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To do or not to do a Christmas picture book...need advice

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Hello, All,

As a rank beginner at picture books (I normally write MG/YA), I would love some advice from anyone more experienced (which is probably just about everyone here  :yup.)  I've been planning to write a Christmas picture book for quite a while (it's based on a true story, involving international travel and many exciting turns of events). The problem is, I'm wary of writing a book that can only be sold at a certain time of year.  I'm afraid it will be hard to sell, or that there may be other issues inherent in the holiday market of which I'm not aware.  Before I sink a ton of time into this project, I thought I'd ask--are my concerns legitimate? And what would your advice be?

Many thanks for any opinions or guidance you can offer.   :thankyou
#1 - March 10, 2011, 07:52 PM

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Well, I'm not a picture book author, but I've bought enough PBs over the years.  :)  The thing about a holiday book is that it can become a perrenial.  So while it might not be on the shelves during the whole year, it can be on the shelves in the weeks/months leading up to the holiday year after year.  Your idea sounds different enough to catch an editor's attention.  :goodluck
#2 - March 10, 2011, 08:52 PM

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AnnH is right about the perennial potential of holiday books.  It sounds as if you have quite a story going there -- and one that means a great deal to you.  Is it possible that it will fit into the typical 500 words or less word count that publishers seem to be looking for now, or is it, as a kind editor once wrote me, a novel inside a picture book trying to get out?  When you have a story that means a lot to you, go with it, and see what happens! :goodluck
#3 - March 10, 2011, 09:56 PM
PB CALVIN'S LAST WORD, Tilbury House 2020
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The best writing advice I've ever gotten is "Write whatever the heck you want." It brought the fun back to me at a point when I was ready to walk away from the industry.

Everything you write strengthens your writing as a whole, and if you don't ever sell it, you can always use it for parts by borrowing a character or a bit of imagery or something. And writing something you believe in is a whole lot better than just writing something for the market.
#4 - March 11, 2011, 04:42 AM
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I don't know this, but I wonder if a holiday story is easier to sell to a magazine?
#5 - March 11, 2011, 04:52 AM
Heinemann, Fall 2013

Having written and sold a pb with a Christmas theme (it's not about Christmas, but takes place at Christmas time), I don't think I would do that again. Yes, there is a limited sales window each year. And it may become a perennial favorite. (My book has sold for five years now and my publisher just put it out in paperback in 2010.) But you don't know if it will or not. I think you should write it and see what you have, and not force it to be a picture book or anything else--just let it come out. It may very well end up being a book for middle graders if there's a lot going on with exciting turns of events, which would be great, too.  :grin2:

#6 - March 11, 2011, 04:59 AM
CHRISTMAS EVE BLIZZARD, Arbordale Publishing

I second what AV and Lill say.

Having heard from eds at conferences: You have a limited, short window in which to present and sell your book. It will compete in that short time with all the other holiday books. It has to stand out, and have hooks. Therefore, editors are extra picky about buying them.

I worked on an illo for a published Halloween book. It had more than one hook to it and was author/illustrator. That tells me a lot.

A writer from my chapter had a Christmas book pubbed: nativity, mother/child love book -- more than one hook.

Good luck! B
#7 - March 11, 2011, 06:14 AM
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Yes, your concerns are valid. The limited sales window and competition with books that are already perennial favorites are extra challenges in a market that's already ALWAYS tight.

Many Christmas books are about characters that have already made a splash in general, such as Olivia and Judy Moody (chapter book age). It's the beloved character that's a hook there. Also, let's face it, name illustrators and authors, especially author/illustrators, will ring more of a bell with the adults buying the books.

I definitely agree with the extra hooks advice.  And if the story might by any chance make a MG novel (I don't think a chapter book will be old enough to escape the problem) or a magazine story, both of those might be easier to market.

You seem hesitant to sink time into this if the chances to sell it are slim. Frankly, in that case, I'd put my time and effort into other projects.
#8 - March 11, 2011, 09:39 AM
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Hi, All,

Thanks so very much for your opinions and advice; they are deeply appreciated.

The story idea is just the right size for a picture book (nicely encapsulated, perfect amount of adventure/change of scene/thrilling/scary, and nice arc too); it would take some serious additions and forcing to turn it into an MG book.  Taking my time and doing this as a picture book, and taking it at its own pace seems to be the best idea.

I agree with all who mentioned that I can learn from doing it, so the work will not be lost no matter what happens on the publication front.  However, with the inherent publication challenges of a holiday picture book (thank you for confirming those), I now think I should not set a huge chunk of time aside to work just on this one project.  Instead, I will do it "on the side" as time allows while I work on my MG/YA books.  It will be a treat for me to work on something that has to fit within a shorter word count and where I can take all the time I want on the word choices. It's the same joy I get from writing poetry, which I also do in and around my longer pieces.

Thank you, and best of luck to you all in of your endeavors!   :flowers2

#9 - March 11, 2011, 11:12 AM

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Yes, make it a "treat" project! Those are the best. I have a "treat" book too, one I never consider subbing out, but love to work on when other projects stress me out, and it's just fun! Gets me out of writer's blocks too. It has TIME TRAVEL and HISTORICAL BITS and crazy mixed up scenes. And POETRY! An impossible sell, but so fun!  :bicycle:
#10 - March 11, 2011, 11:44 AM
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Wow, TexasGirl, your "treat" project sounds like a total blast! I hope I have as much fun with mine!  :hurrah
#11 - March 11, 2011, 06:34 PM


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