Today we go Behind the Scenes with author Anne Renaud as she explores the writer’s all important decision of whether to go ahead with a picture book biography or not. Heading down the rabbit hole of research involves a lot of time and effort. I love historical figures that have been lurking in the shadows, undiscovered, but then I have to wonder who else has chanced upon them. But the same dilemma hits with a popular historical figure. I’ve learned that even if your story is very different, editors don’t want a title to compete with something they’ve got in the works. There’s lots to consider. Thanks, Anne, for sharing these tips!
“Writing a picture book biography – Stop or Go?” by Anne Renaud
There is nothing more frustrating than completing a picture book biography manuscript only to find out that a children’s book on the same topic was recently published or on the verge of being published. Believe me, it happens.
So what can you do before embarking on your next project?
Here are some of the steps I take:
- Google “children’s books on …..” and see what comes up.
- Search Worldcat, the world’s largest library catalog. Type in the name of the person and/or their accomplishment.
- Search Amazon, because most publishers will post upcoming books on Amazon 3 or 4 months before the pub date.Amazon will also give me details regarding any books already published. The year of publication, the number of pages, the target audience.
- Contact the person directly, when possible, or their next of kin.
- Contact historical associations where the person has lived.
- Ask my children’s librarian if she is aware of any books or upcoming books.
Based on the information I find, there are times when I will decide NOT to go forward with a book project.
Recent or upcoming publications usually stop me in my tracks. A few months ago I was all gung ho to write a book about a well-known contemporary artist, but when I contacted his studio, I was told there was already a picture book biography in the works, scheduled for publication in 2019.
But what if the children’s books already published came out 5, 10 or 20 years ago. Then what?
Put yourself in a publisher’s shoes and ask yourself: why should my book be published? Will it be competing with the other children’s books that are already out there? Will it be for a different age group than the ones that have already been written? Will it cover a different aspect of the person’s life? Will it provide new information not found in the other children’s books?
And finally, will it inspire children to their own greatness, because that, in essence, is what you hope your picture book biography will do.
If you feel your picture book biography project will stand out and distinguish itself from the rest of the pack, then I encourage you to dive right in.