February 1, 2019– Things come in waves around here and I think that it’s kind of funny; sometimes all I’ll receive is middle-grade manuscripts, then the next time I’ll receive sci-fi submissions, and lately everyone seems to be sending me their ideas for children’s books. Since I’ve had such an influx of kid’s book submissions, let’s talk about how to better your chances of getting a picture book deal with my house.
There have been a ton of incorrectly submitted kid’s book queries and manuscripts in their entirety sent to me as of late (we’ll talk about queries in another post) so I thought that I’d be very specific on what to submit.
Time– Know that if you do get a deal signed with me, your book (any book) will take 2-5 years to hit the shelf. If this is too much time for you to wait then you have bigger problems and this industry will eat you alive. Patience is of the essence and great things take time. We are not in the business of rushing a book, throwing it on the shelf, and hoping for the best. Every single thing is calculated beforehand in terms of a marketing plan, securing the best illustrator for the project, editing the manuscript, obtaining dates for book signings, and cover design. If you’re not in this for the long haul and don’t have a ton of patience, you’re going to be in trouble.
Word Count– Is your picture book between 250-800 words? My personal preference for this type of book is 600-800 words. I prefer this length because it gives us time to get the story across and create a compelling character without leaving any loose ends.
Character– Is your story character driven? Is your character relatable? Does the character participate in a universal childhood experience? If your story is none of these or only one of these, it’s back to the drawing board for you. Don’t bother submitting because you aren’t ready and you don’t understand your market.
POV- Which point of view is your story told from? There’s only one that matters and it’s the child’s point of view. Don’t make mom or dad the main character. Kids see the world from their perspective and not ours. This means that if they’re in a grocery store for example, they probably won’t be able to reach a box of cereal from the top shelf. Or maybe it’s a mass of people in the store and the child comes to eye level with everyone’s butts. You get the point (of view).
Fresh-Is your story something new, fresh, and from a different angle? Let’s use the universal childhood experience again; picky eater books all read the same except for the very good ones. Dragons Love Tacos is a perfect example of a good one because it deals with foods that kids hate, but it puts a fresh and fun spin on it. Sure, making tacos for dragons may not be a universal childhood experience, but not liking certain foods is! Another awesome example of a fresh, different angle kid’s book is The Day the Crayons Quit. Talk about genius!
Kids-And perhaps the most important question of all is, will your book appeal to kids? They are the target audience and if they don’t like it, you can believe that their parents won’t buy it for them. If you’re not writing with kids in mind, then you shouldn’t be writing for kids in the first place.
There you have it! Before sending in your work, know the rules above and I promise that you’ll better your chances of working with us. X LLB
June 11, 2018– Are you making any of these mistakes while storytelling? If so, STOP! Your writing and sales depend on it.
You’re not telling the story that you want to tell. This means that you care too much about what’s trendy, what’s popular, and what other people are currently reading. This may sound harmless, but what happens is that if you’re writing for trends, you’ve probably already missed the boat and the concept has been done to death. Write what YOU want to read, and you’ll never go wrong!
A weak opening. The first couple of sentences of your novel are CRUCIAL. Why? Because people will stop reading if they get bored. Start where the action is!
Terrible narrative. Terrible narrative makes me mental. Seriously. If you’re not going to sit your reader beside the main character then what’s the point? Your readers need to care about the character, and one of the best ways to do this is to ensure that they FEEL and EXPERIENCE everything your protagonist does. Your novel is an escape for your reader, you want to take them away to another place and you can’t do this if you have horrible narrative. Pick a point of view and stick to it.
These are just three tips in a myriad of thousands, but I think they’re very important! Here’s to your success!
November 25, 2017- Here’s a quick and dirty guide to creating characters. This is just a taste but feel free to contact me for more information about the classes I teach!
Without characters what is the point- Characters are the heart of your novel
What a character wants- It’s critical for the reader to know what your character wants from the start.
No one has to like me- The reader doesn’t have to like your character let’s get that straight but they MUST be able to give the reader a reason to follow him. To continue to read his story.
But they must care about what happens to him, they might want to see him dead but wishing him dead invokes strong feelings.
Tension creates awesome characters, it shows your reader what they’re made of. Put them into tense situations and see how they fare.
Choose your name wisely! Stay away from things like Skye and Storm…publishers are sick of seeing these names over and over.
Here is a basic character creating checklist:
Name, sex, right or left handed, age, height, build, eye colour, hair colour, distinguishing marks eg. Tattoos, scars, birthmarks etc.
Parents, siblings, marital status, significant others, children, other relevant relatives, pets, friends, enemies, other relationships eg. The person they buy lottery tickets from every single day etc. religion if applicable, beliefs and superstitions.
Occupation, status, wealthy or not, living space, mode of transport, workspace, are they a neat freak or are they messy
Fears, secrets, eating habits or food preferences, sleeping habits, hobbies, pet peeves, how they relax, attitudes, stressors, obsessions, addictions, ambitions, how are they seen by others and how are they seen by themselves
The bottom line is the more that you know about your characters the better. Of course, you don’t have to include everything on the checklist in your book but the point is to know your character so well that it comes through in your writing. Let a little of your character seep out at a time and be sure to show and not tell.
Make your character memorable but believable
What are the characters flaws? Arrogance, lust, greed, self-destruction, martyrdom, self-deprecation, martyrdom, stubbornness etc.
Don’t forget about facial expressions, body language, and emotions
Make sure you know your secondary/supporting characters, as well as you, know your protagonist
Remember that the secondary characters don’t know that they are secondary characters
Don’t let your characters have what they want
Ask yourself how you can make your character’s situation worse
Build flaws and conflict into the setting
Create conflict between characters (not only the protagonist and the antagonist but also between the characters who are friends and allies)
Increase the consequences of failure for the hero
Remember to blur the lines! The hero doesn’t know who to trust or the hero has clashes with the law, the hero hurts those closest to him, society turns on the hero.
Do terrible things to your character. Make them suffer a horrible loss or maim them if necessary.
Creating characters is the most important thing you do. If you get it wrong your story will be wrong no matter how well plotted.
These are the characters that you need to STOP writing! The hunky, brooding, and mysterious guy: mystery does not mean substance. The Mary Sue: the perfect main character who always gets everything right but doesn’t see it, everyone loves her and she can do no wrong. The popular girl: she’s mean and hates the protagonist for no reason. The nerdy sidekick: make sure their existence means something or kill them.
Make sure your character is always acting in character. Don’t make them do something that they wouldn’t normally do. Eg. Your character never combs his hair because he’s bald. Make sure you don’t put him in a bathroom with a comb, brushing his hair.
Give every character a reason to be in the story, if there is no reason for them to be in the story then kill them off.
Hope you enjoyed a tiny piece of character creation! Now get writing:)
November 3, 2017- There seems to be a lot of confusion around three little words…Middle-Grade Novel. Let’s dive into the basics and explore what elements make up a middle-grade novel.
Middle-grade books are for kids in grades 4, 5, and 6-ages 9,10, 11.
This is a diverse group of readers, and the middle-grade word counts are as follows: books for younger kids are 20,000-25,000 words and the books for the older kids usually contain 35,000-40,000 words.
These books are usually large print, fast reads. A great example of a younger middle-grade novel is Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and a great example of an older middle-grade book is our very own Unfrogged by Tamara Botting.
Middle grade interests include the following things:
PEERS– I capitalized this word because it’s the single most crucial thing to middle -graders and it’s important to know that kids care what their friends think above anything else at this age!
Family-The child is the main character, the child is in the middle, and everything revolves around him or her. For example, parents are getting divorced what does that mean to the child?
Self Concept– How do I belong? Who am I? Kids at this age are just starting to figure this out and ask the questions that will eventually shape them into adults.
Puberty-Looks, development, gender, opposite sex and relationships.
Future-Upon who does the future depend?…It depends on the main character of course!
So if you’re planning on writing for middle-graders, keep the above things in mind!
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