Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Are editors and agents sick of YOUR book? 11 things they don’t want to see.


Is your story perfect?


Don’t hit the send button just yet.

Before you email (or snail mail) that manuscript, make sure you aren’t sending an editor (or agent) a book she’s already sick of seeing.

It’s not like it’s tough to read their minds.  Editors, agents and other publishing professionals are out there giving interviews.  They are sitting down with bloggers and newspaper / magazine writers, mostly begging us (as writers) to please not send them certain books.

Which books?

Let’s listen to what they’re saying for a minute.  Can you hear them all?

Straight from the horses’ mouths, here’s what all those editors and agents are utterly, completely, and totally sick of…

Books that rhyme.

1.  Rhyme.  “I am SICK of seeing rhyming picture books with bad meter and rhyme. Ugh. Is there anything worse? No. No, there’s not.” – editor Josh Plattner, via Writers’ Rumpus.

2.  More rhyme.  “I think the modern picture book has moved forward from rhyming.” – agent Clelia Gore, via Michelle4Laughs

If you simply love rhyme, and must rhyme, check out these three easy tips for writing rhymes that don’t suck.

Scary books.

3.  The Supernatural.  “I'm sick to death of vampires, angels, zombies, and werewolves. I'm open to picture books, but not ones about Jesus.” – agent Adriann Ranta, via Literary Rambles.

4.  Creepy guys.  “The thing that I hate most of all… the “Wow-I’m-so-drawn-to-that-hot-guy-but-he-totally-hates-me-but-oh-wait-it-turns-out-he-acts-like-he-hates-me-because-he-really-loves-me-with-an-intensity-verging-on-dangerous” love story. I’m sick of guys acting like dicks being secret code for True Love, and I’m sick of stalking being sexy.” – editor Kate Sullivan, via YA Highway.

Cutesy books.

5.  “Editors are sick of cute talking animals, “ugly duckling” stories about shy wallflowers who save the day, and moralistic tales that shout “it’s OK to be different!” Strive for originality.” – via Write for Kids blog.

6.  “Talking animals are the oldest hat in the old hat bin.” – writer / editor Eugie Foster, via Absolute Write.

Wondering why kids’ books need a little grit, not just straight-up cutesy?  Here are the kids you’re leaving out if you don’t include a touch of reality.

Books that perpetuate “Isms.”

7.  Racism.  “I feel sick, tired, and embarrassed to be working with YA books for a living… gorgeous white girls staring back at me from the covers of upcoming releases.” – YA librarian Annie Schutte, via The Yalsa Hub

8.  Sexism.  “Gender-specific books demean all our children. So the Independent on Sunday will no longer review anything marketed to exclude either sex.” – Katy Guest, literary editor, via The Independent.

Here’s how to write for “gender-free kids,” not just girls or boys.  And here are a few simple ways to bump up the diversity quotient of your books in a natural, non-forced way.


9.  Copycats.  “If [a] book has a half face, with or without hair in her eyes, on it, I’ll probably pass it by simply because I’m sick of seeing that image.” – Donna @ Bites, comment via PW’s Shelftalker blog.

10.  Carelessness.  “I don’t like it when there are spelling mistakes in the queries and when the author just sends an obvious mass e-mail.” – agent Uwe Stender, via Writer’s Digest.

11.  Laziness.  “Ideally [your cover] letter should briefly explain why you are approaching that agent, include a short description of the book and the intended age range (marks deducted for saying ‘adults and children alike’, don’’t be lazy!).” – agent Stephanie Thwaites, via Curtis Brown Creative.

Bad grammar and bad spelling are one of the Three Deadly Sins of children’s book writing.  And this rule applies doubly to anything you use to market your story, from publishers’ cover letters to facebook and twitter blurbs.  Don’t skimp on professionalism… respect your readers enough to serve up the best, most polished words.

Now here’s where I admit that I’m not exactly an impartial observer. 

Based on reading many, many independently-published children’s books, not to mention hundreds of mainstream kids’ books over the years, not to mention uncountable writing classes, not to mention my own writing experience…

…I’ve pulled together my own success formula: The Seven Day Manuscript Machine:  Edit your children’s book to genius in only a week.

The_SevenDay_Manuscript_Machine CoverS

It’s available now on Amazon (or will be by tomorrow), and the Kindle version will be free all this coming weekend (Aug 29-31).  Click the picture to download your copy.

I’ll be honest:  I’m sharing it free up front because I need reviews.  But I’m also hoping as many writers as possible can get their hands on a copy. 

I really believe in this system and in the tools that it offers to turn your good book into a FaNtAbUlOuS! one (and trust me, I don’t use coloured fonts lightly).

We all know reviews are sweeter than chocolate (here’s why!). 

A few honest reviews in a book’s first few days (even short, simple ones) can really make the difference and help a new writer succeed.  So if you do download this as a freebie, please come back to leaving a quick review that will help others find the book.

[photo credit:  Nicolas Connault via flickr] [blue swirl:  Marcus Quigmire via WikiMedia]


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