Wednesday, September 30, 2009

SCBWI-Carolinas Conference 2009 WHAT ELSE YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT PB's by Namrata Tripathi

My first workshop of the day carried the above title. Because I consider myself predominantly a picture book writer, it was great to see so many sessions dedicated to this genre. Let me start off by saying Ms. Tripathi, an Executive Editor at Atheneum books for Young Readers which is an imprint of Simon & Schuster’s Children’s Publishing Division, was cute and smart and came off as a very wise editor/businesswoman. As a stay-at-home-mom, who often feels unorganized and unworldly, my hat goes off to her and other career minded young ladies like her.

She began her lecture by giving us an editor’s-eye-view of the process of making a picture book.

1. Receives manuscript. LOVES it!
2. Takes manuscript to the editorial team and publisher.
3. If all is a go, she then discusses the manuscript in an acquisitions meeting. Here she will compare your book to similar titles and their sales. She has to come up with projected earnings. At this point she is a champion for your work and puts a lot of labor into putting it through to contract.
4. Once acquired, she will start to look for an illustrator. Usually, by this time she has a vision in her head and may already have someone in mind. However, a lot of time is spent conferring with the art director.
5. Sketches arrive and layout is planned. Again, this is done together with the expertise of the art director.
6. Neither author, nor editor have a lot of say on the final cover art. This is strictly a sales and marketing decision and they get final say.

A lot of time was dedicated to a question and answer period and because of this, my notes are rather short and sporadic. Although I learned a lot by the Q&A, (Including the answers to a few of my queries) I was too preoccupied by the exchanges to write them down. But I’ll share with you the little bit I recall.

Ms. Tripathi was asked about word length. Although she stated she does not look for a specific count, she did point out that most of today’s best sellers incorporate a short one. This is probably due to the fact that PB’s are read by adults, not children, and make for a quicker read at the end of a busy day. Keeping this in mind, remember that picture books absolutely MUST appeal to children, but should also appeal to the adults reading them. After all, what parent wants to read and reread a book they dislike ten or twenty times over?

For you rhymers, please know that picture books in verse are not dead. The problem is that too often manuscripts of this sort incorporate bad rhyme. It is a very difficult thing to do and do well. Like most editors, Ms. Tripathi shudders at the thought of receiving these kinds of submissions. However, if you have GREAT rhyme, (And make sure it is really, really great.) then she will be happy to see it. Otherwise, she likes manuscripts that are funny, quirky and truthful. But keep in mind, if you are not a conference attendee, Simon & Schuster does not accept unsolicited manuscripts.


  1. Sounds like a great workshop, Niki. Sorry I missed it, but thanks for sharing!

  2. We heard similar thoughts about rhyme from editors at the Rocky Mountains-SCBWI Conference so at least it's consistent across houses. Thanks for sharing this.

  3. Thanks, again, Niki.

    I've just GOT to work on my rhyme.



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