July 9, 2012

Q&A With Editor Erin Molta, Plus Pitch Pick #9, Plus The Giveaway Winners!

Apparently I have too many things to post for the number of post days I have.  I have no idea how this happens.  I'm usually so reserved with my words :)  (I hear you laughing!  Don't worry - I couldn't say it with a straight face either :))

ANYWAY, today we have a bit of a smorgasbord.

First, we're a little behind on the June Pitch Pick.  See what happens when we all go on vacation? :)

Here is a little refresher:

#1 Laura

Working Title:  Uncle Larry
Age/Genre:  PB
The Pitch:  A true story about Uncle Larry, a special child/adult who grew up on a farm, trained and loved animals, liked to play and work, got into mischief, and taught us how to love someone a little different by loving everyone himself.

#2 Rita

Working Title: Elephant And Dolphin
Age/Genre: Picture Book (ages 3-7)
The Pitch:  Elephant and Dolphin meet every morning by the sea. But Elephant lives on the land and Dolphin lives in the ocean.  Elephant eats grass while Dolphin eats fish. Elephant trumpets and Dolphin clicks.  How can these two play together with the differences they have between them?  Elephant and Dolphin find out how friendship overcomes everything.

#3 Lori

Working Title:  These Little Piggies
Age/Genre: Rhyming Picture Book (ages 4-8)
The Pitch:  In this Mother Goose mash-up, five little piggies are living happily in a shoe until a callous old woman forces her way in and turns their lives head over tails.  The piggies decide to set a trap for the old woman so, the first little piggy goes to market... the second little piggy stays home...  Will they succeed in giving the old coot the boot?

#4 Anna

Working Title:  Hug-A-Bug Travels To Egypt
Age/Genre:  Picture Book (ages 3-8)
The Pitch:  Fasten your seat belts and prepare for a high-flying trip with Hug-A-Bug to the famous Giza Pyramids. On his visit, he wows the reader with the exploration of hieroglyphics and Egyptian phrases. During his travels, he meets up with someone who needs a hug. Who will he meet this time? 

Please vote below for your favorite by Wednesday July 11 at 11:59PM EDT.

The winner's pitch will go for a read by editor Erin Molta (who is here with us today! - so exciting!)

But hang on for one more second before we get to Erin because I have other exciting news, too - the winners of the giveaways from our generous self-publishing mini-series authors!

And the winners (as chosen by are.....

For the set of 3 hardcover Gator's Gang picture books from Suzanne McGovern - Catherine J!!!

For a paperback copy of the fabulous Show Me How from Vivian Kirkfield - Beth S!!!

For an e-book of The Adventures Of Lucy Snigglefritz from Patrick Milne - Vivian K!!!

And for a paperback picture book of Meg The Egg from Rita Borg -  Erik (I don't know you're last initial :))!!!

Catherine, Beth, Vivian, and Erik, please email me so we can organize book signing and mailing!

And now, the post we've all been looking forward to for some time, our Q&A with the fabulous Erin Molta.  Erin is an experienced senior editor of picture book, early readers, chapter, middle grade, and YA books, as well as novelty and licensed titles. She has been in children's publishing for more than twenty years and has a keen understanding of early reader through YA audiences. She has an excellent reputation with established authors, illustrators, and agents.  She is currently evaluating manuscripts for 
publishers as well as freelance editing for prospective authors before submission to publishing houses.

Questions from readers are below in blue, answers from Erin in green.

From Clar:  For Erin: I wonder if a ms with monsters and bedtime is has been written about too much and if she would just throw it in the trash without reading the whole pitch or does she think there's a chance for it to go through. 
Though it has been done, it’s all in the matter of the telling -- because it’s such a universal topic a fresh take on it is always welcome.

From Coleen:  I'm always curious to hear what kinds of manuscripts publishers are buying right now. :)
Ha! They wish they knew! Publishing usually goes in cycles. For a while it was Harry Potter and fantasy. Then there was Twilight and other paranormal-type books. Now it seems, in YA at least,that suspense is the up and coming genre. For middle grade books there doesn’t tend to be such a flocking to the genres and subgenres. Every publisher is looking for the next best thing—the next Harry Potter or Goosebumps, Percy Jackson . . .

From Julie H:  I guess I'd have to say my top curiosity right now is whether editors are still finding picture books to be a hard sell and, if so, whether she thinks that will change any time soon.
I think the picture book market is picking up a bit—mostly because it follows the baby booms. And there are more babies now.  Even with e-books and Apps, parents still want books to sit down and read to their kids.

From Darshana:  Any tips for PB authors (not PB author/illustrator) for writing unique/quirky PB under 300 words. I have noticed a lot of PBs I like are written by author/illustrators that are short on text, where the humor and quirkiness is carried in the pictures. I know I can come up with clever stories however since I am only a PB author, I get nervous about using too many illustrator notes, as that could turn-off an editor. 
Illustrator notes don’t necessarily turn off an editor, but they should only be used to point out what may not be obvious from the text—for instance if you are imagining that the characters are animals as opposed to people or if you are envisioning a twist that must be present in the art. No need to describe clothing or setting unless it directly impacts the story.

From Julie R-Z:  Questions for Erin:
Vocabulary: when and why does an editor like or dislike BIG words (son's 1st gr. teacher called them million dollar words!) in a PB manuscript?
It’s all about appropriateness. If big words further the plot or are essential and are the best word choice for the story, then they are OK. You don’t want to have the story that as a parent etc. is reading they have to stop to explain every 5th word to a child. Then it becomes a vocab lesson and not an enjoyable read. The more important part of writing is not the words themselves but how they are used. If you say Jane is melancholy you are saying she is sad but if you show us why she is sad—“Usually when Jane came home from school, Gramma would be sitting at the table stirring milk into her coffee, reading the historical romances they liked to share. There would be an apple on a plate for Jane. Today there was no Gramma and no paperback book. Just an apple—on a napkin. Jane’s chest felt heavy and her eyes welled up.” You bring the scene alive and a reader will get the melancholy feeling by showing rather than telling.

Cliches: I understand that's a no-no, but when used sparingly is it not appropriate if it can teach apre-schooler about the meaning behind a cliche?
Again, it’s all about the story. If you are writing a story about clichés or if they serve to bring the scene alive—then used sparingly, they are fine.

In general do editor's agree on common mistakes or are the peeves more often personal? If so, give us the dirt Erin!
There are no general peeves—but words for the sake of the words as opposed to the story is a common mistake that most editors detest –and typos and spelling mistakes in a query are a no-nofor us all.

From Jarm:  I also would like to know what place there is in the publishing world for picture books with more than 800 word counts. I was thinking of PBs for older children on non-fiction topics, that are woven into a story, such as "Amelia and Eleanor Go For A Ride" by Pam Muñoz Ryan.
Any place—again it depends on the editor. Nonfiction normally does lend itself to longer text, but check publisher’s lists and see who tends to publish more nonfiction picture books. Clarion tends to, as does Charlesbridge and smaller presses like Eerdmans and Bearport Publishing.

From Kirsten:  I'm most interested in hearing what makes it out of the slushpile (for nonfiction) and why. What are editors looking for on the nonfiction side?
Editors tend to follow the school curriculum so check out a standard curriculum—say 4th graders do the American Revolution and 2nd graders learn about the night sky and maps. Seasonal topics, too—books about apples, pumpkins, and growing things, if done in a fresh unique way, are some popular topics. Animals are popular, too, but again, something new like unusual animal friendships or animals that have strange stories—like a penguin who shows up on a beach in Florida. Cute animals don’t hurt either.

From Penny:  a question that I have been wondering about...when I read online in submission guidelines that a publishing house/agent is closed to submissions except for folks they've met at a conference OR REFERRALS FROM OTHER PROFESSIONALS...I always wonder just who all is included in those OTHER professionals. Does it mean just other editors/agents? Can it mean another published author? Does it ever happen that a published someone that runs a critique service happens upon a manuscript they refer onto one of the publishing houses/agents who is closed to submissions except for the circumstances I mentioned. 
Yes J A referral from a published author will make it past the editorial assistant’s eagle eyes. It has happened that a published author has recommended someone and they have been published.

From Erik:  I would like to know the top three common mistakes writers make and what makes her want to read a MS.
Hmm . . . top three mistakes. #1 is when an author tells the story rather than showing—see above for how describing a scene and making a reader feel the character’s feelings works better than using big words or just saying, Jane was sad. #2 is sending manuscripts full of errors. That’s an immediate turn-off. #3 When an author tells you how their kindergarten class or their kids and kids friends love the manuscript. Of course they do. What kids are going to tell their teacher/parent/grandparent that they DON’T like their story?

I do hope you all enjoyed that as much as I did, and Erin's answers will be helpful to you!

Come on over on Wednesday and help Rita with her MG pitch!  Have a great day!


  1. Thank you, Erin! Your wonderful answers have given me an idea for my July 12X12 manuscript. It's always helpful to hear what editors think of and look for in submissions and I appreciate your taking the time to answer these questions.

  2. Glad you found it helpful, Heather! Can't wait to hear about your new ms idea :)

  3. Thanks for all your time and effort Erin (poor Jane, sure am feeling for her now - lol). And to my fellow question-posers - good stuff! All the advice smacks of an energy bar - baked to last!

  4. Great answers! And voted, so good luck to all!

  5. A smorgasbord is always welcome--especially when I know yours will often include dessert! Thanks for the Q&A! And for getting my question answered :)

  6. You're welcome! Thanks for stopping by. I'm just finishing making brownies for dessert. And we have vanilla ice cream to go with. Here is some for you :)

  7. I also voted, but it was hard to choose. Best of luck to everyone! Those brownies ala mode sound delicious!

  8. Hi Julie - nice to see you! Thanks so much for voting. And you've mace me realize I haven't been over to your place in a while - summer has thrown me off my schedule! I will have to remedy that :)

  9. Never a dull moment at Susanna's. Great pitches everyone, it was hard to choose. And congrats to all the book winners. Happy reading! Thanks for taking time to answer the questions, Erin. I found them enlightening. Illo note questions seem to be common among PB writers. Thanks for giving us your take.

  10. I really enjoyed the Q & A. It was very informative and helpful. You clarified some generalities that I have wondered about.
    Thanks, Erin and Susanna!

    I voted! Good luck to all of you!

  11. Thanks so much for a great Q&A. Lots of valuable information shared!

    Great pitches everyone. I did vote, but it was very hard to pick!

  12. Thanks for the wonderful insights, Erin! It's always helpful to get a behind the scenes look!

  13. Glad you liked the Q & A Loni and thanks so much for voting!

  14. Glad you enjoyed it, Penny, and thanks for voting!

  15. So glad if you found it helpful, Hannah! It was so nice of Erin to take the time for us. And thanks for voting!

  16. Oh my goodness, I can't believe I missed the pitch pick vote.:( Where have I been the last few days? Obviously, not on this planet! Glad I managed to wake up and smell the roses...I mean, read this awesome Q&A...THANK YOU, Erin, for answering questions that many of us were anxious to ask and giving us a bit of the inside scoop.
    Susanna, I will email you to coordinate the prize of my book...and thank you so much...I'm thrilled to win an ebook of Lucy Snigglefritz...thanks Patrick...I look forward to reading it. :)

  17. Insightful! Thanks for telling us again this post was up. Not sure why I missed it in my email.

  18. Glad if you enjoyed it, Tina! And everyone missed the email. ACK! Technology!

  19. Glad you found the posts eventually, Vivian. I don't know what's up with the notifications - no one is getting them! I'll check in with you about the prize :)


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