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Databases of Rejected Manuscripts, Submissions Strategies, Photographs as Illustrations, and Other Topics

The Purple Crayon Blog for December 2005

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Do Databases of Rejected Manuscripts Exist?

I read in a book Some Writers Deserve to Starve written by Elaura Niles. She talked about the "big six": Pearson, Viacom etc.

In one of her tips for getting published she said that a lot of the major publishers fall under one of these "big six" conglomerates.

I sent a MSS to different publishers, HarperCollins, Puffin etc. But if they reject the MSS they put your name, title of work, and that you were rejected in a huge database.

It says that because of the practice, one cannot ever send the same work to that publisher in the future. Is that entirely true?

This book seems to be about the practices of publishers of books for adults. So far as I know, no children's publisher maintains such a database, and I'm frankly skeptical that adult publishers do so. That would be a lot of work.

Also, keep in mind that the different imprints at the large publishers do not necessarily share submissions. If you send a manuscript to Atheneum at Simon and Schuster and it is rejected, you could still try Simon and Schuster's flagship imprint, for example.

Having said that, resubmitting a work, unless you've significantly revised it, is generally not a good idea. The problem isn't that someone will remember it, but that it's likely to be rejected for the same reason it was rejected the first time. Better to try elsewhere, or try with a different manuscript.

Good luck,

Questions about Submission Strategies and Choosing Publishers

Like many others before me, I have both written and illustrated a fabulous book. Since I have no agent and the big 6 do not accept unsolicited material (unless you get it to them using some highly intricate plan involving spies and dangling from rooftops) I am at a quandary.

#1 You suggested (back in 1999) that posting on the Internet is a bad idea. Is this still true? I thought about putting my book in a Powerpoint presentation and sending to my faithful 100 or so fans. Then asking them to forward with the obvious hope that if they each sent it to 10 friends, I'd have a better chance for one of these people to have a real contact at one of the big houses. Am I risking too much? If so, what are some of the other creative ways to get my work read there?

It is still true that posting on the Internet is not effective. Posting on the Internet is similar to throwing a dart at a map of the US and building a billboard at that spot. It's likely that no one will pass by.... Editors do not surf the Web looking for promising authors.

The email forwarding is unlikely to work. Editors are very good at ignoring emails.

How to get your work read? Have you read Getting Out of the Slush Pile? There are some strategies in there, some of them rather long term. Are you involved with your local SCBWI? Being involved may not get you published, but it might help. You never know who you will meet.

#2 If I just wanted my book printed, I could pay for that myself. I want a major publisher involved so that my great book can get marketed and exposed at the maximum number of venues. My children attend the annual book fait at their school and I see these books everywhere. If I go with a smaller publisher, won't I be sacrificing sales? Can small publishers get their books as much exposure (if it is really a great book?)

I'm not sure what you mean by a small publisher. I used to work at Charlesbridge, which isn't a large company. Is that the kind of company you consider to be "small"? If so, rest assured that so long as the company has national distribution and a good marketing department, you won't lose out. And after all, if you're too picky, you may not get published at all.

Also, about book fairs. School book fairs are typically run by companies such as Scholastic who license books from many publishers--you don't have to have your book published by Scholastic to be in one of their book fairs.

Later, I added a compendium of questions and answers about Manuscript Submissions.

The Purple Crayon Blog is a feature of:

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Find more resources for writers in the Articles section.

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Submitting Photographs as Illustrations

Thank you for providing a place where we can send questions for which we haven't found answers.

I've written a nonfiction book, or rather I took a long series of photographs of something happening out-of-doors and then wrote the book. My questions are:

1-In what form do I submit the photos? I used a digital camera, and the photos have high resolution.

You will need to have images that can print at 300 dpi at the size they will appear on the page. You need not send prints of such high resolution at this stage.

2-What about editing the photos to remove advertising and ripped clothes? Do I send the photos in edited or let their photo department do it?

Not necessary at this point. Once the book is under contract, you can discuss this with your editor or art director.

3-How do I submit my book? Do I include several samples photographs and the complete text of the manuscript?

That's one possibility. Another is to create a "dummy" with a rough layout and low-resolution photos in place.

4-And lastly, do you have any suggestions where I can find out more about nonfiction photo books? It seems every other genre is addressed except this one. It's hard to find publishing houses listed which look for these or do they have a specific category?

"Photoessay" may be the word you are looking for. No, it's not easy to find the publishers that are interested in them. If research in publisher catalogues doesn't help, then a trip to a convention such as the ALA gives you the chance to browse publishers' booths.

Reviews of Picture Books Produced by P.O.D. (Print on Demand) Publishers

Dear Mr. Underdown,
I will have a published picture book out in late Fall by Xlibris. They have a marketing package that sends 5 galleys out for reviews. Would you have any recommendations of who to submit it to that really read and are receptive to POD'S ? Is it best to send out galleys or the finished product? When my book is published, how is it considered for your site?

I am a library assistant in a children's library at a school, and a member of The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators'.

Thank you for your time and consideration of this question.

To the best of my knowledge, none of the traditional review sources for children's books are at all interested in POD books. The one exception may be Kirkus Reviews, which launched a program in which they will review self-published books--for a fee. If I were you, I'd concentrate on newspapers and magazines in your area, which may be interested in the "local author" angle.

As for The Purple Crayon, I don't review children's books. I only write about books of professional interest to children's book authors and illustrators.

Best wishes for success with your picture book!

Foreign Subject, US Publisher, Foreign Market?

I'm writing a non-fiction pb about an inventor. His contribution is little known, but widely used. I had no first hand information, but based my ms on information found over the internet. The curator at the museum where this inventor's contribution is documented has reviewed my pb and corrected a few facts. The curator is also eager to have the pb for her museum, should I get it published, as it would have great appeal locally. Since the museum is abroad and I know little of foreign publishers, I feel more comfortable trying to publishing with a US publisher which is open to the idea of selling the pb abroad. Given the invention, the pb would have great appeal in the US as well, but I feel I should mention the foreign market. All that said, I'm not sure what details I should use in my cover letter to emphasize market appeal and authenticity of the information.

Should I mention that I did not have first hand source information since the person's contribution has not been written about before, or simply state that my ms was reviewed and verified by the curator of this museum (stating the curator and museum by name, of course)? Do I mention the museum's interest in such a book and how they'd like to tie it to a major museum opening in a few years?

When you say that you had no "first-hand information," I assume that you mean no primary source material, such as the inventor's letters, writings, or pictures. That's not necessarily a problem, for a children's book. Secondary sources are fine. I'm a bit troubled that your sources were all on the Internet, however. Print publishers, and the librarians and teachers who use nonfiction, expect books to use print sources.

If none exist, I would mention that, briefly and non-defensively, in your cover letter. In your letter, concentrate on why the book will be of interest to American readers. That's why a publisher will want to publish it--it's highly unlikely that the number of copies they would be able to sell to the museum would make a difference.

Do let them know that you have been in touch with the museum, and that a curator there has vetted the manuscript.

Also, I recently came across a site with some resources on writing nonfiction for children. I haven't listed it on my site yet, so I thought I'd mention it here.

Good luck,

This installment is based on emails I sent in October in response to questions received at The Purple Crayon.

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Copyright 2005 by Harold Underdown. All rights reserved.

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