Sunday, December 7, 2014

Get the Scoop!

When you're working towards your goal of publication it is good to keep up on the industry. That means news. You don't have to go searching all over for it. Lisha Cauthen puts together a great newsletter called the KidLit Scoop. I read it every week. As soon as I see it in my inbox I stop everything and open it. I'm not kidding.

Here's what Lisha says about the Scoop:

It's free, my darlings. a weekly newsletter about the children's publishing industry: personnel moves, mergers, new imprints, market trends, grants, interviews and such. Whatever is happening in the kidlit community this week is delivered in digested form to your inbox. IT IS FREE. Did I mention that? Be a sport, subscribe below.

What she fails to mention is that she strings a fun story throughout every issue. Nothing long. Just a sentence or two of funny asides at the beginning of each section. Okay I am going to admit it right now. Sometimes I read it just for the asides. They crack me up. Then I come back later for the news. True story.

Lisha has been putting out the Kidlit Scoop for a long time now. She's almost reached 100 issues! And the woman puts this thing together all by herself. She is a wonder. Help her celebrate and get the scoop on the news. Go subscribe! Then enter to win her fun giveaway. There are autographed books for goodness sake!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Critique Partner Matchup!

I have an announcement to make that I am really excited about! As the moderator of Sub It Club as well as a blogger with a Monster List of Picture Book Agents, I get a lot of people asking me where they can find critique partners. There was getting to be so many that I decided we'd better spinoff from our Sub It Club Submission Support Group and create a group dedicated to finding critique partners. So, I'm excited to say that we have just created a Sub It Club Critique Partner Matchup Group! The group is open to writers of all genres as well as illustrators. Exciting, huh?!

Yes, I know this could perhaps seem counterintuitive as I do provide critique & consultation services right here on my blog. That could probably be said about Sub It Club's Submission Support Group as well, but I don't think so. Being able to pay to get your work critiqued can be great in many circumstances. Sometimes time is limited which can always make money a small issue. Having your work critiqued from someone experienced in the industry can be eye opening. The thing is, not only do you learn a lot from getting critiques, you also learn a lot from giving them. So, if you're writing in any genre, or illustrating, or both and want to connect with others to share your work with head on over and read my post about the new Sub It Club Critique Partner Matchup. I hope you'll join us, and tell your friends! The more members the more chances we have of making great critique partner matchups.

Friday, October 17, 2014


I just looked at my blog. (Finally!) And saw that it has been exactly two months to the day since I posted last. Two whole months! Now, I know I'm no regular blogger but SHEESH! At least I have been keeping up my blogging duties at the Sub It Club blog. Over the past two months I've blogged about how important it is to follow submission guidelines as well as Second Guessing Your Email Submission which led me to a follow-up post; the Submission Double Check Checklist. And, of course, I rounded up the latest writing contests in the monthly Contest Roundup.

Imagine hundreds of pounds of this!
Honestly, now that I look at it I feel pretty amazed that I got that much blogging done. The past few months have been full of garlic for me. Garlic harvest. Garlic cleaning. Garlic shipping. Garlic planting. I won't bore you with the seemingly endless details of what must be done. Just suffice it to say that it all happens at around the same time. And incase you didn't know, my husband and I grow a lot of garlic. A LOT. Hundreds and hundreds of pounds. 16 varieties and counting. And we do most all of the work ourselves. It's good though. This year has been great! We planted twice as much garlic this fall in preparation for next year. I'm just trying to not worry about the weeding next spring. (It's all done by hand.) 

I just like this picture. It's Siberian Hardneck garlic, incase you're wondering.

And hey, we got our new office finished just in time for garlic shipping. I'm thinking I'll set up a cozy corner and make a sweet writing spot this winter.

I've always wanted an office. *happy sigh*
Even though there’s been a lot of work to do and kids’ stuff to take care of (Oh sports how I did not miss thee over the summer!) I still, of course, managed to squeak in some writing here and there. Revisions. Check. New manuscripts started. Check. No matter how busy or tired I am, I always make time for at least a bit of writing! Not every day, but most days. And I always make the time for Sub it Club and consulting and with writers and doing critiques because it’s something I love to do! Here’s hoping that I’ll get back to posting at least a few blog posts a month on this blog again soon. I’m itching to add to the Monster List of Picture Book Agents, that’s for sure. And if you have any picture book or submission questions, send them my way and I’ll try to answer them in a post. I’m happy to help when I can.

Here’s to relaxing, writing-filled days! But for now, I've got garlic that I need to go out and fertilize and mulch.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Writing a Picture Book? Don’t Do These Things

A while back I posted Querying a Picture Book? Don't Do These Things because I get a lot of picture books submissions from people who *gasp* apparently don't do their research. (As most of you reading know, I am not an agent or a publisher.) Many times these people submitting their work to me send their manuscripts as well. I see a lot of common mistakes in those too. 

You have got to have a strong manuscript to compete in today's market! And good format? It's a must in my opinion. Here are some things to think about along with some big no no's when it comes to picture book manuscripts:
  • Don’t write in rhyme--unless you have worked extremely hard at it and are very good at it. No, I don’t mean that you just think you are good at it. You have studied the rules of rhyme. You have gotten critiques. You are all Corey Rosen Schwartz and YOU KNOW RHYME like a boss! (Check out The Meter Maids for some great rhyming advice.)
  • Do not over describe things. You need to leave room for the illustrations. Pictures are at least half of the story in picture books.
  • Don't overuse adverbs and adjectives. 
  • Do not number what you see as the pages of your book within your manuscript.That's great while you're figuring out your page turns. (You can dummy like this. Or like this.) Editors and agents who work in picture books can see where the page turns will be if you have done a good job. Use standard manuscript format.
  • Do not use colored ink! No, not even to show where there are different speakers. Again, if you have done your job well, those you are querying will be able to follow the story perfectly fine in black and white.
  • Don’t be didactic. If you don’t know what that word means, no, you are not ready to query.
  • Do not write “to be continued” and list other manuscripts at the bottom of your manuscript. That’s just silly. You want the reader to focus on the manuscript they have right there, right now in front of them. You sell that one and you’ll have the opportunity to talk about more.
  • Don't write THE END at the end of the story. It is obviously the end as the story has, um, ended.
  • Don’t put a copyright on the manuscript. Once you write something down it is automatically copyrighted. Doing so just makes you look like an amateur.
And for heaven’s sake, proofread your manuscript. Revise. Edit. It makes your writing better. Really. It does.

Any questions? Or other things you've seen in manuscripts that are no no's? I'm sure there are more things we could add to the list!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Agent John Cusick of Greenhouse Literary Talks Picture Books

Not too long ago I featured John Cusick of Greenhouse Literary Agency on the Monster List of Picture Book Agents. He's an agent at Greenhouse Literary Agency representing Young Adult, Middle Grade, and of course, picture books. 

Unfortunately, finding picture book specific information when trying to make an informed decision whether or not your work might be right for an agent can be tough. While I was putting together John's post, I had picture book-centric questions that I wondered about. I asked John if he might answer them. Fortunately for us, John was happy to. 

So, my lucky people on the agent hunt, read on to find out what John is looking for when it comes to picture books, learn about his agenting style, and more. If he sounds like he might be a good match for you and your work, give him a try. John is a super nice person, and that's the best kind to work with!

Why do you choose to represent picture book authors?

I love picture books. They’re deceptively simple and deeply sophisticated. Part prose, part poetry, they distill story and character down to their essential elements. And they’re fun! My first week in publishing I saw an editor and an agent leave a party to gush over galleys for a new picture book they’d both worked on. They were so excited, like little kids. And I thought “yep, this is what I want to do.”
What do you look for in a client?
I’m looking for someone who loves to write and create, who is eager to work on many projects, and many different kinds of projects. An author with a single book-of-their-heart who will never write another story probably isn’t the best fit for me. I’m looking for career-clients interested in growing and developing over time.
How would you describe your agenting style?
I’m a very editorial agent. I like working creatively with my clients, from the idea stage to line-level tweaks. I’m also very communicative. I like chatting with my folks by phone, email, text, whatever. I also hope to pair authors with the perfect editor. When an editor and a client totally hit it off, creatively and personally, I know I’ve done my job. Finally, when I say I want career-clients, that’s another way of saying I like to manage and develop the trajectory of an author’s career, to help build their audience and hone their craft from book to book.
If you take on a client because of their mass market appeal picture books, would you also represent other things they wrote if they had merit?
Absolutely. If a client writes or illustrates in multiple mediums or markets, all the better! Some of my clients illustrate as well as maintaining careers in character design and commercial artwork. I have clients that write picture books as well as middle-grade and y.a. Versatility is never a bad thing.
What types of stories do you see a place for in today’s picture book market?
Stories with a universal theme told in a fresh way. A picture book with a clever concept will (usually) only go so far without a deeper conflict, some pain or tension that the reader can relate to and has experienced. At the same time, a familiar story, for example, “a child’s first day of school,” might be relatable, but will likely feel too generic to stand out in our competitive marketplace. It has to be both familiar yet fresh.
In general, how much revision do you do with clients to get their picture books submission ready?
It varies, but often a client and I will go through several revisions before I send a project to editors. Those revisions might include story level changes, the arrangement of spreads (if the client is an illustrator or author/illustrator) and line edits.
What are some of the elements you think a picture book needs to be successful?
I think stringent prose is essential. Picture book texts are so short— typically fewer than 800 words— that every syllable counts. Humor goes a long way as well. Not every picture book must be funny, but I’m personally drawn to clever and quirky styles, and I think many editors are as well. Finally, to me, picture books need tension— a conflict our protagonist solves for himself or herself (without Mom and Dad sweeping in to save the day).
What types of picture books are you not looking to represent?
I’m very picky about rhyming picture books, which I think are difficult to do well. When I see a rhyming text, my first question is, “What is the rhyme adding to the story?” Are the rhymes interesting? Is the meter engaging? If not, I may ask the author whether the story might be stronger if told in straight prose. I don’t represent spiritual or denominational projects. I’m all for a positive message, but story and character come first. I typically don’t represent what I call “lovey-dovey” picture books, where focus is how much or in what way a mother loves a child or vise-versa. There are some beautiful examples of these already on bookshelves, but these aren’t what I’m looking for, personally.
What do you like to see in a query letter? Do you have any submission pet peeves?
When I read a query, I’m looking for a brief description of your project: who is the main character, what is the conflict? I’m also looking for a bit about you, your background, and publishing history (if any).
A query is a brief, professional letter between you and a potential future business partner. So avoid gimmicks or whacky styles in the hopes of standing out. Never write your query in the voice of your protagonist. Let your creativity and originality shine through in your writing; let your query be simple and to-the-point.
Are there common mistakes you see in picture book submissions in particular?
Texts that are too long (over 800 words), poorly done rhyme and meter, overly-familiar stories without fresh twists (monsters under the bed, first day of school), and unprofessional illustrations are the most common reasons I reject picture books.
The Greenhouse Literary website says to allow up to 6 weeks for a response and if you haven’t got back by then, email the agent again. Do you send out many personal rejections? What does a form rejection letter mean to you?
I send out very few personal rejection letters. If I’d like to see a revision, I’ll ask for one specifically. However, I’m usually open to future projects. If you get a no the first time, please do query again. That’s a good way to develop a relationship with an agent. We like to see authors and illustrators developing with each new project. Sometimes the second or third try is the one that wins me over.
What picture book authors do you represent? Have any upcoming projects you can share with us?
I represent several authors, illustrators, and author illustrators, including Julie Bayless, and Lisa Marnell. Vin Vogel’s debut picture book THE THING ABOUT YETIS will be published by Dial early next year; Vin is also illustrating Brooklyn kiddie-rocker David Weinstone’s debut picture book, MUSIC CLASS TODAY, coming from Farrar, Straus, Giroux.

A huge THANK YOU to John for the wonderful interview! To learn more about John, be sure to check out his listing on the Monster List of Picture Book Agents. You'll find lots of great links for further research. 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Lowdown on Cover and Query Letters

Alayne Kay Christian asked me to write a post about query and cover letters as part of the Sub Six All About Submissions series, and I was happy to oblige! I did my best to cover it all in my post: the difference between a cover and a query letter, the main parts, the format, etc. If you're new to writing queries and are figuring out how to write that important letter that introduces your work or just want a refresher, go check out my post- Create a Great Introduction: Cover and Query Letters. Alayne has added some great links for further study as well.

In my post I linked to the Query Letters that Worked at Sub it Club for reference because I know that when I was figuring out how to write queries it really helped me to look at successful queries. The first one listed when you click on the link is by picture book author Rebecca Colby. She went above and beyond and showed how she progressed with query letters, what she did wrong, then breaks down the query she used to obtain her agent and showed us what she did right. It is so helpful! I just love the generosity of writers in the kidlit world. Definitely check it out to figure out what you are saying with your query!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Formatting Picture Books

When you're ready to send your picture book out on submission, using the correct format is important. There are standards you need to follow, although things can vary a bit. Here's how I format mine:
  • Standard 8 1/2 x 11" paper size
  • Set margins to 1 to 1 1/2 inches
  • Times New Roman 12 point font
  • Black ink only
Single Space for:
  • Header - 1st page, left:
Street Address
City, State, Zip Code
Phone number
Email address
  •  Header - 1st page, right
Word count: (enter number)
  • Drop down 14 spaces (you  generally want do be about halfway down the page)
  • Enter Title
  • Drop down two spaces and put by (so there is one space between Title and by)
  • Drop down another two spaces and put your name
  • Drop down four spaces
Switch to double spacing
  • Begin manuscript
You want your manuscript in paragraph form. Don't break it up into published book pages as you see them. Agents and Editors who know picture books have a keen eye for page turns and illustratable images.

Header for the rest of the manuscript pages (use the option for different first page when formatting your header)
  • Left - In Italics Last Name/Manuscript Title 
  • Right - Page Number (also in italics, use the option for page numbering and it will automatically put the correct number on your page)
That's it! Pretty simple once you get the hang of it. You could even get all fancy and make yourself a template if you wanted to.