PICTURE BOOK FOCUS The EDITOR is Your Champion (Part 1b)


In (Part 2) experienced editor Natascha Biebow shares tips on why a strong pitch matters when selling your book to a publisher, and explores the role of the editor as your main champion.

In order to pitch your book in-house, the EDITOR must pull together a PROPOSAL to present to colleagues, comprised of other key members of the publishing house. They must include and consider:

- A Pitch

- A Competitor Analysis

- Home Market Sales

- Fit on the Publisher's Lst

- The Format

(Read about these in Part 1.)

Other key elements of the PROPOSAL are:

- International Market Appeal:

• Is the book universal and will it appeal to audiences around the world? The editor must consider whether foreign rights are viable, because if publishers can print more than one edition in a co-edition it provides an economy of scale. In addition, foreign-rights sales provide an important source of income on the publisher’s bottom line. 

The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler (Macmillan Children's Books) has now been translated into 105 languages and dialects – The Bookseller Jan 2021 - bringing in a huge amount of additional revenue from foreign-rights sales.

• For illustrators, editors will consider what other projects are being published so that they can ensure they wouldn’t be competing for foreign rights sales at the bookfairs and that they have a clear point of difference. Sometimes, for instance, illustrators will author/illustrate for one publisher, and illustrate other people’s texts for another publisher.


(*We will do a deep dive into FOREIGN RIGHTS and RIGHTS sales in another blog post.)

- Who Are the Creators?:

• Are they famous or otherwise noteworthy?

• If previously published, what is their track record?

• If they are debuts, will they promote the book? Will they do school and library visits? Do they have an internet presence? Are they an authority on their topic, or are they particularly well-placed to tell that story?

• Does the illustrator bring a particularly appealing or new visual voice to the book and will it work in the current marketplace?


- Promotional Hooks and Proposed Publication Date:


• The editor must consider when in the year the book should be published. Publishers usually have a certain number of slots for different kinds of books per month and a total number of titles per year. When acquiring new books, the editor must take into account other titles that are already commissioned and planned for certain slots, and the timeline for actually making the book (e.g. the availability of the illustrator, for instance, or the amount of time to edit and create the book).


• The editor will consider if there are obvious promotional hooks that they can use to sell the book, for example holidays such as Halloween, Valentine’s Day, back-to-school promotions, Father’s Day, anniversaries, etc.

• Does the author have a particular connection with a large organization, or expertise that might add authority to the project as well?

The editor must succinctly collate all this information into a proposal document circulated to colleagues ahead of the publishing meeting. A huge part of this is how the editor pitches the book, which brings us back to your hook. In addition, the editor must be skilled at convincing key – and often very busy – people at the publisher about the project, which will entail being able to quickly and concisely grab their attention with their pitch. 


Based on the above, the editor must also compile a Profit-and-Loss Statement (p & l):


• INCOME: the editor will pitch, then ask key members of the sales and rights departments for their sales projections – what markets will the book sell into, in what formats, and how many copies are they prepared to predict they will sell?

• EXPENSES: the profit-and-loss statement also includes calculations for overheads at the publisher, such as costs for printing, production, design and editorial, marketing, office running costs, returns, warehousing and distribution, etc.

• EXPENSES: the editor will input the projected advance and royalties they propose to offer the creators.

Often, the publisher establishes a minimum profit margin that must be met once all figures are inputted into the p & l. This may determine whether a project is greenlit or rejected.

The EDITOR's task is a tall order. They are often starting with a manuscript or a rough dummy, so they must be able to envision what it will look like once illustrated as a finished BOOK, AND convince others to see it also.   

So, once you have an EDITOR interested in your book, what can YOU, as an author or author/illustrator, do to help? 


⭐ Think like an EDITOR! 

• Be sure your project is as polished as possible.  

• Check you have a knock-out premise.


• In your cover letter, include a clear hook and pitch that the editor can pitch on to colleagues (or share this with your agent if they are sending it to the publisher).

• Do your own homework about the market and competition and have a clear idea of where your book will fit and, if you’re pitching into a gap, be sure to understand why there is a gap here.

• Share any relevant information that might help to promote the book – expertise you may have that informs you as the storyteller; key angles for promoting the book.

• Include information in your bio about your track record, and let the editor know how you are willing to support the book’s promotion.

Wrap it all up nicely,  



and remember, the EDITOR is your champion. They are on your side! ⭐


Read the next blog in this series here!

*Header image: Ell Rose and Tita Berredo

Natascha Biebow is an experienced children's book editor, coach and mentor and founder of Blue Elephant StoryshapingShe loves to help authors and illustrators at all levels to shape their stories and fine-tune their work pre-submission. She runs courses on picture book craft. 

She is the author of the award-winning nonfiction picture book The Crayon Man: The True Story of the Invention of Crayola Crayons.



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