Saturday, December 11, 2010

Cafeteria Mystery Meat

. . . is overused, has been for years. the phrase in a middle grade ms makes me think Generic. dig deeper, writers. cafeteria food is a cliche— as airline food was to stand-up comics years back.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Manuscript Makeovers by Claudia Mills

(Ms. Mills distributed this fabulous list at the 2010 SCBWI Iowa Conference.)

Picture Books and Easy Readers

1. Make sure that what you have really is a picture book!

2. Focus in immediately on what the story is about.

3. Cut everything extraneous.

4. Don’t drop any balls.

5. Bring the story full-circle in a satisfying way.

6. Think hard about what your bottom-line theme/message is.

Chapter Books and Novels

1. Begin at the beginning: inciting incident.

2. Let us see by the end of the first chapter what the book is going to be about.

3. Don’t give too much back story in the first chapter.

4. Make sure your character has strengths as well as weaknesses.

5. Make sure your character has weaknesses as well as strengths.

6. Pace the main character’s growth appropriately.

7. Make sure your character is active rather than reactive.

8. Have your main character solve his central problem himself.

9. Avoid having too many characters.

10. Make sure all your characters are interesting and three-dimensional.

11. Once again: don’t drop the ball. Make use of everything!

12. Build tension.

13. Don’t allow things to go too well for your character.

14. Be true to your own self-descriptions of characters.

15. Foreshadow main events.

16. Don’t have crucial scenes happen offstage.

17. Make sure all the action relates in some way to the main story line of the book.

18. Be wary of copying too lavishly form real life.

19. But in a realistic novel, be realistic in details.

20. Clarify the theme.

21. Avoid didacticism: number one problem in endings!

22. Make the ending as satisfying as possible, without being over-the-top and unbelievable.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


not all, but the majority of publishers' statements arrive on 4-1 and 10-1, which means right now is our time of— well, aargh! of course we are happy seeing sales grow and advances earn-out and cutting checks to our clients— BUT the hodgepodge of micro calculations and tabulations and, as always, errors: yikes! i want to say, you clients are sure lucky to have us. of course the reverse is even more true.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


we cannot resist sharing Voya's rave review of Gail's new release DARK SONG. get a load of this excerpt.

Giles is a gifted writer of suspense. Her imagery sparkles, her character development is flawless, and this page-turner positively crackles with excitement. Giles’s portrayal of Ames’s gradual loss of faith in her parents and friends is intensely realistic. Ames’s attraction to Marc is completely understandable, given the circumstances, but her levelheadedness and underlying love for her family win out in the end. Suspense lovers will savor this fast-paced psychological thriller.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Agent, also Author

read John's scintillating essay Crash Course in Getting Published in CHILDREN'S WRITERS' & ILLUSTRATORS' MARKET 2011 edition and discover the wisdom of the ages— rather the aged (Scott's) infusing the next generation. John starts with his STNY job interview and ends with advice for authors aspiring to the smashing publication of their debuts, like his GIRL PARTS. John sees both sides of the phantasmagorical author-publisher experience and tells it like it is.

Monday, July 12, 2010

We Like to Spread it Around.

we apportion our wares democratically. in the next three months, the following books will be pub'd by, in order, Little, Brown; R-H/Wendy Lamb; Marshall Cavendish (illustrator) Greenwillow (author); Candlewick; Flux; Scholastic Canada; Harcourt; Abrams; and Marshall Cavendish (author).

Our Neighborhood

hey! we made the NYTimes. notice the city's infrastructure work in the background, e-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e! eventually, it is to be supposed, we will have— what? fancier water?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Pet (Writerly) Peeves

i understand our use of language is fluid. there seems no reason to harp that "all right" is two words. (why they remained separated when already was formed i do not know.) the use of well vs good is another lost cause. answering How are you? with I'm good stills sounds like editorializing to be, but sobeit. (i love writing that as one word, which i do in honor of my mentor Marilyn Marlow, who insisited on it.)

we bow to the vagaries of usage at different rates. i myself continue to appreciate the difference between "anxious" and "eager" and am surprised, unhappily, to see writers conflate the two. another of my bugaboos: fewer vs less. Fewer units sold, so the book made less money is correct. Less buyers are to blame is wrong.

i hated seeing sneaked give way to snuck, but i feel that train left the station and cannot be brought back.

yesterday i told a writer his protagonist, in context, would not feel "disgust"; she would feel "disdain". the writer said, Why, they are indistinct. no, no, a thousand times no. the difference between those words, in context, is the difference between his character and another.

we welcome your slings and arrows.

Monday, May 10, 2010


i will be presenting programs in HOUSTON and AUSTIN (this Friday and Saturday) for the Writers' League of Texas.

my topics are, respectively, The Misadventures of a Manuscript and Kid Lit: How to Break Into It. if you are in the neighborhood(s), come be edified. here are the details.


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

A Conference! A Conference!

i am happy to ballyhoo SCBWI New Jersey's Jun 4 - 5 Annual Conference. i will be on-hand, if you have a yen to meet me. even if you do not, this rich stew of field workers and well-published talent has plenty else to recommend it: the workshops and critique sessions and chance to gas with movers and shakers. the setting is great too.


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Coming Atcha!

Here is another stupendous book for our stellar talents Barb Joosse and Jan Jutte. The book pubs 5-13. So far two reviews— and both stars!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

GIRL PARTS signing at the BEA!

For those attending the 2010 Book Expo America in New York, I will be signing advanced copies of GIRL PARTS Wednesday 5-26 at Candlewick's booth. Hope to see you there!*


* you'd be a fool to miss it! --ST

Monday, March 22, 2010

Preditors and Editors and an Anecdote

take note: the venerable P&E website has adjudged us highly recommended. despite vanity and pride, we pledge to remain humble and approachable— except in the manner of the man who simply walked in the front door Friday. we had a meeting going when Petey (office dog)suddenly barked impressively. a man entered with a portfolio. good grief! i say we are available, but we are not a public service.

Submission Statistics

it is a year since we moved our submission process to the web— accepting queries via our website. our system automatically collects numbers that might interest you blog perusers.

we receive, on average, 85 queries a week. of these we reject 90% and request partials for ten percent. of these we request full manuscripts for about 40%. i take this relatively high percentage as proof that our requests are well reasoned.

the number of new clients we acquire remains very small, however. NOT THAT WE DO NOT WANT THEM. our latest client is a picturebook author— and this is highly relevant to note: we are not looking for picturebook authors; it means that talent is talent and we will jump when we see it. incidentally, this new client was discovered at an SCBWI regional conference and not through the transom..

i know i speak for my colleagues when i say that discovering new talent is our greatest delight.


John is presently peddling our wares internationally, as befits a zealous young agent. this is the best way to keep our subagents on the ball.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Golden Age— Again

ten years back, folks talked about "this period of exceptional writing for teens" (think Speak, Out of Dust). since then, since the Harry Potter explosion and A Series of Unfortunate Events and the Stephanie Myer books, the audience for children's books, especially teen books, has opened to encompass the general public (meaning adults). here's an LA Times article about adult interest in teen fiction.

A Reissue! A Reissue!

here is one of those rare picturebooks honored with a second life. originally published by Harcourt in 2001, Barbara Goldin's Chelm tale is out in a new paperback edition from our pal Margery Cuyler at Marshall Cavendish. the story is set in the Catskills in the 1920s and celebrates Shavout— the Jewish holiday commemorating the day Moses received the Torah on Mount Sinai, which i would not have known without this book. it is delightful, charming, and satisfying (School Library Journal) and includes Barb's family receipe for cheese blintzes.

note to self: persuade Dunkin' Donuts to introduce its customers to cheese blintzes (license receipe?) and secure a premium co-edition of 18 million copies.

Friday, March 5, 2010


Here at last a clear breakdown of the agency model and what it means to authors.

Via Agent Kristin of Pub Rants:

Let’s say a title will sell on Amazon or Apple’s iPad for $10.00 (might as well make it easy math).

Now let’s look at the difference between net receipts if the publisher absorbs the cost of the agency commission versus if they don’t in defining and calculating net receipts.

If Publisher absorbs commission:
eBook price: $10.00
25% of net royalty (all the rage with publishers as of late)
Royalty to author: $2.50 per title sold

If Publisher does not:
eBook price: $10.00
$7.00 received by publisher (after 30% sales commission to retailer)
25% of net royalty
Royalty to author: $1.75 per title sold

Yep, definitely worth the time to find out exactly how this term is going to be defined in the contract when it comes to electronic books.



Thursday, February 25, 2010

Amazon Snaffu

Oy vey. More hours spent on the phone with Amazon.

Last week one of our Kindles had a meltdown and lost months of submission (meaning hours of extra work culling our email and rebuilding our list). Amazon offered to replace the model, failing to mention there's a four-week delay while they back order (from where I wonder?) the original device. So I call Amazon and they tell me they can happily send me the next-generation immediately- FOR AN EXTRA $50 BUCKS!

So...device breaks and I can wait a month for it to be replaced, or I can spend more money to upgrade? Um, what?

Our voices are now hoarse, but Amazon will send us a Kindle 2.0, at no cost, via next-day mail. But why, I wonder, did we have to kick and scream? Shouldn't this have been standard business practice?

Apoplectic at Astor Place (jmc)

Monday, February 8, 2010

Harper and Hachette Join Macmillian in Kindle Dispute

In case you haven't heard, it's now Macmillan, Harper, and Hachette committing to the "agency model" for E-book sales, whereby publishers set the sales price and retailers keep 30%. This means new releases from these houses (and most likely more to follow) will no longer be available for Amazon's much-disputed $9.99 on the Kindle. The new kid in town, Apple's iPad, operates on the agency model.

Frankly, though my back doesn't miss carting around manuscripts, the rest of me misses good ol' fashioned paper.


Monday, January 25, 2010

It Takes a Village

that is how i understood the meaning of this story since the day it arrived.

HIGGLEDY-PIGGLEDY CHICKS marks Barbara Joosse's debut on the Greenwillow list. we are told Barnes and Nobel is especially hip on this book.

a behind the scenes tidbit: Barb's original title was FUZZY PEEPS. Harper changed it for fear of violating the trademark for the famous marshmallow candy, Peeps. frankly, we at STNY prefer the original title and find Harper's reasoning, well, peculiar. firstly, trademarks are granted in VERY specific categories, and a candy and book title are many miles apart; secondly, a title cannot be copyrighted or trademarked.


a first look, for our BlogSpot fans, at the cover illustration for the Canadian (maybe also Australian) edition of THE DARK DEEPS, book #2 in Arthur Slade's marvelous-magnificent THE HUNCHBACK ASSIGNMENTS.
get ye to a bookstore!

Cyndy Szekeres

do you know. . . . Cyndy has sold OVER 13 million books worldwide? here you see why.

these four will be out next month, via Sterling, as part of a 12-book Cyndy Szekeres series. they are re-issues, and, frankly, quite the nicest of the many editions these books saw under the aegis of their original publisher Golden Books (Random House). they are also an upcoming MAIN SELECTION, thank you very much,
of Children's Book of the Month Club.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Congrats to Award Winners!

Congratulations to Rebecca Stead, Jerry Pinkney, and Libba Bray who won the 2010 Newbery Medal, Caldecott, and Printz Award (respectively)! More details from Pub Weekly here.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Kirkus Lives Again!

According to Pub Weekly, Kirkus Reviews will continue under new ownership. Whether the current staff will remain is unknown.


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