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Genres & Age Categories => Picture Books (PB) => Topic started by: Pickles on July 04, 2007, 06:07 AM

Title: Rising above the Slush
Post by: Pickles on July 04, 2007, 06:07 AM
Yesterday, I spent seven hours going through manuscripts while training a new manuscript reader. Normally, BTP sends me novels to read, but this time we had mostly picture books.

I discovered that the general quality of unsolicited picture books is much lower than that of novels. I believe this is because everybody thinks they can write a children's story, but the majority of them don't know what a children's story is.

I know this writing biz gets discouraging, but if you are perfecting your craft, networking, learning, and reading, you are ahead of at least 75% of submissions.


I've listed some tips that will get you out of the groan...ACK!....quick glance....insta-rejection pile.


1. Avoid adult subjects including politics, drunkeness, and hades. Rhyming does not soften these tough subjects

2. Format properly and include a professional cover letter

3. Learn about meter and rhyme scheme

4. Don't include your own illustrations unless you are a professionally skilled artist.

5. Don't include illustrations by anybody else.

6. Don't tell the editor what the illustrations should look like and where they go. Brief illustration notes necessary to help the text make sense are okay. These should be rare.

7. If you've never written for children before, visit websites or read books specifically about this genre, regardless of how much writing experience you have in other areas. It's a different kingdom. There are different rules.

8. Avoid overtly moralistic stories unless writing for a market which specifically asks for that.



Oh, I do want to add that yes, I recognize blue boarders in the stack. And their manuscripts tend to rise above the pack.

Most of the manuscripts that fall in the above category obviously come from people who pluck our name out of the CWIM or begin submitting without learning the ropes and doing their homework.

Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: buglady5 on July 04, 2007, 06:18 AM
Thanks, Pickles.  I felt so validated reading your list.  Wow - 75%!  Really?


buglady
Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: Donna on July 04, 2007, 06:32 AM
Thank you for the tips, Kay. I'm in the process of making sure my PB is ready to send off (still waiting on the WIN critique, though). I'll check your list twice! :)

Hugs,
Donna
Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: Pickles on July 04, 2007, 06:37 AM
Yep. I'd say the above tip list takes care of about 75% of the pile.  And about 10% were single spaced. :)  Really.  The single spaced ones ended up in a pile of their own, and I'll look at them briefly before sending this stack back to Austin.

Last year was the first year we were in the CWIM. And I noticed a dive bomb in quality immediately. Before that manuscripts came mostly from SCBWI or blue board members, conference attendees, or personal contacts.

I fully, fully, see why bigger houses close their doors. And I also see the need for form rejections. We still try to put something personal in everyone of our rejections.

We are closed for unsolicited submissions until Nov. 1, and submission guidelines will change at that time. It's truly overwhelming.

My overall message is when you run across those star gazed newbies and wannabees, if you can, gear them toward websites like this or good books on craft. Don't tell them the CWIM exists, yet.  :)

Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: Donna on July 04, 2007, 06:51 AM
My overall message is when you run across those star gazed newbies and wannabees, if you can, gear them toward websites like this or good books on craft. Don't tell them the CWIM exists, yet.  :)



 :dr  Speaking of the CWIM -- this is what mine looks like:

I have my CWIM all marked up. I mark through the folks who don't publish/represent my genre and then the ones who don't accept submissions from my area (ex: some canadian houses only accept canadian writers). I also mark through the entries that I KNOW are defunct (ex: GP4K -- it is in the 2007 edition - but they aren't around anymore.  :( )  Then I go through and find the ones that accept email subs (my favorite way to submit) and the ones who accept snail mail. I read and reread their submission guidelines. Then I do research on the publishers and agents I really want to pursue. Sadly, I have only subbed to a few of the ones I've "marked" as possibilities. I need to get off my duff and get some stuff in the mail. I just don't want to suffer from "P.S." sydrome. You know, "Premature Submission".

Hugs,
Donna

Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: Pickles on July 04, 2007, 07:10 AM
Yay, Donna!!!!!!  That's the way to do it!!!

BTW, I'm adding two more tips to the list

9. Keep picture books under 1000 words.

10. Show don't tell. Be sure to balance narrative and dialogue.

We had several manuscripts that were over 1000 words of straight narrative..okay maybe a line or two of dialogue.

I'm not posting this stuff to make fun of people. I'm trying to pass on information that will help keep the slush pile down...or at least keep the slushiest slush out of it.
Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: Pickles on July 04, 2007, 07:16 AM
You wouldn't walk into a dentist's office and apply for a dental hygienist's job if your only experience was brushing and flossing your own teeth...or maybe your kid's. A dentist isn't going to hire you, and then teach you everything you need to know to do the job. You are expected to have done that on your own if you want that line of work.

Submitting a manuscript is like applying for a job. You have to look professional and prove that you have the skills and knowledge to do the job if you want to get a second look.

Happy Fourth to those of you in the U.S.A.
Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: Donna J. Shepherd on July 04, 2007, 07:47 AM
Your list is informative and helpful. Thanks so much for taking time to fill us in on what it's like to be on the other side of the desk.

Donna
Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: YAchicka on July 04, 2007, 07:57 AM
Thank you Pickles!

I once had an acquaintance send me his 'picture book' and it was about 3,000 words of awkward rhyme. When I very kindly suggested that he study some picture books to learn the genre, he honestly responded by saying, "Yeah, I thought of that, but I don't want to be influenced by other's work."  :faint:
Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: barb on July 04, 2007, 07:59 AM
Yes, thanks, Pickles.  It's always interesting to hear about the real slush pile.  I especially like that you're not being snarky about it!  Most blogs and articles about the slush pile are written by bitter interns and they're just not nice.

I'm always amazed to learn that so many manuscripts are that amateurish.  I can see how an editor would get cynical after a while.  Actually, your figure is low compared to other editors, for example in Robin Friedman's interviews, who have said 90% or 95% are bad.

I loved your comment in another thread about the joy of white space.  I certainly noticed at ALA that the books editors were most proudly touting had very few words per page.  Interesting!
Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: mariwho on July 04, 2007, 08:07 AM
Thank you for these tips, Pickles!

I have a question.  When you are training a new manuscript reader, what are you telling her to look for, in particular?  Of the manuscripts that are properly formatted and avoid the 8 deadly sins that you mention, what is it that makes one rise to the top 2% of submissions?

 :hug1: Big hugs to you for sharing your knowledge!!
Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: Pickles on July 04, 2007, 08:14 AM
Yeah, 75% is low...that's why I said "at least." And I was basing that on the actual stack we had yesterday. Actually my reader says I have an ACK! scale. The 75% is the pile that I've said ACK! over two times...then it slides into two ACKS! then one ACK! So by the time you get to no ACKS!..then we're past that 90%.

You have the totally clueless pile with the really awkward formatting and the totally bizarre story lines...then you get into the new writer - "typical first mistakes--subbed too soon" pile...and then you get into the good but not great pile..and then by the time you get to 5% or under...you get extraordinary.

I think my scale roughly goes from falling over and flailing to multiple ACKS! to one ACK! to Ehhhh to Hmmm-maybe to WHOA - WOW!!!!

It's best to stay out of the ACK! range which is why I bring you tips today.
Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: Emily on July 04, 2007, 08:15 AM
Wow, I can't believe so much "ack" stuff gets subbed at all!!  Very eye opening Pickles!


Emily
Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: bonitap on July 04, 2007, 08:25 AM
Hi Pickles, I write MG and YA instead of PB. But much of what you've said applies to longer works as well. It's always good to hear from an "insider" about what makes a MS rise above the slush. It is so incredible to me that some writers never read in the genre they write. Even worse, is the obvious lack of professionalism apparent when someone doesn't bother to reseach correct MS formatting. Thanks for the tips.

Bonita
Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: Donna on July 04, 2007, 08:29 AM
PB under 1000 words --

I'm trying! I have one PB that I've cut and cut and cut --- but it just won't reduce under 1100. It's also pretty well balanced (I think!) with dialogue and narrative. I've sent it to my crit groups and some lovely folks on this board. I'm waiting for the WIN critique to see how much more I can cut. Ack.

Anyway, thanks for the confirmation that under 1000 is what most editors are looking for. BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD!

Hugs,
Donna



Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: Pickles on July 04, 2007, 08:39 AM
Mariwho....these are the things I tell the new reader to think about....

With all the things the other staff has to do, should they really take their time out to read this?

Will the story stand out, get good reviews and possibly awards?

Will the story  survive in today's market, especially when it comes  from a small, little known publisher?

Would you pay $15 for this book? Would you suggest other people pay $15 for this book?

Would you comfortably  go to the boss and say, "You really need to spend thousands of dollars publishing this book."

And then there's  the Knock Your Socks off factor...which usually leads directly to the last thing on this list. That happens rarely. And it didn't happen yesterday. However if the story fits the first couple of questions on the above list, it will go on to other readers.
Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: mariwho on July 04, 2007, 08:42 AM
Mariwho....these are the things I tell the new reader to think about....

With all the things the other staff has to do, should they really take their time out to read this?

Will the story stand out, get good reviews and possibly awards?

Will the story  survive in today's market, especially when it comes  from a small, little known publisher?

Would you pay $15 for this book? Would you suggest other people pay $15 for this book?

Would you comfortably  go to the boss and say, "You really need to spend thousands of dollars publishing this book."

And then there's  the Knock Your Socks off factor...which usually leads directly to the last thing on this list. That happens rarely. And it didn't happen yesterday. However if the story fits the first couple of questions on the above list, it will go on to other readers.

Thank you, Pickles!
Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: Pickles on July 04, 2007, 08:44 AM
Donna, it may be okay. These are general guidelines.

It's the 1800 word, non-indented, solid text with no dialogue (possibly single spaced) ones that are going to fall in the danger zone of being barely glanced at.

I'm really talking about the very, very, very bottom of the pile today. And I'm only doing it because I want blue boarders to stay out of it.

YAchicka, oh it's frustrating..but there's not much you can do about those people.
Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: Barbara Eveleth on July 04, 2007, 08:50 AM
I could help you think of some ideas to alleviate your slush frustration, Kay. But I can't post them because that would make Verla mad. And then I'd have a permanent time-out.  :yup
Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: Pickles on July 04, 2007, 08:56 AM
AE,  LOL!!!

And somebody else in another thread wondered why some of these were even "read." Well "read" is a relative term. I have to look at everything somewhat in order to fill out the inner office forms attached to each manuscript.
Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: ahsitan on July 04, 2007, 05:18 PM
Thanks Pickles  :)

So, how can you tell who the Blue Boarders are? Do they mention their screen names in the queries? Any tips to get over that rejection hump is greatly appreciated.
Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: laurenem6 on July 04, 2007, 07:25 PM
Wow, this gives me so much hope that my PBs rise above 75%!  Woohoo!  There's a chance for me!  I can't wait until November when I can sub to you!
Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: Brian H. on July 04, 2007, 09:53 PM
Hi Pickles,

Thanks for your tips. Judging by the rejections, I think most of my pbs are in that "hmmmm-maybe" range. I never knew BTP published picture books. Not knowing about a possible market for my books is about as dumb as letting someone hit me in the head with a hammer  :!. Now that I've found out you publish pbs, I read you're not accepting manuscripts until November. I'll just wait till then and in the meantime research BTP a bit better. 

Again, thanks for your tips.

Brian H.
Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: lindsey on July 04, 2007, 10:21 PM
I love you pic! Thanks for the tips. If I'm going to get rejected, at least I'm in the I-double-space-and-don't-preach minority.
Rock the 25%!
Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: ecm on July 04, 2007, 11:33 PM
This is very informative, Pickles. Thanks! Funny, more people are coming out of the woodwork to tell me about their book ideas, books in progress, and to take a peek at their mss ever since my book was published. I'll be glad to send them to the Blue Boards and this list next time someone inquires...
Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: olmue on July 05, 2007, 03:30 AM
TOO funny, Pickles!

Just an observation, though--there still must be a sizeable amount in that top 25%, since most of those still get forms. (25% of all pbs is probably a lot more mss than 25% of all submitted novels, I'm guessing?) I know a whole lot of pb writers who know how to be professional, and who have an actual story in well-written prose, and still get forms. (In fact, I don't know anyone who has gotten much more than that.) There must be another cutoff higher up that never makes it into the please-don't-do-this lists.

Olmue
(who doesn't write pbs, just for the record)
Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: Stephanie Ruble on July 05, 2007, 06:18 AM
Good tips Pickles!  75% seems low to me too, but after thinking about it some more, that's probably a good ballpark for the ACK! pile, give or take.

Olmue - some of the WOW! books can still get forms, even if the editor really wants to send a personal rejection. If there's a shortage of time or staff, a personal rejection just might not happen. There's only so much time you can sit on it until you can make time, because it's not fair to the author to not return it because you want to personalize it but don't have time. Sad, but true. So a form doesn't really mean anything except that it's not right for that publisher at that time.
Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: Pickles on July 05, 2007, 08:32 AM
ahsiatan, I don't recgonize every Blue Boarder, but some. I've been on this board since shortl after it started so I know lots of people. Plus some people contact me about their manuscripts through this board. And you get past rejection by moving forward.

laurenem, check here or on the BTP website. The submission guidelines are changing, but I'm not sure exactly what they are yet.

Brian, so good to see you here! I've been wondering what you're up to.

ECM, send them away.

Olmue, the 75% is is the bottom of the heap, totally clueless pile ---- the ones where you know the author has done little or no studying about the field before submitting. And I second what Stephanie said about form rejections. At BTP, we try to personalize every rejection - For each manuscript I write down something I liked about the manuscript and something I think can be improved. The more I like something, the more I"ll write.

Stephanie, right on. Well, I said "at least" 75%.   And I agree with what you said about forms.

Again, this is just my opnion, based no my experiences..and I figure that our slush is probably a slice of slush big houses see. 

Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: Frauheather on July 05, 2007, 08:49 AM
Pickles, you always have such useful information for us struggling newbies and you're funny to boot. :)

This may not be the the place, but since the topic is similar... I was wondering if the location of the author makes any difference in the slush pile? I mean, if the author lives, say in Germany, will that be an automatic "no" or are they read the same as any other slush submission?

Thanks for all your tips,
Heather
Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: Pickles on July 05, 2007, 08:55 AM
Heather,  location doesn't matter a bit.
Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: Frauheather on July 05, 2007, 08:57 AM
Good to hear!  I will worry less and write more! ;)
Heather
Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: MaudeStephany on July 05, 2007, 11:26 AM
Looking around furtively... I hope that means that my ms isn't in the 75% pile!  :eek5: 

Maude   :jump
Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: ange on July 05, 2007, 09:15 PM
Hey, thanks so much for all this information...t’s very generous of you to share it, and heartening (as someone who seems to be constantly waiting, whining and just hanging in there with my pb submissions). Many thanks again
Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: sthoms on July 06, 2007, 01:06 PM
It must be a frustrating job in many ways. Props to you for keeping a sense of humor and sharing your knowledge with the rest of us!
Here's to avoiding the "ACK" pile.
And may you find a gem in your next slush session!

Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: eryan75 on July 06, 2007, 02:42 PM
Kay,
Thanks so much for your insight, it really makes the efforts we put into our work worthwhile.  Do you see this in the easy reader market as well?  (BTP requested one from me based on a query letter - at least format's right ;))
Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: Pickles on July 07, 2007, 04:52 PM
Eryan, I don't see that many easy readers.  It's rare I get this many pb's to review, but we are trying to catch up with reading and pb's are a lot easier to train someone on. The reader is less likely to go screaming into the sunset.

I did want to say something about the 1000 words...you know that's the bench mark...but it's not a rule in concrete. And not as a sub, but as a favor to a friend, I just read a 1000 word + pb that was just STELLAR.  So, I'd have to say if you are going over 1000, make sure they are darn good, necessary words.

When I said that over 1000 thing, I'd spent the day looking at  several 1500 plus pb's..very moralistic...almost straight dialogue...lonnnnnnnng sentences...fat paragraphs.....way tooo wordy.

If you need the 1000 plus---good!

Read CURRENT pb's...last five years....

Don't use the excuse, "But it's like X which is a classic.  And there are all these other books like this. (Published decades ago)"

Yeah, and they aren't playing Mozart on the Top 40 anymore either.
Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: Cali on July 08, 2007, 12:00 PM
Thanks for sharing, Pickles!  Wow! I'm happy to count myself among the upper percentage of blue boarders and not in the ack pile.  Thank goodness! :faint:  After many hours of research and chopping, I have several PB's finished.  See you in Nov.  :love 
Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: Donna on July 08, 2007, 12:22 PM
Thanks again for all the tips and help you give all of us. You are fabulous!! :)

Hugs,
Donna

p.s.  You changed your pic again ANd your name! ;)  WOW!!! I like it. But I have to admit -- I've become accustomed to the pickle pic. I miss it!! :)

Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: Pickles on July 08, 2007, 12:27 PM
Ummmm....I'll explain about the name change....later...if it stays....it's a longish story......sorta..........it's still my real name....just not the one most people know me by. People who call their children by their middle names really need to think this thing through.  :)


Yeah, I really like the new pic also. I thought it was about time for a more professional image.  Sorry about the pickle pic. It could reappear. I don't know.
Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: Cassandra on July 08, 2007, 12:42 PM
The pic. is great, but nothing will top the old dancing pickle...
Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: Pickles on July 08, 2007, 12:48 PM
Oh I hated that dang thing.....I kept it for so long just to keep other people happy. And besides I can't find it anymore, so don't even think of it.

I may have reached the point where I'm ready to shed the Pickle label.  Ummmm...I thought I could just slip by unnoticed for a bit...I reckon not.  :)



Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: Avvy on July 08, 2007, 01:51 PM
People who call their children by their middle names really need to think this thing through.  :)



OK, I must comment on the middle name thing. When I taught elementary school, I encountered this a few times--at least once a year--always right AFTER I labeled everything in the classroom (name tags, cubbies, workbooks, my grading roster, job charts, birthday chart, you get it EVERYTHING). Then the parent would come in and announce, "He/She goes by his/her middle name." *Sinks down* :faint: Now I had to relabel everything -- which can take more time than you expect, because you have to reprint lables, remember what font/size you used, get an extra name tag, cut out the extra birthday balloon, all that jazz. A few times I got a heads up from the previous teacher, but I opened two new schools (so that didn't apply) and new students (didn't apply) or one thing or another so I wasn't always forewarned.

I vowed NEVER to do this with my own children. Can you see the set up coming here?

Then I had my daughter. I always knew she would be named Elizabeth after my grandmother, plus I loved the name.  My husband and I tossed around a few middle names, and finally fell in love with Nicole. He didn't want to call our daughter Elizabeth, wanted her to go by Nicole. Not a problem, except Elizabeth Nicole sounded better than Nicole Elizabeth to us. We ended up naming her Elizabeth Nicole and calling her Nicole. AGH! I did exactly what I vowed never to do. But, when she started preschool and elementary school, I made it very clear (even left notes for teachers before the school year) that she goes by Nicole. I hope I can prevent extra work on the teacher's part.

So Pickles, Lill, Kay, I'm guilty as charged! And yes, it does make things a bit more complicated.

Funny side note, my husband's brother goes by his middle name, and my husband used to comment on how much of a mess that was for his brother growing up. LOL. Then he turned around and did the same thing.

Sorry to hijack your thread.
Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: Pickles on July 08, 2007, 01:56 PM
Oh it's okay...it's nice to know there are others.  :)
Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: LindaM on July 09, 2007, 05:22 AM
I have to chime in here too.....  My husband goes by his middle name.  Quite often it is frustrating....the whole story "his name is this , but he goes by that"....etc....The up-side to this is whenever we receive telemarketing calls and they ask for him using his first name  I know that it is obviously someone that does not know him....all of our friends know him by his middle name.
Pickles, you've really thrown me off changing your picture and name...I'm sorry I wasn't around in the days of the dancing pickle..sounds cute  ;)
Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: Pickles on July 09, 2007, 05:46 AM
Well, I tried googling for said pickle again, with no luck..then had a brain flash and went into images. Ta Da!

It's up for a very limited time because it drives me crazy and I want to swat it. Not a good thing when you have a new computer.
Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: Donna on July 09, 2007, 06:01 AM
WOOHOO!! Kind of reminds me of John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever -- dressed up as a pickle, of course. :)

I like the name Lill, too. It is peaceful. "Pickles" and "kay" OUT == LILL is IN!


Hugs,
Donna
Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: LindaM on July 09, 2007, 07:15 AM
Thanks Pickles...um, Kay.........um, Lill, now I won't be forever wondering what the dancing pickle looked like. ;D
Definitely a flashback to my disco days.... :dancing:
Now...back to business, Rising above the slush....isn't that how this thread started out?
Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: TnTexas on July 09, 2007, 10:14 AM
OK, I must comment on the middle name thing. When I taught elementary school, I encountered this a few times--at least once a year--always right AFTER I labeled everything in the classroom (name tags, cubbies, workbooks, my grading roster, job charts, birthday chart, you get it EVERYTHING). Then the parent would come in and announce, "He/She goes by his/her middle name." *Sinks down* :faint: Now I had to relabel everything -- which can take more time than you expect, because you have to reprint lables, remember what font/size you used, get an extra name tag, cut out the extra birthday balloon, all that jazz. A few times I got a heads up from the previous teacher, but I opened two new schools (so that didn't apply) and new students (didn't apply) or one thing or another so I wasn't always forewarned.

I vowed NEVER to do this with my own children. Can you see the set up coming here?

Then I had my daughter. I always knew she would be named Elizabeth after my grandmother, plus I loved the name.  My husband and I tossed around a few middle names, and finally fell in love with Nicole. He didn't want to call our daughter Elizabeth, wanted her to go by Nicole. Not a problem, except Elizabeth Nicole sounded better than Nicole Elizabeth to us. We ended up naming her Elizabeth Nicole and calling her Nicole. AGH! I did exactly what I vowed never to do. But, when she started preschool and elementary school, I made it very clear (even left notes for teachers before the school year) that she goes by Nicole. I hope I can prevent extra work on the teacher's part.

So Pickles, Lill, Kay, I'm guilty as charged! And yes, it does make things a bit more complicated.

Funny side note, my husband's brother goes by his middle name, and my husband used to comment on how much of a mess that was for his brother growing up. LOL. Then he turned around and did the same thing.

Sorry to hijack your thread.

I'd always said I'd never do that to my child either so I was amazed when I was tempted to do exactly that when my second child was born.  :pregnant:  We named her Autumn Brooke, but I was so very tempted to call her Brooke when I first held her. I made myself call her Autumn as originally planned, but I've sometimes wondered if her personality might have been a bit calmer if I'd gone wth my first instinct instead.   :D
Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: HaroldU on July 09, 2007, 12:27 PM
It's interesting how little things change.

About fifteen years ago, when I was a wet-behind-the-ears Associate Editor at Macmillan Children's Books, I gave a presentation at my first SCBW-I conference that I called "Getting Out of the Slush Pile."

A few years later, I turned it into an article on my web site, and have continued to update it as necessary. But the core information hasn't changed.

And it's interesting that so many people (not the SAME people, of course) made the same kinds of mistakes back then as Pickles reports on from her experiences today.

Here's the current incarnation of "Getting Out of the Slush Pile," which gives some tips as well as some warnings about what to avoid:

http://www.underdown.org/slush.htm
Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: Donna on July 09, 2007, 12:50 PM
Heading over to look at it now. Thanks so much, Harold!

Joy,
Donna
Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: Cali on July 09, 2007, 02:02 PM
I'm right behind you, Donna!  Thanks Harold!  :horse
Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: momalisa on July 09, 2007, 07:06 PM
:dr 

I need to get off my duff and get some stuff in the mail. I just don't want to suffer from "P.S." sydrome. You know, "Premature Submission".

Hugs,
Donna



Well this thread certainly has made me feel better about some of the choices I've made as a newbie.  I had written for adults as a columnist in South Florida but started immersing myself in the world of  writing for kids about a year ago.  I have been soaking up as much info as I can about genres, markets, publishing options... and the craft itself.  I enrolled in ICL, joined SCBWI, took local writing/publishing workshops and  of course frequent the blue boards.  I moderate two critique groups now, one started with ICL and the other is a new in person group through SCBWI.  A few members of that group have been published multiple times and I feel very lucky to be in their company as far as critique groups go.  I have been very hesitant to submit my writing this past year fearing it would be a P.S.-Premature Submission. ( I did submit one story, accepted in Fandangle and entered the Children's Writer and Highlights contests (didn't win  :'( ) but that was it)  I really wanted to feel confident in that I was submitting my best possible work in the most professional manner.  Others I know have been submitting veraciously despite being newbies and I  was feeling like maybe I was a big chicken and should jump right into the pool too.  After reading this thread I think my slow wade into the pool is just right for me. 
I'm also working on  PB manuscript.  First draft is coming in around 1150 words.  I'm trying to tighten a bit more and then will hand it off to my wonderful CG's.  Pickles, maybe I'll be sending it off to you in the near future.  Thanks for all the great tips!  I hope my manuscript and myself will swim along happily instead of sinking. 
 :bubblebath:  (Ok, the bubble bath guy was the closest thing to a pool!  ;D )
Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: Soosaw on July 10, 2007, 10:37 PM
Hi Kay -  ;D

You've been so thoughtful with your tips and information, I hope I'm not exhausting your generosity.  Could you tell me, though, whether BTP would consider a pb with a Christmastime setting, involving Santa?  I believe there are some publishers that won't consider some topics, and a search of BTP's books came up with none about Christmas and/or Santa.

Thanks a heap, Kay!

Susie Sawyer
Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: Pickles on July 10, 2007, 10:43 PM
Susie, yes, we have no problem with Santa. Send it to us when we re-open for subs.

Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: Soosaw on July 10, 2007, 11:01 PM
Great! Thank you!  :)
Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: Pickles on July 14, 2007, 06:51 AM
If you choose to use an editor or an agent, please check them out on sites like Preditors and Editors or Writers Beware. You can easily google to find these sites.  My heart aches for writers who send me manuscripts full of typos, common grammatical errors, and just general poor construction...yet they say they've been edited or the manuscript is "agented." I google. Yep, guess which lists the names show up on.

If you are very, very, VERY new to this whole game the best way to spend your money is on conferences and classes.

That's my public service announcement for the day.
Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: HaroldU on July 14, 2007, 01:01 PM
That's my public service announcement for the day.

And an excellent one, if I may say so....
Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: Pickles on July 14, 2007, 01:25 PM
Thank you Harold!
Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: Stephanie Ruble on July 15, 2007, 07:34 AM
I agree with Harold - great PSA!

COngratulations on the promotion!!!!!!!
Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: kay on July 16, 2007, 01:29 PM
I am learning so much on this site!  Wow.  I only wish i had seen a site like this 7 years ago when I wrote my first PB and sent it out to a few publishers...what a joke! I was pretty clueless. I'm sure my manuscript was thrown on the slush pile immediately!

I put it away after that and only recently pulled that baby back out and have been doing some revising.  Live and learn...here we go again!   :faint:

If anyone has time to look at it and give me some feedback, I would be ever-so grateful  :)
It's a rhyming PB under 500 words.

thx!
Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: Pickles on July 16, 2007, 01:45 PM
Thanks Jody.

Hi Kay!...good thing I just changed my name to Lill...I also go by K and I"m a Kay

Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: kay on July 16, 2007, 02:13 PM
I thought it was really ironic that another Kay was being congratulated in the post above mine! 

I was gonna attempt to take the credit! Oh well, back to my newbie status...   :-\
Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: PDM on July 26, 2007, 07:05 PM
Good tips, Pickles. Hopefully at least people from here will be saved from been immediately rejected. The really difficult rule for me is the length. My first PB is just over 1000 words which should be okay (it started out at about 1900), but my second one has proven much harder to edit down.
Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: Kai on July 28, 2007, 12:42 PM
Hi Lill,

Thanks for sharing your knowledge. 

I have a question about length as well.  I had a PB ms reviewed by an editor.  She made some great suggestions.  Then I asked her if it was too long (it was at 1100 words then) saying I'd always heard to keep it under 1000.  She said it did not feel long and that some of the words get edited out after the illos anyway.  That got me thinking...what may be essential to the story may later be able to be portrayed in the illos, which would decrease your word count after the pb is acquired.  Example (though maybe a poor one); the wind blew her hair in her face and she ran into the curb, bending the spokes on her tire.  That can all be illustrated but at the time of submission it is essential to the plot and must be said.

As long as a writer isn't counting on illos reducing their word count dramatically and writing unneccessary words such as 'the crinkly red skirt blew in the wind' (because, like who cares?), then they could be comfy submitting 1000 or so words, right?

-P

Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: KirstyAnn on July 28, 2007, 04:41 PM
Quote
and then you get into the good but not great pile


I'm currently doing a children's writing course and find myself consistently getting B's on my assignments.  On one hand I've been told that is good because they rare give out A's and B's are nearly as hard to get ... but I want an A+  - I need an A+!!!    :mad4:

My tutor is giving me fantastic comments like ...  (these ones were for a PB assignment)

"Clearly, you’ve given plenty of thought to the interests of your target age group, and you are spot on!"

"Your opening pages toss the reader right into the middle of the story. Great! This is exactly what a picture book text should do."

"Joe is a great character and your text includes plenty of images to inspire an illustrator."

"Your lively verses would make it easy for an illustrator to come up with a different image for each new page"

Yet she also said it lacked 'zing' if I wanted to get this published   :green:


So my question is how do you go from good to great???

I've found lots of websites like this that list similar "dont's" that were mentioned in this thread but I'm looking for a really extraordinary list of "do's" ... or is this just where 'talent' comes into play?  The best site I've found so far was an interview with Roald Dahl that had brilliant tips ... does anyone know of any others?
Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: HaroldU on August 29, 2007, 06:21 PM
Read every picture book that was named an ALA Notable in the last 10 years. Think about how the author is telling the story, what they say, and what they don't say. (I'm suggesting the Notables because you'll get through the Caldecotts pretty quickly, and the Notables are a good select list)

Anastasia Suen's Picture Writing might help too--she gets you to analyze existing books and learn from them.
Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: Z-cat on September 27, 2007, 07:57 AM
Ooh, great information.
 So those of us who do our homework and keep ourselves in good literary shape are only competing with about 25% of total submissions, right?
Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: HaroldU on September 27, 2007, 08:59 AM
So those of us who do our homework and keep ourselves in good literary shape are only competing with about 25% of total submissions, right?

In my experience, a much lower percentage than that. I've read thousands of manuscripts from the slush pile over the years (as have many editors--I'm not unusual) and I'd say maybe 5-10% of the manuscripts didn't have an obvious problem that pretty much ruled them out within 30 seconds of my opening the envelope. The problems that rule out the 90-95% are the kind that you can avoid by doing your homework. Some obvious ones:

But there are more, of course.

You generally get more hopeless cases at larger publishers (people know the names) and with picture books (the fastest to write) but no matter what you are writing and where you are sending it, if you do your homework and polish your writing you can be pretty confident that you're going into the publisher's mailbox ahead of most of the submissions.
Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: 217mom on September 27, 2007, 10:54 AM
Mr. Underdown, Harold-

You're the writer's best friend.
Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: Elaine (aka sweetpea) on September 27, 2007, 11:15 AM
I just had a rejection on a non-fiction PB that might be applicable to the discussion. My piece could be a part of a series (something I'm considering) but the editor mentioned that the unusual subject matter (deep sea angler fish) might make it difficult to fit into a school curriculum.

I've gotten good feedback on the manuscript and 2nd place Barbara Karlin Grant to boot, but I haven't had any luck placing it. I thought I saw a hole in the market, but I didn't really think about the fact that the market is sometimes dictated by other variables--like what they're studying in school.
Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: HaroldU on September 27, 2007, 11:31 AM
Thanks, 217mom.

That's an interesting example, Elaine. When I was at Charlesbridge, we dealt with that issue all the time. I bet they still do. It's not a just a question of what's studied in schools. After all, deep sea angler fish could easily be used as part of a broader subject, such as adaptations or environments.  A NF PB publisher also has to find the right spot between overly familiar and so unfamiliar that nobody's interested. There's a reason why there are so many books about sharks and dolphins, for example.
Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: Elaine (aka sweetpea) on September 28, 2007, 06:37 AM
A NF PB publisher also has to find the right spot between overly familiar and so unfamiliar that nobody's interested. There's a reason why there are so many books about sharks and dolphins, for example.

Yep, exactly. I get that the publisher has to find the right market, but the plethora of sharks and dolphins suggests that the stock standard is a safe bet, financially.

Of course, my perceptions are colored by my frustration.  :)  I believe that the manuscript is worthy. I have a runner-up Barbara Karlin and 2nd place in Smartwriters to support that idea, but it seems to fall into an unknown catagory--maybe not a perfect fit for trade, but not exactly right for the educational market either because it is NF that reads like a story.

BTW, I wrote the piece in Lisa Fraustino's Children's Writing class at Eastern (you edited one of her books, I believe. Small world, huh?) and though she said it was excellent, she said finding out where it would fit best would be a challenge. She was right.

Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: HaroldU on September 28, 2007, 06:51 AM
Let me clarify something about the sharks and dolphins. I didn't mean that someone should choose subjects such as sharks or dolphins. A publisher tends to want subjects with a proven market. And many of the sharks and dolphins books are parts of series. Single titles need to find a new approach, and you need one if you write on such an often-published subject.

If sharks and dolphins are clogging up the shelves, and deep-sea angler fishes are too narrow or unfamiliar, what's in the spot between them?

This is an approach you can take in many areas of nonfiction. If you have a particular area of interest, take some time to do some research into what's out there in your area. Then start brainstorming ideas. Look for topics that interest you that are a step or two away from the familiar....

(And yes, this is a small world, isn't it?)
Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: barb on September 28, 2007, 08:23 AM
I'd like to follow up on the point made above about the top 5%.  I recently judged a picture book contest and I'd say the majority of the manuscripts I read met those standards; about half the stories were competent stories.  In other words, a lot of people are following the basic rules -- they're really not that hard!

But here's the thing.  Virtually none of the manuscripts I read were publishable as picture books.  Bottom line, getting to the top 5% will not get you pulled from slush.  Here's what you need (IMO):

-- A character that jumps off the page and makes the reader go "wow, I love this character; KIDS would love this character."
-- A properly paced story that builds over the course of 16 page spreads -- that's 16 separate scenes that will fascinate the reader and make him or her want to turn the page (okay, only 15 scenes have to be page-turners; the final scene needs to make the reader go, "now, that was a great story").
-- what I just said about the ending.

In other words, your manuscript needs to be extraordinary in several different ways.  It's a very high bar.  Good luck!
Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: Rachel Hamby on September 28, 2007, 08:34 AM
Great advice Barb and Harold.  You have shared some golden nuggets here. 
Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: HaroldU on September 28, 2007, 09:19 AM
Good points, Barb. I think we are looking at this from slightly different angles. My point was that the vast majority of manuscripts get ruled out very quickly. Your point is that even the manuscripts that weren't immediately ruled out face stiff competition and must stand out to be selected.

I think, in fact, that the bar is higher than it was 20 years ago. Organizations like the SCBW-I have done such a good job at getting the basics out to people that the standard of the slush AS A WHOLE is higher.
Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: cdb on September 28, 2007, 09:54 AM


          Sorry, this is somewhat off topic--Barb? Do you mind sharing what contest you judged? It's amazing that not one ms was publishable. I'm asking to know if perhaps, I entered that contest and should revise my ms.
          Big sigh from me.

               Carole
Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: Elaine (aka sweetpea) on September 28, 2007, 10:36 AM
Look for topics that interest you that are a step or two away from the familiar....

I'm thinking along the same venue, writing about other unusual creatures with the same style of the first piece.

In your opinion, are my odds of attracting a publisher better if I were to have 3-4 fish tales or do you think it is more likely to place a manuscript with a publisher who is already planning a series in which my book may fit?

I'm sort of thinking that the first option has to be better odds.
Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: HaroldU on September 28, 2007, 10:43 AM
Well, one question you have to resolve is whether you are aiming to start a series or doing a single title.

Your approach will be different, and the publishers you approach may be different too. Charlesbridge, for example, has a couple of long-running series, but most of their new titles are one-offs. Other NF publishers ONLY publish series, while some do a mix. And I don't have to tell you that a company such as Charlesbridge that aims at the trade and school markets is not going to have exactly the same focus as a company like Bearport, which is pretty much just in the institutional market....

Three or four titles on similar subjects might be the best of both worlds, though. You could sell each individually, or a publisher might decide that they want all of therm.
Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: Christy on September 28, 2007, 09:39 PM
Wow, I just came across this thread- great stuff. Thanks to everyone for sharing.  :)
Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: Elaine (aka sweetpea) on September 29, 2007, 06:02 AM
Harold,

My original goal was a single title. I think it can stand alone and at 800 words, I'm not sure I could cut anymore.  ;)

The idea for doing additional stories came out of suggestions I received during the submission process. That and after reading a variety of non-fiction for the younger set, I just plain like the style it is written in. (I apologize in advance if that sounds braggy.) So, I've begun to embrace the idea and start work on story #2. 
Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: HaroldU on September 30, 2007, 07:10 PM
Elaine, your approach makes sense--and 800 words for a NF PB sounds reasonable to me. NF PBs tend to run longer than fiction PBs.
Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: Elaine (aka sweetpea) on October 01, 2007, 11:59 AM
Thanks, Harold. It's a whole lot easier to follow the editorial advice for this NF PB than for my MG orphan train book, which I recently was told was too similar to other orphan train books, including Cushman's "Rodzina" which I purposefully did not read so that it didn't influence me. Guess I've got to read it now to find out how to make mine stand out.  :)   

I bet many orphan train books run the risk of being alike. Just the nature of the subject.



 
Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: Pickles on October 01, 2007, 12:06 PM
Orphan train books are plentiful.  When writing historical fiction I think it helps to see what else is out there on the subject. I once read a book told from the view point of Sacajawea, and I loved it, but there are too many out there on the subject. Same thing with pioneer stories.

If your love is historical fiction, consider choosing an event or era that has not been written about as much.
Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: HaroldU on October 01, 2007, 12:21 PM
I agree with Lill. Sometimes what seems like a narrow subject can get heavily published, due to the particular appeal of the topic for children's books (orphan trains --> children as primary focus). And then even a new approach may not be enough. Imagine if deep sea angler fishes had turned out to be the subject of 27 books over the past five years....
Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: Elaine (aka sweetpea) on October 02, 2007, 06:15 AM
Lill & Harold,

I get what you're saying and I'll definately keep it in mind the next time I write a historical. If I had taken more care choosing a time period/subject to write about, I might not have toiled for the past 2 years on a manuscript that may not have a whole lot of chance to break into the market. (Man, that was tough to say.) I guess I was following the story I wanted to write, rather than thinking of the market.

It's funny, in my brief time at Vermont College this subject came up a lot: Write what you are passionate about vs. Write to the market. The philosophy at V.C. is definately write the story you want to write but I wondered how can you do that all the time without risking that you will end up with a manuscript "left in a drawer"? Truth be told, many were willing to risk that to think "story before market."

With my first book, I definately considered market and story simultaneously. I like paranormal mysteries. I like scary books. I saw how popular they were. I read a lot of them. I wrote with the market in mind and it equated to a sale. The opposite could be said of both manuscripts I've mentioned on this thread and....no sale yet.

Question:  Does having an orphan train book from a male perspective make a difference in the current market? I read only two from the male POV.
Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: Stephanie Ruble on October 02, 2007, 08:13 AM
I don't know about orphan train books, but I do know that there are a ton of WWII books being subbed, so I'll use that as an example. After a while, they all start to seem alike, even if the characters or situation are a bit different, it's still set in the time period, in the USA, with rationing and boys going off to war, and, and, and.

However, I have seen WWII books that manage to stand out from the pack by coming at it in an unusual way. The stand out books are usually very character driven so that you fall in love with the MC and get sucked into their life. There are other reasons too, more specific to particular stories, but they could be the POV the story is told in, or format or which character reveals the story, or where/when it takes place, or whatever you decide is the best way to tell the story.

So what makes the stand out books unusual? It's all subjective, but for me, the character and the part of the character's story that the author decided to tell, were what made them stand out. That and amazing writing.

You have to find a way to make it worth it for the publisher to put out yet another WWII or Orphan Train book. One place to start would be to go and read all the other books on your subject for children (yep, PBs, MG, and YA). Know what's already been covered and how. Then go back to your story and see if you can't find a new way to tell it that's unique and makes it jump out of the pack.

Good Luck!
Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: HaroldU on October 02, 2007, 11:29 AM
Elaine,

I can't answer your specific question, because I think that's really going to depend on the publisher and on how distinctive/compelling your manuscript manages to be, but I do want to address the wider question of writing your passion vs. writing for the market.

Personally, I think that in the long run, you've got to do both--write what you want to write, taking the market into account--but that the approach at Vermont College is sound for someone who is still learning and exploring their interests. Once you know what you most want to write, what you do care about, then you can safely add some knowledge of the market. But if you start out by trying to write for the market, well, you might never find out where your strengths and passions are.
Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: Mussel Bound on October 02, 2007, 10:17 PM
OK, I feel like a complete moron here, but what the heck is an orphan train book?  Go ahead and laugh as long as you give me the answer.    :laugh: :laugh:
Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: wolfie712 on October 02, 2007, 11:13 PM
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, "orphan trains" carried thousands of children from crowded homes and orphanages in the Northeastern states to farming towns across the Midwest.  My grandmother's mother left New York on an orphan train and ended up in Iowa.  To this day, we can't trace that part of our family heritage, as we know nothing about her parents.  :(

Laura  :)
Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: Elaine (aka sweetpea) on October 03, 2007, 05:45 AM
Personally, I think that in the long run, you've got to do both--write what you want to write, taking the market into account. Once you know what you most want to write, what you do care about, then you can safely add some knowledge of the market. But if you start out by trying to write for the market, well, you might never find out where your strengths and passions are.

Good point. Skill and experience-wise, I think I fall somewhere in between, which might explain why I feel the pull both ways. It also covers why I let myself write about a subject that was already so well published.  :)
Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: Elaine (aka sweetpea) on October 03, 2007, 05:55 AM
One place to start would be to go and read all the other books on your subject for children (yep, PBs, MG, and YA). Know what's already been covered and how. Then go back to your story and see if you can't find a new way to tell it that's unique and makes it jump out of the pack.

Although I did read a fair amount before I began, but I will go back to hit the books some more and see what I come up with. Thanks!
Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: Pickles on October 03, 2007, 06:10 AM
Elaine, you already have gotten some good answers. I have nothing else to add really. Except when I get a manuscript on a much done subject...I suggest to the author that they read the other books and come up with another angle. It also helps to include that info in a cover.

Sruble, I don't think I've seen any WWII manuscripts. Since BTP is located in the middle of the country, we attract more pioneer stories here, as Texas and surrounding states are rich with these kinds of stories.

I don't think you should NOT write something because it's been done a lot...but I think you must realize that could be a handicap, and you need to make sure your book can still hold up in the market against the others.


Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: Elaine (aka sweetpea) on October 03, 2007, 06:23 AM
Mussel Bound,

I couldn't say it any better than Laura. I'll just add that they ran from about 1850-1920 removing thousands of kids from the streets of NYC, Boston, and Chicago. Some of the early kids actually made up part of the Pony Express. Much of the poverty and homelessness in the cities was caused by the Industrial Revolution and too much immigration--too few jobs, too many people. NYC had orphanages chuck full of kids and places like the New York Foundling Hospital existed for mother to drop off infants for adoption. Hardly any of the "orphans" were true orphans. Most had at least one living parent.

It's an amazing group of people. I read so many stories--from children and from the parents that had to give them up--and I tried to honor those stories by having bits and pieces of what I read appear in my book.



Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: Mussel Bound on October 04, 2007, 12:49 PM
Thanks, Laura and Elaine.  They actually sound fascinating; I need to go look up a few.  From what you all say in here, the market must be saturated, so it shouldn't be tough to find one.

Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: Write2write on October 04, 2007, 04:48 PM
I"m sorry, I can't get past the dancing pickle!   :dr
Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: Elaine (aka sweetpea) on October 05, 2007, 10:17 AM
Lill,

Thanks for the suggestion. Of course, I thought I had made it different  ;), but I appreciate what you're saying and I'll make every effort to look harder. Perhaps, since I used bits and pieces from real stories, I can use that angle and include biographical info? I don't know. I did take liberties with the specific people's stories. It's not straight non-fiction.

For the record, I really haven't been approaching too many houses with this story--mostly agents. I had subbed to one house and then had a second house contact me through my website, but that's all. I've been wondering if this is the sort of book that I might be better off subbing directly to houses.



Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: maddog on October 20, 2007, 03:06 PM
Hi All,

I recently attended a retreat and there was a great talk by a PB editor along with a free pass to send a MS.  I do have a few questions for you so my sub (when it's ready) will rise above the slush.

1) The story is set in a specific location over a year's time.  Would it be appropriate to send stock photos to give the editor an idea of what the area looks like?  Because unless you've visited, you'd have no idea.  To be more specific, it's an alpine meadow (not to be confused with a boring meadow ;))

2) Each page adds a character.  I envision seeing a hint of the character coming (and going in the last half of the story).  IE, when the deer are coming, you might see their noses from behind a bush.  It would make the book a bit of a search and find.  Do I use illustration notes to explain this or leave it to the editor?

Any advice or input would be great.   :)
Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: goadingthepen on November 02, 2007, 05:45 AM
Just thought I would give this post a bump since BTP is open for submissions right now. :duh:
Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: Stephanie Ruble on November 02, 2007, 05:57 AM
1) The story is set in a specific location over a year's time.  Would it be appropriate to send stock photos to give the editor an idea of what the area looks like?  Because unless you've visited, you'd have no idea.  To be more specific, it's an alpine meadow (not to be confused with a boring meadow ;))
If it's a specific thing that the editor might not know, one or two stock photos would be ok, as long as you make it clear that they are not illustrations for the book, but reference photos for the editor in case he/she hasn't ever seen an alpine meadow.

2) Each page adds a character.  I envision seeing a hint of the character coming (and going in the last half of the story).  IE, when the deer are coming, you might see their noses from behind a bush.  It would make the book a bit of a search and find.  Do I use illustration notes to explain this or leave it to the editor?
If the characters are introduced in the text, you probably don't need a note. This is the kind of thing that the illustrator can bring to the book to add an extra layer to the text. An illustrator might come up with the idea similar to yours, or something different that you hadn't thought of that works too.

Good luck with your submission!!!
Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: maddog on November 02, 2007, 07:47 AM
Thanks!  I'm letting it rest right now.  Since I don't have any other MS's that I think they'd be interested in, I will probably send it in after it has another few polishings.  Eek! :o
Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: Pickles on November 02, 2007, 08:37 PM
Goading, thanks for bumping. It's timely.

The most important way to rise above the slush is to follow directions.

If a publisher wants fiction, don't send non-fiction.

If they ask for fun and quirky, don't send sad and sentimental.

If they ask for you to do the subject line a certain way, do it.

Write well.

Target well.

Be professional.

Follow the dingity-dang directions.

Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: Bill on November 02, 2007, 09:38 PM
But Lill, that's just too easy;)

Bill
Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: beverly on November 03, 2007, 08:51 AM
Somehow I missed this thread about the Orphan Trains earlier. This is a subject dear to my heart. (OK. Cliche, but true.) My mother rode the OT from Brooklyn to Texas in 1921. Her mother died at the age of 36 and the father put his children in the orphanage. I was told that in those days men were not allowed to raise children alone, especially girls. I don't know if this is true or not. The Children's Aid Society was very helpful to me when I was doing our family geneology. I did have her maiden name and the name of her parents, which made it easier, but they sent more information. I've also written a book, loosely based on her life, but so far have found no interest in it. I'm currently revising after its return. I'd still like to see it published. So that old saying: never, never give up. At least while I'm still breathing.  :books:

Beverly
Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: Mussel Bound on November 03, 2007, 02:24 PM
Thanks, Beverly, and definitely do not give up.  Your book sounds fascinating.

Have you considered submitting excerpts from it to magazines, as short stories?  Then maybe you could build on that momentum and submit the full novel, but of course re-do or replace the parts already published.

Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: beverly on November 03, 2007, 06:46 PM
Mmm. That's a thought. I might try it. Thanks for the idea.

Beverly
Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: JKFIO on November 04, 2007, 07:41 AM
I've learned so much in this thread.  Thank you pickles for posting it.  I like what Bruce Coville said at a recent SCBWI conference in DC; "go to the library and read over 100 PB, then pick 3 of  the 100, copy them by hand to see how a PB works. 

I really need to get on this board more often than once a week!   ;)
Cheers, Judy
Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: Elaine (aka sweetpea) on November 04, 2007, 04:21 PM
Beverly,

I don't know what truth there is to a single man raising a family, but poverty was such a problem for some during that time that it would have made it almost impossible if you didn't have family to help. From what I read, the Industrial Revolution made a lot of people jobless, with less people needed to do the same work. Also, dips in the stock market caused people in rural communities to lose their farm land and go to the city to find work--all in a time before social services existed. It was a sad situation--homeless children in the street (as many as 30,000), packed orphanages and abandoned babies. When I read about New York Foundling Hospital being a place where mothers could drop off their infants, I immediately thought of how that sort of thing is looked at today as a modern problem. 

I have a tremendous respect for the children who rode the Orphan Trains. I read so many of their stories and see the same strength again and again. The same determination in the face of adversity. I can see why you'd be motivated to honor your mother through a memoir. Really--an amazing group of people.
Title: Re: Rising above the Slush
Post by: Donna J. Shepherd on November 07, 2007, 12:23 PM
I want to thank Lill for sharing so many of her insights and timely information. We would all do well to heed her advice!

Thank you, thank you!

 :hug1:

Donna