Monday, September 10, 2007

Short Answers

I'm addressing my backlog (mea culpa!).

When a house defines themselves as being "communal," how many in the group need to like it before an acquisition is made? What if three editors love it and two hate it, or vice versa? Do they flip a coin, duke it out, or is there a "head editor" who gets the final vote? Thanks!
No idea. Which publisher is this?

One of the discussions in my critique group this morning dealt with listing magazine publication credits in a book query letter. I’ve read in certain blogs that you need to put in enough information for the editor/agent to be able to verify that these are real credits. Another member of the group felt that was unprofessional and that listing the magazine names was sufficient. How much information would you like to see in a query? If the magazine is well known, is the name enough?
I'd like to know the magazine, the name of the piece, and the year. That should enable me to check on it if I'm so inclined, but is not so much information that you'll bore me.

How do editors really feel about the Rutgers One-On-One Conference? Does it carry more weight than other conferences, since the attendees are accepted based on the strength of their writing samples?
I love this idea. I was at a conference recently and was subjected to the most awful drivel from a particular writer... so this promises less pain. But I don't know what you mean by "carry more weight". There are different reasons to attend conferences. Scenic locales, for instance. The whole "I might find something to acquire" rationale, while it's what we tell our bosses, is kind of low on the list. Realistically, while it would be great, it's not that likely.

I've got a question for your blog, one that has perplexed me for quite a while. I've been sitting on a chapter book series for 6-9 year old girls since 2003. It was snatched up by a children's acquisitions editor at a Christian writer's conference. Other editors I met there also asked me to email them the manuscripts. Within a year, I had a contract for 4 books and an advance from the first publishing house. I was excited...until a year later when my contract was canceled because the publishing house was restructured after my editor left. The letter assured me that the decision came down to the bottom line, not quality of my work. I've since sent my proposal to dozens of agents. I keep getting the same answer -- "great proposal" or "great manuscript" but "publishing houses aren't taking risks" or "I've decided to stop representing children's fiction" etc. I've been scouring the websites of publishers and agents and keep finding the dreaded words "we do not accept children's books" or "picture books only." It seems that YA fiction is welcome in many places, and so I'm wondering if I should go back to the drawing board with an older protagonist. Have you noticed this same trend of chapter books becoming less popular? Or would you know if it's only in the Christian publishing world that this is happening?
I don't know anything about Christian publishing. Obviously there are trade publishers who are still publishing for this age group. I'd suggest going to your local bookstore and asking what's cool and brand new in that age bracket. Also, don't try to write YA just because it's selling. Write YA because you remember being a teenager and really want to say something to teenagers.

If an editor loves a manuscript enough to bring it to an editorial meeting to share with colleagues, what is the usual protocol? Do most of these manuscripts move on to the acquisitions phase?
Depends on the house. At some houses, an editorial meeting is a place for decisions, and at some it's just a place for feedback. I'd say over half of the projects brought to the acquisitions meeting get acquired. Feedback is what we look for when we're not quite sure about a manuscript, so the stuff we ask for feedback about often has a higher mortality rate.

What do you think are the three most valuable things an author should do on their own for promotion?
Create a webpage. Talk your book up to independent booksellers who might nominate it for Booksense (but be very sensitive to the number of other authors who are also asking those booksellers for their time). Practise giving presentations, so that if your marketing department calls you up about an event, you're ready.

As an editor is there something you are expecting your author to do in terms of promotion that would be unprofessional of me to neglect?
Give our marketing department as much information as they ask you for. Help them whenever you can, and then leave them alone to do their jobs.

I've written a story that I've also illustrated, but I'm self-aware enough to realise that, while I'm very fond of the illustrations, a professional might think me naive for even considering suggesting them officially. How then (if it all) should I mention them in a query to a potential agent? Should I introduce the story as one that I've illustrated and add that I'd be happy to have somebody else illustrate them? Not mention the illustrations at all and, if an interest is shown in the manuscript, bring the illustrations up later? Or tell them very humbly that I've illustrated the story and ask them to specify whether they want the manuscript alone or the accompanying pictures as well?

Each of these plans is acceptable.


Anonymous said...

Uh oh... I've had stories accepted by two prestigious children's magazines. You mention that you'd like to see the titles and publication dates of magazine credits included in query letters for novels. My hope is that both of my pieces will be published in this lifetime, but with these two mags, one never knows. In the meantime, I've been planning happily to use them as credits in query letters, saying "Mag X, Mag Y and Mag Z have accepted several of my short stories for publication," without clarifying that only Mag Z has actually printed one. Would that be a bad, bad thing to do?

holly cupala said...

Good grief, don't apologize! You're giving us a gift here. We appreciate that you are busy. In fact, we hope you are - reading our queries, our friends' queries, the next Newbery...

I usually mention the mag titles in my queries/covers w/out all the details, and no one has dinged me (yet).


Anonymous said...

To the person wondering about the Christian market -- I have a fair amount of experience in it. You're describing the situation to a T. They DON'T take risks, and chapter books and middle grade haven't been doing well for about ten years now. Many of the picture books are and have been done by celebs or adult writers (Beverly Lewis, Jan Karon, Max Lucado, Mary Rice Hopkins, etc. etc.)YA's are currently proliferating because YA in the GENERAL market is booming and the Christian children's market is, at bottom, reactionary. My advice to MG or chapter book writers is to write for the mainstream. In fact, I think anybody striving for literary excellence, period, should do so. I've made this shift myself.

Anonymous said...

anon. #1.

No, it would not be a bad, bad, thing to do. Mention them. Everybody understands that "these two" might print something six months or eight years from now. This kind of piddly stuff does NOT keep people from getting published.

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