Sunday, January 25, 2009

Today's Easy Question

I don't have a compter or typewriter at home and my handwriting is pretty good. Is there a reason I should go out of my way to type my manuscritp before sending it to publishers.
Well, most people would respond, "Because it's more professional," but... that's not the reason.

The only handwritten manuscripts publishers get are from children and incarcerated felons.

That's the reason.

I Don't Know Why I Love You Like I Do

Why won't publishing houses treat published authors (by that I mean published by top houses such as Penguin Putnam, Harper Collins, Houghton Mifflin, etc.) different than slush?
Have you ever read something by a very well-known and well-respected author and thought, "How did that get published? Sheesh, some of his/her books have been great, but this is tripe"?

Aha. That's nothing compared to the ones that aren't getting published.

One of the most surprising discoveries young publishing professionals make upon finding a chair on this side of the desk is how many well-known, well-respected authors are totally incapable of telling when they've written something good and marketable, and when they really, really haven't. I have personally rejected dozens of manuscripts from an author I thought the world of when I was a young reader. Now I know how many ideas he/she goes through to find one that works.

That's why.
Should a published author try to get an agent even if they would rather do the submitting themselves?
Ah... maybe? One of the best things an agent can offer you is his/her contacts within the industry, which is why he/she does the submitting. But maybe you have contacts. In that case, an agent also offers you an insider's understanding of how the industry works, what to look for in contracts, and can be an intermediary when you and your editor disagree strongly. If you can find an agent whose personal style suits you, an agent can be a tremendous blessing.
Is it foolish for someone like me to still be submitting through the slush pile and resisting getting an agent? I have heard things about agents that make me wary.
Not foolish, no. But my advice would be to look hard for an agent-- one who suits you and your needs. You should be wary--there are some agents who are No Good. And there are other agents who are Fabulous, but who would be No Good for you.

Why? Why?

Honestly, I'm curious. Are there any self-publishers here?
If so, why did you chose to self-publish? Are you satisfied with how that worked out?

I mean, I met a guy who had self-published a yoga/meditation board book boxed set (yes, 1. meditation 2. board book 3. boxed set), and now has approximately 3,000 of them filling his garage. He'd like to get rid of them, but can't find anyone willing to buy them.

And I've blogged on this topic several times, but nevertheless I see people on the net who when faced with the unlikelihood (or uncertaintihood) of publishers wanting to publish their Fantastic Whatever, think: "That's ok; I'll self-publish."

And I think, Why?
Answers are welcome.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

On the Importance of Reading Legal Documents

With magazine sales, there's the original idea and then there's spawn, the tweaked idea that finds a niche in other magazine markets. Can you do the same thing with children's books? I have a non-fiction manuscript with an educational publisher, but I have also written a separate fictional story using the information I gleaned from writing the non-fiction piece. Is it all right to shop it around too? I feel like I'm double-dipping...
When you say "I feel like I'm double-dipping", do you mean:
"I read my contract and am concerned that the non-compete clause would make this course of action legally precarious and could cost me thousands of dollars when both publishers demand I return their advances"?

Or do you mean:
"I've made the educational publisher aware of the fictional manuscript I've written on the topic and of my intention of trying to sell it elsewhere, and they've given me their blessing (in writing). And when I submit it elsewhere, I'm making very clear to other publishers that I wrote a nonfiction book on the same subject for an educational publisher and am including all pertinent details about that book (isbn, price, pub date, publisher)"?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

What Evil First Pages Clinic?

I don't know anything about an evil first pages clinic.

I don't know why I'm even mentioning it. Maybe Inauguration euphoria.

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Interminable Syllables of Slush

There’s a new book for kids who stutter that is really making some noise. The book is titled [redacted], and it’s about a little squirrel who stutters and how his disability affects his life and those around him. The reviews and endorsements for this book are fantastic, and rightfully so. I would highly recommend it to your readers. For parents who have children that stutter, this book is a must have. You can read about it on the home page of The National Stuttering Association, and Both links are listed below. The reviews can be found at the end of the article on The National Stuttering Association link.
Thank you and best wishes.

Dear Reader,

No thank you.


Sunday, January 18, 2009

Humor for the Publishing Enthusiast

No clue how books get made, edited, and marketed?
This video will not help.

Lost in the Wilderness of Slush

Dear Editor,
I am looking for an investor/publisher who will pay me for a genuine survivors wilderness story. My intentions are to live in the wilderness alone. Write daily logs of my activities, discovery's, and challenges. Send the logs directly to the investor/publisher as the owner to the rights of all logs, blogs, and face book activities. I propose to stay in the wilderness for a period of one year. The place of wilderness can be the investors/publishers choice or mine, However the Wilderness venture will be a true wilderness experience, nothing less than survivor in the rough. Can you lead me to someone with the interest for this adventure or give the interested party my email for communication purposes. What is the feasibility of this operation for success. My email is [redacted]. My surface profile can be found at [redacted]. Please pass this on.
Dear Reader,

No thank you.


Friday, January 16, 2009

There Are No Stupid Questions (guffaw!)

A few days ago, I noticed that Yen Cheong has come up with a list of New Year's resolutions for Other People, which I cannot approve of enough. Other People need severe improvement.

One of the resolutions is "Stop Asking Stupid Questions", in which "stupid" is defined, and which topic can be rephrased, "I Don't Care Whose Email You Have or Who You're Standing in Front of at a Conference; Spend Your Own Time Before You Spend Someone Else's." Yay!

And then I saw that Nicola Morgan has compiled a list of stupid questions, all of which I heartily concur with her about. Go sisterhood of snarky bloggers!

You know as well as anyone that I sympathize about the fact that there's a great deal to know about this industry. And there's plenty of information that isn't readily available in several places on the internet. Both are reasons I have this blog.

But there's plenty of information that is readily available. Information Google is dying to give people, if only those people would spend some time with Google, and maybe buy it dinner first.

I'll spare you my fantasies of beating idiots with a conference schedule when they sabotage the conversational opportunities of others with questions of this ilk, because those people are not generally readers of this blog.

Instead, you are my army. I empower you, my Anonymati, the bearers of information and common sense, to go abroad into the world kindly taking nitwits in hand and attempting to bring them into the fold.

You know the depth of ignorance and knuckleheadery which lurks in slush and which occasionally peeks its head out at conferences and SCBWI meetings. You, my valiant soldiers, hold the sword with which this monster can be killed, or at the very least soundly heckled. You may also be holding the conference schedule with which this monster can be peevishly whapped.

Either way, make me proud.

Oh! And read this, too! Brilliant. Thanks to Sarah for the link.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Yeah, Yeah, Yeah.

I need to redecorate every six months or so. Good thing I have so many books.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

If You Receive an Airborne Contaminant in the Mail... Is It Potpourri?

Regarding envelopes and address labels, does it really matter if we tri-fold our query and/or short manuscript versus sending flat in a larger envelope?
No. As long as we're talking about no more than about five pages. Past that, it takes such force to fold them that they will not unfold fully on our desks.
Does it really matter if we very neatly hand write the addresses on the envelope versus using printed labels?
No. As long as "very neatly" does not mean "give it your best shot". If you sometimes write things down quickly and later cannot read your own handwriting, that means you have terrible handwriting all around, and should use a computer for all your business correspondence.
As long as what's inside is neatly typed and professional-looking, do editors care what the envelope looks like or if there is a fold or two in the pages?
No. As long as an SASE is reasonably tidy, fits the manuscript, and is easy to use, nobody cares what else it is.

What editors are trying to avoid are:

1. Envelopes of any size folded so many times that they refuse to unfold fully, so that stuffing them becomes a job for three hands.

2. The manuscript and/or SASE that have been stapled together (extra irritation points for stapling them through the stamps). I should not need a special tool to separate your ms from the envelope, nor have to spend time repairing your envelope where the staple tore it.

3. The two-hundred-page manuscript with the leeetle envelope clearly meant for a greeting card. If I need origami skills to figure out how to put my A4 letterhead into your envelope, we're both out of luck.

4. The SAS box-within-a-box to hold your treasured oversize archival scrapbook presentation, plus ribbons and glitter. I know your picture book proposal is special to you. But if it isn't special enough on plain paper, it's never going to be special enough to publish.

5. The manuscript and/or SASE that is dirty. Why is it dirty? Who knows? All I know is: the only way to disinfect paper is to recycle it.

6. The manuscript and/or SASE that smells. I don't care what it smells of.
(a) If you are a chain smoker or have one in your home, make a copy of your manuscript at Kinkos and ship that copy from the same Kinkos. Paper absorbs scents. You can't smell it, but your manuscript reeks.
(b) If you have a penchant for incense, ditto. If I never get another sandalwood-scented pile of paper, it'll be too soon.
(c) Do not spray your favorite perfume on your manuscript. Have you noticed how your favorite perfume is not everyone's favorite perfume? There's a reason.
(d) And for god's sake, don't pack your manuscript in potpourri. This is the slush equivalent of hazardous waste. I will personally hold the fire door open so that the intern doesn't have to break stride as she runs it down to the dumpster.

Friday, January 9, 2009

The Outrage Continues

Regarding the legislation of lead testing in children's products.

How does this affect libraries, I wonder? Are they allowed to check books out to children without a lead (and possibly phthalates) testing certificate for each one? Most library collections have a great many older books.

While the article above does have a certain hysteric tinge to it, one can hardly fail to wonder whether legislators thought to ask anyone in the book/children's product industries just what practical effects their laws would have. You know, in case the laws wouldn't just be bad for the bad guys.

Thanks to Kris for the link

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

But Wait! There's More! Act Now and You'll Receive a Free Lingering Sense of Having Been Had!

I've stumbled across the ABC's children's Picture Book Competion. Is this a legit contest? There is a $55.00 entry fee and the winner is supposed to get a publishing contract. I couldn't find the book that won the first competition but the second winner was listed on Amazon. I'd love to know your thoughts on this.
It looks barely better than self-publishing to me. I wouldn't expect the book that is published under this arrangement to earn back the $55 you spent on entering.

And Preditors and Editors recommends against it, which is good enough for me.

The Anonymati Have It

So I'll be expecting some evil hooded robes, or at least t-shirts. And evil secret society meetings (at B Flat, for instance) with evil cocktails. I'll bring the evil beernuts.

Pronunciation: uh-non-uh-MAH-tee

Link in the sidebar.

This Is My Diploma in Higher Math, and This One Is for My Study of Arboreal Squid. So You Can See I'm Qualified.

I appreciate the help you provide with queries, and I feel I have a pretty good grip on the nuances of the first few paragraphs because of you. What stumps me is the paragraph where I am to provide my credentials. Other than some technical/promotional writing here and there, poetry published in the local paper, and a blog not at all related to children's literature, I have nothing to put in that paragraph.

What do you recommend the unpublished author state about him/herself in that paragraph that won't disqualify his or her skills as a writer?
This is not the first time I've had this question, and it makes me think that the people (myself, perhaps, included) who talk about query letters are not making this clear enough: include credentials if you have them.

If you don't and

(a) You're writing fiction: who cares?
The only real qualifications for writing fiction are the (many) abilities of writing and an imagination.

(b) You're writing nonfiction: who cares?
The only real qualifications for writing nonfiction are the (many) abilities of writing and a high standard in quality of research. Some people have the starch for this, and some people can't be bothered to look farther than the first two paragraphs of Wikipedia entry or the first two pages of Google search. If you don't know what qualifies as an authority or what corroboration means, consider not writing nonfiction.

The things I would most like to see in the credentials section are: other books you've published, and in the case of nonfiction, any reason why you'd be good at talking about this topic. But don't, for god's sake, put things in here that will make me think "You think that's a qualification?!"

You all know about the crazies I see in submissions. And you all are nothing like them... when you're calm and using your common sense. If you start letting the query "rules" and the publishing process freak you out, then you might just start seeming a wee bit like them, even though you're not.

So stay calm. Remember that the two things you're most trying to bring across in your query are:

(a) What makes your manuscript so great.

(b) What a yahoo you are not.

Do those things, and you've got yourself a good query... and never mind about the credentials.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Vote or Die! Mwaa-ha-ha-ha!

I'm having trouble with this "be more evil" thing (which would surprise my family, let me tell you). Suggestions are welcome.

I've rejected "Slush Puppies" as just too cute. I have similar, but less strong, feelings about "Anonymice"; also my readers don't seem terribly mouse-like to me. Still, there's a proud tradition of mice in children's lit. Do you see a mouse?

"Slushies" reminds me for some reason of Thugees, that evil cult in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. I disliked the movie, but I like the evil cult thing.

"Anonymati" does seem like a secret society, which has debatable application here. Unless it's an evil secret society? At the same time, I like "Anonymati" (as well as "Slushies" and "Peons") for clarity: a brand-new reader will have at least a fighting chance of figuring out that I'm addressing my readers when I use it. Not so much with "Mice", "Ablatives", "Queries", or "Snarfles".

But maybe we don't care. It could be like hazing, which is at least a little bit evil, right? Ugh, who can think with this evil cold? You guys decide. I'm going to go have an evil nap.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Go Name Yourself

From a recent conversation in the comments about Evil Editor's minions:
Me: Why don't I have minions?

Sarah Laurenson: Ah, but you have slavishly devoted followers. You just need a name for them. Miss Snark had Snarklings. Evil Editor has Minions. Does Moonrat have Moonies? I think you need a 'name the followers' post.

Colorado Writer: You have followers. Devoted ones.

Me: Yes, and I like their free-thinking selves just the way they are. But couldn't I have some minions, too, to do my bidding and some odd grovelling? Can you rent minions?

Sarah Laurenson: Odd grovelling? I think that can be arranged. Especially if you rent a few minions to do it.

Dana P: Sorry, EA, you can't have minions, because you're not evil. (A bit naughty, maybe, but that's not enough...)

Me: Harumph! New Year's resolution: be more eeeevil.
Asking you all to name yourselves feels like making assumptions about exactly how interested is this blog's following, but being humble is in direct contravention of my New Year's resolution. Humility: out. Overweening hubris: in.

So go on, name the readers of this blog. No need for slavishness, but humor is a plus. I'll put together a poll so everyone can vote. Hmm. Is allowing voting not eeevil enough?

I'd better do something bad to make up for it. I'll go torture my cat by holding her food dish over her head.

Oh, Did You Want to Play in This Field? I'm Sorry, the Adults Aren't Done "Discussing" It Yet.

Over at Evil Editor at 4pm EST today, there's going to be a live bookchat about The Higher Power of Lucky.

If I think of it, I'll be sticking my head in to see if there's anything interesting going on. I'm afraid, though, that the same lingering questions will almost certainly come up:
  • Is a book which contains the word scrotum appropriate for 9-12 year olds?
  • Just who are the uptight hysterics who think it's not?
  • It's a good book, but would it have won the Newbery if Susan Patron wasn't a very well-liked librarian?
  • Haven't the Newbery choices been inexplicable enough times to completely kill everyone's curiosity about what goes on in the committee's chambers?
  • Why when everyone involved in a discussion is up on his/her high horse does nobody notice until the field is thoroughly trampled into mud?

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Fear and Loathing in Children's Books

Would it put off a publisher if a picture book story showed both a parent and child being frightened of monsters? From one of your previous posts about layers of meaning, a child could read a whole lot of negative things into seeing a parent being scared.
That is correct.
Most stories seem to avoid that by having the parent either absent, reassuring, or disinterested/disbelieving.
Is this a tried and trusted formula, or is there some leeway - such as Michael Rosen's We're Going On A Bear Hunt?
There is some leeway--there's some leeway in pretty much every "rule" out there. But this is something to be very careful with.

Let's think about We're Going On a Bear Hunt. Most children do not have a built-in fear of bears (the way many do of monsters); after all, many children's books are about cuddly bears. So bears as a plot element are not automatically the source of anxiety other "bad guys" are. The bear in this book offers a mild thrill --just slightly more than an excuse to play at running away-- rather than a source of real conflict. And there's a dose of humor in this book that takes much of the sting from the bear's tension.

The book also doesn't complicate the ending with psychological extras-- when the family is home, they're safe. Period. The book tells small children what they already know and want to believe-- that there are scary things out there, but home is absolute safety, like a law of the universe.

Older children, of course, can explore the idea that home is not so safe.

And very young children can also enjoy stories where the bad guy/source of fear is dealt with a bit differently (Go Away, Big Green Monster; the goblin story in Little Bear's Visit; There's a Monster At the End of This Book; Mrs McMurphy's Pumpkin), but it must be dealt with sensitively. If you can't manage to empathize with the fear that small children feel --to understand in your gut where it comes from and what allays it-- then don't write that kind of story for them.

Many writers seem to have an ideal age range--the one they themselves most strongly empathize with-- and it's an important thing to recognize yours.

Whenever you don't know your audience, you're writing for the wrong crowd.

The Lions Say They've Refused to Eat You Before

I love to write. If I can post it, blog it, write it in some fashion, I do. Like most who visit your site, I believe I have something to offer. I've toyed with the idea of finally submitting one of the many projects I've written. The only problem is knowing how and to whom. If I write small, inspirational pieces, would I query online blogging sites, magazine publishers and the like?
Another problem is knowing who to ask for advice. I am a children's editor at a book publisher, which means I don't know anything about adult publishing, magazine publishers, or large (multiple-source) blogs.
Also, what would be the best way to initiate a contact with an agent or publisher?
Following their submission guidelines.
Is it appropriate to query more than one publisher at a time with the same article or story?
Yes, as long as you're not disobeying someone's submission guidelines.
Also, is it wise to query more than one publisher or agent with the same piece?
It's unwise to query publishers and agents at the same time. If you want an agent, only query agents. No agent wants to agree to take you on safari only to find out you've already been stomping all over the veldt and have scared off all the wildlife.
What is the best way to initiate contact for freelance work for magazines or other publishers?
Submit your resume (including past published work). We don't have time to sit and read a bunch of writing samples, so we look for people whose writing is good enough to have been published before.