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
Jul 20

Find Your Publisher in Less Than One Day

While your professional editor finalizes your book manuscript, begin seeking possible publishers. Taking one afternoon to do the following simple steps will save you days and weeks of scattershot effort.

1. Find books similar to yours in your personal library, public library and bookstore, and write down the names of the publishers. Don't quit until you have at least 20 names (there are so many publishers nowadays!!).

2. Take this list and find each publisher's website to see whether the publisher is still in business, has a current catalog, and, under "Writers Guidelines" or "Submissions," read about what kinds of books or authors they are looking for; and YOU decide whether it looks like a publisher YOU would like to work with. Make a note of your best finds.

3. While you are on "Writers Guidelines," check whether the firm likes to correspond 1) by snail mail or 2) by email; and whether your first contact should be with a) a query letter b) a query letter with sample chapters, synopsis, or table of contents ("T of C"), or something else, or c) if they want you to send the full manuscript. Write down the editor's full name so you will have someone to address your correspondence to.

4. Having now narrowed your list of possible publishers, Google each to find any news, reports, reviews, complaints, or other material confirming the reputation or economic health of this publisher.

5. Browse amazon.com or the shelves for recent books similar to yours. Make note of any books strongly resembling your own. These are "competing titles," and your publisher will want to know how your book differs from the books already available. That will be an important selling point.