I am pleased to be part of the Ogg & Bob blog tour. My buddy, prolific author/illustrator Mary Ann Fraser, and her son, author Ian Fraser, wrote and illustrated this new series about the adventures of cave boys Ogg & Bob. What a hoot these chapter books are--and perfect for reluctant readers.
For each day of the tour, Mary Ann Fraser will be giving away an original piece of art from Ogg and Bob to a randomly selected commenter. So follow the tour and be sure to comment to enter. Winners will be announced on Monday October 18, so be sure to check back to Mary Ann's blog to see if you have won.
I am thrilled to interview Mary Ann and Ian's editor Marilyn Brighman from Marshal Cavendish.
Ogg & Bob is a wacky look at cave boy life, and unusual because the illustrator and the author are mother and son. With that in mind, what challenges and advantages were there?
Marshall Cavendish loves developing new talent, and it was fun to work with a young, creative, first-time author like Ian. Usually a new author will have to be coached a bit in the ways of the marketplace because they’re new to the field. In this case I didn’t really need to, because Mary Ann, his mom and the artist of these books, is already established in the field and took care of that.
So that was a definite advantage. I could see how this type of situation could present some challenges, though. (Generally you don’t want the author and illustrator on a project to talk to each other about the project-in-process even if they know each other well; you want everything to go through the editor until the project is finished.) But I have to say that in this case it didn’t seem to matter; the editing process on these books just seemed to flow. Both Ian and Mary Ann were open to changes and each had good suggestions for improving both the art and text. It felt very collaborative and it worked, which was really, really great. The biggest challenge we had was to work around Ian’s busy college schedule; he had to keep up with his schoolwork, study for finals, and still meet our deadlines for these books. I’m very proud of how these books turned out. They’re fun to read, and I really hope we’ll capture that audience of hard-to-reach kids—boys and reluctant readers.
When and why did you become a children’s book editor?
I studied magazine journalism in college and had always loved both reading and writing. After I graduated, I started looking for a journalism job and worked at a couple of internships to gain more experience. One of those internships was at Marshall Cavendish—in the Reference imprint. Reference wasn’t really my thing, but it helped me get comfortable with the basics of editing. Then an editorial assistant job opened at Marshall Cavendish, and I took it. The job made me an assistant for two of the other imprints here, Benchmark (which publishes nonfiction, curriculum-related series for the school library market) and the Children’s Books division. Having two bosses and working in two separate parts of the book market was both challenging and rewarding. Ultimately I think it gave me a well-rounded view of the world of children’s publishing. Later I was promoted and moved solely into the Children’s Books imprint, where I have been ever since. I’m convinced I have one of the best jobs out there. I feel lucky that I found a career that I love.
With the possibility of many kids' e-picture books becoming interactive, what advice would you give authors about writing them?
Publishers will definitely want to take advantage of the burgeoning e-book market more and more, especially as the different devices become more affordable for families with young kids. But interactivity doesn’t necessarily change what publishers are looking for in a picture book. For example, we’re always looking for a picture book to be a good read-aloud (fun language, repetition, a unique voice). If a book is a good read-aloud then kids will enjoy listening to the story being read aloud to them whether it’s in person or on a screen. The same goes for the visuals; a picture book text has to be visual. It doesn’t matter whether the art will be static as in a printed picture book or whether it’s moving on a screen; the art still takes its cue from the original text. The best picture book writers never forget about the art. And if a writer can think of another interactivity component beyond the text and art (for example, a use in the classroom), it just makes the package that much more valuable.
How can an author or illustrator help their house with promotion?
There is a lot authors can do to promote themselves. And so much is online now—never before has promotion been this inexpensive. First, Authors must set up an author Web site; it is so important to have a presence on the Web these days, and a publisher will often link their own site to the author’s. Some authors create blogs to talk about their favorite books, changes in the marketplace, or anything else that inspires them; this helps them connect with other writers, librarians, and like-minded folks who just might purchase their books. Authors can create a book trailer for their books, using programs like Microsoft Movie Maker and cheap stock photos. Authors should go on school visits whenever possible; it’s a win-win because the school orders the books, the author is paid to visit the school and meets the target audience, and the school gets a fabulous book and author visit for their students. Authors should reach out to their local media and libraries to see if they’re interested in a book talk, interview, or to set up a signing. Authors should be aggressive about finding out when and where the local and regional book conferences and book festivals are held and let their publishers know that they want to attend; even if a publisher can’t provide much support or won’t have staff at a particular event, it’s still a great way to get people talking about your books. Don’t be shy—just go for it! Many of my authors have been setting up a blog tour as well; this involves researching the children’s book blogs and contacting them to see if they’d be open to blogging about your book. The goal is to get at least four or five blogs to review your book. It’s a great way to start a buzz about your new book and it doesn’t cost a thing.
What are you looking for in a manuscript?
I’m always looking for a freshness. A fresh voice or fresh topic—something that really grabs me and holds on. You know you’ve got it when you start reading it—and then want to keep reading it. The situation and setting feel authentic, the characters are likeable, and the story’s plot and tension build in a satisfying arc. The voice and perspective are unique and set the submission apart from others I may have received on the same genre or topic. Or maybe it’s something new that hasn’t been done before; that can be really exciting, too. When I first read Ogg and Bob, I got that feeling. I thought, Now here’s something kids are going to want to read.
What is your favorite dessert and why?
Oh man, I have a serious sweet tooth and will almost never turn down a baked good. I really love peach pie. And cannolis. And ice cream—the cookies and cream variety. Hmmm, is it lunchtime yet?