Writers’ Mill Minutes, October 18, 2015
Cedar Mill Library, Beaverton
Twenty-six people attended the meeting, including about seven newcomers. Among them was Donna Reynolds, who will speak to us next month about editing. Ron Davis led the meeting while Sheila Deeth was cruising in the Caribbean, having just celebrated her birthday among the alligators in the Everglades. Jean Harkin took Minutes, and Amelia De Mello provided snacks.
Ron opened the meeting with having everyone introduce themselves around the table, and then introduced our guest speaker, Rob Broder, founder and owner of Ripple Grove Press, a children’s picture book publishing company in Portland. Rob first gave us some background information: He was a pre-school teacher for eight years and also worked for a chocolate factory. His wife, Amanda, whom he met at the chocolate factory is co-publisher of Ripple Grove Press; she works at the Portland Art Museum. (What great backgrounds for children’s book publishers!) They and their four-year old daughter moved to Oregon from central Massachusetts about a year ago and situated their business in Portland. In their first year, RGP has published four books, which Rob brought to show the group, and will release two more in spring 2016.
The first book they published, The Gentleman Bat, was written by Abraham Schroeder, someone they knew. Rob said that in their first year they have learned the gamut of the publishing business. Rob addressed a concern by writers that RGP does not like rhymes: He said that is not exactly true and that their third published book Mae and the Moon by Jamie Gigot does have rhymes. RGP’s concern is that the STORY must be the main focus, and the rhymes must be done well.
On the RGP website are two essays by Rob concerning the kinds of submissions they are looking for. One essay is “You Can Judge a Book by Its Title.” He said that often the sense of a book can be perceived by its title, but that they do read all submissions unless the title is terribly off-putting.
RGP publishes storybooks for ages two to six. They are looking for something different, unique, and well-written—an interesting story that captures a timeless feel, “something to take the child away for a few moments.” They do not want stories with issues, moralizing, overly descriptive or sentimental titles, no religious or holiday books. Number of words doesn’t seem to matter, as long as it’s a GOOD STORY.
Rob described their publishing process from receiving a submission onward: Submissions may be sent to them as PDF files attached to e-mails or as a single e-mail with the cover letter, no illustrations or page breaks. (See the RGP website for submission guidelines.) Rob and Amanda read the story separately and several times. Much discussion takes place before they agree on a story they want to publish. They then find an artist that will be a good fit for the story. Initial agreement about an illustrator is requested from the writer. After that, there is little to no input from the author as to the illustrations; the publishing process continues between publisher and artist. When the book is virtually completed, it is submitted to the Broders’ New York editor for final tweaks. Rob said that most of the editing concerns author and illustrator bios, cover texts, and copyright pages, with an overall reading of story and illustrations to make sure all is error-free before the book is sent to the printer. A distributor places their books in stores.
Rob does all the publicity, announcement letters and books to reviewers, and submissions to children’s book awards (such as the Caldecott Medal). Much publicity is done over the internet and by networking. He also asks the author and illustrator to help with publicity, such as suggesting publicity sources in their locales.
Rob’s presentation continued after the break with questions from the group. Copyrights? RGP owns the illustrations and holds the copyrights for the books. Royalties to author and illustrator are negotiated. Agents? RGP will work with agents on occasion but usually finds this is a complicated process that doesn’t work well. RGP prefers to make their own business decisions, not to be dictated to by agents. Word limits? Rob said “we don’t care” as long as they like the STORY. Wordless books: Rob likes them, but there are difficulties in a writer submitting one (submit a concept?). It is more likely for an artist to submit a story that is all pictures, no words. A good one is hard to come by. Cover letters? Simpler is best, so that Rob can get to the STORY first. If RGP publishes the story, they will seek out author information they need.
Beki Muchow announced the winners and presented prizes for the October “Scare Me” contest: 1st Place—Catherin Violante for “Halloween Night,” 2nd Place—Judy Beaston
for “Gotcha,” 3rd Place—Jean for “Dark Night of the Planet.” Other entries were “Not the Twist You Expected” by Brenden Lutes (David Lutes’s grandson); “Show and Tell” and “Whispering Trees” by Sheila; “Spider” by Judy; and “The Red Hand” by Karin Krafft. Roseanna Ellis submitted “I’m Scared” for comments only. Next month’s contest theme is “Murder,” hosted by Matthew McAyeal. Entry deadline is Sunday, November 1.
After announcements of upcoming writing and publishing events (A NaNoWri Mo kickoff at Multnomah County Library; a Women in Writing and Publishing panel on October 27, 7:30 pm at PSU; and Wordstock, November 7 all day, at the Portland Art Museum), the meeting adjourned at 3 pm.