Friday, January 21, 2011

What Is This Publishers Marketplace You Speak Of?

I am currently searching the 'net for agents in the children's books (picture book genre). A few terms I've noticed in particular begs to be further defined. When an agent specifies "Picture Books (by an author/illustrator)" or "picture books by author/artists" are they saying they want the author to also be the illustrator?
Yes. This is because there's very little money to be made, usually, for picture book authors. Agents get a small percentage of that little money, and many of them just feel it isn't enough.
Or would I be okay just sending in the query as the author minus the art skills?
Not to those agents. But there are others who rep picture book authors.
Also, when an agent (that accepts picture books) explains their submission requirements for a variety of genres (ie novelists send in first ten pages) but leaves out the details for picture books, what should one do? Send in the picture book manuscript?
One should look up that agent's sales in Publishers Marketplace and see whether they represent picture books at all.

12 comments:

C. Cret Agent said...

Yes, there's less money for picture book writers, and agents do need to make money, but I would argue that:

1) Editors are acquiring fewer picture books in general.

2) Editors seem to be looking more for author-strators, because you don't need to worry about attaching an illustrator to the project, and the editor can get the book on a much earlier list (and there's only one creative type to hassle if the delivery dates are missed, etc).

3) It's way easier to get marketing and sales on board if you can give them a sample piece of final art or a full dummy w/ the submissions.

christine tripp said...

C. Cret, I would only disagree with your number 2 point.
While it may sound easier to deal with one person doing two jobs, there are few creators that are excellent at both writing and illustrating. For the illustrator that is new to writing, the art may come in on deadline and with ease, but there is often more involvement and work needed from the Editor in "helping" the illustrator with the text, less involvement needed in that area when they are dealing with a seasoned author.
I will venture to say that illustrators SEE their story through illustration and that the writing takes more time then the art.
So, not sure if the polished project comes in any faster then usual.

Anonymous said...

"there's less money for picture book writers, and agents do need to make money"

That's the criteria? Talk about cheezy.

Anonymous said...

If the agent represents picture books you always send in the whole manuscript unless they only accept queries.

The picture book market is probably one of the hardest to break into right now--I've heard that from lots of people. Make sure that you have at least three or four other picture book manuscripts that have been worked over and are just as publishable as the one you are querying with. If an agent is interested, they almost always will ask to see other work. Because they get so little money per manuscript (generally) they want to know you can produce more.

Also, generally for your first published picture book, the idea usually needs to be pretty unusual. I have read a lot of good picture book manuscripts that haven't gotten published just because they aren't unique enough for a first time author.

As hard as it is, it is doable, but more than likely it will take a long time. Don't give up and keep writing. I just signed with an agent last year and my first picture book comes out next year. And no, I'm not the illustrator. But it took me a good 7 years of querying to get there.

Editorial Anonymous said...

"That's the criteria? Talk about cheezy."

I'm not saying I absolutely agree with that criteria, but I don't think I know enough about agents' businesses to be able to judge. They do have to make a living at this, you know, and if they spend a LOT of time working to sell a picture book manuscript that then nets them $500... well, maybe that pays them a reasonable wage for the effort and time it took, and maybe it doesn't. I don't know.

But you can't blame agents for taking the money into account. Most of them don't have another job, and they can't do this as a public service.

christine tripp said...

Agents have to consider money, Publishers consider money, Editors, Art Directors, Printers...EVERYONE working in Publishing, it books, picture books or otherwise, consider the money. Writers are the only ones that have been convinced or believe on their own that it's not about the money. This is a business, period!
If anyone finds an agent/rep that says money doesn't matter, run far, run fast!

Anonymous said...

Yes, it is pretty "cheezy" to want to make enough money to live.

Don't those bloodsuckers know that they are supposed to work for years, for free, with no insurance, and limited chance that the tiny quiet manuscripts they've taken on will ever net them more than $5 an hour, and that only if they are lucky?

How dare agents try to run their own businesses efficiently and profitably, THOSE BASTARDS.

working illustrator said...

Anonymous January 23, 2011 2:15 PM said:

Don't those bloodsuckers know that they are supposed to work for years, for free, with no insurance, and limited chance that the tiny quiet manuscripts they've taken on will ever net them more than $5 an hour, and that only if they are lucky?

This makes me laugh because this is, of course, exactly what authors do every day.

Look, I don't dispute the basic, self-evident truth that publishing is a business and that no one involved can leave money out of the equation.

But honestly, the work that agents do, the work that editors do, even the work that I do as an illustrator once the MS has been acquired and I've been brought on board... all of it - everything - is dependent on a writer whose initial efforts on that project are:

A. Nearly always self-funded. Whatever money comes out, the writer is just about always alone during the first, crucial stage of creation. The (presumed) agent who wrote the above quotation is suggesting that only a lunatic would work under those conditions, but without exactly that brand of lunacy, he or she would have nothing to sell.

And:

B. Nearly always undertaken for reasons that aren't entirely rational, let alone businesslike.

The 'it's-a-business' mantra one encounters constantly here and elsewhere tends to ignore a central truth about the nature of this business: cultural product isn't canned goods. Plumbing supplies and auto parts don't have tastemakers and gatekeepers reigning over vast portions of their respective markets, and they certainly don't pass out major awards based on non-commercial merit.

It's a rare kitchen cleanser whose end user is moved to tears by the way it does its job.

So, yeah, publishing is a business, but it's a business whose profits are derived, ultimately, from creative people's speculative, unsecured investment in themselves and the way readers respond to the results.

For the writers, making that investment involves a kind of blind leap that - with all due respect - salaried editors and agents with multiple clients just don't have to make. I think you might have to be a little bit crazy to make it. It's not completely rational and it's certainly not just about the 'business'.

But without it, there isn't anything.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Working Illustrator for setting the record straight. We work in a broken system. The Brat Calls of agents needs fall on deaf ears to smart creators these days. The sad old story that authors love their poverty while agents need money is worn out and antiquated.

I wonder what all the newly unemployed editors turned agents think? There's lots of them these days.
Now that's "cheezy".

Melinda Szymanik said...

Working illustrator I have received creative approval of my ms only to have it stall at the 'can we guarantee enough sales' point of the process. Oh that the publisher would take that blind leap with me

AE said...

"It's a rare kitchen cleanser whose end user is moved to tears by the way it does its job."

If only plates were mirrors.

:)

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