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Viewing Blog: Editorial Anonymous, Most Recent at Top
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Anonymous blog of a children's book editor. Editorial Anonymous' anecdotes are mostly true. Names of authors, illustrators, editors, agents, publishers, manuscripts, and a few random nouns have been changed to protect her ass.
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Number of Readers that added this blog to their MyJacketFlap: 87
1. My First App

I have a dilemma regarding ebook publishing. I am a seasoned graphic designer/illustrator trying to break into the kidlit industry with an author/illustrator picture book.


I'd just begun sending out dummies of my book to potential agents when I was contacted by a publishing company specializing exclusively in ebook apps for the iPad. They had seen my work at a regional SCBWI event and wanted me to submit any manuscripts/dummies I happened to have for their review and possible acceptance. They went on, in that initial conversation, to say that if the app sold large numbers, it would make it potentially appealing to traditional publishers. 

That's probably true.  But what are the chances of it selling in large numbers?  That's the question.
I'm a total noob at this (a key reason I was seeking an agent!) and don't want to miss the chance of my book being something really wonderful. Although I'm not afraid to embrace new technologies, I believe traditional publishing is better for many reasons. I know a good editor is worth her weight in gold and can do to a good MS what a good Art Director can do with a bunch of disparate pieces of art and copy.


Here's the question. If I submit to this app publisher, and they accept and publish my PB, will that completely shoot down any chances of it getting published as a traditional, printed book? Should I just stick it out and see what turns up with my submissions to agents?

If you think that your book is going to change significantly in the editing and design process, then you probably don't want to publish it as an app first.  

If you do decide to publish your book as an app, don't hand over your creative property to someone unless they can show you an app they've done before that you think is cool.  Lots and lots of people are trying to make apps.  Some of them suck at it.  Be warned.

4 Comments on My First App, last added: 4/11/2011
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2. A Sail to Every Wind

I know that this is outside your field, and you may not be able to comment on publisher policies, but I'm dying to hear your reaction to the decision by HarperCollins to limit ebooks licensed to libraries to 26 checkouts over the life of the book.  As an aspiring writer and a librarian struggling to try to get as many books as I can for my kids on my tiny budget, I can see both sides, but us librarians...we feel a little bit picked on.  Would love to hear your thoughts!

I, too, see both sides.  The system they have set up in much of the British Commonwealth seems like what this country is going to have to move towards eventually... or maybe there's some other system that will work better.

The real answer, I think, is that whatever Harper is doing now, they will probably not be doing two years from now.  The entire publishing industry is in flux.  We are trying to figure out ebooks, and there's truly no way to know for sure how they will end up being sold, checked out, borrowed, etc.  We are in the exciting and extremely frustrating period between publishing models, when the only thing to do is experiment.

3 Comments on A Sail to Every Wind, last added: 4/7/2011
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3. Mulligan!

Thank you for your informative blog which, you wouldn’t be able to tell from my last behavior, I have read in full. Of course, just when I should be able to follow your advice to the ‘T’, I had a bit of a brain freeze, I guess. I sent off my submission, synopsis, and all to an agent and editor and forgot most of what I learned. No excuse, really. I don’t know what I was thinking.


#1- I sent an early version that had only one difference, but it was big. A paragraph from Chapter 4 had not been moved to Chapter 1. This paragraph sets up the suspense for the book in an earlier time frame. Since I only sent chapter 1-3, that is kind of big.


#2- I sent my outline instead of my synopsis. This will be obvious since it tells the whole story, and not too imaginatively either. Yikes!


#3 – Then, when I got home from the post office, I saw the SASE I meant to include, sitting on the kitchen table where I left it.


Now, I’m not really an idiot, although it sounds like it. And, OK, I feel like one. I’m wondering if I should just let it go. I have the urge to resubmit, because I made a mistake, and oh well, that happens. I do want to put my best foot forward, however, and I think I have a really good book. I also don’t want the people I sent the book to, to waste their time trying to figure out ‘what the heck?’ Right? Then, again, I wonder, geesh…is sending it again another dumb move?


Do you think I should resubmit, or does this kind of stuff happen. Are agents and editors very understanding of an author’s bad day, I guess?
Go ahead and try resubmitting.  If you can make the explanation in your cover letter sound like you sound here--ie, human, humble, and with a sense of humor--and not like someone who might be perennially scattered of mind and disorganized, then you stand a fair chance of being forgiven.

2 Comments on Mulligan!, last added: 4/4/2011
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4. Planning For the Future, Ha Ha

Say an author has reached that happy place where multiple editors are interested in purchasing her debut novel. Would it be viewed as peculiar if the author wanted to interview each editor to find "the best fit" -- dollar signs aside? 
Not at all.  This doesn't always happen, but it happens often enough.  And the editors involved are usually really pleased when it does--it says you value our part in this process as well as the check we'll cut you.
Also, if, for instance, the debut novel were a Middle Grade and the author has hopes to one day move into the YA market, is it best to find an editor who handles both? Or is it enough to go with an editor whose publishing house handles both?
Publishing being what it is today, it's more important to give this one book the best publication it can have than what will happen after.  Success has a way of sorting itself out--and the market (and your publisher) may be different when you start in YA than it is now; things are so volatile in publishing.  Do the best you can for this book.  When (if) you write a YA novel, do what makes most sense for THAT book THEN.

1 Comments on Planning For the Future, Ha Ha, last added: 4/4/2011
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5. Sitting On Your Hands Is Never Part of Your Job

I submitted some work to a major U.S. publisher almost a year ago. A few months later, I received a personalized, lengthy, warm email from an editor who indicated she liked my work but that she wasn't ready to take on the project at that point. She did suggest some changes and invited me to send it back to her. I revised and re-submitted. A few months went by and I emailed her again to check the status. She replied that she hadn't yet had a chance to get to it. A few months later, I emailed again. She wrote back: "I need more time to review this submission." And it's been a while since then...How do I interpret this? Is my story just collecting dust under her desk when I could be actively sending my work elsewhere? 
YES.
 Or might this mean that there may be some genuine interest and that I should just be patient?
YES.
I don't know how many times I've gotten variations on this question.  DO be patient.  And DO keep submitting elsewhere.  The changes that she asked for should be exclusive to her... for maybe six months, to be generous.  Until then, keep submitting the previous draft elsewhere.  After that, submit the revision (assuming you think it's stronger) elsewhere.

Editors can take a goddamn long time to just LOOK at something, at which point they may be very excited about it.  An interminable wait may not mean that nothing's ever going to happen.  But you should NOT be waiting for that day (if it ever comes) to KEEP SUBMITTING.  

KEEP SUBMITTING.

4 Comments on Sitting On Your Hands Is Never Part of Your Job, last added: 4/1/2011
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6. The Sound of Failure Calls Her Name

One prevailing sentiment among writing forums is to hold off submitting until your book represents the best that it can be.
But what does that mean when there is no objective standard by which to measure your book?

1. TIME
Set the damn thing aside for awhile.  It is SO easy to be SO excited about something you've just finished, or SO tired of working on it that you just want to start submitting.  Give it a little time in the cask to age, and then look at it and see if it's still exciting... or still tiresome.  Most likely, you'll notice a few things that need tweaking, and then it'll be ready. 

2. CRITIQUE
A crit group--a good one--lets you see your manuscript the way your reader will.  A crit group will point out that an important bit was unclear in chapter 1, and you'll be able to avoid the confusion that might make an editor give up on your book too soon.  A crit group will tell you your spelling isn't terribly consistent.  A crit group will nudge you to develop your characters more, or to cut the chapter in which nothing happens.  A good crit group saves the editor the large and time-consuming broad-strokes editing that may make the difference between something she can commit to and something that is just too rough.

3. SELF KNOWLEDGE
Is your spelling crap? Do you tend to confuse homophones? If you can't trust yourself to clean the manuscript up, get someone else to do it who can. Lots of little mistakes like that make you seem kind of illiterate, when in fact you may simply be dyslexic.  Unless you sometimes lose your hairbrush in your hair, you know that first impressions make a difference.  The best writers to work with are the ones who know their weaknesses and their strengths, and work to ameliorate the one as much as they work to showcase the other.

Once you have checked these things off, it is time to remind yourself that:

4. POSITIVITY and ACTION
It's time to try the book out on people and submit it.  Maybe it's not PERFECT.  So what.  Keep working on other things, and keep learning. If you let yourself be the kind of person to fuss over one manuscript for ages without working on anything else or submitting anything, (a) editors are going to hate you, and (b) you're going to hate yourself.  Failure to be published is not nearly as soul-crushing as failure to even try.

9 Comments on The Sound of Failure Calls Her Name, last added: 3/31/2011
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7. The Rough Draft Is In Swedish

I'm an American author whose book is set in a foreign country. I've received an offer from a publisher in that country. They want to translate the book, and publish it there. This is great news, but the market is very small. I also want to publish in the US, not just because it is a bigger market but also because it is my home. Should I hold off on accepting the foreign offer until (if!) I can work something out with a US publisher? If I do go ahead and publish abroad, then can I revise the MS for a US publisher or is it set in stone and unrevisable once published?

If it's a very small market, your US publisher may not mind your having sold the rights already.  And more and more, agents seem to be going after foreign sales for their clients, so publishers are a bit more accustomed to not having a lot of foreign rights for novels.  So that's unlikely to be an issue.

As for revision, every translation fiddles with the exact phrasing of the text--if it doesn't then the translation won't sound natural to native speakers.  So some differences between the English and other language editions are expected.  

So if there were some way for you to be sure you weren't going to do very much revision (for instance if you've decided already that you're going to be inflexible and hard to work with--which I assume is not the case), then there would be no problem.  But imagine your US editor has a bunch of suggestions that get you really excited and that (for instance) change the ending completely. 

There probably still wouldn't be a problem with copyright between the two editions, but how would you feel about that scenario?  Would you want two very different versions of your story out there--when one of them might end up feeling to you like a beta version and not the story you most want to share with readers?

4 Comments on The Rough Draft Is In Swedish, last added: 3/28/2011
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8. Do I Need an Agent?

Do you have any preference with working agented or unagented authors / illustrators, or does it all depend on the actual personalities involved?
It's about the personalities, and the skill sets.

If you're the kind of person who has little hissy fits throughout the bookmaking process--hissy fits you feel you must share with your colleagues (as opposed to the more recommended sharing with your friends/family), you need an agent. Agents can offer you a sympathetic ear if your process involves venting before finding a way to compromise.  Your publisher will get tired of you quickly if THEY have to babysit.

If you're the kind of person who is always, always behind deadline, you need an agent.  An agent can keep reminding you, cajoling you, nagging you, whatever you need.  Again, this is just part of some people's process.  But your publisher doesn't have the time to do this, and so your book will be late, and the publisher will be unhappy.

If you're the kind of person who thinks you're just going to show the contract to your husband, who is a lawyer, you need an agent.  There are as many different kinds of lawyers as there are doctors.  Bringing a publishing contract to a tax or estate or criminal lawyer is akin to taking your foot problem to a cardiologist.  YOU'RE GOING TO GET BAD ADVICE.  The frustration this will cause your publisher is not worth it... to the publisher.

If you are the kind of person who doesn't know how to negotiate, and ends up agreeing to a crappy first offer, or alternatively thinks you're going to negotiate a $10,000 advance up to $100,000, you need an agent.  An agent knows how to negotiate and what's reasonable to expect in the market.

If you want to be published at any of the houses that don't accept unagented submissions, or even at many of the ones that do, you need an agent.  An agent knows not only the publishers, she knows the individual editors and which ones will respond best to your manuscript. 

And let's not forget that if you want a guide through the booby-trapped and pathless jungles of a publishing career, you need an agent.

However, if you are an intrepid explorer yourself, of a patient and workmanlike nature; if you enjoy the research involved in plotting your own path through publishing, and are flexible about learning more as you go along, then you may not need an agent.

18 Comments on Do I Need an Agent?, last added: 3/14/2011
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9. Open Thread

Comment moderation is temporarily turned off-- so ask your questions, start discussions... talk to me, and talk to each other!

51 Comments on Open Thread, last added: 3/10/2011
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10. Big Fish, Small Pond? Or Big Fish, Wrong Pond?

So, the last time I emailed you, I had the hype but not the trophies. Now I’ve got both. Why is it that American editors ignore writers from New Zealand who aren’t Margaret Mahy or Joy Cowley. Down under, our buyers (readers) are piranhas. But, unfortunately for NZ authors, they are tiny piranhas.

I also review the YA books which that come out of the US and the UK and most of it, which, yeah, I know, sells, is actually formulaic which my students (I’m a high school teacher) turn their noses at – preferring to read ADULT literature.

Is this a ‘mam, this is a gentlemen’s club…’ kind of thing? Cos it sure does feel like it.
If you mean actual 'gentlemen', then no. The majority of publisher staff is female. 

If you mean 'we just don't like New Zealanders', then no. We're seeing a lot of very talented and very profitable novels coming from the southern hemisphere, and there's no prejudice that I'm aware of, unless it's a prejudice for Australia/New Zealand, not against.  (And while I realize that Australians and New Zealanders do not see themselves as in the same category, to US publishers, you are.)

If you mean 'Americans are just stupid and you can't sell anything smart to them', well, I can't say for sure, can I? We certainly can't match you for sheep jokes.

With an award under your belt and great reviews, I would start to wonder if your agent is sending the book to the right people.  Authors over here sometimes have to leave their agents because things just aren't working out.  You may be in that position, too.

At the same time, sometimes a book that can make a big splash in a smaller publishing market would be in danger of disappearing in a larger one.  Without having read your book, I can't hypothesize, but good luck.

5 Comments on Big Fish, Small Pond? Or Big Fish, Wrong Pond?, last added: 3/6/2011
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11. At Least It's Not My Beautiful Mommy

Anonymous, you’ve put so much effort into warning about the perils of self publishing. Why bother? Considering none of them would even make it through into the real world of publishing anyway (therefore not affecting you)why are you so passionate about the subject? 
I feel bad for people who are taken in by vanity presses and who end up repaid for their money and effort only in frustration. 
Wouldn’t trashy self published books actually make what you do look better? 
Most of my books look awesome whatever you put them next to.
You don't actually need the horribly bad contestants on American Idol to make the honestly talented contestants shine.
I agree most people should not attempt to self publish, but publishing companies have also put out some pretty crap books.
Well, that's the truth.  But at least no one was deliberately swindled over those books.
I know because my daughter has devoured many thousands of books since the age of two (she was a very early reader), some of which have either bored her to tears or she has found mistakes not picked up by professional editors. In fact over time she has found quite a few and from the age of three she refused to read any books which had mistakes. At age ten she has over a thousand books (yes, one is a self published book that she refuses to part with.) Strangely enough it is the only book with mistakes she wants to keep because she said “at least it’s interesting”. The content would never be endorsed by a mainstream publishing company but this piqued the interest of child who tends to think outside the box. So to each his own.
I absolutely agree. Everyone is welcome to make as many mistakes as they like.  But for those who would rather not make a mistake, a word to the wise is a simple kindness.

7 Comments on At Least It's Not My Beautiful Mommy, last added: 3/6/2011
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12. There's a Signpost Up Ahead

A well-known agent sent out my novel to 9 publishers 3 months ago and says she has not heard a peep since. How long does this process normally take? 
1. There is no "normal".
2. Forever.  Or at least it seems like it.  If your agent is well-known, then he/she should be able to tell you what's normal for the editors he/she submitted to.
I know things things vary, but realistically, wouldn’t I have had at least 1 rejection by now?
You're traveling through another dimension -- a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man's fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call "Publishing".

14 Comments on There's a Signpost Up Ahead, last added: 3/4/2011
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13. 'Nonfiction' Is Like Reality TV Shows, Right? And 'Creative Nonfiction' Is Like Fox News

(1) How is publishing different for nonfiction children's books? (For example, a science topic for middle grades)
It's SO different! It's furrier, for one thing, and sometimes it's purple!
Ok, so I didn't really understand the question.  There aren't a lot of differences, aside from submission (see below) and the need for fact-checking.  Were you thinking of something else?

(2) I know for adult nonfiction, authors are not expected to write the whole book before submitting. Is that true of children's books as well or do editors expect the complete manuscript?

If it's chapter-length nonfiction, then yes, usually those are sold based on sample chapters and an outline.
(3) Are nonfiction titles a harder sell to publishers/bookstores?
They certainly can be.  Some nonfiction sells great---The Dangerous Book for Boys, for example.  But a lot of nonfiction (especially chapter-length nonfiction) only does well if it's very well supported by teachers and librarians, and as you may have heard in the news, they have NO MONEY TO SPEND ON BOOKS right now.  But that's ok, because we didn't want those kids educated anyway.  Who cares if they'll be old enough to vote soon?  Most adult Americans NOW don't know what "nonfiction" means, and everything's just fine, right?

5 Comments on 'Nonfiction' Is Like Reality TV Shows, Right? And 'Creative Nonfiction' Is Like Fox News, last added: 3/2/2011
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14. She Introduced Me to OkCupid, and It Was Love At 539th Sight!

There’s a new service designed to help you find qualified authors at no cost to you.
Their books are properly packaged so you can review their project in 3 seconds or less.
It’s been called the “eHarmony” for Agents & Authors It is the step between the author’s computer at home and the agenting world. I’m a Literary Agent Matchmaker and I’m here to help you. I invite you to take a quick peek at my website where you'll find a dedicated page for Agents like you. Be sure to sign up for our fre.e Hot List to get notified about projects from qualified authors in your genres.
I'm confused.  Is this an agent to help you find an agent?
So, you pay this person $1,000 to suggest agents to you (but no guarantees), and then the agent helps you get a publisher? How many middle men do we need?
Isn't this like paying a matchmaker to recommend an internet dating service?

There are so many things that I don't understand.

11 Comments on She Introduced Me to OkCupid, and It Was Love At 539th Sight!, last added: 2/26/2011
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15. That's Not a Stranger in the Bushes. That's Santa!

I am a French author. I work with a dozen publishers in France and some of my books are translated into Spanish, Chinese, Korean, etc.. But not in English! I just moved to Ireland and I would like to see my books here. How do I do? Do I find an agent to translate and publish my books? In France the agents do not exist, I contacted the publishers directly and they deal themself for the foreign rights ...
The question is really: whose rights are these?

If the foreign language rights belong to your French publisher, how did your French publisher show your books to Spanish, Korean, and Chinese publishers without having shown them to US and UK publishers?  That seems extremely unlikely to me; it seems far more likely that the US and UK publishers simply weren't interested.  Some books, whether because of art style or topic or treatment, just don't translate to certain other book markets.  For every Everyone Poops, there's a Santa Through the Window.

If the foreign rights are yours, then you could get an agent to represent the foreign rights.  Readers, any agent suggestions?

8 Comments on That's Not a Stranger in the Bushes. That's Santa!, last added: 2/25/2011
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16. Once Upon a Time, a Chipmunk and a Penguin Went to a Motel Room

I'm finishing an illustration-only book. It was intended for children, but it's suitable for all ages. 
Please refer to this post.
So would it be considered a children's picture book because it meets the page-count criteria, or could it be stretched to the novelty category and submitted to agents that don't accept children's fiction? It seems to me that novelty can be a tough sell, but aren't consumers more likely to purchase a novelty/gift book than, say, a fifteen-dollar picture book? I ask that realizing your answer most likely is that it depends on the pictures, but feel free to surprise me here.
It depends on the pictures---and the topic. 

There is a core audience for your book.  I'm guessing, from your question, that the topic or treatment is somewhat adult, and the only reason you think it might be a children's book is the format.  I don't suppose you've seen Baby, Mix Me a Drink?  Or Furverts?  Those are both board book formats, a format associated with infants and toddlers.  Does the format make them for that audience?  OH HELL NO.

Of course, there are some picture books published every year by children's imprints for which the audience is really adults.  The ones who skate that line in an acceptable way are usually light-hearted life advice, like: "if you love someone, set them free."  They are bought as graduation gifts (see Walk On or Oh The Places You'll Go).  The ones that don't are usually dreadful and sometimes psychotic life advice, like: "if you love someone, let them chop you down to a stump."

But graduation gifts is a difficult niche to publish into---more difficult than adult novelty books. 

Figure out who your audience is.  Good luck!

14 Comments on Once Upon a Time, a Chipmunk and a Penguin Went to a Motel Room, last added: 2/23/2011
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17. How to Give a Gift

My question is about etiquette. I don't know how often it comes up, but you're the only person I can think of to ask.
I've known Editor X since I was very young. He was a long-time friend of one of my parents before my parent passed away, a few years back. He is absolutely enormous in the New York publishing world.
I've wanted to be a fiction author professionally since I was a child, and it has nothing to do with the connection. I didn't even register how well-known Editor X is until recently, when I Googled his name to find contact info. I've been grieving quite badly over my parent and have been keeping myself to myself, but it was time to reach out. As a result of my Googling, Editor X and I have re-kindled our friendship.
To my good fortune, I signed a contract with an independent publisher last year and the novel will be released in a small run some time in the 3rd quarter of this year.
I know I am extremely lucky in both regards and wouldn't change any of it for any amount of money.
Is it appropriate to send Editor X an advance copy of my novel as a gesture of friendship? How do I make it clear that I sent it because he loves books, not because he has connections? My friendship with him is very important to me, and I want to make it on my own, so perhaps I shouldn't send it at all. But maybe he'll be offended that I didn't think of him when gifting copies...! What do I do?
You're probably over-thinking this. Editor X will not expect you to send him a free copy of your book; if you decide not to, he won't be offended. All editors know how many friends authors have, and know you can't possibly give all your friends free copies.  (Also, would it kill them to support their friend and BUY the book?)

If you do want to send him a copy of the book, I would suggest carefully wording the note you send with it to communicate that you don't expect him to read the book; that you understand how many books and manuscripts are always waiting in line for attention from people in the book business.  (Both books we need to read for our jobs, and ones we just want to read, when we get the chance. My when-I-get-the-chance pile must be around 30 books high right now.)  Reference your friendship as the motivation for sending it, and that will be enough.

Then: be a good gift-giver and never ask him if he got around to reading it. I know, some people have a tremendously difficult time giving gifts without also giving the obligation to enjoy the gift and report back on that enjoyment. As well-meaning as those people are, and as much as I love them, I don't want another "gift" from them ever again. These are alligator presents.  True generosity comes without obligation.

5 Comments on How to Give a Gift, last added: 2/20/2011
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18. Quick Answers: Freelance Editors, Trends, and Overthinking

When an agent or editor asks for a synopsis or the first ten pages to be pasted in the email, should I double space as if it's a hard copy, or is there a preferred method for email formatting?
This is another case of overthinking submissions.  Do whatever makes it easily readable, and leave it at that.
I’ve heard that publishers are currently looking for vampire and action manuscripts. I’m not interested in placating a fickle trend, but I am curious as to whether or not you think the recent downturn in the publishing industry might be leading to a significant (long-term) shift in what sells.
Let me congratulate you on not writing to trend.  But the answer to your question is no.
I have written a novel (fiction/semi-romantic). I would like to find someone professional who would read it and tell me how to proceed from this point. If you have any specific advice it would be greatly appreciated.
Some people do hire freelance developmental editors, but I think you could probably get as much help from a good critique group.   Readers, do you have thoughts?  Or recommendations of freelance editors?

22 Comments on Quick Answers: Freelance Editors, Trends, and Overthinking, last added: 2/19/2011
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19. Quick Answers: Blurbs, Library Credits, and Print Runs

If I'm shopping a fiction manuscript to an editor (or agent), how helpful would it be, really, to include a quote from a multi-published, bestselling queen/king/first lady/high priest of the genre? Assuming the writing is solid but you're on the fence about, say, content and marketability, would having a cover blurb in hand for a non-contracted novel sway you in any way? Can a blurb sell a book to the industry pros?
And if that bestselling author has had a policy of not providing blurbs for a while but is making an exception, should that bit of information be included in the query or would it come across sounding too hard-sell and desperate?
If you've got a blurb from one of the big writers in the genre, yes, that carries weight.  It still might not sell the book to an editor who just doesn't like it, but it might really make a difference to an editor who's on the fence. 
The other day, someone told me that authors get some sort of credit that translates into a payout when readers check out their books from the library. I've tried to do a google search but was unable to find anything useful (at least in regards to the US). Do you know if this is true and how this works?
This may be true for digital books; I'm not very familiar with how that works at libraries.  But regular books?  That's RIDICULOUS.   Libraries buy books the same way everybody else does: they pay for THAT COPY and that copy only.
What is a good-sized print run on average? I've been given a very rough figure of 15,500. Is this a good figure?

That's just fine.  Bear in mind, though, that until the figure stops being "rough" it's essentially hypothetical.

30 Comments on Quick Answers: Blurbs, Library Credits, and Print Runs, last added: 2/5/2011
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20. Quick Answers: Poetry vs Picture Book, Chapter Book vs Novel

Thanks for sharing all your comments and tips with us. I have just begun the process of trying to find an agent to represent my work - picture books written in rhyme. I have heard that some agents and editors will not even manuscripts for rhyming picture books, perhaps partly because they are overdone and partly because often they are not done well. I assume all I can do as an aspiring writer is to send my manuscripts to those who don't include "rhyming picture books" in their lists of what they are NOT looking for. But what if they specify that they aren't looking for "Poetry"? This is what I need clarified for me. Does "Poetry" mean an actual book of poems (Whitman, Silverstein, etc.) or does my rhyming picture book fall into this category as well?  
Well, it shouldn't mean that.  Probably in some cases it does actually mean that, but I think you have to take them at their word and submit it as a picture book. 
I was wondering if the query letter is any different for a chapter book vs. a regular novel. I know that with picture books, you are supposed to include the complete text of your entire manuscript in your query, but would you do that for a chapter book that is around 7,500 words (if you were intending it to have a lot of pictures)? Or would I follow regular query standards for this type of chapter book?
I haven't seen this question directly addressed on any industry blogs, perhaps because there really is no difference so people don't make mention of it. I appreciate everything you do with your blog and I hope everything is going well at your agency.
A.  I am not an agent.  See the "editorial" at the top?
B. Do not include the complete text of your picture book manuscript unless that's what the publisher's/agent's submission guidelines ask for.  There are no industry-wide rules.  Wishfully thinking that there are is just going to get you into trouble.

C. A chapter book is a short novel for short people.  Treat it like that.

3 Comments on Quick Answers: Poetry vs Picture Book, Chapter Book vs Novel, last added: 2/7/2011
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21. The Waiting Is Not the Hardest Part

An editor at a conference asked me to send my YA manuscript for consideration, which I did. My original plan was to start with queries to agents, beginning with someone who expressed interest. However, I am waiting on that since I would really like to work with this editor and don't want to throw up any roadblocks. What I am wondering is: How long should I give the editor before I start my query process to agents?
 Zero time.  Start now.  You don't want to send out your manuscript to a bunch of editors while you are sending it to agents, because that's your future agent's job.  But sending the manuscript to one editor who you made contact with at a conference and who requested it is not going to ruffle any agent's feathers.  And if the editor expresses interest and by that time you have an agent, the editor will not be unduly annoyed.

3 Comments on The Waiting Is Not the Hardest Part, last added: 2/10/2011
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22. Poetry? There's an Ointment for That.

I've been wondering: I've written a picture book text in unrhymed verse, although the format is in verse, due to the rhythm. How to I query on this? And what would be the format of the text? In regular paragraph form? Or in verse form? Can you advise me on that?
I love poetry.  I browse the children's poetry section at bookstores, and I read poetry in my spare time.

I'm not the only one, either.  Plenty of editors enjoy good poetry.  And it is for this very reason that most editors HATE poetry in query letters.

I'm not implying that your poetry isn't good.  I just want to bring across what you're up against.

The mild bludgeoning the English language gets in prose when in the hands of some writers becomes a cheerful disemboweling when the same people attempt poetry.  Every editor has seen a great quantity of this sort of thing.  It's terrible to watch the language we love be dressed up in quaint and merry bells and then flayed alive.

So seeing 'poetry' or 'verse' in a query letter, especially when what's being pitched to me is a picture book, not a poetry book (and thus not something that absolutely must be poetry), has, after much experience, come to give me the feeling of incipient hives. It is often the precursor of a manuscript that cares more about being poetry than about having a sales hook or any compelling content, and indeed often fails at all three.

In consideration of this justifiable prejudice among editors, and because your verse is not rhyming, I would strongly suggest that you not mention that your book is in verse when you query it.  If it works to format it in paragraph form, go ahead and do that, too.  And once you've taken the lyricism of your writing out of the query letter's equation, if you can't think what makes your book good competition for the many other picture books out there, then that's when you know you've got a problem.

Good luck!

0 Comments on Poetry? There's an Ointment for That. as of 1/1/1900
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23. Unrealistic Expectations? Unrealistic Expectations, Party of Four?

I am a working writer (film) and director.
I have written a children's book. People seem to really like it, 
"People"?  You mean like your neighbors and friends and plumber and stuff?  They don't know anything about children's books.
and of course I want a good illustrator and want it published.
I was thinking of getting an pro illustrator myself and presenting it to editors in it's completed form--is this crazy? 
Yes.
I imagine editors want to be part of that process, but also fear a hack artist getting assigned to it.
Well, get a good editor.
Also, isn't writing children's books like opening a restaurant--something that everyone wants to do but almost nobody really succeeds at?
No, no.  It's worse than that.

Writing children's books is like singing-- something EVERYONE, even the ones who don't know how to cook, think they can do acceptably.  I swear to god, if you started stopping people on the street and asking them if they had an idea for a children's book, 99% of them would say yes.  This is why editors don't generally admit to what they do when speaking to strangers.

For restaurants, there are three categories: people playing with the idea of opening a restaurant, people trying to run a restaurant, and people running a successful restaurant.

For children's books, there are four categories: people playing with the idea of writing a children's book, people trying to get a children's book published, people who have gotten a children's book published, and people publishing successful children's books.  As much failure as there is in restaurants, there is much, much more in books.

However: there are many things you can do to lessen your chances of failure, and among them are writing a great deal, reading a lot of children's books, and finding out as much as you can about the business. 

I mean, who is more likely to run a successful restaurant-- the person who has pipe dreams of serving his grandmother's recipes to other people, or the person who has practiced running a restaurant, investigated how other restaurants are run, and educated themselves about the business of running a restaurant?

8 Comments on Unrealistic Expectations? Unrealistic Expectations, Party of Four?, last added: 2/13/2011
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24. Quick Answers: Cold Medicine, Reincarnation, and Newspaper Copyright

What genre would reincarnation fall into?
Fantasy.

Under the influence of cold medicine, I cranked out what I think is a cute picture book (text only, no art, but I'm still taking cold medicine so watch out). I am not new to writing, but am new to writing for kids. Specifically, I would like to learn more about rhyme, verse and poetry in picture books.

I've found a lot of references to how bad most writers are at it, but not a lot of ideas/advice on how to evaluate or improve.


Do you have any thoughts? I would like to figure out a) how bad my verse is and b) how to fix it. (I do assume it must be awful because I am high on drugs.)
Readers, to the comments!  I'm sure you have some great resources.
I'm interested in knowing if I can legally use feature stories I wrote that were already published by a community newspaper I work for. I understand that after 90 days, the stories legally belong to me and that I can rework them and sell them to magazines, trade journals, etc. for additional publication.
Does this sound correct?
Who do you understand this from?  The newspaper?  Because if it's not the newspaper (or more specifically the contract you signed with them), it doesn't mean a thing.

20 Comments on Quick Answers: Cold Medicine, Reincarnation, and Newspaper Copyright, last added: 2/16/2011
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25. Welcome to the Booby Hatch

I'm a Picture Book Illustrator but this past Spring a story began to form in my brain (sounds painful right and it was:)
I began by sketching it out in storyboard fashion. I thought I had a vision of how the story would go, how many pages it might take to tell it, the type of art (sketchy b/w) I would need, the limited wording I wanted to use.
Well, after a while I realized I had far too many sketches for any pic book I have ever seen. I stopped, thinking perhaps it best to put down the words on paper that were going through my head as I drew.
That made it worse, because my vision for the book was completely thrown by the amount of writing I was doing. This was NOT what I had planned. It was suppose to be simple, few words, perhaps a speech bubble here and there, thought bubbles for the dog character. Now, words were flowing to match the number of images and I found myself panicking.
Now, I really don't know what I have here. Is it the quirky sort of pic book I had planned, no. Is it a story book, no. Is it a graphic novel, maybe but how do I tell. Is it a mid grade novel, can't be, I'm not a writer!!!
This is the time for a good critique group.  They will help you sort out which things are working best about the project, and you'll be in a better place to decide its shape from there.
How do writers sort this out and is it normal or at least common for a writer to begin a work and then have it take over? Do Authors always know what sort of manuscript they will end up with or is it sometimes a surprise even to them?
Of course it's a surprise sometimes.  These are creative endeavors; they are supposed to have some life of their own.

Lastly, when the story starts talking back to you and you to the story, is it time for the jacket and wagon?
If that's your definition of crazy, every SCBWI conference is a looney bin.  You have a LOT of company.

13 Comments on Welcome to the Booby Hatch, last added: 2/18/2011
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