Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Why Comp?

By Cindy Williams Schrauben

So, you've prepared your manuscript (MS) - write, critique, revise, repeat, repeat, repeat - and you're ready to submit to agents. Easy, right? Not so much.

One submission detail that often confuses writers is the request for comparison titles (comps).  I could write multiple posts on this topic, but for now, I will ignore marketing mumbo jumbo and stick to one point - using comps to grab the attention of an agent.

WHAT is a comp?
                  A comp:
                  *                Is a pitch point - a way for YOU to describe your work
                  *                Is a published book that resembles your own MS in some way (more on this later)
                  *                Should be in the same genre (ex: humorous picture book) and have similarities such as:  
                                                      Subject matter
                                                      Format/Style (Ex: non-fiction, how-to, diary)
                                                      Tone (Ex: humorous, lyrical, dark)
                                                      Point Of View (Ex: Fido is telling the story)
                                                      Sales trend expectations
                                                      Target audience

Example: THE THREE NINJA PIGS by Corey Rosen Schwartz and LITTLE RED GLIDING HOOD by Tara Lazar. Both titles are: Fiction picture books, twisted/fractured fairy tales, humorous, feature anthropomorphic animals, and have the same target audience = great comps.

WHY do you, as an author, need to use comps?
                  Use comps to:
                  *                Grab an agent's attention
                  *                Hint at who will want to read your book
                  *                Highlight a unique aspect of your MS
                  *                Prove your knowledge of the genre and the industry in general
                  *                Express your voice
                  *                Up your appeal by showing that there is a market for your type of MS

WHERE can you find comps?       
                  *                Ask a librarian and/or booksellers
                  *                Book lists, Goodreads, Pinterest, online stores, book blogs, etc.
                  *                The Mentor Text lists on ReFoReMo Facebook site

                  TIP #1     Mentor texts can often be used as comp titles. BUT BE CAREFUL - a mentor text that informs your writing process is not necessarily a good comp (ex: A non-fiction book in diary format may influence the format of your fiction diary-style MS, but it would not make a good comp).
                  TIP #2:   While it is tempting to use a title from your desired agent's list - BE CAREFUL! It may be that this agent doesn't need another like-minded author on their list. And, it is a certainty that said agents knows that MS inside and out - if they don't feel it is a good comp, you haven't garnered the right kind of attention.
HOW to use them properly.
                  *                Make sure comps:
                                                      Were published recently (within the last five years)
                                                      Highlight positive aspects of your book
                                                      Have the same target audience (ex: don't compare a PB to a MG)
                                                      Are successful - but not Harry Potter successful
                                                      Are not esoterically similar - don't try to be mysterious and compare apples to oranges.
                  *                One or two comps is sufficient
                  *                Examples of comp usage:
                                                      "This MS, which has been described as a cross between X and Y..."
                                                      "This MS will, likely, appeal to fans of X and Y."
                                                      "With the humor of X and the heart of Y, this MS..." (Give rationale if you can)

WHEN should you NOT use comps?
                  *                Because you think you have to
                  *                Because it sounds impressive

TIP #3:  No comp is better than a bad comp. If you aren't sure the comp is a good fit, you didn't enjoy reading it, or you haven't read it at all - DON'T USE IT.


Cindy Schrauben contributes to our ReFoReMo Facebook Group and blog. As a former educator and magazine editor/writer, Cindy is consumed by a life-long passion for the written word. Her projects range from picture books to young adult novels as well as adult non-fiction. Writing for children provides her with a real excuse for spending so much time in the children's section of the bookstore. Cindy is a member of SCBWI and participates in many online writing communities. 

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The Adventures of Exploring Mentor Text Layers

The business of mentor texts, whether fiction or nonfiction, is analyzing different layers.  Even the funniest fiction can model important elements for writers. As you write your own stories, do you consider the learning opportunities that your text offers? Whether it is lap time, naptime, story time, school time, or anytime at all, learning takes place through underlying themes, messages, information, and modeled elements.

The end of the school year is near, but you absolutely must put Adventures to School on your radar for the beginning of the 2018-19 school year. Understanding our diverse world starts with exploring different cultures and environments. School is something kids can relate to in most places. But we don’t all get to school the same way, not even in the United States. So why not open this discussion as soon as school starts back up?

There are many unique learning points for Adventures to School, which gives it lots of layers.

1)    Fiction and Nonfiction Elements
This text is broken into mini first-person narratives of children from different countries as they journey to school. Side panels offer information on topics from landforms to transportation to capitals, families, and school. The combination of both fiction and nonfiction makes it extra engaging.

2)    Culture and Country Research
While the panels give us an information head start on some countries, this text is a springboard to additional inquiry about these and other countries, as well. As an educator, I plan to delve further into what students learn and do at varied schools and how their days are structured. I will also encourage students to branch into additional information about their chosen country, the villages, the climate, or any other areas that students find interesting. By presenting and sharing finished projects, students can teach each other about different school experiences around the world. I will likely strike up Skype connections with several different classrooms, as well.

3)    Comprehension through Compare and Contrast
Great stories create opportunities to make real-world connections. A evergreen topic like school will surely allow them to make connections each time they hear about a different school experience. Are there similarities to their experience? Are there differences? I will also encourage students to compare and contrast the illustrations in the book to real photographs. You can find some great comprehension resources on Miranda Paul's teacher resource page.

4)    Rich Vocabulary
There is no shying away from rich vocabulary in Miranda and Baptiste Paul’s books. This selection features many foreign language words, as well as contextual English words to grow vocabulary in unique ways. Check out some of the vocab here.

As you request this story from your library or find it in book stores, what additional learning opportunities can you identify with this book? Which mentor text elements stand out to you?

Thinking back to your current work in progress, what learning opportunities do you offer?

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Monthly Challenge---A Magic Crayon

Embed from Getty Images
By Janie Reinart

Drawing is the first form of storytelling.  My granddaughter, Madeline said,"I can hardly wait for spring so I can dance in the grass."

Just look at the beloved classic, Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson. What fun to draw your own adventures.

Aaron Becker, the author/illustrator of Journey comments on the back flap of the book jacket. "To this day, his favoriet destination remains his imagination, where he can often be found drawing secret doors and magic lanterns."

Don't forget Drew Daywalt's "crayons books".  Have you seen his latest?

Or if you prefer chalk:

My grandson, Oscar came running to tell us he found the dinosaur. He yelled, "Come on!" We didn't know what he meant until we saw it. He remembered the image from the cover of the book. The children in the story draw with the magic chalk and have to think fast to get out of a predicament.

What would you do with a magicrayon? Use your imagination and start drawing a story. You might even find a secret door. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

THINK QUICK with Author Casey W. Robinson

Hi Casey! I love how your debut picture book, Iver and Ellsworth, draws us in with a story of unlikely friendship.  

On rooftop bears: 
Friend or Foe?

Friend! A rooftop bear is the friendliest sort of bear. 

On dust jackets:
Love them or leave them?

Love them... Except when there are mysteries hidden underneath (hint, hint)

On lunches:
Hummus on whole wheat, or P B and J? 

PB&J on whole wheat 

On friendship:

A few good friends or many good friends? 

Many good friends, plus a few great ones 

On unlikely friendship:

Yay or Nay?

Yay, definitely. Unlikely friendships can be the most fun stories to tell 

On taking care of others:

All seasons or seasonally?

All seasons, though how you take care of others could vary seasonally

On support: 

Tug the ropes, or let them go free? 

Tug the ropes on what keeps you grounded & steady 

On Adventure:
New somewhere or familiar view?

Though I'm a creature of habit and familiar views recharge me, new somewheres can spark imagination and inspiration 

On moving on:
Stay put or move on?

Move on --  endless adventures await

On Satisfying endings:
Predictable or twist? 


On books:
Iver and Ellsworth or Iver and Ellsworth? 

Iver & Ellsworth :) 

Thank you, Casey!  And as an added bonus, here's how Casey was inspired to write the story: 

The idea for Iver & Ellsworth came during a road trip with my family. We drove down the highway past the inflatable Polar Seltzer bear, which is perched atop the Polar Seltzer factory in Worcester. I wondered whether that bear had any friends... *story idea is born* 

Review of Iver and Ellsworth, by Kirsti Call

"Everyone's going somewhere," he says. "We can see the whole world from up here. That's enough somewhere for me!"'

This book's lyrical language and whimsical illustrations explore the friendship of an old man and a giant inflatable bear. I love how Casey Robinson and Melissa Larson show the close relationship of these two characters without the bear ever saying a word. The illustrations truly enhance the text in this story about quiet adventure, finding a new somewhere, and keeping important friendships along the way. 

Casey W. Robinson grew up in Maine and used to keep a shoebox of favorite words and phrases under her bed. She graduated from Amherst College with a degree in English and now lives with her family just outside of Boston, Massachusetts in a yellow house overflowing with books. IVER & ELLSWORTH is her debut picture book. You can connect with her at www.CaseyWRobinson.com or on Instagram (@cwrobinson) or Twitter (@CaseyWRobinson).