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Genres & Age Categories => Picture Books (PB) => Topic started by: Anne Marie on December 06, 2012, 08:34 AM

Title: Myths and misconceptions about picture books???
Post by: Anne Marie on December 06, 2012, 08:34 AM
So next week I'm the guest speaker for a group of lively and learned senior citizens.  Wine and cheese is involved.  Lovely.

Anyway, they want me to talk about my process, which I will, but as I am not one of those presenters that thinks my personal story is all that, I'd like to focus on debunking some myths and misconceptions about picture books.  I have a list going but I'd love to hear your ideas, in case I've missed something golden.  An example would be that picture books are only for the youngest children.

TIA.
Title: Re: Myths and misconceptions about picture books???
Post by: Artemesia on December 06, 2012, 08:45 AM
That they are easy to write...  :bewildered:

If you already have a list, I'm sure you've covered it, but I've met lots of people who think all PBs are written in rhyme, and MUST teach children moral lessons. Or the only PBs they know are Dr Seuss and they think all PB should be written in the same style.

Fun topic, AM!!
Title: Re: Myths and misconceptions about picture books???
Post by: Anne Marie on December 06, 2012, 08:51 AM
Actually I didn't think about rhyme, and that's a GREAT one!  Thanks, Arty.
Title: Re: Myths and misconceptions about picture books???
Post by: Hélène Boudreau on December 06, 2012, 08:57 AM
Myth: That picture books are faster to write/publish.

It took me about 6 months to write my 450 word picture book, I DARE YOU NOT TO YAWN, and it was accepted for publication in 2009 and will be published in 2013.  From the time it was accepted, it went through 6 major substantive edits and 2 copy edits over a period of eighteen months.  Then, there was another year-long process of illustration collaboration where wording and punctuation were re-examined and tweaked.

In contrast, it took me about 6 months to write my 50,000 word novel, REAL MERMAIDS DON'T WEAR TOE RINGS, and it was accepted for publication in 2009 (around the same time as IDYNTY). It went through 2 substantive edits and 1 copy-edit over a period of about eight months and was published in 2010. By the time I DARE YOU NOT TO YAWN is published, I will have written three more books  in the REAL MERMAIDS series.

So, essentially I've taken the same amount of time to bring one 450 word picture book to publication as 4 x 50,000 word novels.



Title: Re: Myths and misconceptions about picture books???
Post by: Artemesia on December 06, 2012, 09:01 AM
Hélène...

 :faint
Title: Re: Myths and misconceptions about picture books???
Post by: Kell on December 06, 2012, 09:23 AM
Great example, Hélène... You can be Anne Marie's Exhibit A.

Maybe another myth is that a picture book should have a lesson or "be good for you." Sometimes there's a lesson, but all reading is good for you!
Title: Re: Myths and misconceptions about picture books???
Post by: Mike Jung on December 06, 2012, 09:38 AM
One oddball thing I've heard from a few non-writerly types is that picture books are JUST PICTURES, and that the text is just there because you're supposed to have some text. They don't seem to understand that the pictures and text are supposed to work in tandem, and can do so in a variety of ways.

Another thing I've heard is that picture books are insubstantial or inconsequential, which irritates me. They focus on the concerns of the very young child, but the fact that the concerns explored in PBs are age-appropriate doesn't mean they lack substance or importance.
Title: Re: Myths and misconceptions about picture books???
Post by: Vijaya on December 06, 2012, 09:43 AM
Great opportunity AM.
Myth -- PBs are all cute.
As Mike says, you can have serious PBs that deal with history, cultural problems, etc. Eve Bunting is a good example who writes the gamut.
Vijaya
Title: Re: Myths and misconceptions about picture books???
Post by: Franzilla on December 06, 2012, 10:18 AM
Picture books are only for children who can't read yet.

And hélène, blimey!
Title: Re: Myths and misconceptions about picture books???
Post by: JodyJS on December 06, 2012, 10:34 AM
Myth: that picture book authors get to choose their illustrators

Title: Re: Myths and misconceptions about picture books???
Post by: LeslieG on December 06, 2012, 11:00 AM
Myth: that picture book authors get to choose their illustrators



or a more basic misperception, that if you're writing them you must also be illustrating them.
Title: Re: Myths and misconceptions about picture books???
Post by: SYoon on December 06, 2012, 11:42 AM
... that kids won't know the difference between a quality picture book and one written by their little brother.
Title: Re: Myths and misconceptions about picture books???
Post by: writerjenn on December 06, 2012, 02:31 PM
That it's just a series of words and illustrations whose main function is to be cute. People often don't realize that a picture book usually has conflict and a plot.

Title: Re: Myths and misconceptions about picture books???
Post by: AJSchumacher on December 06, 2012, 07:28 PM
That they need to be simple for a child to understand them. I feel as though using some words/concepts that a child may not know is a great way to encourage a curiosity for knowledge.
Title: Re: Myths and misconceptions about picture books???
Post by: Anne Marie on December 07, 2012, 09:54 AM
Thanks all.  I'm so enjoying these posts as I put together my talk.
Title: Re: Myths and misconceptions about picture books???
Post by: Betsy on December 07, 2012, 11:24 AM
1. Writing about the terminal cuteness of your dog or grandchild will make a book that others want to read.

2.  Anyone can write a picture book.

3.  You can make a picture book starring an inanimate object as long as you use alliteration. I remember one very nice person (a writer for adults) who enthused to me about her manuscript WILLAMINA THE WAVE. (I've changed some of the details so this person won't be embarrassed if s/he happens to read this.)

4.  Story ideas about an animal who can't do the thing that all others of his species can do, but learns to feel special anyway:  The dog who can't bark, the fish who can't swim, the bird who can't fly, etc. etc.

5.  Stories based on something that happened in the news--yesterday.

6.  You know in your heart that the rules don't apply to you, so you don't need to bother to learn them.  If the guidelines say your story should be between 300 and 600 words long, that you should research who publishes what, and your ms. should be properly formatted, there's nothing wrong with sending a 3000 word, single-spaced picture book, formatted however you think it should look to any old editor.

7.   If you think it's funny, a four-year-old will think it's funny too.

8.  Doing something extra to make your manuscript stand out: Sending glitter, putting cute stickers all over it, typing it up in colorful font, etc.

Now having said all that (and you may not want to tell them this, but it's the truth)...

I've published manuscripts that have broken every single one of these rules.

1.  One of my illustrators put my dog in one of my (most successful) books.

2.  My first picture book was acquired by the first publisher I sent it out to. Did I know what I was doing?  Absolutely not. 

3 and 4.  I'm the author of BORIS THE BORING BOAR. (Another good rule is: Don't put the word "boring" in the title of your manuscript.)  This is the story of a wolf who becomes a vegetarian.

5. I'm the author of SOMETIMES BAD THINGS HAPPEN, a picture book I sold the day after 9/11.

6.  I've sold really, really long picture book manuscripts.

7.  I've sold manuscripts that were funny, but mostly to adults.

8.  I sent a story about a witch in a black envelope.

So the last misconception about picture books is:

9.  Ninety-nine percent of the time, you should follow all the rules.  They really will help you not get eliminated. BUT you won't get published just because you follow the rules. And sometimes you'll get published even though you don't. (But don't count on it.)
Title: Re: Myths and misconceptions about picture books???
Post by: Michael Sussman on December 07, 2012, 02:09 PM
1. Writing about the terminal cuteness of your dog or grandchild will make a book that others want to read.

2.  Anyone can write a picture book.

3.  You can make a picture book starring an inanimate object as long as you use alliteration. I remember one very nice person (a writer for adults) who enthused to me about her manuscript WILLAMINA THE WAVE. (I've changed some of the details so this person won't be embarrassed if s/he happens to read this.)

4.  Story ideas about an animal who can't do the thing that all others of his species can do, but learns to feel special anyway:  The dog who can't bark, the fish who can't swim, the bird who can't fly, etc. etc.

5.  Stories based on something that happened in the news--yesterday.

6.  You know in your heart that the rules don't apply to you, so you don't need to bother to learn them.  If the guidelines say your story should be between 300 and 600 words long, that you should research who publishes what, and your ms. should be properly formatted, there's nothing wrong with sending a 3000 word, single-spaced picture book, formatted however you think it should look to any old editor.

7.   If you think it's funny, a four-year-old will think it's funny too.

8.  Doing something extra to make your manuscript stand out: Sending glitter, putting cute stickers all over it, typing it up in colorful font, etc.

Now having said all that (and you may not want to tell them this, but it's the truth)...

I've published manuscripts that have broken every single one of these rules.

1.  One of my illustrators put my dog in one of my (most successful) books.

2.  My first picture book was acquired by the first publisher I sent it out to. Did I know what I was doing?  Absolutely not. 

3 and 4.  I'm the author of BORIS THE BORING BOAR. (Another good rule is: Don't put the word "boring" in the title of your manuscript.)  This is the story of a wolf who becomes a vegetarian.

5. I'm the author of SOMETIMES BAD THINGS HAPPEN, a picture book I sold the day after 9/11.

6.  I've sold really, really long picture book manuscripts.

7.  I've sold manuscripts that were funny, but mostly to adults.

8.  I sent a story about a witch in a black envelope.

So the last misconception about picture books is:

9.  Ninety-nine percent of the time, you should follow all the rules.  They really will help you not get eliminated. BUT you won't get published just because you follow the rules. And sometimes you'll get published even though you don't. (But don't count on it.)


Brilliant!
Title: Re: Myths and misconceptions about picture books???
Post by: Vijaya on December 07, 2012, 02:45 PM
Wowza, Ellen. You are a QUEEN of PBs.
Hats off!
Vijaya
Title: Re: Myths and misconceptions about picture books???
Post by: Betsy on December 07, 2012, 02:57 PM
Thanks Michael and Vijaya. But from my POV (oh, yeah, don't change point of view in the middle of the story--I've done that too), I've just made more mistakes that most of you.
Title: Re: Myths and misconceptions about picture books???
Post by: Franzilla on December 07, 2012, 04:15 PM
I read that entire list with interest, but the part I most wanted to get to was... did she really send off a submission with glitter/sparkles/in a coloured envelope/something else? And the answer was yes! Fantastic. I feel like I've been given carte blanche to send my next MS out on pink perfumed paper (with a lace edge), stick a couple of gold chocolate coins inside and wrap it all up with a sparkly ribbon... and perhaps a fake glacé cherry attached.

Who wouldn't want to read a letter like that?!
Title: Re: Myths and misconceptions about picture books???
Post by: Betsy on December 07, 2012, 06:00 PM
You'll certainly make an impression, Siski. 

Title: Re: Myths and misconceptions about picture books???
Post by: awful waffles on December 07, 2012, 08:45 PM
I think it's a myth that they are always fictional stories, when there are some wonderful picture book biographies and other non-fiction as well.  I think it's a myth that children quickly become "too old" for picture books, because there are pbs for all ages, and I still love reading picture books!
Title: Re: Myths and misconceptions about picture books???
Post by: Abracabarbara on December 08, 2012, 05:24 AM
"I think it's a myth that they are always fictional stories, when there are some wonderful picture book biographies and other non-fiction as well"

So true.

And there are some great wordless pbs, as well. Hate to tantalize but there is a wonderful one coming out by a major publisher soon. I can't say anything now. (I saw the art at an illustrator workshop)

When you see it you'll agree. From what I saw this book could be fiction or non-fiction.
Title: Re: Myths and misconceptions about picture books???
Post by: Jean Reidy on December 08, 2012, 06:32 AM
Hi Annie Marie -

Given that you're talking to "lively and learned" seniors, I'd mention to them that picture books have really evolved -- that what they might have read years ago might not sell today.

Of course, the classics  and staples that continue to do well are not what I'm talking about here. But too often we may be  (and I'm approaching that senior status faster than I'd like to be) tempted to turn to books from our childhood or even our adult children's childhood as a reference point, and that's not always the best place to start. Instead, it's wise to stay current with favorites of the last few years.

I'd show them a few innovative books - like PRESS HERE or SHARK VS. TRAIN -  that sort of break the mold of the traditional picture book, alongside a few fun story books (like VAMPIRINA!!) to give them a feel for what PB characters and plots are like today.

Have fun! I love seniors!!
Jean