ProTalk Discussion: Submitting - 8/16/05


*** Verla has set the topic on channel #kidlit to Submissions - ProTalk Discussion IN PROGRESS - Welcome!
Verla: Okay folks... I'm declaring this ProTalk Discussion on Submissions to be "officially open" as of now.
Verla: Who wants to start first? Any burning questions anyone has they really would like answered? (Other than, who will publish me and when?_
katrapp: rats
Verla: LOL kat. I KNEW that was your first question!
MRSfields: Who will publish
Verla: YOU will publish you, Jan. And soon?
Verla: seriously, though...
Verla: let's start with When to submit
Verla: There's a right and a wrong time to submit a manuscript
katrapp: I would like to know that if i get someone to submit for me is it worth the cost of hiring them?
katrapp: not necessarilly an agent
kittypye74: What do you mean?
Verla: I'm not sure I get that question, kat.
katrapp: I met someone who charges that will do the research and submissions for you
Verla: Agents don't charge you to submit your stories
katrapp: is it a good thing to get somene or is it best to try the hit and miss yourself
Verla: they only get paid IF and WHEN you do for your stories. So if they don't sell them, they get nothing
katrapp: not agents....
Verla: I would NEVER pay someone to submit for me, kat.
MRSfields: I don't think she means an agent...just someone who will do the market research for you, right?
katrapp: yes jan
paris: I'd say don't hire the person.
MRSfields: It's a nice thought (since I hate that part) but a little too unlikely to be worth the money.
Verla: What incentive would they have to sell your story to the best possible places that it might find a home if they get paid whether or not it sells?
katrapp: I have done the research in the past and am not having a good batting average, so I must be doing something wrong
katrapp: I realize that a great cover letter is best
Verla: are you getting personal rejections, kat, or just forms?
katrapp: both
katrapp: they love it but not right
katrapp: I need to be able to find right
Verla: some editors never read the cover letters unless they love the story, kat. So a great cover letter, while it's a nice help, isn't the end-all to selling
katrapp: what is the best way to find right
Verla: read the books the publishers publish, kat
Verla: some of them you can check out on Amazon now... they let you look inside books and read a page or two
katrapp: good idea
katrapp: thanks
kittypye74: Verla, can you tell us about targeting of your famous out-of-slush success?
Verla: The first thing I did, kitty, after I started getting almost all personal rejections was sit down and think hard about my story
Verla: I figured since it was getting personal rejects, it must be good
Verla: it just hadn't found the "right house at the right time" yet
Verla: So I looked through my CWIM (Children's Writers & Illustrators Market) guidebook and wrote down the names of all the publishers that seemed to like my kind of book to publish
Verla: but I did NOT write down the ones that didn't accept simultaneous subs
Verla: they lost
Verla: :-)
Verla: Then, because it was a picture book, I sent for catalogs of all the publishers I liked
Verla: today, you can look at their catalogs on line and don't have to spend all that time and postage on research
Verla: YAY for the internet!
Verla: and I looked at the covers of all their books
Verla: some of them had a LOT of covers that I did not like for my book
Verla: So I crossed them off my list
Verla: most publishers have a regular "stable" of artists they like to use
Verla: if you pick one that uses artists you wouldn't want to see in your book, you will most likely not love the art when it's done
Verla: so they lost, too
Verla: then I looked through their catalogs and noted which publishers had ONLY authors where it said something like: this is his 3rd book.. this is her 9th book, etc.
Verla: I looked for the ones that had authors where it said, "This is his/her FIRST book..."
Verla: because I knew then that that published liked to find and publish new talent!
Verla: and THOSE are the ones I sent my story to
Verla: there were 7 publishers left on my list when I got done crossing off the "not so good for me" ones. Two months later, I got "the call" from Putnam
Verla: and that's how *I* targeted my story
Verla: Okay... who is next?
kittypye74: Thanks, Verla!
MRSfields: Well, since mine ends up with NO SALE...I think I'll not share :-(
Verla: Remember though that this was 11 years ago! In 1994
Verla: actually, sometimes that can be helpful, too, Jan. Let's us know what NOT to do. <grin>
Verla: but you have had zillions of sales, Jan. Just not in books yet. (NOTE I said, "yet!")
kittypye74: Although the Internet is wonderful for speeding research, it does seem that it has contributed to the giant mountains of slush because it makes it so easy to submit.
Verla: that's very true, kitty
kittypye74: So I end up wondering if I am wasting my time carefully targetting submissions, rather than using the scattershot approach and expecting to get lots of rejections.
Verla: but you need to remember that (from what editors have told me) over 90% of what they see in the slushpile is exactly that - SLUSH. It's totally inappropriate for their house...
Verla: like sending non-fiction to a house that only publishes fiction, or sending a kid's story to a house that doesn't publish children's stories, or sending a fable to a house that NEVER publishes fables, etc.
Verla: I don't think it's ever helpful to just "scatter shot" your stories, kitty.
Verla: It's a waste of your time and money and the editors HATE it.
Verla: a lot of other stories that editors get are just badly written
kittypye74: I don't blame them!
katrapp: I just did a critique for a publisher on a PB
NOTE: PB = Picture Book
Verla: Also, they see a lot of the same story ideas over and over. You do need to hone your craft until your stories absolutely "sing" with originality.
katrapp: and hated to tell them that they had almost published a crappy book
Verla: it does happen, kat
katrapp: she is stopping where she is on it
katrapp: there are many many badly written manuscripts
Verla: In today's market, what I have gleaned from listening to lots of editors talk is this - To get your story accepted it needs to have these things:
katrapp: having it critiqued y seversl different groups really helps
Verla: A completely ORIGINAL story line
Verla: Fresh, unique style of writing
Verla: A full story - with a beginning, middle, and end
Verla: with a problem that needs to be solved or drastic things will happen. In other words, the story needs to not be "slight"
Verla: and the child should solve his/her OWN problem
Verla: it should NOT be "just a dream" at the end
Verla: We're talking about what we need to do to make our stories "shine" above the slushpile when submitting (to those who just came into the chat room)
Verla: (I sometimes think it would be fun to write a story that ends with the line, "And then she woke up and realized it was just a dream," except the reader finds out right after that that it was NOT a dream. Only the main character THINKS it was! Ha!)
kittypye74: Here's another question: how do you indicate in a cover letter that you have done your research without having it sound like either name-dropping or presumptiousness? (e.g., I chose your house for my wonderful book because...)
katrapp: Are we supposed to say why we chose their house?
Verla: It's always a good thing to do, kat
katrapp: oh.....
Verla: Heh heh..first off, I would NEVER say "my wonderful book" to an editor, because that's "telling" the editor how she is supposed to react to the book. I would say something like this:
kittypye74: Kidding!
Verla: (I thought you were, kitty.)
Verla: I am sending my story to you because I noticed you have X and X books in your line and I felt that my book might also be a good fit for you.
Verla: that shows the publisher that A) you are familiar with the books they have published and you didn't just yank their name cold out of a hat
Verla: and B) that you have READ their books and that you've done your research on what kinds of books they like to publish
Verla: so you have immediately gone "up" two notches in their opinion of you
kittypye74: And don't misspell the names of the authors you mentioned. I did that once and was mortified!
Verla: oh, the WORST Thing is to misspell the editor's name, though
ivariaw: or the publishing company
Verla: I've heard many of them say they are instantly disposed to WANT to reject those manuscripts before they read a single word
Verla: I've also heard editors say, "I am not looking at the slushpile to find a story to publish. I'm looking at it to clear it off my desk so I can work. I'm looking for reasons to reject stories." So in order for you to get past that, you have to have a story that an editor simply CAN NOT bear to reject!
Robin: wow, never thought about it that way
kittypye74: That's depressing, Verla. It makes me think more houses will be closing their doors.
LindaJoy: There will always be editors looking for mss
NOTE: mss = manuscripts
Brenda: It's hard to even found a house that is taking unsolicited
Verla: I don't think so, kitty. In a way, it's encouraging to me! Because that means that those of us who DO do our research, who DO learn our craft and get it to where our stories "sing", will instantly rise above the slush and be "shining jewels" to the editors
LindaJoy: you can usually query even if they say they aren't open
vinegarize: there are more than I thought....I was researching markets for a pb...and found a rather long list of possibles
vinegarize: so long I'm not sure how to narrow it down
Verla: And every editor I've ever talked to has said the same thing, "I am THRILLED when I find a beautiful nugget of a story in the slushpile and I LOVE finding new authors!"
LindaJoy: I found more recent luck with a middle-sized house
vinegarize: what are some examples of middle sized houses?
Verla: so even though they might be looking for reasons to reject the bulk of the slush, they DO want to find YOU
Brenda: Well here I am, they don't need to find me, I'm not lost .LOL
NOTE: LOL = Laughing Out Loud
LindaJoy: just look through the Children's Writers Illustrators Market (NOTE: this book isknown as the CWIM by many children's writers & illustrators) -- lots of different publishers
Verla: LOL Brenda!
kittypye74: Has anyone here had success with a house that says "agented only"? My husband (writes for adults) sends stories to closed magazines all the time and always gets personals.
Verla: oh, the 2006 CWIM Market guide is out now!
Brenda: how does he do that Kitty
Verla: If they say agented only, check to see if they allow queries, kitty
Brenda: Just got the new market book ,DownEast is in there this year
kittypye74: Brenda, he just sends them off and they actually read them!
Verla: many houses don't want you to send full manuscripts unsolicited, but they almost all accept queries.
katrapp: except picture books
Verla: a few of them that don't accept queries have a contest once a year, or an open submission month or something when you can "get to them."
Verla: ASK
Brenda: how do you write a compelling query to get them to want to see the manuscript
LindaJoy: I keep my queries fairly short
Verla: that's a whole different conversation, Brenda! LOL... we did a workshop on it once, I believe and we've had a ProTalk on cover and query letters, too. The transcripts are on my Transcripts page
Amishka: I think there are several workshops on queries
Robin: I stopped buying the Market Guides since I get the Annual Report from SCBWI. Am I still missing something though by not buying the book?
NOTE: SCBWI is the Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators
Verla: the CWIM has more publishers listed than SCBWI guide, Robin
Brenda: well I will have to check that out, it took me long enough to figure out how to get to this chat room in the first place, now your sending me to archives. Yikes.
Verla: and the SCBWI guide has some that aren't in the CWIM
Pickles: there's also a website...colossol list of children's publishers or something like that
Verla: so I always try to have both on hand. (Even though my agent does all my submitting for me, now. I still like to look them up, too!)
kittypye74: Yes, there are many on the colossal list that aren't in CWIM or SCBWI.
Robin: Hmm, guess I should get the Market Guide too, then!
Brenda: Is publishers weekly a must for new writers
NOTE: Publisher's Weekly is also known as PW
katrapp: Children's Book Council I think
Verla: just a word of warning... be very careful with lists that don't come from CWIM or SCBWI... they may not be "legit" publishers. When I find them in CWIM or SCBWI, I KNOW I'm sending to reputable publishers
LindaJoy: I think one of the best ways to target is to go to a large bookstores and study publishers of your fave books
LindaJoy: If you like they style, they might like yours, too
Verla: I would say, no, Brenda. If you feel you want to keep up on PW, then you can read it at your local library, or you can sign up for their cheaper on-line version. It's $150 a year to get PW.
Brenda: ouch, if I could sell a rebus to highlights I could buy pw
Verla: very true, Linda Joy! Reading books and noting who published them is one of the BEST kinds of research. And what a great excuse to read the books you love!
katrapp: PW is really more for the adult market
LindaJoy: It's closer to $190 for PW now, but sometimes discounted to $150
LindaJoy: The 2 years children's issue of PW are very helpful
Verla: yeah. They want me back so they lowered my price to $150
katrapp: ahhhh
katrapp: did not know they had a children's issues
Verla: yes, but you can buy just the Spring and Fall Children's issues without paying for a whole subscription
LindaJoy: Every February and July -- anyone see the July issue?
^Miriam: yep
Verla: only two of them each year, kat. They list ALL the children's books coming out in the fall and/or spring season, depending on which issue you get
LindaJoy: anyone we know in it, mir?
Verla: it should be available in Barnes & Nobles and other major bookstores any time now
LindaJoy: leaving to go find it...oh, Verla yanks me back in
Verla: yikes... we are down to just 15 minutes to go. Any other "burning questions" on Submissions from anyone?
Verla: you bet I do, LJ... you do NOT leave until our chat discussion is ended!
LauraW: Maybe someone already asked this, but how many places would you submit to at a time for one manuscript?
Verla: I think everyone in here knows not to put perfume on your submissions? To not type them in fancy fonts? And to not print them out on colored or "different" kinds of paper?
LindaJoy: one thing I do when I submit, at least for synopses, is make some kind of short blurb, the one sentence description
Verla: I think it depends on the manuscript, Laura. Personally, I would never submit to more than ten at a time
LauraW: What is the reasoning behind that?
Verla: then I'd wait to see what kinds of rejects I got from that first batch of ten. If they weren't mostly personals, I would look hard at the story before sending it out again
els: can we sign them in blood?
Verla: because maybe it's not quite ready yet
katrapp: ELS!!!
els slinks off into the corner
^Miriam: poor els
Verla: well, I suppose you can, els. But the editor might be worried about diseases and reject it without touching it!
LindaJoy: I've found out it's really important not to send off a mss too soon -- really make sure it while shine and sparkle in the slush
els: ah, true
^Miriam: very true linda
Verla: yes, that's the number one reason for rejections, I think. Sending stories out before they are perfect
katrapp: Is it a good thing to have it professionally edited to make it shine?
Verla: I don't think it's necessary if you have a good critique group to give you feedback, kat
ivariaw: Shine and sparkle? Sounds like that old 'Polished writing' reference!
Verla: I would never pay anyone to get my story perfect.
Verla: yup, ivaria
katrapp: I ment grammer and punctuation.
kdbrazil: make sure it shines, make sure it sparkles, make sure it SINGS
Verla: UNLESS... I was attending an SCBWI conference. I would pay for a professional critique at one of them
Pickles: befriend an English teacher and pay her
ivariaw: yOU DON'T HAVE TO kNOW it aLL.
Brenda: Oh I am awful at grammer and punctuation
Pickles: or take her out to dinner a few times
Verla: they are reasonably priced, and you usually get a great crit from them.
paris: The professional critique at SCBWI. It works!
kittypye74: Or marry a professional writer. ;-)
cassandra_: Pickles is my resident grammar expert. She reads everything for me and saves me with my comma placement, etc.
^Miriam: I get a lot of submissions that the premise of the story is excellant, but it just lacks that finish and shine
Verla: some people are disappointed with their SCBWI crits... but usually that's because they sent in a story that wasn't really ready yet for publication, and they thought it was
Verla: yep. It's the craft of writing, and the originality of your style of writing that will make your story rise above the rest and really shine for an editor
Verla: and of course, the originality of your idea. Publishers see SO many of the same themes/ideas in stories! The child who is "different" and becomes accepted...
Verla: the child who is moving away...
Verla: scared of the dark
LJoy: monsters under the bed
Verla: yep, lyra. (I wrote one of those... only it's the Monster in the Closet. I still think it's wonderful! LOL)
Brenda: Oh I wrote a story just like that only it was trolls and gnomes, but it did have a good twist.
LJoy: and tooth fairy books are popular
Verla: two and three year olds LOVED my monster in the closet story when I read it to them -- even without pictures!
Verla: it's that twist that will rise your story above the slush, Brenda
Brenda: I hope so, it's sent to an agent right now, waiting for yet another rejection I'm sure, maybe I'm getting closer.
LJoy: yeah like the tooth fairy comes out of the closet...oh, maybe that's a different kind of story
Robin: Hehe!
MRSfields: Actualy, the tooth fairy is under the bed, in a jar...
Brenda: Yeah a tooth fairy that only wants teeth with cavities in them.
LJoy: a tooth fairy for monsters?
LJoy: wow--that would be a BIG fairy!
Brenda: that tooth fairy under the bed in a jar would be tinkerbell!
MRSfields: Well, she does tinkle when I shake the jar really hard.
Robin: Eww
Verla: tsk tsk. We are degenerating to bathroom humor now?
Cynthia: It sells
LJoy: I've never left the bathroom...
Brenda: A tooth fairy who has to wear little tiny depends!
Verla rolls her eyes
Verla: and snorts!
MRSfields: The depends tooth fairy picks the teeth out of dentures
Robin: It's edgy
Cynthia: And poofy
Verla: well, I have to admit, it's unique! LOL!
LJoy: I'm imagining Verla with fairy wings and big poofy Depends
Verla: try to think of something that needs to be written...
Verla: OH! Look in the library at Books in Print
Verla: get the subject guide for children's books...
Verla: and check out your story ideas
katrapp: ahhhhh good
Verla: if there are hundreds or dozens of books out there on that subject already, look at the word lengths and ages they are for. Is there an age or word length that is lacking? That's one of the things I did with my western themed picture book that was pulled from the slush. I noticed there NO short books on the subject for younger children.
Verla: And I mentioned that fact in my cover letter.
Verla: I think it helped to sell the book
Verla: hey, folks... our time is about up! Anyone have any last burning comments or questions on Submissions before we close our ProTalk?
kittypye74: Thanks, Verla!
Verla: Before anyone leaves..
Brenda: Wait, wait, I just learned how to get on!
Verla: I just want to remind everyone that Steven Malk has agreed to do another workshop in here with us!
Verla: And he will be here...
kittypye74: Woohoo!
MRSfields: How nice...he's always so cute
Brenda: When
Verla: again on August 30th, two weeks from tonight!
Verla: Also, Rebecca Sherman with Writer's House will also be coming in to do a workshop
LauraW: Thanks for setting that up, Verla!
Brenda: He's the agent I submitted to. He sent me a very nice rejection letter the first time
Amishka: cool
MRSfields: Cool...fresh blood
Verla: the 27th of September
LJoy: great, V!
kdbrazil: thanks for setting up those workshops for us
kittypye74: You're my hero, Verla!
Brenda: That will be an awesome experience.
kittypye74: Bye, everyone, and thanks again.
Verla: Okay... I'm now declaring this discussion at an end... you may all chat freely about any and all writing subjects now...
Cynthia: Thanks, Verla
Robin: Thank you, Verla!
Mhees: thanks verla
kdbrazil: thank you, dear moderator
Verla: hey, it was a great discussion!
Verla: and thank you especially to those of you who were on time!
MRSfields: Thank you, Miss Verla...even if you wouldn't tell me who would publish my book.
Verla hugs everyone
LauraW: Goodnight everyone. Thanks again, Verla.
*** Verla has set the topic on channel #kidlit to Writers & Illustrators of Children's Literature Meet Here Nightly - Welcome!

Verla Kay
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