Thursday, February 24, 2011

Day 173 - Who you gonna call?

There are a couple of real problems with the way authors are treated by the industry, and it's one where most of the people who could do anything to fix it see it as firmly ensconsed in a Somebody Else's Problem field.

Picture books are something everyone thinks they can write, mostly because the very best picture books have text that is deceptively simple. It's like poetry, but it has to jump the hurdles of making some kind of sense, being interesting to a toddler and not being patronising or pedestrian. As a consequence, agents and publishers are innundated with tidal waves of slush to sift through in order to find the next Maurice Sendak or Pamela Allen. (I love Pamela Allen - I really get into reading Bertie and the Bear to my son and Who Sank the Boat? is still one of my favourite books)

And so these people build walls and barriers and hoops and hurdles, all designed to discourage the idle wannabes who wrote a story about their kid going to the shops. The problem is that, looking at it from the other side, the wall they've built sometimes seems inpenetrable.

In Australia at present, as far as I have been able to discover, there are two publishers who accept unsolicited picture book manuscripts from unpublished authors. One of those has a waiting list of four months, and the other has a list of documents you need to send through that make it feel like you're applying for a bank loan. On the agent side of the fence, there is ONE registered agent who currently accepts picture book submissions, and I'm not even 100% certain about that.

So what are you supposed to do? You've written an excellent book, you're sure it's great - you go to the publishers, and none of them will even look at it. Most of the publishers have something akin to "Sorry, we're not accepting submissions at present, but you can contact your local writer's centre for information on how to get published." The problem is, no where else is accepting either, so what are the writer's centres supposed to tell you?

At the moment I've got two options, and I'll give those my best shot first. But at the end of the day, there is a real problem with how the industry deals with aspiring writers. I'll say more on that in my post tomorrow.

Word count - 550

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