Saturday, January 30, 2010

Your Wish Is My Command

For Nancy, who asked for more kittens on this blog:
more kittens.

and for Michael, who asked for more nudity:
naked kittens.

This blog is basking in the support and interesting suggestions from the previous post.
Particularly interesting is a couple suggestions that I might try blogging while drunk (with alcohol, one supposes, rather than the drunk-with-righteous-indignation that you're all quite used to by now). Since the line between drunk and asleep is almost non-existent for me, that's less likely to happen. I shall, however, take those suggestions as meaning the writers wouldn't mind having a drink with me. The feeling is mutual.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Remastered! in 3D! with 30% More Pointed Advice!

Can you believe this blog turns three years old in February? In blog years, that's what-- like, 50?

And as much as this blog would like to be a bouncy young thing, it's actually hugging its hot water bottle and trying to shake a touch of the winter blues.

So it's time for some reader feedback.

What would you like to see on this blog in year 4?
What do you like about the way this blog comports itself already, and what elements would be welcome additions to its repertoire?

Remember, reader participation is to blogs as sunshine and vitamins are to people. And this blog is really looking forward to springtime.

This blog promises to consider all suggestions, right after its nap.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

How to Complain About Your Publisher in Public

In terms of freedom of speech, which I support in every form: complain any way you want.

In terms of smart career advice and behaving like a professional: DON'T.

In the many comments about the Magic Under Glass cover, a few people have wondered about the author's relative quiet. It seems there are two very different questions, though:

Some people seem to be asking "Why wasn't the author the very first to object publicly to the cover?"

When you, as an author, form a professional business relationship with a publisher (ie, contracts, signatures, money changing hands), the publisher expects you to act professionally. What that means is that in most cases, you should take a 'no comment' approach to the publisher's mistakes, in the same way that the publisher will take a 'no comment' approach to your mistakes, if you make any.

If a newspaper article runs about the time you accidentally showed up at your job clothed only in tequila, your publisher will not be happy. But to the public, its response will be 'no comment'. You are its business partner, and short of canceling your contract, that's not going to change. So your publisher realizes that if it became one of the people publicly objecting to your behavior, that would not help the situation. At all.

And the same goes in reverse. I would say that the only time it would be smart to publicly distance yourself from your publisher is when/if it has done something that will cause continuing public outrage and bad feeling even after it makes an attempt to mitigate its mistake. You may have noticed that much of the outrage and consternation about the cover is dying down now that Bloomsbury has capitulated. This was not one of those times.

So while I, like you, am curious what the author's personal feelings about all this are, I don't feel she should have felt any pressure to share them with the world.

If your publisher does something so outrageously offensive or stupid that other publishers (the other publishers you would be going to if your current publisher relationship soured) want to distance themselves from it publicly, then THAT is your invitation to excoriate your publisher on your blog and twitter and to burn them in effigy on your front lawn. Not before.

And you should take comfort in knowing that unless you decide to start habitually showing up for school visits clothed only in tequila, your publisher will let you deal with your mistakes your way.

But some seem to be asking, "If the author has no problem with her cover (if in fact that's so, and she's not just being discrete), what gives other people the right to find it objectionable / racist?"

Excuse me? The author is not the arbiter of what cover matches her text when there is an obvious contradiction. No one, absolutely no one, would describe the model on the cover as "dark-skinned", which is how the author described her main character.

One of the problems we have with racism today is that a fair number of people think that racism can only be deliberate. As in, it doesn't matter if something you say or do is racist. If you didn't mean it to be racist, then it's not.
For the record, and I hope we're all really listening: THAT IS INCORRECT.

And also for the record: those of us who objected to the cover were not objecting on the author's behalf. We were objecting on the readers' behalf. And especially on the minority readers' behalf, because some of us understand how excruciating and demoralizing it is to children to be made to feel that they are the wrong color. This is a question completely outside of the author's participation or non-participation. No matter who approved or disapproved that cover, no matter what was meant or not meant, that cover on this book was wrong.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

UPDATE: Bloomsbury rejackets

"Bloomsbury is ceasing to supply copies of the US edition of Magic Under Glass. The jacket design has caused offense and we apologize for our mistake. Copies of the book with a new jacket design will be available shortly."

Sunday, January 17, 2010

New Year, New Season, Same Old WTF

Dear Bloomsbury,

I don't understand you. Considering the quality of your fiction and the covers on your books, I have to guess you have great editors and great designers.

You certainly have great authors. So why do you keep doing this to them?

The main character of this book is described as far-eastern, and dark skinned. She is a "trouser girl" in this alternate Victorian England. Reading the book, I assumed that was a reference to traditional Thai styles of dress.

Here's the cover.
Bloomsbury, something is wrong in your house. Something that makes you think your Caucasian readers (and no argument, they're the majority) wouldn't be interested in reading about anyone of another color. And something that makes you feel it's ok to make your minority readers feel marginalized; to make them feel that whatever they look like, they ought to be white.

Now, I realize that very likely this cover may have been finished and paid for (and a good cover shoot costs a LOT, I sympathize) even before the Liar kerfuffle. Which would mean that it was before you had that shining opportunity to learn something. Which would also mean that you had more than 6 months to fix this.

This writer is talented, and she's innocent. But I don't know how to support her without also supporting you, Bloomsbury. As writers become more aware and wary of you, though, they are going to start realizing that as talented as you are, you're quite a long way from innocent.

Editorial Anonymous

New Books

Well, old and new. But time for some new colors!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Definitions for the Perplexed: "Issue" Books

If you write a book to help parents and kids deal with something everyone experiences (like bedtime), not everyone who experiences that thing will buy your book. This is obvious, right? Some of them will buy your book. Not all of them.

Good. So the next thing to realize is that if you write a book to help parents and kids deal with something only a few people experience (like the death of a loved one, or synesthesia, or satanic ritual abuse), not everyone who experiences that thing will buy your book. Some of them will buy your book. Not all of them.

This is what publishers call an "issue" book: a book for a particular situation/problem in readers' lives-- one which does not affect all people.

Because the audience for such books is narrowed by the number of people who are affected, and further narrowed by the fact that not all of those people will buy the book, "issue" books have very limited sales potential, and thus very limited appeal for publishers.

You may feel you are doing a public service in writing a picture book about little Samantha's ageusia. You may be frustrated by the unjust lack of books your child's kindergarten teacher can use to explain to the other children that when Timmy beats up on them, it's really a just another of the ways God makes us all special and different.

But publishers have warehousing costs, in addition to many kinds of overhead. They are in the business of providing only those public services that serve more than a tiny fraction of the public, and only those services the public will pay for.

Thanks to Mary O'Dea for the link!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Announcing... Children's Book Publishing 101: the Online Course!

Children's Book Publishing 101

Ever wonder how a children's book gets published? Bank Street College Children's Librarian Lisa Von Drasek will tell you in this exciting overview of children's book publishing. What does an editor do? Do I need an agent? Is there a market for my idea? How do I submit my manuscript? What is a book proposal? What is the deal with self-publishing? We will follow the process of children's book publishing from manuscript to bound book in the bookstore.
Please note: This course is an introduction only. Manuscripts will not be reviewed.

Prior to earning her MLS, Lisa Von Drasek was a children's book buyer and worked at publishing houses in Sales and Marketing. In addition her work as the Bank Street College Children's Librarian, she has been a children's book reviewer contributing to Kirkus Reviews, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Barnes and Noble Review, Nick Jr., and The Bark. Her essays have appeared in Knowledge Quest, Library Journal, Teaching K-8 and Library Sparks. She blogs at EarlyWord Kids. Ms. Von Drasek earned an MLIS from Pratt Institute, and her BS from Skidmore College.