Most Common Writing Mistakes: RMC-SCBWI 2008 Fall Conference Editor/Agent Panel (Part 2)

Continued from yesterday: More questions and responses provided by editors/agents John Rudolph (G.P. Putnam’s Sons), Julie Strauss-Gabel (Dutton), Melissa Manlove (Chronicle), and Barry Goldblatt (Barry Goldblatt Literary Agency).

6. Explain how imprints/umbrella publishing organizations work?

Julie: Submit only to one person at the publishing company per pass, not to two people from two different imprints. As a rule, imprints don’t compete against each other. YOU pick the best imprint for your manuscript before submitting. Also–never submit the same manuscript to two editors at the same imprint.

John: Each imprint has its own personality and set of submission guidelines. Note–you can submit to one imprint first, the to another.

7. What trends do you see in the children’s publishing market?

All: If you (authors) see a trend in publishing, they (the editors/agents) have already bought that type of manuscript for the next several years. Don’t try to follow trends.

Most areas of the industry are doing well except for picture books.

John: Even in picture books, there are exceptions, books that will sell.

Julie: There’s a spread. There are two or three hugely-successful titles (for ex., vampire books). Then a few more of this type of book hit the shelves because readers are actively looking for them. Then this book type comes out in established series paperback originals. By that point, they aren’t looking for more of the same.

Consider: they are currently working on they’re 2010-2011 list.

8. What type of book do you want to see more of?

Barry: Good ones! There are lots of different types of readers, so a single “book formula” doesn’t work.

John: It’s too difficult to categorize. If a book is good, we buy it.

Barry: We don’t want a book. We want writers or artists we can work with for a long time.

9. What type of book would you like to see less of?

Barry: Bad ones :)

Melissa: Books that will appeal to a broad audience. Ask yourself: how many people will love your manuscript? One hundred is not enough. Need to sell tens of thousands to make a book successful.

Julie: “Good enough” is not good enough for the children’s writer. Ultimately, our goal as writers should deal with what happens when our books get to their kid readers.

10. What kind of competition do aspiring authors face? That is, what percentage of submissions do you actually acquire?

John: Small. In 2006, he wrote 500 letters to people who had potential. 10-12/year actually published.

Melissa: Receives unsolicited 12,000 subs/year, of which she publishes 1-2.

Barry: Signed no new writers last year. This year, he’s signed two. He receives 200 queries per week.

[Cheryl: I think I’ll remain in denial about those figures. Sheesh! I’m used to facing tough odds, but those are ridiculous.]

11. What do you want to see in a query letter or cover letter?

Barry: The purpose of the cover letter is to make him want to read the book. Don’t spend time telling about yourself. The cover letter should be like the preview for a TV show. A preview doesn’t tell you about the actors’ schooling or previous films. Focuses on the story and why you want to see it. The letter should read like flap copy. Anything extra provides him with potential reasons to say no. (Note: Later, Barry added that he doesn’t find it valuable to hear about publishing credits, etc., in a cover letter, either. It’s all about the book concept and the writing.)

John: DON’T tell him how to sell your book.

Julie: Keep the letter simple. Put a taste of what’s in the book, but not too much. (Barry disagrees. In his letters, he wants more info about the book.)

Melissa: Don’t put in “It’s charming/great/my kids love it.” Tell her about the manuscript.

Note: all but Barry would like to see publishing credits, if relevant. However, these are only 10% of the decision.

:) Cheryl
The hidden price of "productivity" every writer needs to know - www.cherylreif.com

You’ve probably read the same tips I have: Have a smart phone? Check Facebook while standing in line at the post office! Respond to Twitter messages while waiting for your dentist! Catch up on your news feed while sitting on the pot! For years, I thought the path to increased productivity was to squeeze in MORE–more […]

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