It's been quite a while since we've answered a question of the week (this was our last one), and we're ashamed to say that this question was asked a long long time ago. But better late than never!
If you'd like to send us a question of the week to answer, feel free to put it in the comments section below, or email us at bluerosegirls at gmail dot com.
How do you read, evaluate, and think about picture book manuscripts?
This question may be answered by all of us throughout the week, so keep checking back!
When I review manuscript submissions, I look for beauty in the writing, whether it makes me laugh, moves me, if the characters come alive, and most of all, if it surprises me--if the concept is original. I also consider whether I can envision what the illustrations would look like, if I can see the finished product in my head, if there are good illustrative possibilities. But as our company has cut back a bit on the picture books we publish, originality really is a key. Will this book stand out in the market? Would I pick it up as I scanned the shelves in the bookstore? I also look to see if there's a "hook" in the text--can it be promoted with a holiday or event, such as back to school or Valentine's Day? That's always a plus. It's also partly a gut reaction (a "blink" if you will).
In addition, I do have many illustrators that I work with or would love to work with, and I'm always keeping an eye out for a text that would match their style, so that comes into play, too.
When I am sent a manuscript to consider illustrating, I look for a tone that is similar to some aspect of my illustration approach and style. Something that I think will merge well with my work, a quality that inspires me, makes me itchy to draw. Usually I can tell right away if its something I want to work on. There has to be some aspect of the storytelling (subject, description, style) that relates to my vision as a visual storyteller.
These days I don't do too much illustrating for other authors; I've found writing and illustrating my own work incredibly rewarding and hard to let go of. Usually I only consider illustrating someone else's story if 1)it's a person whom I know is sensitive to my style and is used to my visual voice 2)the story is great something I wish I had written myself 3)it's a story that lends itself well to my particular style 4) I feel a real connection to the words and subject matter. The last is probably the most important.
I look for text that flows well from one page to another…text that maintains my interest…and text that has a good arch. An author/illustrator's MS will look different because an illustrator can (and should) put part of the story in the art. It's hard to come up with something truly original--most stories are bits and pieces from others--but I also want to see originality. For me, doing nonfiction gives me that opportunity. I'm writing about something that really happened! I like to pick out quirky stories that people wouldn't normally think would make for a good kids' story. I am always on the hunt for original, funny, and different ideas. That's what it's all about! When I buy a book I know I love it. I can usually tell after the first quick read. You should know whether you like something instinctually--don't over think it!