Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Foundation for Children's Books interview with Brian Lies

Last week I went to another great lecture put on by The Foundation for Children's Books. If you live in the Boston area I highly recommend attending some of their events; there is always a great line-up of speakers and the format is nice- more of a conversation with the author rather than a traditional interview.

Thursday the featured author was Brian Lies, author/illustrator extraordinaire of the much loved Bats at the Beach. Last week he talked about the follow-up book, Bats at the Library, which looks fantastic. He talked a lot about the process of creating his books and brought bunches of amazing art and sketches for show and tell. Below are some of the book dummies for the new Bats book, and a color study. I couldn't believe how detailed his "sketch" was, puts mine to shame! It could almost be the finished art!!

He also said some interesting things about promotion. When he got the contract for the first Bats book he enlisted the help of his wife (who was a pro at marketing/launching new products) and they decided to throw all their chips in and promote the heck out of the book. He said one of the things that helped was to make a list of real goals for the book (ie NYT Bestseller list kind of thing), and then strategize about how to accomplish those goals specifically, instead of shooting for a more generalized idea of "success". He compared it to lighting small sticks to make a bonfire- you don't start by lighting a log with a match, you start by making a smaller fire first. Or something like that (I may be botching the analogy). Anyways, I thought that was a good way to look at marketing books. He also said it is much easier to get people into a book signing when you park your car with a giant bat on the top in front of the store, ha.

After the talk I got a pic with fellow author/illustrator Mary Newell DePalma (left), and children's book expert Susannah Richards (right), who did a fabulous job of conducting the interview with Brian. I was too shy to take a picture of Brian since he was busy with a long line of people waiting to get books signed. Oh well, next time!


Elaine Magliaro said...


I had really wanted to go to BC to hear Brian Lies. I was just so busy last week. I had forgotten about the FCB event until Thursday evening. Most of the Conversation with...programs are held on Tuesdays. It slipped my mind.

Grace and I saw Susannah at the Rabbit Hill Festival in October.

BTW, we had a panel discussion with Matt Tavares, Wade Zahares, and Daniel J. Mahoney at our reading council meeting last Wednesday. It was great--just like the one we had last year with the Blue Rose Girls.

Anonymous said...

Brian's illustrations are wonderful from a technical perspective--so it was great to see the sketches and original paintings. He is also a warm and thoughtful human being, and that shines through in his work.
It was fun and inspiring to have had a visit with you as well! I learn so much from everyone.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the report, Anna!

What a cool lecture series -- please keep going to them so us West Coasters can live vicariously through you.

I love the new BATS book and that is some great marketing info.

When will we see your car with a big red shoe on top?!?

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Anonymous said...


It was great to see you at the FCB event! I'm sorry I didn't recognize you when you asked the question--the lights were awfully bright, and you were back in the audience...

You related what I was saying about marketing correctly--it's a thought that you gradually build a following for a book through what you do with your promotions, rather than hope it's going to take off and be a smash overnight.

I think it's pretty common to start thinking about your goals for a book, but get trapped by "...but HOW?" and stop there because it's so overwhelming. I've learned to not think about the "how" until after I've got a whole list of things on paper, from "get my local store to do a signing with me" to "have Oprah declare it the best new book this year." Then you can take the list item by item, and see which things are realistic, and which ones MIGHT happen if all of the other things fall into place... I think it's much easier to handle when taken in small bites.