Thursday, February 11, 2010

In Memoriam

Upon the death of my mom last summer, I began to help my father get organized and discovered an 18-typed-page children's book written by my grandmother, probably 50 years ago. It was never published. Some of the language has an old-fashioned feeling to it, but my cousin for whom it was originally written and I think it has potential. The story suggests some unusually good visuals - animation, in fact - though I have learned I should not bother with illustration before submission for publication.
That is correct.
Do you have any thoughts about the process or sequence of events if a cartoon series is actually a better use of the text? Do people usually start in the print medium? Are there any special considerations in publication of a work whose author is deceased?
I know nothing about the movie/TV industries. But I do know that most studios don't take submissions from unagented writers, and even if they did they wouldn't take a book manuscript. Maybe my readers have some tips.

First, I would recommend you go ahead and rewrite that manuscript, if only for the experience. You've already noticed some issues with it; I promise an editor will notice more.

The problem with a manuscript whose author has passed away is that the editor cannot work with the author to fix the manuscript. So that leaves you to work with. You should be willing to change the manuscript (perhaps a lot) in order to make it market-ready. If you are unwilling to change anything about that manuscript, I would bet the chances of you getting it published are very slim.

Second, take my advice and do not mention in the cover letter that your mom is deceased. Publishers get tons of mail referencing sick people, handicapped people, people going through a messy divorce, people being channeled from the other side, and people grieving for their 127th china doll "Miss Calliope" who was recently decapitated by their incontinent Chihuahua. None of this has anything to do with publishing. It will be seen as a play for sympathy, and even if it works, our sincere sympathy has nothing to do with publishing.

Good luck!

4 comments:

Ishta Mercurio said...

EA is right. Re-write it as s script; get an agent who represents scripts and screenplays - you can usually find a listing in whatever "agents guide" publication is available in your country (for actors, not necessarily for writers, although sometimes the agents representing film and TV scripts will be listed in a book geared towards writers - it's a strange, strange world we live in, my friend); be prepared to make big changes; cross your fingers and work like hell.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Finding a script agent (film/hollywood agent) is really not going to work in this instance. Yes, there are agents who represent scripts, but you usually have to have an "in" in order to get your work read by them. (an "in" means you know a producer and he's serious about filming your work).

Film agents don't answer unsolicited subs, so unless you want to go to film school or enter some type of animation field and make connections from the ground up, it's very unlikely you can "sell" it as animation.

For instance, Disney/Pixar/Warner Bros. have their own people, in house, for such things, qualified and specifically trained. It's not they type of industry where you can just show up and have them welcome you (I'm not implying you thought it was...).

In my opinion, your best bet would be converting it to a picture book, and selling it as such.

I'm sorry about the loss of your mom, and I wish you luck! You know, if nothing else, you could type it up, have it leather bound, and keep it as a tribute to the creative women in your family.

Deirdre Mundy said...

Also, research the market-- you might find out the book is not as publishable as you think.

I speak from experience-- My mom and Dad wrote a picture book together, and even took the time to register copyright on it.

I loved it as a kid. I thought it was hilarious, touching and all around wonderful.

Well, after my Mom died I decided to tackle it-- revise it, get it into shape, try to get it published.

Only... now that I know more about the market? Well, sure, I loved it as a kid. But it's a book for 4-8 year olds that includes incredibly cruel bullying and a failed suicide attempt! And most of the jokes revolve around the main character's physical deformity....

And, to make matters worse, the main character is completely passive-- the ONLY independant actiion she takes is to try to kill herself-- everything else just kind of happens to her.

If Camus had written a picture book........

SO-- a big, fat, huge warning based on my personal experience-- you may be looking at the manuscript through the eyes of love, filial price, grief, and the joy of discovery.

Do some research and make sure it's actually salvageable.

I'm glad I did-- otherwise the MS in question would have ended up as one of EA's bizarre "So bad it's funny" columns.....

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry for your loss. This might be a perfect instance where self-publishing would be appropriate and allow you to make the book a tribute and an heirloom to cherish. You could get the book printed and bound nicely and give copies to all your family members.

Of course, traditional publishing might work for the manuscript. But family stories and self-publishing often complement each other. For one thing, you can leave the book just as your mom had it without having to change it based on editorial feedback or the market. You can also design it however you wish. Although some self-pub places are expensive, you can get a few copies of a book printed and bound very reasonably. Just an idea...best of luck!