This is the blog home of #kidlitart, a live Twitter chat Thursdays at 9:00 pm Eastern, for children's book illustrators, picture book authors, author/illustrators and friends. Check back weekly to read transcripts, comment on previous chats and suggest topics for upcoming chats.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Monday, June 25, 2012

Guest Vlog - Tara Lazar encourages you to submit

So we've arrived at Step 9 and the end of the challenge. Now it's time for the next challenge. Submitting the dummy you've spent the last 6 months laboring over. Tara Lazar, a soon to be published picture book writer, shares her wisdom and encouragement in this inspiring vlog. Enjoy!

Step 9: The Pitch

And NOW! It's time to introduce your exciting story concept to the world. After all this work, there's one more thing to do: you must come up with a dazzlingly witty and irresistible sentence or two to grab that agent or editor and let them know you have got A WINNER on your hands!

Think of how you'd describe what you've been working on to your best friend, then polish it till it shines. You should be able to encapsulate the characters, conflict, and at least hint at the resolution in the time it would take an elevator to travel a couple of floors. That's because, the next time you find yourself at a conference, that might be just the opportunity you're given.

You to famous editor: "I enjoyed your keynote. And I agree that exciting days are ahead for the picture book market."

Famous editor: Thank you. Are you a picture book author or illustrator?

You: "Why, yes, I am."

FE: "What are you working on?"

This is where you keep your wits about you (no fainting allowed!) and produce the above-mentioned dazzling sentence. (Good manners require you to wait until asked. You do NOT, under any circumstances, ambush an agent or editor at a conference with your sparkly pitch uninvited--you will be labeled unprofessional at best, creepy and stalkerish at worst.)

Or perhaps you're interested in submitting to a house which accepts queries only. Your pitch is the nucleus of your query. In essence, you're providing the editor or agent with your marketing hook. You know the text on the jacket flap, or the back cover of a paperback that makes you want to buy the book? That's basically a pitch to the consumer; you want to be just as engaging with your pitch to the publisher or agency.

Here is an article about pitching in general--not specifically for children's books, but the rules apply. Of particular interest are the six tips at the end. Note the refinement of the term "elevator pitch": http://publishingperspectives.com/2010/11/pitchapalooza-2010-tips-for-perfecting-your-book-pitch/

Did you sign up for the challenge last January?

So, those of you following along for the past six months may recall that when we started this challenge, we said the finished dummy would be its own reward. This is still true. If you've completed a picture book dummy to submit, congratulations! Quite an accomplishment, huh? Seriously--dummies are hard work.

We hope everyone has gotten something out of the challenge, and we expect to hear of exciting submission news from some of you! But we thought maybe you intrepid dummiers (I'm sure that's not a real word) deserved a reward for sticking with it.

I have secured another fabulous agent to review pitches of your finished dummies. If you signed up for the challenge in January, you can share your pitch on the blog. Starting Friday June 29 and continuing through Saturday, July 7, we're asking you to post a pitch for your dummy project. Last year the Secret agent chose her three favorites to critique. The agent I contacted this year didn't want to put a limit on the number she picked in case she liked more than three. So who knows how many pitches might be chosen. Remember, the only stipulation is that you signed on to do the challenge in January and you have a completed dummy to send the the Secret Agent if she chooses your pitch.

Exciting, yes? Feedback like this from an agent who regularly deals with picture book manuscripts and art is invaluable. I wish I could throw my hat in the ring, but I didn't work on a new dummy this time around.

The rest of you, polish those pitches!

Share your perfect pitch in the comments section of the June 29th post for your chance at a professional critique.

And join us Thursday, June 28, at 9 pm Eastern, to further discuss tips for showcasing your work in 20 words or less.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Guest Post - Courtney Pippin-Mathur Talks about Step 8: Submitting your dummy

Courtney Pippin-Mathur is an illustrator/author living in the east coast with three children, no pets and her first book , "Maya was Grumpy", releasing in Spring of 2013 with Flashlight Press. For more information, please visit, www.pippinmathur.com. 

Please welcome Courtney as she talks about the Picture Book Dummy Challenge STEP 8: Research submissions; prepare dummy package  Jun. 18-Jun. 24

Now that you’ve done all the hard work in getting your dummy ready, it’s time to send it out into the big, bad world.

But how do you start? How do you find the home for your truly awesome book? 

I know, labels suck. But you have to have some idea of where your work would fit in the kid-lit world. Is it quirky? Realistic? Soft? Cartoon-y? Edgy?

Agents and Editors will say what they like, so you need to understand what you’re offering. If you’re not sure, ask your critique buddies or online friends for their opinions.

Start to look for the right agent or the right publishing house. This, my friends, is going to take time. First, make a list of all of the agents or houses that will take your work.

Some places to find that information are :


3   Stalk
After you’ve found most of the open agents or houses (and let’s be honest here, there are not that many for picture books, but as an illustrator you do have a few more willing eyes) you need to go to their websites and find out what they are looking for and if you think your work would be a good match for them.

Cyber Stalking is a good way to do this. Look at all the interviews they have given,

is a great place to start with fabulous interviews by some of the industry’s best.  Go to twitter, go to blogs, practice your google-fu  until you are a master and you can make a list of your top five, 10 or 20 choices.

   Write the Query Letter

In the letter, you can say where you saw them, if you like some of their client’s work but the main things are the title of your book, a 2- 3 sentence blurb or pitch  (the most important part) about your book and the word count. Do not attach your dummy. But certainly mention that you have one.

Keep it simple.

When I participated in the kidlitart picture book dummy session last year, this was my pitch,

“A little princess gets a surprise when her baby brothers turn out to be smashing, drooling, gobbling baby dragons.”

And I was one of the winners. Simple with fun language is almost always your best bet.

Send the Query letter to your critique partners, this is your first introduction so it needs to shine. You can see mine (and many others at Query Tracker success stories)

Follow the direction EXACTLY. If they want you attach the story, do so. If not, don’t.

Then you wait. When I signed with my agent late last year, she responded in 2 days, asked for the dummy and scheduled a phone call a few days later. However, when I was subbing previously, I was sometimes contacted a few days , sometimes a few weeks later. And once 6 months later, so be patient, wait , write a new story, draw new pictures and try not to fret. (yes, I know this is impossible, but you must try)

(My best advice when it comes to dummies, is to have it in a pdf form , either on a secret page on your site or compressed enough that you can e-mail it, and an actual very neat, real copy. (like the one Will Terry described in an earlier post) I have had both requested and was glad I had done all of the work before and could send it off as soon as they asked for it. )

Good Luck and start Hunting! 

Thank you so much Courtney, for sharing your wisdom and your success story. I can't wait to get my copy of Maya was Grumpy!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Monday, June 4, 2012

Guest Post - Will Terry Talks about Step 7: Assemble the dummy

Will Terry grew up just outside the beltway of Washington DC in Beltsville Maryland. His plans to become a circus lion tamer were dashed when he found out he was allergic to lions – so he started drawing them instead! Later – someone lied to him and told him he could make lots of money drawing professionally – the beginning of the end. In 1992 after leaving the BYU illustration program he started showing his portfolio around and began getting work. His work has appeared in national advertisements for Sprint, Pizza Hut, M&M Mars, Pepsi, Fed Ex, Master Card and Citibank and Target and in such publications as Time, Money, Wall Street Journal, Mac World, Arizona Highways, Seventeen and Better Homes and Gardens. His work has also been accepted into The Society of Illustrators. He's illustrated board games for Hasbro and educational books for Leapfrog and in the last 10 years he's focused on illustrating over 25 children's books for Random House, Scholastic, Simon Schuster, Albert Whitman, Harcourt, Houghton Mifflin, and Dial.

When He's not teaching at UVU, working on children's books or illustrating iPad apps he might be working on his new company – FolioAcademy.com which sells online streaming art tutorial videos. Will enjoys snowboarding, hiking, and backpacking with his three boys in the Utah back country and a warm fire with his wife Laurel.

Wow – what an honor to be asked to guest blog! So much good information already posted by some very talented authors/illustrators – I hope I can add a few thoughts that might also be helpful.
Making book dummies has been very helpful in conveying my stories to editors over the years and while I think it's often a very important step I don't believe it's always necessary:

  1. I ALWAYS make a book dummy when I'm trying to sell my story with my illustrations to a publisher.

    I think it's obvious to most who will be reading this - but combining words and pictures is vital to convey your intentions to an editor. A picture is worth a thousand words and you're shooting yourself in the foot if you don't make an easy to follow representation of your project.
  2. I DON'T make book dummies for my commissioned book projects. To me it's an unnecessary step to go through the process of making a physical book dummy for manuscripts I've received from a publisher to illustrate. Instead, I make a PDF of my sketches with text so I can quickly click through to check pacing, redundancy, inconsistency, flow, and perception. This is a faster method for me and since my publishers only want to see finished sketches.
  3. I BELIEVE there are many ways to make a successful book dummy. I try to avoid getting caught up in “the right way” to do it. I know author/illustrators who have sold books with everything from extremely polished dummy books to simple PDF's. In the end you need to keep in mind that the goal of the dummy is to sell the book and no more. If you've attended writing conferences for any length of time you quickly realize that editors all have different requests for receiving and reviewing book projects. If you prepare your manuscript on the advice of one particular editor you might be creating a submission that's wrong for others. Confusing? Absolutely! The following is a list of do's and don'ts I use in my own submission process. It's not perfect but the following are either things I've learned from editors or things that make sense to me.

The Dos

  • Do - make a book dummy.
  • Do - make it clean and simple.
  • Do – integrate the text where you've designed it to go.
  • Do - make it 32 pages (or other multiples of 4 pages where appropriate)
  • Do – make it on your computer (if you can) so you can print multiple copies (for loss, damage, or multiple submissions – I use Photoshop but you can use a wide variety of programs – InDesign works well too).
  • Do – Include the cover in the dummy book on an extra piece of paper (in addition to the 32 pages).
  • Do – Include one or two color samples ( these could be integrated into the dummy or loose).
  • Do – bind it like a 32 page picture book (staple, glue, sew, etc. gathered in the middle).
  • Do – consider making a digital book dummy i.e. PDF (submission might be difficult if you don't have an editor willing to look at it).

The Don'ts

  • Don't - worry about making it actual size (Give editors some credit for imagination)
  • Don't – glue pages together to join front and back sketches (I believe that gluing paper together makes for a sloppy, heavy, hard to turn disaster for an editor to examine. Print your sketches on the front and back of each page just like an actual picture book. Your dummy book is a reflection of you. Put your best foot forward by sending a clean dummy).
  • Don't – include original sketches in your dummy. (It's the mark of an amateur – if the dummy gets damaged or lost you have no more dummy – show an editor your professionalism by thinking ahead).
  • Don't – hand color your dummy (shows you have way too much time on your hands and again becomes original work).
  • Don't – paste the text into your dummy (it's messy and detracts from the overall feel and look of the presentation)
  • Don't – use a crazy type font (Go with“Times” or something very simple – you won't sell your book based on a funky type face but you can certainly detract from it with the wrong one. Editors work with professional graphic designers. You're not going to impress them with your funky font choice so don't try.)
  • Don't – Include “C – copyright” anywhere in your dummy. (It's the mark of an amateur. Editors don't steal manuscripts. If they like it they'll buy it. Putting “copyright” on your dummy will get you tossed aside quickly – established authors/illustrators don't do it so you shouldn't either – you have a better chance of getting hit by lightning the second time than having your manuscript or idea stolen).
  • Don't – make an elaborate cover, binding, or sleeve for your dummy book. (You want to look like you know what you're doing – professionals don't waste time on superfluous additions that won't be re-created in the printed book but will only distract from your goal – getting your book looked at.
  • Don't - send a book dummy that you aren't proud of (if you know you can do better – do better – this has to be a labor of love – time and money take a back seat to the creation of art!)