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Portals and Platforms

I went to Scandinavia House on July 8th to attend an Author’s Guild symposium on the children’s book market. I’d written a story with my daughter and was curious. Would this be another market for my/our work? (She’s an artist.) Is the story we’ve written—and an idea for a series with the same character—strong enough to market in the current recession?

Mid-summer, a cool evening, the room was packed to overflowing with authors and illustrators, mostly well published, established, some hoping to get published and established, all wondering what’s next in the publishing industry in general and the children’s book market in particular.

On the panel: two authors, David Levritas and Lisa Desimini, B&N representative Kim Brown, and literary agent Marcia Wernick, all disclaiming—no surprise in the fast changing electronic world—any fore-knowledge of what the industry (or their careers, by anxious implication) will look like even a year from now.

The current—as of today only—buzz words: platforms and portals, price resistance, dystopian fiction, aspirational novels (teens read “up”), tactile quality, collectibles, young middle-grade (how old is that exactly?), creative packaging, gatekeepers (aka agents), tweens (what is that exactly?), podcasts, Twitter, MySpace, Facebook, delivery options, and so on and so forth.

Well moderated by Guild member Rachel Vail, the discussion was both enlightening and humbling. Only during the Q&A did someone suggest that this particular segment of the book industry was moving a bit slowly into the electronic age. They are, for example, still insistent that a book be agented even though agents as gatekeepers do not necessarily have the keenest judgment about upcoming “trends,”(who does?) and they—publishers and agents alike—refuse to look at already digitized self-published work even if it has an ISBN and is selling on amazon.

So where are we? The answer: it’s hard to say. The only solution to the uncertainty is to keep working at the art and craft of writing. A good story well told is, in some respects, recession-proof and will always find its genre and its market.

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