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Publishers for Picture Book Biographies

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I'm new to this section of the boards, so let me start by introducing myself - my name is Leah Cypess, and I'm a YA writer who is working on branching out into picture books, primarily picture book biographies of historical Jewish figures (Dona Gracia Nasi, Ben Yehuda, Yehuda HaLevi, etc.) My agent does not really do picture books, but he is willing to do the legwork of submitting and (hopefully!) negotiating contracts, as long as I do the research about where to send. Our goal is to find a publisher who is a good enough fit that I would develop a good working relationship with them and stick with them for the majority of these books.

I've done research and compiled a long list of publishers that we could submit to. I'm thinking that smaller and indie presses with more of a school/library focus are probably our best bet -- Holiday House, Lee & Low, Chronicle, Charlesbridge, etc.

Since we're going to start with a handful on the first round, I was hoping some of you might share the benefit of your experience and let me know who you would consider the best publishers for this kind of project? Not that I am assuming any of them will want my books, of course, but if I have to choose a few for the first round, I might as well choose the ones I'm really hoping for!

Feel free to email me if you don't want to comment about specific publishers on the boards -- I'm at LCypess@gmail.com. Any input is EXTREMELY appreciated, since despite my research I do feel a bit lost in the dark. Thank you so much!
#1 - May 03, 2015, 06:10 AM
« Last Edit: May 03, 2015, 12:31 PM by Leah »

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I have a picture book biography, Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine, coming out this fall from Creston Books. They have been wonderful to work with and Marissa Moss is an amazing editor.
#2 - May 03, 2015, 08:15 AM
Laurie Wallmark
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Thank you!
#3 - May 03, 2015, 02:04 PM

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I've published a couple of biographies. I can name a few publishers, but it's hard to say which is "the best." Some publishers will give you a larger advance, others might be easier to work with, and still others have better distribution. So the answer to who's the best is: It depends.

A few publishers who publish general nonfiction might be interested, especially the Jewish publishers (the bigger publishers might consider it a niche market).
#4 - May 03, 2015, 02:09 PM
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Thanks, Betsy - that's a good point. I would say better distribution and being easy to work with are my two top priorities.
#5 - May 03, 2015, 03:22 PM

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Start with presses that publish non fiction and have some Jewish interest books. Kar Ben is the premier Jewish publisher in the US.
#6 - May 05, 2015, 07:09 AM
Website: http://www.debbievilardi.com/
Twitter: @dvilardi1

Thank you!
#7 - May 05, 2015, 08:38 AM

I think these days nearly all mainstream children's publishers are doing picture book biographies. I've got new and/or upcoming PB bios with Candlewick, Chronicle, Calkins Creek, and Coughton Cifflin Carcourt (cidding) (ok, I'll stop now).

It mostly just depends on all the usual stuff, like who likes what, who's looking for what, who already has what, etc. That's where an agent comes in handy. Mine doesn't take a lot of clients who do picture books, either, but she does keep her eye open for those of us who do.

#8 - May 05, 2015, 01:13 PM
AROUND AMERICA TO WIN THE VOTE
ANYTHING BUT ORDINARY ADDIE
MESMERIZED
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THE GRUDGE KEEPER
more at mararockliff.com

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Oh Mara, I just have to say I loved GINGERBREAD FOR LIBERTY. What a fantastic and fun story. And a friend was telling me about MESEMERIZED, so I just put a request on it at my library. I've been following this thread since I've got a few polished PBs I'm about to start sending out and, ta da,  I see you here! Congrats on the fantastic bios. (One of mine is also about Ben Franklin - something few people know about. . . . .)

And everyone who has contributed to this thread. Thanks! I've enjoyed following it.
#9 - May 05, 2015, 05:06 PM
Freaky Funky Fish ( Running Press Kids, Spring 2021)
Tell Someone (Albert Whitman, Fall 2021)

Thanks, dkshumaker!   :love5
#10 - May 05, 2015, 05:29 PM
AROUND AMERICA TO WIN THE VOTE
ANYTHING BUT ORDINARY ADDIE
MESMERIZED
GINGERBREAD FOR LIBERTY!
THE GRUDGE KEEPER
more at mararockliff.com

It really depends on the subject and execution -- some PB bios are perfect for pubs that concentrate on the school and library market, and some are perfect for commercial trade presses. With the Common Core emphasis on NF, all publishers will likely expand their NF PBs.

(And if they haven't been mentioned, add Abrams and Candlewick. I'm on my phone and can't see posts while I type!)
#11 - May 05, 2015, 05:47 PM
Kell Andrews
www.kellandrews.com

THIS OR THAT, Tilbury House, 2021
THE BOOK DRAGON, Sterling, 2018
MIRA FORECASTS THE FUTURE, Sterling, 2016

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Mara, you're a wonder!
#12 - May 06, 2015, 12:34 PM
www.ellenjackson.net
PICKY EATERS
OCTOPUSES ONE TO TEN
THE MYSTERIOUS UNIVERSE
THE BALLAD OF BOOSTER BOGG
BEASTLY BABIES
TOOLING AROUND

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I have a picture book biography, Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine, coming out this fall from Creston Books. They have been wonderful to work with and Marissa Moss is an amazing editor.

Oh that is fantastic! I have a PB manuscript on Ada too!:) She was an amazing woman wasn't she! I'll be sure to pick yours up this fall!
#13 - May 06, 2015, 07:38 PM
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Thank you again, everyone! This has been super-helpful. I have a shortlist now and am researching madly. :)
#14 - May 07, 2015, 12:29 PM

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Thanks, Schriscoe. For those who don't know, Ada was the world's first computer programmer.
#15 - May 07, 2015, 02:15 PM
Laurie Wallmark
lauriewallmark.com @lauriewallmark
Numbers in Motion: Sophie Kowalevski
Hedy Lamarr's Double Life
Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code

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