by Annie Romano
Form submissions such as Query Manager have become the new normal for writers submitting to agents. Fading are the days of email queries (though some agents still accept them). At a glance, it seems like completing a submission form is straightforward: Fill in the blanks. Easy, right? But there are common missteps that might create a negative impression for agents before they even read your sample pages.
What follows is a walk-through of the most encountered submission form features with notes on common errors or shaky habits. Avoiding these missteps will help your submission present as professional and polished. (Note: Since agents can customize their forms, only the most common fill-in-the-blank features are covered here. Also, agents have their own style of considering submissions. Some read the query letter first; others jump right into the sample pages. These are simply tips to help you ensure your submission shines.)
WORD COUNT: Approximate word count is fine. If your word count is 97,256 words, 97,000 will suffice. This isn’t a make-or-break issue by any means; just something to be aware of.
GENRE: This IS important. Writers sometimes try to fit a genre that agents don't accept into their inbox by choosing another category. For instance, I do not represent science fiction, so there’s no “Science Fiction” option in my genre dropdown menu, but I’ll often get submissions for this genre submitted under the “General Fiction” category. Once I read that query/pages and it becomes clear the manuscript is sci-fi, I’m not going to accept it. And it’s not because it’s not well-written; it’s because I don’t represent sci-fi. It’s simply not in my wheelhouse, and writers should want their work represented by someone who knows the market for their genre and is familiar with what editors are seeking for that particular category.
QUERY LETTER: Yes, it’s a form, and yes, you clicked this specific agent’s link and typed in your name in the spaces above, but the query letter should still be a letter. In other words, it should be addressed to someone. (Some agents might not care about this detail, but to me it shows you’re taking care with your submission.) Include the agent's name: Dear “X,” and be sure it’s the correct name! Even with a form link, I still get query letters addressed to other agents. In the body of your query letter, provide your pitch/hook, brief book/project description, and any biographical information that is relevant to your writing (some agents have a separate section for your bio). If you don’t have any specific writing credentials or publications to include here, consider mentioning the inspiration for your story or why you're querying that particular agent (i.e., because they’re seeking “x” genre or because they represent books similar in tone to yours). A simple statement indicating you’ve researched an agent’s interests goes a long way in helping your query stand out.
SYNOPSIS: A synopsis should be approximately one page in length (single-spaced) and should give an overview of the storyline. It should include spoilers. If I receive a fiction synopsis that’s slightly longer than a page, that doesn’t bother me. But if it’s clear the writer doesn’t know how to write a synopsis (i.e., the synopsis is only a few sentences, or it's twelve pages long with character sketches and a chapter-by-chapter breakdown), that leads me to question the writer’s preparedness. Writing a synopsis can be challenging, which is why a solid effort is impressive. If you’re not sure how to write a novel synopsis, do some research and educate yourself on it before submitting. For picture book writers, one brief paragraph should suffice (though I do not represent PBs, so check individual agent websites for their specific guidelines). If you're submitting an adult nonfiction book proposal, chapter summaries/outlines are acceptable, but again, be sure to check individual agent websites for submission preferences/guidelines.
SAMPLE: Regardless of whether the agent has included an upload link or asks that you paste in your sample pages, be sure to include only the page count the agent requests (though most agents don’t mind if you round up or down to the closes section/chapter break). Do not paste 20 pages if the agent asks for five. It shows a lack of respect for the agent’s guidelines. Also, sample pages should begin with the opening pages of your manuscript (or full picture book manuscript) unless otherwise indicated.
PITCH: Yes, you probably included this in your query letter, and the form can often feel redundant, but consider this an opportunity to recapture the agent’s attention. Make sure it’s compelling and catchy. Some agents do not care for hypothetical questions as a pitch, so consider rephrasing if your pitch is formatted as a question. Also, read the prompt carefully. If the agent asks for a one-sentence pitch, give one sentence. If they ask for a paragraph, be sure that’s what you include.
SIMILAR TITLES: Don’t leave this blank unless it’s optional. If you included comp titles in your letter, simply retype the comp titles in this section. Some authors do not include them in their query, so this question is an agent’s way of ensuring the writer provides them. This prompt shows the agent that the writer has considered the market and where their manuscript sits within it. Writing something like, “nothing compares to my novel,” “I couldn’t think of any,” or “my idea is completely original” isn’t the best way to approach this section. The “similar titles” question isn’t insinuating that your manuscript isn’t unique; it shows that you understand there are categories and genres in publishing and that you are informed regarding where your book would sit on the shelves.
TARGET AUDIENCE: This is another way for the agent to gauge your understanding of your manuscript’s appeal. If you’ve written a horror novel dripping with violent scenes and gore, stating it will appeal to children might raise some eyebrows. Of course, that’s an extreme example, but take care to give this prompt some careful thought. Stating your rom-com will appeal to readers of Emily Henry or those who enjoy Nora Ephron films is a solid, sensible response. Stating that your book is “perfect for everyone who loves to read” indicates an unrealistic expectation of your book's appeal.
Adhering to an agent’s guidelines and thoughtfully responding to all the sections of their query form will go a long way in showing your effort and respect for the submission process and will help your query stand out from the many submissions agents receive each week.
You’ve put in the time and effort to submit a polished, professional query, and now you wait. When you receive a response, hopefully it’s a request. “I’d love to see the full!” is the message writers dream of reading. When that isn’t the case, a form letter is the usual response. Below is a note about the dreaded form rejection. It won’t erase the sting they deliver, but hopefully it will offer some perspective.
FORM RESPONSES: We writers tend to be a diligent, detail-oriented bunch, so form letters often send us over the edge. You’ve poured your heart into your manuscript, agonized over your query letter, read dozens of books to find the perfect comp titles, and then…Bam! You receive a form rejection. The nerve! As a writer myself, I understand the frustration with form responses. I receive them, too, and I don’t like them. But as an agent? I understand they’re a necessary evil.
When I started agenting, I was determined to send personalized feedback to all who queried me. I soon found myself drowning under the volume of submissions in my inbox and falling behind at an exorbitant rate because I wanted to include specific feedback in each response. I wanted to prove I had considered every query. It wasn’t long before I had to face facts: if I wanted to reply to everyone (and not have a “no response means no” policy), I’d have to incorporate a form letter for passes. It wasn’t an easy decision, but it was necessary. While this is my opinion, other agents have expressed a similar sentiment: It gives them no pleasure to send form rejections, but it’s the only way to keep up with the volume of queries received while still attending to their other agenting responsibilities. So yes, form rejections are frustrating, but they’re a result of time constraints, not a measure of an agent’s respect for your efforts or talent. Please remember that.
In summary, making it to publication is extremely difficult, but putting your best foot forward when completing an agent’s submission form will help you get there. When you send a submission, celebrate! You’ve written a book! Don’t forget to embrace that accomplishment. Cheers to you and your writing!
Annie Romano is a literary associate with Olswanger Literary. She represents adult fiction and select nonfiction projects. She is also a published children’s book author and one of the founders of 24 Carrot Writing. You can learn more about her at www.anniecroninromano.com.
~ Having an agent isn’t everything
~ Guest blog by Samantha Gassman
In January 2020, I was flying high. After 5 months of querying literary agents with my picture book manuscripts, I had an offer of representation in hand and my first book on submission with publishers. But as the months dragged on, it became clear that my hope of seeing my book in print was not going to happen.
During the course of 12 months, my first manuscript was rejected by 30 publishing houses — big ones, small ones and everything in between.
Here’s what I learned:
1. Rejection doesn’t stop after you have an agent
When I received my first offer of representation, I was equal parts thrilled and relieved. I was ready to be out of the query trenches and into the big time! Instead, I traded in the “your work isn’t the right fit for me” rejections from agents for “It’s cute but I’m afraid it didn’t quite capture my attention as I was hoping. I’m afraid I’m going to have to pass” rejections from editors. Ouch!
Not only do the rejections continue after landing an agent, publisher rejections sting even more. When I was querying agents, I convinced myself it was “just to see what would happen.” Like a schoolchild picking daisy petals: maybe they’d like me, maybe they wouldn’t. But when a publisher rejects your work, they’re saying it’s not worth their time or money to publish your story.
On that note...
2. Acquiring a book is a risk
When a publisher acquires a book, particularly a picture book, the publisher is taking a huge risk on your book’s ability to compete and perform in an over-crowded marketplace. During the acquisition process, there will be a Profit and Loss (P&L) analysis performed by the editor or financial specialist. After all, publishing is a business, not a charity. While writing for children is often portrayed as a whimsical process, if your cute story isn’t worth the manufacturing, design or overhead costs, a publisher will pass.
In my case, the feedback from several editors was exactly that: “The energy is great, but the story doesn’t hit high enough to compete in the market right now.”
3. Agents have a really tough job
Agents get paid when the author gets paid. In other words, after your book is acquired, contracts are signed, advances are paid (or not) and royalties come in. Because publishing is such a slow industry, this means your poor agent doesn’t see any cash for 1–3 years AFTER they sell your book. They weren’t paid to read your query, offer their revisions, or go back and forth with you on edits. They do all of that in hopes that your book will be acquired by a publisher and fly off the shelves. Even then, most agent commissions are only 15–20%. On a $17 hardcover book, that’s only a few bucks.
I will be forever grateful to my first literary agent for her perseverance and patience as we received rejection after rejection. Especially since our agreement was based on her representing this one manuscript, and she had all her figurative eggs in my one basket.
4. Taking a critical eye to your work is important
If you remember nothing else from this post, remember this: Read your manuscript like a publisher. Regardless of what kind of book you’ve written, you must be well- read enough in your genre, age group, etc. to know where your book fits into the market.
What is unique about your book?
Why does there need to be another book on your topic?
What value does it provide the reader?
After the doors to my publishing dreams were closed for this manuscript, I re-read it with the editors’ comments in mind. You know what I found?
They were right.
ARTICHOKIE KARAOKE (great title, right?) is a really cute book. The rhyme style is catchy (similar to Hip Hop Lollipop) and kids would appreciate the premise of being stuck in a boring grocery store with nothing to do. But, as the 30 editors noted in their own way, it is too “slice of life.” The conflict and resolution are too tame, and without the rhyme, the story falls flat. Maybe if I had considered these things before, I could have revised it to be more compelling. Upped the stakes. Increased the friction. Landed the deal.
Take a look at your story as objectively as possible and ask yourself those tough questions before it goes on submission. If you know in your heart it could be better, make it better. There is no need to rush.
Seriously. Don’t rush it.
5. Keep trying
Although my first attempt at being a published author didn't work out, I tried again with another agent in 2020. Just before my rainbow baby was born, my new agent and I received an offer of publication for my picture book, DEAR RAINBOW BABY. It comes out on National Rainbow Baby Day – August 22, 2022, courtesy of Clear Fork Publishing.
P.S. It’s also my rainbow baby’s second birthday that day – how perfect is that!?
After my first book was rejected by 30 publishers, I felt completely deflated. The contract with my first agent was terminated and even though there are still a handful of publishers who never responded, ARTICHOKIE KARAOKE will likely never be traditionally published.
At least, not in its original form. Knowing what I know now, I may dust it off one day and revise it, and try again. Or maybe, elements of the story will find their way into a completely new piece. Or maybe, I’ll borrow the rhyme scheme to write a new story. It doesn’t matter — the point is, we learn more from our failures than our successes.
Don’t give up!
Samantha Gassman is a children's book author, Air Force veteran, military spouse, and mom to two kids and two cats. She is the author of DEAR RAINBOW BABY (Aug 22, 2022) and PEANUT AND BUTTER CUP (2024). Visit Samantha’s website to learn more.
Preorder DEAR RAINBOW BABY here.
~by Amanda Smith
So, you wrote something. And now you wonder what the steps are for getting it published.
First of all, congratulations! Writing on a consistent basis, to the point where you have a book, is a huge accomplishment. (If you want to write children's books and aren't sure where to start, this blog by Kelly is for you.) Writing a book, however, is only the first step. Sending a freshly written manuscript to an agent or publisher would be like asking Paul and Prue to judge a cake after you had only gathered the ingredients.
Here are some basic steps towards publishing:
You need someone else's eyes on your work (not family!). Ideally your critique partners should be up to date on the current market and knowledgeable about writing. They will look at content, structure, plot and character development, language use and, if you need, line editing. It is imperative to have someone else read your work. Sometimes we get so caught up in the excitement of a new project, or have read the same words so many times we don't see the plot holes, unclear details, or glaring mistakes.
Where to find critique partners?
Local writing organizations
Online groups such as Kidlit 411, Storystorm, Children’s Book Authors & Illustrators, 12X12, to name a few.
Craft workshops and courses
If your critique partners are worth their salt, you will receive lots of revision notes. Depending on the depth of the notes, you will have to revise or, in some cases, even rewrite. Regardless of the scope of revisions, you will likely have a couple of critique-revision rounds. Do not skip this step! It is during this phase that your work continues to mature and become the best it can be. It is hugely rewarding to dig deep and polish away the rough edges of your story.
Beta Readers: (Not necessary for picture books)
After critiques and revisions, you need Beta readers, who consist of readers the age of your intended audience or readers deeply familiar with your genre (think teachers, librarians). A beta reader questionnaire is a helpful tool for gathering focused feedback. Another round of revisions will likely follow beta readers.
Once you have completed these steps and you feel that your work is ready to send out, you need to decide whether you want to take the traditional publishing route or explore independent publishing?
The rest of today's post will focus on traditional publishing. Next time we will learn about independent (self) publishing. Make sure you know the pros and cons of each option.
If you choose traditional publishing, you should know that it can take months or even years. Most of the bigger publishers are closed to unsolicited submissions and you need an agent to represent your work.
Some publishing houses however, do accept unagented submissions. Books, such as THE CHILDREN’S WRITER’S & ILLUSTRATOR’S MARKET, can provide guidance as to which publishing houses are open to unagented submissions. Always check the publisher’s website for their latest guidelines.
While you can certainly do research online and through publishing trade journals to find publishers who are open to unagented or unsolicited manuscripts, it is very helpful if you have a more personal contact with an editor at the publishing house. One of the best ways to make this connection is to attend a class or workshop taught by the editor. Also, editors who attend writing conferences will often accept unsolicited submissions from conference attendees for a limited time, so be sure to look into this possibility when attending these events. Always do your research to be sure a specific publisher publishes the genre/age level you write.
A good literary agent will help you polish and edit your story, send submissions to publishing houses, negotiate contracts, and handle advances and royalties. They are super knowledgeable about the industry, and know what editors are seeking. Your agent is your ally and business partner. Therefore it is important to carefully research agents, not only for what genres they represent or what their interests are, but also whether they will be a good match for you. Once you have narrowed down agents you would like to approach, you need to query.
Places to research agents:
SCBWI The Book
Manuscript wishlist (www.manuscriptwishlist.com/)
Publishers Marketplace (https://www.publishersmarketplace.com/)
Some writing websites also offer a treasure trove of information in the form of agent interviews and guest blogs. A few to browse are http://www.literaryrambles.com/, https://www.pbspotlight.com/, and The 12x12challenge
Most agents are active on social media
Acknowledgements of books you have read
A query is a letter in which writers pitch their work and introduce themselves to an agent. It is a business letter that follows a specific form. Stay tuned for a guest blog regarding query letters by the Query Godmother, Kris Asselin, later this month.
Queries are used for picture books, both fiction and nonfiction, as well as all other fiction. Nonfiction writers send a cover letter, proposal with outline, and some writing samples.
Each agent or agency has their own rules regarding submissions. It is very important that you read and follow each specific agency's submission guidelines. Not only does it streamline the process for them, but it also reflects well on you, their future client, and your ability to take direction.
Be prepared for several rounds of querying. If an agent would like to represent you, they will contact you and usually schedule a phone call with you to further discuss the details. Remember, not only is the agent interviewing you to see whether they want to take you on as a client, but you are also interviewing the agent to see whether they will be a good match for you.
Once you have received an offer of representation and contracts have been signed, you and your agent may go through another round of revisions before they submit your manuscript to publishers. There might be several rounds of submissions before you receive an offer for your book.
At this point the process is out of your hands. You have baked your cake to perfection. You've trimmed and filled and frosted. You've decorated and delicately flavored. Editors, acquisition boards, and marketing departments are your proverbial judges, and once your delectable offering hits the right palate, you will get your Hollywood-handshake: A published book!
Guest blog by Sarah Jane Abbott
As a writer myself, I understand the struggle of trying to figure out when a story is “finished.” Is it ready to submit? Or does it just need a few more months of tinkering before it’s ready to be extracted from the bowels of my laptop? The truth is, it’s easy to make little adjustments to a manuscript forever and never send it out. There’s a fine line between putting thoughtful, thorough revision into your manuscript and completely overworking it. So how is one to decide when it’s time to stop tinkering and start querying?
Take A Step Back
One of my best tips is to take a step back for perspective. It’s easy to get so close to a manuscript that objectivity is impossible; if you’ll excuse the cliché, you can’t see the forest for the trees. So put the manuscript away and work on something else. Try not to even think about it for several weeks. Then, when you come back to it, it should feel fresher and you may be able to see it in a way you couldn’t before. Maybe you’ll realize it needs more revision after all. Or maybe, after being away from it, you’ll see that it’s stronger and more polished than you remembered.
Picture books are a unique and special form in literature in that they are often read aloud. I always suggest that authors read their work out loud before finalizing it. This will help you see numerous things: Is the language colorful and engaging? In a rhyming text, do the rhyme, rhythm, and meter flow naturally? Does the pacing move along quickly enough to keep a child’s attention, while allowing time for the plot to develop? If all of these things feel good during read aloud, it’s a positive sign that the manuscript is polished.
Get Feedback from Critique Partners
Another helpful tool to gauge readiness for submission can be input from a trusted critique partner or group. It’s one thing to have a non-writer family member or friend read your work; you’ll often be met with sincere, but vague feedback like, “this is really great!” Peers who are familiar with the world of writing for children specifically will be able to give targeted, constructive feedback on your work. Your critique partners can give their honest opinions about the readiness of the manuscript for submission and, if they think it still needs work, their thoughts on how it can be revised.
The possible pitfall, of course, is taking so much feedback from so many critique partners that you lose your own voice or intention. Maybe you’ve followed several different suggestions and ended up with so many different versions of your manuscript you barely remember the story you were trying to write in the first place. Maybe you’ve written both rhyming and non-rhyming versions, both first and third person narration, in past and present tense. It gets confusing! Or maybe you’ve tinkered and tinkered and even though you think it’s a strong manuscript, you just can’t seem to make yourself press send on any queries.
If you feel stuck, maybe it’s time to bring in a professional. A freelance editor can use their experience and industry knowledge to give you an expert opinion on your manuscript’s readiness for submission as well as what areas need revision. They can read multiple versions and tell you which one they think is the strongest, or help you pull together the best pieces from different iterations of the manuscript to make the heart of your story shine through.
Most of all, the important thing to remember if you’re thinking you’re ready to query is: it’s a big accomplishment just to be at this point! So take a breath, take a step back, and read through that manuscript one more time. Pressing send can be scary, but once you’ve put in the work to polish up a story you’re confident in, it’s an incredibly satisfying feeling to send it out into the world.
Sarah Jane Abbott is an experienced editor who has spent eight years making books for children. She got her start at Simon & Schuster’s Paula Wiseman Books and Beach Lane Books, where she had the pleasure of working with many wonderful authors and illustrators including Samantha M. Clark, Samantha Cotterill, Scott Magoon, Anita Lobel, Alice B. McGinty, and Diane Goode. In 2020, she established Sarah Jane Abbott Editorial, and works with authors and publishers on a wide range of projects. Visit her at sarahjaneabbotteditorial.com or get in touch at email@example.com.
We are thrilled to welcome Rob Broder, co-founder of Ripple Grove Press, to 24 Carrot Writing.
Ripple Grove Press is an independent, family-run children’s book publisher. Their list includes picture books like the award winning Grandmother Thorn, Seb and the Sun, and Monday is Wash Day.
I had the chance to meet Rob at the book launch of Ripple Grove Press’s newest picture book, Iver & Ellsworth. The book was in hot demand and luckily Rob had extra copies in his car!
Ripple Grove Press is looking for its next book and Rob graciously offered to share his thoughts on the submission process from the publisher’s side of the desk.
1. Can you talk about the unique perks and challenges of being a family run independent children’s book publisher?
Since it’s just Amanda and myself doing everything to run Ripple Grove Press, we face challenges with reaching as many bookstores, libraries, and parents as possible. We don’t have a separate marketing team. We are the marketing team. So while reading submissions, promoting our current and backlist titles, communicating with our printer and distributor and working on books for next year, we do wish we had some extra hands helping out. But we love it, and the best perk is finding that next writer and illustrator we are passionate about, who has a wonderful story we resonate with.
2. Querying writers, who are looking for publishers, sometimes forget that publishers are looking for them too! And while groups of writers can often be heard discussing the angst of having a manuscript out on submission, what is the process like for the publisher on the hunt for the next great manuscript?
For us, it’s just going through the hundreds of email submissions we receive a month and finding one that just clicks. Perhaps one where I like the title, I like the first few lines and then I just keep on going.
3. While writers understand that the volume of submissions received by editors makes it unfeasible to respond to every submission, how can a writer know the difference between a complete miss as opposed to a submission that was very close? Writers are willing to put in the work, but sometimes it is hard to know if a submission is just not quite a good fit for a particular editor or if it is in need of major revision.
There have been times where I love the story, but it’s just not for us for some reason. I want to reply to that person and say, “Your story is great. But do you have something else?” or “Keep writing and you’ll get there.”. But I just don’t have the time. And if I reply, it might give the wrong signals to that person. With RGP, as long as the person follows our submission guidelines, I want them to know your story has been read and considered.
4. When you get excited about a manuscript, you are also deciding to get excited about the author. Could you describe the ideal prep work an author should do before submitting to Ripple Grove Press, both in terms of working a draft to a submission ready place and in preparing themselves to be knowledgeable about the industry?
Yes, please be professional. Please be open to editorial suggestions. We become just as passionate as you are about your story and we are working together to make the most beautiful book, the most wonderful story possible. So please have an open mind. Be knowledgeable about children’s picture books. If you don’t read current and old titles, it will show in your writing and your professional etiquette when discussing picture books.
5. Once a writer has revised a manuscript and taken it through a cycle of feedback from critique partners, what other steps can and should an author take to make sure the manuscript is submission ready?
Have a close friend read the story out loud to you. But with emotion. What and where does your
friend think certain words should have emotion. When should they shout, or whisper, and perhaps make your voice sad. It really helps hear where your story should be from another perspective.
6. Sometimes the best way to learn is by example. Can you share examples of opening lines that made you excited to keep reading a submission? And what are some opening lines that made you put the submission down before you finished the manuscript?
If the opening line has a good simple narrative, it usually resonates with me and I want to keep reading.
Like: Ellsworth is a rooftop bear.
Grandmother Thorn lived in the very first house on the very straight road to Shizuoka Village.
Rain or shine, Monday is wash day.
The gentleman bat, with his gentleman’s cane, went out for a walk one night in the rain.
Seb lived in a sleepy coastal town far in the north.
These first lines hooked me. They told me a story before I even continued on with the manuscript.
Opening lines that sometimes make me stop reading are:
Once upon a time . . .
Once there was a . . .
Hi, my name is . . .
Have you ever wondered . . . ?
“Mama, do you love me. Yes, of course I love you.”
(if I see page breaks)
Long ago and far far away . . .
Hi, I'm Clothes Pin and this is my friend Lamp Post.
I just made that up, but hopefully you get what I’m saying.
7. At the end of the day, it’s all about the writing. But, where does the query letter fit in? Do you read it first? Second? What do you really want to see in that query letter and what do you never want to see?
It is all about the writing, so I do go straight to the story. The main reason for that is I don’t have time to read every query and submission together. I wouldn’t get through my pile. If I like your story, I absolutely read your query. I open every submission hoping to say “Yes! This is it!” And sometimes, I get excited about the query because it’s so well-written, but then the manuscript doesn’t have the same feel as the query. I’d like to get excited about your manuscript first, instead of getting excited about your awesome query.
8. Can you share the journeys that brought Iver & Ellsworth and/or Grandmother Thorn from submission discovery to published book?
These two stories came to us through our submission inbox. And when a story gets moved over to our “Lets Discuss” folder, it . . . well… gets discussed. We read it over and over before contacting the author. We read the story to ourselves, we reread it out loud, we read it with the emotion we feel it should have. We talk about alternate endings, even if we don’t change the ending, we always say “what if this happened.” just to see how it sounds. We discuss what type of art we see with this story. We go for walks and visualize how this book might look.
We usually like stories that capture a moment, and both of these stories do. Proud to say, Grandmother Thorn won the 2018 Anna Dewdney Read Together Award Honor.
9. Seb and The Sun is a companion book to Jami Gigot’s debut picture book Mae and the Moon. How is the submission process different for an established author? Does Ripple Grove Press actively look to publish multiple books by the same author?
Mae and the Moon at the time was our best selling and most reviewed book. And when Jami approached us (actually had a celebration drink over Mae and the Moon) about a companion book titled Seb and the Sun, it was just a concept at the time. I boy collects bottles, in a dark coastal town and searchers for the sun. Since we loved working with Jami, we knew how the process was going to be. So we asked for a rough draft and some sketches. It came together beautifully, earning three starred reviews and becoming our most reviewed book to date. So yes, building a strong relationship helps. We know how hard you work to make the book, but it also helps to know how hard you work promoting the book and yourself.
10. In September, Ripple Grove Press is releasing Paul & His Ukulele written by you! How wonderful! What made you decide to become an author? How has the process of writing and publishing your book informed or changed your approach?
I’ve always written a bit here and there over the years. When something comes to me I jot it down. And since starting RGP, I have read so many submissions, that I wrote down a story about a boy who receives a ukulele. Perhaps because I wasn’t seeing a simple ukulele story submitted to us. And when I showed the story to Amanda, she liked it. And when we saw Jenn Kocsmiersky’s portfolio, I said what if Paul was a fox and not an actual boy… and it fit. It worked.
Thank you Rob for sharing your publishing insights with 24 Carrot Writing.
To submit to Ripple Grove Press, please read their books and visit RippleGrovePress.com. Be sure that your manuscript has the intellectual charm that is the hallmark of Ripple Grove Press books. And from now until August 31, 2018, Rob Broder has generously offered to give manuscript submissions from 24 Carrot Writing Facebook members special attention. Please visit the 24 Carrot Writing Facebook page to learn about this kind offer.
Rob has also started a Storybook Consulting service where he has been helping people get their picture book story to where they want it to be. Please visit RobertBroder.com for more info.
To order Ripple Grove Press books please visit www.ipgbook.com/ripple-grove-press-publisher-RGP.php.
Is Your Manuscript Incomparable?
by Kelly Carey
Looking for comparative or comp titles for your manuscript can sometimes seem counterproductive. Editors are looking for unique books and if you are able to provide a list of books just like yours, then how can you argue that your book is original?
If you can find piles of books just like yours in tone, character, plot, theme and narrative quality then perhaps your manuscript lacks that special original spark. The hunt for comp titles can help you assess the originality of your work. No sense wasting time and energy revising and submitting a manuscript that will fall short of publication because editors will say it already sits on the shelf.
But, beware. Readers will always crave books on certain topics and if you have added your own twist and voice to the manuscript, then your manuscript will be unique. See my blog http://www.24carrotwriting.com/-blog/find-your-own-bear for a discussion on originality. The trick with creating fresh manuscripts and finding comp titles is to locate books that share one common thread with your manuscript rather than the entire knitted fabric.
When searching for comp titles consider the following hunting tactics:
It is important to know what you are looking for when you set out to find comp titles, but it is also helpful to know where to look. The best spots to find those elusive comp titles include:
You’ll be glad you did!
Boomerang Submission Strategy
by Kelly Carey
Any writer who has been around the query block once or twice, knows rejections are a part of the process. Getting a rejection can have you shoving that manuscript into a folder far away and out of sight.
Don’t do it!
Instead, employ the Boomerang Submission Strategy. The same day you get those infuriating “thanks but no thanks” replies, send that manuscript back out to the next dream agent and/or editor on your wish list.
That manuscript was a complete, fully revised, and polished piece of work that you submitted with confidence and hope. A single rejection, in fact, I would argue a dozen rejections, should not be enough to warrant a delay in sending the manuscript back out on its journey to publication.
The danger in overreacting to rejection letters is that a single denial can slam your manuscript into an unproductive holding pattern. I’ve done it. After a rejection, I’ve tucked many manuscripts away. My mind set at the time was that I would look at it again after my wounded ego had healed. It was often a shock to run across that folder again and realize that I had let three months or even three years go by before I had considered myself “healed”. Worse, when I have re-read the rejected manuscript I found that I still had confidence in the story. The same confidence that had me submitting it in the first place. Only now, I had wasted months and sometimes years letting the manuscript sit stagnant in a folder.
As an alternative, last year, I started employing the Boomerang Submission Strategy. As soon as a submitted manuscript came back, I sent it right back out again.
A few caveats. First, this strategy works only if you have fully vetted and revised your story before you’ve sent it out. Do your revisions. Seek out advice from a critique partner and/or critique group, preferably more than one group and more than a single read. Second, this strategy is most effective when the rejection letters that come back are form letters with very little or no actual constructive advice. Things like “it doesn’t fit our list at this time” or “it didn’t resonate enough with me” are not really red flags for surrender or an indication of the need for a major rewrite. Finally, you need to be precise when you toss your boomerang ...er... I mean manuscript out into the publishing world. Choose your target agents and editors carefully, check out their wish lists, read their submission requirements, and be sure your manuscript is hitting the mark. Don't fling with reckless abandon, but with the skill and precision of a professional writer.
If the denial letter is detailed and offers true constructive advice, you can pause and consider. BUT do not attempt a massive revision after a single negative comment unless your writing self, to the core, feels the strength of the advice. That said, I would recommend setting a tight time-frame on how long you will hold onto your manuscript before you put it out on submission again. Give yourself a week or maybe a month and then Boomerang!
Letting a story languish in a folder simply because it hasn’t yet found its ideal agent and/or editor is a colossal waste of time. So try the Boomerang Submission Strategy and let your manuscript fly!
From Flashlight to Spotlight
By Amanda Smith
So, you have been writing and revising and polishing and editing. You also attended an SCBWI conference or two, and printed out the highly coveted faculty submission guidelines. You poured over editor and agent names, highlighted deadlines, and bookmarked MSWL. And then you stuffed the guidelines in the bottom drawer along with your manuscripts, and climbed under the covers with a flashlight and a book. Because putting your precious story OUT THERE is just too much.
Or life got too busy. It was spring, and then the school year ended, and then it was summer, and then the school year started, and phew! And now you’ve missed all the deadlines. Oh, well, next year after the conference you will do better.
Make a plan. Today. Because your beautiful story, your heart spilled onto the page, will never ever see the light of day if you don’t send out those submissions. Lots and lots of submissions. And if you don’t cowboy up and deal with those rejections. Lots and lots of rejections. And keep on sending out submissions until you get the call or the email. And then there’ll be dancing. But first. Submissions.
So, here’s my plan: (Because yeah, this is totally me.)
No more excuses. This year, grasp the wonderful opportunities provided by SCBWI. Put the flashlight down, creep out from under the covers, and send your stories out into the big wide world of publishing. We promise, we will hold your hand when the rejections come in. But one day you’ll get the call. And then there’ll be dancing! Lots and lots of dancing.
Downloadable pdf files:
It’s How You Say It
~ by Amanda Smith
As I prepared my yearly goals for 2017, I studied my 2016 goals, asking myself which goals I met and why. More importantly I pondered which I goals eluded me, and why. In Take Control of your Goals in the New Year, Annie blogged about setting goals that are within your power. Her aggressive 2016 goals were hard to accomplish because of factors beyond her control.
Some of my goals for last year, were sunk by, wait for it... phrasing. I aimed for 50 rejections during the year. Having heard of other writers who set this goal, I figured aiming for rejections would motivate me to submit more queries. It worked for the first two months, until those rejections started pouring in. All I could think was, “Ten more months of this?!” The rejections completely stopped me in my querying tracks. For months, I sent NO queries, even though I had multiple submission-ready Picture Book manuscripts. What I thought was a cutesy, fun, roundabout goal, turned out to be a complete switch-off. Collecting rejections might spur on some writers. I am not that writer.
This year my writing goals include very specific submission goals: To send novel queries out in batches of 10 during certain months. I took into account school vacations and busy times of the year to determine which months I will send out these queries. This goal focuses on the part of the process that is my responsibility. My ultimate goal is, after all, to get yesses. Of course, there will be rejections, but my goal still highlights progress, and requires action from me.
This year, as you set your writing and submission goals consider the following:
THE QUERY TRENCHES: ONE TOUGH PLACE
By Annie Cronin Romano
If you’ve trudged through the trenches of querying your book, you may have picked up on that miniscule yet significant detail that it’s ONE DAMN TRYING PROCESS! Yes, querying has been known to take down many an aspiring Austen or Dr. Seuss or J.K. Rowling. Querying, be it to agents or editors, is not a task for the feeble. So, if you don’t get an agent or editor after a few rounds of queries, you should simply find another passion to fill your heart with joy, right? No. No. NO!
As you may have heard before, and as I heard repeated several times at this past weekend’s outstanding NESCBWI Spring Conference, most writers swim against the current through waves of “no” to reach that one “yes.” Of course, there are always those I-landed-a-book-deal-with-my- first-submission stories (Gag! I mean...I’m so happy for you), but for most writers, querying requires persistence and patience, that same persistence and patience you tap into when crafting your stories. And if you’ve polished that story until it sparkles, done your research, followed the guidelines, and can tread water through the rejections, the yes will come.
This past March while reading picture book after picture book for ReFoReMo (Reading for Research Month), it became quite clear to me that there were far more books I didn’t love than books I did love. That is not to say the books I didn’t love were poorly written. Many were extremely good, but they didn’t strike a chord with me. It comes down to personal taste. And the ones that did strike a chord? It’s like hearing your favorite song performed live for the first time, and you’re in the front row! You’re in awe. Blown away. You want to hear that song again and again.
I finally got it. That’s how the agents feel. That’s how the editors feel. A “no” on a query (or even a full submission) does not mean your book is bad. But people in publishing get hundreds of queries a month. Your story must strike awe in their literary hearts. It must blow them away. They must want to read it again and again (and they’ll have to if they take you on). And they all have their own personal tastes. Of those books I read during ReFoReMo, there were only a smidgen that struck that chord in me. I liked many of the books, but I only loved a select few of them. If I were an agent, there were only a few for which I’d be willing to swim against the current to reach that magical bookshelf at the end of the publishing rainbow. I finally got it.
Querying is tough. The rejections are even tougher. But when that “yes” finally comes, you’ll have an ally who truly loves and has faith in your story. And you’ll only get there if you have faith in yourself, if you stay strong and don’t give up.
Write. Rewrite. Research. Query. Again and again and again until that “YES.” Your reward will be a passionate advocate for your story. And you’ll discover you’re stronger than you realized.
Got a querying success story? Please share it with us!
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