In the November/December 2010 issue of the NE-SCBWI newsletter, J.L Bell wrote about recent decisions made by market-savvy, sales-oriented Barnes & Noble. Due to steadily decreasing sales of picture books, B&N has decided to give far less space to picture books. They will be expanding their Young Adult (YA) shelf space, breaking it into three sections: Teen Paranormal Romance, Teen Science Fiction and Fantasy, and everything else.
B&N’s own publishing company, Sterling, is starting a new imprint called Splinter, which will soon be printing fiction for young paranormal romance readers. Each print edition of the Splinter books will have TAG codes imbedded that will allow readers with smartphones to scan the codes to access special material on the Web. The Splinter books will also have a “More in Store” feature, to promote visits to the B&N bookstores. Competing bookstores rarely carry Sterling books.
This is great news if you are writing for Young Adults, but terrible news for Picture Book writers.
J.L Bell also wrote about Agents and Publishers, in his “Market News.” Almost none of them were interested in receiving picture book manuscripts.
In October, I sent out my picture book story, TIME OUT FOR GABE, to several agents and publishers. Here is what McIntosh and Otis Agent Edward Necarsulmer IV wrote in his rejection letter to me:
“I enjoyed taking a look at your story about being a big brother to surprise twins and the natural mixture of jealousy and adoration that comes with it.
Unfortunately, I do not feel that I am the right agent to represent this project in today’s competitive market.
Currently, I am virtually taking on no new picture books as I try to focus more on Middle Grade and Young Adult fiction. With that being said I hope that someone will fall in love with your story and give it the time and attention it deserves.”
Sylvie F. Frank, Editorial Assistant of Holiday House had this to say in her rejection letter:
“Thank you for sending us your latest project. This is a sweet story, but we fear it doesn’t stand out against the many other new baby books.”
Sigh. It’s very hard not to get discouraged. Unless your picture book story is about princesses, pirates, unicorns, fairies, or dragons, you may as well stop writing now, especially if what you’re writing can be described as a “sweet story.”
Time to start a chapter book so I can still…