Friday, November 05, 2010

discovering new writers?

Someone posted this comment on the blog and I thought it was interesting (hope you don't mind me reposting this!)

"While I'll always buy books by an author I like regardless of the publisher, from now on I'm going to try to buy mainly from publishers who accept unsolicited manuscripts. It's my way to reward their faith in undiscovered writers."

I was discovered in the slush pile believe it or not. Obviously I only sent my manuscripts out to publishers who accepted unsolicited manuscripts.

It's been a few years (I guess more than a few!) since the day I started to mail stuff out and things have changed a lot. I haven't looked lately at books like the Children's Writer's & Illustrators Market but I know things are harder. I wonder how many houses still accept unsolicited manuscripts. As Alvina can tell you Little Brown is one that doesn't. I know from my experience, however, that a lot of writers can get around the "rules" by meeting editors face-to-face or going to conferences and getting the okay to sub that way. There is always a way around things!

But anyway, I think it's great to reward undiscovered writers. Every new writer deserves the attention or they won't get going with their potential career. I struggled for a while to get noticed and finally found my way when I started doing nonfiction. A frightening new thing in stores like Barnes & Noble is that they are taking away a lot of display space in the kids' department that would be used to display new picture books. There was always the picture book wall (a large wall space to put all the new books out face-out). Now it's gone! It's been replaced by Thomas the Tank Engine and the like. This is scary. Where are the new books supposed to go? In a store like B&N... I don't know. Nowhere. Spine out. How will picture books sell? People will ask for the ones they know: Olivia, Goodnight Moon, books by celebrities... and goodbye new talent. Goodbye anyone who isn't already famous.

I don't know what's happening these days but things are going to become more and more impossible.


laurasalas said...

I agree with *lots* of what you say, but just wanted to point out that the picture book wall at B&N was largely paid advertising space. Publishers pay/paid B&N to display certain titles there, and then a small percentage of the wall was up to each B&N's discretion. So it was mostly just a big ad.

Meghan McCarthy said...

Not really. There is one shelf for "shelf talkers" and we have to face out those books (those had cardboard titles and blurbs under them) but there usually weren't that many. Percentage wise most of the books we (I've been a bookseller there for many, many years) put faced out were our choice. It was a great space to allow booksellers to put out what they liked and we always tried to fit in ALL the new books. Now, it's gone. There's no space left.

Anna Alter said...

Meghan- Was that the case at all stores? I've heard what Laura is talking about also, that many chain stores don't have a lot of choice in what to display, that its a lot of paid advertising by publishers. Especially the tables set up near the front of the stores, near registers.

Meghan McCarthy said...

Stores get a list of books to put on display. There are "endcaps" and the octagon tables and then there are the tables at the front of the store, but those tables display adult books not kids'. Booksellers get a list of books that they have to put on display but lots of times there can be liberties taken. For example: in the front of the kids' dept in union square my friend has "her table," and she fills it with books she likes, usually with some sort of theme. Of course, the bigger the store the more tables available. Even when a bookseller gets a list he or she can add books to that list that the bookseller thinks would work well with the display. It also depends on the dept. manager of each store and how strict they are about following guidelines.

But the BEST place for PBs was the wall.


alvinaling said...

Even though the corporate office dictated what went on the picture book wall (for the most part), I think that it was actually a small percentage that was actually paid for by publishers (small meaning less than 20%, I'd estimate, although I'm not really privy to these decisions)--the majority of the wall just went to the new release picture books, and I agree, it was the best place to see picture books, and I'm sad that space has changed.

Anonymous said...

I had mentioned that I bought POP for a Christmas gift. The to-be-recipient visited the other day and saw my library copy of LING AND TING lying on a table. Although she'd already read it a few days ago when she was over last, she picked it up and read it again from start to finish.

Both your and Grace's books should be on gift lists.

Kristin said...

Meghan, my husband and I went to our local B&N last week, and my jaw dropped. It looked like a toy store.

Entire book shelves were gone. In their place toys. Wooden toys. Baby toys. Yoga mats. At first, I'd hoped it was the holidays, but then I remembered the picture book wall. (Which was so far, still present.)

Also, they had removed all the floor seating but 3 chairs.

How will that encourage people or parents to linger and flip through pages?

Of course, the new nook was front and center.

Meghan McCarthy said...

Thanks anonymous!

Kristen, B&N seems to be going in a new direction. One I don't agree with. It's scary. I've worked there for 9 years and suddenly there's a BIG change. Their stocks dropped and they were up for sale and their remedy, it seems, is to go digital and toy. If you know what happened to Starbucks (they started selling mugs and music and all sorts of things) then this should be interesting. Starbucks went back to basics--selling coffee--after they realized their new technique wasn't working. We'll see what happens. I don't take this lightly, though, because my job and health insurance is in play. I will be ruined if something happens! Well, plus, I care what happens to the department and to the picture books. Sigh. Toys, toys, everywhere.

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Anonymous said...

I, too, have noticed the dreadful changes at Barnes & Noble, especially in the children's area. I couldn't even find an interesting Christmas picture book there. Don't they realize their limited inventory will simply force buyers to use either the independent stores or Amazon? B&N doesn't even stock some of the NYT Best Illustrated books -- such as the fabulous BUSING BREWSTER. But Barbie's there. If you're looking for tips on great children's books, both old and new, I review them at