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My PB manuscript has a big built-in challenge... Any advice?

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I have written a first draft of a picture book intended for readers in the age range of roughly 6-8. It has a built-in challenge, and I figured I would reach out to the Blueboard community for some advice. I can't imagine that the issue I'm facing is unique, but perhaps you can let me know.

The issue I'm having is with word count, because the concept of the book involves detailed panoramic illustrations that drive the story forward more than the words on the page, which consists entirely of dialog in peripheral speech bubbles. The dialog makes up roughly 360 words, but the manuscript is close to...
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.
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3800 words!

I know that the natural advice will be to cut it down, but trust me when I say that it is actually written in an economical and breezy style, it is just a detailed story with a lot happening visually on the page -- primary action, plus a handful of vignettes that progress in the background as the story goes on. This is the very point of the book, so there's no real way to cut it down substantially. Think "Welcome to Mamoko" meets "Little Nemo in Slumberland." I'm sure I could trim a few things here and there, but not enough to bring it down to anything approaching a traditional PB word count.

So, I'm anticipating having a very hard time getting people to read it. Even entering into critique swaps seems like a big ask, let alone expecting agents of editors to devote their time to reading it instead of 6 or 7 other manuscripts in the same amount of time!

Do I just keep at it as if this is not a problem? Any specific advice? This can't be the first PB manuscript to lay out a detailed visual story that requires a lot of prose to get the narrative across...
#1 - September 11, 2019, 12:53 PM

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I'd think that it may be good to stop thinking about your story as a picture book, since you are describing how your square peg won't quite fit into the round hole. A wider search may find a format that more closely matches the qualities of your book. You may discover a niche that your story slides into, or maybe there's a format that would require only minimal adjustments to the way it stands now.
Even when you find a format that more accurately presents your book, it may still be different enough to be a hard sell. Which means, it's likely a doubly hard sell for a debut. So maybe there's another story you can write that will start to build your platform and give you more leverage to bend the rules.
Good luck!
#2 - September 11, 2019, 03:04 PM

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I think I'm confused. You say the illustrations move the story forward more than the words on the page, and the only words on the page are dialog in speech bubbles, which is roughly 360 words. So what are the other words if the story is  3800 words? Are they illustration notes? Then those don't count as part of your word count, though I can't imagine that you'd have 3800 words describing the illustration.

I'm not familiar with the books you are referencing, so I think I might be missing something. Sorry I am of no help!

But Brian is right, if your story doesn't fit in the "normal" categories, it might be a really tough sell. Not impossible, but likely very tough since it might be considered niche.
#3 - September 11, 2019, 04:45 PM

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I'm reading this as the bulk of the text being illustration notes. Are you also the illustrator? If so, make a sketch dummy to indicate the details of the illustrations (with one finished spread of the art) and include the manuscript, the 360 words) in the dummy and as a separate document. If your dummy fits the 32 or 40 page format, this will be fine.

If you aren't the illustrator, you do no get to decide how they will look unless you self publish or submit with a friend, but make sure that friend is a true professional artist. This may be the best bet for something in a format outside traditional boxes as well.

Another thought: Is this a fiction/nonfiction hybrid like the Magic School Bus books? In that case, the text, assuming it's not illustration notes, might still fly.

You may also want to consider posting the first 1000 words or so to the Online Critiques area of these boards. That will remove the issue of not having crit partners. You can post further sections once you've received feedback.
#4 - September 11, 2019, 06:11 PM
Website: http://www.debbievilardi.com/
Twitter: @dvilardi1

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Hmmm, it does sound like a challenge. But consider a book like Laura Amy Schlitz' Good Masters, Sweet Ladies: Voices from a Medieval Village. It's a delight to read. It's long. But it's also the perfect length. I don't think this was her first book, but it's a Newbery Winner. I have loved all her books. So I'd say not to worry about the length but to perfect your story and send it out with a prayer that a publisher will agree with your vision. Yes, it's hard for a publisher to invest in an unknown author but if it's gold, they will.  :clover :clover :clover
#5 - September 11, 2019, 06:14 PM
BOUND (Bodach Books, 2018)
TEN EASTER EGGS (Scholastic, 2015)
www.vijayabodach.blogspot.com
Author of over 60 books and 60 magazine pieces

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Thanks so much, everyone! I went ahead and posted the first 1/3 to the Online Critiques board, as suggested by Debbie. I think it will be easier to gauge this issue looking at the actual manuscript rather than discussing it in the abstract. Probably should have just posted there to start! Thanks again.
#6 - September 11, 2019, 09:56 PM

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It sounds like you have a intriguing situation. I haven't had a chance to look at your ms posting, but I suggest that you try attending writing conferences. This usually allows you to submit to agents and editors who are normally closed to submissions. Because you attended a conference where they presented, the agents will often give your ms more time and attention than they might have otherwise done. You can often pay for a professional critique at conferences, too. These can be very helpful.

#7 - September 12, 2019, 07:40 AM

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