Saturday, September 26, 2009

Grief Is Worth Sympathy. It Is Not Worth Publication.

Ok, Miss Anonymous, I have been writing a children's book for the last 10 years. Picking it up and putting it down. Reason being is because I traveled a lot and really found it hard to focus. Dedicated to my Grandfather who was a writer in his hay day. He became ill and 2 days before my flight to see him, he pasted.
I don't want to be mean about this, but my first piece of advice to you is to carefully proofread anything you send to an editor. Your second sentence was a fragment, but I was going to let that slide as possibly stylistic. But your third sentence is ungrammatical / repetitious: "reason being is because". Your fourth sentence is a fragment, too. And you mean passed not pasted. That kind of trouble with the past tense raises an editor's eyebrows.
He knew I had the book written and knew what it was about but I was going to read it to him myself. Anyway. I went to a convention when I came back home. Spoke to agents, publishers, and editors. My picture book is to long.
Too, not to.
And with the grief i couldn't pick it up to chop the extras. I have a friend who is a pretty well known author of adult books. Also contacts inside Random House. But I have no real help.. I need to get this beautiful book on the shelf for the children and for my grandmother. It really is a good book. I know every says that but i promise, who ever has read it, has loved it. So where to now? I looked up fees for an editor and it was an outrage amount per page. Its been edited by a college professor as a favor but not edited by a children's book editor. So its not bad, its just to long. I'm in no man land. Its really a good book.
Everyone, not every. Whoever is one word. Outrageous, not outrage. It's, not its. No man's land not no man land. Etc.

Ok, now for the advice you asked for:
Join the SCBWI and find a critique group. Ask them where/how they would recommend cutting the text down.

And a bit more advice you didn't ask for:
I sympathize about your loss. However: You do not need to get this published for your grandmother. She can read it just fine right now.

Also, take my advice and do not mention your grandparents as any kind of motive when you submit this to editors and agents: we've all seen many, many submissions whose main reason for being was someone who was dead, or dying, or sick, or some other misfortune that meant the submitter HAD to get THIS manuscript published SOON in that person's memory/to ease that person's pain. Those submissions have been uniformly not for anyone else. We have to be able to sell a book to a LOT of people, remember?

Do not be surprised if the people at the SCBWI suggest you should try writing something else: part of becoming a good writer for children is practicing, and practicing some more.

If you want to be a good writer for children, welcome to the industry. It's a lot of work.
But if the only thing you care about is this one manuscript, then I doubt the work it will take will be worth it to you.


Sarah Laurenson said...

A lot depends on your goals here. If it's just to have this book in print for your relatives, then self-publishing is a very viable option - without having to cut any words.

There are a lot of people in this world with a story worthy of being in print. Not all of them do the work needed to get there.

Anonymous said...

Quick clarification for the question asker-- the SCBWI is not itself a critique group; it's a children's writer's organization. You might be able to find a critique group through the organization if you join. But you might also be able to find a critique group through your local library.

Anonymous said...

You might want to take a step back and ask yourself what you really want.

If you've taken ten years to write one picture book, it doesn't sound like you are interested in making a career out of writing for children. traveling a lot and being busy isn't really an excuse. In fact, other writers reading this right now would say, "Traveling? On a plane, on a bus, on a subway? What a perfect time to write!"

Editors generally want to work with writers who will produce multiple books, not just one. By publishing a writer, a publishing house is investing in that writer, not just one book.

If you only want THIS book bound and printed so you can have it to honor the memory of your grandfather, then why not pay to have it printed and bound in a leather cover for yourself? I'm not talking self-publishing, where you pay thousands of dollars and are assigned a IBSN number and try to hawk them to booksellers (who won't take them anyway), but a FEW copies, for yourself?

Nicola Morgan said...

Really important message - needs to be said. I'm going to put a link from my blog and tweet it. Of course we sympathise with this writer for her/his grief but it's not going to be enough. The writing has to cut the mustard, with or without an editor to tidy up. And I agree re self-publishing in this case - it would be the way to do it (not that that's easy either, but it could be cathartic and useful, and some people will get to read it.)

Ebony McKenna. said...

My first thought was 'you've spent ten years writing one book'.

Most writers would create at least one manuscript per year or two, or even two a year, to hone their craft. And, you know, get gooderer with the Englishing.

Anonymous said...

Not to pile on, but I think it's heyday not hay day.

Anonymous said...

I actually -liked- 'pasted.' In my head it was the past tense of 'paste,' not 'pass'. My grandfather pasted.

I might use that.

Wendy Sparrow said...

I know that lulu is dirty word among publishing circles, but this strikes me as a scenario that would be an appropriate reason to do a simple self-publishing run with lulu. While this writer's heart might be in the right place, that doesn't mean that a publisher will ever see their story as a viable, publishable product. Publishing isn't really meant to immortalize people... that's what obitiuaries and memorials are for.

That's just my two cents.

From what I've seen, there are any number of writers that have completely put their lives on hold because they need to be a writer, and they have stories that need to be told. Simply having a story to tell isn't enough.

Anonymous said...

You're in my google reader. I've read you before. I've never found you abrasive or harsh, but I had to leave a comment this time. I'm sick right now and words are coming slowly.

If I was to be rejected, I pray to God that you are doing the rejcting. You handle this with grace, honest, gentleness, and preserving the pride/dignity of the commentor/writer. Wow! You are a gift. Thank you
Jo Ann Hernandez
BronzeWord Latino Authors

Julie said...

I agree with the Anonymous who said she kind of liked the word "pasted" when applied to dying. It's such a great typo - worth saving in my collection of Bests.

One other thing though: I don't think this person's first language is English. If you've worked with non-native speakers, some of the usual mistakes (which are not the same kind native English speakers make) are obvious. To me, that makes a difference in how far to go making fun of it, like calling it "Englishing." I agree, the language problem will probably make the manuscript unreadable. But for me, it makes the letter more poignant.

Roger Sutton said...

I once had an editor complain because I had published a negative review of a book she said was three years in the making. Whether it's your grandmother pasting away or the fact that you composed the book on foolscap with one ever-diminishing pencil or the manuscript took precious time away from your kids, movie career, or witnessing for Jesus, who cares?

Nancy Coffelt said...

I am sorry for this person's obvious grief but perhaps beginning another project would be helpful. Right now this seems more like dwelling than attempting to complete a manuscript.

If they truly want to write, then that's what they need to do. I've been amazed when I've abandoned a project only to successfully convey the theme in a later seemingly unrelated attempt. I'd never found that out if I hadn't moved on.

Editorial Anonymous said...

That's the truth, Roger. I've watched books take seven years in the making and still come out crap.

Anonymous said...

Am I the only one who doubts this person really has contacts at Random House? Unless contacts is code for 'janitor' or 'mail room assistant.'

Trixie said...

EA, you rock as usual. Thanks for the morning lesson. Clearly this is a writer in need of a critique group and possibly an English class. (Sorry dear writer, but you must PROOFREAD, and then edit, and then do it all over again!)

sarah mccarry said...

Also, queries like this tend to make the poor assistant reading them suicidally depressed, which is ultimately not a successful strategy for publication. Bonus points for including a photograph of the deceased. On their deathbed. Yep, it's happened.

Editorial Anonymous said...

Suicidally depressed / resentful, in my experience.

Why are people batty enough to think that the solution to their emotional problems is publication? And why do they think making publishing staff feel bad for them will help?

Sara J. Henry said...

After I landed a book contract, a well-known, very successful author (several bestsellers and one movie) told me mournfully: It's not going to change anything.

He was both right and wrong, alas, but that's another story.

Wendy said...

I think this is one of those cases where someone believes that "the story of the book," the epic/amazing/inspirational saga of how it came to be written and/or published, is somehow just as important as the book itself. That whole bit about how JK Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter on coffee shop napkins is swell (if it's even true) but it's not what moved her editor to buy that book.

If there's one thing that instantly makes me suspicious of a book pitch, it's when the writer begins by telling me about the heartwarming or heartbreaking or serendipitous or lengthy or spontaneous or incredible journey they took to just write their book. Never mind if it's true; when it's the only thing a person can tell me about his book it inevitably means he thinks publishing works like some kind of Make A Wish Foundation.

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