Thursday, December 24, 2009

Last Minute Miscellany

Question: Is it better to be published by a small independent (real) publisher with little to no physical distribution (POD/ebook) or remain unpublished, at least for the short term?
To most publishers, this is essentially the same thing. Whereas self publishing often counts against a writer (as indicative of a tenuous grasp on reality), this kind of publishing just doesn't count at all.

What makes a difference to trade publishers is activity in the marketplace. How many books are you going to sell POD or as an ebook? Anything under 500 is essentially equivalent to zero.
When it comes to an author/illustrator's dummies, should they be full-sized? I've searched for an answer online and have found several conflicting answers. Some people claim they absolutely have to be full size while others insist they just need to be big enough to be readable. As someone preparing their first complete package to send into the dreaded slush, I'd like to be as accurate as possible. I don't want something as simple as the size of my dummy derailing my chances.
There's no rule. Just don't go bigger than 8.5 x 11, or if you're doing spreads 11 x 17. Whatever size the finished book is going to be, making the dummy a size small enough to handle and large enough to read is beneficial at the submission stage.
Suppose a book has not been picked up nationally by Barnes & Noble. But then people start saying that they've seen it on the shelf at their local Barnes & Noble. What does this mean? Has the manager special ordered it, and if so, why? (Reviews? Strong indie sales? or what?)
Could be any of the above, or something else-- for instance local interest (local author or topic). Every B&N buyer has a little latitude to stock their store in a location-specific way.
What does one do after making a terminally stupid mistake with a well-known editor, which has most likely resulted in blackballing by the entire industry? Is there any way for the repentant author (and also very talented, I offer, as one of said author's readers) to redeem his- or herself? Does he or she have a chance to be read and loved by an editor, or would it be better to find some other trade...say, fishmongering?
Without knowing what sort of transgression you're talking about, I can't say. But let me refer you to How To Get Black Balled.


ae said...

Yes, that dreaded slush pile. Yuck. I am there and you don't really know where and when and who you you are (with).

After years of learning and understanding the dummy process I have found that working 8.5" by 11'' works best for me whether portrait or landscape. Working smaller doesn't work as well for me.

And the art samples can be 11" by 17" for submission. Some people work even larger with originals and that can be and will be shrunken often tightening the quality.

I am not a fan of thumbnails myself as I find them too hard to manipulate but I understand why ADs and eds like them initially.

If you can find the ITOYA portfolios I highly recommend them as they have sleeves to work with and they come in all sizes and presentations.

Happy Holidays. B

Anonymous said...

One art director said she gossips with other ADs about artist's working habits. And yes, the authors and illustrators talk about the editors and art directors, they warn each other who is good to work with and not.

Parametric said...

The second author sounds much too polite and apologetic to be blackballed for anything, unless they have a psychotic alter ego who is taking the day off.

ae said...

The second author asked a very legitimate question. There is so little out there for author/illustrators regarding submitting. And there is a huge learning curve on how to prepare the dummy itself. I suppose schools like RISD may teach this but most art schools/art departments etc. haven't a clue.

And then there is the writing. All the formal lessons and rules won't apply if you don't know about hooks, age group concerns, the market and what each house publishes and what the editors go for.

My first writing teacher was great at pushing poetic devices...yay! and had us prepare two "fully illustrated" manuscripts." (I was the only illustrator in the class :( .

When I look back at the writing I am still pleased... but I cringe on how slight the content, premise and execution was.

No one can teach you that. I think as a writer you learn that and grow by evaluating successful books and being really hard on yourself... stepping back and reassessing.

It is truly amazing how much goes into creating a picture book.

Anyway, very good question second questioner.

Rosanne Parry said...

About not being carried in the chains

When I'm in another town for a school visit I try to stop by the nearest chain store. I ask to speak to whoever is in charge of the children's section, give them a post card of my book, and say I've been to a local school.

That way when a child comes in asking for "that book from the author who came to my school," anyone working the floor can find my post card taped to the kids desk with the note "visiting author" on it.

It's a small courtesy that takes less than 3 minutes of my time and is appreciated by harried booksellers in every town I've visited. It's not going to make them stock my book. I don't bother ask. At the moment, I'm not anybody, but 3 or 4 books from now, those booksellers will still be there, and they will be much happier about recommending my books when their chain finally decides to carry them.

Felicia said...

I have never posted on a blog- and I'm not sure if I'm doing this correctly, but here goes. (please don't pick apart my grammar- I read that blog and it scared me a bit)
I have been an elementary school teacher and literacy coordinator for many years. I know children and what they like.
The picture books that I carefully choose and share with my students shift their thinking and give them an appreciation for high quality literature.
For the tiniest of moments I had thought about investigating the children's literature industry (possible midlife career change?) but YIKES!
Mr. Anonymous editor guy is admirably committed to his work- evidenced by the fact that he is writing to the many needy bloggers at 4:00 a.m. on Christmas morning.
This, and his honest posts are a window into the intensity of this industry.

You, Mr. Anonymous guy are clearly a person who cares very much about which books your publishing company puts out- and I wish this could be said of your counterparts in publishing. You have even gone a step further by creating a blog which encourages author wannabes to create quality work. More editors like you are needed to maintain the integrity of the industry- Good job, friend!
As a teacher it is a blessing and a huge responsibility to guide children to become lifelong readers who are critical thinkers. I'm thinking that I will stay right where I am- and you, Mr. Editor can keep doing your good work. You keep publishing the good books- and I'll help create young readers who know the difference.

Felicia said...

So embarrrassing! I don't know why I assumed that the anonymous editor was a guy- language maybe?:) I am sufficiently horrified by this error not blog again, and will just read the blogs from now on.- apologies to the editor- hope that the above compliments help make my error forgivable.

Phil Hilliker said...

EA, thank you for answering my question about dummy sizes. I suspected that you'd give the answer you did but I didn't want to assume.

Perhaps my submission packet will be hitting your desk soon!

Thanks, too, to the other commentors. I've learned so much from all of you!

Editorial Anonymous said...

You're not the first person to assume I was a man-- there's something about the way I write (non-flowery-ness?) that suggests that to some people.
And who knows? If I were a man and a children's book editor, it would severely endanger my anonymity to admit it, since children's book editors are largely women.

So no offense taken. Please don't stop commenting on blogs just for this.

Anonymous said...

I just watched a bit of American Idol and was stunned at how horrible some of the singers are, and even more astounding, how many of them have absolutely no idea of the level of their horribleness. Some particularly
wretched 'singers' seem to believe that the judges are going to stop the contest and say "we don't need any more auditions- we have found our American Idol right here!"

After reading many of the posts, it seems that many aspiring children's authors suffer from similar delusional issues. They have no idea that they suck! This line of thinking takes me to my own writing- is it possible that I have no idea that I suck?
How does one know for sure? I am not the dental hygenist who was once a child, who loves Make Way for Ducklings,and who knows kids because she has nieces and nephews. I am an elementary school teacher who has read thousands of picture books with children- but ...can my "suckometer" be trusted?

I look to books like The Other Side/Jacqueline Woodson, Come on Rain/Karen Hesse, Owl Moon/ Jane Yolen,Short Cut/Donald Crews, Water Dance/Thomas Locker,(I can't stop- so many well written story books) to serve as mentors for quality writing.

I was so shocked and disappointed to see Philomel recently decided to publish a book called Otis. Granted- children probably love talking tractors with faces, but it's hard to believe that this manuscript may have been a 'stand out' among the manuscripts in the slush pile. Without the illustrations, the text is dull and unoriginal- it doesn't suck, but it sure doesn't seem extra special to me- certainly not special enough to share with my students.

I guess there's no accounting for taste- however, it seems as though our anonymous editor has a finer palate than many of the editors out there. said...

Thanks, this story is very interesting and absorbing! I'm looking forward to reading your new stories! You wield a formidable pen, my friend!

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