Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Things I Learned at the SCBWI Winter Conference

You asked, so I promised posts about the SCBWI Conference.  Here's my brain dump.

This is what I learned about the children's market.  And I apologize for those of you who write for adults but perhaps some of these learnings are still relevant.

I realize what is to follow isn't the style I usually employ on this blog.  I don't like to make grand statements like this and I promise things will be back to normal tomorrow. 


I heard all of this straight from the mouths of smart people (I promise).  Anything I relay here is something I just kept hearing again and again.   

(Oh my goodness, Melissa, get on with it.)

(Oh my goodness, Melissa, you're talking in 3rd person.)

* Middle Grade is the thing.  I repeatedly heard editors and agents say they are actively looking for strong middle grade stories. If you're writing middle grade, this is your cue to smile.

* This is nothing new. If you're here, you're mostly like already there.  But the blog, website, facebook, twitter, get-yourself-a-platform thing is still...well...a thing.

* There was a lot of talk about enhanced e-books for kids and what this is going to mean for picture books.  Print picture books are still seen as the primary way young kids are going to read but publishing houses see dollar signs for e-books.  As an 'also' (not an instead).

* Everyone likes to throw around the word transmedia. This is something I heard tossed around in the toy industry about two years ago. I guess it has made its way to the publishing industry.  Basically, no one knows what it means but people like to say it.  You should say it.

* When you send out a manuscript to an agent or editor, they do not want be your first reader.  They prefer to be your 5th or 6th reader.

* Agents and editors really want to be able to explain a book to everyone they meet in one sentence. Thus, writers should be able to explain their books to everyone they meet in one sentence.

* Lists at the publishing houses are much, much smaller. Everyone in the industry is acting in a very conservative way right now. It's a 'duh' fact but I feel it is important to note.

* There was a small rumbling about a potential resurgance in contemporary/realistic fiction. I say a small rumbling because it wasn't as emphatic as the middle grade sentiment I kept hearing (over and over) but I definitely heard it more than once.

* Holes in the market:  Middle Grade (did I mention that?), compelling chapter books for grades K-2, and non-fiction for young people (though the latter is a very, very, tough sell.  You are forewarned.)

* And the usual.  I know you've heard it before but it bears repeating. Never write just to fill the hole.  Don't write to a trend. Write what you love.  Love what you write.


  1. Excellent information here. All of it do very true. I'm bummed I don't write middle grade.

  2. Awesome info! Thanks for sharing. I love going to conferences and coming home with my brain about to burst :)

  3. Thanks! This is great info. I have a MG book in the way far back of my mind that my son wants me to write. Not sure I'm ready for that, but it's there.

  4. Transmedia.

    yay! Brownie points :)

  5. Thanks for the summary. Glad there are rumblings of a Contemporary comeback!

  6. Since I TEACH middle grade students, I really ought to try writing for them. I have a premise for a new story in my head that *could* go MG, but all the plot ideas for it keep heading in a YA direction ...

  7. Yay! I'm writing MG. Crossing my fingers someone thinks it's good!

    And ROFL about transmedia. :)