Thursday, 1 July 2010

My Picture Book Tale

Some years ago I had an idea for a children's picture book. Rather randomly I sent it out to one of the biggest children's publisers, and to my amazement I got an email back a few weeks later - they loved it! I was thrilled - obviously I had hidden picture book writing talents that I hadn't known about. A vision of a future filled with Gruffalos and the like ran through my head as I tried to concentrate on what the email said.

They'd got an illustrator they wanted to work with who had already developed a character, and they thought my story would fit in nicely with that character. So instead of being a bear, my character would be a hare, and would have a different name. Would that by OK?

Yup, sure, bears, hares, what's the difference? And what's in a name - theirs was a bit more cutesy than my taste, but I am not a fussy writer. Fine, I squeaked, wondering how I was going to tell my agent that my writing had taken an unexpected turn.

Oh, and there were just a few little changes to the story. Most were fine, there were a few I thought they'd missed the point of, but picture books was not my world, so I'd accept their superior knowledge. And the title had to change - but titles, schmitles, theirs was fine and I'd known mine was a bit on the nose. I re-wrote, the editor was thrilled, and off it went to the Sales and Marketing meeting.

Sales and Marketing loved it! There were just a few small points about the beginning of the story they'd like to change. Feeling slightly less thrilled I read through them. I made the changes, and a few more to the middle that they hadn't been too sure about, and off it went again.

This time Sales and Marketing adored it, thought it was wonderful. It just needed a few changes to the ending and then it would be perfect. Rather grudgingly I made the changes, not a hundred per cent sure I was doing the right thing.

And Sales and Marketing thought it was fabulous. The only problem was, the title - which was great - didn't quite work with the story, so could the story change please. No. It couldn't. I wrote back nicely saying that I was more than happy to write a different story that fitted the their title, but my original story wasn't it. It was time to part company.

I think this is endemic in the world of picture books - they have so few words it's easy for everyone to stick their fingers in the mix. But it's around with novels too. Books written by committees don't work, and that's all there is to say on the subject.

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