Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Open Mike!

I'm turning the blog over to you today (or at least the comments section of this post). If you have a question, comment, or suggestion, I'd love to hear it!

18 comments:

Charlotte Gunnufson said...
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Charlotte Gunnufson said...

At a recent critique group, the "ingredients" of a successful picture book were discussed. My question: is it always necessary for the main character to grow and change in a picture book? I just finished reading Monkey with a Toolbelt (which I loved) and the MC (Chico Bon Bon) didn't seem to change. What do you and your readers think?

Megan Reyes said...

I have a question and have NO clue how to ask it tactfully, as it involves money. As an aspiring author my dream is to get published and make enough of an income to write full-time. How likely is this? Does anyone have any idea what published authors make annually, on average? I understand it's different for each author and each book, but is there ANY kind of "norm" here? Like, is $10,000-$20,000/year probable (just throwing out some random numbers)? I really have NO CLUE what authors make.

Please understand, I'm not looking to get rich from writing, by any means! But I do wonder how likely it is for a successfully published author to quit their day job, and I don't know how to research this unless I ask authors straight out... Which is pretty awkward. O.o

Any thoughts here?

Krista Van Dolzer said...

Good question, Charlotte. I have a critique partner who's a lot more plugged into the picture book market than I am, so I'll check in with her...

Megan, I don't know why we never talk about money. It's a legitimate issue, and for some reason, this aura of mystery surrounds it. That said, I'm not sure it's my place to spell out my numbers (and I'm not sure how helpful they would be, anyway, since I'm just one data point). I will say that if you combine both of my advances from last year (not that I received all the money last year, mind you), it was less than I made as a first-year teacher in the Clark County School District six years ago. But not a lot less.

I remember reading a cool article on this not long ago, so I went and dug up a link. I'm not sure this is the exact article I read before, but it contains all the same information, and I found it eye-opening:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/jeremygreenfield/2013/12/09/how-much-money-do-self-published-authors-make/

Hope that helps!

Sarah Floyd said...

If you had to guess, what percentage of authors do you think agents pick from the slush pile vs first making a personal connection through a conference or social media?

Laura Moe said...

I have taken workshops on how to query, and have crafted a decent query letter and submission package, and my rejections are higher quality, with remarks like "while the project has merit, I didn't connect with the story[or the character], yet My number of rejections still grows to nearly 100. Is this an experience shared by others, or am I just unlucky?

Myrna Foster said...

Charlotte, PB agents usually say that they're looking for "character driven" stories. Stories where the MC grows or solves a problem are more engaging. Do all PBs have a story/character like that? They don't. But if you've never been published, your chances are better if you give an agent what she's asking for. That said, if you've written a story you believe in, it might be great the way it is.

If attending a writer's conference is a possibility, you could have a PB writer critique your manuscript. Before I query or submit a manuscript, I have PB CPs I swap with. Then I get an opinion from a published PB writer. I'm workshopping a manuscript at Writing for Charity in two weeks. The all day conference is $50, and my manuscript critique will cost me another $15. Totally worth it.

Also, some PB writers' blogs are gold mines, well worth a little digging. The most informative blogs I've found are probably http://taralazar.com (giving away a PB critique RIGHT NOW), http://themetermaids.blogspot.com (if you write in rhyme), http://papajfunk.wordpress.com/blog/ (just sold his first PB), and http://kristyncrow.blogspot.com (the one time I got a critique from her, it was spot on), but my favorite is http://storyqueenscastle.blogspot.com (gotta love her).

That's probably more info than you were looking for. The simple answer to your question is NO, but your manuscript better have something that will catch readers and hold them. Good luck! :o)

Charlotte Gunnufson said...

Thanks, Myrna! I really do appreciate the detailed response! I'm sending the link to my critique group. It will give us lots to think about and discuss.

Sarah, I don't have a percentage of authors agents pluck from the slush pile vs making a connection at a conference, but I do know that agents are inundated with queries. I've read interviews with several who say they get most new clients from conferences. Some agents only accept submissions from writers they've met at conferences.

Krista Van Dolzer said...

Sarah, I asked the question on Twitter. Only two agents responded (my agent, Kate Schafer Testerman, and Hannah Bowman of Liza Dawson Associates), but they both said the majority of their clients came through the slush--Kate was at 60% and Hannah at 80%. (Hannah went so far as to say that none of her clients came to her through conferences.)

The thing is, both Kate and Hannah respond to every query they receive, so that goes to show that they're more dedicated to their slush piles than some agents. It definitely comes down to the agent, but I think agents find more clients through the slush that most writers would expect.

Krista Van Dolzer said...

That's a tough one, Laura. I haven't read your manuscript, of course (or even your query, for that matter), but based on that one bit of feedback you shared, it could be that your concept and characters aren't standing out from the pack. Or maybe they're too similar to other things the agents have seen. It's so hard to balance uniqueness and trends.

Good luck, and keep working on your next project. My responses got better and better with every manuscript, so even if this one's not the One, the next one could be.

Krista Van Dolzer said...

Thanks for the comment, Myrna! I knew you'd come through:)

Hope that helped, Charlotte!

Carrie-Anne said...

What do you think makes a successful cover? Do you think there's starting to be a trend away from the same 4-5 styles I frequently see in YA, NA, and some adult genres? As an amateur artist (though not fooling myself that I'm nearly good enough to design my own or anyone else's covers!), I'm fascinated by the different kinds of book covers. I'd love to see more artwork and evocative color schemes on particularly YA books, instead of so many photos of cover models and headless people!

Do you think it's worthwhile to invest in book swag (bookmarks, magnets, pencils, etc.) for book signings and such?

Karen Hallam said...

WOW, I just think you're really wonderful, Krista. And your blog is one of the Best! :D

Krista Van Dolzer said...

Carrie-Anne, I'm no expert on design by any means, but like you, I've noticed that most covers fall into one of four or five categories. I think that's because most publishers don't like taking risks, so for the most part, they stick with tried-and-true. That's one thing I like about MG covers as opposed to YA ones--they're almost always illustrated and incorporate bright colors.

As for book swag, I recently read a Twitter conversation between some best-selling YA authors, and I seem to remember that they all agreed that creative book swag (i.e., anything other than bookmarks and postcards) was a waste of money and time. I'll see if I can track down that link, but in the meantime, I'll say that while I think it's worthwhile to have SOMETHING to give readers, I don't think you have to reinvent the wheel. The big question is, is this doodad going to help me sell books? If the answer is no, then it's probably not worth it.

Aw, thanks, Karen! You're so kind.

Myrna Foster said...

You're welcome!

And I agree that MG covers are more likely to entice me than the majority of what I find in the YA section.

Krista Van Dolzer said...

It's the same for me, Myrna. YA covers rarely wow me.

Charlotte Gunnufson said...

I hope it's ok if I chime in on the book covers...I actually like the headless people. That sounds weird, but I like to imagine what the character looks like from the author's description. I find depictions of the MC's face off putting. It's like seeing the movie before I've had a chance to read the book.

Krista Van Dolzer said...

You're always welcome to chime in, Charlotte! And I agree that I don't like being told what the main characters look like (which is one of the many reasons I usually don't like book-to-film adaptations). That said, I think there are other ways to get around that, but publishers often stick with what's worked in the past.

Carrie-Anne, this wasn't the post I was looking for, but it's close enough:

http://www.reddit.com/r/YAwriters/comments/1o8fnz/discussion_effective_swag_and_print_materials/

Hope it helps!