Catherine Onder, Senior Editor at Disney Hyperion answered some questions from writers last year that appeared in Sprouts Magazine. They are still relevant today, so I thought I would share Catherine’s answer with you.
1. It seems fantasy stories are seldom seen in the picture book market. I know it is successful in middle grade, but couldn’t it work in picture books as well?
This is a great question and could probably be discussed endlessly. There are some reasons that immediately leap to mind as to why fantasy is more common in middle grade novels than picture books. First off, fantasy requires significant world-building. Aspects such as how the book’s fantasy world is different than ours; how the characters’ culture might be different, and how the magic works all must be carefully worked out and clearly communicated in fantasy. The elements are just the tip of the iceberg.
In a middle grade book, you have an entire novel’s worth of words to create your world and make it believable. With a picture book’s limited word count, there isn’t the same opportunity to establish a sophisticated fantasy foundation.
Another approach to this question may be to ask, what are the subjects in really good picture books—the ones that stand the test of time? When I look around, I find that perennially popular picture books are often based on the real life preoccupations of young children, including bedtime, sharing school, the surrounding world, fears, and the imagination, to name a few. These topics resonate strongly with young children, and it may be that fantasy doesn’t tie into their needs and concerns deeply enough at such an early age.
2. When you submit a manuscript and an editor writes back that “hardcover children’s literature is difficult to sell in this economy and therefore not the right market for our house at this time,” does that mean it would be okay to try again to resubmit at a later date, or is that a permanent “no?”
When I want to review a manuscript a second time, I will say so explicitly. This happens when there’s a lot that I appreciate about a project, but it’s not ready for acquisition. In these cases, I have revision suggestions and editorial thoughts for the author that I hope are helpful, and I invite him or her to share the manuscript with me again after revising. If I do not specifically request to see a revised manuscript, I would not expect the same project to be submitted to me again.
3. If I sent something to an editor and I haven’t heard back in over a year, can I submit it to another editor at the same house who wants to see it?
Every house has a different policy on submissions, and so I know this can be challenging to navigate! Speaking for myself, if I’ve had a manuscript for a very long time, I certainly understand when an author checks in about it. While I can’t speak to what would be acceptable to everyone, the best advice I can give is to communicate the situation with the editor. I can give is to communicate the situation with the editor. Let the editor who originally received the manuscript know that another editor has expressed interest and that you’d like to share it with him or her. Many houses have policies that two editors cannot consider a manuscript simultaneously, so it’s always a good idea to let the editors know exactly what the situation is.
4. In the current environment, do you think a writer has a chance of getting published if he or she doesn’t have an agent?
Yes, I do. Since many houses have closed submission policies, attending conferences is a great way to open the door for submissions. Editors will often accept submissions from attendees of the conferences where they participate. These conferences are also aDisplay Comments Add a Comment