Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Goddamn Unicorns

I've seen several agents and publishing houses say things like, "No unsolicited MSS; query first with outline, sample chapters and SASE," in their submission guidelines without any separate instructions for picture books.
In the case of short-ish picture books (400-600 words) with no illustrations, the whole text fits on one or two pages. I can replace an outline with a brief summary, but then, of course have no chapters to include. Do I send any of the short manuscript, all of it, or nothing beyond a letter?

Here is an excellent opportunity for me to say that I do not know everything. If an agent/publisher represents/acquires picture books and yet gives no hints about submitting them, what does it mean? I have no fricking clue.

Other questions of this ilk include:
If two bears walk into a bar, what flavor of paella are they serving in Madrid?
If you're afraid of the dark, what the hell is a night rainbow?
If the unicorns steal my crack pipe again, I'm going to kick the crap out of them. Well? Where is it?


Judy said...

I think my first question would be 'Are these agents and publishers actually LOOKING for picture books?' Maybe that is why there are no guidelines for them.

Anonymous said...

This is what kills me. Writers are always told to write clearly. Why then, are guidelines and directions often so VAGUE.

Yes, Judy, that is what I thought...maybe they don't want pbs. Or???

And about the bears...I'd just give them whatever flavor paella they asked for, and then do the Spanish flee.

Anonymous said...

Wow, EA, is someone a little cranky today?

Anonymous said...

The key phrase is "query first." If you want to follow the guidelines, then send a query, not the picture book. If you want to save time and stamps and maybe catch the attention of a slush-digging intern, send your two- or three-page pb. I don't think you can lose by doing so. If they like it, then great. If they don't like it, well, you move on.

Stephanie J. Blake said...

It's all going to end up in the ginormous slush pile under the desk, so what difference does it make???

angelarene said...

You are bloody brilliant AND effin hysterical!!Miss Snark would be proud I bet!

Anonymous said...

good question about the 'night rainbow'...

Anonymous said...

I agree with angela! I now feel as though my Miss Snark loss is no more. I have ea for great entertainment and seriously funny snarkiness in an otherwise often frustrating business. signed, author/illustrator anonymous, AKA aia.

Anonymous said...

Sort of a related question:

1) You have written a picture book.

2) The text of your picture book does not make complete sense without pictures (very common of course).

3) You can't draw.

What is the best way to present this as a submission so that all of your ideas are transferred? Assume that you include the complete text in a double spaced document complete with suggested page numbers.

a) Dummy book with the text in place and descriptions of potential illustrations?

b) Include an explanation or breakdown of your illustration ideas in the covering letter or separate document.

c) Find someone who can draw to illustrate your dummy book. (Not very easy, this option)

Comments on these and any other ideas would be gratefully received, I find this part of it very confusing.

Anonymous said...


I just heard Sarah Cloots, an assistant editor at Greenwillow Books talk about this issue. She said if the text doesn't make sense without an illustration, just note in the ms what is the essential aspect of the illustration. She again reiterated the "rule" that writers shouldn't include illustrations, or dummy the book, or do the work of illustrators or editors. The should write.

Anonymous said...

In regards to querying for a small word count PB, I had this problem with a publishing house. There were no guidelines for them. I emailed the publisher, explaining my dilemma and asking what to do. They very kindly replied, quite quickly I might add, that for small PBs, we could send the entire manuscript.

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