Getting Pitch Ready Day Four: Fine Tune Your Dummy
Think of how the editor is going to look at your dummy. The more complete and worked out it is, the easier it is for her/him to get an idea of what you are selling. When you put your story into a dummy form and spend some time with it, it becomes obvious what is working and what is not working. Read through your dummy every day for a couple weeks. Every time I read through my dummy I think of something to make my book better. I like to have everything charted out in sketch form and then a few finished illustrations to show what the final book will look like. Sometimes it's a bit of a struggle to invest that much time before the story is bought but, if you feel like the story is sellable, then it may be worth the time to make it as complete as possible.
A student from my first illustration class shared this great video of Simms Tapback showing a dummy for There Was an Old Lady Who swallowed a Fly.
Simms Taback has worked out a lot of the decisions in his thumbnails sketches—a great time saver. Tabck is using the dummy to make clear his idea for cutting die cut holes in his book. This is an ideal dummy book for showing an editor. The entire book is very clear and the editor can see exactly what he or she is buying. The only suggestion I would add is one finished illustration to show what the final illustrations might look like.
Sometimes I am tempted to leave something that works reasonably well, but does not illustrate the final direction in which I see the book going. I have discovered however that sometimes editors latch on to these ideas that don't particularly interest me so now I leave those elements out of my dummy.
Here are some questions to ask yourself as you look through your dummy:
How does your story flow from page to page?
Do you stumble at any particular spot?
Do your details move your story forward? For example if you mention something specific like time in your book, does it relate to the rest of the book? Should you mention more instances of time or would your story read better without being specific about time.
Are your characters consistent? For example: Do your characters have the same amount of detail? Do your characters look like the same character throughout the book?
How is the play between words and illustrations? Do they work together? Does the image tell more of the story than the words?
Die cut is when a shape is cut out of the book. It can be a single page, few pages, or the whole book.