publish a picture book : Intensive online course


The quality of the six lessons was amazing. I could hardly wait to finish each lesson, submit the exercise, and receive feedback.
— Betty Sherouse
 
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About

A great picture book appears inevitable, as though the author didn't write, but merely recorded it. So it might seem that anyone should be able to write a picture book. It's simple! Simple writing though is the most difficult sort. Literary gems, the kind likely to get published, are not effortlessly plucked from the ground. It requires the greatest mental intensity (and literary sense) to fuse from all of language just 500 or so simple words that tell an emotionally compelling, character rich, age-appropriate story that goes well with illustrations, one that children want to hear every night before bedtime, over and over and over. (A good rule of thumb is if your writing comes effortlessly, probably it isn't very good.) And this is why easily 999 out of 1000 picture book manuscripts sent to publishers are rejected. Worse, you may write superbly, but for a variety of reasons the writing is askew from the market. Editors may acknowledge your writing talent, but say things like, the book is "too quiet," or "too edgy," or "too scary," or "there are too many other books similar," or "we published a book just like this last year." Or, worst of all, writing and marketing may be on target, but you don't send it to the right person at the right publisher.

This intensive online writing course is designed to do two things. First, it explores the craft of writing, the nuts and bolts and springs of language that give form and movement to a fine picture book.

Then it deals with the issue of marketing. Since excellent writing itself is often not enough to sell a book, it's best to write with an eye to market. A writer does not market to the public. A writer markets to editors.

In total, there are six lessons, five written by an established picture book author, that deal with the major elements of excellent writing. There is one lesson, written by a children's book editor at a major publishing house, which deals not only with writing craft, but the business as a whole, the optimal form for a manuscript and marketing. After you complete a lesson, you'll e-mail it to your instructor (a successful, professional, practicing picture book author) who will respond within five days with feedback. You will then have the chance to try it again for yet more feedback, an hour of instructor time total per lesson. And then, as a final exercise, you will have the opportunity to write your own original manuscript incorporating all the information you've received from the lessons. Your author-instructor will work with you to help make it the best possible. So, as a grand total, you will have seven hours of instructional feedback from your author-instructor. THEN we will forward your manuscript to a working children's book editor (at a major publishing house). This is a remarkable (perhaps unprecedented) opportunity. Most major publishers nowadays do not accept unsolicited manuscripts and so it's almost impossible to get your writing before an editor at one of these houses. We'll make this happen. If the editor loves your writing, she'll buy it. To be completely frank, the chances of this are low. Picture book writing is a tough biz. Most successful writers have snow banks of rejections. But, if she doesn't buy it, she too will give you a short, written critique. This may well give you the information you need to rewrite again and successfully sell your piece.


Course Syllabus

1. Characters You Can Care About

2. Beginnings That Hook the Reader

3. Middles with Trouble and Challenge

4. Endings That Satisfy

5. Voice

6. Editor Lesson: An Introduction to Writing Picture Books
This lesson covers the art of picture book writing from the perspective of a senior children's book editor who works at a major publishing house. It is filled with specific advice (and much wisdom) about not only writing, but how to configure your writing and launch it to an editor with the best chance of being accepted.

Final Lessons:

7. Write a Picture Book Manuscript
Utilizing the material you learned in lessons 1-6, you will write a picture book manuscript on your own. The manuscript will be reviewed by your author-instructor who will work with you to help bring forth its fullest potential.

8. Your Manuscript is Sent to a Major Publishing House for Editor Review
Your author-instructor will forward your manuscript to a children's book editor working at a major publishing house for feedback.


Schedule for Course

The course is online and is one-on-one between you and your instructor. So, it can start any time you like and proceed at any pace you like, swift or sedate. In other words, starting time and pace are completely up to you. Start now or, if it's more convenient, start in several months. We surely will be around if you care to join us at a later date.


Graduate Level Credit

This course is available for graduate level credit through University of the Pacific.