Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Venturing into the Publishing Landscape

I was having dinner with a lovely woman from the New School Writing for Children's MFA program (Hi if you're reading!).  She's a Latina like me and so among other things, we chatted about the Latino market in children's fiction (abysmal).  I could go on about that, but the diversity in children's lit issue is too big a topic for my energy level right now.  That's a post for another day.

Anyhow, as we talked it occurred to me that a lot of aspiring writers don't really know the market.  They read the books they write, which is the most important thing (thumbs up on that one), but beyond that, don't really get what's going on in the business.  Strangely enough, being in publishing I sometimes forget that not everyone know the biz.  I get it, though.  You need to write the book of your heart, but you do need to know the market, too.  There's so much to know that how can these poor baby writers (I'm one, too, as a writing newbie) keep up?  I'm constantly learning, so I understand that even if baby writers would like to know more, they often don't know where to start and where to stop.

Caveat before you start studying up: KEEP WRITING.  Seems obvious, but you'd be astonished at how many people are wondering about the querying process before they've even finished a manuscript.  Finish first, then worry about that later.  You're not going to get anywhere fiction-wise with an unfinished (and unrevised) manuscript.  So keep working at it, even if it's at a snail's pace.  A page per day, writers, that's all you need.

I could go on about all the blogs and magazines I read to get my market fix, but this is my How to Get a Glimpse of the Publishing World for Dummies edition. I recommend doing these three basic things to get your feet wet.
  1. Those books you've been reading for pleasure and research?  Check out the acknowledgements page.  The author will typically thank their editor and/or agent for their success.  You'll start recognizing who works with the books you love and who could conceivably work with you down the line.
  2. Subscribe to Publisher's Lunch.  It's a daily digest of publishing tidbits you should keep abreast of--book deals, publishing staff moves (where editor and agent names will become familiar), the digital battlefield, etc.  It's free to subscribe to the email.  It's only paid if you want the full Deluxe Publisher's lunch version, which you don't really need (Hmmm...I bet you can even read Publishers Weekly magazine at your local library for the full monty; still, the gratis daily email would be enough for you).
  3. Join Twitter, if you haven't already done so.  You're a children's book writer.  Even if you don't want to join, nowadays you have to.  Besides writing, writers now have to be involved in social media to stay relevant (Yes, there are exceptions, but this is the norm now).  Follow your favorite authors, book bloggers, agents, and editors.  You'd be surprised at the connections you'll make.  And the amount of information buzzing on twitter is insane.  You'll be a publishing pro in no time.
Follow those three steps for the bare bones approach to learning industry information.  If you've already done those three things, then you're ahead of the game!  I'll compile a more extensive list for intermediate people in the future.  Any suggestions on what to add?

Monday, June 18, 2012

What NetGalley Isn't

I work in publishing, but I'm a reader as well.  I work in publishing because I'm such a reader.  Which means, I love books.  Especially books I don't have to pay for.  Which brings me to NetGalley.

NetGalley's awesome.  I can request access to a title and if it's granted, can have it sent directly to my Kindle (don't judge--it was a gift!).   No muss, no fuss.  Free ARCs, yay!  Big love as a reader.

Plus, I'm part of the team at my publishing house responsible for uploading middle grade and teen ARCs to NetGalley and recently attended a meeting with the lovely NetGalley team at Book Expo America two weeks ago.  Suffice it to say, I'm pretty familiar with NetGalley.  Big love as a marketer.

Now the dark side...

As an industry insider, I tend to get approved for access to NetGalley e-requests.  If I were a casual reader (read: non-professional reader), I would likely get denied.  Why insiders and not casual readers?  Well, I'll tell you why (Office Space reference).  Because people like me build industry buzz like bloggers, librarians, and booksellers do, which is the audience NetGalley and Edelweiss (our e-catalog) was created for.  Yep, you heard it here.  NetGalley is for bloggers, librarians, and booksellers, along with a smattering of other publishing insiders like yours truly.

So it scares me when I see authors tweeting about their latest work being up on NetGalley (Beautiful authors, please be careful and talk to your publicists before doing this so you can add stipulations in your broadcast, if they even give you the go ahead to do this on twitter).

We publishing folk don't do it to leave our lovely readers out, really.  I know it feels like that when you get denied.  It makes you want to cry (I know it would make me want to, for a book I was super excited about).  And rant and rave and threaten to take down the publishing company (I personally wouldn't, but you'd be surprised at what's said on twitter.  Or perhaps you wouldn't be).

Insider's look at the process:  When you click that NetGalley request button, it gets sent to an in-box.  An overflowing in-box.  That's when someone from the marketing or publicity team (Let's call her Jane) combs through the hundreds of requests to see if they're to be denied or approved.  That takes time (it's practically a full-time job in and of itself), since Jane has to check each requestor's profile and verify who they are by going to their blogs or checking with bookstores to verify employment.  If the requestor doesn't meet the established requestor criteria, it's a "deny." 

So please don't: Set up a fake blog, steal an employee id and pretend you work at a bookstore (we've called places only to be told, no, so-and-so doesn't work here), and especially,  request a title multiple times (usually through NetGalley AND Edelweiss).  It makes life harder for us.  It eats up our time rejecting you several times and if we would have been nice enough to give you a break before, we certainly wouldn't do it after that.  We have long memories.

Please understand that when we say no, we don't do it to make you sad or mad.  We love books and readers.  They rock and so do you!  Just keep in mind that publishing is indeed a business.  We can't give away all our new books.  We still need to sell them so we can eat once in awhile.  And that so can your lovely authors.  You want them to eat, too, don't you?  So that they have the strength to keep penning awesome books?