What better way to kick off the back to school season than with an event about children’s publishing? The answer is none. None better way. CMA got to sit down with Andrea Montalbano, Jason Odell Williams and Carey Albertine – the innovators at In This Together Media, a new company that’s breaking the mold in writing books for girls. http://www.inthistogethermedia.com/
In This Together’s mission statement is simple: They publish great books about real girls. In the publishing business, publishers were starting to fear broader perspectives and new visions while at the same time the costs of self-producing and distributing books were coming down to zero with digital and self-publishing readily available. What a perfect time to start a company dedicated to challenging the age old notion that girl protagonists can’t carry a story, boys won’t read it, girls are nasty to each other, etc. The girls featured in the stories published by In This Together are complex, nuanced characters just like girls in real life. Awesome. The company challenges itself to showcase girls doing things we don’t often see in the media like coding computers.
So how do they pull this off? Sometimes concept and creative developer Carey Albertine and her team come up with ideas for books and look for a writer that would be a good fit for the story and characters. Other times, the writer figures out the stories and pitches them to the group. The writing process is very fast and extremely collaborative. They also read submitted manuscripts. Basically, they are looking for collaborative writers who like to say yes. They also have a teen review board that reads the stories and offers feedback. Once the books are finished, they’re available both digitally and through Amazon’s print on demand.
So what are the advantages and disadvantage of traditional publishing vs. digital media? For one, In This Together firmly believes that the quality is better due to their collaborative nature and the immediacy of feedback the writers receive. As author Andy Montalbano said, when you’re driving a car you want to keep driving and not have to stop and change the battery. The timing is also better at an indie, there’s not a giant lag time between when the book is written and when the book can be published. The real nut to crack in digital media is distribution. People aren’t really gifting other people digital books so each book has to have its own unique marketing strategy. With one of Jason’s books the company is considering hiring an actress to go online and be the character from the book in an effort to drum up publicity. For Andy’s Soccer Sisters series (say that 3 times fast) she has a spokeswoman, World Cup winner Brandi Chastain.
And so, what are some of the things that resonate with girls that In This Together wants to tap into?
– Middle schoolers tend to like stories about being in a group or club (as a longtime lover of The Babysitters Club I can attest to that)
– Teenagers like authentic characters complete with nuances and flaws
– Girls want to read about the trouble other girls get into
– They want stories where the girls solve their own problems and come to their own realizations
– They like bad guys or rather they love to hate them (Who doesn’t?)
Main Takeaway: Once again, story is king or queen in this case. Characters can be bold, funny or fearless, the only sacred thing is the story itself.
Personal Takeaway: There’s no wrong way to eat a Reeses. What I mean by that is, if you want to tell your story find a way to do it. Whether it’s traditional publishing or self-publishing or something in between – go out and make your voice heard.
Inappropriate Takeaway: I really need to reconsider our household book policy of if a book goes in, another book has to go out. There’s just too much great stuff out there to read. I don’t need clothes, right? I can convert all my closets to bookshelves. Sounds like a plan!