May 19, 2011

Writing Picture Books-True or False

Writing Picture Books (True or False)

*You need to have your book illustrated before you submit it to a publisher.

Most publishers request that writers don't send illustrations because they select a suitable illustrator from their list. Sometimes writers and illustrators don't even speak during the process and may even be lucky to meet at the book launch. When you see the extraordinary talents of picture book illustrators, Shaun Tan, Graeme Base, Maurice Sendak, Jeannie Baker, Oliver Jeffers and Narelle Oliver, then it's no wonder the illustrator is hand picked by the publisher.

*Picture books are simple and cutesy.
Although some picture books may appear simple with cute characters, many are far from simple. It can take a writer years to write a picture book because every word has to fight for its place. Even though a picture book may be traditionally under a thousand words, the same literary requirements remain as in a novel such as, plot, characterisation, voice, climax and resolution. Picture Books today cover many topics to entertain children and encourage them to read, but there's also topics such as illness, divorce, death, and subjects previously kept away from young children.

Printing a picture book is a long and expensive process.
The process of printing a picture book is incredibly expensive with pictures sharing half of the content. The size of the book, the amount of colours (ink) used, and how it is formatted, all contribute to the overall cost. It takes approximately two years for a picture book to be published once it's been accepted.

My children/grandchildren love my book, so it must be good.
True and False
Children of all ages enjoy being read to and told stories and it's wonderful to share this experience with them but it doesn't necessary mean that your book is commercially viable. If you'd like to see your book published then you could self publish it and give out to family and friends. After all, publishing is a business and publishers need books that are unique and sellable.

I'm not a published author so I shouldn't have a website or blog.
The best place to sell yourself and your brand is by building a website and writing a blog. This demonstrates your writing skills and interests and gets your name out in the writing community. It may even get you published! I don't need to tell you that the Internet and networking isn't going away. Websites such as, Face book, Network blogs, Jacket Flap, Linked In, and Twitter make the world of networking so much closer and you don't even have to leave home. It's also a good idea to join writers groups such as SCBWI and The Children's Book Council, and attend writing conferences and festivals not only to network but to make friends and develop your industry knowledge.

I've received a rejection or two so I should just give up.
Most published writers will tell you that they received many rejection letters before they were eventually published. It's just part of the process. I've heard that some authors will be offered a contract on their fifth or sixth book because the more they write, the better they become.

I don't need to read picture books to write a picture book.
It's essential to read the genre that you're writing for. By sitting down and reading a picture book you're discovering the rhythm of the story, the target audience, and why it was chosen to be published. Some books might leave you thinking, I don't know how that got published, but many leave me thinking, Why didn't I think of that?

It's important that I research the children's book market.
It's a good idea to research your target audience (the age group you're writing for) and also the different markets. The trade market is defined as books sold in bookshops. This is what most of us would be familiar with. There's also the mass market which are books sold in supermarkets, newsagents, and are often tied into a popular show or character. The institutional market also known as the educational market, cover books in libraries and schools. It also includes books in basic subjects such as death, divorce, special needs, and health. Another market is the religious market. Some publishers will only publish religious material. The electronic market is booming at the moment with ipads, e-books, ibooks, aps and other software.

Writing for Children is extremely competitive.
You only have to see the incredible talent out there in the world of children's literature to see how competitive it is. The best way to establish yourself as a writer is to submit your work to newsletters, magazines, and enter competitions to get your writing noticed. It's competitive yes, but with passion and a little bit of serendipity you'll get there. Good Luck!


Katrina Germein said...

Well said Renee!

Unknown said...

Thanks Katrina. It's great to have you visit :-)

Karen Tyrrell said...

Hi Renee, Fabulous post and reminders of the reality of getting a Picture Book published. Its tough so we must work smarter. Good luck on your journey to publishing :))

Unknown said...

Thanks, Karen. I love your new section about writing Picture Books on your blog. You've got lots of exciting things happening!
Good luck on your recent book proposals. You definitely have the winning combination :)