Q & A time: finding your illustrator

Last question recap from Monday night’s VPL panel. This one came after the official discussion had ended:

How do I find an illustrator for my work?

Good news! You don’t have to. In fact, it’s probably best if you don’t try.

Publishers have files of samples from professional illustrators all over the world. And they have editors with particular opinions. So, if your manuscript happens to strike an editor’s fancy, and she has a vision of what it would look like when realized by a particular New York artist… then you get a call!

On the other hand, you could ask your best friend’s cousin — who happens to give amazing watercolours to her entire family every Christmas — to create samples for your book. But you risk an editor glancing at the first image, rolling her eyes at how much she detests watercolours with overtones of green, and hitting the reject button before even getting to your brilliant writing.

Plus, it’s pretty darn fun to send your writing into the world and see it brought to life by someone you’ve never met. The illustrator for the 50 Questions books lives in New Zealand. Possibly in a commune. Sometimes with a chicken on his head.

Q & A time: first drafts

Here’s another question from Monday’s VPL panel:

I’ve finished my manuscript. What should I do next?

First of all, congratulations! Finishing a first draft is a huge accomplishment. You should spend at least a few days imagining your future book launch, practicing your autograph, and writing your speech for the Academy Awards. (You were asked to write the screenplay for the film version, of course).

Next, you should send it to your mother, or someone equally biased. She’ll read your manuscript and rave about how brilliant you are. Then she might say something like, “Dear, the man named Dave in chapters one through seven, was his name supposed to change to Thor in the second half of the book?” Because, of course, she’s so enamoured with your skill that she assumes your mistakes are references to experimental fiction techniques and not real mistakes at all.

Once you’ve gone through that round of “editing,” and you’re feeling strong, pass the manuscript to a critique group, sign up for a workshop, or even take your pages to a conference. (More about critique groups coming later this week.) Basically, you’re ready for a skilled and honest round of edits. You need people who will point out that chapter seven is self-indulgent, chapter nine includes seventeen flashbacks, and prologues are passé. Listen to these people, rewrite, and submit again.

All done those stages? Now, pop your manuscript in a drawer for at least a month, until you can read it with fresh eyes. While you’re waiting, read a couple books on plot, character development, or voice.

After your next round of revisions — maybe! — you’re ready to submit.

I know this process seems ridiculously long. I know that the wait times are excruciating. But, like publishing, writing is slow. And the mantra that writing is rewriting… unfortunately true.

A bloody quick pick!

I mean that in the most polite possible way. YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Association) has selected Seeing Red as a 2013 Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Readers!

I think the YALSA jury and I share similar tastes. Check out these other books from the non-fiction list:

K is for Knifeball: An Alphabet of Terrible Advice by Jory John and Avery Monsen


I Could Pee on This: And Other Poems by Cats by Francesco Marciuliano


Weird But True! Stupid Criminals: 100 Brainless Baddies Busted, plus Wacky Facts by National Geographic


Now, why didn’t I think of writing poems about cats and pee?

Want to hang out?

Lots of fun book events on the horizon! Here’s a few I’m going to… want to come?

Rachelle Delaney’s launch of The Metro Dogs of Moscow on February 7th at Kidsbooks. Check out Vikki VanSickle’s review of the book, then get your launch details!

The Vancouver Children’s Literature Roundtable illustrator breakfast with Oliver Jeffers. I’ll let this video do the explaining for that event:

The Getting Started in Children’s Books 2013 panel discussion at the Vancouver Library, organized by the lovely Ellen Schwartz. If you have a manuscript stashed away in your underwear drawer, this is the place for you.

The publishing plunge

I was over at the CWILL BC blog yesterday, talking about how I got started in book publishing. You can read the interview here. I thought I was pretty funny, but then again, I’ve been on heavy-duty cold medicine all week.

The interview is part of a series, and it’s quite fascinating to read about the different paths people have taken to publication. If you’re interested, check out the whole collection of interviews here.

Brain surgery

I was answering interview questions last week when a line about past mistakes reminded me of something…

Once, editor Robin Rivers and I were handling the production of a gorgeous coffee table book of Canadian photography. Between the second printer proofs and the third, we missed the fact that a line of text had fallen off the page. Thousands of books were then printed with a half-finished sentence in the centre.

As Robin and I stared at each other, horrified, she said, “Well, at least we’re not neurosurgeons. No one died.”

I’ve had to repeat that line to myself MANY times since. It’s ridiculously easy to make mistakes — get a fact wrong, send an e-mail to the wrong person, prepare a proposal that you later realize is ridiculously misguided. And each time, when you finish banging your head on the nearest wall, you have to take a deep breath and thank God that you’re not a neurosurgeon.

It’s a boy!

Alright, get out your magnifying glass (and maybe your champagne glass, too) and take a look at this:

Deal announcement_PM_Kyi

You may want to read it again. Really, go ahead. I’ll wait. Because it’s from Publishers Marketplace and it says my name and Simon & Schuster and Anywhere but Here, the title of my Fall 2013 YA novel.

Ooooh… I’m so excited. Hang on, I just have to read it one more time. And then I have to look at the Quill & Quire announcement.

Screen Shot 2012-12-20 at 7.49.56 PM

Do you see where it says “Vancouver author Tanya Lloyd Kyi”? Yeah. I love that part. And the line where it says “Simon & Schuster”? My other favourite.

Last year I started working with Patricia Ocampo at Transatlantic Literary Agency, and she sent this book along to Simon & Schuster, where I worked with editor extraordinaire Annette Pollert, and now Anywhere but Here is going to be a real book!

My hot, documentary-filmmaking, imaginary guy is going to star in a real book. And he’s not just hot in my imagination anymore: you should SEE the cover. But you can’t. Because it’s not quite ready for revealing yet. We’ll save that for 2013!

Have a wonderful Christmas, all!

Mergers and acquisitions and coffee houses

I’ve been mulling over this Random/Penguin merger, wondering if I care. I mean, these are already massive companies. Does it matter to me, as a writer, if two massive companies become one super-massive company?

Well, it turns out it does matter, and I do care. Because no matter how big a publishing house is, acquisitions are still handled by real people. And more often than not, a book is accepted because a single editor falls in love with something on page 75, or sees potential in the concept, or laughs in all the right places. These are things that happen on a personal level, not a corporate level, and with each merger there are fewer editor-gatekeepers.

If you’ve ever been to a real estate open house, you’ll know there’s no single factor buyers are searching for. Some love the place, some hate it, some are ambivalent. Editors are the same way. The reason books get rejected 27 times, then accepted and go on to make millions (well, theoretically I’ve heard that it happens…), is that taste differs. Just as you only need one buyer to fall in love with your house, you only need one editor to fall in love with your manuscript. But it could be any house showing. And it could be any submission.

The more acquiring editors there are, the more chances our manuscripts have. And the more diverse the market becomes for readers. A small number of gatekeepers means a smaller slice of personal taste is dictating what goes onto (virtual) bookstore shelves.

A second reason this matters to me: when we cut the number of acquiring editors, and we become more homogenized and appeal more to the commonalities of the mass market, we leave writers with regional or quirky or highly focussed books to the rigours of self-publishing. Without Douglas & McIntyre, would anyone have published Flight of the Hummingbird, which I thought was one of the most gorgeous picture books ever? Maybe not.

Of course, some writers will do very well by self-publishing. But many others will miss out for not having worked with a traditional publisher.

Traditional publishers have been slow to advance in many ways, but they’ve always excelled at hooking up talent. As creators, we’re often too close to our work to make wise decisions. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve hated a cover design, only to realize a year later that it’s much, much better than my original choice. Publishers put together the teams of creators — writers, editors, illustrators, designers — necessary to produce outstanding work. They are the coffee houses of ideas.

With each closure and each merger, we have one less coffee house. And the world of self-publishing, though exciting in its possibilities, has not yet found a way to consistently put great talents together.

So, despite the fact that I have no professional connection to Douglas & McIntyre or Random or Penguin, these things do matter to me. They matter to me as a writer, and they matter to me as a reader.

Whew. Longest. Post. Ever.