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Researching PB Editors--Tips?

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BeckyLevine

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Hey, all--I've been reading the threads here, and I do get that it's tough to get an agent for a picture book. I've got a picture book I'm hoping to be submitting by the end of the year, and I am going to query some agents first. I realize that's a longshot, though, and that it's possible (if not necessarily any easier) to sell a PB directly to an editor.

BUT...what I don't know is how to figure out where and to whom to submit. And how. I did the agent rounds a couple of years ago with a MG manuscript, and I used Agent Query and agent websites, and read interviews, and I felt like the research process was fairly straightforward and doable. But I have no idea how to go about finding this kind of information about editors.

I'd love to hear any tips from anyone who's done this process of submitting a PB to editors. Are simultaneous submissions okay? Or as okay as they are for agents? I'm guessing publishing houses has submission material on their web sites (yes?), but what's the best way to find out which editor you want to submit to? Any info you've got would be wonderful to hear.

Thanks!

Becky Levine
#1 - September 22, 2011, 05:41 PM

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To start with, you don't have to have an editor's name on submissions, especially if you don't know them. Picture books, in particular, are short and quick to read, and anything sent to the "Submissions Editor" will get pulled out of the slush if it's promising. Read my article Editor's Names on Manuscript Submissions.

And yes, simultaneous submissions are OK. I'd say anyplace that publishes PBs and has open doors should be on your list, though of course you won't want to send to ALL of them at once.

Good luck!
#2 - September 22, 2011, 05:52 PM
Harold Underdown

The Purple Crayon, a children's book editor's site: http://www.underdown.org/
Twitter: http://twitter.com/HUnderdown

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Finding a Publisher: The absolute best thing you can do is pick up a copy of Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market 2012. It helps you find potential publishers based on the subject matter of your book. From there you can cruise the publisher's website and read some of their books.

Simultaneous Submissions: In general, simultaneous submissions are fine, but some houses aren't okay with them. Just check their guidelines to make sure.

Best of luck to you and your story!  :moose




#3 - September 22, 2011, 06:28 PM

I'm in the opposite camp, Harold.  :yup  I believe in the value of research.

If you have twenty bucks a month to spare (I believe that is still the cost; I didn't look it up), you can subscribe to Publishers Marketplace: http://www.publishersmarketplace.com/ they have excellent lists of editors telling what they have acquired in the last four years, and agents telling what they have sold. You can get a pretty good idea of which agents deal with which editors, and what an editor's tastes are as well as the current tone of the house by reading through multiple editor's acquisitions.  Be aware-- not all deals are reported here. But many are. I have found it to be an excellent tool for understanding the market when I live far, far away from most publishing buzz.

 :) eab
#4 - September 22, 2011, 06:38 PM

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Well, eab, the problem with that is--what about the editors who DON'T report on what they have acquired? What about the editors who don't just acquire the same kinds of books over and over? And what about the eager junior editor who has hardly acquired anything, but is eagerly reading the slush? It's useful, with novels in particular, to find out that a particular editor wants commercial YA series rather than single-title MG. But you can't always find that information. Or you might find information about what an editor acquired while they were at Company A two years ago, but they're now at Company B. Will they acquire the same kinds of things? Not necessarily.

I am not against research of this type, not exactly, but what I've noticed over the years is that many writers use market research as a way to avoid sending out their manuscript, in effect. If they can't find out about someone or some company, they don't send them the manuscript. But you sometimes just need to send it out....
#5 - September 22, 2011, 06:47 PM
Harold Underdown

The Purple Crayon, a children's book editor's site: http://www.underdown.org/
Twitter: http://twitter.com/HUnderdown

Harold, as I said, not all editors who are listed, but many are. And..none of them acquire the same kind of book over and over again. But if you read through all of their acquisitions, you will see patterns. Do they buy quiet books? Humor? Animals? Or non-fiction? Company A and B are clearly denoted in the sales. So, if the editor has moved you can see that and take it into account.

 :yup eab
#6 - September 22, 2011, 06:57 PM

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One method I have found helpful for researching PBs is to go to the library once a week, clear the "New Books" shelves, and read, read, read. Take note of what publishing houses are putting out which books (a spreadsheet is helpful), and check the dedication page to see if the author thanked his or her editor. They often do. If you start to see that one or two publishing houses are putting out books that you really like and/or seem to like the kind of books you are writing, figure out who the editors are at that house. The publisher's website, CWIM and the SCBWI lists are great resources. Type the names of some of the authors and "editor" into a Google search. You will often come up with interviews, blogs or websites where the authors talk about their editors, or the editors talk about their great authors. Even if you can't find a specific editor name to submit to, at this point you will have a great idea about the kind of books that the publishing house likes. Then you can write a cover letter that shows you have done your research by mentioning specific books they have produced and by showing why you think your manuscript would be a good fit for them. If there is a house that you think would be a good fit and that does not take unsolicited submissions, you can keep your eyes open for a nearby conference that one of their editors will be attending. :goodluck
#7 - September 23, 2011, 07:48 AM
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Harold, as I said, not all editors who are listed, but many are. And..none of them acquire the same kind of book over and over again. But if you read through all of their acquisitions, you will see patterns. Do they buy quiet books? Humor? Animals? Or non-fiction? Company A and B are clearly denoted in the sales. So, if the editor has moved you can see that and take it into account.

I just think that's over-doing it. As an editor, I've acquired stuff that didn't fit into any "pattern"--so yes, look for editors who might be a good match. But don't stop there.....
#8 - September 23, 2011, 05:45 PM
Harold Underdown

The Purple Crayon, a children's book editor's site: http://www.underdown.org/
Twitter: http://twitter.com/HUnderdown

Try to get to a conference where you can meet a bunch of editors and hear first-hand what they may be looking for. Maybe they edit MG, YA and/or PB, but you can ask about the PBs they've recently acquired or are working on. (You know they edit PBs because you found a book or two they've done in your research.) You'll get a feel for publishers' tastes and submission requirements, and editors' wish lists. After most conferences, you can sub to the editors and bypass the slush; plus, if you've had lunch with her and have shared a nice conversation...maybe she'll remember you.
#9 - September 24, 2011, 11:53 AM
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I agree with Harold, that you can overthink this. In my experience, you can never really know who your ms will resonate with; people often seem surprised when I tell them who I've worked with. Also, I know that assistants are very good at getting manuscripts into the right hands...

Much luck to you, Becky!
Debbie
#10 - September 24, 2011, 12:30 PM

Ellen Jackson has a great resource on her website. Check it out:

http://www.ellenjackson.net/editors_a_to_c_89771.htm

Hope you don't mind me posting this Ellen. I use it often.

Susan
#11 - September 25, 2011, 05:34 AM

I just think that's over-doing it. As an editor, I've acquired stuff that didn't fit into any "pattern"--so yes, look for editors who might be a good match. But don't stop there.....

I think it depends on the type of person you are, Harold. It fits my style and has worked very well for me -- I've sold probably fifteen of my books through knowledge gained by research. I am also one of those writers who hates waiting.  I never send a ms to a slush pile any more -- I did at one time, and even sold books that way. But...it took too long. :) I would never send a ms to every house that was open to submissions. I would know the house and what they publish, how invested they are in their authors, how they support the books they sell, whether or not they have a strong backlist before I mailed it off. This is my career. I have learned (though painful experience) to take it as seriously as a funds manager researching stock portfolios. Each book is an investment in my future--how well they are published and promoted is extremely important.

I have recently signed with an agent because I have reached the point where I need to focus time on marketing rather than placing the books.  We compare notes on editors and houses before making a submissions list. Our combined knowledge allows for a tighter focus. That works for me, too.  :yup
#12 - September 25, 2011, 07:54 AM

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I thinks that's a really good point--different approaches work for different people, and what works for you may not work for someone else.

I find stories about how writers landed their first contract fascinating. There are so many different paths to publication.
#13 - September 25, 2011, 11:50 AM
Harold Underdown

The Purple Crayon, a children's book editor's site: http://www.underdown.org/
Twitter: http://twitter.com/HUnderdown

I thinks that's a really good point--different approaches work for different people, and what works for you may not work for someone else.

I find stories about how writers landed their first contract fascinating. There are so many different paths to publication.

Yup.  :yup
#14 - September 25, 2011, 12:29 PM

So, let's say that I want to send things out as Harold says to lots of editors, by name or not. Where do I find the names of the houses and addresses? Is CWIM the best resource for that?
#15 - September 25, 2011, 01:29 PM
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BeckyLevine

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Thanks so much, everybody. This is exactly what I needed. In terms of the how specific to make my research list, don't worry, Harold--I DO send out! I like the idea of doing the research I can, but I know there's a point at which I have to say, time to send that query! Great information, everybody, on how to start building my list.  :thankyou
#16 - September 25, 2011, 03:45 PM

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Robin, CWIM is a great starting point, supplemented and updated via Ellen Jackson's page (posted earlier), the SCBWI Bulletin, these boards, and my own Who's Moving Where page (which I update regularly).
#17 - September 25, 2011, 05:28 PM
Harold Underdown

The Purple Crayon, a children's book editor's site: http://www.underdown.org/
Twitter: http://twitter.com/HUnderdown

Thanks so much, Harold!
#18 - September 25, 2011, 05:45 PM
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. . .   and the purchase of CWIM gives you a subscription [ 1 year ] to updated info the children's books mkt on writers market  dot com

 :detective:
#19 - September 26, 2011, 04:10 AM

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I found the Society for Childrens Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) invaluable when I first began to submit.  (And I still love them.) I was familiar with the Writers Marketplace books, and they're great, but the SCBWI info was clear, straightforward, and included the absolute basics.  (I mean, you're not born knowing that you can't send a girlie ms on pink paper with creative spacing and that you don't have to find your own illustrator and that it's not necessary to make a dummy and that some houses won't take unsolicited manuscripts.  You have to find out somewhere.)  They also have material naming all of the different editors in each imprint and often updates about where editors have moved and which editor wants to see what kind of manuscript.

It's not terribly expensive to join (I think it was around $50 when I first joined, which dates me as a dinosaur.) and it is one of the best checks I ever wrote.

Also, it is absolutely possible to submit and sell PB's without an agent.  Although, as I discovered pretty recently, contracts look a whole lot better and the process is way smoother when an agent has your back.  It just has to be the right agent for you.  To my mind, it makes sense to test the waters for an agent for your PB's when you're unpublished, but not to spend years of your life trying for agents as opposed to getting some manuscripts out there.

Finally, it goes without saying that it's good to read a ton of PB's to get a sense of where your ms fits in and if it is, in fact, a picture book.  (My favorite editor comment was the gentle question of whether I would consider revisiting my so-called PB ms -- at half the length.  At which point it was still way too long.)
#20 - October 11, 2011, 02:09 PM
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I mean, you're not born knowing that you can't send a girlie ms on pink paper with creative spacing and that you don't have to find your own illustrator and that it's not necessary to make a dummy and that some houses won't take unsolicited manuscripts.  You have to find out somewhere
Funny you’re mentioning this, AnnS. About two months ago I received, in my SASE, a rejection from a publisher. I had a moment of fluttering heart, because my SASE was heavy with something. Could it be…?
Inside were THREE (yup) PB dummies, stapled and sprinkled with glitter, the latter proceeded to land on my lap, the couch and the rug. Nowhere in this magical offering was there mention of the author’s name.
I have never sent dummies, (I don’t illustrate professionally, so I know better) and they were most certainly not mine. I neglected to write the publisher’s name on the return envelope, so I don’t know who sent it (or which of my many PBs was turned down, and while at it, who got MY manuscript instead.)
I read the dummies. They were not bad. If I were an editor I might consider them too formulaic, ‘not special enough to succeed in today’s competitive market’ sort of thing.
But what got me were the number of newbie mistakes in the submission itself. The kicker is that this was augmented by the fumbled return.
 
Didn’t mean to highjack the thread, but your post was evocative.
#21 - October 12, 2011, 10:04 AM
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Oh Mirka, you got someone else's rejected glitter?  This would be too funny if it hadn't shimmered all over your living room in the middle of your ms being rejected.  Let's hope the glitter-sender isn't here cringing.  (And if you are, buck up, at least your ms. itself was viable.  My first, in addition to being 400% too long, had cats riding horses who were not only irrelevant to the story, but had names and their own richly described outfits, and I don't mean just saddles.) 
#22 - October 12, 2011, 10:25 AM
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LOL, Mirka!  Very funny!
#23 - October 12, 2011, 11:59 AM
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Inside were THREE (yup) PB dummies, stapled and sprinkled with glitter, the letter proceeded to land on my lap, the couch and the rug.

Oh man, this made my night! :lol2
#24 - October 12, 2011, 09:14 PM

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Well, I've had at least two dummies get lost but not one had glitter. It is discouraging to put so much work and time into something and have it go missing. But to get back to the subject: I'd love to have a clue where to send my manuscript and dummy next. It's been at a place  that I thought was seriously considering it but got a "failure to accept" e-mail today. I use that phrase to keep myself from feeling  too rejected and dejected! It turns things around so the "failure" is on their side. Guess I need to get back to researching publishers.

Thanks for the tips --
#25 - December 15, 2011, 08:33 PM
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I think Amazon.com can also be immensely helpful in identifying publishers for similar works- you can do a search, narrow it down by age range and then review the titles and synopses of work then check the publisher. I can then go and review the publisher's website in greater detail to get a sense of trends. Super helpful and it's enabled me to generate nicely detailed lists of publishers in which to direct my work. Of course nothing beats getting to the library and just reading, reading, reading, but this is something I can do with a cup of coffee in my pajamas. And that's something.
#27 - December 16, 2011, 06:09 AM

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