Saturday, July 30, 2016

Ingredients of a Successful Picture Book Panel: Susan Rich and John Parra

John Parra is asked what he thinks makes a good picture book:

"When I feel like I get to a magical sweet spot in the [sketch] work that I can translate into the [final art] work... when I can feel like something magical is happening... that's what I'm looking for personally and professionally, even before an audience sees it.

Not everything you do will work or be interpreted by an audience they way you wished it would, but when you do get positive responses, you know it's good."

Susan Rich is asked the same question, and she says she asks herself three questions (which she says are stolen from The Horn Book) when reading the picture book:

"The picture book presents a what if..."

A then what that follows well from that what if...

And then you can step back and say so what."

"We expect picture books to be read a gazillion times, it has to stand up to weary parents and antsy toddlers over and over..."

Susan also addresses what makes a commercially successful book to her:

"... I hope they are paving the way for me to publish more books by those creators, I'm looking for sales and critical acclaim, that it connects with some demographic in an important way and that we can build on that with more books from those creators.

Curricular or seasonal hooks can make your books easier to get BUT I would never recommend starting from there. You can think about that at the query or later at the marketing level."

John says to follow your own voice, and don't worry about commercial vs. personal work, make it personal. Make it unique to your voice, and that's what's going to define you in your career. Be the first-rate you and not a third-rate Jon Klassen.

Susan says the best picture book texts have room for an illustrator to bring it to life, but also are manuscripts meaty enough to provide pacing and carry through with a full, narrative story, which is why poetry is not always a natural fit for picture books even if it's a completely beautiful and lyrical poem.

Laurent asks them about books they loved as kids:

John mentions Virginia Lee Burton's LIFE STORY.

Susan Rich loved C D B! by William Steig (link only goes to the colorized version :( )

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