Apr 09

So You Want to Publish a Children's Book

If you've already sent your children's book to several publishers and it's been rejected:

  • First, if you are sending right now, stop sending because you can't re-send the revised manuscript to publishers you've already tried. 
  • Publishers like to use their own illustrators. If your manuscript is already illustrated and you like it that way, you will probably have to self-publish.
  • If you've written the story in rhythm and rhyme, it had better be expertly done or you are better off writing plain prose.

Next, contact a professional editor. The market for children's books is extremely competitive, because the majority of the book business is adults buying books for adults, and adults tend to buy for children the books they used to love: Make Way for Ducklings, Wind in the Willows, Winnie the Pooh, Little House on the Prairie. Having your work professionalized and perfected gives your manuscript an edge.

An editor can give you:

  • feedback on your plot and characters and suggestions for any improvements
  • corrections of any grammatical, punctuation or spelling errors
  • feedback on rhythm, rhyme and vocabulary, and (with my master's degree in poetry) I can rewrite rhymes so they're professional quality
  • I will tell you whether the manuscripts are ready to publish or require revision
  • I will tell you whether the market is saturated with similar stories and you're better off writing some new stories more likely to sell
  • I will pinpoint the age range of your readership. You might think you have written a picture book for ages 2-5, but in fact the text might be accessible only to ages 8 and up. I once read a Wind in the Willows-type manuscript with many references to early 19th-century styles and culture that young children couldn't appreciate. The characters spoke in Hollywood-British dialect and vocabulary ("What ho! Who goes there? Show yourself, lackey!"). The book was really for adult readers who could see is cleverness.
  • advice on professional formatting, and I will format your manuscript if you want.
  • an assessment of your cover letter, if you want. If it's less than optimal I will rewrite it or make suggestions, as you choose. If you didn't send a cover letter, we can compose one of professional quality so at least your cover letter won't hold you back.
  • suggestions regarding potential publishers
Apr 25

Irons in the Fire

I've got three book manuscripts out circulating, which rather takes my mind off the long, ambitious poem I sent to a magazine that may or may not take it, for political reasons (aside from the fact that they might not like it. But I do). Strange that I worry most about the poem, not the books.

It really helped getting my writing group involved in readying the Writing Group book for submission to publishers. One of us photocopied the book outline and sample chapters; two of us split the work of writing customized cover letters for each publisher; I made a spreadsheet to track submissions; someone did stapling and envelope-stuffing; she with the best handwriting addressed them and the SASEs; and finally one of us carried the packages to the post office and got them stamped for going (and returning; but we hope not). Any anxiety about that book -- now titled The Writing Group Handbook -- is divided eight ways. And so it rests lightly on the individual creative soul.

We, and specifically I, have no worries about whether the Writing Group book is good and worthwhile -- we know it is. Eight writers can't be wrong! A poet can never have the same secure feeling about a poem. But that's the price of writing poetry and wanting to publish it. I'll pay it -- but I am glad of having several other irons in the fire, and some writer friends.