Friday, March 11, 2011

Live Chat on Facebook with Kids Chronicle Book Editor Naomi Kirsten!

I joined a live chat yesterday on Facebook with Chronicle Kids Editor Naomi Kirsten!

Here was my question- "Hi Naomi, do you think it's necessary for a children’s picture book author to get an agent before getting their first book contract? Do you recommend it?"

Naomi Kirsten-

· Stephanie, Jennifer, and Aline, you've all asked about agents how important it is to have one for rising above the Slush pile. For anyone unfamiliar with "Slush," it is universally known--and I mean not just in book publishing, but at magazines as well--as the pile of unsolicited manuscripts that come in. Most publishing houses that still accept them have huge bins of Slush, and we do our best to go through it. It is true that to get your work noticed, and quickly, you will want to have an agent. An agent typically knows where to send your work, and will get your work directly to that editor. If you end up in the Slush pile, it can be months before your work is reviewed.
All of that said, getting an agent is like being in a relationship: You want to find an agent that understands your work and wants your book idea to find life at a house that can really make it shine--and can make you shine! So when looking for an agent, you should find out who they rep, and what their interests are (literary fiction? more commercial/mass market fiction?). A really good agent will help your proposal and writing get to where it needs to be so that an editor says, "Wow. I must acquire that. Right now."

Other questions she answered:

Julile asked how I think the book industry has changed over the past 10 years. I definitely think changes have been happening that are requiring book publishers and editors to really redefine how we see publishing. I think we've seen more focus on the author as a personality, and creating an "experience" around a published book.

Here is how to get your work noticed and considered at a place like Chronicle: The best advice I can give, that may seem very basic, but it's actually really important, is to know the Chronicle Children's list well. Visit the Chronicle Books stores--we have one here at 680 Second Street, one at 1846 Union Street here in S.F., and one in the Westfield Centre downtown. Browse the Children's books, and see what we've been publishing. Then, you want to be aware of what the competition is. This can just be a simple Amazon search. When you present your art or proposal to us, you want to mention what the competition is in your cover letter--which should be one page--so that the editor or designer knows you are aware of what the market landscape looks like. You just want to be sure your work is contextualized: Editors have so much on their plates, and it's really nice to be served up a compelling reason to bring your work for acquisition!

Your job as a prospective children's book author is to look into what continues to resonate in the children's market--what do parents continue to buy for their kids? This goes back to my earlier advice of checking out the Chronicle Books' stores, and also other book retailers. Then, you want to see if you can build on the trends you see and make your story or idea new!

Question from someone: When sending a query or submission, should an author discuss what platforms they are currently using or just provide links?

Answer: Yes! Tell us about what you are doing and if you have built up an online following, always send links to your blog, FB, Twitter, etc.

For most publishers, not just Chronicle, it is ideal to have a text we love and then have the chance, as the publisher, to select the illustrator. I know this can be intense for those who write AND illustrate, but if you really want to author a picture book, it is best to recognize that to increase your chances of that happening, you need to convey an OK-ness with the publisher potentially just going with your text, and pairing it with an illustrator, or vice versa.

· Actually, this picture book author/illustrator reminds me of a Slush Cinderella story here at Chronicle. My colleague, Mary Colgan acquired a charming picture book text that she the Slush pile! The book is out this Spring, and it's called: "Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site." The author, Sherri Dusky Rinker, knew that toddlers love trucks and big machines since her young son ALWAYS wanted to hear about them, so she lived the trend. Oh, and she wasn't just selected out of slush, her text was paired with the illustrations of Tom Lichtenheld!

Hope this helps you!

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