Thursday, October 6, 2011

Stand by your man(uscript)

Recently I posted an unprecedented experiment on this blog.

I publicly pitched a nonfiction picture book manuscript I've written but so far failed to sell. To show that the project is viable, I incorporated multiple "selling points":

  • mock covers for it designed by professional illustrators of children's books
  • mock covers for it designed by kids from the book's target audience
  • examples of how I promote relentlessly, even books that are years old
  • praise from editors who rejected it

Coby, age 10, IL

In doing so, I was fortunate to pick up another compelling selling point: enthusiastic reactions from others in or affected by publishing. This means the experiment has generated support from lots of people in the know: kids (my audience), librarians and booksellers (my allies), parents (part of my market), and kidlit authors and artists (my colleagues).

Among those reactions:

Upcoming coverage (check back for direct links):

Selected feedback from the above and beyond:

  • "I think it's brilliant! He’s probably a pioneer, and we'll see a lot more books being offered this way. I love it."—Valerie Hobbs, author
  • "Now THAT is clever self-marketing."—Betsy Bird, Fuse #8
  • "The post is visually compelling, the story he tells is compelling, and the story the book tells is compelling. It's a trifecta. ... Don't you want this manuscript to get published? I find that I do, both for the story itself and for Marc's passion."—Greg Pincus, The Happy Accident
  • "I really love what you did. Amazing, and BRAVE."—editor, major publisher
  • "I must say, I love your style. ... when I saw this [post], I was really excited. I think it’s a great way to get people excited. I can’t tell you how cool it is to see the positive energy here. ... you’re one heck of a promoter, and an even better author."—editor, another major publisher
  • "I love it. ... I would like to read that book, and I very much admire Marc's persistence in his attempts to see it get published. I would pick up that book without hesitation. I find particularly effective the covers that include 'and the Japanese Pilot Who Came Back to Apologize' in the sub-title. That, I think, is a sub-title that grabs the attention of readers."—Julie Danielson, Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast
  • "Of course, I would definitely purchase this book for my library, and when it does see the light of day (note that I say 'when' rather than 'if'), I'm sure others will do the same. You truly have a gift for conveying historical information in a way that tells a story and draws in your readers."—Kristen Monroe, Denver librarian
  • "This sounds like a compelling story, and we would be proud to carry it in the store, as would most independent bookstores, I feel certain. Keep us posted—we love good nonfiction!"—Trish Brown, bookseller, Hooray For Books!, Alexandria, VA
  • "I so hope this one gets published! I also thank you for your courage in presenting the idea this way and seeking less traditional ways to get it the attention it obviously deserves."—Julie Hedlund, author
  • "This is just the kind of book I'd offer as a gift to the young readers in my family. The history, human interest, and cultural aspects are a powerful combination and would make an exciting read. I hope he finds a way to get this one out. I've already written down the title in my 'To Buy' list."—C. Lee McKenzie, author
  • "Yes, yes, and yes on adding to a library collection and, honestly, what a great book to take into a MG (even YA, frankly) book club. The conversations we could have. ... I can't help but say this is brilliant and gives great food for thought for each of us to spread our wings outside the box—be fearless."—Deb A. Marshall, educator
  • "[My son] is a pretty good reader [with] little interest in fiction. But it’s hard to find short, well-written, and [illustrated] nonfiction. [This] whole thing is a very smart and aggressive idea; you’re basically creating a groundswell of supporters to [encourage] a publisher into taking on your book. Great use of social media. And it’s almost like you’re crowdsourcing the cover. Clever. I think anyone in any industry appreciates that it’s a dog-eat-dog world and kudos to the people that can think of ways to rise above the noise, and execute."—Darren Sapper, parent of a second grader
  • "I am now totally engrossed in this Thirty Minutes Over Oregon saga."—Karen Morgenstern, Los Angeles librarian
  • "Ingenious"—Keri Collins, educator
  • "Marc Nobleman is smart. Really really smart. He’s figured out a way to use social media to bring attention to an 'unbook'..."—Sheryl McFarlane, author
  • "I hope this works and we will get to see Thirty Minutes Over Oregon in print!"—Laura Given, Minnesota library media specialist
  • "Would I add this book to my collection? Without hesitation! ... [I]t seems to me that there are several niches this book fits."—Linda Williams, Connecticut librarian
  • "We would certainly buy this one."—Jane Drabkin, Virginia librarian
  • "Yes—this story would definitely find a home here."—Marie Girolomo, Connecticut media specialist
  • "This saga, book, and true story are fascinating. Illustrate the rest (let the kids do it), publish it yourself, and get it out to teachers and librarians. I'd buy a copy and I'd bet other teachers and libraries in my district would too."Stacy Barnett Mozer, SCBWI New England Critique Group Coordinator/teacher
  • "Not only would I enthusiastically buy a copy for our elementary school library, but I would love a second copy for my 97-year-old father!"—Gail, Los Angeles librarian

Thank you to those who have supported this project. I hope to post an update soon.


Jay Cohen said...

Quite in line with your efforts, why wait to be "picked" by an editor/publishing company? Why not self-publish, through the infinite options and avenues now available? If you haven't already, check out Seth Godin's work - in particular, his Domino Project: - i think you'll find it pretty interesting.

Marc Tyler Nobleman said...

Thanks for the suggestion Jay. On the one hand I would love that challenge. If the book were prose only, I might move the option to the top of the list. But picture books are tricky in that you need an illustrator, too, of course.

And much as traditional publishing is in a sometimes-scary state of transition, publishers still provide invaluable advantages; I (obviously) embrace taking on a lot of marketing but would dread handling, for example, distribution.

I'm going to explore Godin's concept...

Julie Hedlund said...

Will continue to watch your progress on this manuscript with interest. You've definitely hit a hot button!

Marc Tyler Nobleman said...

Thanks Julie! I appreciate your continued interest!

Megan Frances Abrahams said...

I really like the title of your blog post. You have to believe in what you're doing to make it happen.

Good luck with your experiment, Marc.

Hester Bass said...

Hey, a fellow author of nonfiction, I can imagine the frustration in receiving such overwhelmingly positive feedback on a project without receiving a contract. You have responded with a resourcefulness that educates us all about creative marketing, an effort that I hope, nay, trust, will soon be deservedly rewarded. Great stories often have to have an advocate, a superhero, willing to step in where others fear to tread. Editors: be brave, be bold, be first to say yes to this incredibly worthy story. Please. Marc has already built the market for you.