Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Fanfare 2010

The following books have been named to the Horn Book Magazine's 2010 Fanfare list, our selections for the best children's and young adult books of the year. The list will be published in next week's Notes from the Horn Book with annotations explaining what makes each book so great. In the same issue, Martha Parravano has "Five Questions For . . ." Fanfare honoree Megan Whalen Turner. Sign up now.


2010 Horn Book Fanfare

Picture Books
Mirror, written and illustrated by Jeannie Baker (Candlewick)
Me and You, written and illustrated by Anthony Browne (Farrar)
I Know Here, written by Laurel Croza, illustrated by Matt James (Groundwood)
April and Esme, Tooth Fairies, written and illustrated by Bob Graham (Candlewick) 
The Village Garage, written and illustrated by G. Brian Karas (Ottaviano/Holt)
Nini Lost and Found, written and illustrated by Anita Lobel (Knopf)

Fiction
Forge, by Laurie Halse Anderson (Atheneum)
Incarceron, by Catherine Fisher (Dial)
Happy Birthday, Sophie Hartley, by Stephanie Greene (Clarion)
Ling and Ting: Not Exactly the Same! written and illustrated by Grace Lin (Little, Brown)
The Sky Is Everywhere, by Jandy Nelson (Dial)
Big Nate: In a Class by Himself, written and illustrated by Lincoln Peirce (HarperCollins)
As Easy as Falling Off the Face of the Earth, written and illustrated by Lynne Rae Perkins (Greenwillow)
The Dreamer, written by Pam Muñoz Ryan, illustrated by Peter Sís (Scholastic)
Revolver, by Marcus Sedgwick (Roaring Brook)
The White Horse Trick, by Kate Thompson (Greenwillow)
A Conspiracy of Kings, by Megan Whalen Turner (Greenwillow)
One Crazy Summer, by Rita Williams-Garcia (Amistad/HarperCollins)

Folklore
Pocketful of Posies: A Treasury of Nursery Rhymes, written and illustrated by Salley Mavor (Houghton)

Poetry
Dark Emperor and Other Poems of the Night, written by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Rick Allen (Houghton)
Mirror Mirror: A Book of Reversible Verse, written by Marilyn Singer, illustrated by Josée Masse (Dutton)

Nonfiction
They Called Themselves the KKK: The Birth of an American Terrorist Group, by Susan Campbell Bartoletti (Houghton)
The War to End All Wars: World War I, by Russell Freedman (Clarion)
Ballet for Martha: Making Appalachian Spring, written by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan, illustrated by Brian Floca (Porter/Flash Point/Roaring Brook)
Kakapo Rescue: Saving the World’s Strangest Parrot [Scientists in the Field], written by Sy Montgomery, photographs by Nic Bishop (Houghton)
The Notorious Benedict Arnold: A True Story of Adventure, Heroism, and Treachery, written by Steve Sheinkin (Flash Point/Roaring Brook)

28 comments:

Moira said...

My apologies for asking an off-topic question. A friend told me that she's written books that are "good but unpublishable" because, she's been told, they aren't "'strong enough for the current market place.'" (I'm taking her word for it that they're good; I've heard her read her short stories, and I've enjoyed them.) She doesn't want to write for a market, but she does want to write something more marketable.

I look at the Fanfare list of books, and I try to imagine any of the authors writing them with a market in mind. I can imagine agents or editors claiming that Forge is too historical, Incarceron too strange, and One Crazy Summer being too political and having a mother who's unlikeable.

I may be terribly naive, but I like to believe that these titles weren't chosen by their publishers on their strengths as being marketable, but primarily because they're well-written. Is that a silly thing to believe?

Certainly one wants to write something that will sell (but who can predict that?). But I think trying to write while keeping in mind whether the story is "marketable" is detrimental. But whuttaheck do I know? (When I try to write that way, I end up like the Sesame Street muppet who tries to play the piano, then bangs his head on the keys while moaning, "I'll never get it right! Never!")

I want all the Fanfare books for Christmas.

Michael said...

I absolutely think about the market. But that's not a limitation. Those books on the Horn Book list? They're aimed at a market segment: single title with literary ambitions. That's what HB likes and that's a market segment.

There are other market segments: middle grade series, YA problem novels, early chapters, on and on.

There are writers who claim never to think about the market. These are known as "writers with rich husbands," or "writers who are full of shit."

Pretty much everybody thinks about money and marketability, but many feel some sophomore creative writing class need to deny they do so. And yet, when they're negotiating their contracts, guess what they're fighting for? Hint: it's not closer editing.

But we're not supposed to think about money or the market because . . . well, I don't know quite why. I'm sure there's a compelling reason. Shakespeare thought quite a lot about marketability, so did Dickens, just to pick two easy examples. But we're better than Bill or Chuck so we're supposed to be above all that.

Thinking about the market is not the same as writing crap or "selling out" (whatever the hell that means) or writing to some formula. I'm writing two series (one MG and one YA) right now and I've picked up some starred reviews along the way. Yet in both cases I committed the sin of "thinking about the market" and even finding holes in the market and filling those holes. I know: gasp!

Soon I'll be writing a third series. I'll be thinking about marketing on that, too, because if I don't I'll end up making cappuccinos at Starbucks and I'm too old for that.

So yes, your friend should think about marketability, if she wants to be published. But she can also think about the Horn Book-Newberry market.

Anonymous said...

So yes, your friend should think about marketability, if she wants to be published. But she can also think about the Horn Book-Newberry market.

Your friend should also be aware that this market is not one that makes a lot of money for its authors or publishers. The publishers aren't going to sink their money into a contender unless they are really sure it has a good chance of making this list. That means your friend's competition is going to be fierce. It's not enough to be good, or even very good.

But a very good book that is also marketable is an editor's dream come true. That might mean selling out, but it doesn't HAVE to. We can only write what's in us. Just being willing to think about marketing doesn't mean you can produce a series like Michael. If your friend has a more marketable story floating in the back of his or her head, your friend should give that one a try. If your friend has only literary stories for 8-12's to write, then he or she should just buckle down and work on producing a book that is a lot better than "good."

Roger Sutton said...

More than half of the Fanfare fiction selections are books in series, something I hadn't noticed until just now. I'm giving a speech about series publishing in the spring and this little fact has just given me something juicy to work from.

Anonymous said...

What does it say about publishing childen's books when only a mere 25books from over 22,000 published in 20l0 become cited for "Fanfare"?

Anonymous said...

Uh, I don't know? What do YOU think it means, Anon?

Roger Sutton said...

Can we take 15,000 right off the top for being unspeakably awful?

Anonymous said...

Only if we get to watch you review each, individually, first.

Anonymous said...

“Certainly one wants to write something that will sell (but who can predict that?). But I think trying to write while keeping in mind whether the story is "marketable" is detrimental.”

You’re on the right track, Moira. As for some of the responses here, look, it’s no great trick to demolish the straw man (with a rich husband? straw woman?) who never thinks about the market, ever. Rent must be paid, groceries must be bought, I’d like an iPad, and so, yes, we all are aware of the market, and no one will gasp to hear the news.

The question is, how much of your thinking do you give over to the market? Do you try to game and guess the market and write what you think it wants? (Or, better question, what it will want in a year or two or three, when your book is actually published?) Or do you try to find a spot in the market that allows you to do the work that’s meaningful to you, that allows you to do what you do best? Keep in mind that you are not being asked here to choose between the remainder bin and the bestseller list. Some books aimed at the heart of the market have gone to the former, and some difficult books have gone to the latter. And remember what Henry Ford said: if he’d asked the market what it wanted, it would have told him a faster horse.

There’s such a thing as a healthy regard for the market, and such a thing as a healthy disregard for it, too.

Moira said...

There are writers who claim never to think about the market. These are known as "writers with rich husbands," or "writers who are full of shit."

I know a lot of published authors, who write without considering the "market," and several are single, and none of them are full of shit. And some are lesbians and straight men, who wouldn't have a husband.

Those books on the Horn Book list? They're aimed at a market segment: single title with literary ambitions. I wonder if Beverly Cleary was thinking "single title with literary ambitions" while she was writing Dear Mr. Henshaw?

I should have been specific. By considering whether to write for a "market," I mean people who write on a topic or in a style that's currently selling well. Trends, to use another word. For example, the recent vampire and zombie books.

As for well-written book being marketable, I believe that's absolutely impossible to predict. Is Countdown more marketable than The Dreamer?, or less?

I believe every writer has to consider whether their story will hold readers' attention, whether the characters are multi-dimensional (and if not, if there's a good reason for it), and whether the writing itself is a pleasure to read. One should consider what's currently on bookstore shelves, and what adults recommend to each other, and what kids are eager to read. But that's as much consideration toward a "market" as I think a writer should do. It's different from following a trend.

A writer whose story doesn't fit in with what's currently published or popular may be discouraged from writing a new story that's unique. (I remember the long journey to get A Wrinkle in Time published. Thank heavens L'Engle didn't give up, or decide that a Candystriper teen romance would be more "marketable.

Anonymous said...

Just because Michael has a little problem with snotty comments about women, that doesn't mean he is wrong about writing. There's nothing wrong with picking the story to write that you think will be most marketable.

Please don't sneer at people who choose to write good books for kids that don't aim to be Art.

Michael said...

People. The rich husband crack was a goof. Relax.

Jesus, can we outgrow that prickly-sophomore-anxious-to-take-offense thing? It's so f--king tired. It's the lazy person's short-track to smugness and assumed moral superiority, and it's the death of interesting conversation.

"I like to have a martini,
Two at the very most.
After three I'm under the table,
after four I'm under my host."

Look! It's Dorothy Parker endorsing drunkenness and irresponsible sex! Not to mention male-dominant sexual positions. Is the implying it's okay for a man to have sex with a drunken woman? Harrumph, harrumph!

My co-author for 150 books? My wife Katherine. Who I met when she was running the U of Texas women's center 34 years ago. Even then this kind of huffy oversensitivity was wearisome. It's almost 2011.

Moira: if you already had all the answers, why ask a question?

Anonymous said...

Staying on topic,or at least on the first off-topic topic, I think Moira is disappointed that when she cried "Shouldn't we follow our dream?" People responded with practical advice. No one in the throws of idealism likes to be told, "While following your dream, be sure to take a spare pair of socks." Sorry, Moira, but I'll add to it. When your editor asks for something more marketable, she isn't necessarily asking you to write a vampire book. Maybe she is just politely indicating that if she reads one more Touching Story of Loss she's going to throw up.

Roger Sutton said...

It's interesting to me that the passion to write is so linked into the desire to publish. Many of us paint, sing, carve, run, etc. as hobbies without any thought of doing it professionally. Is it different for writing?

Anonymous said...

Michael,

Say what you like, but don't operate under the illusion that you come off as relaxed or hard to offend yourself. Your trip wires may be in different places than those of most readers here, but by God you've got them, man!

Melinda said...

Hee-hee, this thread is fun.

Moira, what I've been doing is reading excellent, well-written books PLUS bestsellers, and thinking about why these books got such great marketshare. Then I steal a bunch of techniques and use them in my books.

Writing a marketable book doesn't = selling out. It means taking a cold hard look at what your story is offering the world. Donald Maass has a series of books on writing the breakout novel. Read 'em!

Try not to be like the Muppet banging his head on the piano, lol. Concentrate on ways to make your MS as awesome as these books. Steal actively! Make it new! Okay I'm done.

Anonymous said...

Since nobody talks about picture books any more---

I think it's quite interesting that there are only three Caldecott eligible books on the Fanfare--Karas, Lobel, and Floca.

Unless I'm wrong.

Anonymous said...

I am pretty sure the Mavor is eligible for the Caldecott Medal. I hope so, anyway!!
Martha

Moira said...

Uh, I'm not crying "Can't we follow our dream?" and wishing for a chorus of "Yes, yes!" And I've never made fun of people who don't aim to write Art. I don't aim to write Art.

No, Michael, I'm not claiming to have the answers. If you're going to make a comment about writers having husbands, don't get your knickers in a twist if someone calls you on it.

I do know a little something about considering "the market." Marketplace hired me when other national public radio programs called my writing too angry and straightforward. My commentaries had over 9 million listeners, and gained me an appearance on national TV. I still get positive emails from Fortune 500 CEOs and past and present members of Congress, and other former listeners. (And I illustrated a picture book, for which I was paid in the five figures.) I'm not an idealistic amateur. But now I'm trying a market I don't know as well. So I'm asking questions here. Because I'd like to learn. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

"I'm not an idealistic amateur. But now I'm trying a market I don't know as well. So I'm asking questions here. Because I'd like to learn. Thank you."

I thought the advice was for "a friend"?

Bini said...

I'm not an author and I'm not an illustrator. I work with the children who read the books. They are your audience,they are the market. Surely you should be aiming to please them??

Michael said...

Anonymous: Hah! I would never claim not to be prickly. Or even just a prick.

Moira: Look, here's why this is annoying. When an amateur asks a question and gets an answer from a professional the proper response is, "Thanks for taking time to answer my question." Not, "Ahah! I've found an excuse to accuse you of sexism!" Followed by, "You're wrong, I know it all."

I don't know about the other writers here but I try to do the decent thing and play the appropriate role of "experienced old pro." (It comes naturally to me because I am an experienced old pro. Especially the old part.) But when I take the time to answer questions from amateurs nine times out of ten I get some response that indicates they don't really care about the facts, they just want their presuppositions validated.

Like anyone you are entitled to your opinion. But opinion is all you have. What I have is experience. Experience is worth approximately 1000 times as much as uninformed opinion. (Math approximate.) It's as if I went to Stephen King, asked him how to write the feeling of dread and then upon hearing his answer responded, "Yeah, well you're full of it, Steve."

There are approximately zero people who have sold more kid books to more publishers over a longer career than me. (Well, maybe Jane Yolen. A couple others.) You, Moira, get a chance to learn something from someone who knows what the hell he's talking about and your response is cheap shots.

The smart reply from you would have been something along the lines of, "Jesus, dude, 150 books, 3 simultaneous series right now, how can I learn to do that?" Followed by something like, "Thanks, man."

You might have learned something.

Michael said...

The other Anonymous:

Since you asked, here's what I know about the market. It's like duck hunting. (No, I don't shoot ducks.) You don't aim at the duck as it's flying, you aim just in front of the duck. You lead the target. Don't shoot at the vampire, do what my friend Michael Stearns (with Lauren Kate) did, guess what might be next and shoot an angel.

Another example: just before we sold Animorphs everyone was telling us to go after RL Stine's Goosebumps because MG horror was the big thing. We said, no way. First, it would be derivative. Second he owned an existing market and we doubted we could take him. Third, trends have a life span. 5 years give or take and the 5 years was about up. So we led the target, guessed sci fi and shot a duck.

Having aimed at Sci Fi did that mean we wrote something generic? Not a week goes by that we don't get a heartfelt letter or Facebook note from some kid now in college telling us they are the people they are today because of Animorphs. Guy just tonight said he felt he'd be a much meaner person had he not read our books.

So there is no necessary conflict between aiming at a market and writing what you want to write.

You want to develop a feel for the market. That's a very nebulous term, obviously. That "feel" consists of intelligent observation and a sort of intuitive extrapolation. Spend a ridiculous amount of time skulking around the B&N. Stare at the shelves you want to someday own. (Try not to look too much like a pervert while doing this.) Read the trade press -- but don't let it bum you out. Over time you'll acquire something of a feel.

You won't always be right. Or you'll be right but too early or too late or with the wrong book. As Animorphs was winding down we led the target again and guessed fantasy. Unfortunately JK Rowling shot our duck. We were unducked.

Or you find you're part of a mob of people who all figured out the same thing at the same time. When I wrote Gone no one was doing dystopian YA. By the time I was on the second book I was in New York on a panel with Carrie Ryan, James Dashner and Scott Westerfeld, all of us discussing the trend to dystopian YA. There was no conspiracy: we all just read the market the same way. And yet, look at those four books and no fair observer would say we wrote the same thing.

Sometimes the wining move is to see the duck, guess where the duck is flying, and then shoot the raccoon. Counterprogram entirely by taking a gamble on a whole new thing, even a thing that seems overdone but you have a new take on it. If you have the feeling there are 8 guys leading the same target, go off on a tangent.

And sometimes you do what my wife did with Home of the Brave and say, "This won't make us much but screw it, I'm writing it anyway." (Not a direct quote. But pretty close.)

There's no guaranteed way to win. Between us we've sold 8 series. (That's not counting things that were pre-sold for one reason or another, just the from-scratch pitches.) We've basically sold every series we ever pitched, but of the 8 only one (Animorphs) was a major hit. Everworld did okay, it earned out against hefty advances but meh. Remnants tanked. Barf-o-Rama tanked. (I know. How could it fail?) Roscoe Riley did okay. Gone is doing pretty well and is still building. Too early to tell on MAG 12, and BRZRK is still just a gleam in my whiskey-glazed eye, so who knows?

You takes yer chances. It's a crap shoot but you can shave the dice a bit if you acquire a feel for the market. (What's the blog limit on mixed metaphors?)

Oh, and don't suck at writing. That's helpful, too.

Melinda said...

Shoot the raccoon, lol.

Michael said...

Sorry, Melinda. Must have processed the avatar into memory and dredged it up when I was looking for an animal.

Melinda said...

*sends raccoons to break into Michael's fridge*

Melinda said...

But I do like your advice and plan on using it, just so you know!

mbennett said...

I'll add those book to my list!
http://ontopofthechildrenslitworld.blogspot.com/