Book Failure= Financial disaster, not just for publishing executives but everyone in the publishing industry chain.
Taking a chance on an author is a risk for the entire chain with very real consequences. So any reticence to taking on big risk should be seen as responsibility for employees, not just conservatism.
The 5 factors all contribute to creating a picture of risk vs. reward, profit vs. loss.
this issue before in previous parts of this Demystifying publishing series, please refer to them for more details on suitability of text.
Text must be enjoyable and suits: the intended audience, publisher’s catalogue, direction of trends and, vision for future of publisher’s list.
Author’s sales record is indicator of future success or future commercial failure.
“But what if I’ve never Published a Book?”
So, fortunately for you, this is actually a Schrodinger’s cat kind of situation and BETTER than having a bad sales record. There’s no record of failure yet, so there’s equal possibility of failure or success, the only way to know for sure is to see what happens next.
Comparable titles are used to build a case for the financial viability of your book (MSS) Mention them in any submission to either agent or editor.
So “You Matter” “All Because You Matter” and “I Believe I Can” are titles comparable to each other because they have similar themes.
Good comparable titles must be: recent, specific and, successful.
Bonus Points if it’s from the publisher or agent who you’re submitting to.
For the love of everything do not compare your story to HARRY POTTER or THE CAT IN THE HAT or, GOODNIGHT MOON, etc.
Don’t do this when querying an agent, or an editor, or an influencer reviewer, just don’t do it.
It tells everyone you don’t actually read children’s books because you don’t know the current market.
Also it kind of makes you sound like an ass.
Authority: Relevant credentials are key for Non-Fiction authors
Less important for fiction authors.
Relevancy is key here, if you have a PHD in Psychology, and you’re writing about Rocket Ship Engineering, that is not relevant. So, not really helpful.
Quantifiable visibility within target audience: aka do you have people who will buy your book?
Unlike every other luxury consumer good industry (which is exactly what book publishing is,) publishers are slow to see Social Media Influence as genuine proof of money making platform.
This attitude is changing and some big publishers are now producing books by influencers.
This shift will partly be thanks to the NYT article from March of 2021 “How Crying on Tik Tok Sells Books”
Most publishers don’t know a lot about Social Media Influencing and change will continue to move slowly. But it’s happening.
Are people actually in the industry talking about your work?
How can you get them talking about you? Twitter is actually a good place to start, a lot of publishing industry people are on Twitter. And if you follow me you know I’m abysmal at Twitter, I just don’t enjoy it, not enough pretty pictures, so this is a piece of advice I do not take for myself. I’d rather cry on Tik Tok.
Attending industry events, book launches, meeting people. Doing this in the pandemic might be harder but not impossible. Virtual events are hosted all the time and often you’ll find editors or other senior members of publishing houses showing up to them.
Having a well respected agent is also key for generating industry buzz, see my previous blog in this series on Literary Agents.
So when you put all of these things together, along with some other numbers for production, distribution, etc. They start to build a profit and loss statement, they will assess the commercial viability of your manuscript proposal, and from this statement they can decide whether or not to offer to acquire it and also, how much money they can offer you as an advance.
Removing racism from children’s literature will kill of culture? …whose culture exactly are you worried won’t withstand being held accountable to any standards of common decency and respect for others?
“The Secret Garden” by Frances Hodgson Burnett, first published as a full novel in 1911, is my favourite book of all time, since the first time I read it when I was a child. It is also, therefore perhaps surprisingly, the book I am putting forth today for #LibrarianFightClub, because when it comes to examining internal biases and problematic messages in books, nothing should be sacred.
I was first alerted to the problematic nature of the portrayal and attitudes towards disability in this book while chatting with my friend Lucy, @thecatchpoles. Previous to us discussing it I had never questioned this book.
You may be familiar with the story, it has been redone as plays, movies, picture books, etc., though I find that the original novel despite being a “classic” very readable for a modern reader, because Burnett was a boss writer.
The story is as follows, Mary is a British expat raised in India when, after Cholera strikes her parents and basically everyone she knows dies. She couldn’t care less, beyond inconvenience to her lifestyle. She is shipped back to England, to be raised in Misselthwaite Manor, the home of her Maternal Uncle by marriage. It is all very Edwardian gothic, she is a miserable “sickly little creature” and being back in the healthy English air and surrounded by good English people who take “no nonsense” improves her horrible temper and health. In fact upon her arrival at the English manor her maid says that India is full of “a lot of blacks instead of respectable white people.” To which Mary very angrily informs her “Natives are not people.” It is not mentioned again overtly, but the implicit racism, colonialism, and colourism runs deep in the veins of this book.
Serious question, is it possible to find a classic book that isn’t full of a deep base of white supremacy and colonialism? I’m not sure. And how does this affect if and how we approach reading it. These overt lines are of course scrubbed from modern retellings, but can you really remove the attitudes which form the basis and premise of this entire book? Does simply erasing the overt lines actually do more bad than good because it makes it harder to critically look at the entire structure?
Now, as to the depiction of disability and chronic illness, that gets complex. So, in this book the uncle is a romantic wretched fellow who is a “hunchback.” After being widowed by a beautiful girl who it is made clear should never have looked at him twice he never recovers and abandons his son who is also disabled, to wander around the world being morose and stinking rich. The son is a miserable tyrannical child who lives his life in bed having panic attacks about being ill. After meeting Mary, and spending time outside with her and learning about love and friendship, he is magically cured? Or, it was all in his head in the first place. His father when he sees his son is not in fact disabled, decides to return and be a father. Talk about a fairweather relationship.
So the trouble here is that really, this attitude that disability is partly in the mind and inextricably tied with a poor attitude is something that is still arguably ingrained into society. Or that disabled children are a depressing burden on their parents. We can connect these ideas back to all of the sorts of books people applaud about disabled people using a can-do attitude to overcome, to be inspiring. The basis is all here, and written out in the 1890’s.
However to further complicate things, it turns out, that this is actually a story that reflects the author’s own very fascinating life. Frances Hodgson Burnett as it turns out lived many of the experiences she wrote about personally including chronic illness and depression.
As a child, her family fell into ruin after the sudden death of her father. They were forced to immigrate to America from England, where she befriended a young ‘invalid’ boy, who she later married (arguably her inspiration for the relationship between Mary and Colin?) She began writing to support her impoverished family when she was only 18 and continued to write as breadwinner her entire life. She supported her husband through medical school, while raising two boys and keeping a household. She suffered from chronic undiagnosed illness throughout and bouts of depression. She eventually left her husband, and her elder son fell ill with tuberculosis. She moved back to England with her elder son, where he died. She divorced her husband, had an affair with a much younger man who then blackmailed her into marriage. She was roasted by the media and local religious leaders for her “advanced ideas regarding the duties of a wife and the rights of women.” She was also criticized heavily for the femininity with which some of her male protagonists were depicted, they were based on her son.
She wrote “The Secret Garden” after the death of her own son, surrounded by an English garden, in the depths of the grief and depression that her characters experience. Does this change the way we see the book?
This really brings me to think about European “classics” in general. They’re all problematic because they’re all written by people who lived within this society. They inform an entire Anglophone writing tradition and I’m not sure if simply removing it from a reading list is the most useful choice. You might disagree with me. Thinking on the ideas in this book, on its context, and then considering how it impacted, influenced, and inspired so much of modern children’s literature. Do we not gain something from picking apart the original? Especially when that original is written by a woman who was really pushing the boundaries of women and what was acceptable in society? What do you think?
Reading Loops are Normal and Developmentally Appropriate
Toddlers and young children thrive on the safety of routine and predictability. This unsurprisingly extends to every facet of their lives including the books they will want to read. This is one of the reason you will end up reading the same insipid book about the puppy who has lost it’s ball 572920139009 times in one week.
The Growing Brain:
Another element to this is the fundamental approach to acquiring skills and knowledge that is hardwired into babies and toddlers. They will take apart and repeat a skill over and over until they have mastered it. You might have noticed this in other tasks they get fixated on, such as opening and closing doors or squeezing all the toothpaste out of the tube whenever they get a chance. They are focused on mastering this. This applies to the books they have chosen. They are going to learn every detail backwards forwards and upside down.
Early readers should be reading each book at least 7 times..
Learning to Read:
When we get to preschoolers and primary school children, the need for repeated reading is still incredibly important! Studies have determined that early readers should be reading each book at least 7 times to really be able to comfortably read through and glean all of the lessons therein.
Should I Embrace the Loop?
Embrace the loop within reason. Reading books has many purposes and getting stuck on the same 3 books for four months limits the amount of new ideas, discussions, vocabulary and experiences your child is exposed to in reading.
Balancing is key.
How do I encourage balance?
Rotate books like you would toys. Every week, don’t keep them all out at once.
Keep different selections in different areas, the car, their bedroom, the diaper bag, the kitchen, etc.
“You choose I choose” I let my children choose two books each at night and I also choose 2 so that we have a variety.
What other ways do you encourage your children to indulge in a variety of books?
Not all children instantly love books. A reluctant reader will often struggle down the line with literacy skills and it can affect their feelings about learning in general and their own self esteem. This can be frustrating for both you and your child. So what can you do?
I have collected advice from 20 of my favourite bookstagrammers and teachers here on Instagram! Tips that you can implement at home without spending any money.
How to Encourage A Reluctant Reader
Let them choose books that match their interests, regardless of level or type.
Relax! Focus on enjoyment and relationship building with your child.
Make it a special time.
Make books constantly available and reading spaces inviting
My tips to make reading inviting! Create spaces that a child would want to read in and have a selection of excellent books for them to choose from. Rotate the selection regularly. Focus on creating a special time every day where you can also read together and focus on keeping it fun.
My best tip for reluctant readers is to find a series of books that match their interests. When kids get to know the characters in a series, they feel connected, invested and want to know more about them. So find a few great series of books to keep them reading.
My advice for parents of reluctant readers would be to relax! I know it’s tough, but try to stop worrying so much about what your child is or is not able to do.
Find some books on a topic they’re interested in and read it to them.
Enjoy books together without testing them or making them perform for you. If you can make reading a positive experience, a time for connection, your child is more likely to be motivated to learn.
Another tip would be to “think out loud” – casually point something out as you read (a letter you notice, a sight word you know they’re practicing at school) or work out a tricky word aloud and then move on. But be careful! If you do this too often or too obviously, your child will likely catch on and get annoyed.
Tough to narrow it down because each reluctant reader is different. But probably my number one tip is to find a way to get into the fun of it with your child. Whether your thing is voices, or reading during bath time, or seeking out book events. If you as the caregiver can make it fun and set an example of reading being awesome then the kids will likely follow.
To help kids build stamina for longer texts parents can try an “I read, You read” strategy. Take turns reading a page (or paragraph) at a time. It’s a relief for reluctant readers because they don’t have to carry the full load by themselves and comprehension is better maintained because they can listen to understand when it’s the parent’s turn.
Pick books with engaging illustrations to have conversations about, in addition to reading the text. Ideally, a series or a book that would lend itself well to being a jumping off point for extra interest in a topic.
I would say allow them to choose the book. Even if we are the one reading to them, giving reluctant readers a choice is helpful. So I would show the child three-four books with topics they are interested in and then have them choose.
Togetherness and specialness. Togetherness, making a set time each day and make it special, an afternoon tea after school, a special drink and a bite to eat while sharing a book to read. Whatever you do, make it special and be together
Find something they are really interested in and tie it to books. My youngest didn’t enjoy reading until I found him some simple biographies about famous runners. Also, audiobooks are a great option for some kids!
I think family members modelling positive reading behaviours is the most important. Since children learn so much by seeing (not telling), if they see others gaining enjoyment of reading, they might be inspired to give it a try. We tell parents/guardians to pull out a book themselves, read aloud picture books/chapter books, make reference to how reading helps them read driving directions (kids will internalize, “I need to read to drive a car”) or when a parent is cooking they can say, “can you help me read this recipe”… without pressure, parents can model positive ways in which reading is intertwined into daily life
Another tip we share in my role is not to use timers to enforce 20mins of reading a night (even though we know it’s good practice)… timers make it seem like a chore and when the timer goes off, even if the child was enjoying the book, they will stop and move onto something else
With reluctant readers, we also tell parents not to worry about WHAT they are reading (comics, graphic novels, magazines)… let them gravitate to anything and praise!
Bring them to places where they will also see people reading… bookstores, library… they will start to see that reading is for enjoyment.
Let them pick books they’re interested in reading – even if it means they’re reading something you’re not super excited about. Graphic Novels are books! They’re awesome for encouraging a love of reading!
(By “not super excited about” I mean like character books – not books that are inappropriate or anything.)
It’s ok to give up on a book that’s not working. Forcing something that no one is enjoying is never fun. Put the book away and head to your library for something else. And if in doubt ask a librarian for their recommendations for books on a theme, topic or genre your kid enjoys.
When it comes to reluctant readers, I always think of that J.K. Rowling quote, “If you don’t like to read, you haven’t found the right book.” My biggest tip for parents or teachers looking to help reluctant readers is to first explore the child’s interests and then find a book that fits their personality. I used to give my students a self-evaluation sheet asking them to circle various activities they were interested in and then used that to help guide them to a book I thought they might like that was near their reading level.
Another tip I have is to be open minded. Many parents don’t love graphic novels, but reluctant readers do! There are a ton of graphic novels out there that not only have tons of kid appeal, but they also help children built important skills like reading with expression and better understanding punctuation. Because these books are highly illustrated, readers can use the pictures to help identify new words and better comprehend the story. Children may finish these stories quickly, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It is a huge boost to their ego to be able to read the entire book and they will usually return for rereadings, which will help books their reading skills.
Many parents also worry when their child chooses a book that they believe is lower than their typical reading level or if they reread a book over and over. There are actually benefits for children rereading books or choosing books on a lower level. Rereading allows them to develop a deeper understanding of some of the nuances in the plot they may have missed the first time and it can be an opportunity to practice their fluency. Sometimes they need a break from all the difficult reading they may be doing in school. Many adults are able to read War and Peace, but very few do because they want something more entertaining. Kids are the same way.
Kids are figuring out their own reading identities and they have to have the freedom to explore and choose their own books.
Scholastic has two new groups of books aimed specifically for new/ reluctant readers that are fantastic!
Acorn Books are intended for children ages four to seven and contain an excellent combination of easy-to-read text, color illustrations, and engaging storylines featuring friendship stories, humor, and magic. They also include tips for drawing the characters to inspire budding writers to create their own stories.
The BranchesBooks are an ideal choice for those newly independent readers who are in between the easy reader stage and traditional chapter books. They have high-interest stories with simple plotlines that include easy-to-read text and illustrations that provide context clues and aid in reading comprehension.
Honestly, I read this tip from Shannon over at @ohcreativeday about just continuing to read, read, read even when they don’t seem to be listening or don’t seem to care. So I probably read to my now toddler’s bum for months because she would just crawl away. So I think continuing to expose, even when they don’t seem interested, and creating a literacy rich environment would be my only tips!