As a super special treat, today, March 3rd, is Alice's birthday! let's all sing a virtual round of Happy Birthday for her!
Alice Pope is editor of Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market, and Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market, serves as Managing Editor of the Writer’s Digest Books Market Books department, and has been with WD for more than 17 years. She recently edited Writing Picture Books by Ann Whitford Paul. She also teaches webinars for Writers Online Workshops, maintains Alice ’s CWIM Blog, and is active on Twitter and Facebook. She loves memoirs, angsty YA novels, cute shoes that are on sale, days that are not too hot, yoga, watching TV (particularly shows involving overwrought teens with spectacular wardrobes), paging through magazines and blogs, reading picture books to her 5-year-old boy, attending writers conferences, Thai food, and Sunday afternoon naps. She had a short and unspectacular run as a Regional Advisor for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and is the captain of SCBWI TEAM BLOG which provides exhaustive coverage of the organization’s two Annual Conferences in LA and NYC.
TXS: You’ve been editing Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market for over 15 years—could you tell us how you got started and how your career has evolved? What is something you’ve gained from this experience?
AP: This September will mark my 18th anniversary with F+ W Media , parent company of Writer’s Digest Books. (Can we tell your readers I started here when I was 12?) I began as an editorial assistant working on a few of our magazines (including Writer’s Digest) and a few months later there was an opening in our Market Books department which I took. I assisted the editor of CWIM and pretty much from the first week I started campaigned to edit the book myself. I finally talked my boss into it, and the rest, as they say… These days I work on CWIM as well as Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market and serve as managing editor of our Market Books department. So I started as a proofreader/assistant on a couple of our annual books in an office in which 15 of us shared one computer and one AOL email account. Now I decide editorial lineups, talk at conferences, give webinars, and work on all seven of our annual books for writers in some capacity, and we have websites and blogs and newsletters and Facebook and Twitter and a WD online community just for writers. I’ve evolved and so has technology. Yay!
As for what I’ve gained. Well I’ve learned tons from people in the industry, people I meet at conference, and my co-workers (who I learn from every day). I’ve gotten an obscene amount of free books over the years (the best job perk ever). But most of all I’ve made some truly amazing friends (you know who you are) who I can’t imagine I’d ever have met if I didn’t do what I do. I thank the career gods for all of these things daily.
TXS: Your blog is just incredible! Do you have any advice for beginning bloggers? Advanced bloggers?
AP: Well gosh, thank you! I do have some advice (although it might be a tad do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do). When you’re just starting, it’s important to determine exactly what your blog should be and find your voice. You don’t want a blog about nothing—don’t be the Seinfeld of blogs. You need some sort of angle, something that will be interesting and useful to readers. Next, post often and be consistent. Decide how many posts you can reasonably handle in a week—maybe, say, you can post on Mondays and Thursdays. Try to stick to your schedule so readers know what to expect. I also think recurring features are good—say a monthly interview or a Friday book review. These are things that readers can get used to and look forward to seeing. And I’ve found that the more often I post the bigger my readership. Be sure to use other social media like Twitter and Facebook to direct people to new blog posts—you can automate this. My most popular posts are the one that get retweeted over and over.
TXS: You have a large online presence—what do you think is most effective when it comes to online outreach? How do you balance your time?
AP: I don’t think there’s one single thing that’s most effective. What’s most effective, I think, is meshing various platforms together. As I mentioned above, use Facebook and Twitter to get people to your blog or website to read new posts, learn about new titles, find the latest news. I think there are two keys when you’re out there online—be sincere and participate. You’re not out there to sell, you’re out there to make (virtual) friends, create a network. Answer questions, solicit feedback, have conversations, share links, and enjoy yourself! Social networking and blogging should be fun. If it’s a chore, something you dread, then either it’s really not for you or you’re approaching it wrong.
As for balancing time, I try to get blog posts up in the morning. I check Twitter and Facebook while I eat my oatmeal (or sometimes on my iPhone before I roll out of bed) and then several times throughout the day. Some days this plan works, sometimes it doesn’t. There are days when I’ve got a lot to say and I’m feeling particularly social and I can get sucked into Twitter all day long if I don’t watch out. I must check myself frequently. Social networking can be fun and exciting and there’s always a lot happening out there so it’s easy to spend the whole day reading posts and status updates and tweets and following links. There are days when I have to say to myself: Alice , step away from the Facebook. You’ve got work to do.
TXS: Since you avidly attend conferences, would you recommend any in particular? How can attendees get the most out conferences?
AP: I. Love. Conferences. Like many of you writers and creative types out there, I’m at a desk behind a computer the better part of my days. And although I have co-workers to keep me interested and amused, there’s nothing better than getting out there and meeting writers in person—whether aspiring or bestselling. It’s just energizing. It gets me excited to come back to my office and do my job. (And after 18 years, that’s saying a lot, don’t you think?)
My favorite event is the SCBWI Annual Summer Conference in Los Angeles. The programming is terrific, the hotel is fab, and it’s like an annual gathering of like-minded friends, old and new. This conference always offers a bajillion breakout sessions, excellent keynotes, several networking/mingling events and the chance to get a manuscript critique by an editor, agent or author. (If you can’t make it, there will be live blogging) I recommend any event put on by SCBWI. The Winter Conference is great too, and there are a number of regional SCBWI chapters that put on terrific conferences. (Check their events calendar) But if I had to pick— L.A. in July.
To get the most out of conferences, I’d say first do some prep work. Read the bios of the speakers and visit the websites of the ones who interest you. Make sure you’ve got a good stack of business cards. Post on your social networking sites to see it there will be any conference meet-ups or tweet-ups (or organize one yourself). Heck, plan your party outfits. While you’re there, be friendly. Talk to people. Attend everything (you can sleep when you get home). Take notes. Exchange business cards. When you come home, follow-up with people you meet. Writer Jane Makuch did a helpful guest post for my blog recently with some advice for conference goers which you can find here.
TXS: Is there any advice you have for writers to keep up with this changing industry? What about advice for other editors, or for agents?
AP: There are so many great blogs out there to help writers stay informed. (Use Google Reader so you don’t overwhelm yourself.) And of course attending conferences is helpful in this regard, too. Writer’s Digest puts on Editors’ Intensive twice a year (our next one is in March) where Chuck Sambuchino, Jane Friedman and the other members of our editorial staff (including me) talk about where things are and where thing are heading. (Jane’s give a great presentation called 10 Secrets for Succeeding as a Writer in a Transformational Time.)
I’ll pass on giving advice to other editors and agents—so many of them are the ones who keep me informed. Read their blogs and follow them on Twitter. You’ll learn a lot. And, while it’s important to pay attention to the industry and it’s important to network and create a presence for yourself online, remember that writers are still writers. However your work is put out in the world—printed book or electronic device—the core of your job is to write. Don’t get too bogged down everything else and stay from your mission.
TXS: Thank you, Alice!
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