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Writing Holiday PBs

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KatieClarkWrites

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I have been going through my files and setting aside the manuscripts I honestly cannot see ever selling. I came to a startling conclusion--most of my best manuscripts are holiday manuscripts. All holidays, not only Christmas. I have what I consider a very strong Easter manuscript (it was even considered strongly by the one editor I sent it to, though she eventually passed). I have a strong Halloween story. And several strong Christmas manuscripts.

I don't know how to proceed with this. It seems holiday stories would be the most difficult to sell, and I doubt I can get an agent with them. Does anyone else write lots of holiday manuscripts? How do you handle it? Suggestions?


Oh, and happy fall!  :autumn
#1 - October 28, 2013, 07:10 AM

I won the SCBWI Barbara Karlin Grant with a holiday manuscript (Halloween, though not specifically about the holiday), got an agent with the same manuscript (and some others, but that was the one I queried with), and ended up selling it in a two-book deal! So it can happen. Best to just write what inspires you. Would be nice to have some variety, though. Perhaps try something different when you start a new manuscript.

#2 - October 28, 2013, 07:52 AM
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I have also been told holiday stories are the toughest kind to sell. Still, they're always displayed in bookstore, right? I think the key, as it is with any good PB, is to come up with a twist, or something unique within your story that makes it work in more ways than just being about a holiday. It has to work on multiple levels with layers.
#3 - October 28, 2013, 07:56 AM
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KatieClarkWrites

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Thank you for sharing that, Diane. It's very encouraging for me. And Andi, I never thought of it that way! It does need to work on many levels. I will have to revisit these manuscripts, looking for other angles besides the holiday one.
#4 - October 28, 2013, 09:02 AM

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The theme of the Highlights Fiction contest this year is holiday stories. Maybe one of yours could be reworked as a magazine story and subbed to the contest?
#5 - October 28, 2013, 10:08 AM
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I'm the author of a witch pb (Halloween), a  turkey pb, two solstice pbs, two equinox pbs, and some others that might qualify.  Nothing for Christmas or Easter, though.

It is hard to sell holiday stories. But if you have a unique angle, it's possible. The entire pb market is overcrowded right now, so you really need a unique angle on anything you try to sell. On the other hand, the angle can't be so unique that it will only appeal to a small segment of the buying public.

My best advice is: Do what you love.

But it's tough. If you find the right formula, let me know.
#6 - October 28, 2013, 10:53 AM
« Last Edit: October 28, 2013, 10:54 AM by Betsy »
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I'd take Betsy's advice anyday!
#7 - October 28, 2013, 11:09 AM
www.andriawarmflashrosenbaum.com
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Trains Don't Sleep, HMH 2017
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"Do what you love" sums it up perfectly.
#8 - October 28, 2013, 11:19 AM
NED THE KNITTING PIRATE, GRIMELDA series,
CITY SHAPES, DORIS THE BOOKASAURUS, ONE SNOWY DAY, PIZZA PIG, and more...
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Seconding Andi and Betsy.
Vijaya
#9 - October 28, 2013, 11:56 AM
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Think about what theme your story has, or what it's really about (similar to what Andi said above). Is it about sibling rivalry? Relationship with mom and/or dad? Friendship? Grandparents? Adoption? Pets? You get the idea.

Also, if you write a non-holiday picture book, they might ask the illustrator to add colors or objects to tie it into a holiday (based on the theme of the story). I'm illustrating one for Valentine's Day, which isn't really a Valentine book. The art isn't super Valentine-ish (so it can be out all year round), but the color palette changed from my original art and there are now hearts sprinkled in here and there.
#10 - October 28, 2013, 12:58 PM
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My first contract is for a Christmas PB. Though, it's not truly the same because I'm illustrating it.  :paint

 However, in visits to the book store to do research on new titles, I've noticed that Holiday books get put on the shelf year after year. I just saw Stellaluna in the halloween section and there are some other books I've seen on the Halloween display for the last three years. While their shelf life is short, they keep getting resuscitated year after year.  :coffin

I agree with the others here, go where that internal navigator leads you.
#11 - October 28, 2013, 01:03 PM
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Thank you, everyone. Doing what I love sounds wonderful. Maybe I won't give up on my manuscripts just yet. :hearts
#12 - October 28, 2013, 03:15 PM

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No, definitely don't give up!

It's funny - my kids love to read holiday books at any time of the year. The idea that you would only read (or sell) Halloween books at Halloween is an adult construct, I think. Of course, that's not going to sell your manuscripts, but it just another example of how PB writers have a dual audience to contend with. If it were up to the kids, you'd be all set!
#13 - October 28, 2013, 08:01 PM
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I agree with Carrie!  My kindergarten students love holiday stories any time of the year - especially Halloween stories!  I often see them choosing holiday books from our classroom library and our school library throughout the year.  My son always enjoyed holiday books throughout the year when he was younger as well.  Good luck!

Sue
#14 - October 29, 2013, 04:13 AM
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I'm glad to see such positive reinforcement for writing PB's with holiday themes. I'm working on a Christmas book now. Thanks so much for asking the question!
#15 - October 29, 2013, 06:15 AM

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I don't write PBs, but I'm glad to hear stories like Cynthia's that show it's possible to sell a holiday story as a new author/illustrator. It seems most of the ones in the stores have been about tried-and-true characters (Olivia the Pig, Judy Moody), or by big-name illustrators, or perennial favorites, or books generated by the house or a packager. I'd love to see the holiday offerings get broader. I agree that kids will read a holiday story at any time of year, and for that matter, a summer story in the winter, etc. So will I!

Years ago, a friend of mine got into children's writing b/c she was a kindergarten teacher who was frustrated with libraries' "one holiday book per child" rule. She felt this meant not enough of them were being published. She never sold a holiday story, though did sell in PB NF. I think you all are right that you really need that special angle. Love the general encouragement in this thread!
#16 - October 29, 2013, 10:11 AM
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Whether its a holiday book or not what do you have to lose by submitting it?  It's already a "no" if you leave it in your desk.
#17 - October 30, 2013, 11:08 AM

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Pczajak, I love that. "It's already a 'no' if you leave it in your desk." I have to remind myself of that every now and then when I get a bit tired with the submitting process!
#18 - October 30, 2013, 04:46 PM

KatieClarkWrites

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Whether its a holiday book or not what do you have to lose by submitting it?  It's already a "no" if you leave it in your desk.


Brilliant reasoning! You're absolutely right.
#19 - October 31, 2013, 10:30 AM

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Just wanted to add my first PB contract is on a holiday book set during Mardi Gras. After it's release and initial marketing, I too hope it will return year after year. I agree that writing about what you love shows in your work.  :flowers2
#20 - November 14, 2013, 06:30 PM
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It seems to me good holiday books are perennial.  We read and enjoy our Christmas books, for example, year after year and they are kept together- very treasured.  I agree with Ellen that you should write what you "love" and with Carrie that maybe one of your stories could be subbed for the Highlights contest and with Paul that you have nothing to lose by sending them out to agents and seeing what happens.  Good luck! 
#21 - November 22, 2013, 03:23 AM
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