Monday, August 13, 2007

Those Fancy Credentials Don't Matter Much

Anonymous asked:

I have recently enrolled in the Institute of Children's Literature writing course. I guess editors probably don't really care that I'm trying to better my skills? I've been playing the slush pile game with publishing houses now for 10 years, I thought ICL might give me a leg up. What do you think?

Editors don’t care that you’ve taken a writing course. Editors don’t care if you’re in SCBWI. Editors don’t care if you’ve written a column on children’s books for the last few years in your local paper.

Editors care that your writing is good. If I read in your query letter than you took a writing course at the Institute of Children’s Literature, it won’t make a difference to me one way or the other. It’s very nice, but it doesn’t really matter very much.

Because, as always, what matters is your writing.

And so the course is valuable if it improves your writing. If it makes you a better writer, a better storyteller, then it is definitely worthwhile.

But don’t expect the name of your course alone (or even stellar recommendations from your professors) to get you through the door.

The course doesn’t hurt, but it doesn’t help, either – on our end. On your end, it might make all the difference.


LindaBudz said...

Thanks, KLJ, well said!

FWIW, I took the ICL course and felt it DID improve my writing, and it taught me a lot about the market as well.

Beverly Boisen said...

I am a graduate of ICL and you are very right about, that they don't care about our credentials, but that if we can even write a great story
Why are there so many publishers that won't even ask for my mss, even if they are impressed with my query?
It is too expensive for someone like me to even hire an agent.
What did you do when you were a beginner?

Kidlitjunkie said...


I am not sure I understand what you’re asking. How do you know that they are impressed by your query? Did they tell you that in a personal rejection letter?

I personally am really careful when it comes to what I request, because if I request something, I am going to read it, and if I reject it, I’ll write a personal rejection letter. And I have so little time! Right now I have no less than four manuscripts that I requested sitting unopened on my desk, just waiting for me to have a little free time. I feel really bad making their authors wait, but I just haven’t had a chance to get to them yet! So unless something really jumps out at me, I am not going to add to the growing pile of guilt. (Which is to say, make your query jump out at me! Not literally, that would give me a heart attack. But make it interest me enough that I need to find out more. I really do want to notice the good stuff when I’m slogging through the slush.)

As for your second question, hiring an agent is free, until your book sells. The agent only gets paid when you’re paid. If an agent is asking you for money up front right now, then you’re dealing with a loser agent. But a real, decent agent takes a cut of the money your book makes. Right now, your book is making no money. It will most likely continue to make no money, unless you get a good agent. So I suggest you revisit the idea of an agent. A good agent can only help.

I don’t know what you mean by your final question. I’m an editorial assistant. I’m on the publishing side of things. I can tell you what I did when I was a beginner in publishing, but I don’t think that’s what you want to know.

Anonymous said...

Kidlit Junkie,
I hope you go back to blogging. Your words have helped me and many other writers.