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Jane Yolen on "Celebrity" Authors and Favorite Authors


Jane Yolen Author of 200+ Children's Books

Jane Yolen

© Jason Stemple

Jane Yolen on "Celebrity" Authors

Q. You mentioned having to hire your own publicist because publishers don’t do enough promotion for most of their authors. Why do you think publishers place so much emphasis and promotional effort on so called “celebrity” authors? Is it just a matter of money or is there something more to it?
A."Celebrity authors begin with big advances (many many times more than I can command) and the publisher needs to recoup that money, so the promotion department gets to work. And celebrity authors can get on major TV networks plugging their books. I, for example, have never been on Oprah or the Today Show or Regis and Kathy/Kelly plugging my new books, but Maria Shriver or Jay Leno or Billy Crystal or Madonna (none of whom can really write kids books well) can and have."

"So the publicity departments have an easy time with them. And as we have seen, that kind of exposure sells books. I know because I watched a book of mine (The Radiation Sonnets) climb to #8 at Amazon the 24 hours after I had a big NPR interview. Imagine what going on Katie Couric's show and talking about it would have done!"

Q. Even if they make money, many of these books are poorly written, so why aren’t publishers worried about their reputations?
A."Publishers are in the business to make money. The old adage was - Those books make the money to publish the Good ones. (And as long as there is money coming in, what do the publishers care about reputation anyway?) But that adage no longer holds. When even B and C list celebs are now writing their own children's books, there is less and less room for new, untried, but wonderful young talent. And sometimes less room for old valued midlist authors as well."

"I am not complaining for me. I am doing fine, thank you. But many of the wonderful students I have taught over the years, whose books were the backbone of the children's book industry, can no longer find a place at the table, as it is so crowded with celebs hawking their dubious wares."

Jane Yolen: Her Favorite Children’s Authors

Q. Who are some of your favorite contemporary authors of books for young children?
A. "Patricia MacLachlan, Ann Turner, Leslea Newman, Corinne Demas, Barbara Diamond Goldin, Anna Kirwan--all members of my writing group. I also love anything written by Mordicai Gerstein, Shannon Hale, much of Gail Carson Levine, Linda Sue Park, Bruce Coville, Robert Sabuda, Kate DiCamillo, Richard Peck, Julius Lester, Nikki Grimes, Lee Bennet Hopkins, Jackie Woodson--I could go on and on and on."

Jane Yolen: What She Wants You to Know

Q. What would you like more people to know about Jane Yolen, author of children's books?
A. "That I take pride in my children, grandchildren and all the writers I have taught. People like Patty MacLachlan, Barbara Diamond Golding, Barbara Helen Berger, Lauren Mills, and others who have studied with me. That I helped start the Western Mass. Illustrator's Guild. That I am a good friend, and a loving parent. Oh yes--I write a lot, too."

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