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1. What Makes a Manuscript Stand Out?

QandAEvery month Simone Kaplan answers questions in her newsletter that people send into her. I thought the one she answered this month was a good one that you would be interested in reading. Here it is:

Question: Let’s say a number of good manuscripts come into an editor’s office. All have good grammar, good punctuation, etc.; and all are by first-time writers. In other words, all things are equal. What would make one manuscript stand out so much that the editor would want to publish it? Donna R

Simone’s Answer: First, Donna, I have a question for you: when was the last time you walked into a bookstore and asked for a book with “good grammar, good punctuation, etc.”?

I thought so!

Good grammar, clear sentences, and a cohesive structure are the basic requirements of a manuscript. Without them the manuscript doesn’t stand a chance of publication.

So let’s turn the question around. What were you looking for the last time you went into a bookstore or library? It could have been a book about a subject that intrigues you or the young person you’re with. It could be because you’re looking for a different way to look at bedtime battles or visits to the doctor. It could be because the child you were with loves dinosaurs or trains or fairy princesses. In other words, it could be because of the subject.

But given several books about the subject in which you’re interested, which is the one you’ll pick? I’m willing to bet it’s the one that delights you—or the child you’re with. The one that delivers lovely language, great insights, humor. One that, for whatever reason. is compelling. One that makes you want to read it again.

Editors are looking for the same thing. Something that surprises and delights them, something that makes them sit up and take notice, something that brings a smile to their face, a tear to their eye. They might be looking for manuscripts about specific subjects or in a specific genre. But once that requirement is satisfied, it’s the manuscript they love that is the one they want to publish.

And here’s another thing. When you’re in a bookstore, what is it that makes you hand over your cash or your credit card and decide to take the book home as opposed to get it from the library? The fact that you love it, right? That you think you’ll be able to read it again and again. That it’ll become a meaningful contribution to your family’s literary tradition—and if that sounds pretentious, it’s because it is! But it’s also true.

Editors are looking for the same thing. They need to justify spending upward of $50,000 on the manuscript. They need to be able to want to live with the work, feel that they’ll enjoy working on it, and know that it’ll make a tangible contribution to the bottom line of the house for which they work.

There is much about the publishing process that is fuzzy. Much of it has to do with taste, personal preference, and aesthetic judgment. But publishing is also a business; and there is much that has to do with hard facts, such as how much the book is going to cost to produce, how many copies the sales department feels they can sell, how much revenue the subsidiary rights department feels they can generate.

So the decision about whether or not to publish a book happens at the place where art, business, and taste intersect.

The only way to make sure that your work stands out is to write a stand-out manuscript. And correct grammar and punctuation are only the beginning. So focus on writing your best work. And use spell check!

Have a question for me? Send your question about any aspect of picture book writing that intrigues, confuses, or frustrates you to simone@picturebookpeople.com. It could appear here along with my answer.


Simone Kaplan has more than two decades of insider experience at major publishing institutions such as Henry Holt and Company and HarperCollins Publishers, during which she’s personally accepted, edited, and rejected hundreds of children’s picture books. She knows how the words of your manuscript can jump off the page and spark the interest of an editor or agent. She has also learned about the process of creating picture books and can break it down so as to be most useful to authors at every stage of their development.

She provides creativity-enhancing, skill-building, heart-expanding support for the creators of picture books so they can write the best possible books they’re able to write.

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: Advice, children writing, Consultation, picture books, Process Tagged: Picture Book People, Questions and Answers, Simone Kaplan, Writing Newsletter

4 Comments on What Makes a Manuscript Stand Out?, last added: 7/2/2013
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2. Four More Things Published Authors Know That You Should Too


1. You Need More Than a Good Idea You come up with an idea or a character. Maybe it’s a line you overhear in the grocery store that inspires you. You go home to write. And you find that you don’t have a story or a structure that works. Ideas are impulses, triggers for the creative process; and often they need to be nurtured, seduced, and teased into life. Here’s what another creative professional—the artist Delacroix—wrote in his journal: “The original idea, the sketch, which is so to speak the egg or embryo of the idea, is usually far from being complete.” I love that quote because it captures the formlessness of generating ideas as well as the potential. Sometimes it takes years for the impulse to resolve into a manuscript. Years in which authors hold the idea in their unconscious minds or in their hearts. Years of revisiting, reexamining, re-creating the work. Sometimes the challenge will be a creati ve one; sometimes it’ll be a technical one. But published writers know they have to stick with the process. And if they do, they’re more likely to be rewarded. Expecting to create a superb picture book in one or two short sittings is about as realistic as growing blueberries during a Maine winter. Better to set yourself up for success by doing the work. Regularly. Consistently. Consciously.

2. Sometimes Good Manuscripts Don’t Get Published Publishers are in business to make money. They do so by publishing good books. But not all good books make money, and so publishers consider manuscripts not only in terms of aesthetic quality, but in terms of commercial potential. If you’re asking a publishing house to invest tens of thousands of dollars in your book, they need to believe their investment will pay off. Editors are evaluated by how well their books are received both critically and commercially, and astute editors are very aware of the “commercial” piece of the equation.

Here’s the part that’s really painful: even really good manuscripts sometimes get rejected. They’re rejected because “fantasy doesn’t sell,” “we’re looking for manuscripts targeting a younger audience (or an older one or girls or boys),” “folktales have been overpublished,” “talking pumpkins/cats/teapots don’t work for me,” “we only want very young picture books,” or any one of a myriad different and valid reasons. So published authors pick themselves up, dust themselves off, and submit their work to another editor; or they revise in accordance with the feedback they get, or they put the manuscript in a file folder and get on with the next manuscript. And they know that their value as a writer isn’t determined by the moods of the marketplace.

3. Important Feelings Don’t Necessarily Translate into Good Writing The great English poet William Wordsworth famously wrote: “Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility.” If an experience triggers a moment of connection with what you feel to be an eternal truth, that’s wonderful. But profound feeling can become didactic or heavy-handed when translated into words. It requires distance from the event, “emotion recollected in tranquility,” and consciously engaging the intellect to be able to articulate the impulse in the form, language, and structure required by a picture book. Although writers honor and love those moments of deep feeling and profound inspiration, it’s important to evaluate them with the same critical faculty that you bring to any other writing.

4. All Manuscripts Are Not Created Equal Some manuscripts are easier to write than others. There are many unfinished drafts and half-written, partially conceptualized manuscripts sitting in the file folders of even the most successful published authors. Not every idea develops into a full-fledged manuscript. You’ll probably start many more manuscripts than you’ll finish. Writing is a little bit like digging for gold. Digging won’t ensure that you’ll find gold, but if you don’t dig, you absolutely won’t find it. No manuscript is a waste. By writing in a thoughtful, considered way, you refine your craft, develop your ideas, and get better at doing both. And in time those unresolved plots, vexing characters, and impossible rhymes might resolve, focus, and reward you for your patience and perseverance. And even then they just might not be good enough to show to the world. No matter. Write on!

© 2012 Picture Book People, Inc.

Simone1 This article appeared in this month’s Picture Book People Newsletter written by owner Simone Kaplan. Simone has more than two decades of insider experience at major publishing institutions such as Henry Holt and Company and HarperCollins Publishers, during which she’s personally accepted, edited, and rejected hundreds of children’s picture books. She knows how the words of your manuscript can jump off the page and spark the interest of an editor or agent. She has also learned about the process of creating picture books and can break it down so as to be most useful to authors at every stage of their development.

She provides creativity-enhancing, skill-building, heart-expanding support for the creators of picture books so they can write the best possible books they’re able to write.

Here is the link if you want to sign up to receive Simon’s monthly newsletter or if you would like to have Simone work with you on your picture.  http://www.picturebookpeople.com/

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: Advice, article, children writing, Consultation, picture books, Writing Tips Tagged: Picture Book People, Simone Kaplan, What you should know

2 Comments on Four More Things Published Authors Know That You Should Too, last added: 6/30/2013
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3. Discount and News

If you registered for the conference and wanted to attend a First Page Session, but there were none left, today is you lucky day. Someone had to cancel and we have one spot during Workshop 6 with Rebecca Frazer and Tamra Tuller. If you would like this spot, please e-mail Donna Taylor at disneymusescbwi@aol.com.

  • Put FPM – Your Full Name in the Subject line. It is not necessary to write anything in the body of the email.  The first person who sends in their request will get the spot.  If you do not hear back from Donna, it is because someone else beat you to it.  Good Luck!

Editorial Consultant Tamson Weston has offered to discount her services for anyone attending the June New Jersey SCBWI Conference in Princeton, NJ.  I thought I would be interested to know, so you could give some thought to this opportunity.  This is a limited time offer available for two months after the conference. 

“Quick Read” for $600: Tamson will read your novel manuscript and send you a brief letter giving general feedback. Regular price is $800

“Extensive Edit” of a novel where Tamson will read your manuscript, give extensive notes and a more detailed editorial letter is $1500 up to 70,000 words. Over 70,000 words is $1800. Regular Price is $1800-$2000.

A “Basic Edit” of your picture book project with or without illustrations, annotated with notes and an editorial letter providing you with guidelines for revision is $275. That is $25 off her regular SCBWI discounted price of $300.


Egmont UK has hired Melissa Fairley as publishing director for their picture books and gift list. She was publishing director for Ticktock Books, publisher for Kingfisher and managing editor for Harper UK Children’s.

Michelle Witte has joined Mansion Street Literary Management as an agent, specializing in middle grade and young adult fiction. She was most recently an editor at Gibbs Smith, where she oversaw creation, editing, and production of more than thirty titles, including children’s activity, humor, gift, cookbooks, and how-to titles.

At Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Ann-Marie Pucillo has been promoted to vp, executive managing editor, now overseeing ebook editorial operations for the adult and children’s imprints. She remains executive managing editor for the children’s book group as well.

Also at HMH, Mary Huot has been promoted to managing editor; and Sarah Iani has been promoted to associate production editor in the adult trade group.

Penguin’s Amy Einhorn of Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam and Razorbill head Ben Schrank appeared together on WNYC’s Leonard Lopate Show discussing “the changing world of book publishing.  You can listen to what they had to say, using the link below:


Patrick Nolan has been promoted to vp, editor-in-chief and associate publisher at Penguin Books, reporting to Kathryn Court.

Most of the Disney Book Group employees working in the White Plains, NY office will relocate back to the company’s Manhattan offices. The rest of Disney Publishing Worldwide is moving to Glen

0 Comments on Discount and News as of 5/2/2012 11:12:00 PM
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4. Free Fall Friday – May Picture Prompt

May’s Picture Prompt was illustrated by Kathleen Kemly. She was featured on Illustrator Saturday a feww weeks ago. http://kathytemean.wordpress.com/2012/04/07/illustrator-saturday-kathleen-kemly/

Please use it to help inspire a first page. I will announce the agent who will be out Guest Critiquer next week. Also since I like to give you three weeks to come up with something, I will post four of the pages along with the agents comments on June 1st.

Please attach your double spaced, 12 point font, 23 line first page to an e-mail and send it to kathy(dot)temean(at)gmail(dot)com. Also cut and paste it into the body of the e-mail. Put “May 26th First Page Prompt” in the subject line.

ILLUSTRATORS: Here is your chance to show off a little. I am looking any subject matter as long as it has a few flowers in the illustration. I will post some as they come in during the month, but I will definitely post all by May 31st, so I need to receive your illustrations no later than May 25th. Please make sure the illustration is at least 500 pixels wide and includes a blurb about you and a link to see more of your work. Please send it to kathy(dot)temean(at)gmail(dot)com and put “May Illustration” in the subject box.

Last month I only received two illustrations and both of them are going to be featured on Illustrator Saturday. Hope I will hear from more of you this month, because everyone who visits this blog loves art.

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: authors and illustrators, Consultation, opportunity, Writer's Prompt Tagged: Call for May Illustration, First Page Prompt, Free Fall Friday, Kathleen Kemly
2 Comments on Free Fall Friday – May Picture Prompt, last added: 5/6/2012
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5. Beginning with Beginnings

So for those of you who write picture books, I thought you may be interested in reading this article written by Simone Kaplan.  She has more than two decades of insider experience at major publishing institutions such as Henry Holt and Company and HarperCollins Publishers, during which she’s personally accepted, edited, and rejected hundreds of children’s picture books. She knows how the words you write must spark the interest of an editor or agent.  Don’t miss signing up for her free monthly newsletter filled with good information about writing picture books.


Beginning with Beginnings

by Simone Kaplan

The thing about the beginnings of manuscripts is that they are important. In terms of the overall narrative, they’re not more important than any other parts of your manuscript—say middles or endings. But because editors, agents, and children read them first, they have to show, right from the start, that what follows is worth reading.

Publishing professionals receive and read hundreds of manuscripts a month. They don’t have time to read every manuscript through to the end. They start at the beginning, so the beginning has to grab their attention, pique their interest, and indicate either that the author can write or has a good idea in order to read further. If you write a good beginning, editors and agents will read on to find out if you can develop a compelling plot, create credible characters, and sustain reader interest. If you don’t write a good beginning, the manuscript is likely to be rejected before the reader gets to the end of the first page. Just as important is the response of the ultimate “reader” of the picture book: the child who is hearing the words and who either is, or isn’t, engaged by the end of the first few spreads. Thousands of picture books line the shelves of libraries and bookstores; yours needs to engage the reader from the beginning.

So the big question is: How do you write a beginning that makes the reader—either the professional reading a manuscript or a child—want to read further?

The solution is simple to articulate but difficult to achieve. There are no rules when it comes to writing, but there are some helpful ideas. And one idea that helps answer the question posed above is that of dramatic structure. Having a structure helps anchor your narrative and gives you a way to think of plot. Plot has been analyzed and described by many critics across many genres and eras. For our purposes, though, a plot is simply a way of organizing a series of related incidents, events, and situations leading to a satisfying resolution. It’s helpful to divide the plot into three sections: the beginning, the middle, and the end. This arrangement starts with the first section: the setup, or beginning.

A good beginning does three main things:

1. It introduces your main character or characters—the who of your story.
2. It introduces the circumstances and situation, showing your reader the world in which your story takes place, and gives the reader a sense of what the story is about—the where of your story.
3. It introduces the desire/need/conflict that is going to drive the character and the story—the what of your story.

That’s why beginnings are sometimes called “setups”: they establish what the story is about, engage your reader’s interest, and make him or her want to continue to read.

A good rule of thumb is that the beginning should take up about one-quarter of the book. If you think of a standard thirty-two-page picture book and do the rough math—which allocates a single page at the beginning to the half title, a spread to the title and copyright/dedication, and a single last page of the book—you have twenty-eight pages, or fourteen spreads, to tell your story. That means the beginning should be about three to four spreads. If you’re thinking in terms of a 1,000-word-count guide, that means 250 words. When you consider that the trend these days is toward even shorter books (600 words or less), you don’t have a lot of time to set up your story and engage your reader.

It’s not easy to do, but it is possible. Since you don’t have a word to spare or a sentence to waste, you need to be economical. The most economical way of starting your book is to find a way to introduce all three elements at once. The best openings establish the situation in which the protagonist finds him- or herself combined with the dramatized action, the conflict, or the expression of a desire.

A skilled writer can establish mood and tone and write an opening that contains the premise and the situation of the whole book. You can—and should—aim to do the same. At the very least, you should set up the who, the where, and the what of your story. It’s been done in almost every good picture book you can read. And you can do it too. Examine some of your favorite picture books to see how they are set up; you can learn a lot by analyzing some good beginnings and seeing how the masters handle the challenges. Then try to apply the principles that worked for them to your own work and create beginnings full of promise and excitement.

© 2012 Picture Book People, Inc.

Simone Kaplan is a picture book lover, editor, consultant, and writing coach, and is dedicated to making you a better picture book writer. She provides creativity-enhancing, skill-building, heart-expanding support for the creators of picture books so they can write the best possible books they’re able to write.

You can find out more about her work at http://www.picturebookpeople.com, or reach her at simone@picturebookpeople.com ro read more about working with her at http://www.picturebookpeople.com/services.html

Don’t miss signing up for Simone’s free picture book newsletter.

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: Advice, article, Consultation, picture books, Process, revisions Tagged: HarperCollins, Henry Holt, Picture Book People, Simone Kaplan

7 Comments on Beginning with Beginnings, last added: 2/2/2013
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6. Collective redress – another false dawn?

By Professor John Sorabji (Hon)

Collective action reform in England and Wales was first seriously mooted twenty five years ago. From the perspective of proponents of the opt-out form of collective action (i.e., a form of collective proceedings where all the potential claimants are automatically represented in the proceedings unless they explicitly choose not to be), nothing of substance has been achieved since then. The closest advocates for reform got were the class action provisions in the 2009 Financial Services Bill, which were dropped at the last minute to help secure the Bill’s enactment prior to the 2010 general election.

Since 2010 prospects for reform have been slight. A pre-general election consultation by the Department for Business, Innovation and & Skills (BIS), which raised the issue of a consumer collective action, disappeared without trace. In this there was nothing to surprise the sceptic: collective action consultations have historically yielded nothing. In April 2012, to the surprise of many, BIS issued another consultation. This time its focus is reform of the follow-on opt-in form of collective action which can be used in claims brought under the Competition Act 1998

The present consultation once more raises issues which, given the 25 year history of abortive reform, have been debated to the nth degree, two of which do however need detailed consideration.

First, the consultation moves beyond the government’s previous position that if reform is to be implemented it should be consistent with the Civil Justice Council’s 2008 recommendations. In particular it proposes that an opt-out form of action be introduced; the CJC had rejected the introduction of an opt-out action in favour of one where the court determines on a case-by-case basis whether the action should be opt-in (i.e., where a claimant has take deliberate and express steps to be brought within the scope of the proceedings) or opt-out.

BIS’s proposal is predicated, amongst other things, on the grounds that the present Competition Act opt-in procedure is inadequate; inadequate because it has only ever been used once, in the JJB Football shirts case and then only because, it is claimed, a mere 130 individuals opted-in. The factual claim is contentious: opt-in figure was arguably 550, if not higher, with an additional 15,000 individuals claiming under the settlement reached in the proceedings. More substantively, the consultation does not appear to grapple with the question whether the lack of claimants opting-in is actually a sign that individuals are making a proper choice not to pursue an individually de minimus claim, and whether an opt-out system actually amounts in such circumstances to an improper fetter on an individual’s choice to resort to litigation to enforce their rights. It is a question that the CJC did not consider. If reform is to come, it might perhaps be better if it came after principled consideration of this issue.

Secondly, the consultation raises the question of what happens to damages awarded under an opt-out procedure which go unclaimed. Opt-out systems always result in some, if not the majority of, damages going unclaimed. Rather than being taken as a sign that the procedure does not provide access to justice, compensation for loss or the enforcement of private rights for those individuals whose rights were infringed, the unclaimed damages are viewed as something which can be distributed by the court for a purpose related to the substance of the claim (a cy-pres distribution). The consultation, for the first time, proposes that unclaimed damages should not be distributed this way but should rather be paid to the Access to Justice Foundation.

Critics might suggest that whatever the merits of a cy-pres distribution, at least it is intended to result in a benefit to those similarly situated to the individuals whose rights had been infringed. Requiring such funds to be paid to a charity, no matter how meritorious, which has nothing to do with the rights infringed, might be said to run contrary to the aim of enforcing rights and securing effective compensation for those harmed individuals. It might even be said, as it was in the United States in the context of a statutory provision which required unclaimed damages to be paid to the State, to ‘cripple the compensatory function for the private class’ (State of California v. Levi Strauss & Co., 715 P.2d 564, 575 (Cal. 1986)).

Hopefully BIS will consider these, and the other issues which its proposes raise, and in doing so ensure that reform, if it comes, is consistent with securing effective access to justice for those who genuinely wish to pursue their claims and see their rights enforced; a commitment to the rule of law requires no less. If it does not, its consultation will be yet another false dawn.

Prof John Sorabji (Hon) is Senior Fellow, Judicial Institute, University College, London, barrister and Legal Secretary to the Master of the Rolls. He is a contributor to Extraterritoriality and Collective Redress, edited by Duncan Fairgrieve and Eva Lein. Any views expressed in this article are those of the author and are neither intended to nor do they represent the views of any other individual or body.

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7. News: Free Edit and Prizes

My Friends are In the News!

  • buddyfilesall

    Edgar Nomination to Dori Butler

    Congratulations are in order for my friend, Dori Butler! She was present at my first ever Novel Revision Retreat and encouraged me to take it on the road. Now, the first book in her series, The Buddy Files, has been named a finalist for the Edgar award, juvenile category. The Edgars are awarded to the best mysteries of the year.

    Now, here’s something I know: Dori has ALWAYS wanted to win this award and hoped someday a YA novel would hit this list. She was floored to be nominated for her this book, but totally and utterly thrilled. You can read more about her series in this interview where she gives advice to her younger self.

    The 65th Gala Edgars Awards Banquet is April 28, 2011 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City. Dori, I’m rooting for you and Buddy to win this one!

  • FREE Mss Review:

    DearEditor.com has announced a chance for a free YA/MG manuscript review. Deborah Halverson was my editor at Harcourt until she decided to stay home with her triplets (imagine that!). And she has a new forthcoming book, Writing Young Adult Fiction for Dummies, which will include a sidebar I wrote on Book Trailers. The deadline to enter the Free Giveaway and get your own substantive edit on your mss is January 31. Hurry! See full details here.

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8. NJSCBWI Conference Reminder

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: authors and illustrators, children writing, Conferences and Workshops, Consultation, Contests, How to, submissions, Writing Tips Tagged: agents, critiques, Editors, June New Jersey SCBWI Conference

2 Comments on NJSCBWI Conference Reminder, last added: 3/23/2011
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9. Inside Scoop on June 2012 Conference

Don’t be sad if you could not travel to LA for the National SCBWI Conference this week.  Just focus on what is to come and the opportunities that are available for you.

At this moment in time I have confirmed the following editors and agents for the New Jersey SCBWI Conference being held on June 8th, 9th, and 10th 2012 at the Wyndham Hotel and Conference Center in Princeton, NJ. Here is the faculty, so far:
KRISTA MARINO is an Executive Editor at Delacorte Press (Random House Children’s  Books) where she acquires and edits Young Adult and Middle Grade fiction.  She is always looking for strong new voices, innovative concepts, and great stories for her list. She doesn’t do cute- she’s more on the darker edge of fiction (she has not been buying much of lighter fare lately), but she does like works with comedy in them. Many of the works she’s edited in the last few years are trilogies or series, she is now looking for amazing stand-alone books. Recent books she has edited include King Dork by Frank Portman, The Alchemyst, The Magician, and The Sorceress in The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series by Michael Scott, and The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan.
I have asked Krista if she will do the same Intensive that she is giving in LA on Aug. 8th for an Intensive for us – Perfecting Your YA Voice.

SARAH DAVIES, Agent – Greenhouse Literary is based in Washington DC and heads the North American side of the Greenhouse, so if you live in the States or Canada you should submit work to her (see submission guidelines for more information).  Sarah has more than 25 years’ experience of children’s publishing, moving to the USA from London in 2007. She started her career at Collins (before it was HarperCollins), followed by a spell at Transworld/Random House. In 1994 she joined Macmillan Children’s Books in London as Fiction Editor, rising through the editorial ranks to Publishing Director (and member of the Management Board), a position she held until 2007 when she left to start Greenhouse.

Sarah has agreed to do an Intensive Workshop on June 8th and a few Consultative Critiques.

ERIN CLARKE is an Executive Editor at Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, where she has worked for eleven years. Authors and illustrators with whom she works include Markus Zusak, Julia Alvarez, Meghan McCarthy, Lesley M.M. Blume, Anna Alter, Mark Alan Stamaty, Karen Foxlee, Mick Cochrane, Barbara Jean Hicks, and Sue Hendra. Erin is interested in publishing good stories regardless of genre or themes that might be contained in them. She edits six to eight novels per year as well as picture books. The percentage of her first time writers varies. Currently about 20% of her list is made up of first-time writers. She is interested in building a long-term relationship and hopes to do many more books with them.

CATHERINE ONDER–Senior Editor, Disney-Hyperion. She focuses on teen and tween novels, and also edits some picture books. Authors she works with include Geraldine McCaughrean, Jenny Valenti

3 Comments on Inside Scoop on June 2012 Conference, last added: 8/5/2011
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10. Win one of 17 FREE Book Marketing Consultation

Next week is the Random Acts of Publicity 2011 –JOIN us on the Facebook Event Page– and we have lots of prizes for participating. Remember:
It’s all about your Friend’s book (OR, your favorite book).

The week will focus on the basic tasks of publicity and ask you to do a daily Random Act of Publicity: Blog, link, Like, review, or talk about the book . (BLLuRT!)

17 FREE Book Marketing Consultations

In addition, three book marketing and publicity professionals have offered to giveaway a FREE marketing consultation.

September 6: Guest Susan Raab

Susan Raab of Raab Associates

“Brand Building Square One” by Susan Raab, President of Raab Associates, www.raabassociates.com.
One-day chance for you to enter your Friend to win one of 15 FREE Giveaways of a 15-minute book marketing consultation provided by Raab Associates.

September 7: Guests Barbara Fisch and Sarah Shealy

Barb & Sarah of Blue Slip Media

“Many Hands Make Light Work – or How Two Heads are Better than One” by Barbara Fisch and Sarah Shealy, Blue Slip Media, www.blueslipmedia.com
One-day chance for you to enter your Friend to win a 15-minute book marketing consultation provided by Blue Slip Media.

September 8: Guest Deborah Sloan

Create Buzz by Connecting with Readers by Deborah Sloan of Deborah Sloan & Company. www.deborahsloanandcompany.com
One-day chance for you to enter your Friend to win a one-hour book marketing consultation provided by Deborah Sloan & Company.

How to Enter the Giveaway Contests

  • You may not enter your own name in any of these prize giveaways, you can only enter your friend’s name/book.
  • To enter, you must put your Friend’s name in the Comments on the Guest Post on the given day. By posting a person’s name you acknowledge that you have asked their permission and the post is with their knowledge.
  • Please note carefully WHERE to comment for each giveaway. They all require you to comment on the POST at Fiction Notes (www.darcypattison.com). Posting on the Facebook Event Page does not qualify.

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11. Free Fall Friday

Every year we have a writing contest for the writers attending the Writers’ Retreat. The attendees vote and rank the entries and the top five are given to the editors and they pick a winner, rank the other four, and prizes are given out.

Each year, I share the writing prompt with all of you, so you can give it a try. There are no prizes involved as there are with the retreat, but this year the top 4 writers who send something into me will receive a critique of their first page by Author/editor Anita Nolan. Retreat attendees can also participate and submit what they wrote for the retreat contest.

Make sure you put “September First Page Blog Submission” in the subject area. Email them to: kathy(dot)temean(at)gmail(dot)com.

Here is the prompt:

_____ had never given much thought to….


_____ never thought about…

You can use either one, but weather should factor into your first page somehow.

Deadline: September 23rd.

September 30th: Results Posted

Retreat attendees were given other prompts to choose from. We will use these later as prompts.

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: Competition, Consultation, opportunity Tagged: Anita Nolan, Critique, First page, Free Fall Friday, Writer's Prompt

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12. T.S. Ferguson Shares Expertise

Do you remember this face?  This is T.S. Ferguson, who used to edit at Little, Brown, and Company.  He left a little over a year ago and has been working at Random House in the eBooks production department, as well as editing YA articles for LambdaLiterary.org.  I thought you might be interested in knowing that he just launched a new editorial business called TSEdits.com.

He is offering developmental editing and critiques on works of fiction for all ages, with an emphasis on middle grade and teen fiction. He says his edits are done in the same way he would do them if he were your editor at a publishing house and will help you strengthen your manuscript as you prepare to submit it to agents and editors.

He will focus on plot and character development, voice, marketability, and anything else that may need work or fine-tuning. He’ll touch on anything he think needs attention and will ask a lot of questions to get your creative juices churning during the revision. He will also do minimal line editing as he goes your manuscript, even though this is not his main focus.



His blog: http://must-love-books.blogspot.com/

Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/TeeEss

Please note: TS expertise is in middle grade and young adult fiction, however he is open to editing works of fiction for other age categories, including picture books, early readers, graphic novels, and adult fiction.

Talk tomorrow,


Filed under: children writing, Consultation, Editors, need to know, News Tagged: Editorial Services, TS Ferguson, TSEdits.com 0 Comments on T.S. Ferguson Shares Expertise as of 1/1/1900
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13. New Jersey June 2012 Conference Update

Here is the faculty, so far:

MARGERY CUYLER, Publisher, Marshall Cavendish

PBs, Rhyming books, Board Books, Easy Reader/​Chapter Books, Middle Grade, YA, Non Fiction, Graphic Novels, Historical fiction, Fantasy, Edgy. She likes a novel that “immediately represents modern conflict” and one that doesn’t “hold the story hostage to the message.”

At a conference specifically geared to the Jewish market, Ms. Cuyler mentioned that there’s a big need for “good Jewish mysteries and time travel” as well as a need for “contemporary Jewish stories.”

Eileen Robinson – Publisher of MOVE BOOKS: www.move-books.com , which focuses on Middle Grade books for boys.

Eileen is also the owner of F1rst Page and does Editorial Consultanting – F1rst Pages http://f1rstpages.com  As an editorial consultant, Eileen works with both published and unpublished authors to help them strengthen their writing.

Eileen is also a former executive editor at Scholastic.

At the New Jersey 2012 SCBWI Conference Eileen will conduct a 4 hour Intensive on Friday June 8th, where she will work hands-on with writers who want to improve their manuscripts.  Keep in mind that space is limited.

Scott Treimel, agent and owner of S©ott Treimel NY, which opened in 1995.

Scott has worked for a literary agency, a literary scout, two book publishers, a newspaper syndicate, a book club, and a movie studio, either buying, selling, packaging, editing or creating intellectual property—all for children. If you haven’t met Scott, he is a wealth of information and a very accomplished agent in the children’s book industry.

Stephen Fraser, Literary agent at Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency.

Stephen Fraser joined the Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency as an agent in January 2005. He worked most recently at HarperCollins Children’s Books, where he edited such creative talents as Mary Engelbreit, Gregory Maguire, Michael Hague, Ann Rinaldi, Kathryn Lasky, Brent Hartinger, Stephen Mitchell, and Dan Gutman. He began his career at Highlights for Children and later worked at Scholastic and Simon & Schuster. A graduate of Middlebury College in Vermont, he has a Master’s degree in Children’s Literature from Simmons College in Boston. He represents both children’s and adult books in a wide range of genres.

What He’s Looking For: Currently, looking for children’s books for every age – picture books, middle-grade, and young adult – and adult fiction and non-fiction in a wide range of genres.

KRISTA MARINO is an Executive Editor at Delacorte Press (Random House Children’s Books) where she acquires and edits Young Adult and Middle Grade fiction. She is always looking for strong new voices, innovative concepts, and great stories for her list. She doesn’t do cute- she’s more on the da

2 Comments on New Jersey June 2012 Conference Update, last added: 9/28/2011
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14. It All Starts With Research

While at the SCBWI Winter Conference in NYC, my roommate Liza Parfomak started talking about all the research she had done in the short time she had been focusing on children’s books.  I said, “Why don’t you write up something for my blog,” and Liza agreed.  I met Liza last year at our NJSCBWI Summer Conference in June.  Again another example how one thing leads to another.  Liza reads my blog and e-mailed to ask if I knew anyone who could share a room in New York and I offered to share my room with her.  She went to dinner on Saturday night with the group I had put together and she was so happy that she joined us, because she made a number of new friends at dinner.  Here is a picture of Liza with Henry Winkler.  Looks like Henry enjoyed Liza’s hugs.  Anyway, Liza is out there trying to learn as much as she can and giving her a chance to make things happen.

Here is Liza on doing her homework:

Research by Liza Parfomak

Writing is an art.  It is inspiration.   It comes with homework.

My story is that I am an almost PhD, who found she didn’t know the first thing about writing.   What a terrible discovery!  Seriously, all those years of school and you would think I could just whip something up and everyone would melt into goo.  I can thank the NJ SCBWI for this knowledge.

I showed up to my first ever NJ SCBWI with two stories.  I signed up for a number of critiques.  My stories were great, after all. Why shy away from feedback?  I scored a critique with a really good editor named Krista Marino.  I knew what type of book she liked and I thought she would be a good fit for my manuscript.  I was right, because when she was done with her pencil, there wasn’t a white spot of paper available on that manuscript.  I felt sorry for her; she really got the short end of the stick with all the labor she put into pointing out where I went wrong.   The critique was just part of the package for attending the conference, but she did a REALLY good job critiquing my stories.

I understood almost immediately that I held gold in my hands…and an assignment.      

[Kathy:  Sorry to jump in here, but this is something many authors don't see right away.  They walk into a critique and expect the editor or agent to love what they wrote.  If the editor/agent is not interested in what they read and don't want to buy it, then you need them to pick it apart.  You don't have to agree with everything they say, but you do want them to say it.  So no tears, keep your composure, and pull as much as you can out of the critiquer.  The feedback will help you revise your manuscript - just be willing to revise.  I know people who have been writing for many years, who fight the revision process.

Come prepared to your one-on-one critique with all of your nagging questions.  Get them answered.  Sometimes editors/agents will say, "So tell me about the book.  How did you come up with this idea."  This might be a legitimate question, but fifteen minutes go fast and authors could talk for hours about their book. You don't have the luxury, answer quickly and redirect the editor or agent back to what they thought when they read your manuscript.  Find out what they think you need to do to improve your book.  

I don't want to hear, "Well, she didn't tell me very much" or "I don't know what she was talking about," after your critique.  It is your job to question and find out what the editor/agent means.  If you feel they are not giving you enough, it is your job to drag all out of them   So be prepared going in to your critique to get the answers you need

4 Comments on It All Starts With Research, last added: 2/7/2012
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15. Freelance Developmental Editors

If you’re just starting to think about writing for publication, you probably don’t need an editor yet. First you should learn writing skills and hone your craft. Although a freelance editor can certainly teach you what you need to know, that can get expensive. You may want to start by reading books and taking classes about how to write for publication, or attending a writers conference, getting one-on-one critiques with editors, taking all the workshops you can, and visiting writing blogs or some of your favorite authors’ Web sites (many have a page or two of helpful tips).

But if you have done all the above and can afford to hire a developmental editor, then here are some things to consider:

1. Acquisitions editors—representatives of publishing houses who are looking for new manuscripts and new authors to “acquire” for their houses

2. Publishing house editors—hired by the publishing house to polish your manuscript after it has been accepted.

3. Copy editors—correct grammar, punctuation, etc.

4. Freelance developmental editors—people hired by authors to help them improve their manuscripts, catch mistakes they missed, and increase their chances of acceptance by a publisher.

They line edit, changing and polishing the text, but also larger conceptual problems like story, plot structure, characterization, visual description and other big picture choices and necessary revisions. The developmental editor has to enter the consciousness of the author and help make the book better wherever it needs it. This may mean suggesting language for new material, including dialogue. Or it may take the form of requests for explanation and amplification that only the author can supply.

A good developmental editor will let go of their own egos and enter the world of the writer’s consciousness. They’re there to help you create the book you want to write.  He or she should never take over a book, conform or contort it to their way of writing, or make any changes unilaterally or without your approval. That’s why the tracked changes tool on your Word document manuscript is so useful. You can see everything in the original with any edits, deletions, or additions, highlighted in another color, and can be either accepted or rejected.

Alan Rinzler, a noted literary developmental editorial consultant says, “It’s uncanny how many draft novels have very weak and boring opening sentences, paragraphs and pages, which make you want to stop reading and lie down immediately. Or huge information dumps, meaning tedious back story explanations of what happened before the book started and who are two dozen  characters and their ancestors. Another common flaw is no dialogue, all telling what’s happening from a distance. Or dialogue where all the characters talk like the same person and you can’t tell them apart. Or all dialogue and no visual description, no pause between quotes to explain what else is going on, where they are, and what they might be feeling internally.

Another major flaw for many beginning writers is too much material, stories that are hugely but unnecessarily complex, flashbacks within flashbacks so you can’t tell where or when anything is taking place, and a general sense of a writer being unfocused and overwhelmed by his material. As a developmental editor I go through page by page making deletions, edits, polishes, suggesting specific new language and material, and requesting explanation or amplification for text that only the author can supply. I don’t think this approach is at all unsuitable for either the author or potential publisher since their goals are the same: to p

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Friday Intensives – June 3, 2011 - Check in at noon – Intensives start at 12:30 and go to 4:30.  There will be a Mix and Mingle with all the faculty on Friday evening for attendees staying over both days.

Below are the Intensives you have to choose from on Friday:

Editing without an Editor - Eileen Robinson and Harold Underdown

Query Letters and Contracts – Agents Mary Kole & Edward Necarslumer 

Voice, Plot and Dialogue – Editors Eve Adler and Kristin Daly

Writing Biography – Fiction and Non-Fiction – Editor, Carolyn Yoder

Advanced Craft and Art of Writing – Agent, Scott Treimel

Crafting Picture Books – Reowned Author, Sudipta Bardham

Writing Humor – Audrey Vernick & Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich – See more -http://wp.me/pss2W-2bp

Roll Up Your Sleeves: In-depth Work On Characterization – YA/MG Novels – Five Published Authors – See more – http://wp.me/pss2W-2bW

Also on Friday we will have Illustrator’s Day with Art Director,  Martha Rago & TBA

Grace Lin will kickoff Saturday as Keynote speaker.

Authors Book Signing Bookfair – Saturday afternoon.

David Caruba will give his respected report on the State of the Publishing Industry’s Market Report to Kickoff Sunday

Agent Holly McGhee  will end the Conference on Sunday with as our Inspirational Speaker 

Here are a few of the workshops you will be able to sign up for.  There are 38 available:

Now That’s Just Wacky: The Art of Humor in Picture Book Writing– Steve Meltzer

Symbiotic Relationship between Author and Editor – Grace Lin and Alvina Ling

From Manuscript to Published Illustrated Book – Martha Rago

Pacing Your First Pages - Eileen Robinson

Submissions – Harold Underdown

Steampunk 101 - Natalie Zaman

Co-Authoring a Book - Natalie Zaman and Charlotte Bennardo

Making a Book Trailer - Kathy Temean

Developmental Reading Levels and Corresponding Interests – Eileen Kennedy-Moore

Non-Fiction – Wendy Pfeffer

You will be able to attend 8 workshops during the two days.  Thirty-eight different workshops will be listed on the registration form to choose from.  One-on-one critiques, first page sessions, agent pitches, editorial consultations, illustrators exhibit and contest, bookfair, mix and mingle, networking, and chances to win dinners and critiques with editors and agents.  I keep saying, this year is going to blow you away, because it will.  I am

4 Comments on NJSCBWI UPDATE, last added: 1/6/2011
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