re: Picture Book Text versus Magazine Story

in Picture Books/Submissions by

Dear Editor…

I’ve been getting rejection letters—that’s okay, I get it, it’s part of the process and I’ve been fine with it until now. An agent just rejected my picture book manuscript with the comment that it would be best suited for a magazine because the hook isn’t strong enough to carry a whole book. It made me feel BAD, I mean REALLY BAD, that she didn’t think it has any value as a picture book. And now I’m worried she’s right. Maybe I’m taking it too hard, and maybe it’s not such a terrible comment. I hope you don’t mind me bouncing this off you….

Thanks,
E.

Dear E….

I’m sorry your spirits have taken a pummeling. Rejection stinks, especially when it seems to undermine the whole project! Is there truth in the agent’s critique? Could be. “It’s not substantial enough” is a common critique because it’s a common pitfall as writers learn to distinguish a nice story for kids from a story that can sustain 32 satisfying pages and an $18 tag. Parents shelling out for books want reread-ability and to extend the conversation beyond the pages, and for that the stories need extra oomph from universal themes presented in a deep and/or fresh way, necessary and well-timed page turns, and lots of visual opportunities for illustrations. But then, maybe your ms is simply a fun romp, with fun language and energy that’ll entice re-reading for the sheer joy of it. There’s an audience for that. This agent feels your ms isn’t substantial enough? Fine. Your book isn’t for her. If you feel you’ve got the oomph or the romp, keep trying.

Happy writing!
The Editor

10 Comments

  1. A great way to find out if you have enough oomph in your manuscript is to put the script in a spread sheet with the number of pages you’d use for a picture book. Think about spreads and page turns. Is there enough visual variety for a book? Are there enough spots where you’d experience a little suspense before the page turn? This helps me.

    • Yeah E. I wouldn’t tmake any major changes until you get more than one saying something similar. You should put it away for a few weeks, then look at it with a different light, taking her comment into consideration. Allow yourself to feel sad for a few days. That’s all part of the process. I’ve had agents tell me to take out certain parts of my ms, only to reject it later…then another agent tells me it needs more of what I had taken out. A lot of it is subjective. I had over 40 rejections before getting my ms accepted, and it’s coming out in a few weeks. Hang in there and Good luck.

  2. What great, encouraging advice! And it doesn’t apply only to PBs, but to anyone submitting manuscripts and suffering the rejection-blues. It’s one thing if there are several agents voicing the same criticism, but if their objections seem all over the map, it’s best to trust your instincts and know that they just aren’t the right agent for this project Keep believing in yourself. Your agent is out there — you just have to keep searching! 🙂

  3. E, Maybe put it aside for awhile and work on something else. When you come back to it, if it still feels right to you, just keep sending it out -it probably just didn’t suit this agent; doesn’t mean no one else will like it. It might be just the thing another agent is looking for. If you believe in your story, and after a break it still delights you, you just need to find the right match. Best of good luck.

  4. In the end, many more people will read your magazine story! A magazine with 50,000 subscriptions and an average of 3-5 people reading each one makes for a huge audience. So, if in the end you can’t publish as a PB, magazines are a great way to get your story to more children.

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