Novelty Books: To Make a Sale, You Need More than a Manuscript

“Do not try to illustrate your work if you aren’t an illustrator.”  In my opinion, and it is NOT a humble opinion, this is one of the hardest ideas to get across to would-be picture book authors. Imagine my surprise when I read Salina Yoon’s post on Tara Lazar’s blog, “If You Build It, It Can Sell! A Novelty Book Primer.”

I lead a public critique group so I read up on a wide variety of writing.  After all, I tell myself, I never know what someone is going to bring with them.  But when you market an idea for a novelty book, you are going to have to create a mock-up.  Yes, that may mean doing some basic paper engineering and even some illustration.  As you can see in the video below, Yoon’s mock-up is pretty fantastic.

Yoon also emphasized that novelty books are sold as series.  That other piece of advice, write one book and if it sells they may want your series?  For a novelty book, never mind.  If they want one, they will want several.  Below left is her first book in the series.

I didn’t notice any other long held bits of wisdom that get tossed aside for novelty books but perhaps something even more disturbing has happened.  I’ve found myself playing around with an idea.  My first thought was a book about archaeology, removing soil layer by layer.  But novelty book readers are going to be too young for that kind of an idea.  But layers . . . that is something I can probably play with.  I’ll have to noodle over how to do it in a series format.

And I’ll have to figure out some paper engineering.

And how to use Photoshop or Illustrator well enough to create my mock up.

Is my jar of rubber cement still good?  I better check.

And where is my favorite x-acto knife?

Hmm.  When you show an author a great piece on novelty books, she’s going to want to make one of her very own.