July 2017

Update on New Amazon Policy   
By Sarah Diamond
Fans of Amazon Prime will be familiar with the golden bar on the right-hand side of each product page. With one click, the "Buy Box" adds a product to a virtual shopping cart, to be delivered to the customer's doorstep in two days. Before last year, Amazon was listed as the default vendor for all physical book sales, and the company would typically share 40% profits with the publisher. Third party sellers could also participate, but only if a customer opted to buy from an alternate vendor, deliberately choosing another company's name from the "Other Sellers" list. This practice ensured that Amazon, and by default, traditional publishers, were given the advantage in all book sales. Publishers passed earnings along to the writers and illustrators they represent. But something changed last November when Amazon scrapped this vendor hierarchy and created a lottery system, whereby multiple sources could compete to "win" the Buy Box. Now the identity of the Buy Box seller is left up to chance. Since most customers don't pay attention to the default vendor, many people are now buying books from third party sellers without realizing it.
In a public statement, Amazon explained that the change was only implemented to make the bookstore work "like the rest of Amazon, where third party sellers compete with Amazon for the sale of new items", but what works for clothing and kitchenware will not necessarily work for books, especially when so many booksellers are struggling to compete with the e-tailing titan. The involvement of third party sellers is particularly uncomfortable for many publishers because it isn't always clear where these third party books are coming from, or why so many of them are being offered at heavy discounts.

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Listen to the newest podcast with Neal Porter, Editorial Director,  Neal Porter  Books/Roaring Brook Press. Enjoy these intimate, behind-the-scenes conversations with leaders of our industry, recorded especially for SCBWI members.  Listen Here 

SCBWI Exclusive with...  
Brooks Sherman, Agent, Janklow & Nesbit Associates  
After graduating from Vassar College with a B.A. in Drama, Brooks Sherman worked for several years in the entertainment industry (in both New York and Los Angeles) before joining FinePrint Literary Management and working his way up to literary agent, moving to the Bent Agency in 2014, and joining Janklow & Nesbit in 2017.  Brooks's clients include #1 New York Times best-selling and award-winning authors. For children's books, he is on the lookout for middle grade fiction of all genres (especially fantasy and contemporary), young adult fiction of all genres except paranormal romance, and character-driven picture books with an emphasis on humor. His interest in adult fiction runs the gamut from literary to speculative (particularly fantasy, horror, and psychological thriller). For nonfiction, he is seeking projects in the areas of humor, pop culture, politics, and narrative nonfiction.
Across all categories, Brooks seeks projects that balance strong voice with gripping plot. Ones that make him laugh earn extra points! He is particularly drawn to stories that elevate marginalized voices and where contemporary social issues are either prominently centered or woven into the worldbuilding; he prefers nuanced narratives over "issue books," in which characters confront such issues over the course of larger personal journeys.  Brooks is a member of AAR and SCBWI. He lives in Brooklyn, but you can find him sharing publishing perspectives (and horrible puns) on Twitter at @byobrooks.
What was your path to becoming an agent?
My path to becoming an agent was a roundabout one. I graduated with a B.A. in Drama, worked in theater for a few years before switching to TV production and working on a couple of Barbara Walters Specials, then joining William Morris Agency (now WME) and moving out to Los Angeles to work in their TV Business Affairs department, then joining the Peace Corps and moving to Burkina Faso in West Africa for a couple years, before moving back to the States, joining a writing workshop and eventually realizing I was enjoying working with other writers on their projects more than I enjoyed working on my own. I quit my job, took an internship with a literary agency, and finally figured out what I wanted to do. Looking back, I'd say my throughline is I was always looking for ways to engage in storytelling, but it was challenging to find my niche.
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Illustrator info 
Inspiration for Creative Blocks
As we get close to our 2017 Summer Conference,  I  reached out to some of the illustration faculty and asked them "What do you do when you get stuck? " Read on for great ideas on inspiration and getting un-stuck. These are just a few of the wonderful faculty members you'll be meeting at the Los Angeles Summer Conference, whether you attend in-person or follow along on the official SCBWI Conference blog.  
Peter Brown:
When I'm stuck I draw in my sketchbook while watching animated movies. Pixar, Miyazaki, classic Disney films, etc., they're all imaginative and beautiful and incorporate both words and art. I'll just doodle or write down whatever pops into my head as those movies play in the background. It's a nice, gentle way to get my creative juices flowing again.
Check out Peter's newest book: The sequel to Creepy Carrots!, entitled Creepy Pair of Underwear! www.peterbrownstudio.com
Pat Cummings:
I'd love to say something lofty like 'museums, travel, theatre' but my go-to motivators are often books...the themes, the images, even quotes from them that I've saved over the years and filed on my computer.   Our work requires facing a horrifyingly blank page again and again and for me, it really helps to pick up a book and see what amazing things others have done with it. A color scheme here, the turn of a phrase there...other people's solutions won't solve the problem I'm facing at the moment but they often rev up my impulse to explore solutions. 
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On the Shelves
Vroman's Bookstore
 Vroman's Bookstore in Pasadena, California, is celebrating its 123-year anniversary this year,  making it one of the oldest independent bookstores in the country. Allison Hill, President/CEO of Vroman's Bookstore tells us what's on the shelves.

What sets Vroman's apart from other bookstores?
Longevity! This year Vroman's celebrates its 123-year anniversary. We have customers who have shopped here for almost ninety years! So our history and sense of tradition definitely sets us apart. I think our mix of book and gift items also sets us apart; Vroman's has always had a diverse array of merchandise in addition to books. And our level of service sets us apart; I've heard customers refer to us as the Nordstrom of bookstores! Then there are the many characteristics that we share with our fellow indies but that certainly set us apart from Amazon-passionate booksellers who love handselling their favorite titles; 900 free events a year between Vroman's and Book Soup; and a vibrant role in the community.

What has been a successful author visit and why do you believe it was more successful than others?
The successful author events are the ones in which the authors see themselves as partners with the bookstores. They've helped us promote their book and their event. They've reached out ahead of time with offers to connect on social media or do an interview in our blog. And I love it when an author does more than just read from the book; customers, young and old alike, love when authors talk a little bit about their inspiration, their process, a topic they learned about while researching the book-this makes for a richer event and also inspires the customer to buy the book.
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We want your photos! Tag us on Twitter/Instagram/ Facebook with pictures relating to kids or kids books. Use #scbwitribeshare and we'll choose new snaps each month to share.

SCBWI recently took part in the American Library Association's national conference this year in Chicago. Check out the fun from these exclusive pics of the conference.

Thank you to Esther Hershenhorn and Sarah Aronson (right) for hosting the SCBWI ALA cocktail party

Debut author Kim Turrisi signing books at her first ALA appearance

Marla Frazee signing
Boss Baby
(now a major motion picture)

Brandy Colbert and Alvina Ling
in the Little, Brown booth


From Left: Mary Winn Heider, Rachel Wilson,
Sarah Aronson, Donna Bowman, Varian Johnson at
the SCBWI IL ALA cocktail party

Draw This!
Draw This! is our monthly prompt word for illustrators.  

The June prompt was Splash

Congratulations to the June Winners:
               Geneka McCall

Dalton Webb

See all the entries here: Gallery    

July's prompt is . . .  CELEBRATE
Entries are due July 20 to scbwidrawthis@scbwi.org 
Submissions for July will be up in our August gallery.