Friday, October 10, 2014

Ask Frida Pennabook: Wavering in Wyandotte

Sometimes it's helpful to tap into the expertise of a fellow writer or artist. Got a question? Need advice? Just ask Frida.

Dear Readers: I recently received two questions that are closely tied together as far as my advice is concerned. As a result, I decided to write a two-part column about self-publishing and its perils. Part One comes from “Wavering in Wyandotte.” Be sure to check back tomorrow for Part Two from “Scared in Sault St. Marie.”

Dear Frida,

My friends say I should stop wasting any more time looking for an agent and just self-publish. They insist it’s the way to go and say that I am just being stubborn by not riding the wave. What do you think?

Wavering in Wyandotte

Dear Wavering,

Self-publishing does seem to be the pet rock of the twenty-tens, doesn’t it? So many writers are turning to self-publishing these days, and the headlines are full of success stories highlighting the writers who have turned their manuscript into a huge cash cow in a few short months.

As intriguing as this sounds, these headline grabbers are few and far between, representing the exception rather than the rule. But the hype does serve to draw attention to the potential benefits of self-publishing. So how do you decide whether this is a legitimate choice for you?

Let’s start by going through this list of questions together:
·      Have you received more than a few rejections? Like, say, 25 or 37 or 108?
·      Did you spend a significant amount of time researching agents or agencies?
·      Do you know the difference between querying and submitting, and when to do which?
·      Did you research agents thoroughly?
·      Did you use the Children’s Writers and Illustrators Market (CWIM)?
·      Did you use The Book from SCBWI (which is available as part of your SCBWI membership)?
·      Did you choose the right agent(s) for your reading level, style, topic, etc.?
·      Have you researched websites like
·      Do you read agent blogs regularly so that you understand the different needs/wants of individual agents and agencies?
·      Did you receive “champagne” rejections, rather than generic form rejections? In other words, did the agent make specific suggestions about ways to improve your manuscript, rather than a simple “I’m sorry but this does not fit our needs at this time”?
·      Did the agent ask to see revisions?
·      Did you spend time seriously considering those suggestions and then working on and sending revisions? 

Are You Truly Ready for This?
If you answered “no” to a majority of these questions, you may not have exhausted traditional publishing options. In fact, you probably still have some homework to do. Excitement and enthusiasm are necessary in the publishing world, but they are not a substitute for being prepared and presenting your best possible work to the best match for your manuscript.
The above questions also have to do with professionalism and how you are perceived when querying and submitting. If you take the time to do the research for your manuscript, you leave the door open to perhaps contact the agent or agency in the future. If you send in something you wrote in an afternoon, that does not fit the 32-page, 500-word picture book format, and you send it to an agent who only represents edgy YA, then you’ve closed that door not only to the agent, but most likely to the entire agency, where there may have been someone incredibly eager to read your manuscript about a garbage truck that comes to life and swallows children whole. (Oh, wait—that’s my manuscript. Sorry!)

The point is that the road to publication is often long, slow, and fraught with frustration. Don’t assume that being rejected three times, or that waiting several years for acceptance, is out of the ordinary. Be patient. Do your homework. Continue to improve your craft. Success in this business usually goes to the person who doesn’t stop trying.

Yes, Yes! I’m Ready!
Now, let’s back up and assume that you answered “yes” to most of the questions. You have spent several years, you have sweat blood and cried ketchup in your quest for traditional publication, and you feel that your manuscript is the best thing you will ever do in your entire life. It’s just that it’s hard to find an audience for a book about a young boy and his collection of cotton balls that resemble Einstein. But you know where to find that audience, and by gum, you’re the one to bring them this story! 

If that describes you, then I suggest you read my next column, when I help Scared in Sault St. Marie avoid pernicious predatory publishers. 

Until tomorrow,

Come back tomorrow for more from Frida and a FREE BOOK!  We'll be giving away one copy of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Publishing Children's Books by Harold D. Underdown.

You haven't heard of Harold? You have been missing out on an excellent resource - his Purple Crayon blog.
Go to:

Also, be sure to check out the winners of SCBWI"s inaugural Spark Award which recognizes excellence in a children’s book published through a non-traditional publishing route.

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