Thursday, April 21, 2016

Picture Book & Query Letter Critique Services

I have updated my critique services page! It's something I've been wanting to do for quite a while now but haven't taken the time. I think that the explanations on what I do when critiquing and the process for requesting a critique are much more thorough now. I also added a bit about my experience. I get a lot of the same questions and I tried to answer them on the page so people don't have to ask. If you see anything else you think I should answer, just let me know! I do love helping others with their picture book manuscripts and query letters. Here's the updated page info:

Picture Book Manuscript Critiques

You should never submit a manuscript to an agent or publisher without having your worked critiqued and then undertaking revisions. This is how we make our work shine! We become so close to our stories that we just cannot see what needs improving after a while. Another pair of eyes can do wonders!

How do you know when you are ready for critique? Have you rewritten and revised and worked hard on your manuscript and feel like you are stuck? Are you thinking your story is complete but have not gotten any feedback? Then it's probably time. For me, when I cannot see anything else I think I should change, or am even making changes back and forth to words or phrases I have previously written, I know I am ready for a critique. When I get those critiques back I always see ways to make more improvements.

Picture books in particular take more work than it feels like they should, because they are so short. Don't be fooled! While there are many different ways a manuscript can be written, there are certain criteria that publishers are looking for that make a picture book manuscript publishable. Of course, each story is different and I always keep your vision in mind, as well as the market, when giving a critique.

My picture book critiques tend to be intensive. I use track changes and include line by line notes using the comment feature to point out issues I see as I read through the manuscript. I oftentimes put in examples to help illustrate ideas or concepts to help you get your revision juices flowing. I can't help but throw in line-editing if I see a spot that needs it or a general issue that needs to be addressed. I also write notes straight onto the manuscript. At the end of the document I give a general big picture analysis. I do not just read through once, but many times, until I feel that I have given you the best critique that I can.

Beginning writers will find that I do a lot of teaching in my critiques. There are many common mistakes that I see in picture book manuscripts -- things that are definitely learned from studying, writing picture books, and taking part in the industry for an extended amount of time. I tell people things I wish I would have been told when I was starting out! I add tips or links that I think might be helpful to you in your picture book writing endeavors. 

Experienced picture book writers will find that I keep an eye toward the market when giving critiques. I make suggestions and ask questions to help you bring out your best manuscript.

All of my picture book critiques, no matter your experience, are given with an eye toward helping you create a salable manuscript. I want to see you succeed! I put in lots of time and thought on critiques. Of course, we all want to hear that our work is wonderful and ready to go, but I vow to give you an honest critique pointing out the good and the things that need work. To me, that is the best kind of critique that a writer can get!

Picture books up to 1000 words, non-rhyming critique fee is $85.00.
Higher word count manuscripts can be prorated. 
Add $15.00 for rhyming manuscripts (because they take much longer to critique.)
Picture book and query letter critique at the same time, for the same manuscript -- $120.00

Query & Cover Letter Critiques

I love query letters. Cover letters too. The difference? A query letter asks if you can send the material, while a cover letter introduces what you have sent. When you have a good base letter, you can change it up to fit your needs.

To me, writing these letters is a fun challenge. That seems to make me somewhat of an anomaly. But, it’s true. Query letters are like a puzzle that has many possible solutions. I just love piecing them together.

It is imperative to remember that your letter is a sales tool. One that you need to use to your best advantage. I can help you make sure your letter includes an enticing hook, the pertinent manuscript information, and relevant bio. Just as with my picture book critiques, I am very thorough with query letter critiques. I give line by line notes and suggestions as well as line editing if needed. If I need to ask you questions to help me give better suggestions on your letter, I will.

As with manuscripts, you can't always see the issues in your own query letter. You want to give enough information so that the gist of your story is clear to someone who has not read it. You want it to be enticing. You want your query letter to make the reader want more!

My letters for various manuscripts have gotten requests and interest from many agents and publishers. I have helped writers of all genres with their query letters. So, if you are ready for another set of eyes on that all important introduction to your work, from board book to picture book, MG, YA to Adult novel -- fiction or nonfiction, I would be happy to help.

Query letter critique fee is $40.00 
One page letter, any genre.
Picture book and query letter critique at the same time, for the same manuscript -- $120.00

Critique Request Instructions

When you are ready for a critique please email me. Indicate the type of critique you are looking for -- picture book manuscript, query letter, or both. You can put CRITIQUE REQUEST in the subject line of your email.

For picture book manuscripts please let me know the word count and whether or not the story is written in rhyme. For query letters I'd love to know the genre you are working in. If you have any questions for me, just ask. You are welcome to attach the manuscript or query as a Word or Open Office document in your email.

I bill through Paypal, which you can pay whether you have a Paypal account or not. I will email you an invoice via Paypal once I have gotten your request and we have worked out any details. I am also happy to take a check. Critiques will be started once payment is complete.

I like to have up to two weeks to complete manuscript critiques as I sometimes like to have time to think on things, but I often have them done more quickly than that. Query letter critiques will be completed in one week or less. I am happy to work with you to have your critique done by a specific date if requested. 

It is nice if you have your manuscript in a standard format. Plus you will need it that way for submitting! If you are not sure about standard picture book manuscript format, you can find instructions in my formatting post.

Critique fees are for a one time critique. If you are interested in having me critique a manuscript after you have revised, I am happy to do it at a discounted rate.

About My Experience

I've been writing picture books for a very long time. I can't even begin to count the number of critiques I have done. I’ve edited novels, both fiction and nonfiction for publishers, critiqued everything from story app concept to magazine article, MG, YA, and even the "dreaded" synopsis.

My picture book, BEDTIME MONSTER, is published by Raven Tree Press. KICK! JUMP! CHOP! THE ADVENTURES OF THE NINJABREAD MAN is scheduled to be released by Sterling Publishing in 2017. I am represented by Sean McCarthy Literary Agency.

"Heather's critique is exactly what I needed to get me out of a state of stagnation and moving in a better direction on my children's book proposal. The constructive information she shared in my critique was conveyed with a distinct air of "been there, pitched that" experience. Heather knows what agents and publishers need from a proposal and helps writers hone in on their story's hook and refocus their pitch. I highly recommend her services and wouldn't hesitate to work with Heather on future projects." - Stacey Viera, Best Light Media

"Heather has critiqued a number of my picture book manuscripts--and I couldn't be more satisfied. Her comments are thorough and insightful and straightforward--a gift for any of us who have walked away from a critique with more questions than answers!" - Terry H., Children's Book Writer

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Monster List of Picture Book Agents - Stephanie Fretwell-Hill, Red Fox Literary

5/15/2016 - Stephanie is CLOSED to unsolicited submissions. Red Fox agents only consider submissions through industry referrals or conferences at which they present. Stephanie is scheduled to participate in #PBPitch on 6/16/2016.

Red Fox Literary has a new agent! Stephanie Fretwell-Hill started her career selling foreign rights for Walker Books Ltd. and also worked as an acquiring editor at Peachtree Publishing. You can read her full bio on the Red Fox Literary About Us page.

Red Fox agents are normally closed to unsolicited submissions but Stephanie is open for a limited time. If you want to submit your work to Stephanie you will need to do so by July 25, 2016. Update: As of 4/25/16 Stephanie has already gotten over 4,000 submissions! She will now be closing to submissions on 5/15/2016. Please do check the Red Fox Literary Submission Guidelines to make sure that date has not changed before you submit.

The Red Fox Literary Press Release about Stephanie joining the agency has some great information in it.

Although she is new to agenting, there is a bit more good information around the web to help you make the decision as to whether or not Stephanie might be the right agent to submit your work to:

Kathy Temean has a great interview with Stephanie about her agenting style, what she is looking for as an agent, and more. You will definitely want to read this one. Bonus: Stephanie will be doing first page critiques on Kathy's blog. Submissions need to be in by April 21st. The post will be up on April 29th.

Stephanie is on Facebook and has some public posts on her page that might help you get to know her tastes.

You can follow her on Twitter @SFretwellHill

Writer's Digest did a New Agent Alert that is repetitive if you've read the other links here, but it does lay out what Stephanie is looking for quick-style.

You can find Stephanie's profile on LinkedIn.

There are a couple of quick tips from Stephanie at this post about the Blue Ridge Writer's Conference at Write Naked. (Scroll down to under the second photo.)

There's some comments on Querytracker regarding Stephanie's response time. You have to join to be able to read them, but it's free.

Alright, this is digging deep. I found a link to an old blog of Stephanie's. If you have a food manuscript she just might dig it. ;) (I put the link to the profile so you can see it for yourself. Website 1 does not work. Website 2 does.)

Okay everyone, do remember that submitting to Stephanie has a deadline! A new agent such as Stephanie can be a great opportunity as she is building her list. Good luck!

This post is part of the Monster List of Picture Book Agents. If you have an additions or changes you think should be made to this listing please contact me or leave them in the comments. Thanks!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Some Picture Book Writing Tips

I've come across a few good sites with some helpful picture book writing tips as of late, so I wanted to pass them along. I know so many of you reading my blog are working hard on your picture book manuscripts!

Author Josh Funk has put together a Guide to Writing Picture Books that breaks the important parts of picture book writing into short, easy to digest posts. I know that a lot of you like to write in rhyme so be sure to check out Don't Write in Rhyme where Josh point out many of the common rhyming mistakes. You can also find loads of good rhyming tips at RhyPiBoMo like this one on multi-syllabic ending rhyming words by agent Sally Apokedac.

Mem Fox has so many great books. I happened upon her website and found that she has a whole bunch of hints for writers. She has 4 links in the sidebar on the page. Her hints are nice and straightforward. Love them!

I also really enjoyed DON'T DO IT! - how Not to write a picture book by Malachy Doyle on the Picture Book Den blog. Funny post title but true enough!

It can be good to take a break and refresh your picture book writing knowledge with posts like these and then dive back into writing. I myself am off to dive into picture book revisions again now.

When you think you are ready for new eyes on your manuscript check out my Critique Services. I love helping new and seasoned picture book writers and can always make time for a picture book critique!