Monday, May 4, 2009

No No's and Uh Oh's

The following is a list of dislikes and warnings I noted from panel discussions with Maggie Lehrman, Noa Wheeler, and Jill Dembowski at the SCBWI Carolinas Polishing Your Picture Book Conference this weekend.

1. No scatological humor
2. No mentioning rave reviews from kids who have heard your story
3. Do not handwrite your story or send it from one of your characters.
4. No didactic stories
5. No queries (instead, a brief cover letter and your picture book)
6. No comparing your book to Harry Potter
7. The parents who buy your picture book will hate you if it has 2,000 words (keep it closer to 500).
8. Don't discuss marketing in your letter.
9. Don't introduce too many characters at once.
10. Don't use the word child (It's an angry adult word).
11. Unless you're an illustrator, try not to include illustrator notes.
12. They are tired of grandparent stories written for grandparents.
13. If you dare to send a barnyard story, a story about a princess who wants to do something else, or a when I grow up I want to be... book it had better be fresh and great to stand out. These topics are overused.
14. No funky fonts (Times New Roman is preferred)
15. No cold calls


  1. Thanks, Laura--I hated to miss this one! I'll be following your posts.

  2. Thanks, that's helpful. But what did they mean by saying child is an 'angry adult word?' never heard that one before!

  3. The "child" part came from Noa Wheeler (an associate editor at Henry Holt Books for Young Readers). She didn't think it was a word a young person really liked being called and thought "kid" was more appealing. I wonder if the negative connotation might have to do with it being a part of the word childish. Either way, if it's a turn-off to editors, I'll try to steer clear of it. :)

  4. Did Maggie Lehrman say she wanted "no query letter; a cover plus manuscript for PB"? (number 5 in your list above) Abrams' website says no unsolicited children's book manuscripts... Thanks.

  5. I always go with what the publisher's website says. If they open to submissions again, skip the query and go for the cover letter and manuscript instead.

    All editors were open for people attending the Polishing Your Picture Book Conference.

    Thanks for visiting my blog. :)