Posted in Anti-Gift Guide

Just Because it’s a Good Deal Doesn’t Make it a Good Toy: More Books Less Crap 5

Here are 5 ‘great deals’ that have filled me with regret and five fun read alouds you should get instead!
A blinger, it’s litteraly just a contraption for applying sticker jewels. I admit when I purchased it, I thought that the jewels would stay on more firmly than a regular sticker? But no. They’re just stickers. Ridiculous.
So, one day, a few years ago, I was driving along on a cold November’s day, much like today and I saw a big sign! “GIANT TOY OUTLET SALE!” We were passing through a strange industrial complex we had never been through and I yelled “STOP THE CAR!” And my husband, reluctantly did. I jumped out and ran, into this giant warehouse, there were loads and loads of toys, they were in fact very cheap…in every sense of the word. The piano mat was not the only thing I bought from this sale, and all of it was garbage, I also bought a microphone with stand that never worked, period. But of course sales like this-all sales are final. So turns out, not such a great deal.
My older daughter asked for a pogo stick, and we were like, why in the world do you want a pogo stick? She had seen one on a tv show and became obsessed with the idea. So we searched around for her birthday and found one, it was a pretty good deal, we bought it. She used it twice. Pogo sticks, are just not fun. Add to this they’re wildly impractical and dangerous.
I was at Costco. Which is the number one place I fall for good deals that are in fact bad deals. They had this absolutely enormous packet of unicorn crystals. You grow these crystals with like a powder that then flakes off and leaves a disconcerting dust on everything. I said to my self “WOW! LOOK AT THIS GIANT PACKET! WHAT A GREAT DEAL!” Not a great deal, and now I’m going to have this enormous box in my house forever.
Whoever came up with “Baby Alive” hates parents. It’s ugly, it’s noisy, and it yells at you when you’re trying to think and you jump five feet out of your chair. Just say no.
Just Because it's a Good Deal Doesn't Make it a Good Toy: More Books Less Crap
Fun Read Alouds you should get instead! Light hearted books that pull little readers in and invite them to stay. All of the books today are from the submissions for the #bookstagang_bestof2021.
“Unicorn Night Sleep Tight” by Diana Murray and Luke Flowers from Source Books Kids

This is a weird incidence of me really preferring a sequel to the original, “Unicorn Night Sleep Tight” is the sequel to “Unicorn Day” which was fine but it never really stole our hearts to be perfectly honest. “Unicorn Night” however, has become a fast favourite in our household. My kids just love this book, it’s one of my 3 year old’s go to bedtime picks. it’s a cute rhyming read aloud, and perfect for bed.

“A Pizza with Everything on it” Kyle Scheel and Andrew J. Pizza from Chronicle Kids Books

“A Pizza with Everything on it” is completely ridiculous. A kid and his dad make a pizza, but they have to put EVERYTHING on it, and they really explore the boundaries of that. I will be honest, I really questioned the physics behind the pizza dough continuing to expand when they started adding like, cars and things on it, but I think I need to let go of that. It’s one kids will enjoy and, the illustration is really full of personality.
“My School Unicorn” by Willow Evans and Tom Knight from Simon Kids

One little girl is nervous about starting kindergarten, but as luck would have it the school uniform store also provides a handy little school unicorn to lend emotional support. This story was adorable, my kids were confused about why the girl had to return the unicorn, and honestly I kind of wish they got to stay friends forever too. Either way, very cute, very colourful, fun read aloud.

“Room for Everyone” Naaz Khan & Simon Kids

“Room for Everyone” is an instant classic in my opinion, fast paced, colourful, fun read aloud. With a structure that really is reminiscent of classic folk tales. It’s beautifully written, wonderfully illustrated, and tons of fun for readers.

“Wolfboy” by Andy Harkness

“Wolfboy” is truly a delightful book, with it’s unusual plasticine illustration, that are fun and unique and a story that’s charming with a sweet twist at the end that readers will have a laugh at. Adorable.

Posted in Anti-Gift Guide

ARE YOU TRYING TO TELL ME YOU HATE ME? A Holiday Anti Gift Guide & 5 Books We Would Strongly Prefer

The expectation that when someone gives your kids something- when they were not asked to do so- you must pretend to be grateful, and then let it collect dust until it finally finds its way onto a donation pile or scrap heap is complete nonsense. And I object. So I’ve created a sample season’s greetings but no thank you letter for you all!

 

The narrative of forced gratitude for something that is actively inconvenient and wasteful is especially infuriating, to me, when the offending item was purchased for my child without considering my child as a person with preferences and feelings.  (My kids are capable of talking, why doesn’t the person call them up and ask them “Hey what kinda stuff do you like?”)

Extra infuriating when it’s gigantic and noisy.

Can we please start changing the narrative that relatives and family friends need to give flashy toys to demonstrate a relationship?  It’s really messed up, inconvenient, wasteful, and desperately harmful to our environment.

Before you say “well some people can only afford crappy plastic toys and they deserve to enjoy the gift giving time of the year” YES, they do, but can they ask first? Can they ask what the kid actually likes instead of deciding ‘that’s a boy-child and I’m gonna buy them a great big gun thing.’     Can they maybe get a ten dollar bill, go to the convenience store, have it broken into nickels, and give the kid a giant bag of coins? (My brother in law did that one year, and it was such a huge hit with my kid, and it cost him less than ten bucks.) Can they perhaps just buy some nice books, write a nice message in them, and sit down and read to the child?  It’s not hard to make space for books, if they’re good books they get enjoyed way longer than a crappy plastic toy, and its an opportunity to build a relationship.  

So here is a list of 5 love filled Grandparent Books I recommend Grandparents buy instead of getting random crap in the clearance section at Walmart. 

TIME FOR BED, OLD HOUSE Janet Costa Bates, A.G. Ford @candlewickpress  a boy’s first sleep over with his Grandpa, and it’s time to say goodnight to every part of the house.

CARLA AND THE CHRISTMAS CORNBREAD  Carla Hall and Cherise Harris @simonkids a beautiful nostalgic story, with a delightful array of foods, and family traditions.

THE ELECTRIC SLIDE AND KAI Kelly J. Baptist and Darnell Johnson @leeandlowbooks  One boy practices his dance moves in anticipation of finally seeing his grandpa again. A joyful happy family story.

THE WHOLE WORLD INSIDE NAN’S SOUP Hunter Liguore and Vikki Zhang  Absolutely beautiful, would be nice to include your own recipe to pass down when writing a dedication into the end papers.

WE’LL BE TOGETHER AGAIN Lucy Menzies and Maddy Vian @quartokids  this one is unusual, it flips open like two doors, and shows the little girl waiting to be reunited with the grandfather, who is on the otherside.  

THE LONGER THE WAIT THE BIGGER THE HUG  Eoin McLaughlin and Polly Dunbar @faberchildrens the third book in this charming classic series about love and affection.

These books were all submitted by the publishers for the #bookstagang _bestof2021  which is currently being judged! 

#picturebooks

#christmasgiftsforkids

Posted in Demystifying publishing

What Happens to Banned Books?: Demystifying Publishing Part 9 with @readwithriver

What's the deal with banning books? What happens to the books? Who is most affected? Let's discuss!
Demystifying Publishing Part 9 with @readwithriver: What happens to Banned Books? #Bannedbooksweek
The History of Banning Books. As long as books have existed, people have tried to ban them. Banning books has always been about maintaining existing hierarchies of power, and control. Empathizing with people who are oppressed by those hierarchies is considered a threat to that power. In 1121 CE Abelard was forced to burn is hown book…he was also castrated. They didn’t play around back then. (Source Bond, S. ” Top 5 Ancient and Medieval Censored Books TO Read During Banned Book Week” Forbes, 2016.
Banned Books Today. Are banned books illegal tools of the devil? …No…Books are banned by individual school boards, libraries, schools, etc. You can still buy them, they are often harder to find.
Does banning a book make it more popular? “No Publicity is Bad Publicity”-P.T. Barnum. Books by already famous authors often see a jump in sales when they have a banned book. “Whether or not there is a benefit often hinges on how high profile an author is at the time of the challenge.” (Source King,N. “Banned Books Week: How the Blacklist can Goose a Book’s Sales” Marketplace.org, 2013.)
IF You’re Not A Famous Author… not a good time. “A lot of these authors who are challenged are not famous….Wealthy authors who sell a lot of books can hire publicists and attorneys to defend them, but your average mid-list author can’t. They’ve got to take these battles on personally.” (Source. King,N. “Banned Books Week: How the Blacklist can Goose a Book’s Sales” Marketplace.org, 2013.) “As an author of a recently challenged book, I will not trade freedom for profit. And I wouldn’t trade freedom for profit, even if the math was on my side.” (Sara Hockler, Sarahockler.com, 2010)
Who is most Impacted? Children. “THe history of children’s book publishing in America offers insight into the ways in which traditional attitudes about “appropriate” stories often end up marginalizing the lives and experiences of many young readers, rather than protecting them.” (Source, Ringle, P. “How Banning Books Marginalizes Children,” TheAtlantic.com, 2016.) “When we say ‘this book is inappropriate’ we’re telling those childrne your situation…your family…your life is inappropriate.”-Kate Messner
What kind of books get banned? “In 2019, eight out of the 10 books on the association’s list featured L.G.B.T.Q. subject matter. For 2020, however, that majority was fractured, with the addition of books that touch on racial injustice and police violence toward Black people and books by authors of color.” “In this case, we’re seeing an effort to stigmatize and vilify stories about racial injustice.”(Source, Waller, A. “Books About Racism and Police Violence Fill Out List of ‘Most Challenged Titles.” NYTIMES, 2020.)
Banned Books Week Since 1982 every year in September Banned Books Week is celebrated to fight against challenges, and support books that have been banned. A Coalition of Organizations works together for banned Books Week. Check it out to learn more.

Sources

Source 1: Bond, S. ” Top 5 Ancient and Medieval Censored Books TO Read During Banned Book Week” Forbes, 2016.

Source 2: King, N. “Banned Books Week: How the Blacklist can Goose a Book’s Sales” Marketplace.org, 2013.

Source 3: SaraH Ockler, SarahOckler.com, 2010

Source 4: Ringle, P. “How Banning Books Marginalizes Children,” TheAtlantic.com, 2016.

Source 5: Waller, A. “Books About Racism and Police Violence Fill Out List of ‘Most Challenged Titles.” NYTIMES, 2020.

Posted in Demystifying publishing

4 Reasons why it’s important to Preorder Books if you want to help an Author Succeed

Have you ever wondered why publishers and authors are always publicizing preorder availability? There’s some very practical reasons for it!

Preordering a book that doesn’t arrive for months or years might seem unnecessary but your decision to preorder directly affects the book’s chances of commercial success.
1. Pre-release, preorders signal to publisher there will be interest, and they can adjust print runs to accurately meet demands. THe size of an initial print run announces to the world the confidence the publisher has in a book’s commercial success. The bigger the print run, the more confidence, the more buzz. Under printing can be a huge problem, because often people who cannot find a book in stock when they want it, will forget about it and not come back and buy it later.
2. Preorders then build buzz and encourage larger orders from big retailers. The buzz around the book is a great sales point that gets big retailers to make larger initial orders to prepare for consumer demand. This is of course not a good thing if after the fact nobody buys them, because they’ll be returned. But having them ordered and in stock means that they are available and a book has a chance to succeed.
3. Post-release, preorders sales count as part of first week sales. These inflated numbers allow books to launch and climb the rankings onto the bestseller lists which guarantee continued sales. Being on a bestseller list is one of the best things that can happen to a book commercially. People who have never heard of it, and might have never considered buying it, will go out and buy it because it is on this list.
4. Support independent Bookshops with guaranteed sale for their stock, helps mitigate risks. Independent bookshops help authors with creating readership and awareness. Preorders are guaranteed sales, and it allows retailers who operate on small profit margins and are risk averse to have a guaranteed sale on a book. Independent bookshops work hard to create opportunities for local authors and illustrators, to help them create buzz and get books out there. Supporting indie bookshops is supporting the culture of books.

Special thanks to the team at Walker Books for answering questions about this issue as well as UK Book Publisher, Editorial director at Andersen Press, Libby Hamilton @LibbyHamHam on Instagram

Posted in Demystifying publishing

5 Factors that Influence the Decision to Publish & How to Address Them as a Writer: If you’re a writer you need to know this

5 Factors that Influence the Decision to Publish and how to address them as a writer.
  1. Suitability of Text
  2. Author Track Record
  3. Comparable Titles
  4. Author Platform
  5. Buzz
Profit Not Public Service: Publishers are surviving in a capitalist society, just like us.

Book Failure= Financial disaster, not just for publishing executives but everyone in the publishing industry chain.

Taking a chance on an author is a risk for the entire chain with very real consequences. So any reticence to taking on big risk should be seen as responsibility for employees, not just conservatism.

The 5 factors all contribute to creating a picture of risk vs. reward, profit vs. loss.

1. Suitability of text

this issue before in previous parts of this Demystifying publishing series, please refer to them for more details on suitability of text.

Text must be enjoyable and suits: the intended audience, publisher’s catalogue, direction of trends and, vision for future of publisher’s list.

2. Author Track Record

Author’s sales record is indicator of future success or future commercial failure.

“But what if I’ve never Published a Book?”

So, fortunately for you, this is actually a Schrodinger’s cat kind of situation and BETTER than having a bad sales record. There’s no record of failure yet, so there’s equal possibility of failure or success, the only way to know for sure is to see what happens next.

3. Comparable Titles

Comparable titles are used to build a case for the financial viability of your book (MSS) Mention them in any submission to either agent or editor.

So “You Matter” “All Because You Matter” and “I Believe I Can” are titles comparable to each other because they have similar themes.

Good comparable titles must be: recent, specific and, successful.

Bonus Points if it’s from the publisher or agent who you’re submitting to.

On Comparable titles

For the love of everything do not compare your story to HARRY POTTER or THE CAT IN THE HAT or, GOODNIGHT MOON, etc.

Don’t do this when querying an agent, or an editor, or an influencer reviewer, just don’t do it.

It tells everyone you don’t actually read children’s books because you don’t know the current market.

Also it kind of makes you sound like an ass.

4. AUthor Platform

Authority: Relevant credentials are key for Non-Fiction authors

Less important for fiction authors.

Relevancy is key here, if you have a PHD in Psychology, and you’re writing about Rocket Ship Engineering, that is not relevant. So, not really helpful.

Quantifiable visibility within target audience: aka do you have people who will buy your book?

“Influencers” & Author Platform

Unlike every other luxury consumer good industry (which is exactly what book publishing is,) publishers are slow to see Social Media Influence as genuine proof of money making platform.

This attitude is changing and some big publishers are now producing books by influencers.

This shift will partly be thanks to the NYT article from March of 2021 “How Crying on Tik Tok Sells Books”

Most publishers don’t know a lot about Social Media Influencing and change will continue to move slowly. But it’s happening.

5. Buzz

Are people actually in the industry talking about your work?

How can you get them talking about you? Twitter is actually a good place to start, a lot of publishing industry people are on Twitter. And if you follow me you know I’m abysmal at Twitter, I just don’t enjoy it, not enough pretty pictures, so this is a piece of advice I do not take for myself. I’d rather cry on Tik Tok.

Attending industry events, book launches, meeting people. Doing this in the pandemic might be harder but not impossible. Virtual events are hosted all the time and often you’ll find editors or other senior members of publishing houses showing up to them.

Having a well respected agent is also key for generating industry buzz, see my previous blog in this series on Literary Agents.

Profit & Loss Assessment

So when you put all of these things together, along with some other numbers for production, distribution, etc. They start to build a profit and loss statement, they will assess the commercial viability of your manuscript proposal, and from this statement they can decide whether or not to offer to acquire it and also, how much money they can offer you as an advance.

Posted in #Librarian Fight Club

Racism in Children’s Books is Still Racism: #LibrarianFightClub

Shit People Say to Keep Racism Misogyny &, Antisemitism Alive and Well in Picturebooks…
This mind bogglingly tone deaf article “The Dangers of being hyper-aware” by Claire Hennessy was released today in The Irish Times. Note the quotations around “problematic” and “insensitive.” The condescending & gaslighting implication that because it doesn’t bother this white author, whether or not it is a problem, is up for debate.
The author of this article, an established member of the publishing industry as both editor and author of 12 books, makes several points that we often see in defense of problematic children’s books. In fact, it makes the rounds so it’s a perfect case study! Let’s explore some of the main points shall we?
Argument 1: ‘Without Racism, books won’t be good.’ “Danger in this hyper-aware, hyper-critical culture: of literary culture becoming so anodyne and sanitised it dies out entirely”- C. Hennessy

Removing racism from children’s literature will kill of culture? …whose culture exactly are you worried won’t withstand being held accountable to any standards of common decency and respect for others?

Argument 2: ‘Just give your kids the Historical Context Disclaimer.” “Contextualizing the dodgy bits within Seuss’s overall body of work Developmentally ages-3-4 Time is a completely abstract concept. Ages 5-6 they begin to understand correlation between certain days in their daily life (holidays, birthdays, etc.) Concepts of historical time don’t develop until ages 9-11. History is valuable, discussion on literary theory is interesting but learning goals should be age appropriate. How do you teach a 5 year old historical context with any level of valuable understanding, when they do not know what Friday is?

https://www.scholastic.com/teachers/articles/teaching-content/ages-stages-how-children-develop-sense-time/

Argument 3: ‘But I liked it and it’s inconvenient you’re ruining it for me.’ “The delicious insanity of Roald Dahl’s fiction is forever tainted by his anti-Semitic comments (his family apologized in late 2020)”-C. Hennessy. Oh, his family apologized so as not to jeopardize their cash cow? Well then, that changes everything!
Argument 4: “Your fave is almost certainly problematic.”- C. Hennessy. Gosh could that be because picture books are written almost exclusively by white people, to this day? Maybe the publishing industry allowed other people traditionally to write picturebooks, we wouldn’t have such a crap selection.
Argument 4: ‘Fine, let some people of colour publish a few books and stop bothering us with your whining.’ “Focusing on diversity of various sorts, and the need for more of it, allows one to side-step the knotty business of trying to distinguish between pearl-clutching and thoughtful concern,”-C. Hennessy. Whether or not the concerns of marginalized people about how they are represented seem trivial to you is irrelevant. Shockingly, this is not about you.
Argument 5: ‘Complaints on Social Media are Invalid.’ “tempting to wonder if people-particularly within social media bubbles…are taking it all a bit too seriously, reading too much into silly, entertaining kids’ books. How could anyone take offence to, say, Dr. Seuss,” -C. Hennessy. For the first time in history marginalized people have a voice that cannot be controlled by gatekeepers, Social media.; Dismissing the medium of expression because it lacks the gravitas of print media is just another way of maintaining the status quo and of systemic oppression.
Argument 6: ‘It’s too hard to fix we better do nothing about it.’ “Hard-and-fast rules to ensure inoffensive content are impossible” -C. Hennessy. Try not starting out with stereotypes? Try researching? Try editing? Try consulting with people you’re representing? Try harder.
Posted in Demystifying publishing

Literary Agents: The Fairy Godparents of Publishing

Demystifying Publishing Part 4 with @readwithriver

Demystifying Publishing Part 4 with @readwithriver  
Literary Agents:The Fairy Godparents of Publishing
A very practical Cinderella story.
What does an agent do?  Why do you want one? How do you choose one?
Saves and Shares are appreciated!
Fairy Literary Agents 
A very practical Cinderella story.
Once upon a time there was a writer who could not get to the publisher’s ball to have her manuscript read. “Oh how I wish I could go to the ball.” Then one night after many years of wishing one of her queries* was answered! An agent appeared.  
*See part three on How to Query.
Fairy Literary Agents
Pumpkins and Glass Slippers
Her Fairy Literary Agent used her editing magic to dress up her manuscript and get the writer past the gates into the publisher’s ball to dance with the editor.  Most editors especially at big houses will only look at manuscripts brought to them by agents.  These editor-agent relationships are cultivated over many years.  Even for publishers that accept open submissions (see part 3) manuscripts submitted by agents are seen faster and are given a response even if it is a reject.  Instead of six months, you can expect half of that time frame or less for a response.
Fairy Literary Agents At the Ball
Once the writer’s work was past the gates, it was up to the writer to make the editor fall in love with her work.  A Fairy Literary Agent can help you streamline your work, they can get you an audience with the best editors but, they can’t force an editor to love it or to like you.  That’s your job.  Editors call a meeting with the author before an offer is made to see if they will be easy to work with.  You CAN talk yourself out of a book deal. 
Fairy Literary Agents Finding you the right prince!
Not every publisher is one you want to work with.  Agents look for skeletons in editors’ & publishers’ closets and steer their clients away from sketchy partnerships.  They have a history of working with various editors and teams and they will know who will be the best fit for you and your work.  Traditional publishing is a team sport.
Fairy Literary Agents Contracts
Standard contracts are NEVER in the author’s best interests. Your agent negotiates for you until it is. Beforehand: financial matters like royalty percentage &, production matters like cover approval. During: intervening in decisions that negatively affect the integrity of your work.  After: making sure your work continues to be in print and if it is not, fighting to revert rights back to you to resell.  This is just a fraction of what they negotiate.
Fairy Literary Agents, agents succeed if you succeed. 
Agents usually make 15% of the author’s cut, from advance and royalties.  They only get paid if you do.
This is NOT lucrative. Agents sometimes have second jobs, or take on more clients than they can reasonably handle to make a living wage.  This is a career people choose because they love doing it, not because they’re trying to make a mint.  A good question to ask an agent before working with them is how many clients they have and how much time they will have to work with you personally.  No one is more personally invested in your success than your agent, their livelihood depends on it.
Fairy Literary Agents: Finding the right agent for you
Having an agent is a relationship that ideally will last many years.  It’s important you get along well.  Often agents will take a client on for only one manuscript as a trial period.  It is vital you have an agent who you trust & who shares the same editorial vision you do. Head to readwithriver.ca for resources in finding an agent & querying.

Resources to help you find Literary Agents:

US Literary Agent Listings

https://www.writersunion.ca/literary-agents

http://www.ardorlitmag.com/literary-agents.html

https://literaryagencies.com/literary-agents-childrens-books/

https://www.pw.org/literary_agents

Posted in #Librarian Fight Club

It’s Not as Simple as Animal Books Vs. “Diversity

Sources for this Post:

Lucy & James Catchpole https://thecatchpoles.net/

“Data on books by and about Black, Indigenous and People of Color published for children and teens compiled by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center, School of Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison.”

Book Riot https://bookriot.com/diversity-in-childrens-and-young-adult-literature/

https://www.scholastic.com/parents/books-and-reading/raise-a-reader-blog/why-its-important-kids-to-see-themselves-books.html

Larsen, N. Lee, K., & Ganea P.. “Do storybooks with anthropomorphized animal characters promote prosocial behaviours in young children?” Dev Sci. 2018 May; 21 (3): e 12590 2

*C. Burke & J. Copenhaver. “Animals as People in Children’s Literature ” Language Arts Vol 81, N.3 Jan. 2004, P. 205-213 .

Posted in #Librarian Fight Club

We Need Books About Losers #LibrarianFightClub

Everybody loves a winner, and when it comes to the stories we enjoy, all we see are stories of winners. On the surface I guess it makes sense, we invest our emotions in a character, and we follow their journey, through every obstacle and failure, in the end, we want to be uplifted mostly. We want to see that win, we want to glorify it.  And yes that applies to picture books. 

But what does it mean to lose then? If the only stories worth telling in our society, are stories of winners? Accepting defeat isn’t just a reflection of the moment, but accepting an inferior identity and some people, clearly, just can’t handle it.

The more I think about it, the more nefarious the whole thing becomes, the ‘chosen one’, the ‘hero’s myth’, it’s all wrapped up in patriarchal white supremacy.  There is only room for one person at the top.  

White men see themselves as the heroes of their own stories, and so it’s not over until they win.  Because isn’t that how the stories go?

      There are so many pieces of this narrative that we need to change, in every book, and honestly I think including BIPOC representation in the stories that are coming out just scratches just the surface.  Because clearly, the narrative and values themselves need to change.  

   One facet of this is accepting a loser’s journey as equally valid, being able to accept loss gracefully, to not be the chosen one, and to still be decent and gracious has value. 

  Many reviewers have been asked to recommend books about losing graciously recently, and I just plum can’t think of a single one, can you?

#librarianfightclub