I had a fabulous time at the SCBWI conference in Spokane, Washington this past Saturday and as always I learned a lot. I also took some short notes on BookStop Literary agent Kendra Marcus‘ and Simon Pulse editor Annette Pollert’s lectures.
This will be divided into two posts. The first will discuss some of the highlights of Kendra’s lectures and part two will examine Annette’s.
THE PICTURE BOOK IN 2010…
~You have four seconds to catch a young reader’s attention.
~Most picture books have already been sold for 2010 & 2011. Agents and publisher’s are already thinking about 2012.
~Publishing is like a pendulum and right now YA is hot, and picture books are harder to sell, but earlier on the publishing time-line, picture books were hot and YA was tough to sell. The picture book will come back even before writers become aware. Do not give up!
~You can’t write to market trends because you don’t know what’s coming!
~Poetry and folktales can be a really tough sell, but the rules can be broken. She just sold a Three Little Pigs story that was told in verse (which can be another tough sell) but the pigs were ninjas, making it a more appealing concept.
~Everything has already been done, but if you can take fairy tales or other types of stories and spin them a new way, you have a better chance of selling your book.
~Publishing is changing and is under the pressure of two double whammies. Not only is the economy problematic, but publishing is in a state of flux due to new technologies etc.
~Platform is key for writers. Publishers want to know what you are doing to plug and sell your book via media outlets. They want to know if you have a Facebook, blog, or Twitter account to put the word out about your book.
~You can no longer count on publishers to sell your book. You are responsible and need to make the book catch on.
~Things that sell a picture book: good hook/concept/premise, having a famous illustrator, a new format (audio within a picture book), a famous author writing it, how engaging is it for the audience.
~Curriculum tie-ins also help to sell the book as teachers are always looking for material for their classes.
~How to approach her with submissions: Click on her submission guide on her website, make her care (good characters, hooks, and fabulous writing), surprise her with a great ending, and keep her awake. (Kendra reads manuscripts at night and the true test of a good manuscript will keep her up wanting to read more.)
~Picture book manuscripts can be no longer than five computer pages!
~Pet peeves: She does not read prologues, so do not include this in your submission. Do not have your character having a dream on the first page of your manuscript. Do not have chapter one contain too much backstory. If you are telling your story in rhyme/verse do not have most of it filled with description. Simply, there needs to be a story not just pretty descriptions. Do not have the main character waking from a dream on page one.
~She gets letters with submissions asking for advice and is sorry but she can’t reply to everyone. She just received 400 submissions in the past two months and she only gets paid if she sells one of those manuscripts. There is simply not enough time or resource to do this.
I hope this was helpful for some of you. Stay tuned for highlights from Annette Pollert’s lecture on Revising You Middle-Grade or Teen Manuscript.