Sunday, September 9, 2018

The query that sold “Thirty Minutes Over Oregon”

On 11/27/12, I emailed the following query to Jennifer Greene at Clarion.

On 1/10/14, she made an offer.

(This ran a bit longer than the query that sold Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman. Sorry, Jennifer!)

I’m the author of more than 70 books for young people including the nonfiction picture books Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman and Bill the Boy Wonder: The Secret Co-Creator of Batman. Boys of Steel is an American Library Association Notable Book; was named to multiple “best of the year” lists; and was featured in a USA Today cover story.

Bill the Boy Wonder (new this year) has been covered by NPR’s All Things Considered, Forbes, Washington Post, School Library Journal, Kirkus Reviews, Booklist, WIRED, and even MTV; it also led to an invitation to give a TED talk. Reviews below. The book trailer features whimsy...and tights.

I’d like to query you on another nonfiction picture book for older readers. Thirty Minutes Over Oregon tells the jaw-dropping tale of a WWII pilot—on the Japanese side—who did something historic and, some would say, heroic. He is not a household name but his story was significant enough to earn a half-page obit in the New York Times. It’s a famous first that is not yet famous. I’m far from a war buff but I’m not exaggerating when I say this is one of the most riveting true stories I’ve heard. (Plus it manages to be a war story without death.)

The book inspired a mock cover experiment that got a lot of buzz in the kidlitosphere (you can see the NYT obit there, too). The response to that (from librarians, teachers, booksellers, parents, kids, agents, fellow authors, and even editors) has been overwhelming and 100% positive; read the comments below the post, especially the most recent one.

Educators of all kinds have come forward to express hope that this book is published; they do this via blog comments, tweets, post-keynote comments. Among their most common requests:

  • books that will appeal to boys (i.e. books they don’t have to force boys to read)
  • middle grade nonfiction picture books
  • previously untold stories
  • World War II stories (boys clamor for them)

Mine is all four.

Plus as we all hear, Common Core Standards are placing increasingly greater emphasis on nonfiction.

I promote my books as often as I brush my teeth. I speak at schools, conferences, and other venues 30-50 times a year, and I sell stacks of books at most venues. Within the past year, I have been invited to places as far-off as Guam and Chile.

A few more compelling selling points:

1 - Excerpt of blog post by attendee of the Shenandoah Children’s Literature Conference:

>> I have met many authors that are new to me. Today’s authors (I’m sure) will become two of my favorites. Marc Tyler Nobleman inspired me with his dedication and passion. His attention to detail and his desire to right the wrongs of the world (at least the world of Superman and Batman) are honorable and inspiring. I didn’t know there were people out there like him. Boys of Steel, a story about the creators of Superman, will grab my boys! He gives me a great entry into interesting nonfiction. The story about World War II Oregon, Thirty Minutes Over Oregon, has to be published. I am amazed that the story exists and we don’t know about it. That’s what I mean, his passion is contagious.

2 - Editor at major house:

>> So, so cool, and SO moving. (In a way, it reminds me of the mega-bestseller Unbroken—but for picture-book readers!)

3 - Comment from a fellow writer I don’t know that I received via a fellow writer I do know:

>> I am blown sideways, gobsmacked, dumbfounded. What an extraordinarily moving story. It simply MUST be told. I can’t believe it hasn’t been picked up -- that is a travesty! And I love how Marc promotes/pitches it on his blog; why, it’s ... it’s ... heroic! His passion for the story is palpable -- contagious even. He is a gifted storyteller. This tale zigs, it zags and then ... WHOOSH, it dives and hits!

4 - Tweet to me from a 5th grade teacher:

>> The more middle grade nonfiction picture books, the better.

5 - Attendee comments after I mentioned the book in my Nevada Reading Week keynote (it was an hourlong talk and this book was only about 5 minutes of it, yet a sizable number of people singled it out):

  • “Very interesting—this is great history no one knows about. I hope it will be published soon.”
  • “I am interested in Thirty Minutes Over Oregon. Hopefully it will be published.”
  • “Want to read Thirty Minutes Over Oregon.”
  • “Especially poignant was the publishing process story of the Japanese [pilot] who bombed Oregon.”
  • “The Japanese bomber story was amazing.”
  • “Hope the Oregon book goes public.”
  • “Loved his story about Thirty Minutes Over Oregon and hope it gets published.”
  • “Interesting Oregon bombing story!”

Sorry for so much info, but I feel it’s all relevant in making an informed decision! As you can see, I have a lot of passion for this project and that will motivate me to work even harder to promote it. After all, look how much I have done even before it is a book...

May I email you the manuscript?

During the summer of 2013, I sent Jennifer copies of Boys of Steel and Bill the Boy Wonder, adorning the envelope with three symbols:

Thank you again to Candy Fleming and Audrey Vernick for pointing me toward Jennifer. And thank you again to Jennifer for taking flight with Nobuo and me.

By the way, Nobuo's first flight over the United States took place 76 years ago today.

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