April 5, 2021-Sometimes by playing it safe in our writing we limit our opportunities for growth not only as authors, but in finding out about the world around us and the people that live there. Today I’m going to talk about what publisher’s want to see when it comes to pushing the envelope in your writing.
- New solutions to old problems. If we use YA books as an example, some of the subject matter written about involves divorce, substance abuse, the character finding themselves, peer pressure, eating disorders, and more. As a publisher, I want to see new solutions to these old issues and not always a happy ending. Divorce, for example, could include the main character going to live with her grandparents or best friend’s family, or even better, striking out on her own and figuring things out herself. Maybe she sides with the mother’s new spouse or the father’s new partner, perhaps she decides to move abroad and get some space from the whole situation. The possibilities are endless, and they should all be explored when brainstorming. Going with the least obvious choice is a sure way to get your query read.
- Fresh perspectives. Publishers are sick of seeing the same old perspective, and I’m not just talking about the type of narrative (e.g., first person), when authors submit their work. We want to see fresh perspectives, we want new voices, and we want to hear voices that have been stifled up until now. We want more diversity in the way characters are presented, where they come from, and how they see and deal with the world around them.
- Real characters. Not every character should be white, blonde, and blue-eyed. We need to show unique characters in our writing just as we observe in the real world; people come in different shapes, sizes, abilities, challenges, and personalities and we should strive to include them because these facts are authentic, real, and sometimes raw. Think back to the last time you saw a character in a wheelchair or with leg braces on in a children’s book; what about the last time you read about a character with Down Syndrome or Cerebral Palsy? The point is, authors need to embrace the real people, their challenges, and the situations around them.
You’ll have to do a lot of research on topics you don’t know about when writing things if they are not something that you’ve experienced such as ableism, health challenges, relationship issues, etc. But please remember to bring in the experts and do not appropriate cultures. There are a lot of stories that are not ours to tell. Stay tuned for more advice in pushing the envelope in your writing all this month. If you’d like help with your manuscript or don’t know where to start, check out some of our courses and classes here: Children’s Book Writing Master Class – Pandamonium Publishing House, Transitioning from Writer to Author (An Introductory Course) – Pandamonium Publishing House, Best-Seller Bootcamp – Pandamonium Publishing House
June 19, 2019– It was in the Harvard Business Review magazine where I read that employers are starting to (finally) hire people who are of different abilities. The publication called it Neuro-Diversity and the article featured a young man named John who is on the autism spectrum. Many people with ASD are of higher than average intelligence and possess special skills that relate to exceptional memory and pattern recognition among many other things. (https://hbr.org/2017/05/neurodiversity-as-a-competitive-advantage)
I recently had the pleasure of meeting with a gentleman who is on the Autism Spectrum. During our meeting, he was witty and super intelligent; his knowledge of a specific topic was staggering. He told me that he had written a book and he wanted me to take a look at it. I happily agreed and now we are working on the publication of his work. His suggestions will change the way that we format books going forward! I was in awe of his attention to detail and his ability to remember stats and facts; he was a more skilled writer than many I have come across (including myself) with his technique and I admired his ability to write with such flow and ease. He taught me so many things in a matter of minutes and has forever changed the way that my company will create books in the future.
The point is, we need more neuro-diversity in our lines of work. There are gifted people out there who are not given a fair chance to display and use their gifts because perhaps they lack social skills or they don’t make eye contact or they have what some people would call obsessive behaviours. Those with different cognitive abilities have amazing work ethics, they are laser-focused and extremely creative and innovative. They see the world in a different way, in a way that we may not be able to see. But, if we give them a chance to join us in our line of work and at our workplaces, we’ll have a new perspective on creativity, friendship, abilities, and Neuro-Diversity.
May 3, 2019– It’s that day of the week again (aka FriYay) where we head on over to Publisher’s Corner to answer your questions about writing and publishing and today’s question is a doozy!
Q: “Lacey, I’ve written a picture book and I keep getting rejected! One publisher told me that my manuscript was boring…I don’t know what to do, please help!”
A: Ouch. Let me just say that at least this person got a response back from a publisher that wasn’t just a form letter and now the writer can regroup and start again. The publisher isn’t being a jerk because they want to be, they’re just sick and tired of the same old, same old. Let me explain what publisher’s DON’T WANT to see in Kid’s books.
- They don’t want the same old characters. Diversity is key. We want to see characters that have different backgrounds, different beliefs, and celebrations, that have different abilities, different family units, and different ethnicities. Kids want to see books on the shelves that look like them! They can’t be what they can’t see.
- They don’t want the same old story. Done to death is an expression that I use more often than I’d like to. We are tired of the same old stories that sound like this, “Timmy went to school and had a nice day. His teacher was nice, he made friends and came home. He couldn’t wait to go to school the next day. The End.” Someone please hand me a sharp object so that I can gouge my eyes out. Look at books that are unique and different a la The Day The Crayons Quit, or The Book With No Pictures, or P is for Pterodactyl. (Three of my favourites that I wish I had written, insert crying face here.)
- They don’t want something that won’t sell. Salability is key. A picture book is around an $8,000.00 investment for the publisher. We want to at least make our money back and then some. Don’t send us a book that preaches to kids (leave that to the parents) or that is the fifteenth of it’s kind (eg. Diary of a Not So Wimpy Kid…also a legal liability) or that is not marketable. I’ll leave the politics and religion out of this, but I know you get the drift.
Those are just three things we don’t want to see on our desk as publishers. There are more, but if you stick to leaving these out, you’ll have a good shot at getting your manuscript read. X LLB