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Genres & Age Categories => Picture Books (PB) => Topic started by: Schmara on May 16, 2012, 08:04 AM

Title: Selling a PB w/minimal text...
Post by: Schmara on May 16, 2012, 08:04 AM
Can it be done? I have a PB with very few words (like 1 line per page) that I love. Great illustrations would really bring it to life and I think it could be a fantastic book (I may be biased). But how in the world to sell it to a publisher? Illustration notes are a no-no. Without them (and they would be very minimal), it's hard to get the book. So I decided to flesh it out and it became a rhyming PB. But then it's just meh, even with good meter and rhymes. I really love the minimal text version most and would prefer the pictures to tell the story, so what to do? How could I go about getting it published? Or is this one I should file away and move on?
Title: Re: Selling a PB w/minimal text...
Post by: Franzilla on May 16, 2012, 08:16 AM
You can use illustrator notes if the text doesn't make sense without them. I would imagine that both editors and agents would welcome a text with so few words if the story is good and well written too.
Title: Re: Selling a PB w/minimal text...
Post by: CaroleB on May 16, 2012, 08:33 AM
You might find this thread interesting. It's kind of lengthy, but addresses your concern.
http://www.verlakay.com/boards/index.php?topic=61860.0
Title: Re: Selling a PB w/minimal text...
Post by: Jean Reidy on May 16, 2012, 08:39 AM
Schmara - I would really encourage you to go back to your original text and add a few, very short but well placed illustrator notes. As long as a note helps fill in the story and doesn't dictate the nature of the illustrations, you're fine. Your concept will shine through in your spare but purposeful text.
Good luck!
Jean
Title: Re: Selling a PB w/minimal text...
Post by: KatyD on May 16, 2012, 08:54 AM
I agree with Jean.

Good luck with it!
Title: Re: Selling a PB w/minimal text...
Post by: Schmara on May 16, 2012, 09:18 AM
Thanks for the replies. This book has been sitting for about 5 years now and I think it is something I'm going to revisit over the summer. The other thread was very informative and makes me wonder whether I should save this book for after I get published with something else. If that ever happens. But maybe I will look over the original text and see what/if there is something I can do to improve it and still keep it sparse and then sub it out a bit. I don't know.
Title: Re: Selling a PB w/minimal text...
Post by: Stephanie Ruble on May 16, 2012, 09:39 AM
Schmara if you still like your original text, I say go for it! Add in minimal illustrator notes so that the editor can understand the story that's not in the text, but remember not to add too much. An illustrator will be able to imagine scenes for what you wrote, even without direction. Good luck!
Title: Re: Selling a PB w/minimal text...
Post by: Verla Kay on May 16, 2012, 12:02 PM
Just remember if you do submit this with illustration notes, to also include a "clean copy" of the story...one with no notes, text only.
Title: Re: Selling a PB w/minimal text...
Post by: JulieM on May 16, 2012, 03:12 PM
You could test the waters by sending your MS to just a few well targeted publishers and see what response you get. (If a negative, you could hold off on submitting to others until you have published something else, as you have already suggested). That way you haven't burnt all your bridges. End of message...and cliches.
Title: Re: Selling a PB w/minimal text...
Post by: Schmara on May 16, 2012, 07:26 PM
I had never heard that before, Verla, but it makes sense. Thanks for the tip! I think I'm going to end up doing what you mentioned, Julie and subbing it out to a few publishers and then going from there.
Title: Re: Selling a PB w/minimal text...
Post by: MegM on May 16, 2012, 07:53 PM
Schmara, something else to think about ... I write pbs with fairly minimal text, too, and have had a couple knocked back by my publisher in the last year. The reason they've given is that because my work is so illustration-dependent, it's a huge commitment for an illustrator, and for the publisher to feel comfortable asking that of them, they want to feel that there's a reasonable chance of the book selling big numbers, having a more than 'average' level of success.

I found this really interesting, and it does make sense to me. I did have a contracted illustrator sit on my first pb for a year before withdrawing on the basis it was too much work and not cost-effective for him in terms of making a living. So I guess it is a real concern and perhaps something worth thinking about.

Re illustration notes, I always include these, but they're quite minimal - only where absolutely needed to make sense of the text. My publisher is well-known for disliking illustration notes and stripping them from submissions before sending work to illustrators, but she does leave in those that are essential to understanding.
Title: Re: Selling a PB w/minimal text...
Post by: JulieM on May 16, 2012, 09:35 PM
I find what you said really interesting, Meg. Would you be able to elaborate for us comparative newbies about how illustrations accompanying minimal text turn out to be more work than illustrations accompanying average text? Are more illustrations required, or is it about more thinking/working out required prior to doing the actual illustrations?
How horrible to have an illustrator sit with your work for a year before turning it down! That must have really hurt.
Title: Re: Selling a PB w/minimal text...
Post by: tfb3 on May 17, 2012, 05:37 AM
Another thought to consider: Minimal text can work very well, *if* the concept is unique and (or) there is a definite plot and story arc.  If it's a minimal text story about something commonly done, it'll be more difficult to make it stand out.
Title: Re: Selling a PB w/minimal text...
Post by: pjlyons on May 17, 2012, 06:29 AM
Something else you can do if you don't want to add illustrator notes is to set the story up in the cover letter. This won't work if you need to explain every page, though.
Title: Re: Selling a PB w/minimal text...
Post by: KatyD on May 17, 2012, 05:11 PM
That's what I originally did with Farmer McPeepers, pj. I had heard over and over again, "NO illustration notes!" so I mentioned in the cover letter what was happening in the 'background' with the cows taking the farmer's glasses and such. Then, I was surprised when the editor contacted me and asked me to tell them what I envisioned for each spread. So, you never know...
Title: Re: Selling a PB w/minimal text...
Post by: Schmara on May 17, 2012, 05:36 PM
I really like that idea, Katy. And it's good to hear that it's worked before too. :yup
Title: Re: Selling a PB w/minimal text...
Post by: MegM on May 17, 2012, 10:34 PM
I find what you said really interesting, Meg. Would you be able to elaborate for us comparative newbies about how illustrations accompanying minimal text turn out to be more work than illustrations accompanying average text? Are more illustrations required, or is it about more thinking/working out required prior to doing the actual illustrations?
How horrible to have an illustrator sit with your work for a year before turning it down! That must have really hurt.

Julie, it's possible I'm conflating two things here. I don't think a minimal text pb necessarily *needs* to have more detailed illustrations -I guess that depends on the specifics of the story - but perhaps it's at least more likely that will be the case. In the two minimal text pbs I've had published, the illustrations did an enormous amount of work, to the point where I actually feel apologetic accepting praise for the books, because I really do think the illustrations made them, in many ways.

In the mss I've had rejected, that was the case also - that the text was suggesting something in broad strokes, and the illustrations would need to be very richly detailed, and conceptually quite complex, in order to make the story work. And my publisher said they just didn't have sufficient faith in the books' potential to ask an illustrator to make that kind of commitment. So I guess that's where I'm coming from in mentioning this as a possible issue to consider.

W/regard to the illustrator who knocked the ms back after a year, yes, it was frustrating at the time, especially since it was my first pb and I was pretty keen to get it out there. But it actually worked out for the best in the end.
Title: Re: Selling a PB w/minimal text...
Post by: JulieM on May 17, 2012, 11:20 PM
Thanks so much for your explanation, Meg. It makes sense to me now. I love how generous our wonderful Blueboard community is in contributing to our collective knowledge.

PS I was grinning from ear to ear when I read your No Bears in a book shop last year. I must have looked a real dope!
Title: Re: Selling a PB w/minimal text...
Post by: Abracabarbara on May 18, 2012, 04:13 AM
I'm attending a "wordless picture book" track at our New Jersey conference in June. I'll ask how authors should submit "minimal text" subs.

It should be very interesting.
Title: Re: Selling a PB w/minimal text...
Post by: pjlyons on May 18, 2012, 05:58 AM
I'm attending a "wordless picture book" track at our New Jersey conference in June. I'll ask how authors should submit "minimal text" subs.

It should be very interesting.

Me too! NJ SCBWI conferences rock.

pj
Title: Re: Selling a PB w/minimal text...
Post by: Schmara on May 18, 2012, 06:55 AM
Awesome, AE. I'll be interested to hear what answers you get!