A: When I think of high-concept fiction, I think of blockbuster-movie-kind-of-fiction. If you’ve got a “coming of age” story, where everyone is a regular human being that goes to a normal school, the girl breaks up with a bad boyfriend, but then realizes she was worthy without him, then that’s probably not high-concept.
Q: I’ve written a picture book and I’m perusing the CWIM. Many publishers have multiple editors or
people in charge of Acquisition. How do I know whom to contact?
A: Great question. Read my article on submitting to editors here. It details in length how to find which editor to pick. http://www.writingforchildrenandteens.com/for-writers/step-six-find-an-editor/.
Q: A book I’ve reads says so many times that it is inadvisable to email publishers as they simply won’t respond. But some publishers say they are open to email submissions. Is it still ok to do so?
A: If the publisher’s guidelines say it is okay to email them, then yes, follow the publisher’s guidelines. The book may simply be advising writers not to blindly email publishers as a way to break in.
Q: A writer asks: When writing a manuscript, does one indicate that words are italicized by
underlining the intended words or simply italicizing them? I read online that
one should underline any phrase meant to be italicized because that makes it
easier for the typesetter to find. What is your experience?
A: It’s a matter of personal taste. Personally, for all of my manuscripts, I do NOT underline. I italicize.
I get this question a lot. And often the person wants to know 1) how the book can be picked up by a major publisher or 2) how to get the book and related products in the traditional bookstores.
This is a very tough question. But here’s the short answer. PREPARE FOR A DIFFICULT ROAD AHEAD.
Q: What elements make for a good hook, particularly at a story’s outset?
A: Hook is really hard to define. But here’s how I look at it (in terms of opening pages)
It’s something that draws you in.
It could be a first line.
It could be a character’s unique voice.
It could be an interesting situation on the first pages.
It could be the style in which the piece is written.
Q: I want to write for teens, but I’m much older than a teen and don’t really know if it’s something I can tackle without coming across as unauthentic. What’s the best way to learn how to write for the teen audience in particular?
A: The best way to get to know how to write for YA is to read a bunch of YA novels. You don’t even have to read the whole book; opening chapters say a lot about the great range within YA.
Q: If a publisher’s guidelines says to address all submissions to a general
submissions editor (e.g., acquisitions editor or something similar) versus a specific person, is it acceptable to “break those rules” if I learn about an editor there who has preferences for the kind of work I write?
A: Almost all houses have submissions guidelines that are generic or say to send something to SUBMISSIONS EDITOR, or something like that.
Q: How do I know if a literary agent is great?
A: Great is a subjective word, but if you do your research by going to the places I suggest in my course, you’ll start to narrow down who might be great for your work and who might not.
Q: I am writing a picture book. Should I include art specs for each page? Or should I just explain the general idea in the cover letter and hope the editors will “get” what I’m visualizing for the art?
A: A picture book text is 50% of the story. The other 50% is what the illustrator brings to the table. Specifying art direction for every page of a picture book is strongly discouraged and will flag you as an amateur. You should NOT provide art direction.
Q: Should you copyright your manuscript before sending it out? How do you someone won’t steal your ideas. What is the common practice among authors?
A: Your work is copyrighted as soon as you’ve written it. You do not need to go through the formal process of copyrighting before submitting your work.