The Blog is Open to Questions on Writing & Publishing Today!


Post questions in the comments section about writing or publishing. Make it something general, not specific to me (i.e. not about my interests as an agent, not when I’ll open to submissions again, not my query guidelines). I’ll be answering all day (10/19/15). (I’m all done now…)


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41 responses to “The Blog is Open to Questions on Writing & Publishing Today!

  1. Curiious how long a YA novel needs to be for you to consider it… Would you consider reading one that is about 150 words? Thanks Linda

  2. Thanks for doing this — great questions and information here.

  3. If an author has an agent who represents ‘book by by book’ rather than ‘whole work’, is that still considered being represented by that agent? Would the author say, ‘that is my agent?’ What are your feelings on ‘book by book’ representation? Thanks, Linda.

    • I don’t work that way, so I’m not sure what it’s considered. I personally think it’s more to an author’s advantage to have a partner in their representation, for their whole career, rather than someone who’s in it for just one book.

  4. jdewdropsofink

    What does it really mean if you sub to an agent, especially one who actually requested an ms based on a query, and you don’t hear anything back after several weeks? Is it just a pass not even worthy of a form reject? In which case, it would be best to move on? A bit of an impossible question to answer without a crystal ball, but curious as to your thought process as you decide which rejections to acknowledge and what, if anything it might mean to the receiver. Thanks.

    • Agents are all different. Some say, “No response = a no,” whereas others say, “I respond to all queries.” I’m in the latter camp, but I’m months behind in answering queries. Several weeks doesn’t seem like a long time, to me. One thing to remember is that an agent’s primary job is to take care of the clients they already have.

  5. The lines between fiction and non-fiction for picture books seem to be blurring (with wonderful results). According to AR Book Finder, Locomotive by Brian Floca is non-fiction yet Kate Messner’s Over and Under the Snow is called fiction. Both have fictional stories embedded in lots of facts –is it percentages game to figure out how to classify it?

  6. Margaret Greanias

    I am a picture book writer and have been subbing to agents. When you get a request for more manuscripts, assuming you have 5-7 polished manuscripts, how should you choose which ones to send? Do agents want to see a variety of styles? Do they want to see consistency? Or something else?

    • When I ask to see what else a picture book author has written, I’m looking to see if there’s more than one project that I’d want to represent. So, send other projects that would match the sensibility of that particular agent or editor. And make sure it’s your best work!

  7. Amber m Lavoie

    How do agents/editors feel about mg books written in journal form?

  8. Martha

    How can one knock a r&r (for an editor or an agent) out of the park?

    • Pay close attention to what the editor or agent has asked you to do, and then do it! Don’t rush the revision. You don’t get extra points for going fast, just for a job well done. And keep your fingers crossed…

  9. My ‘how to publish a childrens book’ reference books all suggest sending out dummies to the publishers (for picture books), these were written maybe 3-8 years ago though and I’m wondering if publishers still like to view them, and if so, do they prefer a whole dummy, or just a few pages of both colored and black and white line drawings with the manuscript.

    I am writing and illustrating a picture book, standard length including front and back matter 28 pages or so. Also, I am adding 2 pages that fold out and open up to reveal a scene, are these 2 extra pages counted in the total page count? I’m thinking of the binding and printing stages.

  10. There is a question in here, I promise:
    Whenever I get a rejection, I have to sit on my hands. If it’s a form rejection it’s easier, but when the agent actually took the time to give me some advice – even though it was pass for them – I have to fight the urge to reply and thank them for their kindness. I heard that’s unprofessional and a waste of their time. Did I get bad advice or should I continue to sit on these hands?

  11. Neysa Jensen

    I have been submitting a manuscript that is getting lots of requests for fulls, but no takers. Occasionally, an agent will reject, but make some great comments. I’m not sure whether to continue submitting in the current form or revise per those comments–when that agent has not asked to see revisions–and then continue submitting to others. I don’t want to revise for one agent’s comments if it’s not going to that agent.

    • My advice is to stop submitting for a while. Take stock of all the comments you’ve gotten and see if there’s a common thread. Perhaps there’s something you can revise that will shift the manuscript to the next level. Also, I think it’s acceptable to ask an agent if they’re interested in seeing a revision, if they’ve rejected a full and given you comments on it. It’s also possible that you just need to write the next thing.

  12. Jennifer DuBose

    Wow, excellent questions! And terrific feedback, Ms. Epstein! You know how sometimes it’s simply a matter of how one phrases her answers that gets the juices flowing? Your “When we speak about conflict in a picture book, or any book really, what is meant is ‘what gets in the way of what your character desires?'” totally unlocked for me what I needed to do with one of my works-in-progress. Thanks! I look forward to meeting you next month at Prairie Writer’s and Illustrator’s Day 🙂 Jennifer DuBose

  13. Do you have tips on knowing when a manuscript is ready for submission? I have several critique partners that look at my picture book manuscripts and I do a ton of rewriting and revising. But I’m a perfectionist and I feel like I can revise a piece forever. How does an author know when to send something? Is it feeling? When critique partners can’t find any further issues? From your position, how many revisions do you expect a story to undergo before it’s submitted?

    • This is the million dollar question, isn’t it? There’s no real answer though. I get submissions that are in great shape. And my clients and I work on them some more. And if it sells to a publisher, they get worked on even more. So how many revisions has it gone through? Or, I get something in great shape, we tweak it, send it out, it sells, gets polished, then published. So how many revisions has that gone through? I wish I actually had an answer for you. At some point, you just have to send it out and cross your fingers, I guess.

      • Thanks, Linda. I figured there wasn’t a concrete answer. I’m at the point of submitting now but I can’t help wondering, “Could I have revised it further?” I’m learning to let go, press send, and cross my fingers. Thanks for your response!

  14. I have several completed ms in several different children’s genres. YA, MG, PB. My strategy has been to query agents representing what I am writing in all of the various genres simultaneously. Is it ok to submit several ms to several different agents at the same time? (of course following all guidelines meticulously)

    • There aren’t any rules about this, per se. It’s what works for you. But here are some things to think about: Are the agents who would be perfect for the picture books, for example, also agents who would be perfect for the MG or YA? And vice versa. What would you do if you got offers of representation from multiple agents, on different manuscripts, who wouldn’t be good for your other work? It feels too complicated to me, but perhaps that’s just me? I don’t think it’s a great idea to send multiple projects in each category (i.e. more than one mg, ya or pb). I think it’s better to send out your best work. But again, this is a personal decision.

      • Thank you. Definitely trying to be reflective and responsive to this process while learning what works best for all. Its a lot to juggle the creative and business side of this venture but thank goodness for grace that allows us all to bump our heads, learn and keep moving forward. And thank goodness for you and others in the industry who let us writers feel our way through the dark with a helping hand.

  15. Why is it so hard to sell my picture books by myself? EVERY author I know says they’re ready. My plan is to query agents with my middle-grade novel. Not the picture books. Thanks for your time, Ms. Epstein. It is very much appreciated.

    • Publishing is a really difficult business. The picture book market is tight; It always has been. There are soooo many people, writing soooo many manuscripts. Good manuscripts, interesting manuscripts, original manuscripts. But not everything gets published. It’s just the way it is. So don’t write to sell your books. Write because you love it. If you can sell them… bonus!

  16. When do you know you’ve nailed the first chapter, making it so readers can’t wait for more?

    • I don’t know if you ever know, before you actually have readers who can’t wait for more. You just have to do the best that you can, be open to critique, and keep on writing.

  17. Would you speak about “conflict” in the picture book / or MG early Chapter Book story arc? I’m trying to understand why a story that has survived the test of time, like Winnie the Pooh, is successful, yet has such minimal conflict. Would it be something an agent would grab today if it came to his/her desk? Are we living in a time where young readers need bigger risk or the industry just thinks they do? From where you sit, how does it all appear?

    • Winnie the Pooh is rife with conflicts. Re-read it. They are sweet, gentle conflicts, but the book is filled with them! When we speak about conflict in a picture book, or any book really, what is meant is “what gets in the way of what your character desires?” Read Dan Santat’s Beekle, to see how it can still be done gently and beautifully.

  18. What’s the deal with dust jackets? I have young kids who quickly make a hash of them on picture books, so I set them aside on new books. It seems like an unnecessary expense for the publisher, especially when the hardcover is exactly the same. And, then for a library book, there’s some cool stuff on the endpapers we can’t see because it is trapped underneath the flaps that are tidily sealed under the cellophane.

    • That’s a funny question. I mean, I don’t know for sure, but if I had to guess I’d say that a dust jacket gives the publisher the opportunity to put promotional material on the back cover, without compromising the artistic integrity of the actual cover. But that’s just a guess.

      • Thanks -I’ve seen some kidlit recently without one- The Terrible Two comes to mind, so I wondered if there a change underway. There is a classic feel to them when there is a lovely cloth hardcover underneath. I’m ambivalent about them.

  19. Rebecca

    I don’t have an agent. Before I signed a contract with a small company, I asked about author copies. The editor said, don’t change the contract, just remind me after publication. I know it sounds dumb but we had a friendly relationship and I didn’t want to ruin it so I didn’t add it to the contract. Now she’s no longer with the company and I have no author copies. I’ve emailed other editors and the president of the company twice now (in two months). I’ve heard nothing. Should I call? But who would I talk to? Do I have any chance of getting my copies or should I just move on? Thanks for your advice.

    • Wow, that totally stinks. You have nothing to lose by pursuing it though. Try calling to see who took over the editor’s projects. If you don’t have any success with that, most publishers have a discounted rate for authors to purchase copies of their own work. But whether you get your author copies or not, I hope in the future you don’t go into another contract negotiation without someone representing your interests.

      • Rebecca

        Thanks, Linda. I am searching for an agent, but in the meantime I’ll stop being friendly and go for business-like. I’ll call today and ask who took over her projects. I appreciate your time and advice.