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Truth-based, biographical picture book series?

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Hi, friends!

So, while I have several projects and ideas that I'm working on at the moment, the one that feels the most fully formed is an idea I have for a character-driven picture book series based on the childhood adventures of a real person - a friend of mine, although s/he is already somewhat well-known.

I have this person's enthusiastic permission to pursue the idea, but I'm struggling with the logistics of putting together a dream team to make it happen! Do you know if there are agents/editors/illustrators/publishers out there who would be willing and able to work with me on this kind of a project?

This person is a good friend, and I feel very strongly that their family should be accurately portrayed, and that the books should be consistent with my friend's own personality and existing media content. I would need to be matched with a team that understood that artistic and creative license would have to be somewhat curbed in order to be faithful (at least in spirit, and often in fact) to the source material (their life)! I would also want to work with a team who understood that I'd want to run every major revision by my friend first, to get the family's approval of our portrayal of them and their life.

I feel confident that this can be done, and done well, and be an absolutely delightful series - but I'm a little uncertain about the best way to go about querying it as a concept, since it feels a little unique. I know that there are picture books about real people in existence already, but this isn't meant to be educational - more inspirational and fun. I'm imagining a series that people don't immediately know is based off of true events and people - and are delighted and a little disbelieving when they find out it's all true!

Any thoughts or guidance that anyone can offer? (Sorry for being so vague - I'd rather not give any details about who this person is, as it's quite possible that some of you might recognize the name.)

Thanks in advance!!

Cheers,
Rissa  :thankyou
#1 - April 22, 2017, 01:27 PM

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I'm SO intrigued, Rissa!!! How nifty to have the subject's blessing and cooperation!!!

I'd say write it first. Take this palatable enthusiasm of yours and direct it into a draft. Write what you envision as the first of the series, have ideas for more, and then do the querying. It seems you'd be more likely to find your Dream Team with something more complete, rather than a concept. (Even though your concept sounds amazing!!!!)

I look forward to what others have to say on this. (And I look forward to your based-on-true-adventures PB series!!!)

Best wishes, Rissa!!!

 ::-)
#2 - April 22, 2017, 02:53 PM

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Sounds very cool!

What Carrots said -- write the draft of the first book, polish it, and make it so an agent/publisher couldn't say no. :) Then get your query letter together, and send it out from there. Once you get offers, you can vet that those visions match yours for the book.

Good luck!
#3 - April 23, 2017, 06:12 AM
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If your subject is someone known and on board, consider consulting with any team they already have. An acting agent may be of some help in moving the project forward. But you do need a draft first. A concept is not a product. Agents and editors need to see that first time authors can complete a manuscript. Also, this gives you control over style.

Another piece of advice is to get a release from your friend saying that (s)he won't sue for any content once it's been approved. Some times people don't see the implications until after something has come out. This is true for any real people depicted. You could also change all of the names and fictionalize other family members. There are some sports stars with series that essentially do what you're outlining. You might want to look into those. They're fiction based on the athletes' real experiences.

Good luck and have fun with this.
#4 - April 23, 2017, 08:45 PM

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I'm SO intrigued, Rissa!!! How nifty to have the subject's blessing and cooperation!!!

I'd say write it first. Take this palatable enthusiasm of yours and direct it into a draft. Write what you envision as the first of the series, have ideas for more, and then do the querying. It seems you'd be more likely to find your Dream Team with something more complete, rather than a concept. (Even though your concept sounds amazing!!!!)

I look forward to what others have to say on this. (And I look forward to your based-on-true-adventures PB series!!!)

Best wishes, Rissa!!!

 ::-)


Thanks SO much!! I'm delighted by the enthusiasm for the idea - I haven't seen it done before (which isn't to say that it HASN'T been, only that it certainly hasn't been done-to-death, hooray!), and I'm really excited about it. I'm thrilled that my subject seems equally enthused and is already aware of how aware one must be of publicity and potential backlash - and is willing to help vet my drafts to make sure it's all content that the family feels comfortable with. :) Thanks for weighing in on what stage the writing should be in when I submit it - very helpful!

Sounds very cool!

What Carrots said -- write the draft of the first book, polish it, and make it so an agent/publisher couldn't say no. :) Then get your query letter together, and send it out from there. Once you get offers, you can vet that those visions match yours for the book.

Good luck!

Thanks so much!! I'm hoping to have two or three manuscript rough drafts ready to go, as I intend it to be a series... I want to be able to convince an agent that there's enough material for it to be more than a stand-alone book!

If your subject is someone known and on board, consider consulting with any team they already have. An acting agent may be of some help in moving the project forward. But you do need a draft first. A concept is not a product. Agents and editors need to see that first time authors can complete a manuscript. Also, this gives you control over style.

Another piece of advice is to get a release from your friend saying that (s)he won't sue for any content once it's been approved. Some times people don't see the implications until after something has come out. This is true for any real people depicted. You could also change all of the names and fictionalize other family members. There are some sports stars with series that essentially do what you're outlining. You might want to look into those. They're fiction based on the athletes' real experiences.

Good luck and have fun with this.

Thanks very much, Debbie! Great suggestions. I'm definitely looking to keep the subject's name intact; s/he already has several other materials out about the family, but none in the format I'm proposing. This is sort of meant as another avenue for positive publicity for them. We're hoping that the existing interest surrounding their circumstances will help promote the book(s) and help launch me as a new author (fingers crossed!!), and that the books will appeal to an age group that they haven't yet targeted with their other materials. Definitely a good idea to have (or propose that there be) legal release forms from the start. Sort of feels like a pre-nup - you hope it won't be necessary, but it's probably a good idea, just in case! Ha.


I really appreciate everyone's reactions and suggestions! I feel really good about this project, and I'm encouraged that there seems to be initial interest and support. I'm going to keep working on my drafts!!

Any suggestions you might have regarding whom to query would be greatly appreciated - this seems like sort of a niche idea, and I've never queried anyone (ever!) before.

<3 <3 <3
#5 - April 30, 2017, 03:51 PM

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Start with agencies that deal in non-fiction and have biographical works on their list. Research from there. And again, any team your subject has might be invaluable.
#6 - April 30, 2017, 09:19 PM

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