Contract Q&A, including typical amounts for advances and royalties. I found that very interesting. There's also a sample contract and some copyright facts for writers.
As per usual, SCBWI does a great job helping its' members. If you're not a member and you seriously want to persue writing for kids, I highly recommend you check them out.
PS--Be sure to visit Indie-Debut 2010 Author Beth B. Reinke's website, Beth's Book Basket, for a great interview with Carla Mooney, multi-published non-fiction writer whose debut fantasy, Owen and the Dragon, is available now.
Friday, May 28, 2010
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Welcome to the second of four posts designed to help us find the good in rejection letters. (If you missed the first post on form rejections, you can read it here.) Today, we tackle the personalized form rejection. These can take a couple of forms--pun completely intended. It might be a form rejection with a handwritten note scrawled at the bottom. Or it could have a personalized paragraph sandwiched in between form paragraphs. The example I'm using is of the handwritten variety.
THE PERSONALIZED FORM REJECTION:
I hate form letters, too. Just receiving them, even the nice ones full of holiday news, makes me squeal and consider tearing out my hair. Worse, I know that you poured your heart into the story you sent, and as an editor there is nothing I admire more (and need for my continued employment, I do realize!) than the incredible efforts of authors like yourself. However, due to an overwhelming backlog of submissions, I find myself with no choice but to send this stupidly impersonal and less than uplifting reply.
Please be assured that I have read your work, and after thoughteful consideration I'm sorry to say that your project isn't the best match for my list in particular or XXX Publishing's list in general. Again, I sincerely thank you for entrusting me with your words and wish you the most success in your future writing.
Yours in stories,
and handwritten at the bottom of the page:
Thanks. This is sweet but not quite right for XXX; small list.
Best of luck,
I want to commend the editor who wrote this. As far as form letters go, this one rocks. She first acknowledges that rejections suck and apologizes for them. She then goes on to thank the writer for their effort and reassure them by pointing out that publishing decisions are very subjective. It seems less anonymous than most form rejects and on top of that, it's darn funny.
But today we're focusing on that handwritten line at the bottom. What's positive about it?
From all the manuscripts the editor read that day, yours stood out. Enough so the editor wanted to give you some feedback. She didn't have to take time out of her busy day to add that line. Your story compelled her to.
You got feedback! Whether it's a reason for the rejection, as it was in this case, or a note about what didn't work for the editor, this feedback can help you move forward with your manuscript. You might revise to address an editor's comment or reassess your query. Or, in the case above, try a larger publisher or search out 'sweet books' on the market and target those houses.
Personalized forms don't come along everyday. If you get one, you can be sure it means your manuscript is in the upper echelon of the slush -- that hard, icy layer on top of the melty, snowy--er...ok, the slush analogy isn't working for me. But you get the idea. Personal notes from editors or agents mean you have their attention. You get cookies for that!
And once again, you rock for putting your work out there! Rejections like these should give you some confidence. Keep shooting!
Monday, May 24, 2010
Sadly, I report the passing of our cute Aracana chicken, One-Up Mushroom. We're not sure how she died. She was lying on the floor of the coop yesterday when I went out to collect the eggs. One-Up was such a character. Not only did she chase the squirrels and cats out of our yard, she often joined our dinner parties by flying onto the table and walking through the food. I'm really going to miss her.
This was the scene at our house on Saturday. Those little white dots are snow. We had about two hours of it. Thankfully, it didn't stick but it really ruined a nice May Saturday. Sunday, however, looked like this:
Friday, May 21, 2010
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
THE FORM REJECT:
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to consider your manuscript.
I'm sorry to say that I do not see a place for your manuscript at XYZ. We receive a very large number of book proposals and manuscript submissions, including many of considerable merit, and of these we are able to publish very few. I regret that this volume also prevents me from replying with individual editorial comments.
Publishing decisions are, of course, influenced by a publishing houses's style and an editor's opinion. Although your work isn't right for XYZ, perhaps it will have a place at another company. I wish you every success in your publishing endeavors.
Positive things of note in this letter:
- You got a response! Many houses don't even bother anymore if they're not interested, so this is something to be happy about. You can confidently mark this submission 'closed' and not wonder if it got lost in the mail.
- This publishing house receives "a very large number of...submissions". Sometimes these numbers are in the tens of thousands per year. If your submission was in the top 1%, that would put your manuscript in the top 100...which is great-- unless the company only publishes fifty books a year. Being rejected doesn't mean your book sucks.
- The point the editor makes about decisions being influenced by a house's style and an editor's opinion is exactly right. Another house and another editor may feel completely different, so get that manuscript out again.*
- You rock for putting your work out there! It takes time and effort and stainless steel guts to create a query, compile the submission and send it off to be critiqued. And most likely you'll do this many more times than you'd like before finding a home for your book. So give yourself a cookie and be happy knowing you've knocked down one of the rejections on your way to
fame and fortunepublishing success.
*I'm a huge advocate of submitting. As I've often quoted, "100% of shots not taken, don't score" so a book that sits in a drawer has zero chance of being published. However, a book that's not ready to send out has the same chances. So does a middle-grade novel sent to Flux, since Flux only publishes YA. So, send out your work, but make sure it's ready first and do your homework to make sure you're sending it to appropriate people. The Children's Writers and Illustrators Market is invaluable for that.
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
(Photo courtesty of http://www.3drt.com/3dm/characters/zombie/character_3D_game_model_fantasy_zombie_04.jpg)
Zombie eats the monkey.
Zombie eats the drum.
Monkey finds his hand.
on his monkey bum.
in an undead sort of way.
Monday, May 17, 2010
First, a couple writing related links:
1. Harold Underdown posted some recent staffing changes in the publishing industry. Check them out here to make sure the editor/agent to whom you're subbing is still at that house. I love his posts. If you find them useful, be sure to follow Harold on Twitter. He posts links to his page whenever he updates.
2. Tying into Feel Good Monday, agent Jill Corcoran (who is lovely and wonderful, despite her having rejected one of my books) has a post and link to thirty famous authors who were rejected (some repeatedly) before landing a book deal. Be sure to read the part about Judy Blume! In case you don't want to click over, you shouldn't miss Jill's advice at the bottom so I'm reposting it here:
Write the best book you can.
No really, go back and look at it with a critical eye.
Revise some more.
One, maybe two...three, four, five more times.
And then believe.
And then believe.
Believe in your words. Believe in your creation. Believe in yourself.
Now get out there and submit. Rejection is part of the process.
Deal with it and move on.
Now, on to the Feel-Good part...
I received my first fan mail last week--from a girl who's growing up in the same town in which one of my books is set. Through a random series of events, she ended up reading the manuscript: Libby Jean & the Hare Krishna Salvation. The part of her letter that most thrilled me was this:
"...I could really relate to the character. It was like, I know what that feels like or ain't that the truth. I really felt like Libby Jean."
Some background on this manuscript...an editor once requested the full ms, then rejected it because "...the southern voice does not ring true. It's too stereotypical." I didn't agree with that comment and decided against revisions for voice. I'm glad I did. It sounds like it rang true for my young reader.
That just goes to show, one person's southern is another person's stereotype. Listen carefully to any critique comments you get, think them through, give them time to sink in. Then, listen to your heart. Forget feedback that doesn't ring true or hurts your heart to consider. Not all feedback (even feedback from editors and agents) is good for our books. The stories we write are our stories. And while we want them to be great, and polished, and published, in the end they should still be ours.
Friday, May 14, 2010
1. Look what came in the mail yesterday! A whole Royal Mail package of Flake bars, a Ripple bar (which looks a lot like Flake with a chocolate coating) and a Double Decker bar which is new to me! All birthday wishes from my high school friend Becky, who now lives in England. More on Becky below in my Friday favorite.
2. Alice Pope's new blog for SCBWI. I don't know if any of you were followers of Alice Pope (of CWIM) in the past, but you should definitely check out her new digs: at the SCBWI blog. Per her first post, they plan to be...
- Interviewing editors and agents
- Featuring SCBWI success stories/debut authors and illustrators
- Highlighting great industry blogs
- Featuring markets/new markets/new imprints
- Getting your questions answered by industry experts
- Reporting on SCBWI news and events
- Hosting writers stopping by on blog tours
- Sharing my favorite tweets for children's writers
- Offering general publishing news
- And more!
FRIDAY FAVORITE: A cool story
As mentioned above, my friend Becky and I went to high school together. We both wrote--poetry and short stories--and every contest we entered, we ended up competing against each other. I think she beat me out more times than not. After high school, we lost touch as I went to design school and she, last I heard, was headed for the Naval Academy.
A few months ago, we found each other on Facebook. And it turns out, not only are we both still writing, but we both write for children! Becky writes picture books and I write middle-grade, but we're probably still competing, these days for agents. As long as she keeps sending Flake bars, though, I guess I can live with it.
HAPPY WEEKEND! What are your plans??
Thursday, May 13, 2010
I'm Edgar Allen Poe.
"You are unquestionably brilliant, but you have some issues that only long, intensive bouts of therapy can cure. You are obsessed with ideas of claustrophobia, and you tend to describe these situations in terms that sound suspiciously like a womb; you also are likely to marry your 13 year-old cousins. No wonder guilt is a main theme of your writing - Freud would have a field day with you! Unfortunately, you're much more likely to self-medicate with opium and alcohol than to seek help; it's hard to describe your mommy issues when you're lying in a Providence, RI, gutter."
Wow. I have mommy-issues? Do they mean, like, laundry, soccer practice and missing homework?
If any of you take this quiz, click back and tell me who you are. Maybe all of us "Poes" can get together for absinthe some weekend.
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Lately, you might have noticed some negativity oozing out of my blog. It's coming from the paper cuts of rejection letters and maybe even carried on a tear or two. I'm not normally a negative person but it's hard to get your hopes up again and again with requests for partials and fulls, only to get rejected in the end.
One author I know called this period in a writer's life the forest before the summit: the writer is so close to hitting the peak and getting published, but they've climbed so far they're already exhausted, and because of the trees they can't see the top. For all the writer knows, it might go on like this forever. Can you see the forest floor here? It's littered with bodies, just like the climb to Everest. (Isn't it creepy the way they leave the dead bodies on the ice up there?)
Anyway, I'm in the Forest of Doubt myself. The publisher of The Invisible Sister is moving so slowly I'm not even sure they're still alive. It's been over a month since I had an email from my manag'g. editor. My release date is creeping up (July) with no evidence that a book could be released on that date. I had to cancel my launch parties. My hair is turning grey (technically, not a book issue but most likely related) and it's cold and rainy (absolutely not a book issue, but miserable none-the-less).
What to do?
I made myself a Yay-go-me Page. I took all the most flattering, encouraging phrases from my request and rejection letters for the past XXX years and put them onto one sheet. Now I look at it and think "Well, if an agent from Andrea Brown would love to see another project from me, then I better keep at it."
I plan to be much more positive in the future. Except on rainy days.
Monday, May 10, 2010
Everyone, say hi to Carla Mooney. Carla is an Indie-Debut 2010 member and a new friend of mine. She's also the author of 10 kid's non-fiction books as well as the recently released chapter book, Owen & the Dragon.
First, I'm having chocolate training doughnuts and Mt. Dew. What snacks would you like?
Jellybeans, M&Ms, and diet orange soda are my staples!
You’ve written nine non-fiction books but Owen and the Dragon is your first fiction book. How did writing a middle-grade fantasy differ? Which do you prefer to write?
I actually wrote Owen and the Dragon before any of my other books, it just took longer to get published! The main difference is that most of my non-fiction work are assignments where publishers assign me a topic to write about. In contrast, Owen and the Dragon was completely my own idea. It actually started as a class assignment for an online writing class I took a few years ago.
I can’t say that I prefer either type of writing over the other. It’s like asking me if I like M&Ms or jellybeans better – I love both! I love the creative freedom of fiction work, but also enjoy learning and researching my nonfiction topics.
Do you have kids of your own? What do they like to read?
I have 3 kids that keep me hopping at home – ages 10, almost 8, and 5. My oldest loves mysteries and nonfiction dog books – she’s trying to talk me into getting a dog! My middle son and I are reading Diary of a Wimpy Kid together and he’s loving that. My youngest loves Breakfast with Bear and is also obsessed with anything Spongebob – so we read a lot of Bikini Bottom adventures.
You have a lot of projects in the works. Can you tell us about them?
I have several nonfiction books coming out later this year. Great George Washington Projects You Can Build Yourself from Nomad Press is scheduled for November, and I’m currently researching another for them about Explorers of the New World which should be released in 2011.
I’m most excited, however, about a picture book I have coming out with Earth Day Publishing in the fall. It’s tentatively titled Samson’s Story and tells the story of a kid with leukemia from the perspective of someone who loves him, his dog. A portion of the proceeds of the book’s sales will go to cancer-related charities. I have a personal connection to this one, my youngest was diagnosed with leukemia at 19 months old. Thankfully, he just finished 3 plus years of chemotherapy and is doing well.
Writers usually have several books floating around in their head. What do you have planned for your next work in progress?
I’m in the middle of another chapter book that features Izzy, one of the characters from Owen and the Dragon. I fell in love with her during Owen’s story and decided she needed one of her own!
What have you learned that you wish you knew early in your career?
I still kind of feel early in my career and am learning something new every day. I would say that one of the most important things is networking. I’ve gotten leads on book assignments and tips on which publishers to submit to from critique group members, newsletters, online message boards, etc.
Thanks for visiting with me, Carla! I'm really looking forward to getting your book for The Boy in my house.
Friday, May 7, 2010
I'm reading --gasp-- grown-up book! Being a travel junkie myself, I love travel memoirs. What's not to love? Exotic places without the creepy hotels & exotic food without the creepy stomach bugs, all for way less than the cost of gas to Nampa, Idaho. But I am particularly hearting this book by Alice Steinbach. Without Reservations chronicles her month-long, solo trip to France (where I think she falls in love, but I haven't gotten that far yet.) What makes this different than all the other escapist Euro-trip books is that Alice is over fifty. I love that. Not that I'm anywhere CLOSE to fifty, of course, but it's nice to know I have adventures in store down the road. Way down the road. Okay, not so far down the road but far enough that you can continue to think I am twenty-eight.
Thursday, May 6, 2010
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
This has me flummoxed. As a writer and a reader of writer's blogs, what I love most about the blog community is how it assures me that I'm not alone on this often demoralizing road to publication. I love commisurating with others when yet another rejection letter comes in. Or reassuring a blog buddy whose latest "no thank you" ran more along the lines of "you have no talent and should instead be fixing cars".
We can't post about our efforts or rejections. Not really. Because you know who else reads our blogs? The editors and agents to whom we've submitted. And do we really want them knowing that Daisy Flowerhead at ABC Publishing just rejected the very manuscript they're holding in their hand? Heck no, we don't.
I've also seen some very negative twitter and blog posts from agents and editors about writers who complain on their blogs. We have plenty to complain about. The submittal process takes a long time. The 'no-response unless interested' policy kinda sucks too, however necessary it may be. And sometimes, a response is just rude. But we can't complain without incurring the wrath of the very people we're trying to impress.
So what's the answer? I don't know. What do you think?
Wouldn't it be nice to see stats from unpublished writers on submittals vs. rejections? Did they gave up subbing after 45 rejections? Or was it 13? Did they revise seven times? Or once? Oh, and who hates the six-to-eight month response period? Raise your hand--just don't put it on your blog.
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
Question 1: Where were you five years ago?
1. Working at a boutique architecture firm downtown and being miserable.
2. Trying to find an agent or a publisher for The Iron Bodkin.
3. Playing soccer competitively.
4. Three of us living in an unrenovated, 900 square foot, 100 year-old house w/ one scary bathroom.
5. Waiting anxiously for whatever Harry Potter book was due out next.
Where would you like to be five years from now?
1. Still doing architecture from home, though with a few bigger projects.
2. Published multiple times with good reviews.
3. Playing soccer for fun with no trouble from my right knee.
4. Living part-time in our new house in Mexico.
5. Waiting anxiously for whichever friend's book is due out next.
What is your to-do list today? (Mine is so boring.)
2. Call the city about lot orientation on Hill Road.
3. Write blog post about the Small Publisher's Association of North America (SPAN) creating a new publisher designation called PIP or Professional Independent Publisher. The PIP designation would honor those small presses who maintain a high level of quality and standards in the industry.
4. Draw elevations for project in the East End.
5. Start construction documents for office addition project.
What five snacks do you enjoy?
1. Mt. Dew
2. Grasshopper cookies.
3. Teriyaki beef jerky.
4. Pickles & olives.
5. Maui Luau Barbecue potato chips.
What five things would you do if you were a billionaire?
1. Fund college for The Boy and pay for H's master's degree.
2. Build our house in Mexico and buy a stone estate somewhere in Europe.
3. Let hubby and I retire.
4. Travel a lot.
5. Take lots of writing courses and fund transportation costs for the Wad so they could come too. :)
Now, I pass this meme along to all the Indie-Debut 2010 Members:
Beth Bence Reinke
Monday, May 3, 2010
I'm way late in thanking my dear friend and fellow Chautauqua alum Susan Fields for this Sweet Blog Award. I love all my friends, but my writer friends have a very special place in my heart -- right next to book contracts. Susan's helped me through a lot of tough times and I don't know what I'd do without her. In that vein, I pass this award along to two friends whose opinions, advice, silly jokes and animal pictures have brightened my day on countless occasions: Tess Hilmo and Miriam Forster. Big xo's to you guys.