Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Comma Queen on Gender Neutral Pronouns

The New Yorker's Mary Norris explains the singular form of "their" and gives some excellent advice on using it...

Love this!

Thanks to my amazing husband for sharing it with me, so I can now share it with all of you.

ps - my apologies for loading the wrong video initially. The correct one is now in place. Thanks! Lee

Monday, March 28, 2016

My Little Brony - An "Unofficial" Novel About Finding The Magic of Friendship

My Little Brony by K.M. Hayes

Drew Morris doesn't just feel like an outsider in his football-crazed Texas town--he actually is. He sucks at sports, even though his dad is the high school football coach.
However, drew is spared from the bullying he expects. Instead, a girl named Skye--who constantly dons horse ears and talks about My Little Pony--becomes everyone's target. Drew feels bad for her, but he's not about to stand up and take her place. But while babysitting his younger sister one night, Drew is forced to watch My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. He finds himself actually paying attention to the show. As school drags on, lonely and bored, Drew sneaks episodes on his phone until he has watched every single one. He's even started drawing the ponies in his spare time.
As it becomes harder to keep his secret while he watches Skye get bullied for the one thing that has made him happy all year, Drew faces some important choices. Can he find the courage to confront his bullies, his friends, and his dad in order to be true to himself?

It's interesting to note that the author is a Brony themselves. Add your review of "My Little Brony" in comments!

Friday, March 25, 2016

Tell Me Again How A Crush Should Feel - A Persian teenage girl in an American high school comes of age, comes out and deals with the drama of a high school love triangle

Tell Me Again How A Crush Should Feel by Sara Farizan

High-school junior Leila has made it most of the way through Armstead Academy without having a crush on anyone, which is something of a relief. Her Persian heritage already makes her different from her classmates; if word got out that she liked girls, life would be twice as hard. But when a sophisticated, beautiful new girl, Saskia, shows up, Leila starts to take risks she never thought she would, especially when it looks as if the attraction between them is mutual. Struggling to sort out her growing feelings and Saskia’s confusing signals, Leila confides in her old friend, Lisa, and grows closer to her fellow drama tech-crew members, especially Tomas, whose comments about his own sexuality are frank, funny, wise, and sometimes painful. Gradually, Leila begins to see that almost all her classmates are more complicated than they first appear to be, and many are keeping fascinating secrets of their own.

Add your review of "Tell Me Again How A Crush Should Feel" in comments!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Two Amazing Picture Book Panels at the LA Times Festival of Books (moderated by me!)

I'm super excited (and honored) to once again moderate two panels at the amazing Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, 2016 edition!

Children's Books: Pictures on the Page
Saturday April 9, 2016
11:30 AM

Okay, I didn't have Dan's book yet for this photo, but laughably bad photoshopping aside, check out these awesome picture books by my Saturday panelists!

José Lozano

Eliza Wheeler

Nikki McClure

Dan Santat


Picture This: Silly Stories and the Art of Children's Books
Sunday April 10, 2016
2:00 PM

The incredible books my Sunday panelists created!


Dev Petty

Ruth Chan

Greg Danylyshyn

Joey Chou

If you'll be there, say hello! And even if you won't be, know that I'll tweet (and re-tweet) some highlights... (@leewind)

Hurray for picture books and book festivals!

Friday, March 18, 2016

The Melody of the Gears: His Brother's Keeper - Science fiction, Magic, Revolution, and a teen boy's crush on a beautiful stranger who has lost his memory

The Melody of the Gears: His Brother's Keeper by Hazel Blackthorn

Paragon City: The last bastion of humanity on a dying planet. Within its desert embrace unfold the stories of many people: The workers at a famed brothel, the fate of a queen on the run, ladies who will not be used as tools any longer, A doll with a human heart, and a strange young man who can’t remember anything but his name. With his arrival in the unchanging city, everything is about to change.

Leo is the golden boy at Club Wisp: a famed brothel and secret base of operations for the Iron Mutiny. As the people’s resistance against a tyrannical monarchy and their demon allies as well as manning Paragon City’s entertainment industry, the Iron Mutiny has their hands full. Leo’s fate— and that of the endless war they’re fighting— changes forever when a beautiful amnesiac forces him into a magical Contract and out of his comfort zone. The fabric of their reality begins to unravel. Can the Iron Mutiny survive the biggest change of all?

The author shared about the book's LGBT+ elements:
"Leo makes his sexuality clear from the beginning, and struggles with romantic feelings for Julian, the beautiful stranger who has lost his memory from the start. There is also a romance between a FtM trans man (giving the name would be a spoiler!) and a cis man, and hints of a love between Diana and Diamond at the end-- which will be a main plotline in book two! The book also deals with some other walks of life that suffer stigma and oppression in the form of sex workers, people of color, and the poor."

This book was self-published by the author. Add your review of "The Melody of the Gears: His Brother's Keeper" in comments!

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Lambda Literary Finalists for LGBT Children's/Young Adult

Here are the eight finalists for the best LGBTQ book for kids and teens published in 2015...

About a Girl: A Novel, Sarah McCarry, St. Martin’s Griffin

Anything Could Happen, Will Walton, Push

Gay and Lesbian History for Kids: The Century-Long Struggle for LGBT Rights, Jerome Pohlen, Chicago Review Press

George, Alex Gino, Scholastic Press

The Marvels, Brian Selznick, Scholastic Press

More Happy Than Not, Adam Silvera, Soho Teen

None of the Above, IW Gregorio, Balzer + Bray/ Harper Collins

Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda, Becky Albertalli, Balzer + Bray/Harper Collins

The winner will be announced at the 28th annual Lambda Literary Awards on June 6, 2016 in New York City.

Which is your favorite to win?

Monday, March 14, 2016

Debut Author Moments: Signing the Contract

My thoughts as I signed my contract for "THE QUEER HISTORY PROJECT: No Way, They Were Gay?" (Coming out in September 2017 from Beyond Words/Aladdin/Simon & Schuster)...

This is really happening.

So cool!

It turns out it's not that unusual for the deal to be announced before the contract gets signed. Learning lots along the way, and happy to share the journey with you.


Friday, March 11, 2016

Twitter highlights from #DBW16

Digital Book World was BIG!

Digital Book World + Expo 2016 was full of information and insights. I'm back from three whirlwind days in New York city, and put together some conference highlights from twitter to share here:

.@ricwol says readers don’t always know genres, so in marketing, speak their language, eg “6 Books to Read If You Like The Bachelor” #DBW16

Agree! When talking about increasing diversity in publishing, we need to talk about entry level salaries #DBW16

Intellectual property is expensive to make. Merchandising is cheap. Yet people are willing to pay for merch. //@page88 #DBW16

To hit a given amazon sales rank you need twice as many sales when going from zero, than if you have sustained sales #DBW16 #dataguy

My presentation from #DBW16 today: (link) Applying Startup & SEO Tactics to Book Marketing

Digital is extending storytelling beyond books: interesting take from @dubit at #DBW16 (link) – discoverability still key

This was arguably #DBW16’s defining moment: deeper analysis should be industry’s year-round goal

#DataGuy and @PublishersLunch working to align @authorearnings and industry data sources to get a better picture of overall market #DBW16

“The goodwill out there for books is really high,” -@jimhanas, on email, and tangentially, why there’s a future for this business #DBW16

Julie Trelstad at #DBW16: Authors are very creative and should do social media in their own unique way with their own unique brand/voice.

I’m in love with all #DBW16 tweets.

And some of my own tweets that really resonated:

“I believe work needs to change for men and women.” –Susan Ruszala of @NetGalley at #DBW16

"When you try to go broad, nobody feels this is for them... "It doesn't hurt to go very narrow." -@AndyHunter777 at #DBW16

"The e-book revolution was driven by women. Sorry, guys." -@draccah at #DBW16

Prediction: @profgalloway thinks @amazon will have thousands of retail stores "ecommerce is a channel not a business." #DBW16

"In our game, you win by price or experience. We're going to lean on the experience side." @BNBuzz's Fred Argir #DBW16

Caution: "Be self-promotional maybe 1 out of 10 times" @randfish at #DBW16

34,000 Isis videos on Youtube--with ads for paper towels in front of some of them. "That's how much they care." @JonathanTaplin #DBW16

"$50 billion moved from content owners to platform owners" @JonathanTaplin explains the revolution at #DBW16

"As shelf space for books shrinks, Amazon, Apple, Facebook & Google become more important." -@MikeShatzkin at #DBW16

"Focus on engagement rather than # of followers." -@JoSVolpe "If you get engagement, the #s will grow." -Ned Rust #DBW16 #LaunchKids

How can internet fandom feel intimate? Fan art is one way. @jennyhan & @RachelFersh at #LaunchKids #DBW16

Kids prefer print to digital (70%) They love to share... hard to share an ebook - @davidkleeman at #LaunchKids #DBW16

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

A Hard Day's Night - Two Teen Guys Make A Deal To Spend A Super-Stereotypical "Gay" Day and Night Together To Figure Out If They Could Be Gay... And In Love

A Hard Day's Night by Mia Kerick

High school senior Kalin (Lennon) Macready knows several facts for certain: John Lennon is his hero. Beaumont Finley Danforth (Fin) is his best friend. And—this is the complicated one—he feels more for Fin than mere friendship.

For weeks, Lennon pesters Fin, who like Lennon admits to questioning his sexual orientation, for a commitment to spend twenty-four hours together exploring “the gay side of life.” Fin reluctantly agrees. Each boy will seek to answer the daunting question, Am I gay? Lennon pre-plans the day, filling the hours with what he assumes “gay life” is all about: shopping for fashionable clothing, indulging in lavish dessert crepes, boogying to Taylor Swift’s “Shake it Off”, and yes, listening to show tunes.

However, Lennon quickly realizes that in creating his plan he has succumbed to the most common and distorted of gay stereotypes. Can he be gay and not fit them? And more importantly, is it possible that spending one very hard day and night together will help Fin accept that he’s gay, too? If so, maybe Lennon has a shot at winning the heart of the boy of his dreams.

Add your review of "A Hard Day's Night" in comments!

Monday, March 7, 2016

Laura Zats (Red Sofa Literary): Agent Looking For Diversity


That's the idea. And this series is an effort to do just that.

For now we're focusing on agents, and today's post features agent Laura Zats of Red Sofa Literary.

Agent Laura Zats

Here's Laura's bio:

Laura Zats graduated from Grinnell College with degrees in English and anthropology. While completing her studies, she took advantage of her love of Young Adult literature and wrote a thesis on identity formation in YA. She’s been working as an editor since 2011 and has held positions at companies in both the US and the UK. In 2013, Laura joined Team Red Sofa as Associate Agent.

Even though she loved YA books first, titles that are Middle Grade, romance, and Sci-fi/Fantasy have been slowly taking hold. Picking a favorite genre now would be like choosing between puppies and kittens. In her free time, Laura likes to craft, swing dance, bake, and binge on Netflix marathons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Doctor Who.

And here's our interview:

Lee: Hi Laura!

Laura: Hello! Thanks fo much for having me!

Lee: Thanks so much for agreeing to talk about your interest in Diversity in Children's and Teen Literature!

Laura: You are most welcome! Look at us! So full of enthusiasm and exclamation marks!

Lee: Ha! (Oh gosh, there's another one.) There's been growing discussion about how the 5,000 or so traditionally published books a year don't reflect the actual diversity of our world, including the #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement and the stunningly low numbers of representation revealed in "Children's Books by and about People of Color Published in the United States," put out by the CCBC (The Cooperative Children's Book Center )

To start us off, of the submissions you get, let's say in the past year, how many of those projects included some kind of diversity of characters or theme?

Laura: Well, my experience might not be a 100% accurate one, as I have had a standing request for diverse submissions for quite a while, but I'd say that in total, my submissions are comprised of maybe 30% diverse books. If you section out twitter competitions or #MSWL submissions, you'll land closer in the 70% range. Of course, I'm not just talking racial diversity. I am considering also religious, socio-economic, neuro, gender, sexuality, ability, and size diversity.

Lee: Let's unpack that a bit: Are you seeing many stories featuring protagonists of color?

Laura: Many but not enough! I am seeing much more mixed-race protagonists than any other type, because I think for white authors, it seems a bit "easier" to write about that liminal state, although I don't think that the experiences of mixed individuals are easier to understand or relate with than others. The next most prevalent is black protagonists, followed by latino (they all seem to be Puerto Rican, for some reason though). I'd love to see more representation from the Mid-East and Eastern countries!

Lee: How about LGBTQ characters, and please break that down - are you seeing lesbian characters? gay? bi? trans*? questioning? queer or gender non-conforming?

Laura: Oh man! Well that is really two different questions--one about sexuality, and one about gender expression and identity.

Lee: I appreciate you breaking it down like that. Go on...

Laura: On sexuality, I am seeing more lesbian characters than gay characters, especially in SFF. I'm missing books with bi characters (especially bi men!), and completely missing books with questioning characters (although that might be because of my disinterest in repping a coming-out story).

As for gender identity, I am seeing a very small amount of trans characters, but they're almost all books about the coming out and the transitioning process. There is a huge proportion of the trans community that aren't transitioning, or never plan to, and I'd love to see their stories. There is a fair amount of books hinting at a character being gender-queer, but not a lot of gender non-conforming, and I'd break my first love YA ban to see a gender non-conforming protagonist be a lead in one!

Lee: I kind of love that you have a "ban" and that you're willing to break it!

How about characters with disabilities?

Laura: As always, we get a lot of limping/wheelchair-bound protagonists (always paraplegic, never quad). There's often lots of supporting characters with degenerative diseases as well, but not a ton of anything else. Except for YA romances with deaf protagonists. That is also a thing.

A new exciting area that has been getting a lot of attention though is neurodiversity, usually in terms of a TBI or an autism-spectrum disorder. I'm super excited about that, but I sometimes think that some authors treat autism in books as just a disorder they can attach to their MC's quirky sidekick, and that doesn't do much as far as representation goes.

Lee: Agreed. We need diversity to go beyond the sidekicks, to the stars of the story!

Are you seeing other types of diversity in the works submitted? - And please share any specific categories that spring to mind.

Laura: I'm seeing some socio-economic diversity, but especially in the given political climate in the US, I'd LOVE to see more religious diversity, and, relatedly, cultural diversity. Today, I put out a call for more Muslim characters, especially as romantic leads!

Lee: Nice. I'd read that.

How about the creators? Are you seeing under-represented writers and illustrators submitting to you?

Laura: You know, I rarely even read author names/do author research until I am really far into their book--even sending requests, typing the name is so automatic, 30 seconds later I couldn't tell you what I typed--there's no time for me to race anyone! I only know if someone is under-represented if they say so in their query or in our phone call.

When I answer queries or read manuscripts, story is king. Being diverse doesn't increase your chances of me wanting to work with you, but my commitment to diversity in subject is represented in what books I request, and my commitment to diversity in authorship is reflected in my social media presence and my continuous call for diverse authors--but they still have to come to me and go through the same process.

Lee: There's a lot of discussion about who has the 'right' to tell the story of an under-represented type of character. What's your take?

Laura: I think that books with under-represented characters are a good thing. Full stop. I do not think that you necessarily have to be in that minority to write a book about a character, because I do not believe that an individual's experience can or should speak for an entire group. I also believe that literature represents the world around us, and it's silly to expect a white, straight, cisgender male to only write about people who resemble him.

What I will say though is that every author, but ESPECIALLY a non-minority author, has the responsibility to make sure that their story is as close to accurate as possible when it comes to the experiences of the characters therein. This means doing research. This means having beta readers of people in that group. It means that you should want them to call out when you do/say something wrong. It WILL happen, and it should happen, and you should fix it and learn from it. That's what being a good ally is.

I don't, however, think that making the writing of non-minority authors more diverse should give people an excuse to avoid reading books by marginalized groups. These books should just add to the pile, not edge out others. And I think this is the responsibility of people like me (agents), publishers, and also of readers to make sure that we acknowledge both diversity of character and diversity of author.

Lee: When you're submitting projects to editors, do you think stories with under-represented characters take more 'selling' on your part?

Laura: No. I don't. But that might be because I am known to the editors I work with as "that agent who does feminism and diversity." The agents I sell to care about these things as much as I do, and know to expect it from me.

Lee: I often feel the sense of ‘otherness’ is transferable. That from my own experiences being marginalized (for being Gay, being ill as a teen, being Jewish, being an Atheist, etc…) I feel tremendous empathy for people who are marginalized for other kinds of ‘otherness’ as well.

Can you share what’s driving your desire to see more diversity in Children’s and Teen books?

Laura: Sure! Well, to start off with, I was raised Jewish, and I'm a woman, and the bulk of my upper schooling has been very racially mixed. I also come from a feminist queer family, and as a heterosexual in that environment, have experienced an interesting blend of being othered myself and of seeing what is my norm be othered in the larger world. It has made me largely aware of the different labels humans place upon themselves and others.

Lee: Tell us about some books that highlighted or included diversity that you loved and that inspired you (maybe even ones you wish you represented). What’s a Picture Book favorite?

Laura: Last Stop on Market Street! Agent Carly Watters just told me about it, and it's lovely! A great depiction of class and racial differences.

[note: About a month after this interview happened, Last Stop on Market Street by Matt De La Peña, illustrated by Christian Robinson, won the Newbery Medal.]

Lee: Middle Grade?

Laura: Well, I just read a great book (it's not out yet, but will be in the next year or so) from #pitchwars, and right now it's called Alan Kim is Not a Coward. The main character is Korean, gay, and the son of immigrants. It made me cry.

Lee: I want to read that.

Laura: I also really loved El Deafo. I read that recently!

Lee: Young Adult?

Laura: Oh man. Eleanor & Park for sure, if I'm keeping with the theme of Diverse Books That Made Laura Cry. And, obviously, many of the books on my list! I've got a book in development now with my author Lisa Sills that is about a boy's coming-of-age post-transition. It's not a coming-out book, but more of a book about how, after this guy can be who he really is, he then gets to figure out who he wants to be!

Lee: Okay, here’s your wish list moment. What are you looking for? Put out the call...

Laura: Well, my ultimate diverse #MSWL is for an anti-coming-out YA story, where the MC is coming to terms with their straightness in a queer community. I want it to be about how they're both othered and not, and them figuring out who they are and where they belong.

Other than that, I want it all. With two caveats: I do not want coming-out books, and I don't want problems disguised as people (so, no books teaching lessons).

Lee: And for writers and/or illustrators reading this who feel a resonance with what you’ve shared and who want to submit to you, how should they go about that?

Laura: Send a query to laura (at) redsofaliterary (dot) com!

Lee: Anything I didn’t ask that you’d like to add?

Laura: I think we just about covered it! If you have any more questions, just ask me on twitter @LZats!

Lee: Getting the world of Children’s literature to better reflect the diversity of our world -- the world kids today are growing up in -- is so important. Thank you so much for working to make things better!

Laura: And thanks for having me!

Thanks Laura! Look for another AGENT LOOKING FOR DIVERSITY interview on the first Monday of next month. Until then,

Illustrate and Write On!

Friday, March 4, 2016

The Before Now And After Then - When his identical brother dies, a gay teen has to create a new world of his own (and has his first relationship)

The Before Now And After Then by Peter Monn

Danny Goldstein has always lived in the shadow of his identical twin brother, Sam. But when a hurricane of events forces him into the spotlight, he starts to realize that the only thing he'’s truly afraid of is himself. With the help of his costume changing friend Cher, a famous uncle with a mysterious past of his own, two aging punk rocker parents and Rusty, the boy who will become his something to live for, Danny begins to realize that the music of the heart is truly the soundtrack for living.”

Add your review of "The Before Now and After Then" in comments!

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Digital Book World Pre-Conference Interview Roundup: Christopher Kenneally, Peter Hildeck-Smith, Jane Friedman, Kristen McLean and Lorraine Shanley

I'm heading to #DBW16, The 2016 Digital Book World Conference + Expo, in New York Monday March 7 through Wednesday March 9!

I'll be tweeting (with the hashtag, #DBW16), doing some blogging, and representing Little Pickle Press as their VP of Digital, Communications and Community Engagement. As #DBW16 puts it,
"Publishing’s digital transformation is happening all around us. And if you plan to survive it—and thrive—you must attend Digital Book World Conference + Expo."

The Monday of the conference has different tracks, and of course I'll be at Launch Kids, the Children's Books + Media conference, where they'll be focusing on the consumer and education markets. Tuesday and Wednesday will be the main conference, filled with speakers, panels, breakout sessions and exhibits. The #DBW16 faculty are a who's who, and here are my exclusive pre-conference interviews with Christopher Kenneally, Peter Hildeck-Smith,  Jane Friedman, Kristen McLean and Lorraine Shanley.

Christopher Kenneally

Christopher Kenneally is the Director of Business Development at the Copyright Clearance Center, and the host and producer of CCC's weekly podcast, "Beyond the Book."

Lee: Hi Christopher. Do you see the digital transformation of publishing as empowering some players over others?

Christopher: Once upon a time, freedom of the press was guaranteed to those who owned one. Digital publishing technology has upended that once-ironclad rule and given to anyone with a keyboard and an Internet connection the power to report news, express opinion and demonstrate creativity. The potential result is a Golden Age not only for the human spirit but also for reading. The dilemma is that we are all left to sort out the wheat from the chaff.

Lee: A lot is said about the "democratization" of publishing and discoverability, now that anyone can be published and everyone can be on social media. What do you see as the role of regulation in terms of keeping the playing field level?

Christopher: As a former journalist, I put myself down as a “First Amendment First” kind of guy. The tough part of “democratization” when it comes to publishing is that people can say whatever they want. Incitement aside, that means we have to suffer with bad stuff to enjoy the good.

Lee: What do you most look forward to about attending the 2016 Digital Book World Conference + Expo?

Christopher: I’ve attended each year since the show first opened in January 2010. The timing was incredible – the conference came to a halt and everyone watched on a big screen together as Steve Jobs introduced the iPad. That moment made clear that digital publishing and reading were here to stay. We may not see the same level of drama in 2016, but the remarkable pace of change in technology and the impact that technology has on this business makes Digital Book World a great place to catch up and keep up. With any lucky, maybe I will even get out ahead of the crowd!

Thanks, Christopher!

Peter Hildick-Smith
Peter Hildick-Smith founded Codex-Group in 2004, pioneering "book audience strategy research." He lectures on book publishing strategy at Wharton, Princeton and NYU.

Lee: You'll be speaking on a panel, "The Book Buyer's Journey: Understanding the Consumer Path to Purchase" that aims to focus on "what happens between initial awareness of a book's existence and the final decision to purchase it." What do you see as the major levers publishers (and authors) have to help, as the session description says, "convert discovery into a purchase?"

Peter: From Codex-Group’s new book sales forecasting models we’ve learned that initial new book sales are dependent on a publisher’s success in three areas – Discovery, Conversion and Availability -- all powerfully delivered to the right book buyer target audience. Failure to deliver on any one of these three factors dramatically reduces new book initial sales.

Discovery is simply the act of making someone aware a book exists – period. It’s a huge challenge all by itself, but often highly misunderstood. Because the impact of Discovery and Conversion on sales is highly interdependent, people often conflate the two, thinking that a strong discovery campaign will automatically yield strong conversion to purchase – not true. The solution to great discovery is totally independent of conversion, and vice versa. The three biggest challenges of discovery are 1) Targeted Discovery: knowing and reaching the right audience for the book, 2) Effective Discovery: making sure that target group has multiple discovery experiences for the book, because one exposure is not enough to drive response, 3) Scale: reaching enough audience members, enough times to meet the book’s unit sales and sales velocity goals within the extremely limited budgets a book P&L can support.

Conversion is the motivating force that takes a target consumer from awareness to action – from look to click, from click to browse, from browse to read, and hopefully to buy. The three most powerful conversion factors are, 1) Book Identity – what is it, what’s it about, what makes it interesting, and how that is all communicated through the book’s marketing message, 2) Author Brand Equity – the size and most importantly, loyalty of the author’s (or lead character, or series) fan base. Fiction is the most driven by Author Equity, followed by narrative nonfiction. Where author equity exists at a meaningful level, it is by far the greatest conversion to sales factor. Where it doesn’t exist, the goal for both author and publisher is to build and grow it because of its sustaining power for future book sales.

Lastly, Availability is simply ensuring that a new book is available whenever, wherever in whatever format a book consumer wants at the moment they convert to purchase interest. Major book publishers are masters of availability, but must always keep in mind that roughly 40% of books are bought the same day they are discovered, so promoting a book 3 months before even a pre-order button is available, let alone physical copies are in store, can be very risky, when as much as 70% of books are bought within 2 weeks of initial discovery. With the Kindle store alone adding about 1 million new titles in 2015, so at any one moment book shoppers have a mindboggling number of new books to consider reading and buying each day. With this level of clutter and distraction, a book has to quickly command attention and convert a book shopper to a book buyer without delay or distraction, or risk another new book displacing it on the shopping list.

Lee: You teach book publishing strategy at Wharton, Princeton and NYU. Do you see the digital transformation of publishing empowering some stakeholders and not others?

Peter: Clearly the digital transformation in publishing has opened up a whole new world of publishing, giving hundreds of thousands of writers the unprecedented chance to publish their work and reach new audiences, something truly revolutionary! 

On the other hand the digital transformation has also created a huge schism in book pricing and that has resulting in major issues in pricing expectation, where the average price of a book in the Kindle store is below $5, book consumers’ average expected price of an eBook in the Kindle store is just above $8 and the average price of a Big 5 eBook is north of $10, putting significant pressure particularly on the fiction categories, and even more so in Romance segments, where a very high % of self-published books are focused.

Lee: What do you most look forward to about attending the 2016 Digital Book World Conference + Expo?

Peter: Meeting or reconnecting with book industry thought leaders to catch up on their latest ideas and perspectives.

Thanks, Peter!

Jane Friedman

Jane Friedman is the publisher of Scratch magazine, teaches digital media at the University of Virginia, and is a professor with the Great Courses on publishing. With 20 years of experience in publishing, her focus is "content strategy for authors and publishers," and her blog for writers is essential reading.

Lee: Hi, Jane! You'll be chairing a panel, "Finding Common Ground: How Publishers and Authors -- Regardless of What Path They're Taking -- Are Working Together." As the panel description reads, "more and more authors are 'hybrids': delivering some of their books through publishers and self-publishing other works." Does this empower today's authors and illustrators in a way that's new?

Jane: Yes, because authors aren't limited to just one business model—the traditional publisher's model. And frankly, this is good for publishers, too. Not every project requires the kind of assistance or benefit provided by a traditional publisher. But, as the old cliche goes, with power comes responsibility. Rather than going to a publisher by default with every idea, an author or illustrator should first be asking themselves strategic questions: What is the purpose of this project? How does it further my career? Does it require a publisher's expertise or distribution to succeed on my terms? Furthermore, publishers who are working in a progressive way recognize that when their authors are successful, even when it's with books outside of their purview, everyone wins.

Lee: Is the democratization of being discovered via social media part of the digital changes that play into this new landscape?

Jane: Social media is a very small part of the picture. What's more important is that all types of digital media (including social media) allow authors a direct and immediate way of finding and engaging directly with their readership. New technology also allows authors, along with publishers, to better measure and analyze what types of marketing and promotion efforts work, and how to improve them quantifiably with each new campaign. Authors' marketing roles and resources are becoming ever more important because they're owners of the analytics that carry a lot of audience data: their website analytics, their Facebook and Twitter analytics, their email newsletter analytics. Therefore, collaboration between authors and publishers is essential, and any form of tunnel vision (we'll only work on what sells this book) makes less sense, and becomes less possible.

Lee: What do you most look forward to about attending the 2016 Digital Book World Conference + Expo and Launch Kids?

Jane: Since I'm based in Charlottesville, VA, it's good for me to get to New York at least once or twice a year, where I can touch base with colleagues and friends with whom I only interact virtually the rest of the year. You get a much better sense of what people's real concerns are, and where the energy of the industry is focused. I also enjoy translating what I see and hear into plain English for writers over at my blog and in my newsletter for authors, The Hot Sheet (

Thanks, Jane!

Kristen McLean

Kristen McLean is the Director of New Business Development at Nielsen Book, a part of Nielsen Entertainment. She is a twenty two year veteran of the book publishing market, a serial entrepreneur, and an industry thought leader, deeply interested in the confluence of consumer behavior, technology, literacy, and global transformation in the Digital Age.

Lee: In your morning keynote at Launch Kids, "What Do Your Highest Value Customers Look Like? Findings from the Nielsen Children's Book Segmentation Study" you'll be sharing "top level" insights on the parents, kids and families buying children's books.... and even how reading is interacting with other kinds of media in the lives of children. Do you see this information empowering not just publishers, but also authors and illustrators?

Kristen: Yes, I think as a content creator it's important to understand as much as you can about what's going on in the lives of families and children today, so that you can continue to create stories that speak directly to them. The ongoing Children's Book Consumer research we do at Nielsen is really focused on understanding exactly who is buying books and why, and then exploring how those books are related to kids' other activities, which is particularly relevant in the modern multi-platform world. The DBW presentation is going to focus specifically on the types of families that are buying the most books today--who they are, where they are, and what they look like--as well as the types of families where we believe there is room to grow new readers and book lovers.

In terms of why Authors, Illustrators, and other Content Creators should care, today's kids are incredibly savvy--they navigate technology seamlessly, have a very high level of sophistication about the world about them, and they are able to dive into anything they are interested in and follow it through books, on screens, and in the real world. It's tremendously empowering, and it's driving all kinds of very interesting trends like kid entrepreneurship, environmental activism, the kids' maker/inventor movement, and so much more. At the same time, they inhabit a noisy world with lots of messages, and they still need great stories to help them grow, interpret their feelings, and nurture their imaginations. I'm not suggesting that to be relevant, every story has to include a character with a mobile phone--rather, understanding the lives of kids today can spark new ideas, and help understand what is bubbling up, and allow authors, illustrators, and content professionals to tap into the things kids are interested in. Along the way, I think they will be surprised at how self-aware, positive, hopeful and engaged today's kids really are. In my experience, most of our adult fears about disaffected, tuned out kids should be completely re-written. I'm very hopeful about these children. I think it's very exciting.

Lee:  Change, in terms of children's books and technology, seems to be a new constant. What's your advice about thriving in the midst of all this change?

Kristen: Well, it's true we have seen tremendous shifts in technology, consumer behavior, and format in the last decade, however the one thing that has remained constant at the heart of the children's market is STORY. You can create the most fantastic multi-media platform in the world and if it doesn't have a good story to tell, it's going nowhere. So when I'm asked this question--and I often am--I say reinvest in the core values of good storytelling, and then tackle the rest after that.

The Children's Publishing market has another thing going for it--parents remain very invested in print books for their children, and even teens have a strong preference for print versus eBook. Right now, the overall eReading figures for Juvenile books are at 12% of total reading versus 88% print, and we expect eBooks to remain steady at that level, or perhaps even decline.

That is not to say that kids are engaging in less media--they are actually consuming more overall, but reading is holding its ground, and books are still valued very highly by parents and kids. When it comes to digital for kids, it's all about tablets--which have now topped the 80% penetration point in US households. These are basically curiosity libraries for kids' interests, and the most successful digital representations of kids' books and story-worlds are not eBooks, but other forms of media like games, TV shows, YouTube videos, apps, and even audio in new platforms like podcasts. The challenge for parents is going to be making sure kids get a balanced "play diet" with digital engagement in proportion to other kinds of things like imaginative play, building & construction, and getting outside.

So the formula for thriving as an author and illustrator in all this is -- STORY is always first, and keep an ear to the ground for interesting case studies, successful media projects and good insights about kids & families. Stay curious--about both your readers, and your art, and don't buy into negative fear mongering about today's kids. My favorite email newsletter to monitor developments in kids' media comes from KidScreen.

Lee: Great tip, thanks! What do you most look forward to about attending the 2016 Digital Book World Conference + Expo and Launch Kids?

Kristen: For me, it's always the opportunity to network, and to be able to sit and listen for new ideas and take the temperature of the industry by the conversations going on.

Thank you, Kristen!

Lorraine Shanley

Lorraine Shanley is chairing the Launch Kids Books + Media Monday Conference (for the 5th year in a row!), and is also President of Market Partners International, a consulting firm that specializes in traditional and digital publishing and executive search.

Lee: As one of publishing's "most prominent executive recruiters," you help publishers find the people who can help them navigate all this digital change. Often, the unknown is seen as scary--how do you advise "legacy" publishers to find the synergy between the old and the new?

Lorraine: Most 'legacy' publishers are by now ready, even eager, to bring new skills to their businesses, but obviously both new hires and employees have to be willing to work together. A lot of publishing people are excited about the expertise that these people bring, as well as the sales and marketing tools that show them how their books are sold, and even read. Whether they're taught how to use these tools and what their significance is, well that's another issue.

Lee: You're also an expert in research and "multi-channel marketing." What do you see as one (or two) of the biggest opportunities the digital landscape has given book creators (either independent-, or traditionally published) to have their works discovered, and bought, and loved?

Lorraine: Unquestionably, it's the ability to connect directly with the reader - as a marketer and as an author. I attended an NYU Publishing panel the other day with four authors - David Baldacci, Erik Larson, Jeff Kinney and Alice Hoffman, and each talked about his or her connection to their readers. Ironically, Kinney has less of a social media presence in some ways, but of course he built his Whimpy Kids audience online. Baldacci has an ongoing conversation with several fans about his plots, and Larson has even met with Twitter followers.

I think having the ability to self publish and market an author's own work has also benefitted all authors because it has presented a choice: go the traditional agented, published route or, if that doesn't appeal or isn't possible, take full control of the publishing process. In the past, there was only the frustration of trying to get published, but now there are real options. Your voice can be heard.

Lee: Besides your own presentation, what are you most looking forward to at the Digital Book World Conference + Expo?

Lorraine: Obviously Launch Kids is my focus, and there are many highlights there, including a brand new Nielsen survey of the children’s market, a conversation between bestselling author Jenny Han and Tumbler’s Rachel Fershleiser, and some great panels on brands, startups, and how schools and libraries can work together. But I always attend DBW sessions. This year there are several presentations from companies like Rodale, Ingram, Wiley and NetGalley about how they’re transforming themselves, which sounds intriguing.*

Thanks, Lorraine!

It's going to be a remarkable conference. If you'll be there, say hello! And if you still want to register, #DBW16 is offering a discount on registration: Use the code SCBWI5 to get 5 percent off.

And if you'd like to follow along on social media, use the hashtag #DBW16.


*This answer was originally from this interview with Lorraine and was used with her permission.

You can also check out my SCBWI: The Blog post about the Author Earnings website and Launch Kids here, and my two additional pre-#DBW16 interviews with Stephen Blake Mettee and Kevin Franco here.