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Sunday, June 5, 2011

Hot Hot Hot

Marcy & Kitty's Most Excellent Adventure - part I
SCBWI New Jersey

by Marcy Collier & Kitty Griffin
This month at Route 19 Writers, we are blogging about hot topics in our industry. The timing couldn't have been better.

Back in February, Cynthia in our Route 19 Writers group emailed all of us about the New Jersey SCBWI conference. After seeing the awesome lineup of agents and editors, Kitty and I decided to attend. Kitty is a world traveler and networking guru, I on the other hand am not. I haven’t left home for more than two consecutive nights since before my kids were born and would never approach an editor or agent unless I had a scheduled critique with them.

After assuring my children that Daddy wouldn’t forget to feed them or read bedtime stories, we drove to Princeton, New Jersey.

Ame Dyckman
We were greeted by volunteer coordinator, fushia-haired Ame Dyckman, who was so energetic and spirited, we felt both welcome and at ease. BTW, Fushia is my absolute favorite color. Ame helps Kathy Temean and Laurie Wallmark coordinate 162 volunteers to make their conference happen each year. Wow!

Alvina Ling

Kitty and I listened to Newberry honor recipient author/illustrator Grace Linn give the keynote. Grace explained her inspirational career path. She said, “You should become an artist because you have something you want to share with the world, not because you want compliments. No one can tell your stories except you.” I was lucky enough to sit with Grace’s editor, Alvina Ling, (Sr. Editor of Little Brown & Co) during lunch on Saturday and with  Dial, Dutton, & Celebra Associate Publisher/ Executive Managing Editor, Steve Meltzer on Sunday for lunch.

Steve Meltzer & Kitty Griffin

We each sat in on educational sessions and listened to lively discussions. I attended an awesome peer review with these terrific writers.

Front: Nicole & Marcy
Back: Gayle, Suzi, Christine & Suzi
This morning David Caruba gave a fascinating power point presentation on the state of market survey. David polls 30 industry professionals and compiles their answers. We thought it was important to share some of his findings:

Young Adult

Young adult novels are staying strong. Editors want character-driven manuscripts that have franchising potential. Consumers are hungry for series, not one-offs. As a new author, your debut novel has to come off strong or your career may die after that first book. The market is saturated with fantasy, dystopia, vampire, and paranormal stories. Science fiction is the next big thing. Any YA that crosses into adult is hot.

Middle Grade
Since the popularity of Rick Riordan’s books, editors are actively seeking the next big middle-grade novel, but it must capture a distinctive MG voice. Those types of books have great success as school library and backlist books. MG is shifting to younger characters. Many editors have also requested to see manuscripts with a humorous slant with series potential.

Picture Books

No. Picture books are not dead. Many editors have said that they would like to see a well-done picture book come across their desk. There is a slight upturn since last year. Word count is now 300-500 words.

With the emergence of the popularity of E-readers, E-books were a hot topic. David doesn’t believe that the overnight success of Amanda Hawking will be repeated. Although the royalties are far better for self-published E-books (60-80%) compared to traditional hardcover (17.5%), those books are not getting the marketing, legal contracting or editing that the traditional presses give. Although E-books have been known to create opportunities for authors, David believes that these self-published E-books will only sustain for short periods of time. Hard cover royalties are better for authors than E-books.

General News

Publishing houses will turn more into media houses. We will see a shift from traditional publication to mixed media (apps, etc.). The market is becoming much more agent-driven. Quiet is now the killer word. If a manuscript is quiet (too literary), it’s dead. We are dealing with sanitized houses where editors are reluctant to take something unique that doesn’t fit in to a specific genre. 

Part-one of our adventure is over. We took the train into New York City this afternoon to begin part-two of our adventure. Both mine and Kitty’s families are making the best of it without us at home. My kids have eaten and have read bedtime stories (at least for tonight). Kitty’s dogs are taking her spot in bed.

As I finish this post, Kitty is fast asleep. But we're in New York - the city that never sleeps. I'll leave you with the song in my head that prompted the blog title.

Stay tuned for part two of Marcy & Kitty's Most Excellent Adventure.

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