Q & A
Do you have a question about the writing industry or about writing in general you’d like some help with? Send me a question and look for the answer here.
Q. I have written about 50 pages of a middle grade novel and I have a plan for how it will develop from there. Can I start sending it out to agents?
A. While it’s terrific that you have a great start on your novel it’s not ready to be sent out to agents. For one thing, we writers are constantly revising our work. I have gotten to the end of a manuscript many times only to find that those first 50 or so pages need a complete revise because my characters didn't do what I had expected.
But there’s another practical and potentially wonderful reason not to send your manuscript out before it’s done. If the agent likes the first 50 pages, she will ask to see the rest. The last thing you want is to have to tell her you’re not done yet. You may permanently lose that golden opportunity for her to represent you. Take the time to finish your novel, and then send it out. You’ll be glad you waited.
Q. Should I include my brother’s illustrations with my picture book manuscript?
A. This is one of the questions I’m asked most frequently. The answer is no. Your words must be able to stand on their own and create vivid images in an agent’s or editor’s imagination so that they grow excited at the prospect of matching your words with an illustrator they want to work with. Unless you are a fabulous illustrator, don’t send any art at all.
Q. I am a new writer working on a picture book manuscript. I believe I have a special work that is coming together nicely. I have read that most publishers will not accept manuscripts from unpublished writers. They only work with agents. I’ve also read that most agents will not work with unpublished writers. However, many picture books are released by major publishers that tout the book as an author’s first published material. If the publisher won’t look at the manuscript and the agent won’t look at the manuscript, then how are these publishers publishing first time authors?
Thank you for your time.
A. That is the round-robin dilemma that all authors face. The truth is that editors and agents want–and need–good quality manuscripts because that’s how they earn their living. It’s our job to earn our living by providing them with those manuscripts. These days, don’t expect any of the major publishing house editors to look at unsolicited manuscripts. You have to go through an agent. And for an agent you do your research the same way: look for those agents who say they are accepting picture book manuscripts for consideration. You can also submit manuscripts to the smaller and mid-size houses that indicate on their websites that they’re open to queries. The bottom line is to do your research. There’s a publishing match out there for every high-quality manuscript.