Cat Nips: Simon Kaplan’s Pic Bk hints!

well worth a close read and copy….. thanks Simon for this check list!!!……

“READ ME,” WHISPERED THE MANUSCRIPT TO THE EDITOR: Formatting your manuscript for maximum visibility

written by Simon Kaplan from Picture Book People Newsletter

Years ago, when I was an editor at Henry Holt and Company, a visiting author looked around my tiny, paper-laden office and indicated a pile of manuscripts. “Are those all the people who you’ve kept waiting for way too long?” He asked pointedly. “No” I replied, showing him a bookcase that contained several shelves on which manuscripts were stacked deep and wide. “Those are.” He looked shocked.

THE REASON If you’ve never been inside the office of an editor or literary agent, it’s hard to imagine the volume of submissions that cross either one’s desk. If you’re submitting your work for an editor’s or agent’s consideration, it makes sense that you do everything you can to make the experience of reading your work as easy as possible. Before an editor reads a word of your manuscript, he or she notices the way it’s presented. Or rather, the editor or agent doesn’t notice the way it’s presented—which is what you want. You do not want your submission to be rejected because it’s difficult to read. You do want the format of your manuscript to be inconsequential so that the content stands out. You want your manuscript to whisper “Read me” so that the overworked editor takes notice and reads. So save your creativity for the storytelling, and format your submissions in the way that’s commonly accepted as standard.

THE FORMAT—A CHECKLIST: If an editor or agent to whom you’re submitting a manuscript requests a specific format, follow the requirements. If there is no set format, here’s the generally accepted way of doing things, presented in checklist format for ease of use.

Your work should be typed in Black Times New Roman 12 point Double spaced.

It should be Aligned left—the right-hand margin will be “ragged”— and have One-inch margins on all four sides Page numbers centered at the bottom of each page Page header at the top right-hand corner of each page following the title page that includes your last name/title of book The End in italics, centered, at end of manuscript.

If you wish to or feel you need to show page breaks, do so by including an extra line space. You can center a -; *; or # in the line if you feel you’d like to make more of a statement.

Picture books don’t require a separate title page, so your manuscript should include a title page formatted as follows: Aligned left and single spaced near the top of page are your name, address, phone number, and e-mail address—each on a separate line. Word count should appear in the top right-hand corner. About halfway down the page, the full manuscript title should be typed. A double space and then “by [Your Full Name].” Another double space and begin the manuscript.

WHY THIS FORMAT? This format is standard because it optimizes legibility, navigation, and information. Black ink stands out most clearly; the 12-point font is neither too big nor too small. Times New Roman is a serif face that draws the eye easily through the text. Double spacing ensures enough space between lines so that each line is obvious and clear without someone having to squint or transverse vast quantities of white space to get from one line to the next.

At one inch—pretty much the default in Microsoft Word—margins are generous but not excessive and so give a sense of clarity and space rather than a sense of claustrophobia. Pages that are clearly identified and numbered are easy to put together in order if they get separated on a paper-strewn desk. The author’s name and contact details make it easy for an editor to contact an author without having to track down a cover letter or search for an address or phone number.

A NOTE ABOUT ILLUSTRATION NOTES: Because picture books are so visual and rely on images in order to fully realize the story, you might be tempted to include illustration notes. Here are four reasons to think carefully before doing so:

1. Editors are skilled readers and understand the role of image in telling a story.

2. Illustration notes interrupt the reading experience and can be distracting.

3. Illustration notes signal that you’re not a pro, that you don’t understand the picture book creation process.

4. Finally, they suggest that you might have a hard time letting go of your work and entering into the collaboration that is essential to the creation of a picture book.

There are some times when you do need to include illustration notes, such as when the images show something that isn’t obvious or cannot be inferred from the text. Come away from the water, Shirley by John Burningham and Rosie’s Walk by Pat Cummings are examples of printed books in which the text and art show—and do—different things. If this kind of visual irony is pervasive and essential to the book as a whole, the illustrator notes should be included in your cover letter. If you need to provide notes on spreads—and only if it’s really necessary—include them in parentheses in italics below the text. (like this)

MAKE IT A HABIT: It’s not a bad idea for you to create your manuscripts in a similar format for similar reasons. Black 12-point Times New Roman, double spaced with one-inch margins make the work legible as you’re working on it—and your eyes matter too. Vary the fonts, sizes, and/or colors if it supports your process; but my suggestion is to use the same basic font and general format. I’m assuming that you need to number the pages—easy to do in a Word document—but that you know who you are and what you’re writing. On the other hand, in the throes of the creative process, some writers have been known to forget their own names. . . . Seriously, though. Make standard formatting a habit that you don’t have to think about. Then you’ll be freed up to do the real work, the creative work, the exciting work of creating an exceptional picture book manuscript.

Simone has been in the children’s publishing industry for more than 20 years.  She was an editor at Henry Holt and Company and then a Senior Editor at HarperCollins Children’s Books.  She works as a freelance consultant to various authors, illustrators and publishing houses and puts out a free monthly newsletter about picture books.  If you would like to sign up to receive it, here is the link: http://www

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CAT NIP: DUMMIES….necessary?

I’ve been asked this now and then:  “must I do a complete 32 page dummy for this ms of mine when they’ll change it anyway?”    YES!   Of course it’s totally up to you how you present your ideas, ms, and yourself.  All I can do is advise.  But YES!  Even Daniel Kirk at a talk at Books of Wonder once said he always does a complete dummy for pitches.  Apparently Dan Yaccarino also had 5 dummies working at one point to sell a story.

And that’s the point really isn’t it….SELLING THE STORY.  If you believe in it you want others to ‘get it’ and believe in it as well.  And if they can SEE it full-out they can ‘get it’ much much more easily, and THAT might sell the story.  You just need one or two color samples to show how you envision the finishes, and the rest can be in finished clean sketch form. Every page.  Can incomplete perhaps be saying “lazy?”

Once a publisher KNOWS your work, perhaps this full-out dummy wouldn’t be necessary.  Some artists DO just present a double spaced typed ms and let a couple of pieces of art (color) do the talking. However, the more immediate the experience of a picture book, the better the results and a more full response. Even if they don’t take the story, the feedback will be ever so much better.  That is huge as well!

Showing a dummy is also a wonderful way to showcase your art and your ‘thinking a story.’ Use this to FULL advantage when you have a buyers eye.  They can not visualize this if the dummy is incomplete or too sketchy.  I advise taking the time to present a fun experience. Make their job easy, and they just might make YOUR day!

their days are SO SO busy, don’t you know….make it easier to read and buy!

all business

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Sharing a personal moment …..

I’ve just opened my eyes after today’s meditation portion of a 21 day Deepak and Oprah meditation opportunity I decided to try.  This is the end of the first week, and the first day I actually did the full meditation time! I was letting all the ‘outside’ and ‘inside’ noise and resistance keep me from the peace possible in a quiet few moments.  Today, Sunday, I finally  just relaxed and went with the flow of breath and soft music and the ‘now.’

For many years I’ve advised my agency artists to  take short breaks from all their deadlines, family, health issues and other obstacles when they feel occasionally overwhelmed by them. Life overwhelms us all now and then. I suggest a walk (without music in ears or phone!), or sitting in a quiet place (moving water is helpful), or sit and read a good book, take a yoga class or power nap.  Long or short, these breaks from the norm, from obligations, demands and worries, help us ‘let go’ and then reconnect in a refreshed way.  I encourage this knowing how hard it can be to do!  But also knowing how it helps me and others stay creative, energetic, unrestricted, and balanced. Taking these moments actually give us MORE moments in return.  We can accomplish more easier when we step back in a connected, productive, encouraging and grateful manner.

And yet, knowing this, I struggled all week to take these moments. I listened to the days messages, which are always surprisingly inspirational, but I could not complete the timed meditations.  Today I did easily.  Maybe I will tomorrow.  Maybe you will take your moments too, and feel the melting away of deadlines and obligations…..they will be met more easily after this gift to ourselves.

evening bliss on James River (640x360)the James River, VA,  in a peaceful moment

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Bermuda Grass !…

Yesterday I was prepping the soil and replanting two beds at the end of our Williamsburg  driveway…. a happy project (and I had help!)  BUT then I was unhappily reminded of the faithfully maddening presence of BERMUDA GRASS!  It pushes, twists and spreads itself everywhere in our front yard!  Gratefully it does NOT like our side or back yard however. We’ve tried killing it (along with all the tall fescue grass as well!) 3 or 4 time over our decade here, and yet it keeps on coming back.  We’re trying to call a truce and just let it be….it’s green in the HOT tidewater VA summers after all!

It made me think again of the PERSISTANCE that promotion and marketing require…. like the constantly working, connecting, re-emerging strands or treads of this wild Bermuda Grass, an artist or writer has to keep at it.  If someone tried to knock you out, you just come back in a new place and push your way along.  When ‘winter cold’ comes  you hide and regroup and come back new and stronger!

So, as you maybe take a summer break and regroup again, keep this BERMUDA GRASS strategy in mind!  just KEEP ON KEEPING ON!

rain boy and birds...OCHOAfrom one of our Mexican artists: Ana Ochoa  

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couldn’t resist this…borrowed from a Dir. of IL post, borrowed from Warhol,  it’s an OH SO TRUE statement if there ever was one!  Do the art, style, colors you need and want to do….lets others (family, friends, clients (well, follow directions!), committees, critics of all sorts say what they will.  If you please yourself, chances are you’ll please an audience.  And always…..make more art!

andy warhol make art

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Dad day blast 15

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Mama bird teaching……

mama bird Friarfrom Joanne Friar

This morning I saw Kathy Temean’s blog post and was delighted that she featured this image from one of the CAT artists Joanne Friar as a segue into also posting part of my recent article here on the WAY TUGEAU BLOG under CAT NIP: What, When and How.  ;)  THANK YOU  KATHY! Kathy thought Joanne’s image of the mother bird teaching her fledglings to fly was wonderful… so do I! My artists already know how to fly frankly, but so many artists just starting out just need a wee bit of information and encouragement to take flight themselves, and that is WHY I write  my blog.  I’ve written articles for newsletters, and given presentations for SCBWI groups and such for over 20 years and the ONLY purpose is to educate.  Preparation for our industry is NOT brain surgery, but there are little things that can make the process easier for everyone.  I’m delighted these recent articles are getting ‘out there’ and shared.  Please all…keep on sharing, ask questions ( and let the conversation continue!

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