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Writer's Room => Picture Books (PB) => Topic started by: Rena on June 26, 2008, 08:55 AM

Title: Photo-Illustrated PB question
Post by: Rena on June 26, 2008, 08:55 AM
I've read the threads about photo-illustrated PBs and also the ones about dummy books.  I have 2 fairly short PBs I would like to submit.  Right now I have them in Pagemaker format with 4 photos per page.  When I had the idea to make them, I pictured each page of the book having one photo.  So basically, what I have down is just a condensed version so I can see it.

My question is -- should I make them into an actual dummy book, or is it better to send it the way it is?  I would include the text in standard manuscript form, but wasn't sure if the dummy or just copies of the photo/text layout were best.  Does anyone have any experience with this?


I do, however, have 2 dummy books out at the moment, but they are much larger than the these.  Because these are so much shorter than the other one, I didn't know if the dummy was necessary.
Title: Re: Photo-Illustrated PB question
Post by: Rena on July 02, 2008, 08:35 AM
Sad to say I got my 2 bigger dummies back --  :cry2

One publisher had recently been sold, so no one even looked at it I'm sure.  I don't know what to do with them because they're large and expensive to mail.  I'm talking about $12 to mail out each one, including the $7 for a SASE.  I don't know if it's better to query publishers for this, or send the full dummy out and let the photographs do the work.  Does anyone have any experience in this?  It's a non-fiction, photo-illustrated book about animals, written with facts I thought kids (4-8) would find interesting.  Kind of like a field guide book, but only with a few fun facts of each animal.
Title: Re: Photo-Illustrated PB question
Post by: ~wren on July 03, 2008, 05:11 AM
Rena, I'm a little confused.
First, are you a professional photographer?
And second, did someone advise you to send out those expensive dummies?
Consider instead sending just the text-- or, send a query. With either you could include a couple copies of your photos, or you could simply say that photos are available.
Title: Re: Photo-Illustrated PB question
Post by: Rena on July 03, 2008, 06:51 AM
Hi ~wren,

No, not a professional, just an amateur.  I have been trying to find info on submitting photos with my stories, but haven't come up with much.  That's why I was hoping the pictures would be a selling point.  All I've found is the mention about writer/illustrators and most of those suggested the dummies, so that's what I figured I had to do.  I've been considering what you suggested and that's probably the route I'll have to end up taking.  Thanks!

Title: Re: Photo-Illustrated PB question
Post by: Harrietthespy on July 03, 2008, 08:38 AM
The photos aren't the selling point - they are the rejection point.  It's a classic mistake.

The thing to remember (I used to be manager at a certain large publishing company) is that this is a business and the production values required are very high. We had an art department and two photographic studios. You are competing with people who do this for a living with high end equipment and have portfolios already on file.  You are also competing with the other 10,000 people who are submitting to unsolicited slush.

Text goes to the editor.  Art goes to the Art Director who will review the art for future assignments.  You could try submitting text and a sample photo to illustrate your point but that is risky if you are unpublished. If you aren't a professional photographer you're going to - with high probability - get the same rate of rejection as people who try to do their own illustrations without formal training. Editors ARE LOOKING for reasons to reject work.  Many times the work is first screened by a reader or assistant who is trained to kick out non-standard submissions.

So try text only.  Or go to a conference and get a critique of the package.  I was at an Arizona conference a few years back and the Art Director for Highlights (one of the kindest publishers on the planet) had to tell a woman that her dummy was not something a publisher would acquire (she was also an amateur).  She broke out in tears but later was grateful for the feedback.

I never say "never," but the odds aren't in your favor.  Start by getting critiqued by professionals who can look at your work with a critical eye.  One of the Blueboard members is a professional photo editor for a major newspaper.  So i asked her to judge the annual state writing contest - the category in which journalists submitted a published article which also included photographs they took themselves (the work had to be published).  She critiqued point of view, camera angle, use of light, composition, etc.  Most didn't pass the muster.

Also - when a photographer from the same newspaper came to my house to shoot a single picture for an article on children's authors she took hundreds of shots before finding the right combination of factors.

If you don't have that "language" you will have trouble being hired to do a 32-48 page book - even your own.  Even if the text is brilliant editors are reticent to accept it if they think you are tied to your artwork.

So try text only and see how you do.
Title: Re: Photo-Illustrated PB question
Post by: graywolf on July 03, 2008, 08:50 AM
I recently submitted a proposal for a nonfiction picture book that I'm doing with a professional photographer.  I sent in the proposal and she sent in a few sample photographs (not the ones that would eventually be used in the book, but just a few of our subject that will give the editor an idea of what the photographs could do for the text - and what she can do as a photographer).   If you are mostly a writer, why not send in your query/proposal/ms. with a line that says you also have photographs that could be provided, if needed.  That way, you're leaving the door open but your project won't be judged on whether your photographs are professional or not.

Some children's magazines do want writers to contribute photographs. So if the book project doesn't pan out, you might try writing a magazine story about one of your animals. Your photographs, in that case, might give you an advantage.
Title: Re: Photo-Illustrated PB question
Post by: Rena on July 03, 2008, 09:58 AM
Thanks for the additional feedback, harrietthespy and graywolf.  I appreciate it.  I'm just starting to get into freelance and have had half a dozen photos published in a small publication.  The editor keeps telling me to send more in, so I was just going off his feedback.  I also submitted one photo-illustrated story to a publisher and her comments were "loved the photos", but sadly it wasn't a species they aren't interested in featuring right now.

Thanks again and I'll definitely be considering these suggestions.
Title: Re: Photo-Illustrated PB question
Post by: TexasGirl on July 03, 2008, 10:12 AM
I'm a professional photographer, and I would advise you to take some of this hybrid advice. One--submit text with a single photograph illustrating the style you envisioned--and mention those photo credits without being pushy at ALL about wanting to do the photos yourself. Two--if you love your dummy, only put it in front of face-to-face agents or editors at a conference for feedback and see how they react. I would never mail it anywhere, as I'm pretty sure, like Harriet said, it's going to be an auto reject for nonstandard submission.

If you'd like to send a jpg or two to me, I'd be happy to look at them and make sure you haven't make any deal-killer mistakes. I also teach photography on top of making my living snapping, so critiquing is a big part of what I do.

Title: Re: Photo-Illustrated PB question
Post by: Rena on July 03, 2008, 10:18 AM
Thanks TexasGirl.  I'm definitely thinking about all the suggestions.  I couldn't find much searching myself, so that's why I wanted to ask here.  I'd like to take you up on the jpg offer.  :)
Title: Re: Photo-Illustrated PB question
Post by: Harrietthespy on July 03, 2008, 11:18 AM
Good luck!
Title: Re: Photo-Illustrated PB question
Post by: buglady5 on July 03, 2008, 11:49 AM
Rena, one more thing.  If you have a photo of an animal that is unusual, or in a situation that is hard to capture on film, I'd definitely mention that in the cover letter.  I once had a mag piece rejected because the editor just couldn't find a quality pic of this hard-to-find and rarely photographed animal, and I couldn't provide one either.  So if you have a one-in-a-million subject in one of your photos, be sure to mention it, or provide that one as your sample.  Just a thought. 

You've gotten great advice here in this thread!  Good luck to you!

Title: Re: Photo-Illustrated PB question
Post by: Rena on July 03, 2008, 11:55 AM
Thank you Hariett & Buglady -- I appreciate all your help.
Title: Re: Photo-Illustrated PB question
Post by: Rena on July 03, 2008, 12:00 PM
Thank you to TexasGirl too, for taking the time to look at a few of my wildlife photographs. 
Title: Re: Photo-Illustrated PB question
Post by: TexasGirl on July 03, 2008, 02:51 PM
You're welcome, Rena. And remember there is always more than one path to publication. Those big guys may look like Goliath, but you've got your sword. All it takes is one well-placed hit.