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.
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