How do you get 150,000 dedicated book buyers to consider your book? How do you get 50 authors and/or illustrators together to sell their work to those 150,000 eager buyers? The answer is the Los Angeles SCBWI booth at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books.
The festival is packed full of panels and exhibitions for readers, authors, and illustrators. Publishers – independent, traditional, and self – filled booths dedicated to books in every genre imaginable. Young and old readers alike wandered the USC campus looking for their current favorites and hoping for some new ones. It’s downright magical. And the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Los Angeles Region was there in force.
The booth showcased 50 SCBWI members and their YA and middle grade novels, picture books, illustrations, and activity books. Robert Mellette, our PAL (Published and Listed) board representative and regional wrangler for the SCBWI booth at the LATFoB, caught up with me during the festival to tell me how the whole thing got started.
In 2015, then co-regional advisor, Sally Jones Rogan, forwarded a generic sales e-mail from LATFoB to Robert and asked, “Do you think this is something we should do?”
“I’ll let you in on a little secret,” Robert says. “I choose PAL projects that I think will help me sell my books. Is that a bad thing? I don’t think so, because if it helps me, it will help other published authors sell their work. That, in turn, puts more books in the hands of kids. So it’s a win-win-win. By this standard, doing the LA Times Festival of Books was a no-brainer.”
LATFoB a premier event for bringing book sellers and creators into direct contact with book buyers. It’s a place where wide-eyed kids are drawn to colorful book covers, passionate creators, and candy. (Always have candy: a pro tip from Robert.) It’s also a place to meet other creators and hear about their professional journeys, or offer some advice to those just getting started.
After two years managing the SCBWI L.A. booth, Robert’s seen it work “…not only for selling each member’s books, but also as a promotion for SCBWI in general. So many people asked about the organization that our volunteers had to field those questions so the authors and artists could go about selling their work. Every hour or so someone would come up to say, ‘Hi, I’m a member. It’s nice to see us represented here.’
“The authors who participated were also happy to have a home. The business has changed so much that there aren’t as many opportunities to sign and sell work. Coalitions of a handful of writers happen from time-to-time, but nothing as organized or prestigious as SCBWI.”
So how can you get in on the magic of the Book Fest? “This year we doubled the booth size and opened up some seats to Full members as well as PAL right from the start,” Robert explained. Each participant rented space for either an hour or two hours, with the rental fee off-setting the booth’s cost.
Robert also put a call out for volunteers from any SCBWI member level, but a lot of us missed out on participating in this awesome event and the opportunity to rub shoulders with working creators while encouraging young readers to keep reading. If you’d like info on how to volunteer for next year, or rent a seat, you can email Robert here.
Now the only question Robert and I have is, who’s in for SCBWI at Comic Con?
Billy Bobble Makes A Magic Wand, is R.S. Mellette’s debut novel from Elephant Bookshelf’s Press. Prior to Billy Bobble, Mellette published Sci-Fi short stories in the anthologies: The Fall: Tales from the Apocalypse, Spring Fevers and Summer’s Edge. Mellette is a member of the Science Fiction Writers of America and a regional board member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.
Sarah Parker-Lee is managing co-editor of Kite Tales, reviews books for Dwarf+Giant, & writes for non-profits fighting injustice all over the interwebs. She also writes YA alt. history & sci-fi. Her humor blog, Dogs and Zombies: A Dog’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse, shambles towards your tasty brains Summer 2016. Twitterings: @SarahSoNovel
LATFoB Photos by Sarah Parker-Lee