Thursday, March 28, 2019

Faculty Spotlight on Local Publisher Asia Citro

Asia Citro, publisher at The Innovation Press
BETH BACON: Today I'm thrilled to speak with the publisher of The Innovation Press, Asia Citro, who is a faculty member of the SCBWI WWA's Spring Conference, Imagine That! Asia, please tell us how The Innovation Press came to be.

ASIA CITRO: I started as a blogger at Fun at Home With Kids, sharing activities that helped parents and kids integrate science, art, crafts, and play into creative, inexpensive at-home activities. My success with that site thankfully made it really easy to get a deal for my first book, 150 + Screen-Free Activities for Kids.  The book was a natural extension of my blog and by publishing a book, I’d achieved a big goal. But parts of the experience were frustrating for me. The publisher put out so many titles, I think at the time they were producing something like 600 to 800 books per season. That volume seemed problematic to me. They just couldn't offer the amount of attention that I wanted for my book.  

So when I was ready to write another book, I did not want to go through the same experience. Instead I started The Innovation Press. The Curious Kid’s Science Book was our first title, and then a year later,  A Little Bit of Dirt.

BETH:  How did you learn to be a publisher?

ASIA: I basically created the publishing company that I, as an author, wanted for my books. It was for sure overwhelming, but I tried to look at it as a great opportunity for me to create new and possibly better ways to do things. And that’s why I called us The Innovation Press, because we definitely do a lot of things differently. I wanted, as an author, to have a say in the creation of the books. I wanted marketing support. I wanted to know that my book was being meticulously cared for. I designed my dream publishing house around those ideals.

BETH:   What things does The Innovation Press do differently than traditional publishers?

ASIA: There are definitely things we do differently than traditional publishers. Many publishers have a policy that illustrators and authors never talk. That’s how it’s always been done. We don’t do that. We have an editor who coordinates the relationship, but our authors definitely get to look at, and comment on, all the illustrations.  And vice versa if an illustrator is feeling like something isn’t working in the text, then we facilitate that conversation as well.

BETH: What other things does The Innovation Press do differently?

ASIA: We only take on a max of ten titles a year; that’s probably pretty different than most traditional houses. We want to give every book enough of our attention. We do a lot more publicity work per title than most houses as well.

BETH:   With only ten titles a year, how do you choose your catalog?

ASIA:  When I’m reviewing a manuscript, I like to ask, “Is this something I haven’t seen before?”  For instance, a manuscript I fall in love with might some really quirky way of dealing with a high-interest subject or it might be the biography of someone we haven’t heard about before.  I like innovative stuff (ha!). Recently in Publisher’s Weekly, they announced one of our deals, which was a book about a kraken that ties in to setting boundaries and offering consent. You haven’t seen that before right?  I love it. [The book is Klyde the Kraken Wants a Hug, by Brooke Hartman illustrated by Katy Halford.] That’s the kind of book we’re looking for. Something that people haven’t seen before, that’s also done really well.   

BETH:  Do you acquire manuscripts and then find illustrators?  How does that work?

ASIA:  We do that a little differently than most traditional publishers, too.  We make the offer to the author first and go over the contract, but before we actually sign them, we go through the work of finding an illustrator we all love -- and we make sure that that illustrator is available.  We want to make sure that we have the right illustrator for the job, and that everyone is happy. So I’ll tell an author, “I want you, hold on and let me see who we can find to illustrate this.” Once all parties are satisfied, and we’ve settled on a schedule, we all sign at the same time.     

BETH:  Do you receive a lot of pitches?

ASIA:  Yes -- probably between 30 and 40 a day. BETH: What is the main thing that you would love aspiring children’s book writers and illustrators to know?

ASIA:  Authors, please take your time on edits.  If I like something, but it’s not quite there, I’ll often ask for a revise-and-resubmit (R&R).  Every time I do, I hope the author will take their time and really dig into the rewrite. But I’ve found that authors generally fall into two camps -- one camp rushes to turn the manuscript back to me as soon as possible. Often, they do not do a complete job polishing it. Those manuscript don’t get signed. When we ask for an R&R, we are trying to help the book be more competitive, and we don't want an author to quickly rush through what we’ve asked them to do.

The other camp of authors takes their time with revisions. For example, one author -- and this was for a middle grade manuscript -- took eight months on an R&R. We ended up making an offer on that book.  They did an amazing job and really listened to everything we said to get the manuscript to where we wanted it to be.

So, authors, if anyone -- an agent, editor, or any publishing house -- asks you for an R&R, it means that you’re very close and you should take whatever amount of time you need to do a good job.  Please don’t rush through the process to give us a 24-hour turnaround and hand in a choppy revision.

BETH:  What about illustrators?  Do you add that level of feedback with them?

ASIA:  When we’ve got a manuscript in hand, we’ll typically search out two illustrators that the author also approves of, and then we have them do a sketch of a character -- usually, the main character from the story.  If we feel like their portrayal of the character is close, but not there yet, we’ll ask for a redraw. Also, in terms of portfolio submissions we get, we’ll sometimes offer free portfolio feedback if we feel an illustrator, especially an illustrator of color, is new on the scene, but is really showing promise. Sometimes we’ll go back and forth with them to sharpen up what they’ve got in their portfolio and hope to work with them down the road once we find a manuscript we think would be a fit.     

BETH:  You will be on both the faculty  panel and the local success panel at SCBWI Western Washington’s Spring Conference, Imagine That! on May 18, 2019. Many of the people at this conference will be aspiring writers and illustrators, all wanting to show you what they’ve got. What advice do you have for them?  

ASIA:  I'd like them to realize that every press has its own style. You can see what might be successful at which publishing house if you take a look at their books. And it doesn’t mean you have to go out and buy all their books -- checking them out from the library is also super helpful.  Pay attention to what people like at that house and make sure that what you’ve got fits in there. There's a flavor to the books we put out. At The Innovation Press we don’t love fashionista princess stuff that’s gender stereotypical; we love STEM titles, quirky titles. A well-selected submission is going to get a lot more of our attention right off the bat.

BETH:   Maybe aspiring authors think, "Well, let me send it everywhere, because you never know."

ASIA:   There’s no rule that you can’t do that but I think you will have more success for your effort if you are more specific with your submissions.  

BETH:   On that note, can you talk more about the kinds of books you like?

ASIA:  I love books that really break the mold.  My favorite picture books include titles like Press Here by Herve Tullet and Du Iz Tak by Carson Ellis, because they are so revolutionary and awesome. They changed what a picture book could even be.  I’m always looking for something like that.

BETH:   As a business, not in terms of manuscripts, but on the organizational side of your press, what are you working on?  

ASIA:  We are bringing the first ever Seattle Children’s Book Festival to Seattle on September 28th, 2019. It’s free to the public and we’re working with a bookstore partner, Madison Books. They are giving 20% of the book sales back to our organization and we’ll use it to put on free book fairs at the Seattle Public Schools in the highest poverty neighborhoods.

BETH: Thank you for taking the time to talk to me.  

ASIA:   Thank you so much.


Beth Bacon is the author of several books for children, including: I Hate Reading, The Worst Book Ever, The Book No One Wants To Read, and Blank Space. Beth earned an MFA in writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She also has a degree in Communication Theory from NYU and a degree in Literature from Harvard University. Beth grew up in Boston, Massachusetts and now lives in the furthest Northwest corner of the USA. Learn more about Beth on her website.

Asia Citro is the founder and publisher of The Innovation Press. Asia has an M.Ed in Science Education and has worked as a classroom science teacher. Asia is the author of several books including: 150+ Screen-Free Activities for Kids, The Curious Kid's Science Book, A Little Bit of Dirt, the chapter book series Zoey and Sassafras, Vroom Vroom Garbage Truck, and Pigeon Math.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Inclusivity Scholarship for Conference!

Earlier this week, we shared the 4-1-1 on our spring conference, Imagine That! 

Now we've got some more good news! We'll once again be offering our Inclusivity Scholarship, which covers Saturday's tuition and lunch.

 The deadline to apply is March 30, so apply today. Don’t forget to share with your friends, too!

Saturday, May 18th
 will be a full day of breakouts, keynote speakers, and panels. We are delighted to welcome Raúl Colón, Nisi Shawl, and Corinna Luyken as keynote speakers, plus a great line up of agents, editors and art directors who will be sharing their knowledge with you throughout the day. 

How to Apply
To apply, send a one-page artist statement (as a Word doc or PDF) that describes your work and what attending the conference would mean to you to wwa-ra@scbwi.orgno later than March 30. Be sure to include the following information:
§Full name
§Email address
§Phone number
§Diversity with which the applicant identifies
§Whether the applicant is an author or illustrator
Applicants will be chosen based on how well their work promotes and contributes to diversity in children’s literature.
Additional information about the scholarship and the conference is available online at

Hope we'll see you there!

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Upcoming UW Course on Picture Books!

Interested in writing picture books for kids? The UW Continuing Education department is offering a new nine-week picture book intensive course. It starts next month, taught by Jolie Stekly.

Check out all the details here.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

A Spring Conference, Imagine That!

Registration is live for Imagine That!, our SCBWI Western Washington 2019 Conference.

This 2-day event will take place May 18-19, 2019, at Seattle Pacific University in Seattle, Washington.

This year’s event consists of a full day of conference programming, including keynote speakers, panel discussions, and breakout sessions, and optional add-on Sunday activities, including Master Classes & Roundtable Critiques. Attendees may register for Saturday as a stand-alone, or for both Saturday and Sunday events. While Sunday activities offer a potential full day of programming, you may only register for one roundtable critique. These critiques fill on a first-come, first-served basis, and will fill quickly, so register today!
​This 2-day event provides tremendous opportunities for growing your career as a writer and/or illustrator for children. Learn from esteemed literary professionals—agents as well as editors and art directors, from major publishing houses—in addition to award-winning authors and illustrators.

Watch the blog over the next couple of weeks for fun faculty interviews and tips and hints about how to maximize your conference experience!

The Details:

Keynote Speakers:
Nisi Shawl, author
Corinna Luyken, author & 2018 Crystal Kite Award Winner
Raúl Colón, illustrator

Editorial & Art Director Faculty:
Asia Citro, author & founder of The Innovation Press
Christy Cox, editor, Sasquatch Books
Saho Fujii, art director, Little Brown Books
Anna Goldstein, art director, Sasquatch Books
Allyn Johnston, vice president and publisher, Beach Lane Books

Agent Faculty: 
Garrett Alwert, associate agent, Emerald City Literary Agency
Taryn Fagerness, founder, Taryn Fagerness Agency
Adria Goetz, agent and literary manager, Martin Literary Management
Mandy Hubbard, agent and founder, Emerald City Literary Agency
Tricia Lawrence, agent, Erin Murphy Literary Agency
Kathleen Ortiz, agent, New Leaf Literary & Media
Britt Siess, agent and associate literary manager, Martin Literary Management

Additional Faculty:
Kevan Atteberry, author/illustrator
Mina Witteman, author
Standard tuition
SCBWI Members, Saturday only: $150      
Non-members, $175
Above prices include all-day attendance, coffee, tea, snacks, and a boxed lunch on Saturday, as well as admission to Saturday's Reception and Book Signing Party.
Continuing Education Credits: 
Up to 15 Clock hours for teachers will be provided by The Heritage Institute for $35.
Optional Saturday Activities:

Juried Art Portfolio Show: 
SCBWI Members, $35      Non-members $45
Published Attendee Showcase for Authors and Illustrators: SCBWI Members only, no fee
Optional Sunday Activities:
Intensive Workshops: There are four Intensive Workshops on Friday and four on Sunday, each three hours in length. 
SCBWI Members: $75       Non-members: $100
Roundtable Critiques: Each session includes two roundtables. 
SCBWI Members, $60      Non-members, $80

Monday, March 18, 2019

Got Books?

The Snohomish School District's Book Cafe is in need of good to gently used preschool/children/teen books! The Book Cafe hits the road every summer to deliver books to kids in need throughout the district. Donations can be dropped off or mailed to Snohomish School District Book Café.
Attn: Kristin Foley
1601 Avenue D
Snohomish, WA 98290

Chapter books, storybooks, board books, and kids magazines are always in particularly high demand. 

Monetary donations are also welcome and are used to support students with new books as well as gas for the weekly bookmobile bus runs. Checks can be made out to Snohomish School District Book Cafe or donate online with the Snohomish Education Foundation and designate funds to "Book Cafe." Amazon gift cards are also greatly appreciated!