories include Query Letters, Research (which includes more helpful resources on the Web!), Writing Tips, and much more.
Also lists other helpful blogs and resources along the right (as most blogs do!) Children’s book specific!

Nathan Bransford – Literary Agent, Curtis Brown, Ltd.:
Has lots of contests and insight into the submission process.
Check out the list on the left of general articles on publishing he’s written. Nathan Bransford is extremely articulate on nearly every aspect of publishing!

Miss Snark, the literary agent:
A now defunct blog that remains online for posterity. Filled with terrific, merciless insights on writing Query Letters and more. Not for the faint of heart. (Use the categories listed on the right—such as “query letters,” “QnA,” “Crapometer-Cover Letters,” “Crapometer-First Pages,” etc.--to avoid getting sucked into reading the whole, highly entertaining blog.)

As you read these, you’ll find other names of additional helpful sites and blogs popping up repeatedly. Check those out once in a while, and before you know it, you’ll have a pretty good sense of who’s out there and where to find them.

Researching Agents

Literary Rambles:
Casey McCormick has assembled an amazing wealth of information on literary agents in Children’s book publishing. The majority of this information comes from online—the same as you could find yourself—but it’s all compiled here for you. The site is still growing, with more agents being added every week. You can even request which agent you’d like to see added next!

IF you are ready to start reading updates on which agents are selling what kind of projects to whom, you can subscribe to Publisher’s Marketplace. It's about $20.- a month, and offers a searchable database, yielding a wealth of information.

Or sign up for Publishers Lunch here which gives you just a taste of the info of what's selling... It's an excellent resource, and it's FREE!

Researching Editors

SCBWI provides a lovely document called “Edited By,” available as a downloadable PDF to members, which lists Editors by publishing houses, along with some of the titles they’ve edited. (If you are an SCBWI member, check it out here!)

We also recommend Googling editors to see which titles they cite in their own bios, online interviews, and blogs, and then going out and reading those books! Many editors are also thanked by their authors in the acknowledgments section of books, and it's worthwhile to make note of who edited your recent favorites.

Popular reference books listing Publishers and Agents

Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market
--Often referred to as CWIM. Comes out annually. Also includes excellent articles and interviews.

Jeff Herman's Guide To Book Publishers, Editors, & Literary Agents: Who They Are! What They Want! How To Win Them Over!
--Includes some personal info on hobbies, interests, etc., to give you insight into the people you are querying. Comes out annually. (Not specific to Children’s publishing, so sift through entries for that. )

Great Blog Resources to Know About

Betsy Bird's Fuse #8
If you want to keep up on what recently published Children’s books people are talking about this year, you would be hard pressed to do better than checking out the titles Betsy has reviewed for School Library Journal.

Alice Pope’s SCBWI Children’s Market blog:
Alice is the former editor of CWIM, and has a new blog that covers the industry for SCBWI... Among other things, every Wednesday she highlights that week’s best Children’s literature-related Tweets from Twitter! This is an excellent point of entry for those of us who know about twitter, but aren't quite ready to jump in ourselves!

If you are on Twitter, you can also check out the children’s book-related Twitter chats, such as Tuesday at 6pm Pacific #kidlitchat (transcripts of past chats are at Greg Pincus’s Happy Accident blog)

There's a full listing of twitter chats and events compiled by Debbie Ohi here! Don’t just check them out. Join in!

In addition to discussing all the above, we talked a bit about how not to get overwhelmed by all the information out there.

Remember: You don’t need to track everything going on, or read every blog entry! You only need a good sense of where all the information exists so you can find it when you’re ready for it. Ultimately, everyone’s path to publication will be their own.

Feel free to add YOUR favorite resources to share in comments!

Oh, and one more thing: We challenged everyone attending to set a GOAL for themselves this summer. A Goal for each of the three areas of this career - A Goal for Inspiration, A Goal for Craft, and a Goal for Business.

So play along at home, and set yourself some Goals for this Summer... (And remember, it's only fair to set goals that you control. Goals like "I'm going to finish that revision," "I'm going to submit to three agents," "I'm going to treat myself to a weekend at a SCBWI conference..." are the kind of goals you control meeting, and they are the kind of achievable goals we're suggesting.

The Westside Writers Schmooze will be taking the summer months of July and August off. We next meet on Wednesday, September 15th, at 7 pm, so mark your calendars! (It's a week later than usual due to the Jewish Holiday.) Exact topic to be announced.

So come join us in September, and we'll compare notes on how we all did with our Goals and our summers of business, craft and inspiration!

Enjoy your summers, everyone!

Rita and Lee


  1. Awesome linkage guys, thanks! A good source for me is the Friday post at Adventures in Children's Publishing. Here is their link: