As I read "Bag In The Wind," I thought about the form I've been writing about for this blog and wondered if it would spur a deeper experience of the book. The form, I reminded myself, is a sales tool, not a springboard for critique or analysis. The main reason to read books with the form is mind is to discover how they made it to the wall, or, if you're reading your own manuscripts, whether they, too, may end up on the wall someday (fingers crossed).
Again, I've pasted in the form's relevant categories at the bottom of this post for reference.
Before I filled out the form for "Bag In The Wind," I also wondered if the experience of reading the book had to live up to its form's promise or vice versa. Based on my reading of "I Don't Want To Be A Poodle," the book I blogged about yesterday, I don't think so. The form, after all, is advertising. The real "I Don't Want To Be A Poodle" is far more style than substance, but its stylishness must have lent itself to a compelling form.
On the contrary, "Bag In The Wind," which, by the way, is also published by Candlewick, is more substance than style, so I wouldn't want its form to match the experience of reading it either. That is, I wouldn't dwell in the form on how contemplative, slow, long, and meandering "Bag In The Wind" is. Those qualities would definitely not be worth mentioning. They are also wonderful.
Instead, for the Sales Hook, I'd say, "This beautifully illustrated book concerns the human relationship with the environment while seeming instead to be about people connected by a peripatetic plastic bag." (I'd probably ditch the five-syllable word.)
For the Book Description, I'd write something like, "A girl finds a bag, uses it, loses it, then gets it back in the end, although she can't know it's the same bag." (Although I hope I craft it better than that.) I wouldn't mention that we don't meet the girl until about a third of the way into the book, that we lose sight of her after only a couple of pages, with no promise that we'll meet her again, and that the first ten pages are mainly descriptive, the only real character being a supermarket plastic bag.
Selling Points would be (remember the five empty bullet points I mentioned on Monday?)
• Environmental Theme
• Author former U.S. Poet Laureate
• Illustrator with excellent track record
• Especially beautiful illustrations
• Will gently prompt discussion about important issues
I had no idea that the author had been Poet Laureate when I chose the book, but it comes in handy in the Selling Points category. I did recognize Barry Root's name and style, but I figured that was okay because my one selection criterion was illustration I liked. Still, his well-deserved reputation is a useful Selling Point.
I'm currently working on a book for Henry Holt For Young Readers, and I can't imagine what the selling points for my book will be. But I do know from the editor who gave me the form that "Debut Author" is considered a Selling Point. I take heart!
* * *In case anyone is interested, these are the six books I took from the picture book wall (I said yesterday that I'd chosen five, but I was wrong:
"Bag In The Wind," by Ted Kooser and illustrated by Barry Root
"Mixed Beasts," by Wallace Edwards and Kenyon Cox
"Oops!," by Jean-Luc Fromental and Joëlle Jolivet
"The Red Thread," by Grace Lin
"Stella Unleashed: Notes From The Doghouse," by Linda Ashman and illustrated by Paul Meisel
"Who Wants To Be A Poodle? I Don't," by Lauren Child
* * *THE FORM
Picture book editors must sell the works they've acquired to the people within their houses who then sell them to bookstores. They do this with a form they fill out for each book they edit. Below are the most important categories on the form:
Sales Handle – "The hook." The hook isn't the plot. It's one sentence about why the book is worth opening. You'll sometimes find the sales handle on the back of the book's jacket.
Book Description – The plot, in brief. It's akin to the copy on the inside front cover of the jacket flap, only shorter – as in, "what is this book about?"
Selling Points – There should be multiple selling points for any book. Selling Points may be interesting hooks beyond the one used for the sales handle. It should also include who the target audience is, why the book would appeal to the target audience, who the author is, and whether he/she is published with a track record or if this is a debut. In short, anything the editor can think of to sell the book!
Sales Competition – Basically the same as amazon.com's "Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought."
Publishing Comparisons – Books that will complement the title, for example books that would work well with it on a table in the store: other counting books, other dog books, or other fairy books.