Special Interview with Cybils Awards' co-founder Anne Boles Levy and Meet Kristine Brogno from Chronicle Books!!
From Mira: Last week, I had the good fortune to meet Anne Boles Levy, co-founder of the Cybils Awards at the KidLit Con conference here in sunny Sacramento. KidLit Con is a conference for children's book bloggers and it was really cool and very inspiring on many levels. I'll definitely be doing my best to attend next year and if I can I'll also seriously be considering if I can be one of the judges for next years Cybils (the judging applications happen in August). I was excited to attend the conference because of the focus on diversity and because some of my mates were going to be there. And then I met all these cool people there including Anne. So I decided to aks for an interview (as many good bloggers do). Here goes:
Anne, while it's clear that aspiring authors and illustrators need to participate in social media to help build their author illustrator platforms, what happens after you get published?
As most new authors quickly discover, you're left to your own devices for publicity, whether you're self-published or not. How do you get yourself and your book out there to be seen and read and discovered? The Cybils Awards can't be the main part of your publicity plans, but there are things we can do to help.
First, check out our lists of judges. We recruit book bloggers to come and judge our contest every fall, but the rest of the year, they're reading books and writing about them. Rummage around Cybils.com and you'll find our rosters by age range and genre. If you wrote a picture book, for example, there is a list of bloggers who review or write about them -- and it includes each person's blog and twitter handle. Most have their review guidelines and contact info posted on their blogs. The rest is up to you.
Second, our nomination season is open right now, this second. We take nominations from the public from Oct. 1-15 every year, followed by a one-week grace period for authors to nominate themselves. If your book came out this year, consider nominating yourself after Oct. 15. Note that not all genres take self-published books -- double check to make sure.
What are the kinds of books that rise to the surface in book awards?
I can't speak for other awards, but at Cybils, we look for both literary merit and "kid appeal". What does that even mean? Well, it should first and foremost be a story that children will grab off a shelf and love to death, or something a teen would read, unprompted, again and again. Such stories usually begin and end with characters that are richly described, three-dimensional, and jump off the page and into a reader's heart. The plot has to feel organic to the character's growth, and we strongly favor theme over subtext.
What's the difference? After all, aren't both about central lessons and universal truths? Think of theme as a gentle current that doesn't hinder the course of the story, but is forever gliding just beneath the surface, waiting for you to dive a little deeper in to explore. It's implied, not explicit.
Subtext is a hammer, a not-so-hidden agenda that bludgeons you with An Important Lesson. So-called message books really rub us the wrong way. Parents of young kids don't need you to second-guess how they're raising them, and teens can spot a lecture in any form -- and so can our judges. Leave the sermons in church, pretty please!
There are other things we look for too, such as whether art and story in picture books and graphic novels work harmoniously together, and if the story is something we haven't seen 1,000 times before.
How did you come to found the Cybils?
Well, like many great innovations, it happened by accident. A blogger friend complained about how some awards were very snooty and kids would never actually read the winners. Meanwhile, other awards were based solely on popular vote or sales, neither of which seemed a guarantor of quality. I joked in a comment we should start our own awards and combine both ideas -- merit and popularity. Within hours, my email was full with people wanting to volunteer, and within days, we had a name, a blog, and the first judges and book nominations. That was in 2006, and we keep coming back every year for more.
I do feel that it's still the most accessible book awards and also the most transparent. Our nominations are open to the public, we publicize judges' names in advance, we list our criteria, we post reviews of nominated books as the season progresses, and we post the final count of how many books actually got read versus how many were nominated. It's typically around 98 or 99 percent, with only a small number of self-published books going unread if we can't obtain a copy.
Plus, we're nice, and we love books and kids, and we like hearing from folks who feel the same way.
Why is it so important to nominate diverse books?
I'm going to take a different tack than you may have heard or read before. Imagine going into a grocery store and there is only white bread and mayonnaise for sale. That's it! Everybody's on the white bread/mayo diet. You go to the manager to say you want bagels and lox, and he tells you that not as many people buy that. Most people like white bread and mayo, so that's what he's offering. Don't like it? Go bake your own.
That's kind of what’s happening in book publishing right now. Hundreds of thousands of people joined the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign, indicating a massive, untapped market for such books. But the reply has been "such books don't sell." Since when is the free market been solely driven by the supply side of the equation? There is a demand, and let's keep demanding. We can show publishers that there is a profit to be made, and a good way to do that is to showcase diverse books that can compete in a major literary awards and win.
Thank you Anne Boles Levy. I can see how participating can be super helpful for our community and society at large as well as for those who are building their author/illustrator social media platforms. You can find out more about the Cybils Awards right here http://www.cybils.com/ Book nominations are happening right now, so if there are any books that you believe in, please nominate them now. http://www.cybils.com/
Mira Reisberg is the Director and founding instructor of the Children's Book Academy. She has been involved in the children's book industry since early 1988 illustrating and contributing writing to some of the first multicultural children's picture books. Over the years she has taught many now successful children's book writers and illustrators. Starting November 3rd, she will be co-teaching the Craft and Business of Illustrating Children's Books with Chronicle Books' Design Director and Art Director extraordinaire for fearful beginning artists, multi-published illustrators, and adventurous writers. For more information, click here. Meet Kristine below.
We are so excited to be mixing things up at the Children's Book Academy, beginning with some delicious additions to the Blogfish. Meet our awesome new bloggers!!
Here's our lineup:
1st Mondays begin with Clear Fork/Spork editor/art director, former agent and former kidlit professor Mira Reisberg PhD who is also the Director of the Children's Book Academy.
2nd Mondays will feature super smart Melissa Stoller whose career is taking off with several new books.
3rd Mondays will feature Bryan Patrick Avery, published writer, man of mystery, and professional magician among other things.
4th Mondays will feature the fabulous debut author/illustrator Sarah Momo Romero.
And 5th Mondays will feature awesomely irreverent and super funny Aussie author Brydie Wright.
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