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|Tuesday May 21, 2013|
|What Do Editors Want?|
|By Laura Backes|
Does this mean that editors are planning to hate every manuscript that crosses their desks? Certainly not. Every time an editor opens an unsolicited submission she's hoping she'll find a new, undiscovered talent. But because the volume of books being published has dropped in recent years, each book carries more weight for the publisher. And fiction by new authors in particular must be of the highest quality to compete with the novelizations of movies and television shows crowding the shelves, and picture books based on familiar, popular licensed characters.
When you're revising your work and sending it out, try to think like an editor. As you attend conferences or read books on publishing, compile a list of "don'ts" that will get your manuscript routed immediately to the rejection pile. Here are some to get you started:
A weak opening
Lack of vision
In the end, what distinguishes a manuscript from the hundreds of others in the slush pile is the writer's passion. If the author positions himself as bestowing a story upon children, or imparting wisdom from a distant, adult perspective, the book will fail. However, if the author is so enthralled with the characters and caught up in the plot that the experience is shared with the reader, the manuscript will shine.
One more note: Editors are very subjective critics, so besides writing a strong book the author must appeal to an editor's tastes, sense of humor, and know enough not to submit a dog book to a cat person. The only way a writer can really know an editor's preferences is to attend conferences and meet the editors in person, or network with other authors. Barring that, calling the children's book department at publishers to whom you plan to submit your novel and asking an editorial assistant which editor is interested in middle grade historical fiction is a good backup strategy.
Laura Backes is the author of Best Books for Kids Who (Think They) Hate to Read from Prima/Random House. She's also the publisher of Children's Book Insider, the Newsletter for Children's Writers. For more information about writing children's books, including free articles, market tips, insider secrets and much more, visit Children's Book Insider's home on the web at Write4Kids.com.