Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Victoria Rock- Editor at Chronicle Books

I had the great opportunity to attend a first pages critique with the founding children's book editor of Chronicle  Books, Victoria Rock. I'm going to share with you many of her points and a little background info.

Victoria first questions about a manuscript are whether the character will be interesting and if the start of the book is different than other books they have acquired. Then, she thinks about whether the opening lines grab her, whether they are evocative and bring images to her mind and if the further details enhance that picture.

A big mistake she notices in manuscripts is that the writing is too slow paced after a terrific tense opening paragraph. She says that the pace in the opening paragraph is the pace at which to keep the book.  Victoria mentions that with dramatic openings a writer shouldn't then go into long sentences and descriptions, there is the rest of the book to fill in those details.

Another thing Victoria sees a lot of are manuscripts where "blank" can't do "blank" or where "blank" wants to do "blank", but can't. Writers need to be more creative in their plots.

Picture books are one of Chronicle's core products.  Victoria mentions that right now they are overwhelmed with the amount of PB queries they recieve. However, they still publish a large set of the books. Things to remember include, make sure the MS is punchy, zippy and takes you to an unexpected ending. Keep the pace up throughout the entire book. Also, don't make a lot of illustrator notes. Let the illustrator bring what they can to the table. Personally, Victoria is drawn to well written and shorter sentences. She likes to imagine what the pictures will show. Often, she will take out her pen and start slashing long paragraphs.

Another PB fact is that holiday picture books are hard to sell. They have to compete with original  holiday classics. Your book really has to work well for them to consider it.

When asked about Chronicle books Victoria says that their list is small enough that they can respond to what strikes their fancy as editors. This is great news for writers. She told us that with 6 editors, all with different tastes, they can cover the wide range of genres that exist. Chronicle is relatively new to the YA and MG scene, so right now they are definitely looking into that age group.

One thing they are looking for? The call has gone out to the editors on staff to find an 'Ivy and Bean' type series for boys.

What is 'Ivy and Bean'? They're early chapter books about two good friends who deal with everyday life situations. Check out the Chronicle catalog for more.

 Other fun tidbits- 
Victoria  loves historical fiction, it's just hard to sell right now.  
The vast amount of YA titles are only moderate sellers.
Chronicle has not done a lot of early readers, but that is only because nothing they've read so far has resonated with them. 
There is not a big market for short stories in middle grade. The exception being works by already established authors.

Check out Victoria and Chronicle Books at


  1. Thanks for this - great advice! I love that about the opening paragraph setting the pace for the book.

  2. Thanks Coreena, I had a great time at the class.