I come up with about 4 REALLY GOOD picture book ideas a month. Really, really good ones. Ones I wish were already on the shelves so I could grab them and read them to my students over and over and over again. And again. (I mean, these are great ideas.)
Do the math: 4 ideas x 12 months = 48 ideas per year.
However, I am really only able to actually write about 1/4 of them. (Not due to lack of trying!!!) I mean, some of these ideas are just too rascally to get a grip on. The image of a greased pig comes to mind. I try and write most of them, but due to wrong voice, loss of initial excitement, inability to make it all come together and did I mention wrong voice, (for often I am not the right writer for the idea I have hatched) I come up with a fraction of manuscripts based upon my ideas.
Do the math: 48 ideas divided by 4 = 12 semi-viable manuscripts.
Not bad, you are saying. 12 manuscripts a year is not bad at all. But remember, my friends, these are picture book manuscripts. PBs. Yeah, I saw that grin slowly leave your face. Because this is where all of the laws of mathematics no longer apply.
Enter the variables. (Cue menacing music)
Timing-Timing is everything in PB publishing. Maybe you have the shiniest most perfect manuscript, but it is just the wrong time for it....or you walk into your local bookstore and see another one almost like it was just published....or it takes so long for the publishing process that by the time your idea even gets read, the idea is no longer current.
Preference- Just because I think my 12 mss are viable, doesn't mean my agent thinks they are all equally salable. (Some are more equal than others.) And it doesn't mean that she can go out and try to schlep all 12 at once. People will get tired of seeing my stuff....I mean even Mo Willems isn't coming out with 12 new books every year. You have to make some choices and prioritize.
And editors have their preferences, too. I got a rejection for Good Night, Good Knight from an editor saying that dragons had been done. But then Lucia Monfried at Dutton really, really liked the idea, and that is how my first easy reader came into being.
Luck- Nobody controls luck, and this is perhaps the mosts encouraging thing I can think to say about picture books. Luck is some wild cowboy riding an untamed stallion that shows up late, if he even shows up at all, but when he does, smiling his cowboy smile and tipping his hat, IT IS WORTH IT.
Do the math: 12 manuscripts + Timing +Preference + Luck = Maybe Something Wonderful. Sometimes.
Now, don't get discouraged!! Keep your chin up!! I am not telling you aspiring picture book writers to throw in the towel. Quite the opposite. Keep writing and write some more. If you want to stack the odds in your favor, then start stacking up some more manuscripts! The more chances you give yourself to get lucky, the luckier you will be.
Success comes to those who never give up.
P.S. These are some books I had a similar idea for, but wasn't lucky enough to get a decent draft done and well, I probably wasn't the right writer for them anyway. But look....my loss is their gain!!
Check this out here. (Except I called mine The Adventures of Stick Boy...and I never finished but two chapters. Curses!)
And check this out here. (Except mine was called Ballerhino....but the gist was similar, giant animal takes ballet with kids.....sigh.)
I could go on, but the reality is that when a great idea comes to you and you put it on the back burner, somebody else is probably already frying it up into breakfast.