Thursday, February 28, 2013

How to Get Published!

Okay, this ones for all the aspiring writers out there...

This past weekend I gave a talk at the Moore College of Art Alumnae Reunion. Moore is my alma mater and it was an honor and a pleasure to be able to share my experiences and wisdom with my fellow alumnae, and I think it went pretty well although to be honest I don't remember much of what I said.

What I think I meant to say:

Hello, you wonderful, talented ladies! I'm here to tell you about how I became an award-winning author of many shiny books. Come, join me on my journey of retrospection and introspection! HERE COMES THE WISDOM, LADIES!!!

What I probably said:


I never remember what I said when I give a talk. Sometimes someone shows me a video of me speaking and it's like watching Beaker on the Muppet Show.

But usually when I give a talk, either at a school or a bookstore or a library or to some polite stranger at a bus stop, there's a Question and Answer period afterward, and without fail someone usually asks me,

"How exactly do you get a book published?"

So this one is for you, my gorgeous writers and artists out there--I'm going to write out my best, BLOOORR-free advice for getting published. Because my expertise is in print books as opposed to Ebooks, that's what I'm going to focus on.

There are two ways to get your book published: A publisher like Abrams Books (my wonderful publisher that I love and want to hug) will put out your book, OR, you can self-publish a book. Self-publishing means that you pay a company to print your books, and then it's up to you to try to sell them. You can sell them online, or at your local bookstore, or at conferences and festivals, or maybe just give them as gifts to your friends and family. There are some people who have been really successful at self-publishing, but it's a lot of work and can get very expensive.

Let's move on to what I know better--

How to Get Your Book Published by a Publisher

Once upon a time an aspiring author could just take their manuscript to a publishing house, walk in the front door, immediately find the owner of the company and say, "I got this manuscript, see, and it's about a bear, and it's pretty good!"

"A bear? Say, that sounds great! Here's some money, the book will be out next Friday!" Actually, I don't know if that's how it happened but I think I remember seeing six or seven old films where it seemed that easy so let's just assumed that's how things actually worked. Fast forward eighty years. An aspiring author takes their manuscript to a publishing house, walks in the front door, and then gets the stinkeye from a lobby receptionist until security comes.

How are we supposed to get our genius manuscripts to these editors? That, my friends, is why you need


 One of these people is my literary agent. The other sneezed into my mouth today. Guess which one is which!

Literary agents are the gatekeepers of the publishing industry. If a literary agent likes your book, he (or she) will take your manuscript and show it to editors who trust that the agent isn't going to show them something terrible. A good literary agent can make sure that you won't be kicked out of that lobby by security again.

But how do I find a literary agent? Here's the best website that I know of regarding this If you are really for serious on the reals trying to get your book published, this website will tell you everything that you need to know about finding an agent, and it has a fairly comprehensive database of active agents. I'll go into the bare bones of the process, but the website will tell you a lot more, and in a much less ridiculous way.

So you go to AgentQuery and look for agents that represent books like yours, and then you send them emails. Each agent will tell you what it is that they want from a query (Send me a synopsis and your first five pages in the body of an email, Send me the first chapter, etc). Then you send out a bunch of different emails and Hey! Agent McAwesomepants loves your work and wants to represent you. Hooray!

Listen up, because this bit is important: A REAL, LEGITIMATE LITERARY AGENT WILL NEVER ASK YOU FOR MONEY. If they're a good agent, they'll sell your work, and then get a well-earned percentage. Fake, opportunistic liars will take advantage of writers who just really, really want to be published and don't know any better.

Agent McAwesomepants takes your manuscript and shows it to some editors at different publishing houses, and then Editor von Fancysocks says, "Agent McAwesomepants, I love this book that you've sent me! I've shown it to my boss and she loves it too! Let's go to lunch!!!" Everyone in the publishing industry has a deep fear of kitchens and grocery stores so they have to go out to eat all the time or they'll starve and die. Agent McAwesomepants and Editor von Fancysocks come up with a deal, it's presented to you, and Ta Da! In two years your first book comes out. Yes, it can take that long (if not longer).

Of course it's usually not that simple. Some authors spend years and years and years trying to get an agent, and having an agent is no guarantee of getting a book deal. Also, sometimes publishers will look at manuscripts without agent representation, so you could try that route.

But the most important thing to remember, always, is to write. Write and write and write and write and draw and write and write, because if you don't have a story, all this talk about agents and editors and publishers and lunches doesn't really matter. If you are able to tell an amazing, wonderful story, it will get published one way or another, and people will read it and love it.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Hey Everybody, Here's What I Think About Valentine's Day

Look, hearts and stars and cupcakes! Also a horse with a horn on it's head.

There are many many many many many many many reasons not to like Valentine's Day:

1. If you're in a relationship, you feel pressure to do something special.

2. If you're not in a relationship, you feel pressure to be in a relationship.

3. Some people feel the need to show off things they received from their significant other, which is super-bothersome, because the people who show off the most are usually the ones who are in the worst relationships. When I hear someone say, "LOOK AT THE DIAMOND HEADBAND HE GOT ME!!!" it's usually a pretty good sign that what they're really saying is "SEE? HE LOVES ME! YOU HAVE TO BELIEVE ME BECAUSE LOOK!!!" (or, alternately, "I'M TACKY!")

4. If anyone gets you anything and you didn't get them anything, you feel like a jerk.

5.  If you get someone something and they didn't get you anything, you also feel like a jerk, and then you've made them feel like a jerk.

6. Greeting Card industry blah blah blah blooooooorp.

So I'm not the biggest fan of Valentine's Day. Romance, to me, is specific to every person. For the past five years my husband has not cooked anything with mustard in it because I hate the taste of it. In the mornings when I'm the first person to come downstairs, I make coffee, even though I don't drink it*. This is our sort of romance; he forgoes mustard, I learn how to work a coffee machine. He brings me flowers from Trader Joe's sometimes, and sometimes I walk in the rain to get him the lemonade ice tea that he likes from the Wawa. We do what we can to make each other happy on a daily basis, and it's not necessary to stress out over roses and chocolate and dinner reservations and jewelry to prove our undying love on this one day in February.
They're not Shakespeare, but they are delightfully crunchy. 

What I do like about Valentine's Day:

1. Message hearts, although in truth I'd be perfectly happy with a roll of Necco wafers (they're the same thing, only flatter and less hearty and with more flavors, including black liquorice, which I happen to like).

2. Hanging out with my friend Anand**.

Years and years ago, Anand, our friend Mo, and I were all single when we made a pact to spend every Valentine's Day with each other. Mo dropped out after a few years but Anand and I have kept up the tradition, even now when we're both married (and not to each other). This, to me, is also romantic: when Anand met his wife, he didn't trash our pact. When I met my husband, I made it very clear that Valentine's Day was for hanging out with Anand. Spending time with each other on Valentine's Day is first and foremost fun, but it's also our little way of remembering who we were before we met Bea and Mark. While I'm incredibly grateful for the myriad of ways that my life has changed and improved since meeting Mark, I'm also grateful for the years before that taught me how to appreciate a partner who only ever gets to eat mustard at the ballpark.

However, if you every need a bit of traditional romance...

If you don't know what movie this scene is from, OH MY GOD WE'RE NOT TALKING UNTIL YOU SEE IT.

*It's not that I don't like coffee, it's just that coffee turns me into a jittery ragemonster so I usually avoid it.

**Fun Fact! The character of Principal Rao is named after Anand. Another Fun Fact is that Anand was once interrogated by the FBI on suspicion of being a terrorist. Fortunately, he was not a terrorist. True story.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

This is AMAZING.

I'm often asked, "Why did you want to become an author?" And the answers are pretty simple:

1. I love writing stories.
2. I love drawing.
3. Having a job doing what I love has always been my goal.

But there's a lot more to being an author than just writing and drawing stories. I go to schools and libraries and bookstores and conferences and I get to meet readers and teachers and other authors and sometimes I get free totebags and pens and mugs. I get Facebook fans and fan email from all over the world. I never expected any of this, and it's really, really great.

Then, sometimes, someone sends me something that COMPLETELY BLOWS MY MIND. Meet JungHoo La and Danielle Bent, co-authors of Life in Middle School.

Having readers start their own journals is AMAZING. Like, I'm going to cry fat boogery tears of joy amazing.

Barf. Why is it so funny on paper when it's so gross in real life? I'll never know.

Back in my day, phones were harder to draw! You had to make a rotary dial and a curly cord. Whippersnappers.

 I love "Back of Me".

 That looks about a thousand times better than any cake I've ever baked. I'm awful at it.

 Sorry, Tamara, Victoria. Rough times.

 Also doubles as a change purse!

 Rain, rain, go away, come again some other...ooh, chips!

You can always be the one to ask!

 Adventures in hair-dyeing. Terrifying, but they make for great stories later...

Lovely details!

But seriously...HOW COOL IS THIS?!? I hope Junghoo and Danielle keep this up because it's really, really amazing. I get a lot of fanmail asking how to write books, but not from these girls. They just STONE COLD DID IT. Love you guys.

Thursday, February 7, 2013


First things first...


Excuse #1: I was workingworkingworkingworking

I realize that to the outside world, it kind of looks like I just sit around in my pajamas all day watching old episodes of Star Trek*. This is not entirely untrue. But I'm also writing and drawing and scanning and editing and trying to make deadlines. Looky!

 The completed first draft of The Popularity Papers 6: Somebuddy Name This Book Already!

Excuse #2: Everyone in my house was sick

For serious. We all had the plague. [SKIP THE REST OF THIS PARAGRAPH IF YOU DON'T WANT TO READ A GRAPHIC DEPICTION OF MUCUS.] There was a massive snot monster who lived in my sinuses, took a weeklong vaction in my chest, and then went back up to my sinuses. The snot monster had a baby snot monster who took up residence in my daughter's face, and because she's 16 months old and not so great at blowing her own nose, great big slugs of snot would either slide down from her nostril into her mouth (SO GROSS BABY, SO VERY GROSS) or, she would wipe it away with her hand and then wipe her hand in her hair (ALSO SUPER GROSS). Fortunately no one had the flu, but there were a bunch of days when she had to stay home from daycare and I couldn't work because I had to chase her around the house with a box of tissues.

Everyone is always, "Oh cutes, you styled her hair!" and we don't tell them it's because if we didn't, we'd be picking dried snot out of it every ten minutes.

Excuse #3: The Internet is full of awesomely distracting fun stuff.


But all that is in the past (except for the snot slugs that continue to come out of my daughter's nostrils) and we're in that glorious period of time between when I've handed in my first draft and when my editor gets her notes to me, and that means:

I will clean my studio
I will cook dinner (Mark has REALLY been picking up the slack)
I will get a haircut (I kind of look like a cartoon witch right now)


*Okay, so about the Star Trek thing, there's a whole long story behind why I've decided to try to watch every Star Trek episode ever for the first time, and hopefully I'll get to that in another post, because it's kind of sad and then it gets weird and maybe funny.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Tweens Read 2012!

Howdee, Houston! 

After bidding a fond farewell to my brother and his family (and stealing all their grapes) we left Dallas and hit the road for Houston.
Best photo I could get from the speeding Huh Huh Ruh of a gigantor roadside sculpture of Sam Houston.

This was my first time at the Tweens Read Festival, and something I learned very quickly was that the amazing people at Tweens Read and the Blue Willow Bookshop like authors to sign stuff and then they like to give us stuff.

 Poster I signed. Looks like sumbuddy has access to a laminating machine. LUCKY.

 Delicious cupcake with a tiny edible copy of The Rocky Road Trip on top of it.

 Greg and Raina with their Chronicles of Egg and Drama cupcakes.

 A bottle cozy knitted by a local librarian (CRAZY AWESOME FIBER ARTS REPRESENT!)

And a tee shirt! There may be a sizing issue.
Plus popcorn and tissues and chocolates and a bunch of other goodies. We were some spoiled authors.

I love going to festivals and conferences because it's great to meet readers, but it's a huge bonus to meet other authors. Heather Brewer gave the keynote address.

 Heather, addressing us, keynotedly.

I'd never met Heather or read any of her books, so I didn't know what to expect. I'll be honest--when I see a grown woman wearing a backpack in the shape of a plush bat, my inner pragmatist rolls her eyes because seriously, how much can you actually fit in that thing? I was also a little skeptical because she writes about vampires (bluh) and kept referring to all of us as "her minions" (I am not now nor have I ever been anyone's minion, thank you very much).

But Heather was AMAZING. She talked about how she'd grown up in a teeny tiny town with no money and no prospects, and how everyone in the town hated and bullied her. She took refuge in the school library, but even her beloved school librarian had no hope for her future. She talked about how she used all the pain and the rejection that she'd felt to write books for kids who were going through something similar, and she told all those kids that she believed in them and if she'd just had one person tell her that, she'd have become an author much sooner. By the end of her talk I felt like she could strap a hundred goofy plush stuffed animals on her back and that would be just fine with me (weird and probably a little uncomfortable, but Heather Brewer is fantastic and can do whatever she wants to do). She also badmouthed the Twilight series, so I'm more than willing to give her vampires a shot.

 Everyone listening to Heather going all keynotey.

After Heather's address we all went off to our panels. I was on a panel with Dave Roman, Raina Telgemeier, and Rachel Renee Russell called Going Graphic.

 R.R.R. and me. ME SO PRETTY!

I love being on panels because it's always interesting to hear how other authors answer the same question:

Kid: If you weren't a cartoonist, what would you be?

Dave: Dead.

Raina: What Dave said.

Rachel: An attorney.

Me: A superhero crimefighter.

And it's also interesting to hear what sorts of questions our readers come up with:

What were you like in high school?

Do you have any pets?

What was the first thing that you ever wrote?

What are your influences?

What is your favorite color?

After we finished our panels we signed tons and tons and tons of books. It was a great festival and a great time.

And now we're packing up and heading back home to chilly Philly! Here's hoping the cat doesn't hate us too much for abandoning her.

Nom nom nom hotel breakfast nom.

Thursday, October 18, 2012


 Mark and I are excited to be in Dallas! Anya has doubts.

I am writing this from my brother's house in a suburb of Dallas. That's Dallas, Texas, mind you, not Dallas, Pennsylvania, which apparently is a place that exists.

 Look, they have an official tee shirt and everything.

Yesterday we got up at the absurd hour of You Really Don't Want To Know O' Clock and made our way to the Philadelphia International Airport to catch an 8:30 flight to Dallas. Everything went surprisingly well, seeing how it was Anya's first time on an airplane.

 Philadelphia, as seen from a moving car at Stupid O' Clock in the morning. Still pretty.

 Anya does a little light reading on the plane.

You kind of expect for Baby's First Plane Trip to be kind of a nightmare, but we discovered quickly that snacks are the cure for the onset of fussiness. It also helped that the guy who was supposed to be sharing a row with us took one look at Anya, grimaced, and asked if it was possible to be moved to another empty seat so that we had the whole row to ourselves. Thanks, cranky guy!

This actually wasn't the cranky guy, this was my friend Jason who happened to be on the same flight as us and willing to make a goofy face for the camera. Thanks, Jason!

But we arrived in Dallas safe and sound and after wrangling the rental carseat into the rental car (this bright red...thing that we have named Huh Huh Ruh) we headed to my brother's house, where wackiness ensued.

 We Ignatows are known for our majestic beauty. We try not to let it go to our heads.

My brother and niece show off their inexhaustible athletic prowess.

My brother's inexhaustible athletic prowess is undone by a sleepy, cuddly baby.

This morning I went to Coppell Middle School West to give a talk and sign some books. The librarian, Rose, was fantastic and we did so much chatting that I never got to take a picture of her. Instead I took a picture of a completely different person using a laminating machine.

 I want my own laminating machine SO BAD. If I had a laminating machine, I'd laminate pretty much everything and all of my friends would get placemats for every occasion. I begged Rose to laminate my Morris Arboretum membership card and she totally did. I told you she was fantastic. Now I want to take it outside and shoot it with a water pistol because I can.

How cool were the folks at Coppell Middle School West? So cool that they had a cake made with the image of The Popularity Papers 4: The Rocky Road Trip of Lydia Goldblatt and Julie Graham-Chang on it. Amazing hospitality and fabulous readers.

 "Hold up the cake at an angle so we can see it!" Rose asked before taking this picture, and I was pretty sure that I was going to accidentally dump the whole thing on the girl in front's head. I think that she was a little worried about it as well.

But the cake survived!! And look how pretty it was!

After my visit to Coppell Mark, my brother, Anya, and I went out for real Texas BBQ at a place called Dat's Good BBQ. It was ridiculously delicious.

Anya ate her fill. The kid likes real Texas BBQ.

Tomorrow we head down to Houston for the Tweens Read Festival. I'm really excited to see some of my author friends (Raina Telgemeier, Dave Roman, Geoff Rodkey, and more) but it's been really wonderful to spend time with my family.

Anya swings with her cousin Sara. They're so cute together that they make my face hurt from all the smiling.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

What Makes You Beautiful

These guys have a really impressive amount of hair.

Okay guys, I'm about to go on a RANT. This happens every now and then, and tonight as I was ranting my husband suggested that I put it on the blog because it's a rant that my readers might be interested in.

Earlier today an extremely popular song came on the radio. I'd heard it a few times before, but this was the first time I really listened to it. 

You're insecure
Don't know what for
You're turning heads when you walk through the door
Don't need makeup
To cover up
Being the way that you are is enough

Okay, I thought. That sucks for her that she's all insecure. But sometimes girls are. It's nice that these guys think she looks good without makeup (although if she wants to wear some because she likes that sort of thing, they'll just have to get over it). 

Everyone else in the room can see it
Everyone else but you

I'd feel self-conscious if everyone in a room was all staring at me. Maybe she thinks she has some food on her face or something. 

Baby you light up my world like nobody else
The way that you flip your hair gets me overwhelmed
But when you smile at the ground it ain't hard to tell
You don't know
Oh Oh
You don't know you're beautiful

So...she thinks she's ugly? 

If only you saw what I can see
You'll understand why I want you so desperately
Right now I'm looking at you and I can't believe
You don't know
Oh oh
You don't know you're beautiful
Oh oh
That what makes you beautiful

Wait...what? She's beautiful because she thinks she's a big bag of ugly? WHAT IS THAT ABOUT?

Look, I get it. It's attractive when a girl (or a guy) who doesn't act that they're God's Gift to your eyeballs. But the lads from One Direction (or their songwriter) seem to think that this girl is awesome because she has no confidence and doesn't seem to like herself very much.


But you know what? It happens all the time. Guys will go after girls who don't like themselves very much because it makes them feel great. When a girl is all, "Oh Strong Smart Guy, if it weren't for you I'd still be a pile of hideous, but because you saw something in me I feel great! And I owe it all to you!" Then the guy is a hero, hooray!

To get a little darker, some guys like insecure girls because insecure girls are easier to control.

I'm not particularly insecure. If my partner said, "Hey, Ig, do this thing you don't want to do because I say so," I'd say, "No thank you." But if I were insecure, I might think, What if I don't do it? Maybe he won't like me anymore if I don't do it. Maybe he'll dump me. I'd better do it. And some guys look for girls like that so that they'll always get their way, regardless of how the girl feels or what she wants.


I'm not saying that Niall, Zayn, Liam, Harry, and Louis are creepers who seek out girls that hate themselves so that they can control them (yeah, I had to look up their names on Wikipedia because I'm a billion years old). They're probably fine young men who don't give too much thought to what they're actually singing because they're making buckets of money singing it.

But who is listening to this song? The same awesome readers who like my books, and I want them to know that acting dumb, or insecure, or as if you don't like yourself isn't the way into anyone's heart. If you want to be with someone worthwhile, you have to be worthwhile. If you want to be with someone worthless... 

Nana Nana Nana Nana 
Nana Nana Nana Nana
Nana Nana Nana Nana

That part of the song is all right. RANT OVER. It's okay to be beautiful.

I can't even making fun of this, they look awesomely comfortable. If I had one of these outfits I would probably be able to nap standing up, which has always been a goal of mine.