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NF PBs without plot/story line? And Mexico vs. Spain?

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Hello, all!

This is my first post on Blueboards, apart from introducing myself in another thread...  Two questions for you knowledgeable folks:

(1) I'm working on a NF PB and am very much inspired by Miroslav Šašek's books, "This is...."  My book is based on the international travels of my dog and I'm struggling to come up with a storyline/plot that doesn't sound like cheesy mush; I feel drawn to "slice of life" books.  Reading this thread (https://www.scbwi.org/boards/index.php?topic=53734.0), I was surprised/dismayed to see many people call these books "unpublishable".  Do you agree?  Thoughts?

(2) My draft manuscript is currently based on travels in Spain, but I am now considering changing it to Mexico (ideally, I'd do a PB series and would pick one of the two Spanish-speaking countries to start with).  I feel publishers/agents in the U.S. would be more interested in Mexico given the large Mexican population in the U.S. and that little U.S. readers would more readily recognize Mexico than Spain.  But is the PB field already saturated with books on Mexico?  Feedback?

Thank you for your guidance!
#1 - August 02, 2019, 01:55 PM
« Last Edit: August 02, 2019, 01:58 PM by Laurie Mitchell »

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Laurie, that thread was a bit discouraging, no? But execution is everything, so I recommend working on the story that you want to write and allow yourself to take the story in different directions, see whether a plot emerges organically. What if the dog gets lost and has to find his human and along the way has adventures? Granted it's not original but the way you tell the story would be completely different than the way I would. Your voice makes it your own, even if it's a concept book, like your dog visiting different places in Spain, or eating different Spanish foods, or celebrating holidays. As to Spain vs. Mexico, I don't know enough. It's not like I come across too many stories set in Mexico. But it's refreshing when I do see titles set in different countries. Good luck with your travelling :dog story
#2 - August 02, 2019, 04:52 PM
BOUND (Bodach Books, 2018)
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Author of over 60 books and 60 magazine pieces

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Vijaya, thank you for your thoughtful reply.  Great advice about just writing and seeing what emerges :) Your recommendations are very helpful and I appreciate it...!

#3 - August 02, 2019, 07:00 PM

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Laurie, I think it's fine to monkey with it and see what comes up, but when you query I think you'll need a narrative arc. My agent made me rework a NF PB a couple of times last fall to strengthen the story thread so it wouldn't be slice of life, and it still didn't get picked up. I learned a lot doing that book but I also spent a lot of time on it, and a paycheck would have been nice.

Last week my agent sent me back a fiction PB ms saying it's a delightful concept book, but doesn't have enough of a straight-up story--it's too slice-of-lifey and they're not selling. So I would definitely address that before you query.

I don't have much expertise on the second question, but I would guess that books that deal with Mexico would be very welcome.
#4 - August 03, 2019, 08:53 AM
Learning to Swear in America (Bloomsbury, July 2016)
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Thank you for the feedback, dewsanddamps. 

I'm sorry to hear you invested so much in your books and one wasn't picked up.  May I ask what your books are about? 

I feel creating a story arc in a NF PB where there really isn't one can make the book feel forced and cheesy, especially since my book is on my dog's experiences.  Also, wouldn't creating a storyline turn the book into fiction, for the most part?  And is there a greater preference for NF or fiction?

Thanks again for the feedback, I wish there was more demand for slice-of-life books because they really can be lovely.
#5 - August 05, 2019, 08:18 AM

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Laurie, I can't say what editors prefer in terms of F vs. NF. It depends on the house and the individual preferences of the acquiring editor. And yes, if you make up a story based on the travels of your dog, it *is*fiction.
#6 - August 05, 2019, 08:41 AM
BOUND (Bodach Books, 2018)
TEN EASTER EGGS (Scholastic, 2015)
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Author of over 60 books and 60 magazine pieces

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