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ALL ABOUT PLATFORM BUILDING V2This month’s ALL ABOUT PLATFORM BUILDING SERIES guest blogger is the sensational and talented Tara Lazar. Thank you for sharing your wisdom with us, Tara. Just a quick note about Picture Book Idea Month (PiBoIdMo). PiBoIdMo is a free November writing challenge for picture book writers and illustrators. The object is to jot down one picture book concept daily. By the end of the month you’ll have at least 30 bright & shiny new ideas! You can then refer to these ideas throughout the year to jumpstart your creativity and write new manuscripts. Registration begins October 25 and ends November 4.

YOU ARE YOUR PLATFORM

by Tara Lazar

An author platform cannot live by social media alone.

You already know this, right? While it’s great to have a popular blog, witty Facebook page or oft-followed Twitter feed, social media does not equal your author platform.

Author Brook Warner outlined this so well for SheWrites.com last month—reminding those of us who remain slave to our blog that we need not be so post-obsessed. Your social media presence, while increasingly important, especially to sales and marketing professionals at publishers, is not your entire author platform. It’s only a small piece of it.

Remember, YOU are your platform. Your books. Your personality. Your message. For what do you want to be known? It should be shared through a variety of outlets, not just via an animated-gif Tumblr.

That being said, I suppose you’re wondering how I built my blog to reach over 4,000 followers?

It was all a lucky accident. I founded a writing event that touched a nerve with those passionate about picture books. Maybe you’ve heard of it? It’s PiBoIdMo—or Picture Book Idea Month.

piboidmo2014

The popularity of this 30-ideas-in-30-days challenge has grown steadily from 100 participants in 2009 to nearly 1200 in 2013. This year? It’s anybody’s guess, but I’m planning on welcoming 1500 folks to the fun.

But it’s not like I planned all this carefully. When I founded PiBoIdMo, I wasn’t thinking about throngs of people clicking on my blog. There was no plan for writing-world dominance. I was just jealous of NaNoWriMo participants and wanted something to do in November! I thought maybe a dozen people would join me! I had no idea it would become what it has. Listen, it’s not my fault. I was just being ME.

And that’s really what your platform is all about. As an author, you’re a personality. Why should people read your books? Why should they invite you to speak? What do you stand for? (The band Fun. asks this question repeatedly on my radio.) You should have a message and certain je-ne-sais-qua that engages an audience.

So I’ve built an event for writers, attracted writers, and therefore continue to serve this audience via social media.

But is this the right audience for me? Truth be told, as a picture book author, my desired audience is comprised of librarians, school teachers, and parents/family/caregivers of young children. A writing event doesn’t appeal to this group. I’m like Michael Keaton in Mr. Mom: “You’re doing it wrong.”

However, PiBoIdMo has become part of who I am as an author and a person. I enjoy inspiring writers to create great literature for children. I share this message on my blog but also via appearances at conferences and literacy events. I donate PiBoIdMo proceeds to Reading is Fundamental. monstorecover800Bear Book final coverAnd I write books that I hope children will love—quirky, off-beat, laugh-out-loud books. Books that I wish I had when I was a kid.

Let’s go back to the platform question: For what do I want to be known? Primarily, I want to be known for writing great books for kids. But if you look at my platform, I’m probably more well-known for PiBoIdMo than anything else. So platform is a tricky thing. Be sure you are creating something that really reflects you and what you ultimately want to accomplish.

PiBoIdMo really is who I am, though. I like making other people happy. Perhaps that’s my message, my legacy as an author. Whether it’s a child reading my book, a parent enjoying time with their child, or a writer getting a burst of inspiration, I hope what I do spreads joy.

Joy!

What better platform is there?

taranewblogpic2014ABOUT TARA

Street magic performer. Hog-calling champion. Award-winning ice sculptor. These are all things Tara Lazar has never been. Instead, she writes quirky, humorous picture books featuring magical places that adults never find. Her debut THE MONSTORE was released in June 2013, with I THOUGHT THIS WAS A BEAR BOOK and LITTLE RED GLIDING HOOD to follow in 2015. She’s the founder of PiBoIdMo, Picture Book Idea Month, an annual November writing challenge. Tara lives in New Jersey with her husband, two daughters, and far too many stuffed animals.

To learn more about Tara, her books, and Picture Book Idea Month, visit her blog.

ALL ABOUT PLATFORM BUILDING V2It’s been a while since I’ve posted. I’ve been away regrouping in preparation for my upcoming blog series on platform building. I’ve also been busy with my critique service. I’ve added many more testimonials to my website, and I’m working on some new ideas and services. I continue to plug away at my picture book and chapter book writing and edits with my fingers crossed that some of them will soon meet with Erzsi’s approval, and the submission fun will begin.

Speaking of submissions, before I move on with my DON’T BE AFRAID TO FALL post and my announcement about my new blog series, I want to thank the ALL ABOUT SUBMISSIONS team for sharing so much of themselves during the series. Thank you: Cindy Williams Schrauben, Elaine Kiely Kearns, Heather Ayris Burnell, Julie Falatko, Kirsti Call, Marcie Flinchum Atkins, Sophia Mallonée, Sylvia Liu, Teresa Robeson. Your posts continue to help writers who visit my blog.

When it comes to submissions or the business of writing, it can sometimes seem much easier to get discouraged than encouraged. Today, I offer some food for thought about discouragement, or perceived failure. I’ve had the following piece in my collection for many, many years. I’m guessing since the early seventies. You can tell it’s old because of the people and events mentioned. I’m sure we could find some remarkable statistics on more current people. But what really matters is the message. I’ve modified the piece slightly and interjected a little in parenthesis.

FALLINGDON’T BE AFRAID TO FALL

Author unknown

 You’ve failed many times, although you may not remember. You fell down the first time you tried to walk. You almost drowned the first time you tried to swim, didn’t you?

Did you hit the ball the first time you swung a bat? Heavy hitters, the ones who hit the most home runs, also strike out a lot. Babe Ruth struck out 1,330 times, but he also hit 714 homeruns.

R.H. Macy failed seven times before his store in New York caught on. (Macy’s now has 800 stores. They are in every major geographic market in the United States plus their Macy’s.com website.) English novelist, John Creasey, got 752 rejection slips before he published 564 books. (I’ve read elsewhere that it took him 14 years to sell his first story, and he wrote 600 books, using 28 pseudonyms.)

Don’t worry about failure. Worry about THE CHANCES YOU MISS WHEN YOU DON’T EVEN TRY.

ANNOUNCING MY NEW BLOG SERIES 

ALL ABOUT PLATFORM BUILDING

In the ALL ABOUT PLATFORM BUILDING series, ten awe-inspiring social media mavens will share their key lessons or tips for building strong, engaging, and of course, successful social media platforms. I’m excited about this series because I think it will be a great service to the writing community. I’m also excited to have the opportunity to work with each of these phenomenal women. I am so proud to be able to feature them on my blog. One of the many things that I love about this series is each team member has developed a unique platform. I believe that the guest posts will be as unique as each of these talented people and their successful platforms. I expect that their posts will show others that ingenuity and the thing that all writers have, creativity, is the key to a strong platform.

piboidmo2014In celebration of the quickly approaching Sixth Annual Picture Book Idea Month and her upcoming picture books I THOUGHT THIS WAS A BEAR BOOK and LITTLE RED GLIDING HOOD, the one and only Tara Lazar will kick off the series on October 25.

It is also my pleasure to introduce the rest of the team:

Elaine Kiely Kearns and Sylvia Liu – Children’s Book Authors, Founders of KIDLIT411, and more

Heather Ayris Bernell – Children’s Book Author, Founder of Sib It Club, and more

Julie Hedlund – Children’s Book Author and Founder of the 12 x 12 Writing, and more

Katie Davis – Author, Founder of Brain Burps about Books, Video Boot Camp, Author, and more

Marcie Flinchum Atkins – Children’s Book Author, Queen of Teaching about Mentor Texts for Writers and Teachers

Michelle Lynn Senters – Children’s Writer and Founder of Kids are Writers

Miranda Paul – Children’s Book Author, Founder of Rate Your Story, and more

Susanna Leonard Hill – Children’s Book Author and Founder of Making Picture Book Magic, and more

See you in a few weeks.

sub six series 2

The ALL ABOUT SUBMISSIONS series is winding down. Only two more posts before we move on. The final guest bloggers will be Emma Walton Hamilton and Julie Hedlund. They will be joining together to talk about submissions. Beginning in the fall, a team of platform building, awe inspiring, social media mavens will share their knowledge and tips in a Platform Building series as guest bloggers. I will be sharing their names next month. Also in the fall, I will be adding more testimonials and some new advanced plans to my critique service, so keep an eye out for announcements.

Today, author and creator of Sub It Club, Heather Ayris Burnell, shares her tips on writing query and cover letters. A big thank you to Heather for her words of wisdom and for taking the time to write this post.

 

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CREATE A GREAT INTRODUCTION: QUERY AND COVER LETTERS

By Heather Ayris Burnell

 

Query and cover letters—lots of writers dread them, but I say embrace those words! Your letter is your chance to talk about the manuscript you’ve worked so hard on. It’s time to think like a sales team and feature your work, and yourself, in the best light possible. Nope, no bragging is necessary, or even advisable.

Don’t stress out! Remember, query and cover letters are business letters. Your one-page letter is an introduction to your manuscript and you. Whether you’re sending in an unsolicited submission, submitting after a conference, or following up on a request, you’re going to need one. Make your letter easy to read and to the point. Agents and editors don’t have time to wade through a bunch of fluff to get to what they need to know.

Let’s get down to business!

COVER LETTER OR QUERY LETTER, WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?

These two letters can be very similar, but at the most basic:

A QUERY LETTER asks if you can send the work for consideration. It hooks the reader in a clear, concise manner, ideally making the reader want to request the manuscript.

The COVER LETTER is sent with the manuscript. It teases, making the reader want to move on and read those manuscript pages.

THE BASIC PARTS

HOOK – Sell your story in one short paragraph. (My hook is usually 1-3 sentences long.)

SUMMARY – Give your genre and word count. Expound on your story if needed. This is a great place to show what makes your manuscript unique.

BIO – This is about you. Publication credits, memberships to writing organizations, or work in an area that has to do with books can be great things to put in your bio. Unique experience or qualifications that have to do with the subject of your manuscript can be of interest as well.

If you don’t have anything, it’s okay! Don’t force it. Saying your kids love the story or simply talking about yourself in general isn’t likely to help sell you as a writer. A bio is not a 100% requirement in your letter. If you wow someone with your hook, it won’t matter much what your bio says.

I have read of agents who like to see all sorts of things in bios from the fact that you belong to a critique group to clueing them in on your online presence. But, there are definitely preferences on this. It is always a must to research whomever you are querying! Often times, you’ll discover partialities. If not, go with your gut.

Just be sure to keep your bio short and to the point!

PERSONALIZATION – Why did you choose to send this particular letter about this particular manuscript to this particular person? From something you learned via Twitter that made you choose to submit to comparable books you found while doing research, personalization can be tough, but it can go a long way and shows you are dedicated and educated in your craft.

Again, don’t force it. Personalization is not a 100% requirement. A factitious reason for submitting your work is worse than none at all.

CLOSING – Thank the person reading the letter for their time. Tell them what’s enclosed (cover letter) or ask if you can send the manuscript (query letter).

THE FORMAT

Letters should be one page or less, usually consisting of 3-4 paragraphs, the shorter and more concise the better, of course.

What is the #1 most important thing that the person you’re sending your letter to should read? That is what you want at the top, first paragraph.

If you have a connection from a conference or contest, a manuscript request, or just a really great reason for asking for your work to be considered, putting it front and center can grab the reader’s attention and keep them reading on.

Just have a regular reason for submitting, such as thinking your book might fit their style? Starting off with your hook right from the beginning is a great way to go.

Either way, get to the point. You have seconds to grab a busy agent or editor’s attention with your letter.

DO:

Show not tell. Just like in your manuscript. Create a visual for the reader.

Keep your letter to one page.

Learn the correct format for both paper and email queries.

Address your letter to an actual person. There is a rare .001% of the time, usually at publishing houses, where you cannot find a name of any actual person or are even told to sub to “The Editors”. It’s okay to do this if you absolutely have to.

Have someone else look over your letter. The person you’re submitting to won’t know your story. You want it to be clear to someone who doesn’t know it like you do. Getting your letter critiqued will help you make a strong presentation.

Proofread your query more than once before sending. Reading out loud helps catch mistakes.

Submit to more than one agent or publisher at a time (unless an exclusive is specified in the guidelines). Hearing back on submissions can take a very long time. Keep moving forward!

DON’T:

Write your query as your character.

Worry about the type of paper you use for mailed submissions. Clean, white printer paper is fine. If you want to spend more on high quality paper that’s fine too, just don’t use colored or patterned paper. It’s your letter you want them to take note of!

Resend your query because of a tiny mistake you didn’t catch before you sent it.

Waffle. Know your story. Your genre. For example, don’t offer to change your picture book to a chapter book. If changes are wanted, they will be asked for.

Put sticky notes, photos, or any other sort of extra to “personalize” your query. Everything the reader needs to know to make a decision should be in your letter.

REMEMBER

Creating your letter takes time. Most likely more time than you feel it should! Personalizing each submission takes time. Don’t rush it. You only have one chance to submit your work to someone; you want to make the best presentation possible.

Studying letters that worked is helpful when creating a great query or cover. There are many variations, but one thing stays true, the letter serves to sell the story. Check out the Query Letters That Worked at Sub It Club for some examples of letters that sold manuscripts.

You’ve worked hard to create the best manuscript you can. You need to work just as hard on your query letter. You can do it, you are a writer!

Heather Ayris BurnellABOUT HEATHER

Heather Ayris Burnell loves writing query letters and she loves helping others with them, that’s why she created Sub It Club where they talk about all things subbing and share cover and query letter critiques in their private Facebook group. She also does query and picture book critiques, as well as private consulting with writers to help them figure out the ins and outs of publishing, submitting in particular. She is the author of BEDTIME MONSTER published by Raven Tree Press and is represented by Sean McCarthy Literary Agency.

BedtimeMonster

You can find Heather on her blog,  where she curates the Monster List of Picture Book Agents, on Twitter @heatherayris, and on Facebook.

BONUS LINKS FROM ALAYNE

Note: These days,  many people use the term “query letter” for both a “true” query letter and a cover letter. As Heather pointed out, technically, there is a difference. Make sure when you read the following posts that you are researching the one you really need for your submission.

Heather’s blog post on Picture Book  Manuscript Formatting

Harold Underdown Query Letters That Worked and Cover Letters and Query Letters

Writing Picture Books for Children Writing a Cover Letter and Sample Cover Letter

Rob Sanders Hovering Over Cover Letters

Query Shark Revising Query Letters so the Actually Work

Kathleen Temean Successful Query Letters and Writing Examples

Children’s Atheneum Query Letter Woes or Writing an Honest Query Letter

Carol Brendler (Emu’s Debuts) The Only Way to Write a Query Letter

Writer Unboxed, Chuck Sambuchino, Query Letter FAQs

Jessica Schmeider Query Workshop part 2 of 5 –  Find Links to the whole query workshop here

KIDLIT411.com Submissions: Agents and Editors

 

 

sub six series 2

 

A big thank you to Vivian Kirkfield for sharing her thoughts on manuscript submissions with us today.

 

 

TRYING BACK DOORS: A FEW THOUGHTS ABOUT SUBMITTING TO

SMALL PRESS PUBLISHERS

by Vivian Kirkfield

 

Did you ever lock yourself out of your house? Back in 1996, we arrived at our new home in Colorado Springs, having driven 2000 miles from Connecticut. We climbed out of the car, walked up to the front door of our new house, and quickly realized we had packed the keys in one of the many boxes that were being transported by the moving company. They would not arrive for several days.

Fortunately, I was able to get in the back door. Well, sort of. There was a dog door at the back of the house. I’m pretty small, so I scrambled through the flap and ran around to unlock the front door for the rest of the family.

There are a couple of ‘back doors’ in the publishing world as well, and writers can sometimes find success using them. I’d like to share a couple of thoughts that might be helpful to all of you.

SMALL PRESSES

A small press publisher can be a good place to start your climb to the top of the publishing pile. There are thousands of small press publishers in North America alone. Of course, you still need to do your homework: check their reputation, check their submission guidelines, research their book list to target your submission, and only send your work when it is the best it can be.

What are the advantages of working with a small press publisher?

  1. You may get much more personal attention because a small-press editor works with fewer writers and can afford to take a personal interest in each book.
  2. Small presses are less numbers-driven and more interested in quality.
  3. Many small presses specialize in a niche market. Your queries can be focused much more precisely, and you can often find a publisher who is a perfect fit for your book.
  4. A small press may be able to afford to keep a relatively large backlist. Your book will stay in print longer, maybe even for years, providing a lot more time for word-of-mouth to take effect.

What are the disadvantages of working with a small press publisher?

  1. Small presses only publish a limited number of new titles each year, some only one or two.
  2. Small presses cannot afford to market your book the way a larger publisher can. They list it in their catalog, but tours, signings, and any other marketing will probably be up to you, the author. However, these days, even major publishing houses do not spend very much in marketing dollars for unknown authors. If you want your book out there, you will have to hustle it yourself.
  3. Small presses do not have the distribution capability of major houses. The large book wholesalers, like Baker and Taylor or Ingram, don’t carry many small press titles and the superstores usually only buy from these major distributors.
  4. Most small presses operate on very tight budgets and unforeseen problems can sometimes push a small press into bankruptcy. If you decide to sign with a small publisher, make sure you have a contract provision that allows you to reclaim the rights to your manuscript.

How to Approach a Small Press Publisher

I had an interesting experience with a small press this past year. One of my manuscripts seemed to be a good fit for a small niche publisher. I did some research and found them on Facebook and left a comment about how I was going to submit something to them. There was an immediate response and an invitation to submit, which I did. About two months later, I received a lovely email from the acquisitions editor, encouraging me to revise the story and resubmit it. Unfortunately, by the time I revised and resubmitted it, the editorial staff had been reorganized, my contact was no longer there, and they were no longer interested in the manuscript. But I’ve sent it on to several other places. I won’t cross my fingers because I am too busy writing and revising more manuscripts.

Here are a couple of submission tips for small presses and niche publishers:

  1. Know what they publish.  Don’t query a regional nature manuscript to a press that publishes stories about military families.
  2. Read and follow their submission guidelines to the letter and prepare your submission package carefully.
  3. Be patient. Be courteous. Be considerate.
  4. If you don’t have an agent to represent you, make sure you know what you are signing away and what you are getting.

And here are some online resources to get you started:

Fantastic article from Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Association for EVERY writer who is submitting to agents or to editors. It includes important links to check out both publishers and agents: http://www.sfwa.org/other-resources/for-authors/writer-beware/small/

Agent Query — http://www.agentquery.com/publishing_ip.aspx

Literary Market Place — http://www.literarymarketplace.com/lmp/us/index_us.asp (free registration required)

Bonus link from Alayne: From Writer’s Digest – THE PROS AND CONS OF PUBLISHING WITH A SMALL PUBLISHER by Brian Klems —  http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/the-pros-and-cons-of-publishing-with-a-small-publisher

 

I wish you all the best of luck with whatever submissions you bravely put out there this year.

I’d like to thank Alayne for the opportunity to participate in the ALL ABOUT SUBMISSIONS series.

 

About VivPicture 054 Bian

Vivian Kirkfield loves being surrounded by picture books and children. A former kindergarten teacher, she has a master’s in early childhood education…and when she isn’t scribbling stories, she is hiking and fly-fishing with her hubby, reading, crafting, cooking with kids, and sharing self-esteem and literacy tips with parents. Although she is not a fan of heights and was always a rather timid child, Vivian is constantly taking leaps of faith. In 2010, she self-published her award-winning parenting resource, Show Me How! Build Your Child’s Self-Esteem Through Reading, Crafting and Cooking. Three years ago, she went skydiving with her son. In May of 2013, she flew half-way around the globe to speak at the 2013AFCC/SCBWI conference in Singapore, and she is amassing a respectable pile of picture book manuscript rejections. To learn more about her mission to help every child become a lover of books and reading, you can follow her on Twitter, connect with her on Facebook, like her Show Me How page on Facebook, visit her blog at Picture Books Help Kids Soar or contact her by email.

book pic from wordpress blog

 

 

Summer SparksThis week my guest post CAUSE AND EFFECT is being featured in the Summer Sparks challenge hosted by Tracey Cox. There is some great information, so I hope you will give it a look.

Also, here is the link to the top viewed post on my blog this year. USING CHARACTER-DRIVEN PICTURE BOOKS AS MENTOR TEXTS TO IMPROVE YOUR OWN WRITING, by Marcie Flinchum Atkins

I want to share that I have been taking an excellent course on chapter book writing. Emma Walton Hamilton’s Just Write for  Middle Grade and Chapter Book Course is a 14 week experience that will help anyone turn their writing dream into a reality. Offering several worksheets per lesson and providing thorough information on each chapter book element, Emma methodically walks her students from the beginning of their book to the end. I highly recommend this course.

Finally, in case you missed it, I have started a picture book manuscript critique service.

Next week my ALL ABOUT SUBMISSIONS series will feature guest blogger Vivian Kirkfield. She will offer her thoughts on “getting in the backdoor” with your manuscript.

Happy writing!

sub six series 2

I apologize for hijacking Jan’s informative post with a few announcements. I feel it is important to let you know that I have decided to let ALL ABOUT SUBMISSIONS Q & A rest for the summer. However, there are still some ALL ABOUT SUBMISSIONS guest posts coming up. The two main reasons for the summer break with the Q & A are:

1) It’s a busy time for everyone, so I thought it might be nice to give the team a break.

2) I am busy with writing projects and my new picture book critique service.

Many of our Q & A members have had good news since we started the team. I am hoping to share some of it with you in the future.

I would like to thank today’s guest blogger, Jan Godown Annino, for sharing some of the things she has learned in her writing journey. Here’s Jan. . . .

 

Admissions about Submissions:

Things Learned from my Crackerjack Critique Partners

 by Jan Godown Annino

 

It could be that at the end of this day, you won’t submit that poem, story, article or book. I’m talking about that manuscript glowing over there in your To-Go queue.

Why not?

1. There is a time to submit.

2. And there is a time to delay a submission.

Having spent plenty of time around the table with my prize-winning poetry critique partner and two groups of published writers / editors, I’ve been privileged with an inside view of their submission experiences, results, and hopes.

Jan's crackerjack  critique group L to R : Debra, Ann, Jan & M.R. Photo by Paolo Annino

Jan’s crackerjack critique group
L to R : Debra, Ann, Jan & M.R.
Photo by Anna Annino

As the leader of a writing workshop in a retirement community for several years, I discovered a surprising reason to hold back on submissions. Also, in attending crackerjack workshops at the Hollins University summer children’s literature program, I learned a lot about submission attitudes from fellow writers.

Today, I share what I learned about manuscript submissions and writing from the above mentioned experiences.

This blog post is about moving a voluntary, not required writing for everyday employment, submission along. Moving it the long, long, miles from the keyboard toward publication. NOTE:  Writing required for everyday employment such as, works-for-hire, paid/staff writing assignments, writing in other employment settings, or other similar pieces are not in the hopper for this discussion.

Two Little Reasons to Hold Back on Submitting

Little reason one: The poem, article, story or book manuscript ain’t poifect. It’s not the best.

Some things that might get overlooked or might need a little extra attention are: the idea, research, writing, revisions, fact-checking, copy editing, formatting & agreements / commitments previously made with an agent or editor.

Although flush with the thrill of creation earlier, the writer now realizes that all the words don’t work well. The next revisions might start with arrangements for hiring an expert copy-editor where they will work together to provide polish before submitting. They might look for things such as, lax formatting, missing significant facts and so on.

The best work moves forward. The less than best, no.

Now for a word about partial manuscripts. Sometimes, upon request from editors or agents, a writer sends out work that is partially written. But those requests for partials do not mean that those professionals on the receiving end hope to read work without sparkle. Those partials must be the best they can be, not hurry up, rough-and-tumble drafts.

As for the writer who has an arrangement with an agent or editor to peek at works-in-progress that are covered in construction dust, well, that writer owns a unique send button. Brava! Not every keyboard has ’em.

For most of us, it works in our favor to leave the typos, wonky formatting, and blobby ideas at home.

Little reason two for holding back on submitting, with three aspects to it: An unready, unprepared writer.

1. Not the writer’s true topic.

A writer may realize they dislike the topic that they are messing around with in Microsoft Word, longhand, or however it is they bring something to the page.

As a community college adult education writing instructor, I had big ears for the round-the-world adventures of active retirees. They are the ones who taught me about this “wrong topic” problem.

Out of about 20 fascinating writers with lively stories to tell, each semester, usually one-fourth shared that they were slogging away at a piece that they didn’t want to write. But they were dully plodding because a spouse, child, sibling, college group, former employer, etc. tasked them with it. Someone had complimented them on their writing, rhyme, annual family newsletter, vacation report, or anecdote about Uncle Mortimer and the wasp in his armpit by telling them, “You have to publish this!”

If you don’t want to write the piece you are working on, give yourself permission to write something you want to write. (Note – again, under discussion is voluntary writing, not required writing for everyday employment.)

 2)     Scrutiny

A smaller part of little reason two is that an author is unready, at this particular moment, to be out there for scrutiny. Consider the following scenario: An author’s pal runs interference and sets up a pitch session with their editor or agent. The unprepared author doesn’t have the pitch polished, is sick with the ick, is distracted by several serious family kerfuffles, etc. The editor is faced with either wasting time with an unprepared author or a string of cancelled appointments due to the author’s personal issues.

The remedy is to always try to be ready, but to understand if the time is truly not right. Ask the editor/agent if you can be in touch soon, like in two weeks?

3)     Unwilling to budge

A third aspect of little reason two is that the writer is emotionally tied to the story exactly the way it is submitted. The connection, often from a heartfelt childhood experience or other event, is so vivid to the author that any manuscript changes suggested by an editor or publisher feel wrong . . . or it seems as though it would be a betrayal of this emotional material to make changes for improvement.

So why send a piece to a traditional publisher, whose job is to find ways to make the piece better, and whose experience guides them to do this, when the writer’s thinking from the get-go is,  I’m not open to substantial changes. You must be open to changes to work with a top-drawer editor and publisher.

There may be other reasons a writer is unready; please share a comment.

COMMENT prize-

The prize(s): A surprise item (or items) from Jan’s writer’s vault (U.S. & Canada postal mail, only.)

To be considered for a prize, leave a comment, by June 30 midnighty and include your real name if that is not the automatic comment name.

I appreciate those who helped. In acknowledging assistance (Ann, Debra, M.R, especially, thank you) any foolishness of thought, fact or interpretation, is my own. I’d like to also express gratitude for Sub Six/Alayne and your supporting cast, and more thanks to Kristen Fulton for the enthusiasm she shares in the writing community.

Photo by M.R. Street

Photo by M.R. Street

About Jan

Jan Godown Annino’s picture book biography of Betty Mae Tiger Jumper, SHE SANG PROMISE, is an ALA Amelia Bloomer Top Ten book. ​The New Jersey native moved to south Florida as a teen and now ​​lives with her family safe from pythons,​ ​crocodiles and most tourists,​ ​in North Florida​.​ ​Her ​poems for children are published in a 2014 Peace Corps anthology for Ethiopian schools, and her poetry for young readers also appears in Milkweed’s STORIES FROM WHERE WE LIVE, Literary Field Guide Series (Piedmont & South Atlantic edition).  ​Her Florida nonfiction books​ ​ ​are also well-regarded. Jan is​  ​an active reader in schools.

Visit Jan’s blog

Learn more about Jan on Twitter

You can also find Jan on GROG a group blog offering guidance and support to writers. 

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HOW TO SUBMIT WITHOUT FEELING LIKE THROWING UP

by Yvonne Mes

Through my travels in various children’s writing groups, on-line and in person, I have come across a few people who have said something like:

“I have just submitted my manuscript to (insert name of dream agent or publisher). Eurgh, I feel like throwing up.” Or they took it one step further and expressed the state of their nerves by regurgitating their lunch.

I am here to tell you submitting should not make you feel sick!

You may not be quite as emotional as some, or go to these bodily extremes after submitting a manuscript, however feelings of anxiety are quite common.

I admit to having experienced some strong but opposing emotions when submitting a story. I share a couple of my experiences below.

Ignorance is bliss

My first submission was a picture book story for a writers’ festival competition. I knew nothing about writing for children, but I had children, I loved reading, and I had an active imagination. Therefore, I was confident my story was a winner. Ah, the bliss of ignorance. I whistled merrily as I pressed that send button. I would win that contest. Someone would offer me a contract, and people would soon start calling me the new Mem Fox or Jane Yolen.

Fast forward a few months …

During the months of waiting for the results, I immersed myself in picture book writing. I researched online. I read books. I enrolled in one writing course and then another. By the time I found out I hadn’t won the contest, I was only a little devastated, because by then I had realized that the story I had submitted, well … sucked.

Too much knowledge is dangerous

The next time I submitted a story, to an agent no less, I had almost finished my writing courses. I had spent a lot of time on this story. I had joined several critique groups. Using their feedback, I revised and revised and polished my story so much that I could almost see my reflection in it.

But this time when I submitted, I had realized how hard it was to get traditionally published, how small the chances were and how long it could take. This time, I felt I had everything to lose. And I did feel rather queasy.

Yvonne's post queasy

Control

Now, I am going to be wildly assumptive and judgmental, or perhaps incredibly insightful and say that most of us writers are control freaks.

When you hit that send button or let that letter slip from your fingers into the great unknown and unpredictable via the mailbox, be it real or virtual, it is out of your control.

You had control when you coaxed it into being. You let others critique it, but still, you were able to decide what was worth taking into account, and you were in control of the revisions. But once it’s gone, you can’t change that sentence around anymore or find a stronger verb. And now that you have let it go, you are worried that perhaps it could have been better.

Yvonne's post calm panicEven if you are completely confident about the creative masterpiece that is your manuscript, you worry about the things beyond your control. What if the mail truck does a double flip en route to Mr. Dream Agent? What if the agent sloshes her coffee over your manuscript? What if a computer virus hacks her inbox? What if your agent has left to join another agency and your manuscript has been filed in the black hole of lost stories?  There are so many variables beyond your control. And it makes you sick. Sick to your stomach. Pass the barf bag.

After a suitable amount of waiting, anywhere from 2 minutes to 6 months, you hang on to every little shred of hope that your story has, in fact, NOT been rejected but perhaps misplaced temporarily or even better is taking longer while a contract is being drawn up. You anxiously wait, and wait, and wait.

Yvonne's post stop.jpg

Hang on, hold on. Stop! What you are doing? Do you really have time to obsess over these things? Let’s be practical.

Set a reminder in your diary at the date the agent or publisher had specified as their cut-off date. If you haven’t heard anything by then, ask them for a status update. If you don’t hear back from them within a few weeks, that’s it. You have been rejected. Move on.

What can you do?

Yvonne's post yoga ladyNow, I am the least Zen or Buddha-like person. I don’t believe in fate and karma, and I can never quite attain a sense of calm and complete relaxation, or at least not for very long. But I do believe in logic.

And my logic tells me that once my manuscript is gone, it is out of my control, and therefore not worth spending energy on.

Let it go.

Know that you have done all you can. You have done everything you can to make this manuscript the best. You did what you could to make yourself visible as an author. You did your homework, your research on your story AND on the agent or publishing house. You studied the craft of writing. You had the story critiqued several times. You have not written the stuffing out of it. Now it is time to …

… let it go.

Know there is more than one good story in you. Revel in the knowledge that even if every submission you ever send out gets rejected, you are already a successful writer. You wrote a story. You made it your best. And you are in the game!

Let it go.

So what if you discover you have made a grammatical error or misspelled Mr. Cszrukosy, your dream agent’s name? Well, it is out of your control now. Besides, if the rest of your query was professional, and your story is pretty awesome on top of that, well then, they will forgive you that mistake.

Go and work on something else. Spend some time with your family or friends or pets. Do something else enjoyable, like read a book! And then … start writing something else.

Let it go.

And if ‘Letting Go’ doesn’t work try the following:

Face your fears

What is the worst that could happen in the micro cosmos of this particular story? It could be rejected. Let’s be honest, statistically that is the most likely outcome. You know that it is going to happen, just not how, or when. Even established writers get more rejections than they do contracts.

Be practical, increase your chances by writing more stories and submitting more often, and if the story keeps getting rejected?  It still doesn’t mean the death of your story. If you receive feedback you can work with, you can submit it somewhere else. If you don’t receive feedback, seek it out. Maybe your story plot is fine but instead of a picture book, your idea will work better as a short story for a magazine or chapter book.

Yvonne's post Brethe In

Whatever you do, keep submitting. Press that ‘send’ button, shove that letter in the mailbox, breathe, smile and let it go.

Yvonne's bio imageBIO

Yvonne has been around children most of her life, if she isn’t working with them, she is raising them. Yvonne coordinates Write Links, the Brisbane children’s writers group  ww.brisbanewritelinks.weebly.com and is a supporter of Kidlit411.com. Her short story My Sister Ate My Science Project will be published in The School Magazine (Australia) this year. In addition to writing for children, she also likes to work on her illustrations.

Yvonne has a Bachelor of Children’s Services, a Certificate in Professional Children’s Writing, a Cert IV in Visual Arts and Crafts and a Cert IV in Training and Assessment.

You can find out more about Yvonne on her website. www.yvonnemes.weebly.com.

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