You’ve Written a Picture Book…Now What?
You’re pretty sure you’re finished.
I hate to say it, but you’re just getting started. I’m sure you’ve gone back over it, maybe several times, and made sure each word was just right. Good. Roll up those sleeves because now the fun begins.
Here’s a checklist:
- Before you think you’re finished, take a step back. Do a little bit of research into what makes a good picture book, to make sure yours is on par. Actually, do a LOT of research. Think of it as an investment. You wouldn’t start a business without first looking into all aspects of your competition, right? Read 100 picture books. Not classics, current within the past two years. They’re short, it won’t take too long. What’s common? What makes one irresistible? What are the price ranges? What’s out there similar to yours? What shelf does it sit on (Scifi, Mystery, Humour, etc)? Who publishes them? What’s their Amazon ranking/sales? How is yours different/better? Why would a publisher take a chance on yours, and which publisher should that be?
- Does your manuscript tell a story with a true beginning, a middle and an end? A descriptively beautiful sunset, lyrical wind chime, and colorful rainbow might make a wonderful poetry collection but it won’t fit well in the children’s book market. (I’m not saying that’s good or bad, I’m telling you what sells. It’s not worth the battle to try to change the industry, so in that case you might consider a different channel/market.)
- Speaking of beginning: Do you start off with a bang? Don’t start off slow and grow. Kids today don’t have time Continue reading
Sometimes it’s easier to see than explain:
There are some sneaky things going on in the writing world that you might not find sneaky. But I do. And I’m calling it out.
Writing contests. Mostly the kinds where you send in unpublished works.
It seems everyone and their mother, literally their mother, has some sort of reader’s or writer’s choice award. All you have to do is pay a small fee, say $19 to enter your manuscript or book into the contest. WHY ARE YOU PAYING MONEY TO ENTER A WRITING CONTEST? At least at the state fair you get a free fair pass in exchange for your peach pie entry fee. If it’s for charity, of course, yes yes pony up. But otherwise NO. As in NO.
What do you win? Let’s dissect a bit.
It might be bragging rights that you won a writing contest. That’s OK. It doesn’t have to be a trip to Sweden to accept the award.
Maybe it’s simple a ribbon or actual award/plaque. Fine. Still not a reason to cough up dough. Don’t tell me they are charging you to cover the cost of the actual award. Oh please.
Why would you pay money to say someone liked your unpublished story? Will it help you move forward, professionally, in some way? Really? Don’t fork over cash just to have your ego massaged. Volunteer somewhere if you feel the need for that kind of ego boost. Or I can tell you: You are a good person. You have value. Your writing is great. I think you’ll amount to something someday. Really. I believe in you. Please don’t waste your money.
Ask yourself these questions:
Here’s a typical conversation at a social gathering, grocery store, or school fundraiser:
“Oh, you write children’s books? I’ve always wanted to do that. I’ve got an idea I always wanted to try.”
Then they hold eye contact, waiting for me to ask them what it’s about. I smile and leave the silence for just a teeny bit longer than a normal conversation would have because I’m a jerk.
Then I finally ask “What kind of book?”
Usually they’re taken aback because it’s not what they expected to be asked. They say something like “to teach kids about fire safety” or “it’s about the first day of school.”
I say, “No, what I meant is, is it a picture book? A Young adult?”
“It’s for kids,” they’ll say.
“But which kids?”
“All kinds of kids.”
I’m not getting through. I take a deep breath. “Let me ask this way: Who is your reader? What age?”
Have you ever been asked to read a friend’s manuscript, and, well, their work was borderline horrible? But that friend is so clueless that he/she thinks it’s PERFECT and is honestly thinks a movie deal will be offered any day now?
Well I’ve been that friend. My first drafts were horrible. In fact, I didn’t even know they were drafts. I thought I had a final product. And I thought I had a GOOD final product.
After the first pieces of feedback, I got busy rewording a few things here and there, changed a description or two. What I didn’t realize is I was waaaay off the mark in what needed to be fixed. It wasn’t a matter of copy edits. It was the story overall needed some attention. “Revision” was something that needed to sit tight while bigger issues were figured out.
Here’s what I wish helpful folks would have told me:
Thank you for the chance to review your manuscript. It’s a charming concept with some wonderful moments. But it needs a bit of work.
A book is a story, a destination. HOW you tell the story is almost more important than WHAT the story is. Both need to be solid.
A simple question to ask yourself is: My books is about _______ but underneath it’s about ________. Wanting to dance, for example, is really a story about wanting to find a partner, or wanting to belong. Knowing what your character wants is what your story is about. Continue reading