Friday, October 19, 2007

Big Names, Big Guns, Big Potatoes

When my wife and I started talking about adoption, we looked around at the books for kids and realized that none spoke to our sons. Many books focused on bringing home a baby, and many focused on bringing home an adopted baby, but few looked at the idea of having a set of biological siblings and bringing in a third. Also, most of the books that focused on bringing home an adopted child tended to have, as a character, an adopted older sibling. But in our house (and many others that we know) this just isn't the case.

So I wrote one myself. My sons liked it OK, but they really would have preferred if it were illustrated. I'm a lousy artist, so I didn't attempt it. I also thought about getting an artist friend of mine to illustrate it.

Then I had the idea of getting it published. My friends gave it uniformly good feedback, and I'd been reading these horrible children's books written by celebrity authors, so I figured a book that tapped into the adoption market would work. As I read I found out that I shouldn't have it illustrated but let the publishers handle that.

I called a friend who HAD published a work for this very audience. Her immediate reaction was that getting published at this point was nearly impossible unless you already had some celebrity status. She was in the process of working on her second book and had run into difficulty, even though her first was a bestseller.

That's why I'm finding the flap over Jessica Seinfeld's children's recipe book so fascinating. In both the Wall Street Journal story and the New York Times story, the publishers admit that they met with the author specifically because of her name. The same publisher had shortly before rejected a book by a relative unknown that is, according to many, remarkably similar. They both take healthier foods, like sweet potatoes and squash, and mix them in with brownies and mac and cheese. That book eventually got published, but that author hasn't been invited on Oprah or anything like that.

I don't think this is an isolated incident. The fact is, the creative media process in the old-school manner is broken. Seinfeld got heard because she's Jerry Seinfeld's wife and she had a good agent, which she got because she's, um... well... a Seinfeld. This is the same reason why Jamie Lee Curtis has a line of children's books. Is she that talented that the publishers just HAD to have her writing?

But I'm also thinking about a quote I heard from an industry executive dismissing the need for consumer generated content, suggesting that there is only so much talent out there and the rest is crap (I can't find the quote).

Yes, there is a lot of crap. And yes, it would be great if those arbiters of taste got it right. But too often they don't, so we need another outlet.

Still, if anyone wants to help me publish my story, give it a read. Even if you don't, go ahead and read it to your kids. Someone should enjoy it.

2 comments:

Hillel said...

You don't need any big publisher. Use odesk.com or a similar service to hire an illustrator. For a few hundred dollars you can have three different illustrators do the job and pick which set you like the best.

Use your computer to lay out the book. Very easy for children's books.

Publish the whole thing via lulu.com for sale. Or use blurb.com or mypublisher.com for a really nice bound copy for yourself.

Done and done. No need for some publisher. You're not doing it for the money anyway.

Chuck Tanowitz said...

I'd thought about the blurb blurb and lulu stuff, but wasn't sure where to get a publisher. I like the odesk.com idea. I'll check that out.