Category Archives: Writer Resources

Tips, resources, and advice for writers from the Lee & Low editors

Literary Agents Discuss the Diversity Gap in Publishing

Literary agents make up a big part of the publishing machine. Most publishers no longer consider unsolicited submissions, so an agent is a must if you even want to get your foot in the door. Each year, agents review many promising manuscripts and portfolios so it is safe to say they have a good sense of who makes up the talent pool of children’s book publishing. So what kind of diversity are agents seeing? Being that the number of diverse books has not increased in the last eighteen years, in order to understand why this problem persists we decided to ask the gatekeepers.

Adriana DomínguezAdriana Domínguez is an agent at Full Circle Literary, a boutique literary agency based in San Diego and New York City, offering a unique full circle approach to literary representation. The agency’s experience in book publishing includes editorial, marketing, publicity, legal, and rights, and is used to help build authors one step at a time. Full Circle works with both veteran and debut writers and artists, and has a knack for finding and developing new and diverse talent.

Karen GrencikAbigail  SamounKaren Grencik and Abigail Samoun own Red Fox Literary, a boutique agency representing children’s book authors and illustrators. They offer a dazzling array of talents among their roster of clients, including New York Times and Time magazine Best Book winners, and some of the most promising up-and-coming talents working in the field today. The agency is closed to unsolicited submissions but it does accept queries from attendees at conferences where they present or through industry referrals.

Lori NowickiLori Nowicki is founder of Painted Words, a literary agency that represents illustrators and authors in the children’s publishing marketplace and beyond. Their goal is to provide the utmost in representation for illustrators and writers while placing a unique emphasis on developing characters, books, and licensed properties.

Do you receive many submissions from authors and illustrators of color? Overall, what percentage of authors and illustrators who submit to you are people of color? Note: Estimations are fine.

AD/Full Circle: I honestly wouldn’t know about percentages, but our agency receives a good number of submissions from authors of color. Proportionally, our agency represents more authors of color than most others. Authors and illustrators who are familiar with our work and/or visit our website know that we welcome diverse points of view, and see that diversity represented in our client list. I will say that I have personally felt for a very long time that there are simply not enough illustrators of color in the marketplace, and I am not quite sure why that is. I am usually very enthusiastic when I receive a query from a talented author/illustrator of color—I wish we received more of those! As a general rule, our agency represents illustrators who are also writers, and such people are difficult to find under any circumstances, as not everyone is equally good at both.I would estimate that perhaps 10–15% of my submissions are from people of color

AS/Red Fox Literary: It’s hard to tell how many submissions come from authors and illustrators of color. Most of the time, I haven’t met these authors and illustrators in person so the only way for me to tell what their ethnicity might be is by their name and their choice of subjects, but these can be misleading. I once made an offer on a picture book about an African American family, told in language with a jazzy rhythm, by an author with an African American sounding name and she turned out to be a white librarian. I’d made the assumption, based on the subject and the author’s name, that she would be African American.

Oftentimes, the question of the author’s ethnicity doesn’t enter my mind—unless the subject relates to race, in which case I’ll wonder if the author will have the life experience that can provide a genuine insider’s point-of-view. I would estimate that perhaps 10–15% of my submissions are from people of color.

KG/Red Fox Literary: I have four authors of color on my list of 38 authors, but like Abi says, we never know the ethnicity of an author when they submit to us. The only way I could imagine to gauge it would be by determining how many authors of color attend an SCBWI conference at which I present, comparing that number to the total number of attendees, and then assuming the ratio of submissions to be a similar percentage. At the recent summer conference in LA, I would guesstimate that authors of color made up about 35% of the total number of attendees.Less than one percent of the submissions I receive reflect people of color in the samples.

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Advice for New Writers from our New Voices Award Winners

New Voices Award sealLast month we brought together past New Voices Award winners to see how they got their start writing picture books. Today, in our next installment in the series, we ask these talented authors to share their advice for new writers.

This year marks our 14th annual New Voices Award writing contest. Every year, LEE & LOW BOOKS gives the New Voices Award to a debut author of color for a picture book manuscript.

Q: What advice would you give to a writer who is just starting out?

Linda BoydenLinda Boyden, The Blue Roses
(our first New Voices Award Winner)

I would ask a question: Why do you write? And if the answer isn’t “Because I must,” then I’d point out that perhaps you aren’t ready yet. Rainer Maria Rilke gave this same advice, though much more eloquently, in “Letters to a Young Poet.” The desire to write should stem from your core. Writers write every day, 365 days a year; some days you might produce 5,000 words and others, only a paragraph, but the habit of daily writing will develop and refine your style.

Being a realist, I would also caution them to not quit their day jobs. Most writers won’t become a J. K. Rowling or Stephanie Meyer with the sale of a first (or second, or third) book. It takes persistence and courage. Talent is common, but persistence is the key to a career in writing and courage will buoy your spirits when facing the bane of rejection.

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8 Helpful Links for Aspiring Picture Book Authors

National Picture Book Writing Week

Happy Friday, friends! Perhaps some of you have seen that this week (May 1-7) began NaPiBoWriWee, or National Picture Book Writing Week. Author Paula Yoo started NaPiBoWriWee back in 2009 to celebrate the release of her picture book Shining Star:

I thought it would be fun to challenge myself to write 7 picture books in 7 days. I had been procrastinating writing another new picture book draft for the longest time. So I thought, “What if I force myself to try and write 7 different picture book manuscripts in one week?” Sure, the drafts would be sloppy rough drafts. But at least I’d have 7 FINISHED drafts to choose from when it came to serious revisions and possible submission to my book agent.

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How to Plot a Trilogy: Five Tips for Writing Trilogies

guest bloggerWe’ve invited Karen Sandler, author of Tankborn and the sequel, Awakening, to the blog to share her wisdom about how to plot a trilogy. In her first guest post last week, “The Trouble With Trilogies,” Karen shared the challenges she experienced while plotting the second two novels in her Tankborn series. Today she shares five useful tips for writers taking a stab at trilogies:

Tankborn

Awakening

Five Tips for Writing Trilogies

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How to Plot a Trilogy Part I: The Trouble With Trilogies

guest blogger(cross-posted from Karen Sandler’s blog)

In two guest posts, Karen Sandler, author of Tankborn and the sequel, Awakening, shares her wisdom about how to plot a trilogy.

Part I: The Trouble With Trilogies

Back in my romance writing days, I didn’t write trilogies.  The love stories I wrote were one-offs. Although half of my Harlequin books were all set in the same small town of Hart Valley and had some overlapping characters, there weren’t any connections between the stories. There were two books I did for Harlequin that were part of the Fostering Family mini-series, where the second book picked up where the first left off. Characters from the first book were mentioned in the second, but the main story revolved around a new hero and heroine.

TankbornThen along came Tankborn. When I first wrote Tankborn, I had a hazy idea of possibly writing a trilogy. Then when I signed with my agents and we were getting the manuscript ready for submission, they suggested I write up short blurbs for a second and third book. When we sold to Lee and Low/Tu Books, the original contract was only for the one book, but we later sold them two other books to complete the trilogy.

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