This year's event featured three agents, all talking about the market. In addition to the two panels who also talked about selling/ marketing their books, two editors, and Harold Underdown. I guess this speaks to what writers want from a conference like this. When one of the presenters asked for a show of hands from anyone who had an agent, about 4 people put their hands up. OK, maybe that's a slight exaggeration, but still. I think there were well over 100 SCBWI members there. Probably more. So there you are.
Josh Adams, in case you've been under a rock these past few years, operates Adams Literary with his wife Tracey. They're based in North Carolina and everybody loves them. Now I see why. His presentation was terrific. "Agent Secrets" was a quick lesson in agent basics, followed by some really good advice: Don't follow trends! (exclamation point intended) First of all, as we know, it's a lagging indication of what's really happening, 1-3 years out. In their more literary subs, Adams Literary looks for a timeless quality. And you need to grab him early and follow through on that promise. What do they want? Well, of course, Award winners and bestsellers. But also a beautifully crafted story, with real voice and an emotional empact. (I took a lot of notes, condensed here. Hey, it's a blog. If you want more, let me know.)
Harold Underdown also spoke to the larger group as Sunday's keynote speaker: "The Economy and Children's Publishing." Trying to inject a note of lightness into things, he presented the glass-half-full and the glass-half-empty views. "Flat is the new up," for kids' book sales.
The last presenter was Sean McCarthy from Sheldon Fogelman Agency. He advised us about how to build a career in publishing. Well, that was his topic. He told us a lot of things. He was funny and interesting and full of info. Great presentation. A few things to ponder: Don't write for the market if it goes against your heart, but you may need to adjust expectations. If you are debating what to go with, if you have more than one idea- think about what will be marketable. You have to read everything new, not just what speaks to you or what you read in your childhood! (Shoot, no more Nancy Drew books for me...) He likes the Pigeon Books, picture books whose characters drive the story. Rhyming picture books are truly hard to do, so beware. The magic is gone if there is just one bad rhyme. He loves adventurous middle grade, especially boys in the younger part of this group, maybe 8-9 year-olds. I have many many notes from Sean's presentation, so if you're interested in details, feel free to email me. He's actively looking for clients.