Nancy Viau started a regional marketing group called The KidLit Authors Club to help authors promote their lastest books. Below is our interview in which she not only explains more about the group, but also her own journey to write, market and sell her wonderful books.
Wittle: What books influenced you to become a writer?
Viau: I’d often read a children’s book—a picture book or novel—and think, Oh, heck, I can write a story like that! Some of the books that influenced this (really ignorant) attitude were: WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE by Maurice Sendak, GOODNIGHT MOON by Margaret Wise Brown, FROGGIE GOES TO SCHOOL by Jonathan London, and TALES OF A FOURTH GRADE NOTHING by Judy Blume. It wasn’t until I joined The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (http://www.scbwi.org) and started learning about the industry that I discovered how hard it is to create an outstanding children’s story.
Wittle: What are some of the challenges a new writer may have in trying to get a picture book or middle-grade novel published?
Viau: A challenge I believe all writers (not just new writers) face involves finding the courage to seek out professional, unbiased opinions of your work. It’s hard to look beyond comments from friends and family or critiques from your writing group. If you’re at the point where you are submitting things, you may be lucky enough to gain feedback from an editor or agent. Even if this feedback is paired with rejection, consider it carefully. Is there something in there that makes total sense? A more proactive way to get a professional opinion is to attend a conference and pay for a critique. And the biggest challenge of all, in my opinion? Revision! You want to remain true to your original idea, but make the necessary changes that will push it to a new level.
Wittle: What is the most difficult part in revising a novel?
Viau: I worry about keeping each character’s voice intact as I make changes to the plot. Even though the character grows, I want the voice on page seventy to be the same as page one.
Wittle: What advice would you give another writer who is struggling with a particular passage in his or her work?
Viau: Let the passage sit a while. Return to that sticky place in a few weeks and look at it with “fresh eyes.” Try rewriting it from scratch. If it still bothers you, ditch it. If you’re struggling with it, maybe a reader will struggle, too.
Wittle: How do you come up with an elevator pitch?
Viau: I take a thirty-second ride in an elevator and hope it comes to me. : ) Seriously, I ask myself: Who is the star of this book? What does she want most in the world? What is keeping her from getting it and what lengths will she go to in order to succeed? After I get that much down on paper, I shorten it to five sentences (or less) and memorize it.
Wittle: How did you find your agent?
Viau: I wanted to find an agent who represented both picture books and middle-grade novels, so I signed up for Publishers Marketplace (http://www.publishersmarketplace.com/) to see who was selling what. An agent I liked only accepted submissions through referrals from clients, and after viewing the agency’s deals on Publishers, I realized I knew a client. I contacted that person and asked if she would put in a good word for me. I still had to send a formal query to the agent, but she loved several things and offered representation. By the way, another great resource for researching agents is http://www.agentquery.com.
Wittle: What was the best advice given to you about writing?
Viau: As I gained success in getting pieces published in newspapers, magazines, even top children’s magazines, I still felt unfulfilled. I didn’t understand why until a writer friend reminded me of my goal: to become a children’s book author. She told me to forget about getting work acquired by miscellaneous publications and instead focus entirely on the children’s book market.
Wittle: Are there any unusual ways you’ve promoted your work?
Viau: In 2010, I began a regional marketing group called The KidLit Authors Club (http://www.kidlitauthorsclub.com) where authors band together to sign, sell, and promote their books. Signing alone at any event can be daunting and disappointing. Unless you are well known, chances are there’s not enough buzz about your book to bring you the attention you deserve or the buyers you need. Within our group, we investigate signing opportunities, present panel discussions and keynotes at conferences, share Facebook and Twitter announcements about our books, and generally get the word out any way we can. Once we are at an event, we create a party-like atmosphere that’s hard to ignore. We bring balloons, hold party bag giveaways, and involve kids in activities, readings, and more. Once, we formed a 20-person Conga Line and danced throughout a Barnes & Noble store!
Wittle: What work are you most proud of and why?
Viau: I am very excited at having finally cracked that tough nugget known as the rhyming picture book market. In the spring of 2013, LOOK WHAT I CAN DO! and STORM SONG will be published. It’s the realization of a dream!
Nancy Viau Bio:
Nancy Viau is the author of SAMANTHA HANSEN HAS ROCKS IN HER HEAD (Middle-Grade Novel/Amulet Books, 2008), LOOK WHAT I CAN DO! (Picture Book/Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2013), and STORM SONG (Picture Book/Amazon Children’s Publishing, formerly Marshall Cavendish Children’s, 2013). Her stories, poems, and activities appear in Highlights, Highlights High Five, Ladybug, Babybug, and many other magazines. Please visit Nancy’s website: http://www.nancyviau.com.