Monday, May 18, 2009

Submissions: Quick Answers

When a publisher states that they are accepting submissions for "spare of language picture books for young readers" does this mean they are expecting illustrations also? I realize that under "normal" circumstances publishers don't want illustrations with manuscripts, but does this qualify as a normal circumstance? My confusion lies in the fact that for these types of books the photos/illustrations are such an integral part, if not dominating aspect, of the book...
No, you're welcome to just submit text.
I have submission paralysis. My picture book has only one word per page, which sounds crazy, but the irony between the illustrations and the words is what makes the story intriguing. When submitting the MS, is it reasonable to include brief 5-10 word descriptors in parentheses next to the actual written word for the page? It makes sense to me, but I'm sure it could cause someone to throw my MS out their window, followed by a blog entry of "what NOT to do." So...what SHOULD I do with this format?
Including brief notes on the illustration only where absolutely necessary for understanding the text is acceptable. It's unlikely that a manuscript will be acquired this way, but it's possible. (Once Upon a Banana.)
I have a picture book manuscript that (cross my fingers) is ready to submit. I've targeted a publisher, but then I hit a dead end. I feel I should send it to a specific editor, but have no idea how to get a contact that will be a good fit for my story. Is it kosher to call a publisher and ask for names? I just feel like that is way out of line.... Any thoughts are greatly appreciated!
My readers may have some specific suggestions... but it my experience having an editor's name doesn't make your manuscript more likely to be read by that editor.
If an author submits a ms to Editor A at "Big Deal" publishing house and it is rejected, is it reasonable for the author to resubmit the same ms to Editor B at the same publishing house thinking that Editor B, being a different person, might have a different opinion of the ms?
If you're talking about the same imprint, a no from one person is meant to be a no from all of them.
When I read in submission guidelines that I can expect to receive a response in four months and six to eight months have passed without word, I am not surprised. I am, however, uncertain how to proceed. Do editors resent follow-up letters at this point? I have sent several and get immediate rejections. I'm left to wonder, were they considering my manuscript and decided I wasn't worth the trouble?
Are we calling follow-up letters eight months later "trouble"? Because any house that thinks that's troublesome is not worth your trouble. I would assume your letter just lit a fire under them.
I've written a picture book manuscript and used it as a visiting author at local elementary schools. I do storytelling and creative writing lessons with the children based on the format of my book, and the visits have been very well received. The teachers say they can't wait 'til my book is published because they want to use it in the classroom. My question is this. Should I keep submitting to regular publishing houses in the hopes that this will be successful with the general public, or should I target educational publishers and what I perceive to be a more limited audience?
This is a question that can only be answered by someone who knows what your manuscript is about and how appealing it would be to a trade audience. There's generally more money to be made in trade publishing, but if your topic/treatment won't be of interest to parents, then educational publishing may be the way to go.
Remember when I asked you a while back about whether an email follow-up would be proper to a top editor at a very top house who had requested the manuscript? You said you wouldn't mind, but snail might be safer. Well, I waited 5 months and sent a very nice letter. That was March 13th and I haven't heard anything yet. I'm not going to follow-up again for a long time, but do you think it's a good sign that I haven't heard anything? (I enclosed a SASE with the letter, which she could easily have used.) Perhaps agents who have it have contacted her, I'm not sure. I've had some very close calls with this so far. Any thoughts about the follow-up process to ease me through the weekend?
No, I don't think 5 months with no word is a good sign. But it could be no sign at all: sometimes (especially with top editors) no response for ages means they haven't even read the manuscript.

But what's this about agents (plural?) who have the manuscript contacting her?
I'm afraid we may have an instance for a light tap with the clue stick.
1. Don't send your manuscript to agents and editors at the same time.
2. I certainly hope there isn't more than one agent who thinks they're representing this manuscript? Agents don't share.
3. If not, you aren't under the impression that agents who don't officially represent you would be sending your manuscript to editors? They would never do that. Reputable agents, that is.
My publisher is a well-known and highly respected company. Yet they move at a glacial pace. My first nonfiction book with photographs took them years to publish (though it looked lovely when it finally came out). Now they keep procrastinating on my second book. It would have been a new and exciting subject if they had published it when it was supposed to come out (i.e., years ago), but now several adult books have been published on the same subject so mine looks less exciting at least from my viewpoint. They already paid me the entire advance (partly due to an accounting mistake that they did not want to bother to correct), but I am still upset that although they are saying it will come out in 2010, little has been done on it, and I am beginning to think it will get postponed again. What to do?
Look at your contract for a "failure to publish" section. Have they exceeded their time limit? You could threaten to pull the book. Depending on the contract, you might have to pay the advance back in that case, though, so don't threaten unless you're willing to follow through.
Is the market for mid-elementary picture books much smaller than the market for younger-aged picture books? I've tested my book over a few months with different age groups, and while the younger kids still enjoy the story, it's really ideal for 2nd, 3rd, 4th graders. It's a bit longer (1700 words) and, while ultimately uplifting, it does deal with death. Should I attempt to categorize it in a cover letter, or just let the editor read and decide for his/herself?
It's a smaller market, yes. And the market for books about death for that age group is quite small. So I would suggest when you describe it, you do your best to convey the widest possible audience for it--while still being realistic, of course. You don't want to make the mistake of a recent submission I saw, in which under 'age group' the author had written "cats".


Vacuum Queen said...

Hey, thanks for including my question about the "one word per page picture book." Perhaps I'll forgo the scene descriptors within the MS and simply do a better job of describing it in the query. I'm sure it's a tough one to understand via query, but the story is funny. I've used it in my classroom as an acting exercise and it always got big laughs. I figure it's time to have it made into a real book, if at all possible. Worth a try...

mr said...

How long is a cat's attention span, anyway?

Trade editors sometimes suggest that writers send their ms. to educational publishers, but ordinarily, educational publishers don't acquire mss. the way trade houses do. Usually they plan programs in-house and hire freelancers to write to spec. I think there may be some small educational publishers that invite teachers to submit lesson plans and things, but I'm not sure that a project originally intended for trade publication is likely to fit the bill.

Lindsey said...

Wow, someone made up for lost time! Thanks for these!

Oh, and "cats" made me giggle. What age-group is that, exactly? 70 something crazy women?

Anonymous said...

EA's QUOTE: "...Are we calling follow-up letters eight months later "trouble"? Because any house that thinks that's troublesome is not worth your trouble..."


Pardon my small rant...

EA must work in a very efficent pub house and be steller at her job, and must also own rose-colored glasses because this stuff goes on ALL the time. I think editors get burnt out easily and do end up viewing authors as a burden and something to "deal" with.

I once waited a total of 11 months for an editor at a large house to make a decison re my agented ms. Took her five months to read it, another two months for it to pass acquisitions, and then she sat on it for another four months while she "decided" if she really wanted it -- why take something to acquisitions if you don't know if you want it?

While the weeks turned into months, and spring, turned into summer, fall, winter, and spring again (no joke) I had plenty of time to read other books she'd edited. They weren't good. Easily "fixable" problems ignored, horrific jacketcopy, etc...

Thank god for small miracles -- she turned down my book. Even hearing her name in passing makes me want to vomit. I wonder sometimes how these people still have jobs in the industry?

...rant over... :)

Anonymous said...

Cats? That's bizarre. What on earth was that person thinking?

I don't write in the genre you acquire; however, I find your posts enlightening.

Thank you!

B. Nagel said...

Bahhh! Going into EdAnon shock. Where's my insulin shot?

It's been too long. Glad you're back.

Anonymous said...

Hi EA. I'm the "agents plural" guy. Thanks for answering. Yes, agents (plural) are CONSIDERING the manuscript. The top editor has a special connection to me, an exciting opportunity that I had to try. In my follow-up letter, I mentioned one of the agents who's considering it, an agent who recently sold a book to her. Part of my follow-up letter was congratulating her on the acquisition. I'm hoping the letter "lights a fire" over there, as you said with one of the other questions. I've read that editors often won't even look at something until they get that nudge from an agent. I'm hoping (without an agent yet) that 5 months was an appropriate time to write. It's now about 2 months after the letter. Going to check my mailbox now! Any more thoughts?

Anonymous said...

Reputable agents certainly do share manuscripts with editors before agreeing to represent authors. They just deny it afterwards if it doesn't work out.

But I know at least three writers it has happened to with two different agents.

And when I say reputable, I mean huge-big-name-you'd-never-believe-it-if-I-told-you agents.

Deirdre Mundy said...

At one point my three-year-old was giving her age as "pink pegasus pony" --so maybe the book is for toddlers who think they're cats?

Lynne Kelly said...

Anon 11:28, I think what EA meant by "Agents don't share" is that they don't share with one another, as in other agents, not that they wouldn't discuss with an editor. It was about the question referring to agents (plural) approaching an editor about the manuscript.

Anonymous said...

Lynne Kelly Hoenig, this is Anon 11:28. Read it again.

"If not, you aren't under the impression that agents who don't officially represent you would be sending your manuscript to editors? They would never do that. Reputable agents, that is."

agents plural said...

But I've had at least one agent (who was considering my novel) pick up the phone and call an editor who already had the manuscript. He highly recommended it, which got the editor to read overnight. Ah, the power of these agents! (But it didn't work out with either of them.) And yes, EA, another case of submitting to an editor. But come on, this is a very tough business. I've got to try everything I can.

Anonymous said...

You don't want to make the mistake of a recent submission I saw, in which under 'age group' the author had written "cats".

Oh, my. I just lost a mouthful of soda and an ice cube onto the patio table.

Thank you.

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