Monday, 4 September 2006

Think twice before pitching to children’s editors and publishers (in strange places)

Just before the editors and agents panel were rolled out at SCBWI’s pre-Bologna conference last April, organiser Lawrence Schimel made a little plea to attendees to remain calm and avoid the urge to grab an editor and pitch their manuscripts. “No sliding manuscripts under bathroom doors,” he cautioned.

Some attendees were a bit miffed by the warning, refusing to believe that wannabe children’s writers would do such a thing. Well, I recently checked out this Publisher’s Weekly link from Janet at the excellent Wordpool forum about how children’s editors get pitched ideas in the weirdest of places:

Beverly Horowitz, v-p and publisher, Bantam Delacorte Dell Books for Young Readers: My mother was close with her brother. He’d been seriously ill and finally died. Everyone from our family, of course, was at the funeral. We went from the service to the cemetery, and when it was over and people were starting to head back to their cars, I was walking with my mother when a woman she knew came up.

“I’m so sorry, I knew you were very close,” she said. Then she asked, “Is that your daughter, the one in publishing?”

When my mother said yes, it was, she said, “I thought I’d see her here with you. That’s why I have with me the manuscript I have always wanted to give to her.” She took it out of her purse and handed it to me.

I was totally taken aback. As she smiled at me I said, “Excuse me, I was just taking my mother to the car.” She held out an envelope.

I said, “I don’t really think I can take it. I might lose it.”

“No, you won’t,” she said. “You can fit it into your handbag.” At which point my mother said, “Just take it!”

After she left I told my mother, “I usually empathize with aspiring writers, but for this one, even if it’s Proust, I’m going to reject it!”

Read the article Weddings Funerals and Everywhere in Between by Diane Roback.

My father-in-law was a gynecologist, another occupation that invites unwanted attention. But he perfected a strategy for dealing with strangers seeking free medical advice.

"I am a doctor," he would admit. Then as the stranger prepared to launch into a detailed description of a medical problem, he would add: "I specialise in venereal disease."

Interestingly, from that point, you could always rely on all conversation of a medical nature to wither away.


  1. Love it, Candy. It's good to read of satisfying replies to unwanted questions. I can never usually think of anything withering when it's called for.

  2. I think there are certain occupations which garner "attention". When I say to people I write, I am inevitably asked if I would like to help with an idea for a book or an article, or if I know "a good publisher". And I always feel so sorry for doctors who must get to listen to the most dreadful hypochondriacs. Everyone always has a complaint, an idea or a story to share!

  3. When I get asked for manuscript help, I always calmly refer the prospective "patient" to "more experienced writers" with "more books" published than I of whom there are very EVERY time!

    If they're naive enough to ask me for free help, they're naive enough to need to pay for some "help" from a somebody else expert is what I figure....always happy to oblige with a free recommendation or two....


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