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AAS Q&A 4DO YOU HAVE A QUESTION ABOUT SUBMISSIONS THAT YOU WOULD LIKE ANSWERED? ASK YOUR QUESTION IN A COMMENT.

Before I get started today, I want to thank the ALL ABOUT SUBMISSIONS Q & A team for their great answers to this month’s question.

When I first got the idea for this series, I asked children’s book writers what questions they would like answered regarding manuscript submissions. Several people asked similar questions about agents and editors. I decided to share all the questions with the team, as I believed it would offer them more brainstorming power. I think if I were to combine all the questions asked, they would lead to two basic questions.

1) How do you manage your agent/editor searches, information gathering, and so on?

2) How do you determine who you sub to?

Here are the questions as asked:

  • How to narrow down your “where to submit” list?
  • I find researching agents and editors overwhelming. Where is the best place to start?
  • How do I know if I am really targeting my manuscript to the right publisher? I know that we are supposed to study publisher’s websites, market guides, read other books published by them in the same genre, etc., but how do I “really” know if mine is right for their list? Are there any tips or tricks that help you to narrow down potential publishers? Are there any “tried and true” methods used by those of you who are published? I don’t know about anyone else, but I tend to feel somewhat overwhelmed when I peruse those market guides.

Once again, the team came through with excellent answers. And once again, they have offered so much information that I will do two posts. Click here for RESEARCHING AGENTS AND EDITORS: HOW TO YOU DETERMINE WHO TO SUBMIT TO? PART ONE

* * *

Sylvia Liu, Writer-illustrator

portfolio: www.enjoyingplanetearth.com

blog: www.sylvialiuland.com

Sylvia Liu is a winner of the Lee & Low New Voices Award. http://blog.leeandlow.com/2014/01/15/announcing-our-2013-new-voices-award-winner/

Here’s how I research and query agencies:

(1) Overall Strategy: Small Batches. The best advice on querying agents is to do so in small batches (4-6) at a time, and include both your top and lesser choices in each batch. That way you can get feedback (or silence, which is a form of feedback), and adjust your query. If you blast out a query that is not working to 50 agents, and they all decline to ask for more, you are out of luck. If you get rejected on your first round of 4-6 submissions, you will still have other top choice agents to send a revised query to.

(2) Initial research. I start researching agencies using Literary Rambles, which has a comprehensive list of children’s agents with detailed interviews of their likes and dislikes and links to other interviews. I also check out lists like the top 25 children’s agents by sales and the many lists on Kidlit411’s agent page.

(3) Excel spreadsheet. I create an Excel spreadsheet with agents I’m interested in, listing their name, website, submission process, and any specific interests relevant to my work. I color coordinate the entries by highlighting my favorite ones in one color and my second choice in another.

(4) More research on top choices. For my top choice agents, I do more research. Their websites usually list their clients. I’ll check out as many books of their clients as I can find and read them (for picture books, it’s easy to read; for middle grade books, I skim or read the first few chapters). This is a good way to see if my work would fit in with the agent’s tastes and to get good personalized information for the query letter.

(5) Send out in small batches and keep track of responses in Excel. I send my query (for picture books, that often includes the story pasted in the email text) to 4 to 6 agents, including 2 to 3 of my top choices, and 2 to 4 of my second choices. I use a spreadsheet to keep track of the date I sent a story, what I sent, and the usual response time (some agents will tell you that if you haven’t heard within x weeks, consider it a rejection).

When I get a rejection, I highlight that entry gray, so I can tell at a glance which submissions are still active. If I get requests for more material, they get a yellow highlight. When I followed this approach last year, I got two requests to see more work, which did not lead to representation. I highlighted those entries in light purple (to remind myself I’m making progress). My 2013 Excel spreadsheet had a lot of lines of gray (rejection) and white (no response), 2 lines of purple, and one bright yellow (my contest win – I also keep track on my spreadsheet all my contest entries).

* * *

Sophia Mallonée, Children’s Writer

www.sophiamallonee.com

Unfortunately, I don’t think there are any special tricks to narrowing down your submission list. The only tried and true method to finding the right agent or publisher is through research. Lots and lots of research.

The thing is, as much as you might not want to hear this, all of that painful time spent researching, is actually really good for you. Think about it. If you find an agent, that person doesn’t simply help you sell your work, they become a partner, working with you to help you mold your career. Speaking not only as a writer, but as an ex-agent (in the photography industry), your relationship with your agent should be just that, a relationship. This is a person who has to not only believe in your work, they also have to share your vision and passion for it too. You don’t want to just sign with anyone, you want to sign with the one.

You need to research, you need to sift through lists and websites and message boards and everything else you can possibly find. Then once you’ve done all that, you can start the courting process. It might be quick and heated, or it might be long and drawn out. But in any case, it is the way it is and the way it should be. None of this is something that can be rushed. This is your career and there are no shortcuts when it comes to building a strong foundation.

As for finding publishers to submit to, the same holds true. Read blogs, read books both in stores and libraries, Google publishers, go to conferences, listen to what editors have to say and in other words, research. This isn’t a race to see who gets published first, this is your passion and your work. Work. It’s not always easy – if it was, everyone would be doing it.

If you believe in what you do, then let your belief be your fuel. You will power through it and eventually, you will find the place that you were always meant to be. Good luck!

* * *

Julie Falatko, Author of SNAPPSY THE ALLIGATOR (DID NOT ASK TO BE IN THIS BOOK) (Viking Children’s, 2015)

Represented by Danielle Smith, Foreword Literary

http://worldofjulie.com/

I found the best way to find agents who would be a good fit was to read a lot of picture books. When I read books that I loved, or that were a little bit like mine, I’d dig around and figure out who the author’s agent is. A few agent names kept coming up again and again, so I moved them to the top of my spreadsheet. I then researched those agents like I was cramming for finals. I wanted to know everything I could. What books do they like? What are they like on Twitter, if they’re on there? Do they seem passionate about books in interviews, or snooty and snarky? And: are they still open to submissions? Are they still accepting picture books? Submission guidelines change, and the biggest best thing you can do is to read them and follow them exactly.

I read advice that said you should simultaneously query huge batches of (well-researched) agents at a time, but I could never get my head around this. Maybe because what I write is kind of oddball, and so it didn’t seem like there were that many agents who might dig my style. Instead I went for a super-focused, very personalized querying approach. It was maybe more nerve-wracking, because I felt like I was narrowing my options, but I think it’s what helped me get an agent. I wasn’t wasting anyone’s time. (I ended up querying eleven agents total.)

* * *

Kirsti Call, Children’s Author of  THE RAINDROP WHO COULDN’T FALL!

http://www.characterpublishing.org/store/index.php?route=product/product&path=82&product_id=60

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ILoU8KRTjRM&feature=youtu.be

www.kirsticall.com

Here are 3 things that help me decide where to submit:

1. I go to the library or bookstore and read!  When I find picture books that I like, I take note of who the publisher is. Then think about which of my manuscripts would be a good fit for that publisher.

2. I search Book Markets for Children’s Writers 20142014 Children’s Writer’s & Illustrators Market and SCBWI’s The Book.  I mark each publisher that fits with the name of the manuscript I want to submit.

3. I network.  People in the 12×12 community or Children’s Book Creatives share what they’ve learned about publishers and then I have a better idea of whether they are a good fit for me and my story. I was lucky with my debut picture book, The Raindrop Who Couldn’t Fall.  A friend in my critique group was published by Character Publishing, so I submitted to them.

* * *

Alayne Kay Christian, Award Winning Children’s Author

Butterfly Kisses for Grandma and Grandpa

Represented by Erzsi Deak, Hen&ink Literary Studio

Between today’s answers and those posted yesterday, I believe the team has done a thorough job of answering the question. Therefore, I have decided to share some links that fit well with this topic. First, I want to mention that Elaine Kiely Kearns, Children’s Writer http://www.kidlit411.com/ will be our guest blogger on March 15. Her blog will be a bonus post for this topic. Not only will she give her tips for researching agents and editors, she will be giving some other tips for agent submissions, including bringing your manuscripts to conferences and sending conference submissions.

RESEARCHING AGENTS PART ONE

Alayne’s Links for HOW DO YOU DETERMINE WHO TO SUBMIT TO? Part Two

Before I give you links to resources, I want to offer some links to a couple Facebook Groups that relate to submissions and agents and editors.

Agent/Editor Discussion This board is for picture book authors. We discuss agents/editors, sending manuscripts, cover letters and queries. We support the successes and celebrate the rejections (that means we are one step closer to a yes). It is a closed group, but you can ask to join on the page.

Sub Six The Sub Six picture book support group’s focus is supporting each other as we work toward our submission goals.

Hot off the press. SO YOU WANT TO GET AN AGENT, by Romelle Broas

http://romellebroas.blogspot.com/2014/02/so-you-want-to-get-agent.html

From PUB[LISHING] CRAWL: RESEARCHING AGENTS by Susan Dennard; INDUSTRY LIFE

http://www.publishingcrawl.com/2013/09/06/researching-literary-agents/

4 THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN RESEARCHING LITERARY AGENTS, from Writers Digest and Brian Klems’ The Writer’s Dig.

http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/4-things-to-consider-when-researching-literary-agents

HOW TO RESEARCH LITERARY AGENTS, By Noah Lukeman from WRITERS STORE

http://www.writersstore.com/how-to-research-literary-agents

ALL OTHER “ALL ABOUT SUBMISSIONS” POSTS

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sub six series 2

When submitting a manuscript, you want to submit your best work. One way to make your story shine is by learning from others. Marcie Flinchum Atkins shows us how to study other authors’ picture books to improve our craft. Thanks, Marcie, for this lesson in using character-driven picture books as mentor texts. Click on the images of the printables to get PDFs.

Using Character-Driven Picture Books as Mentor Texts to Improve Your Own Writing

By Marcie Flinchum Atkins

What is a Mentor Text?

A mentor text is a stellar text that is used as an example of good writing technique. If you study a mentor text, not just reading it as a reader, but reading it as a writer, you can improve your own writing. It’s like learning from the experts.

Professional athletes watch the techniques of others in their field. Artists look at the paintings of others artists and study HOW they created that work of art. Writers should be no different. We can read for pleasure, and we should. But reading with a writer’s eye is critical in improving at your craft.

The Most Important Thing

We can read and read and study phenomenal books for kids, but if we never apply what we’ve learned to our writing, then it’s not much help. Let me give you an example, when I teach kids about using sensory words in their writing, we spend time looking for how authors incorporate sensory language into their writing to help the reader really feel like they are experiencing the story. However, the most important piece of this lesson is giving kids time to actually try it out. After we’ve learned about it, we take a piece of writing that they are already working on and we try to find places to add sensory details. This is the application part.

As a writer for children, we need to do this too. If you are having trouble creating endings for your picture books (I have this problem), the first thing to do is to study a lot of different ways to end it by looking at real books. But the MOST IMPORTANT thing is to TRY IT OUT in your own manuscript. You may have to try many different ones before you nail it, but you must try it.

Character-Driven Picture Books
In this particular “Mentor Texts for Writers” session we are going to take a closer look at character-driven picture books.

What is a character-driven picture book?

The focus of the picture book is on the character and, in most cases, something unique that that character has/does/is.

If you want a great definition and examples of character-driven picture books see Pam Calvert’s website: WOVEN WITH PIXIE DUST.

Why Character-Driven Picture Books?

I read a lot about what agents and editors want because I’m still looking for an agent and/or an editor. Something that I keep seeing over and over again in their wish lists is CHARACTER-DRIVEN PICTURE BOOKS.

I have some character-driven picture books in my work-in-progress stack, but I know they are not quite there yet. So I set out to study them—what makes them character-driven and what were some of the common characteristics.

The Process:

1) Look for books in the area where you need work. In this case, character-driven picture books.

How did I find the picture books I wanted to study?

Trust me, I don’t have the time the go to the library and scan the shelves. I do a little bit of online research and I ordered them on my library’s online catalog.

Book Cover Mosaic

I did scan my kids’ bookshelves. I asked my friend Google: “character-driven picture books.” This led me to a few.

Amazon.com Amazon has this awesome feature that shows you what other books people bought who bought the same book you searched for. Sometimes it’s not helpful, but most of the time, it’s a goldmine.

Screenshot of Amazon

I narrowed my study to ONLY books that were written and illustrated by two different people because I’m a writer only. There are a ton of great character-driven picture books by author/illustrators (OLIVIA by Ian Falconer and MR. TIGER GOES WILD are just two great examples from author/illustrators). But so much of their books are revealed through the pictures, so I knew if I wanted to study writing technique, I’d need to look at books written and illustrated by different people.

2) Read those books.

First I read them just to read them—mostly to myself or to my own kids. I made some notes about things I noticed about them as a genre.

Things that I noticed:

  • Many of the character driven books are author/illustrator books
  • Girl characters outweigh boy characters by a LOT (note to self: hole in the market). There are some boy characters, but many of them upon reading them are not about the character, they are all about action. This is not necessarily a bad thing.
  • Some of them have turned into franchises or multiple book deals and branching into other areas. For example, Fancy Nancy has multiple books and now is in beginning readers. Pinkalicious has brought about Purplicious and many others.
  • Many of them are stand alone titles and are really good all by themselves.

3) Pick a handful of the ones you thought worked really well. You probably will not LOVE all of them. But really delve deeper into the ones that you wouldn’t mind reading again and again.

I have provided a printable form as a guide for some of the things you might want to notice.

screenshot of character analysis chart blank

Screenshot of Explanation Slide

Here’s one that I filled out for LITTLE HOOT by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

Screenshot of Little Hoot analysis

4) The form I created is only ONE way you could study your favorite texts. Here are some more ideas:

Photo of Ribbit with sticky notes

5) Apply what you learned to your own writing

REMEMBER: This is the most important part. There are a number of ways you could apply it to your own writing, but a lot of it depends on where you are in your writing.

  • BRAINSTORMING. If you are just thinking about a new book but haven’t drafted it yet, this is a great time to brainstorm more about your character.
  • ANALYSIS OF A CURRENT DRAFT. If you have been noodling around with a character-driven picture book draft(s), and you can’t put your finger on what’s working or not working, it might be time to analyze your draft to see where you can improve.

I’ve created a printable for you to insert your own idea or analyze your own draft.

Screenshot of brainstorming chart blank

If you want some suggestions for character-driven picture books (written by different authors and illustrators), here is a list.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

BIG MEAN MIKE by Michelle Knudsen, illustrated by Scott Magoon

DESMOND AND THE NAUGHTYBUGS by Linda Ashman, illustrated by Anik McGrory

FANCY NANCY by Jane O’Connor, illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser

LADYBUG GIRL by David Soman, illustrated by Jacky Davis

LITTLE HOOT by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by Jen Corace

MY NAME IS NOT ISABELLA by Jennifer Fosberry, illustrations by Mike Litwin

PART-TIME PRINCESS by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Cambria Evans

PINKALICIOUS by Victoria Kann, illustrated by Elizabeth Kann

PRINCESS IN TRAINING by Tammi Sauer, illustrated by Joe Berger

PRINCESS PEEPERS by Pam Calvert, illustrated by Tuesday Mourning

THE RECESS QUEEN by Alexis O’Neill, illustrated by Laura Hauliska-Beith

RIBBIT! By Rodrigo Folgueira, illustrated by Poly Bernatene

SPOON by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated by Scott Magoon

TALLULAH’S TUTU by Marilyn Singer, illustrated by Alexandra Boiger

VAMPIRINA BALLERINA by Anne Marie Pace, illustrated by Le Uyen Pham

THE VERY FAIRY PRINCESS by Julie Andrews and Emma Walton Hamilton, illustrated by Christine Davenier

If you’d like a printable PDF of this list click here.

I’d love to know how this exercise worked for you. Leave a comment below or shoot me an e-mail (MARCIE [AT] MARCIEATKINS [DOT] COM).

What are your favorite character-driven picture books? I want to study more of them (preferably ones written and illustrated by different people). Leave a comment below to tell us your favorite character-driven picture book.

Want More Information on Mentor Texts?

If you want more information about how I use mentor texts in my classroom, you can visit my website and/or sign up for my teacher useletter. I also do workshops on teaching with mentor texts in the classroom.

If you want more information about using mentor texts as a writer, you should watch the webinar I did with the WOW Nonfiction Picture Book group. I also created a resource page to go along with that webinar with links and printables.

Bio:

marcie 15 for web small

Marcie Flinchum Atkins teaches fourth graders how to write by day and writes her own books for kids in the wee hours of the morning. She can also be found wrangling her own kids and reading books with them. She blogs about making time to write and using mentor texts at www.marcieatkins.com. Marcie holds a MA and MFA in children’s literature from Hollins University.

REVISING OR POLISHING YOUR PICTURE BOOK MANUSCRIPT

CONTESTS AND OTHER SUBMISSION OPPORTUNITIES FOR BOTH WRITERS AND ILLUSTRATORS BY SYLVIA LIU

ANNOUNCING THE NEW SUB SIX BLOG SERIES: ALL ABOUT SUBMISSIONS

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sub six series 2I am excited to announce the Sub Six Blog Series: ALL ABOUT SUBMISSIONS. We will launch the series tomorrow with guest blogger Sylvia Liu in a post titled CONTESTS AND OTHER SUBMISSION OPPORTUNITIES FOR BOTH WRITERS AND ILLUSTRATORS. Sylvia will be sharing a list of writing contests and illustration contest. Her list also includes opportunities to apply for grants, mentorships, scholarships and so on.

Each month, the Sub Six Series will feature a different guest blogger who will share his/her thoughts and knowledge on various subjects (see list below). Some months, we will be offering some bonus posts. January is a bonus month with three posts instead of one.

Our titles are not quite worked out, but I can give a basic idea of what will be happening in the coming months.

January is a busy month. I hope you will bear with my many posts. And I hope you will find them beneficial.

We start the month on January 4 with Sylvia Liu’s list of contest and submission opportunities for both writers and illustrators.

Polishing a manuscript before submission is crucial because you want to submit your BEST work. On January 6, I will post a list of things to look for when revising or polishing a manuscript. This post will link to my interview about revising manuscripts on Meg Miller’s  blog for the ReviMo challenge.

Improving your craft is another way to submit your best work. At the end of January, guest blogger Marcie Flinchum Atkins will be showing you how using mentor texts can improve your picture book writing. She will even be offering some worksheets that you can print out and use.

February will spotlight Marcie Flinchum Atkins and her tips for submission organization.

March brings Elaine Kiely Kearns. Her topic will be about things such as, how to choose an agent, knowing when to nudge, and so on.

In April, Yvonne Mes will be helping us learn how to submit without feeling like throwing up. Can you relate?

May is another bonus month. On May 4, Kristen Fulton will share her secrets for submitting nonfiction works. Then later in the month, we will feature Jan Godown Annino who will cover the topic What Critique Pals and I Know about Submissions.

In June, Vivian Kirkfield will be sharing what she has learned about submitting to niche publishers, and she might share one interesting way to get your foot in the door.

July – I will be covering queries and cover letters.

Sylvia Liu  will be returning in August to share her knowledge and experience with submitting as an author/illustrator.

September – December, we will be answering questions that writers have asked about submissions. The questions will be answered by a group of writers who are experienced in submitting to agents and editors.

The Sub Six support group submitted hundreds of manuscripts in 2013. I will be posting the actual numbers in February. I would like to invite anyone that is ready to start submitting to join us in 2014.

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