PICTURE BOOK FOCUS 5 Reasons Your Perfectly Good Book Isn't Selling

In this featureNatascha Biebow demystifies
why your perfectly good picture book isn't selling!

You’ve written a perfectly good picture book.

You know, you’ve checked! 

You've looked at the motivation, the pacing, the characters, the plot, the stakes, the opening and the ending . . . You've done the 10-point check on a micro and a macro level.

You send it out to agents or even editors and, after an eternity of waiting, back it comes with a ‘we like your writing’, but ‘no’.

But you know it’s got something.

Have you ever experienced this? It's sooooo frustrating, isn't it?!

Here are some reasons why your perfectly good picture book might not be hitting the mark:

1. It’s come at the wrong time.

For instance, you’ve written a particular kind of book and the market is suddenly inundated with these sorts of books and has moved on. Like:

You've written a book about pants and suddenly there is monsters in pants, princesses in pants, dragons in pants. Nobody wants more pants books!

Or . . .

You’ve written a non-fiction biography featuring a really forward-thinking white male inventor and though publishers still want non-fiction biographies, the market has moved on to focus on more diverse topics.

2. Someone else has beaten you to it!

It’s amazing how often people have the same idea. Literally. If only you'd published it sooner.

It can feel a bit like in this picture from the German edition of
  Sorry! by Norbert Landa and Tim Warnes - but . . . it was MY idea that came first!

3. The publisher already had a book on this same/similar topic or theme coming up.

Really bad luck! You checked that there wasn't any competition, but it's in the pipeline unbeknown to you. Pants!

4. The publisher already has a (completely different picture book story) with a bunny, horse or talking beet character on their list.

This kind of reasoning is enough to make you tear your hair out, but maybe it’s also an impetus (once you calm down, eat lots of chocolate and go for a walk) to re-focus your idea. Generous editors might ask you to re-cast your story with a different kind of protagonist.

5. Bad timing.

Timing can be everything . . .

For instance, when you submitted it, the editor/agent was inundated, and it’s simply got lost at the bottom of the pile and then the moment has passed. Or they just took on a client/book with writing similar to yours. Or you just missed a major anniversary event that would have been a tie-in. Or the publisher just filled their Valentines’, Mothers’ Day slot for next year.

What to do?

ABOVE ALL - Don’t give up! Those who persevere are the ones who make it.

From Calvin & Hobbes by Bill Watterson

1. Write something new

2. Look closely at your perfectly good picture book – can you re-write it with a new angle, substitute the bunny for a chicken, tell the story from a different point of view?

Can you find a new way in?  

To do this, ask what if . . . ? You might discover a new way in, a new angle, a different hook.

Be critical. Is there something you missed?


3. Let it rest like yeast . .  .
Sometimes your book needs the market to cook a bit longer OR your book needs to cook a bit longer . . .

Submit it again in five (or so) years. I know . . .!

Natascha Biebow is an experienced editor, mentor and coach, who loves working with authors and illustrators at all levels to help them to shape their storieswww.blueelephantstoryshaping.com 
She is the author of THE CRAYON MAN 
and has been awarded an MBE for her
services to children's book writers and illustrators as Regional Advisor of SCBWI British Isles.

1 comment:

  1. Really insightful and good advice - if you are told why your book was turned down! Then, you can adopt one of these strategies. But usually you don't know why, you can only speculate, so it's impossible to rewrite accordingly. Even worse with a novel or novels you've spent months or years on. How long can someone afford to keep on producing and investing in work that's rejected for unknown reasons, or indeed, any of the reasons you give here? Really useful insight into the submission process though, if somewhat depressing, so thank you!


We love comments and really appreciate the time it takes to leave one.
Interesting and pithy reactions to a post are brilliant but we also LOVE it when people just say they've read and enjoyed.
We've made it easy to comment by losing the 'are you human?' test, which means we get a lot of spam. Fortunately, Blogger recognises these, so most, if not all, anonymous comments are deleted without reading.

Words & Pictures is the Online Magazine of SCBWI British Isles. Powered by Blogger.