Category Archives: Stacey

A special holiday gift in Brooklyn

It was with great sadness that I and many others learned this week of the end-of-year closing of the classic neighborhood Brooklyn bookstore, BookCourt, which has been a neighborhood staple for 35 years. Even The New Yorker payed homage.

I lived in Brooklyn not too far from the store for many years before I moved out of the city, and it was always such a warm, wonderful place to visit, shop, or attend a book event, reading or party. Last year, I went to see my client, Aimee Wimbush-Bourque, author of BROWN EGGS AND JAM JARS and the upcoming THE SIMPLE BITES KITCHEN, there during a winter snowstorm and it was the most cozy, intimate experience being inside that place surrounded by books while she read from the book and her kids ran around enjoying themselves too while outside it was a big, fat slushy mess.

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So it was such a happy story to learn that the author and Brooklynite Emma Straub and her husband are going to be opening up a bookstore in Brooklyn called Books Are Magic (how cute is that?).  And also that they’ve received a ton of support for it from the community and others. Losing a neighborhood bookstore like BookCourt is like losing a member of your extended family. The neighborhood just won’t be the same without it.

I don’t live in Brooklyn anymore, but I look forward to visiting Books Are Magic before too long. What’s your favorite local bookstore?

Where do we go from here?

I wasn’t sure what to write today.  After the election that has left so many people feeling angry, lost and in a state of shock, what could I share that would make a difference?

So when  my talented client, Jenni L. Walsh, shared her new blog post with me about her path to publication, I thought it was worth sharing with all of you. It speaks to the grit, determination, perseverance, and yes, setbacks, we all face in life. What matters isn’t what happens around you, it’s how you handle it to make the best life possible for yourself and everyone around you. Obviously that means very different things for different people, but in this case and for our blog where we talk about books and writing and publishing, it felt like a very applicable story to share. Jenni’s road wasn’t fast or easy, and given her many other obligations, she had decided she was going to quit writing. Maybe not forever, maybe for a period of time while her kids were small and she was working and too busy to spend the time writing books that were never going to get published, or so it seemed.

And then an amazing thing happened. The first book sold! And soon after I spoke with an editor at Scholastic who wanted to start a nonfiction series for middle grade readers about strong brave young women, and Jenni did a proposal and we sold the first two books of a new series. We’re developing other projects and Jenni’s hard work is finally paying off.

I hope you find some inspiration here, and perhaps that extra burst of motivation to help you keep going when you feel like you’ve been punched in the gut and you just can’t do it anymore. There can be a silver lining, a path to publication, a road to a better future. Let’s keep thinking about that as we navigate these new and uncharted waters ahead.

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Bringing picture books to life

Picture books are a relatively new category for me. Not in terms of reading, with four kids eleven and under, but in terms of books I’ve represented. The experience has been fascinating and while there is a learning curve, the joy of seeing something so visually stunning created by an author is really an amazing process to watch unfold.

My client, Christie Matheson, is an extremely talented author-illustrator who is currently finishing her third picture book, PLANT THE TINY SEED (which will be out January 24th). Her books focus on the beauty and simplicity of nature and how much there is to see if we really spend the time to look and pay attention. There’s magic everywhere, as she so cleverly describes in her first book, TAP THE MAGIC TREE. Below you’ll see some beautiful sketches that Christie was kind enough to share with me so I could share them with you.

I saw this article written by illustrator Eliza Wheeler which describes her illustration process for her most recent book, THIS IS OUR BABY, BORN TODAY, written by Varsha Bajaj. It’s incredible to see the research, time and attention to detail that goes into creating the art for a picture book. What appears on the page is likely based on hundreds of hours of work by the artist and those she’s working with to bring the book to life.

Despite numerous setbacks requiring extensive additional work during the development process of THIS IS OUR BABY, the mission was finally accomplished and all agree the book is a beautiful piece of work. As a writer, no matter what your process looks like, when you are feeling frustrated or insecure, the takeaway here is to keep your eye on the end result. Sometimes you need to regroup and take a break along the way to get feedback, make changes, and ensure the project is what you want it to be.

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Books that make you laugh

It’s not that often that we talk about books being funny. People look to books for a lot of things, and it’s not always to laugh. Yet there are many authors who write about serious and not so serious matters in a humorous way. And those books can be very successful.

I thought this Slate piece was kind of fun (if not funny) that asks Maria Semple the books that she picks as her top funny reads. Then they asked those three to pick their top books and it goes on in a visual pyramid with all of the colorful book covers represented. All in all, it adds up to 82 books that you can read for a laugh, some of which are by well-known authors (David Sedaris, Philip Roth, Bill Bryson, Sherman Alexie etc.)  and a couple of which are recommended twice (THE HATERS by Jesse Andrews, and WHAT I’D SAY TO THE MARTIANS by Jack Handey, must read those).

I’m a fan of classics like A CONFEDERACY OF DUNCES and the more recent WHERE’D YOU GO, BERNADETTE by Maria Semple for their originality and unique voices. On the nonfiction side, comedians like Tina Fey, Mindy Kaling, and Amy Schumer all have huge bestsellers. I enjoy the wackiness of Jenny Lawson, and I think Sloane Crosley is writing smart, funny nonfiction for a younger generation, finding humor in everyday situations.

What are your favorite funny books, or serious books that still make you laugh? It’s a hard balance to strike but I do think there is room in the marketplace for more smart, humorous fiction and nonfiction.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What’s trending in fiction

The annual Frankfurt Book Fair is almost upon us and even though it doesn’t actually begin until next month, there are already reports of some big deals happening. As agents, we watch what books are selling to publishers very closely, and we look at the deals coming out of these fairs as way to see what is trending in the marketplace.

A couple of things to note about these two deals they mention. First, they’re both thrillers. Seems GONE GIRL and GIRL ON THE TRAIN’s remarkable successes have paved the way for publishers to be really excited about new thrillers. This isn’t new news, and despite an overly crowded marketplace, the books with the right combination of elements are still working. We’re reading one now for book club, THE WOMAN IN CABIN 10 by Ruth Ware, which has already sold almost 100,000 copies in hardcover, according to Bookscan, since its publication in July. Clearly, having woman or girl in your title is a sure way to the bestseller list!

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Another thing that appeals to me personally is the motherhood angle of the first book Publisher’s Weekly mentions – Gin Phillip’s BEAUTIFUL THINGS, which reportedly sold for close to a million dollars. It’s a thriller which takes place over just 3 hours about a young mom who gets trapped in a zoo with her young son and an armed gunman. I love the premise. It’s simple, but scary and high-concept, and feels original and fresh.

Something else that strikes me about the recent Frankfurt deals is that the second one they talk about, Caz Tudor’s 2-book deal with Crown here in the US, is a debut author from the UK who won a contest for the first book, sponsored by Bonnier and called Twenty7, which offers aspiring writers professional feedback on their unpublished manuscripts. It’s really amazing to see that this freelance copyeditor is now going to be a major internationally published author with sales already in 25 territories.

For now at least, thrillers are still working in the market so polish up those thrillers and send them our way; we’d love to take a look.

The inside scoop on writing for kids

All you aspiring writers out there – don’t you sometimes wish you could sit down with an experienced editor and ask a book’s worth of questions about children’s book publishing? Well, your wish has been granted in the form of a new book written by children’s book editor and author Cheryl B. Klein.

Her site alone is full of good information for aspiring authors but it’s her new book, THE MAGIC WORDS: WRITING GREAT BOOKS FOR CHILDREN AND  YOUNG ADULTS that is really going to give you the inside track.

In case you don’t know, the publisher she works for as the Executive Editor, Arthur A. Levine Books, an imprint of Scholastic, published a little series called Harry Potter. Arthur Levine is the genius editor who recognized its market potential and bought it for the U.S. market. Their list is incredible and it’s a very small team that acquires and edits all of their books. She’s worked on a range of books, from picture books to YA, and she even worked on the last two books in the Harry Potter series.

THE MAGIC WORDS  itself has been generating good response and positive reviews. Booklist, a trade publication, gave it a starred review.  They describe it like this:  “For anyone wishing to write for young readers, Klein’s remarkable new book will be a sine qua non, an indispensable, authoritative guide to the act, art, and craft of creation. An editor for 15 years, Klein clearly knows her apples about the writing—and publishing—process and demonstrates an extraordinary gift for analyzing it, breaking it into its constituent parts, and reducing those parts to other parts until an essential kernel of truth is uncovered.”

Seems to me it’s more than a worthwhile investment (of under $20!) to learn about the unique craft of writing fiction for children from one of the best and brightest in the business. How she had time to write this book is beyond me, but I’m very glad she did so I can share it with all of you!

Bestselling poetry in motion

It’s not often that you hear about a poetry collection becoming a commercial bestseller, but in the case of Rupi Kaur’s MILK AND HONEY, that’s exactly what’s happened.

To me, as much as it’s categorized as poetry, I see it more as a lifestyle book, skewing  inspirational self-help, definitely has spirituality and mind/body/spirt overtones. It’s like a collection of poetic mantras for a healthy, positive way of living coming from a place of women overcoming adversity and female empowerment. She addresses dark issues like sexual abuse and survival. Here’s a Buzzfeed piece which lists a sampling of her work like:

“we all move forward when

we recognize how resilient

and striking the women

around us are”

As evidenced in this article from Publisher’s Weekly, she self-published her first book and Andrews McMeel, an independent publisher based in Kansas City primarily known for humor and gift books, took notice and signed up the author to give the book a wider distribution through its networks.

I think it illustrates that if you are able to tap into a receptive audience, no matter what category you are writing in, you can be successful. Social media really helped Rupi Kaur build a name for herself and her work, as well as visiting college campuses to share her spoken-word poetry. Her work was resonating, and the book is an extension of a platform she has worked hard to build and develop. May many others follow in her brave footsteps!

Platform talk

There was a blog post recently from Eric Smith that got a lot of attention around publishing circles. My colleague, Sharon, passed it around the office for all of us to see, and I thought it might be a good idea to share wider with our blog readers as well.

Periodically the conversation changes about what authors should be doing to reach their fans once they’re published or how to build up their fan base before they’re published. One of the nice things about the piece is that it gives a few examples of authors doing things that are effective.

When I’m at conferences or talking with prospective authors, I often discuss what I refer to as the “platform pie.” Years ago, you had a good book idea, you got it published and you built your platform around the book. Now, the book has to be one of the last pieces of the platform pie, with the others already in place when you sell the book. Other pieces of the pie include social media, traditional media (radio and tv), public speaking, and writing online and offline for blogs, websites, newspapers and magazines.

A good example on my own list is Amy Morin, author of 13 THINGS MENTALLY STRONG PEOPLE DON’T DO and the upcoming 13 THINGS MENTALLY STRONG PARENTS DON’T DO. Her writing career started with freelance articles, one of which, talking about Amy’s groundbreaking work on mental strength, went viral in late 2014. I sold the book that became 13 THINGS just a few weeks later after feverishly working on it over the holidays.  She then took that success and extended her platform, writing for various publications, doing radio and tv interviews, and setting up speaking engagements in front of all kinds of audiences which eventually led to a Tedx talk and many other outlets to grow her platform.

It’s the end of summer and most of us are hanging on to the last few days before the busyness of September kicks in. This is a good thing to be thinking about while sitting on the beach, sipping ice cold cocktails, all the ways in which you can make your voice heard.

Potter mania!

I know I’m not the only one talking about Harry Potter these days. The new “book”, which is really the published version of the play currently running in London (oh, how I wish I could go!) went on sale this week and the frenzy is out of control.

Publisher’s Weekly reports here that sales have already topped 2 million copies, in North America alone. I admit I’m one of those who preordered the book as soon as I heard it was becoming available. I actually realized that I did it twice so now have 2 copies on their way! Midnight parties across the country attracted kids and adults of all ages.

I just love how a fictional character has caused such a stir in popular culture. It’s such a positive reminder of the lasting impact books can have in a time when there is so much negativity being put out into the media. It’s incredible and practically unfathomable to me that a published play could achieve this level of success. I love theater so it’s heartening to me to know that this medium can generate big numbers, as evidenced by this new Harry Potter as well as the huge success of Hamilton (my other current obsession, more exciting news to come on that in a later post).

We’ve had our own version of Potter fever around here lately. While my oldest daughter is away at sleepaway camp, her younger sister dressed up as Harry for Halloween in July at camp (photo below). I was impressed with how she put the costume together with adult glasses and the scar drawn on a piece of scotch tape, and it helped we still have our wands from our amazing visit to Potter World at Universal in Florida last November.

Have you ordered your copy of Cursed Child yet? If you have and you’ve read it, please let us know what you think. Michiko Kakutani’s review in the New York Times was very positive and she’s one tough critic. She actually refers to it as “a compelling, stay-up-all-night read.” I’m so excited to dive back into the wonderful world of Harry Potter and read it with all the girls when Sam’s back from camp. Will let you know how it goes!

ps- my first copy arrived while I was writing this post, and it’s a beautiful book: