Thursday, October 1, 2009

Once Upon a Time...

The following is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to real people or titles is only imagined.

There was once was a picture book writer
Whose writing could not have been tighter
With an agent on board,
"Kung Fu Cows" was adored.
Her future was looking much brighter.

Then she and her agent conversed-
"No others compare to your first.
Not saying, they stink.
But you need to re-think."
Now that writer's bubble has burst.

Okay, so... good thing that didn't actually happen, because that would be depressing.

But let's say, for hypothetical purposes, that it did.

What can you do when your picture book manuscript is just not strong enough to sell in this difficult market?

My agent offers these general suggestions:

1) Strengthen your characters. This is a very character-driven market. (Sucks for me because I tend to write plot driven stories.) Make sure your characters are well-drawn.

2) Add layers. If a story has appeal on many different levels. it has a much better chance. For example a story about counting, pirates, and friendship has a much better chance of selling than a story that is just about pirates. [Guess that's why Hop! Plop! sold... it's about friendship, playgrounds, problem-solving, and math/physics (size, balance, etc.)]

3) Consider switching rhyme to prose. Rhyme occasionally works, but often it just complicates the storytelling because of the demands of making the lines rhyme.


Katie Anderson said...

Whoa. Great, albeit scary, post!

Corey Schwartz said...

Oy, scary as in TMI? Aren't we doing honesty Thursday or something?

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Since I haven't started to revise my rhyming PB, perhaps I best rethink it, huh? Thanks for the good info.

Susan R. Mills said...

I definitely think layers are important. There has to be an underlying message. I would think this especially true in picture books.

Jacqui said...

Oh, how you put my nightmares into limerick!

storyqueen said...

If it were me, I would rewrite the PB using option 3. I am a damn good rhymer (maybe not as awesome as you, but damn good) yet none of the PBs I have sent out that rhyme ever get much attention. (although I am nearing the end of one now....hehehe) Persistence thy name be me!

Anyway, I think you owe it to the idea to play with the structure some....

Good Luck. It's hard in the PB world right now. I know.


Unknown said...

I like how Hop Plop has just a weensy bit of rhyme (good rhyme, I should clarify).

hytime said...

Though your agent may seem quite cocky
And make you fell like drowning in sake
Just keep saying “who cares”.
And keep peddling your wares.
It took Stalone 5 years to sell “rocky”


B.J. Anderson said...

Great post! And I like the little poem. I hope everything is going well!

Corey Schwartz said...

Ha, dad.. good one! :)

Corey Schwartz said...

Though, no criticizing my agent!

And, Shelley, just to clarify, Kendra thinks PIGS works perfectly in rhyme. It's some other manuscripts where she questions it.

Kim said...

Great advice! I am struggling, struggling, struggling with a WIP so these suggestions come at an opportune time.

Am I correct that you're one up, one down right now? Take that one up and CELEBRATE! Don't let the others drag you down.

Oh, and can your dad adopt me? I love his rhyming encouragement. He definitely wins the cool blog dad award.

Stephanie Faris said...

I write young adult but I'm in awe of picture book writers. There's such creativity there. It's almost like art through words.

Corey Schwartz said...


It's more like one up, five or six down... but who's counting? :)

Anyway, Kendra had issues with PIGS the first time she saw it, but with her feedback I was able to whip it into shape, so if there are any editors reading this... Becky and I are great whippers!