Sunday, January 23, 2011

Quick Answers!

I have a fantastic story and concept for a series of childrens picture books. I have several books in rough draft and one completed. Do you recommend that I complete the other books and consider them all a single transcript or just submit the first picture book (20 page) with a reference to the series?
First book only. Please see the tag 'series and sequels' in my sidebar.

I was hoping you could answer my question as I've searched around and haven't been able to find an answer. I submitted my story to a few online critique groups in hopes of getting it polished up for submission. I've been a bit paranoid about submitting since I found
all these publishing and agent blogs online. But after getting my critiques back, no one could agree, on anything. And it was pretty split down the middle on who liked and didn't like it as a whole. I'm just curious, that if I'm getting such a wide range of comments, could it mean that this story is lost cause? Or do I need to seek out some other readers?
Well, here's the helpful thing about the people you meet in critique groups: They're showing you what they're writing. That means you can tell if some of them are really not such great writers, and so possibly not fantastic judges of writing, or if they have a lot of opinions about picture books but don't write / read picture books themselves. Maybe you should try some more crit partners before you decide one way or another.
I had part of a ms critiqued at a conference recently. The editor liked it and asked to see the full. Between the time I submitted this ms for critique and the actual meeting (about 4 months) I decided to revise the story. I explained that to the editor at the critique session and she said she was looking forward to seeing it when it was done. Within a month’s time of the critique meeting I submitted the revised ms to my agent for review. He made some good suggestions which I followed. I resubmitted a few weeks later and now agent has told me he doesn’t have time to reread it again for several months. What do you think of that, and should I be concerned that if I wait too long to get the ms back to interested editor that that interest will wane?
Several months? Um, yeah. Send that to the editor now.


emay said...

You can't just bypass your agent and submit to an editor, unless you have okayed it with your agent. But if your agent can't manage to look at a client's PB ms. for several months, you may want to reconsider whether you're okay with your agent.

Ishta Mercurio said...

I'm wondering about the agent mentioned at the end of this post. Is this good practice, especially from an agent who knows there is editor interest?

Literaticat said...

I would ask, does your agent know that the editor is interested in seeing? Would he be willing to send it to her, at least?

Because if you just decide "screw it" and send without even talking to him first - well, if it were me, I'd be pretty upset if a client did that to me.

Anonymous said...

The second question reminds me of someone who was once part of my critique group. She went to several different critique groups. After a while, her response to any comment on one of her manuscripts was, essentially, "I made it that way because another reader said the opposite of what you're saying." She was frustrated with the conflicting advice. She couldn't evaluate the advice because:

1.) She had no clear idea in her own head of what was important to her in her stories; and

2.) For her manuscripts to improve, her writing needed to improve, but she couldn't see that she needed to do that work. She expected her critique partners to do the job of improving her manuscripts.

Submitting your story to critique groups will not "get it polished up for submission;" only you can do that.

Also, I wonder if some of the questioner's critique groups consist entirely of newbie writers who lack the skills and knowledge to give each other useful advice. This person might be better off taking a class, to help her bring her work to a level that will get her into a better critique group.

Anonymous said...

My agent and I discussed (and he agreed) that since I made a connection with this editor that I would personally follow up rather then have him follow up with the editor on my behalf. I of course told the editor that I was represented by an agent (at our initial meeting at the conference)and included (cc'd) agent on my emails to the editor when I followed up. I am still waiting for a response from the editor.

Adam Heine said...

One thing about critique groups, reading is subjective. You're probably never going to please everybody, so getting conflicting comments is normal.

You have to decide which comments matter to you. Look at what they're saying, try to understand what's tripping them up, and decide if it's something you want to fix. Then find some more critique partners and see what they say.

No story is a lost cause. It always comes down to how much work is needed to make it good enough, and whether you're willing to do that work.

Anonymous said...

For the picture book writer, I would strongly suggest that you finish your other manuscripts before submitting. And then you just submit the one manuscript. Almost always an interested agent is going to ask to see more pb manuscripts before they sign you. You don't want to be trying to finish those in a hurry because you don't have any others ready.

Deirdre Mundy said...

Also, keep in mind that some critiquers are just too nice. Especially if they don't know you, they may be unwilling to tell you hard truths like "Your sentence structure is so convoluted it's making my eyes bleed!" So try to find someone who is willing to be honest.

Also, genre matters. If, for instance, you write sci fi, you should seek out critiques from writers/editors who read and enjoy sci fi. If the writers in your critique group detest your genre, you'll never get anywhere.

And, honestly, if the other writers are terrible at the craft, their critiques are worthless.

Don't join a critique group just to be in a group. They're a major time drain, and a worthless critique is worse than no critique at all.

Hold out for a really good group, or swap with people who are a good fit for you. (To get good swaps, it helps to work on your critiquing skills. You need to GIVE good critiques to GET good critiques.)

Ideally, you should also be working toward the ability to self-critique. I've had a handful of really good critique partners, and the best thing is that as I write, I can hear their voices in my head. "Good grief! The last book it was doors! Now it's dusty streets!" and whatnot. At which point, I put flags in the text to warn me to go fix the problems BEFORE I try to get anyone to critique it!

The more work you can do yourself, the better critique partener you'll be!

Christine Tripp said...

I have only one question for the author. You mention the PB is 20 pages? I've never illustrated a PB with only 10 spreads, unless this is intended as a board book for the very young perhaps??
Not that my experience is vast, so is this an acceptable number of pages for a PB?

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