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Genres & Age Categories => Picture Books (PB) => Topic started by: Betsy on August 27, 2015, 12:18 PM

Title: PB Needs? Overdone topics?
Post by: Betsy on August 27, 2015, 12:18 PM
This may overlap somewhat with Rising Above The Slush, but that thread goes back to 2007. This question has two parts. I'd appreciate any answers to either or both.

1. What picture book topics do your feel there's a need for in 2015? Anyone hearing anything from editors and agents that they're willing to share?

I'd especially welcome hearing from teachers and librarians, but anyone with some knowledge of the market should feel free to respond.

2. What picture book topics have been done to death in 2015?
Title: Re: PB Needs? Overdone topics?
Post by: Artemesia on August 27, 2015, 12:26 PM
Interesting questions, Ellen! I'd love to hear some thoughts on that too.
Title: Re: PB Needs? Overdone topics?
Post by: Betsy on August 27, 2015, 02:16 PM
The only thing I've heard (and this has been ongoing for several years) is that many publishers are still looking for ghost stories.

Also, lots of publishers are saying they don't want books similar to Guess How Much I Love You anymore. That is, nothing about how much someone in the family loves--whoever.

(But, hey, take all this with a huge grain of salt. When I published CINDER EDNA back in '93, one editor told me that fractured fairy tales had been waay overdone. Maybe you've noticed--there have been a ton of them since.)
Title: Re: PB Needs? Overdone topics?
Post by: darshana on August 27, 2015, 02:21 PM
I heard from a senior editor and art director at Scholastic via Kidlit Summer School, that they think STEM and girl stories breaking away from the "princessy" mold is of interest.

I can take a look at my notes and reply back tonight.
Title: Re: PB Needs? Overdone topics?
Post by: Vijaya on August 27, 2015, 02:36 PM
I'm curious too.
Title: Re: PB Needs? Overdone topics?
Post by: Artemesia on August 27, 2015, 02:43 PM
I've always wanted to do a ghostie PB, but I thought that would automatically make it a Halloween book? Which isn't necessarily a bad thing (Halloween is my favorite holiday) but I remember someone telling me that seasonal books are harder sells or something?

I heard from a senior editor and art director at Scholastic via Kidlit Summer School, that they think STEM and girl stories breaking away from the "princessy" mold is of interest.

Cool!
Title: Re: PB Needs? Overdone topics?
Post by: Vijaya on August 27, 2015, 02:50 PM
Christmas is a hard sell, Arty. The other holidays do well (my editor at Scholastic told me so). It was counter-intuitive to me but they sell a lot on the special tables for holidays even though the book is only out for a few weeks. And this is why Ten Eggs is Ten Easter Eggs. I rewrote it to reflect the holiday aspect.

Vijaya
Title: Re: PB Needs? Overdone topics?
Post by: Artemesia on August 27, 2015, 02:55 PM
That's encouraging, V! I have this PB I was working on, that even though it isn't about Halloween (and I have one that is, as well) a friend told me it would be automatically shelved with the Halloween books (the characters are mummies and monsters and the like).

I didn't realize Ten Easter Eggs had been originally Ten Eggs! Interesting!
Title: Re: PB Needs? Overdone topics?
Post by: Betsy on August 27, 2015, 06:09 PM
Thanks so much Darshana and Vijaya! Any little thing you remember might help someone on this board, even if it's a topic that doesn't interest you personally.

I've sold a number of holiday books. It's true that the sales are seasonal, but most of them have done fairly well.

I tried to write a ghost story once, but I'm under the impression that they want spooky more than funny. Not easy to do for a picture book. You don't want to scare the kids.

I just remembered--I've heard for years that they'd like more WWII books. Again, not easy to do for the youngest kids.
Title: Re: PB Needs? Overdone topics?
Post by: KatherineR on August 27, 2015, 06:18 PM
Wow. That must be why my little poem sold. I had no idea that was of interest.
Title: Re: PB Needs? Overdone topics?
Post by: Pons on August 27, 2015, 07:00 PM
A ghost PB. I like that idea. Perhaps it could be a friendly ghost - a modern Casper.
Title: Re: PB Needs? Overdone topics?
Post by: Betsy on August 27, 2015, 07:10 PM
Hopefully we'll hear from an editor. I heard they want (slightly) scary, not friendly. Anybody know?
Title: Re: PB Needs? Overdone topics?
Post by: darshana on August 27, 2015, 07:23 PM
Here are my notes.
Senior director - Orli Zuravicky & Art Director - Patti Ann Harris

They are seeing a lot of monsters, pirates, and ninjas. Not to say you can't do it, but it really has to stand-out. Also she reminded us that trends are cyclical. Best thing is to write what you are passionate about.

Wishlists
Patti Ann- girl characters breaking the mold, likes 1st person narratives, likes funny but wants it to resonate at a deeper level
Orli - evergreen topics - love themes, understanding your emotions, bedtime -- just needs to be fresh and from a new angle.
Title: Re: PB Needs? Overdone topics?
Post by: Vijaya on August 27, 2015, 07:25 PM
Thank you Darshana. These are great reminders and notes.
V.
Title: Re: PB Needs? Overdone topics?
Post by: JulieM on August 27, 2015, 10:06 PM
You could check out the MSWL web site ("manuscript wish list") to see what some editors and agents are after right now. I think the web address is mswishlist.com (I follow it on Twitter). It's worth a look now and then.
Title: Re: PB Needs? Overdone topics?
Post by: Betsy on August 27, 2015, 10:56 PM
Thanks, Darshana.  Keep it coming.

Julie--I do check out that website, but it doesn't get updated very often. I only see one for August: "Picture books about some aspect of geek culture. Get 'em while they're young." I have no idea what this even means. Also, Susan Hawke is asking for: "conceptual picture books." Do you think she means counting and alphabet or what?
Title: Re: PB Needs? Overdone topics?
Post by: Mrs. Jones on August 27, 2015, 11:26 PM
Love this thread. I have a half finished pb that falls into the "overdone" category, but working on it has been so fun, I can't help myself. I must finish it!

Ellen, maybe by concept she means things like sharing?
Title: Re: PB Needs? Overdone topics?
Post by: JulieM on August 28, 2015, 03:33 PM
Betsy - yeah, the MSWL is not always helpful, but it can be now and then. It came in handy recently to show me a publisher I was not previously aware of who published work in my area. (Not quite what you are talking about here, I know.) And to top it off, they accepted one of my manuscripts.
Title: Re: PB Needs? Overdone topics?
Post by: Artemesia on August 28, 2015, 04:07 PM
Thanks Darshana!  :thankyou
Title: Re: PB Needs? Overdone topics?
Post by: JodyJS on August 28, 2015, 07:07 PM
I've heard there's a need for big vehicle books.
Title: Re: PB Needs? Overdone topics?
Post by: Betsy on August 28, 2015, 08:16 PM
Yep. Everyone wants another GOOD-NIGHT, GOOD-NIGHT CONSTRUCTION SITE.

Here's a newly posted, hot off the presses, interview with Emma Ledbetter that has some interesting information in it. She tells a little bit about what she does and doesn't want to see.

I can't submit to her because Atheneum is part of Simon and Schuster and I'm currently a Beach Lane Books author. But this might be a good opportunity for one of you. It sure sounds like she's looking for picture books, and Atheneum is a good publisher:

http://www.kimscritiquingcorner.blogspot.com/

Title: Re: PB Needs? Overdone topics?
Post by: darshana on August 28, 2015, 09:55 PM
That was a great interview. Thanks Betsy!
Title: Re: PB Needs? Overdone topics?
Post by: JulieM on August 28, 2015, 10:00 PM
I can't submit to her because Atheneum is part of Simon and Schuster and I'm currently a Beach Lane Books author. But this might be a good opportunity for one of you. It sure sounds like she's looking for picture books, and Atheneum is a good publisher:
I have been watching Emma Ledbetter for a while because I LOVE some of the books she has worked on. However, I was under the impression that Atheneum was closed to unagented subs (unless, perhaps, you see her at a conference). Please tell me I'm wrong, or if there is some way around this!
Title: Re: PB Needs? Overdone topics?
Post by: Carol Samuelson-Woodson on August 28, 2015, 10:01 PM
Great discussion. Thanks everyone!
Title: Re: PB Needs? Overdone topics?
Post by: Betsy on August 28, 2015, 11:01 PM
This thing about whether a house is closed or open isn't set in stone. Some houses NEVER read unsolicited manuscripts; others do occasionally.

This is off topic, but I read that the number of picture books being acquired at any given time depends (among other things) on how the dollar compares in value to the Chinese yen. Most picture books are printed in China. And if the rates are favorable, it's an opportunity to print more pbs. With China having just devalued their currency, it may mean--well, honestly, I'm not sure what it means. That's the kind of thing Harold would know.
Title: Re: PB Needs? Overdone topics?
Post by: June Smalls on August 29, 2015, 08:58 AM
Mac Barnett just published a ghost story picture book that is not Halloween. Leo: A Ghost Story.  I saw him read it at a conference before pub day and it was so well done and entertaining without being scary.
Title: Re: PB Needs? Overdone topics?
Post by: JennaWren on August 29, 2015, 09:29 AM
Thank you for sharing that interview, Ellen! I happened to recently send her a PB (conference sub), yay!
Title: Re: PB Needs? Overdone topics?
Post by: HaroldU on August 29, 2015, 10:05 AM
This is off topic, but I read that the number of picture books being acquired at any given time depends (among other things) on how the dollar compares in value to the Chinese yen. Most picture books are printed in China. And if the rates are favorable, it's an opportunity to print more pbs. With China having just devalued their currency, it may mean--well, honestly, I'm not sure what it means. That's the kind of thing Harold would know.

My ears were burning... that would make it less expensive to print in China, though honestly I'm not sure how much of an impact this would have at the acquisitions level. Perhaps only if the yuan is devalued more, and certainly not right away...
Title: Re: PB Needs? Overdone topics?
Post by: Betsy on August 29, 2015, 11:26 AM
Thanks, Harold. Much appreciated.

I'll keep my fingers crossed for you, Jenna!
Title: Re: PB Needs? Overdone topics?
Post by: JennaWren on August 29, 2015, 11:41 AM
Thank you, Harold!

And thank you, Ellen!


 :thankyou
Title: Re: PB Needs? Overdone topics?
Post by: Vijaya on August 29, 2015, 11:43 AM
Great interview, Ellen. I met Emma at the Carolinas conference a couple of years ago and her session on art in the PB was fantastic.

Vijaya
Title: Re: PB Needs? Overdone topics?
Post by: Anne Marie on August 29, 2015, 04:48 PM
I've heard there's a need for big vehicle books.

When I'm stuck, my agent always tells me to write a truck book. I haven't managed yet.
Title: Re: PB Needs? Overdone topics?
Post by: Betsy on August 29, 2015, 08:59 PM
Yep. Alice Schertle really hit the ball out of the park with her Little Blue Truck series. I'm not surprised. I've always thought that Alice was a fantastic writer.
Title: Re: PB Needs? Overdone topics?
Post by: Tammi on August 30, 2015, 08:46 PM
I have a truck book coming out with HarperCollins in 2017 called Truck, Truck, Goose!

Editors are always looking for books with heart and humor. Make them FEEL. Make them LAUGH.
Title: Re: PB Needs? Overdone topics?
Post by: Schriscoe on August 30, 2015, 09:17 PM
I have a truck book that I hope my agent will be able to sale one day. Love hearing they are sought after.

My PB coming out next fall is about a little race car getting ready for bed. Not a truck but close.  :eh2 kind of.  :grin3

Tammi, I can't wait til Truck, Truck, Goose comes out. Sounds fun!
Title: Re: PB Needs? Overdone topics?
Post by: stephanie-lucianovic on September 12, 2015, 10:14 AM
You guys, this is a fantastic, inspiring discussion. Thank you for starting it, Betsy and for everyone contributing to it!
Title: Re: PB Needs? Overdone topics?
Post by: Tammi on September 12, 2015, 10:17 AM
Tammi, I can't wait til Truck, Truck, Goose comes out. Sounds fun!

Thanks, Schriscoe!