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Imagining Multiple Platforms

Karen wrote in to me the other day to ask the following:

What is the role of the artist/writer of children’s picture books in parallel platform markets if they are to be successful? How can knowledge or experience in multiple areas be leveraged when submitting to one platform with the hopes and vision of it transcending to multiple platforms? Should something be included in the query letter?

Here’s what I wrote in response:

When someone is talented or knowledgeable in many areas, it is difficult to know how to wrap it all up in one package. However, I urge debut writers whose interest lies primarily in landing a print book deal to focus there first. If you try to pitch an idea in too many directions at once (as a magazine, app, TV show, clothing line) without first having any print titles under your belt, agents and editors will think you’re ambitious…and not in a good way.

Focus. Create the best book you can, publish it well, and let audience demand for your talents make ideas evolve across platforms. Don’t start by stretching your idea in many directions right off the bat.

This happens to me all the time in query letters. The author will write something like:

While I think SAMMY THE SKUNK would be a very strong picture book in today’s market, I am also envisioning an app with the same branding, and have turned Sammy’s story into a feature film. The script for potential theatrical release is being written as we speak.

This almost makes me think that the author isn’t in love with his idea being a book…he’s just in love with his idea and will throw it against any wall to see if it’ll stick. That’s not a focused approach when trying to enter the publishing game, because we are into books. That’s what we do. That’s what we love. And it takes a lot of passion, dedication, knowledge, and, yes, really strong ideas to be involved in the book world. You have to really want to have a book, specifically.

Lots of books do get picked up by other platforms and go online or into theatres or into toy stores. Sure. But those properties are usually leveraged when the property that started it all (be it a book or a movie or whatever) stood on its own merits and attracted and audience and made other platform gatekeepers and tastemakers seek out the creator.

I’ll say it again: Focus. Seek to make one really strong impact on one part of the entertainment/content industry, then spread out from there.

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  1. Julie Daines’s avatar

    Good to know. And if we do focus on books, and get you as an agent, how long do we have to wait before we can expect movie rights? :)

  2. Jeanette W. Stickel’s avatar

    I guess the imagination that helps create intriguing plots and appealing characters sort of leaks over to envisioning life beyond the page. But from my point of view, nothing tops sharing a good book with a child.

  3. LK’s avatar

    Great post. If your idea is good, people will want it.

  4. Lauren’s avatar

    LOVE the “Sammy the Skunk” reference. Wait till you critique my picture book submission (from the Writers Digest Webinar). I am laughing and crying at the same time…

  5. Dad Who Writes (Gabriel)’s avatar

    I suppose that given the oft-cited preference of publishers to match authors and illustrators themselves rather than be presented with a package, it figures that they’d be a similar resistance people who believe they can deliver everything. And this doesn’t just apply to new writers – anyone remember Stephen King’s attempt to film Maximum Overdrive? Two hours of my life much better spent on, say scratching paint of walls or juggling kittens…

  6. christine tripp’s avatar

    >While I think SAMMY THE SKUNK would be a very strong picture book in today’s market, I am also envisioning an app with the same branding, and have turned Sammy’s story into a feature film. The script for potential theatrical release is being written as we speak.<

    Reading this, I wonder how many of these hopeful writers actually believe what they write in the cover letter/query, or are they just hoping the Agent (or Publisher if they submit directly to an Editor) will believe it.
    So many new writers are just itching to add that, "this is the first in a series of PB", whether they have any other book ideas or not.
    They have heard (from somewhere) that Commercial writing is a hard sell with just ONE, stand alone, book. It must have the potential to be a series, it must have the potential to become action figures, an animated movie, blah, blah.
    Instead of just, as you say Mary, being proud and confident in that one perfect little story, they feel driven to concoct an empire, prior to submission.

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