1. Rzero

    Rzero Contributor Contributor

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    How to pitch a picture book for older kids, maybe even teens, for query purposes

    Discussion in 'Publishing' started by Rzero, Sep 5, 2019.

    I have several picture books in the works, and I'm very close to final draft status, or at least almost beta-ready, on at least two of them. I hope to submit to agents soon, but I'm unsure exactly how to pitch them or which agents to approach. They're not designed with the youngest of picture book fans in mind.

    The first features fun but gross elements. There's almost no bathroom humor involved, just deplorable hygiene, snot and swamp slime, that sort of thing, something on level with, but occasionally exceeding, Shel Silverstein poems and some of Roald Dahl's grosser stories. The vocabulary is also sparsely but sometimes significantly advanced beyond the range of little kids, though I know from experience reading to my five-year-old that occasional middle grade or higher verbiage is no problem, so long as the story and pictures are compelling, and he can still follow the plot. Hell, this is half of how and why he has such an advanced vocabulary for his age. We learn new words. Again though, he's five, and this book is written more for older kids.

    The second book might be frightening to a small child. It didn't bother my son, but it might scare some smaller kids. It features a fairly fierce monster under the bed. I don't think it would have scared him anyway, but I did have to explain the fact that the monster is a completely fictitious invention of the narrator's vindictive older sister, which was otherwise lost on him but should be readily apparent to older readers. I plan to road test both books on my eight-year-old nephew next, as soon as I get the chance.

    They're all written in Seussian verse, and will be (if we can get an agent or publisher on board for the project as a whole) brilliantly illustrated by my good friend @The Piper.
    The gist: One is a little grosser than Shel silverstein or Roald Dahl with mildly advanced vocabulary sprinkled throughout. The second is a little scary. Both are written in Seussian verse, but neither is intended for tiny kids.

    I know for a fact there's a market for picture books aimed at older kids and even teens, because many years ago, my friends and I, as well as generations of MG/YA readers before and after us, loved books and comics that combined children's lit tropes with more sophisticated storytelling, immature humor or utter irreverence for convention. To give you an idea of what I mean, writers who come to mind include Edward Gorey, Ben Edlund and Neil Gaiman, though I wouldn't equate my stories very closely with any of the three individually.

    My primary question is, how do I explain these elements and target audience in a query? Is there an industry term for picture books aimed at an older audience? If there is, I haven't found it, and it sure would come in handy while searching Publishers Marketplace. I want kids to read these books and parents to read them to their kids, because I certainly would to mine. I think they could also be marketed to teens though, and I need to express all of this in queries in far more concise terms than I've used here. So what's the market terminology? How do I search for and appeal to agents/publishers interested in this sort of thing?

    ETA: I'm looking for beta readers anyway, so please let me know if you'd be interested in a copy or even a sample, if it helps to know what sort of books I'm pitching here.

    Thanks!
     
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2019
  2. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin The bastards hung me in the spring of '25.... Contributor

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    In theory, this market would exist already or else there would be no reason to target it. Not sure what the all-encompassing term would be, though. Middle Grade Illustrated Book? Don't know.

    I'd be careful if you're not finding a convenient marketing slot, though. They don't like it when you invent your own, so maybe steer towards something that already exists and mention that it's also illustrated?
     
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  3. Rzero

    Rzero Contributor Contributor

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    I get what you're saying, but I'm definitely not making up a niche. These books exist. Not everyone would be interested though, and I'm partially just trying to narrow my search on Publishers Marketplace. I look up the books these agents have sold, and so many are for 3-5 year olds, or they're for older kids, but they're poignant and sad. It's sucking up a ton of research time that ends up being wasted on agents who say they're looking for unconventional and funny, but everything they've sold is about baby ducks or dead grandparents.
     
    Last edited: Sep 5, 2019
  4. Rzero

    Rzero Contributor Contributor

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    I'm trying a new approach in my search today: reverse engineering. I'm looking at similar-niche books and trying to find the agents who sold them. So far I'm failing. Most of the books that come to mind are decades old, so that's no good, and I'm hitting brick walls with the newer ones too. The agent who sold Paul Fleischman's Dunderhead books (not exactly what I'm doing, but shares an audience) only accepts adult fiction novels now. Avery Monsen, who wrote All My Friends Are Dead and K Is for Knifeball (which is perfect,) is repped by his acting agent, which is also less than helpful.
     
  5. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin The bastards hung me in the spring of '25.... Contributor

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    Haha... that's a good one. I bought it for my mother, who didn't get it at all (she's a retired literature teacher, but she's not into the absurd).
     
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