Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Follow the yellow brick road

A woman emails me at work:

"You were nice enough to give me some advice and feedback on my manuscript, and I was wondering if you would give me advice about where else to submit it? And if I paid you, would you edit it for me? I'm very busy--as I imagine you are too--and I really don't have the time to research publishers and agents or join a critique group. Isn't there was a quicker way to go about this process?"

You mean a magical highway that allows you to skip all the work of publishing and go straight to "being published"? Of course there is. It's called "self-publishing." It's a highway paved with your money, but there's no tedious research and no pesky critique.

Of course, past the "Now Entering Published Authorhood" sign, the highway stops very suddenly against two brick walls called "No National Exposure" and "Nobody Wants to Buy Such Amateur Crap," but if all you care about is having something to pass around to your friends, my best wishes go with you.

...But maybe you want to join the ranks of genuinely published authors, who are paid for their work. In that case remember that editors know a lot of the hardworking authors who have fought their way through the publishing process and earned the places they now hold. Next to them, you sound like a real whiner.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

A Romantic Evening with the Slush

Who needs a social life?

There's more than one submission from a lawyer, tonight. (On behalf of someone else, of course.) Why do people ask their lawyers to submit for them? Because they know that editors offer agented submissions special treatment.

And they think editors are stupid enough to think lawyers are the same thing as agents.

We're not.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Creative Thinking Is a Disease and Must Be Stamped Out

Ok, I'm not serious. But if I get one more "You've never seen something like this before!!" pitch this week, I'm going to wring the editorial assistant's neck. (She sits closest.)

"My proposal is for a retelling of the three little pigs, but they escape from the wolf by jumping out of the book! There are many spofs (sic) of fairy tales and fractured tellings in the children's books now but my book will be a spoof of the fairytale tradition and children's books and pigs."
And pigs? Ok, leaving aside the dreadful proofreading that didn't go into this cover letter, your proposal sounds a great deal like David Weisner's The Three Pigs, which anybody in children's books ought to know about. It won a Caldecott, for chrissakes. What combination of drugs and hubris could make you try to imitate that? Pass.

"I have done a great deal of research into the book industry, and discovered that books are very, very expensive to make. But in the movie industry, they put little ads for things, like Pepsi, in the movie and the people who make the things pay the movie people. This could be a great way to make books more profitable for everyone."
Product placement? Do I sense you angling for a larger advance?

If you've been watching the industry at all, you will have heard of Cathy's Book, which included several paid-for plugs for Cover Girl make-up.

That was indeed some creative thinking, and the publisher was thoroughly flogged for it. Evidently a great many booksellers feel it's offensive to try to manipulate children under the cover of promoting literacy. Go figure.

The moral of these two stories, dear readers, is Do Your Homework. And then once you've done it, go ahead and assume that the editor you submit to still knows more about children's books than you do, because she does. "I'm breaking entirely new ground!" claims just make authors look like boobs.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Why You Need to Read the Submission Guidelines--

and then follow them.

Thinking of sending in a submission by fax, or on a CD that we're never ever going to look at? Thinking that if you get me on the phone and read your book to me ("it'll only take 5 minutes!")or attach your manuscript to a giant sneaker it'll make you stand out from the masses of other submitters? You're right!

People who think they are above the rules (or living on a different planet from them) spell T-R-O-U-B-L-E. They are going to be one headache after another, throughout the bookmaking process. Editors don't want to work with them.

Maybe you think you are a rebel, or an artiste, and rules are for the dull and narrow-minded. Be careful what assumptions (and adjectives) you apply to the people you're asking to invest time and effort and tens of thousands of dollars in your work.

Maybe you picture yourself a year from now, basking in a circle of admirers and explaining how you shook up a stodgy industry and propelled yourself to stardom.

Listen, you. You can tell your fans whatever you want, once you have some. Until then, act like a fricking professional.

How to Tell You're Never Going to Get Published (part 2)

Another quiz!

What the children's book market needs more of is books about:

a. morals

b. how much mommy loves you

c. kids who find out they have a special power and must go away to school to learn about it

d. squirrels

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Oh, good.

And a message on my phone:

"Hi, this is Patrick Ring. I sent you my manuscript Tipsy Toodles Off a while back and got a rejection letter from you guys but I wanted to call you back and ask if submitting my illustrations with the manuscript would make a difference. The illustrations really help to tell the story, and people really love them. Would it be possible to resubmit? I know you're inundated with submissions, but if you would reconsider it I'd be so grateful."

Haha. Ah, poor guy. Realistically, the chance that his illustrations are going to make even a little bit of difference is miniscule. But he's welcome to resubmit. Because here's the thing: I have no memory of him or his project. He could resubmit that selfsame manuscript every month for the rest of eternity and I would never be the wiser. Between the thousands of people sending us manuscripts and the variety of people here reading the first two lines or so and rejecting them, the chances that I will see that manuscript again and recognize it are nada. So, sure, knock yourself out.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

How to Tell You're Never Going to Get Published

Take this short quiz!

a. You're writing about your pet.

I know you think your pet is darling and precious, but try to wrap your mind around this: no one else cares.

b. You're writing about your grandchildren.

See above.

c. You think writing poetry is easy.

Rhyme doth not a poem make. On the other hand, it's impossible to mail me the sound of fingernails on a chalkboard, so why not send bad verse?

d. You think writing a children's book is easy.

I mean, children can barely read as it is, so how hard can it be to write for them? (

e. You're writing about squirrels.

Seriously, what is it with the squirrel manuscripts recently? There must be something in the water. Something squirrely.