Time flies when you’re chasing deadlines and cracking revisions – and it’s certainly flown for me. I can’t believe it’s been almost 6 weeks since I flew up to Brisbane to attend the CYA conference. But it’s true…
While there I attended several sessions – and one of those was entitled “Breaking Into Picture Books” with Aleesah Darlison who is defying odds with an amazing run of successes over a very short time. Here’s a point by point rundown on what she had to say. However just before diving in, I just want to remind everyone that Aleesah will be here being interviewed on Friday offering some insights into that success, as well as talking about her new series The Unicorn Riders – and also a reminder that I have some great prizes for October, so anyone who drops by to comment will go into the draw! For now though – enjoy Aleesah’s wisdom!
For someone who has only been published for sixteen months, Aleesah Darlinson is quite literally awesome. Not only has she sold three picture books, two chapter but she has also sold two series, for slightly older readers with a third on the way.
Some of those books are: The Totally Twins Series, The (aforementioned) Unicorn Riders Series, Puggle’s Problem (PB), Warambi (PB) and Bearly There (PB to be released).
Her advice was specific, supported by lots of personal experience, and on target for anyone wanting to break into the picture book market, which she described as competitive and hard to crack
Why competitive and hard to crack?
Because Picture Books (PBs) are very expensive to produce. All publishers gamble on works that they hope to make money on; with picture books that risk is even higher simply because of that initial production outlay – which is often around $40,000.
Therefore, one of the first things you must consider when thinking about PB texts, is to ensure you have a strong commercial product to bring to the table. A product, in other words, that the publishers feel will make them money.
The Puggle Experience: Why did it work?
- She had something different on offer (At the time there were no other puggle books)
- There was an issue or problem to be dealt with.
- There was a subtle lesson woven through the story.
- It fitted in with the Level One schools curriculum – studying Australian animals.
- It was originally entitled ‘Gertie Puggle’ and she doubled her readership by changing him to a boy puggle.
Some PB Facts:
- Most PBs are 32 pages
- Board books are 8-16 pages
- Some PBs are wordless
- Word count suggestion: 500 – for 5-7 year olds
- -200-300 for 3 year olds
- Some are hardcover; some soft. Hardcover more expensive and less common
- Usually smaller print runs as compared to novels, chapter books etc (1500-2000)
- Text begins Page 3
- Title page – page 1
- Imprint page – page 2
- 14 double page spreads
Advice in a nutshell:
- Find your niche – hers is animals and nature
- You do not have to be an illustrator to create the text for a PB
- If you can link it also to the schools curriculum – even better.
- Consider making your animal character a male so as not to halve your reading market. Little girls will read about boy animals – little boys not so keen to read about girl animals
- Whoever your character is, ensure he or she is unique
- Characters can be human or animal
- Animal characters are great as they cross all cultural borders and are all inclusive.
- Character names are crucial – they tell a lot about the character; choose carefully
- Every main character must have a problem or issue. It must be:
– Cause tension, drama or humour
- Study themes
- Write something that’s quirky and different so as to attract the attention of the jaded editor.
Possible Themes/Issues – 5-7 year old
- Moving House
- Facing Fears
- Join relevant associations (SCWBI)
- Attend conferences and festivals
- Listen to experts
- Submit works
- Attend Pitching Sessions
Good information. It was a great session! Don’t forget to pop in and say hi to Aleesah who’s dropping by on her blog tour this Friday. And thank you for hanging around! Good luck with the prizes on offer to celebrate October! You don’t have to anything but leave a comment and you’re in the draw! There’s over $70 value!