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The Purple Crayon Blog for March 2005

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Permission to Use Illustrations

My school, [Name] Elementary, is in the progress of planning a mural to be painted in our library. I am trying to secure permissions from authors, illustrators, and publishing companies in order to use likenesses from popular children's literature. What is the most efficient and effective way to do this?


I don't think that there is any efficient way to do this. There is no publishing equivalent of ASCAP--a clearinghouse to go to.

Instead, you need to contact the permissions department of the original publisher of the image you wish to use. And you probably will need to be quite persistent, since you will, I assume, be asking for permission to use the image for no payment, and you won't be a priority.

An alternative, not without risk, would be to decide that what you were doing falls under "fair use," and not seek permission. A company that objected would have to take your school to court, and somehow I can't see that happening.

But before taking that course of action you should probably consult your school district's legal counsel....

Good luck, whatever you decide to do.

Printing Sequence Numbers on the Copyright Page

First let me say your website is very informative and I'm sure I will refer back to it very often. I have a specific question regarding the number sequence that denotes printing.

I had done a prepublication release of 200 for test market purposes of my book, and found areas that needed improvement from an illustration standpoint. I am almost ready to send to the printer. I am releasing this book as a second edition, since the illustrations are so different that what was originally produced in small quantity.

So my question is, as a self-publisher am I required to use this sequence of numbers?

If so, should the sequence read 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 or 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 ?

I am would appreciate any insight you have on this issue. Thanks so much.

The numbers printed on the copyright page, ready for use when new printings come up, are not "required" by anyone. They are a printing convention. As such, to the best of my knowledge, you can define what constitutes a printing as you choose.

In your case, it seems pretty clear to me that the book clearly is a new edition, and as such you should leave the "1" in that line. Even if you hadn't made significant changes, you'd be justified in doing so, as the 200 copies you describe as test copies don't seem to me to qualify as a printing, but as a bound galley or advance copy....

Hope this helps.

Writing YA Fantasy Novels

I appreciate your Web site and newsletter very much. I have been searching the Web for something with little success. Perhaps you can direct me to the right place.

I want to learn about writing YA fantasy novels. I have found lots of articles on PBs, easy readers, and rhymes for children, but very little to learn from, very few articles and pointers about this particular genre.

Could you please direct me to the right URL(s)?

Other than the article on writing science fiction and fantasy on my site, and I assume you've already found that, I'm not sure that I can be of much help.

You might find some useful books in the Resources list from my Idiot's Guide. You also might try to find other fantasy writers. I have seen people posting about fantasy both on the SCBWI discussion boards and on the childrens-writers Yahoo group and I am almost certain that some small online groups exist dedicated to writing fantasy for children. You should be able to connect to those people via one of those sources.

My questioner later sent some useful links she had found in addition to the ones I mentioned:

I found very helpful information on these web sites.

www.sfwa.org -- the best:
A Checklist for Critiquing Science Fiction by David Alexander Smith
A Glossary of Useful Terms

www.sffworld.com: including Don't Judge Fantasy by its Label by Lee Ann Cuccia
(note by HU--I found sffworld to be pop-up happy when checking these links, and in fact it crashed my browser at one point.)


I found all the above by starting here (links from Shelley Souza):

And then she sent me more links that I listed in my 2nd blog entry for March.

Manuscripts Mysteriously Not Returned

Your site is very well put together and helpful. I'm glad you added the blog too.  

I am a writer and professional illustrator. Over the years I've submitted a picture book dummy complete with manuscript and finished sample art to a number of publishers. Of course I include a cover letter and SASE envelope. However, I rarely see the art or dummy again. There are editors, whom I've properly researched and correctly addressed, who have had this manuscript and dummy for three, two, and one years. Currently one editor has had it for 9 months.

After 5 months or so I've sent each of them a polite card saying that I would like them to be the editor for this book and to please keep considering it, but that at this point I will also be submitting the story to additional publishers. That falls short of a response as well.

I have moved on and don't wait by the mailbox anymore, but the mystery remains. Where is my work?

Thank you, and happy holidays!

Are you saying that you never get a response at all, or that some materials are returned, but not all of them?

If you are getting no response at all, it's likely that the editor or editors are simply overwhelmed. Many editors, if even slightly interested in a submission, will put it aside for future consideration. Then it sits, while obvious rejections get processed quickly, and books that must be offered a contract right away get taken care of. And then the book continues to sit, in a kind of limbo, too good to be summarily rejected, but not good enough to be acted on.

Your follow-up postcard probably never got matched up with the dummy. They just can't find it.

If you are getting some of what you sent in a package returned, but not all of it, I think things are getting separated. Once that happens, unless the company is unusually diligent about returning materials, it's quite possible that some things are just being thrown out. Art samples, in particular, are usually seen as disposable (because illustrators typically do not want them back.) And as you probably know, at least one large publisher has announced that it will no longer return manuscripts in which it isn't interested.

When I worked at Charlesbridge, we were always careful to return everything that was sent to us, but I think that care is possible only at the smaller publishers. Large publishers get disproportionately large volumes of submission, and their staff may be spread thinner than the staff at small companies.

But this is all speculative, and probably not an entirely satisfying answer. I hope it has been of some help.

[The questioner later confirmed that she had received nothing back at all from the publishers in question.]

Getting Started as an Illustrator of Children's Books

Hi there. I am a 23-year-old artist living in [city], Canada. There is not very much opportunity here for the artistically inclined. I was wondering how to possibly get a start as being a children's book illustrator. How did you get your start in this profession? I would appreciate any advice you might have. Thank you for your time.

Have you had professional training as an artist? If not, you will need some, and ideally you should do some work specifically in illustration. There must be classes available in [city]?

If you feel you don't need additional training, I'd suggest you get your hands on a copy of the second edition of my Complete Idiot's Guide, which addresses your question in some depth. But briefly, you first need to start developing a portfolio and some samples. Learn about the field and what works and what doesn't for children--there are many useful books listed in my Guide, and you'll actually find the entire Resource list from it online too. Research children's publishers and draw up a list of the ones you would like to work with. Then start sending out your samples.

It's hard to summarize the process in an email, so I really think you need to get my book, or one like it, and go from there.

This installment is based on emails I sent out in January in response to questions received at The Purple Crayon.

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Copyright 2005 by Harold Underdown. All rights reserved.

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