A Report on Manuscripts 101, Delhi

By Archana Atri

As children are becoming more discerning readers, hungry for a greater variety in books, the kidlit space is expanding and creators of children’s books are working at responding to their demands.

In this context, a panel discussion was organised by SCBWI, India at the Reading Caterpillar Library, Nizamuddin, New Delhi on 9th February to exchange notes on editorial submission etiquette . The panellists were Sayoni Basu of Duckbill, Sohini Mitra of Penguin and Tina Grover Narang of Harper Collins India. The discussion was moderated by Tanu Shree Singh and the audience comprised of new and aspiring authors of children’s books.

msdel.jpg

The moderator asked the following questions of the panellists:

Question : Talking about books for children, what is length or word limit you look at in the different categories i.e. picture books, chapter books for early and middle grade readers, and YA books?

Answer: For picture books, Tina Narang said that the word limit could be from 0 to 1000 in about 32 pages; for chapter books, for early and middle grade readers, it could go from 4000 to 7000 words; and for YAs, 24000 to 32000 or maybe even more.

Question: How should one decide which publisher to pitch to? What are publishers looking for>

Answer: Sayoni Basu said that this is rather subjective, depending on what the publishing house’s focus is and if they are open for submissions. To figure this out, one should look at the books that a publisher has already published and also look at the guidelines posted on the websites of different publishers.

Question: What are some of the guidelines to follow for manuscript submission?

Answer: The best practice would be to email, with a covering letter and the manuscript or chapters of it, and a synopsis as attachments. Most publishers do not accept hard copies any more. Absolutely no Facebook or Whatsapp submission! Some authors have recently begun to use the services of agents to manage the submission process.

Question: What should debut authors say about themselves?

Answer: Write about your publishing history, if any. Give a short synopsis of the book. Definitely no grammatical errors in the covering letter. It should be properly proofread and edited before submission.

Question: How long should one wait for publishers to revert?

Answer: The publishers usually specify how long a response may take, this is usually a maximum of three months. Sohini Mitra said that this might be shorter, maybe even a few days, depending on where the publisher is at with the projects they have on hand. All three said that they look at each submission and do revert. So one shouldn’t presume that a delayed response, or even a prompt one, means that the manuscript has been returned unread. Reminders may be sent if one doesn’t hear from the publisher after the specified length of time, but it is perfectly find to send them.

Question: Can one send a manuscript simultaneously to more than one publisher?

Answer: All three said yes, but insisted that authors be honest in pointing out that they are making multiple submissions. Each submission must be addressed to the publisher and not cc’d. Needless to state, that the covering letter be addressed to the right person and that basic checks of linking correct name of person to the publishing house must be taken. It must be customised to the requirements of the specific publishing house being addressed, and not a generic, ‘one size fits all’.

Question: Should the author take their manuscript to an editor before submission to a publisher?

Answer: The panellists said that there is no need to take the manuscript to do so. Unpolished manuscripts are all right. Authors should keep writing and self-editing till they are convinced about the submission.

Question: Should illustrations be handed in with the manuscript?

Answer: Sohini Mitra said that this isn’t essential since once they identify the theme, then they go for illustrations. Sometimes the author’s illustrations might work and this might be even more cost effective for the publisher since they don’t have to pay for the hiring of an illustrator. For a picture book, the strategy for illustrations will be more comprehensive and obviously different from that for chapter books. Sayoni Basu said that Duckbill doesn’t want illustrations to be submitted with the story since there is a difference between textual and visual imagery. The two work separately and they just want to look at the words initially. Also, there is an unspoken hierarchy of sorts which favours the author, so it is better to give each of them a free rein in their respective spaces. She did, however, mention the book, ‘I want to pee’ which was written and illustrated by two siblings who were completely in sync and so their submission was accepted. But, on the whole, publishers prefer just a manuscript.

Question: Especially in the context of chapter books, are there any themes that you stay away from and any that you would you explore?

Answer: Tina Grover Narang said that they just look for a charming story. And that they prefer to look at the story and not a theme, especially for chapter books for early readers. Sohini Mitra said that they look at a story in terms of its readability for children. Sometimes it may be series-based. They also like to introduce branded authors or different characters / personalities to different age groups. Sayoni Basu was very succinct  “ No sex, no violence, no explicit themes, no ‘greater learning ‘ in the book”. The discussion then veered towards banned books. The three panellists pointed out that, sometimes, children may enjoy certain books which are a strict no-no for schools, parents, and other ‘deciders’. And publishers may have to bow to these dictates and change words or illustrations to make them more acceptable to the adults.

Question: When making submissions for chapter books does one submit the whole book or some chapters?

Answer: All agreed that three chapters, at the most, were acceptable and these should be sequential, from the beginning, not picked randomly from different parts of the book. If the publisher likes the submission then they will ask for more.

Audience questions for the panellists:

Question: Would publishers recommend other publishers to spirants?

Answer: Some might, but it is not the norm. That’s the journey aspiring authors have to take if they believe in their story. Rejection from one doesn’t mean that they should lose hope. They should work on the critical comments made and go to other publishers.

Question: In this context, how does self-publishing work?

Answer: Self-published books might work, and if they do well then a publisher might agree to take them on later. Sayoni Basu mentioned Nandhika Nambi who had self-published her first two books and then approached Duckbill who published her third book, which went on to win many awards. Tina Grover Narang added that contrarily, a self-published book may be rejected by a publishing house but that the writer should try to understand the reasons for the rejection and see it as part of a learning process. Going by the traditional route is definitely easier because once the story is taken on by a publishing house they bring to bear their expertise and experience in ensuring that the book gets proper support and reaches the right audiences. It is, therefore, recommended that aspiring authors go through an established publishing house.

Question: How do you judge what children would like?

Answer: Sayoni Basu said that publishers have to take an imaginative leap. At times they too may not know which book will ‘click,’ or even why. And even though it might be labelled a children’s book it should have the capability of being enjoyed by readers, irrespective of their age. Tina Grover Narang pointed out that literature festivals and school visits may indicate what children will like.

Question: If an author has written a series and goes to a publisher for one part of the series, can they go to another publisher for the rest of the series?

Answer: There maybe a clause built into the contract with the author wherein the publisher has all rights or there may be an options clause. Sayoni Basu said that Duckbill however, does not hold back an author – “They will come back to us if they want to”.

 

Advertisements

Manuscripts 101 (Bangalore session)

msdelthisone.jpg

Three leading children’s publishers tell you the dos and don’ts

9 March 5 pm
Lightroom Bookstore

Do you have a manuscript ready? Are you wondering about submission etiquette? How do you know what kind of books a publisher is interested in? This interactive panel is there to help answer all your queries.

The panelists are:

Ayushi Saxena of Duckbill Books
Ayushi Saxena likes to travel and eat momos. In between, she edits, designs and argues with the press. Some days, she is a platypus.

Sudeshna Shome Ghosh of Speaking Tiger
Sudeshna Shome Ghosh has worked in publishing for over 20 years. She has been a children’s books editor and has headed various children’s imprints. Currently, she is Publisher, Talking Cub, the children’s imprint of Speaking Tiger. 

Yamini Vijayan of Pratham Books
Yamini Vijayan is an editor at Pratham Books. She has worked as a journalist at Deccan Herald, taught at the Chirag School in Uttarakhand, and helped set up children’s libraries around the country. She is the author of Satya, Watch Out!

The session will be held at the Lightroom Bookstore, No. 1, Lewis Road, Cooke Town, Bangalore, Bangalore 560005; phone: 080 2546 0466

Pre-registration essential as space is limited. Please email india@scbwi.org to register. The event is free for members; non-members have to pay Rs 500 at the venue.

Manuscripts 101 (Delhi session)

scbwi

 

 

Do you have a manuscript ready? Are you wondering about submission etiquette? How do you know what kind of books a publisher is interested in? This interactive panel is there to help to answer all your queries.

The panelists are

Tina Narang of HarperCollins India
Tina Narang is the Children’s Publisher at HarperCollins Publishers India. She moved to HarperCollins in 2017 after a twelve-year stint at Scholastic India. As editor and publisher she has worked with some of the finest names in Indian children’s literature.

Sohini Mitra of Penguin India
Sohini Mitra works as Associate Publisher with Penguin Random House India, where she oversees the children and YA list. Through her career spanning over a decade, she has created content across genres and age groups. Working with the most reputed writers in the field of children’s literature in India, she has built an eclectic list of titles for children and young adults which are a treasure to keep. Many of these books have gone on to win prestigious literary awards (Crossword Award for Children’s Literature, Comi Con Award, Sahitya Akademi Bal Puruskar Award, Hindu-Goodbooks Award, to name a few).

Sayoni Basu of Duckbill
Sayoni Basu has worked with children’s books for as long as she can remember–first as a reader, then as a re-shelver (she worked in a library) and later as an editor. She still continues to read and re-shelve. She is the primary platypus at Duckbill Books.

The session will be held at the Reading Caterpillar Library, 24, 2nd Floor, Block F, Nizamuddin West, New Delhi, Delhi 110003; phone: 099536 37995
Pre-registration essential is space is limited. Please email india@scbwi.org to register. The event is free for members, and non-members have to pay Rs 500 at the venue.

Online Portfolio Review 28 October: Introducing the Panelists

IMG_0354

Meet the panelists giving feedback on the submitted artwork.

Puja Sood is commissioning editor at Tota Books, an innovative, independent publisher of quality children’s picture books, a part-time bookseller at the Full Circle Bookstores and an enthusiastic helping hand in the kitchens of Café Turtle. She loves animals, cooking and feeding friends and family, and books, and is pleased to fill her days blending all three passions (all Tota Books feature animals!). You can almost always find her crouched beside a bookshelf at Full Circle–be sure to prod her twice so she snaps out of her book-induced stupor!

Twenty-odd scraggly-waggly stray canines following her down a street in I.P. Extension. A stork’s nest atop her head. A couple of double zero paint brushes lodged on her left ear. They call her an absent-minded fossil, and Vandana Bist is okay with that!

Somesh Kumar co-runs By Two Design with his friend and colleague, Hazel Karkaria. He is a comic book/graphic novel enthusiast who likes to polish his brush pen skills by sketching in his free time. He loves his tea and has many times accidentally dipped his inking brush in it. He also guest-art-directs at Pratham Books.

Online Portfolio Review 28 October

Want to illustrate children’s books and don’t know where to begin? Send your portfolio to the SCBWI India Online Portfolio Review!

A panel of experts will tell you whether your style will work for children’s books, and give you tips to help you hone your craft. So send in your portfolio and our panel will give you live feedback on 28 October at 11 am, IST, online in a closed Facebook group: SCBWI India Portfolio Review.

The panel comprises of a veteran artist, the art director of a large publishing firm and the publisher of a publisher specialising in picture books. The details of the panelists will be posted shortly.

Please send:

  1. A PDF of a selection of your best work, not more than 5 MB. Please make sure the images are not too small. (If you’d like your entry to be anonymous, you should choose this option). You can also include a couple of sentences with each artwork to contextualise it.
    Or an online link (behance, wordpress site, tumblr or any other platform) to your work (strictly) in children’s books, with a selection of what you consider your best work.
    All the work you send should be for children’s books, either picture books or for illustrated books. Any unpublished, hypothetical children’s book projects you have worked on can also be included.
  2. An A5 size, 72 dpi, RGB, horizontal collage image of a few of your illustrations, which preferably includes one black and white image (see the example below). We will need a jpg, as it has to be uploaded on the Facebook page.SCBWI collage for portfolio review

 

  1. The first fifteen eligible entries will be displayed and commented on. If there is time, more might be commented on.
  2. All entries need to be sent by 20 October, noon IST to india@scbwi.org

Note: SCBWI online events are usually for members only. This is a one-off opportunity for non-members to participate.

First Pages: 23 September: Introducing the Panelists

FB23

 

Tina Narang is the Children’s Publisher at HarperCollins Publishers India. She moved to HarperCollins in 2017 after a twelve-year stint at Scholastic India. As editor and publisher she has worked with some of the finest names in Indian children’s literature.

Samit Basu is an Indian novelist best known for his fantasy and science fiction work, in India for the Gameworld trilogy and internationally for his superhero novels Turbulence and Resistance. He also writes for younger readers: other works include the ongoing Morningstar Agency and Adventures of Stoob series. His work in comics ranges from historical romance to zombie comedy.

Sayoni Basu is an editor and a platypus. She currently works at Duckbill.

First Pages: 23 September 2018

Writing something? Not sure how it is going? Send it to First Pages!

Three experts will tell you whether your first page has piqued their interest enough to turn the page and read on. So send in the first page of the book you are working on, and our panel will give you live feedback on it on 23 September 11 am online.

1. You need to send in only the first page of your book to india@scbwi.org. Please send it in as a Word document, and remember to include the title of your book.

2. Each writer can send in only one piece. The first fifteen eligible entries will be read and commented on.

3. Please label your entry in one of the following categories:

Picture book
Chapter book
Middle-grade storybook
YA novel

4. The maximum word count should be no more than

Picture book: 50 words
Chapter book: 100 words
Middle-grade storybook: 200 words
YA novel: 200 words

5. Do not include the author’s name or title in the document.

All entries need to be sent by 20 September, noon IST.

SCBWI First Pages is usually for members only. However, this time we are also opening it to non-members.

The panel comprises of three experienced editors/writers, whose names will be announced shortly.

First Pages: 20 September 2017: Introducing the Panelists

 

 

 

 

 

 

Introducing the panelists:

Devika Rangachari is the author of several prize-winning books for children and young adults, including Queen of Ice, the most recent.

Paro Anand is the author of several prize-winning books for children and young adults, including No Guns at My Son’s Funeral and Weed. She works extensively with children. She won the Sahitya Akademi Award in 2017.

Sayoni Basu is a platypus and an editor at Duckbill Books.

First Pages: 20 September 2017

Tags

Writing something? Not sure how it is going? Send it to First Pages!

Three experts will tell you whether your first page has piqued their interest enough to turn the page and read on. So send in the first page of the book you are working on, and our panel will give you live feedback on it on 20 September 5pm online.

1. You need to send in only the first page of your book to india@scbwi.org. Please send it in as a Word document, and remember to include the title of your book.

2. Each writer can send in only one piece. The first fifteen eligible entries will be read and commented on.

3. Please label your entry in one of the following categories:

Picture book
Chapter book
Middle-grade storybook
YA novel

4. The maximum word count should be no more than

Picture book: 50 words
Chapter book: 100 words
Middle-grade storybook: 200 words
YA novel: 200 words

5. Do not include the author’s name or title in the document.

All entries need to be sent by 18 September, noon IST.

SCBWI First Pages is usually for members only. However, this time we are also opening it to non-members.

The panel comprises of three experienced editors/writers, whose names will be announced shortly.

How do you edit yourself?

fullsizerender-6

So you have finished writing your first draft. Congratulations! You have come further than many people will ever do. But this is not it. There is more work to be done.

Find out from three well-known and seasoned writers how to transform that first draft into something that will have publishers making extravagant promises and make readers go wild with joy.

Paro Anand is the author of several prize-winning books for children and young adults, including No Guns at My Son’s Funeral and Weed. She works extensively with children.

Devika Rangachari is the author of several prize-winning books for children and young adults, including Queen of Ice, the most recent.

 

Rupa Gulab is the author of several novels for adults and teens, including Hot Chocolate is Thicker than Blood and Daddy Come Lately.

At Max Muller Bhavan, No.3, Kasturba Gandhi Marg, Near Connaught Place, New Delhi, Delhi 110001, at 5.30 pm, 30 January 2017.