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The Purple Crayon Blog for April 2005

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Submitting a Self-Published Book to a Publisher

I am almost finished with self publishing my first book. Is it okay for my to send my published book along with a query? I am not sure of the process of submissions for a writer who has self-published a book. Any words of wisdom will be appreciated.

Good question. I would handle a copy of a self-published book as if it were a manuscript. If the publisher wants a query letter, do not send the book. Indicate in your query letter that you self-published the book, and that you will send a copy if they are interested. If the book has sold well, say so (by which I mean, in the thousands of copies).

If the publisher will look at unsolicited manuscripts, then just send the book, with a cover letter and a SASE.

If you haven't already, you might want to read this useful article on cover letters and queries.

Printings, Editions, and the Copyright Page

Harold, I have a question about the rows of numbers some publishers use in the copyright section of their books. Some go from 10 to 1, counting backwards; some go from a random number (31), and will count up or down for six or seven numbers; some count one to ten, forward.

What do those rows of numbers mean? Some also say "First Edition" after the row, or another indicator of edition.
I'm guessing that they are the edition, or print run indicators; but many are not highlighted so you would not know what number was indicated anyway. Some do have a highlighted number in the row.

Any information would be greatly appreciated. Thnx

As you guessed, those indicate printings. When a book is being laid out, these numbers are set on the copyright page to be used to indicate printings. Before the second printing, the number "1" is removed, so that the lowest number is a "2." Before the 9th printing, the number "8" is removed. The lowest number visible is the number of the printing--no need to highlight.

The order of the numbers isn't standard, so you see different set-ups.You'll see numbers such as "31" because the book has gone on to additional rounds of printings, and a new line of numbers is then stripped in on the plate.

There are some meaningful differences between "editions" and "printings," but for help with that I am going to refer you to the Chicago Manual of Style, which you should have! See pages 7-10, in the section on the parts of a published book. If you don't have it, read my review.

I also previously addressed a variation on this question in my blog. See the second item on this page,

I hope this helps. If it doesn't, get the Chicago Manual of Style.

Writing Children's Books after Other Writing Experience

I am only beginning to write for children. I am doing so mostly because I am finding great pleasure in writing and because I have had stories bouncing around my head for years that are finally demanding to be set to paper. In my profession, as an attorney, I have been told that I write well and I was fortunate enough to have an article published in a legal Journal. Creative writing and, in particular, writing for children, is a fairly new experience for me. I have been writing my stories in a journal and have only shared them with a close friend who also enjoys writing. I am currently looking into joining a local critique group. (I have a toddler so it is difficult to find the time).

If I want to get published, is it better to focus on magazine submissions first? I do not expect to make a living at this (though I find it more satisfying than writing a dry legal brief) but it would be nice to make an extra dime here and there and have the satisfaction of seeing my work in print. I do have the 2005 Writer's and Illustrator's Market. Also, in your personal experience, have you found that people who write well in other situations have any advantage when they try to write creatively?

Writing for magazines is quite different from writing picture books or novels. It can be a way to get published, but it's not necessarily easier. You should follow your muse and write what most interests you, because it's hard to break in no matter which market you focus on.

A critique group is a good idea. Join the SCBWI and go to a local conference if you can, too.

As for your other question, well, experience in other forms of writing will help, but not much, in my experience. It helps with the basics--good work habits, being able to edit yourself, knowing how to put a sentence together--but writing a legal brief and writing a picture book story are two VERY different endeavors. Different purpose, different structure, different language, different audience.... I don't say that to discourage you, but the reverse--don't let yourself be discouraged when you find yourself struggling. There's a lot to learn, and not that much that carries over.

Good luck, and welcome to a wonderful if sometimes frustrating field.

Translating a School Program into a Book

What a wonderful web site you've created! You answer a lot of questions, however, I still have one. I am a published author, I've created a program on [a specific topic]. It is being used in a school in Illinois this year. the principal, teachers and staff as well as the children and even the community have embraced it, and truly adore it. The program consists of puppets, books, bulletin boards and displays, awards, posters and much more. Publishers however, are not as accepting. In today's society, I see such a great need for this. The large publishing houses send a form letter, the smaller ones, send beautifully written rejection lettters, I'm having a hard time finding the right publisher? I refuse to give up on this worthwhile program, which is what the National Education Association in Washington has said.

Any comments?

I can tell you from personal experience that publishers are interested in your subject, and I suspect are seeing a number of submissions in that area. I'm wondering if your program doesn't translate well into book form, or if you just haven't found the right approach yet.

I have two suggestions. Think carefully about how your program would be best published. If you want to keep the program intact, you should be approaching educational publishers. If you can make it work in stand-alone books, then you can approach trade publishers.

Second, you should join the SCBWI, go to a local conference, and get a critique. There's no substitute for an objective appraisal.

I hope this helps. If you have follow-up questions, I'll do my best to address them.

A Follow-up Question about Board Books

This question and answer are now part of an article called Writing and Publishing Board Books.

This installment is based on emails I sent out in late March and early April 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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