Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Good to Great in Picture Books

It has been super motivational to complete PiBoIdMo two years in a row. I now have nearly 70 picture book ideas in the hopper. Several, I've developed into full-fledged stories. Polishing is ongoing after critique partners have taken a look.

But this year, the idea hit home that there are thousands, sigh, of good picture book stories pitched every day. What makes that one story take off and become great in the eyes of agents, editors, publishers, and readers? 

I think the answer is surprise. What is it about a title or cover illustration that makes you take a second look or smile at the cleverness of the story? I've started thinking about my book ideas like an act at the circus. Will it cause readers to gasp at the suspense, giggle at the clowning, or rather take on a "been there, seen that" attitude.

Here are some of the books that lead me to my hypothesis.

  • Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus (Huh! Pigeons can't drive!)
  • Boy + Bot (love all things robotic plus the 2 points of view add interest)
  • Exclamation! (extremely clever)
  • I Want My Hat (grumpy bear is a fashion horse?)
  • Extra Yarn (hmm...yarn everywhere. I love knitting so this caught my eye)
  • This Moose Belongs to Me (Huh. Huge moose won't follow small boy's rules)
  • Press Here (quite inventive)
  • This is Not My Hat (fish with a blue bowler and visual humor)
You get the idea. These books are all fairly unique. There is not a vampire or magical boy in the bunch. They entertain and teach in different non-standard ways. And a lot comes out in the art.

So it seems that to really stand out in a busy picture book market, you have to REALLY stand out. I have tons of fun story ideas that I love, but most don't have the wow factor yet. I'll keep honing my craft and see where it leads. If it was easy, everyone would be publishing. - Q

1 comment:

  1. I would love to know how to get our manuscripts 'there.' You write and write, change and change and submit and then the editor says your story isn't there yet. *Sigh* Maybe some day we will come up with that story they just can't turn down.