Sunday, November 16, 2008

Mailbox Grab Bag II

When constructing the query letter for my YA murder mystery, should I mention that hubby's a sheriff's deputy and/or that I've used bits of real life mystery from our county? (With artistic liscense to protect those involved.)
Yes. I'm kinda intrigued right now.
I was wondering your opinion on the graphic novel sliding into the picture book arena? I have seen some picture books with a comic book format, and I know that The Little Lit Library has 'Toon Books' ( Just wanting to know if it was worthwhile submitting a picture book in this format? I'm not an illustrator, but I know how to write a MS in a scripted format with the different panels, etc. Is it realistic for someone who does not illustrate to submit a MS in this format?
Sure. It's only going to happen more.
But for those of you who haven't worked in this format before: it's not as easy as it looks. Read a bunch of graphic novels and think about the storytelling before you go submitting manuscripts in this format.
My question is: if you have a book published already through a small publisher, is it possible to find a different publisher to publish a sequel which also stands alone on its own merits? I am not asking about the legal aspect of being under contract, but is a sequel even remotely attractive to another publisher? The first book got some good reviews and sold respectably.
Sure, if it really stands on its own.
Does a contract for a young chapter book series differ from a contract for a novel or PB? In other words, let's say an author writes the first book of a young chapter book series. The pub acquires and wants a second book to follow. Does the contract have a clause that would give the pub. an out if the first book failed? Would the pub. wait/want to see the second book finished before releasing the first? And if the pub. does not like the second book would they have a clause in the contract that allows them to cancel the whole thing? We were discussing this in my writer's group and we were also all curious to know how frequently contracts are canceled and usually for what reasons.
This is a series of questions better addressed to an agent, because contracts vary a great deal from house to house. My answer has to be "no comment"... but perhaps Literaticat would like to weigh in?
My Question: I've recently finished reading John Green's new YA, PAPER TOWNS. I am a huge fan of his and really loved the book. However, many elements of the book were very familiar to his previous (award winning) books -- the geeky/nerdy guy with no other goal than being in love with/figuring out the unattainable, vibrant girl; the wise-cracking best friends; the "themes" batted back and forth at the book's end. These work well for John Green and in fact I look forward to them, but I wonder, as an editor, do you encourage your authors to branch out and try new things? Or do you let the sales speak for themselves? Taking John Green out of the equation, I guess my real question is, How important is it for an author to create a DIFFERENT book each time out? Or are revisited elements one way to create your own type of "brand?"
This will vary from author to author, book to book, and relationship to relationship. I love authors to try new things, but sometimes those experiments don't result in something publishable. (And in publishing, good sales always speak for themselves.)
I've been reading your blog for a while now, and it's pretty clear that you don't think self-publishing is a good option for any self-respecting author. Should authors/illustrators always try to go with a traditional publishing house? I realize that authors/illustrators are not the best judges of their own work, and that many will resort to self-publishing because of rejection (due to the fact that their books just aren't very good). Are there, however, any instances where self-publishing would be the better option for a well-written work of fiction?
I think self-publishing works well for a very small, very well-informed, very pro-active segment of authors. So it's not fair to say it's crap for everyone. But many, many people who self-publish do it under fantastic delusions-- delusions that most vanity presses do nothing to dispel. (After all, if it were only the small, well-informed, pro-active segment who self-published, most vanity presses would be out of business in a hurry.) So it's not something I'm going to recommend for most people.


Literaticat said...

Yep, every publisher has a different boilerplate to start out with, and contracts even vary within the same house based on agency precedent. Your unagented Scholastic contract will look different than one for a Writer's House agent, which will look different than one for a Curtis Brown agent, which will look different from one for me. None of them better or worse, you understand, just slightly different. (Well - OK, to be fair, YOURS is probably worse.)

What I mean is, I can't speak to the specifics of your situation.

What I CAN tell you is, contracts don't get cancelled often, or willy-nilly. If you are contracted for two books in the same chapter book series, chances are VERY good that both these books will see print - because everyone knows that the first book in a series usually just does "meh" sales until books 2 + are released. Publishers know that they need more than one in a series to gain traction in the marketplace. This is why, often, such books come out simultaneously or in quick succession, especially at first.

Since this quick-release is so often the case for a chapter book, sales figures for book 1 likely won't be in before book 2 comes out. So, the only reasons I can imagine for a publisher cancelling book 2 under these circumstances... well, let's just say, if the publisher doesn't go bankrupt, and you haven't written anything offensive or hidden pictures of penises in the illustrations - you're probably fine.

Anonymous said...


That last sentence...this is exactly why I can't get accepted by Highlights.

Anonymous said...

Self-publishing = delusion. Yeah, as harsh as that may seem to others, I'd have to agree with that. It's rare to find a book you truly love. For every one book I love there are ten others I read that I'm meh about. I'd imagine that ratio would increase to 1 to 1000 for self-published books.

I won't say who, but at a writer's conference a few years back I met a co-chair for the SCWBI chapter in my region. I was stunned to find out she'd just self-published her YA. To "get it out there."

Now, THAT was depressing. A writer IN CHARGE of the SCWBI events? This does not bode well for us, fellow writers, not well at all. God have mercy, what have we gotten ourselves into? :)

Anonymous said...

re: John Green using similar characters from book to book... when a writer "makes it," I always thought that would force them to create something new each time out, instead of similar protags?

Anonymous said...

Hi, I'm the deputy's wife and I'm so glad you responded. Now I have no excuses left, so I'd better get to work constructing my query letter.

By the way, it's true what they say -- truth is stranger than fiction. I couldn't make up some of the stuff I've heard about.


Anonymous said...

"when a writer "makes it," I always thought that would force them to create something new each time out, instead of similar protags?"

why? Sure, some authors like to cast out and do different things, but really? If you're successful at a certain kind of book, and you like writing similar protags, and you're doing well, why change soley for change's sake?

Fans are often times fans for a reason: many readers like reading "more of the same" and many authors like writing "more of the same." There's something to be said for knowing what you're good at, and doing it well.

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