- Trade publishers aim for bookstores, although some also sell to schools and libraries. Mass-market publishers target a wider audience like supermarkets and other general retail stores.
- Under the heading of 'I Want to be the Teacher', it's writing that's been overwhelmed by the author focusing too much on what she wanted to say and not enough on how to say it. (Don't be didactic)
- Five big companies make over half of the approximately $2 billion in annual sales in children's publishing - Random House, Penguin, Scholastic, HarperCollins, and Simon & Schuster.
- Fiction is not truth, but it can hold truth within it, such as the truth of personal experience or universal themes.
- Illustrated Storybooks have a story that could be read on it's own. The illustrations add to the story, but it would still make sense without them. Many classic children's books fit in this category it's less common today. Picture books today are books carried at least as much by the pictures as by the words.
- If you want to write about a culture other than one you grew up in, choose one you've truly lived in, not one to which you are an outsider.
- You are more likely to see back matter in nonfiction for older children, but picture books have back, too, especially nonfiction picture books or books based on folktales.
- Don't be afraid to mention your ideas for back matter in a proposal for a book. In fact, keep notes on all your ideas for any back matter and list those possibilities in the proposal with examples. You'll give the publisher a more complete vision of your work.
- It's completely acceptable to send out several query letters for the same manuscript simultaneously.
- Irreverent rule of thumb: "The quality of a manuscript decreases as the amount of other material enclosed increases." Put your effort into your manuscript.
- Submit to assistant and associate editors. The less-established editors want to hear from you.
- It doesn't hurt to mention your membership in professional organizations such as SCBWI and even note them on your envelope.
- Meet editors at conferences, but be polite and don't expect someone to take your work home with them; write to him after the conference.
- Trade shows are not a great place to go to meet editors, with the possible exception of the American Library Conference (ALA). Use the show to find out about publishers you didn't know. A show is not the place to sell a manuscript.
- Organizations like SCBWI offer grants, some of which unpublished authors can win and use as a credential in a submission.
- After you find that one right publisher and start to correspond, keep at it.
- Attend writer conferences and talk to the publishing insiders. Talk to them and find out what they do. Keep in touch with them. Later, when you have the right kind of manuscript for them, you can send it to them.
- Nonfiction authors often represent themselves because they don't earn large advances and get high sales numbers. Picture book authors, because they split royalties with an illustrator, are also less likely to have an agent. Conversely, good fiction writers are relatively more attractive to an agent, especially if their work is strong enough to garner interest from multiple editors.
- Don't even bother to contact an agent if you don't have a good backlog of unsubmitted material.
- When looking for an agent, ask about fees, other clients, and if the agent belongs to the Association of Author's Representatives (AAR) - although some reputable agents do not belong. AAR's website (www.aar-online.org) includes several useful resources including its Canon of Ethics, suggested question to ask of an agent, and member's list.
- The smallest subdivisions in a publishing house are usually called imprints. Each imprint usually has its own editorial staff, and sometimes its own marketing staff.
- You submit to individual imprints, not the company division. If that imprint isn't interested, it will return it to you and usually won't share it with other imprints at the same company.
- It's okay to send a manuscript to several different companies at once, but don't send it to two imprints at the same company at the same time. They can't both acquire it, and management at the company will prevent them from competing for it.
- One reason a publisher sets up imprints is to specialize and narrow the focus of each. Imprints typically have tight guidelines about the type of books each produces.
- To be sure you choose the right imprint, you have to do research. Get the imprints guideline, which usually starts with the kinds of books it publishes. Browse for books with that imprint's name on them. Take a look at the imprint's catalog, which might be part of a larger catalog for the company to which the imprint belongs.
- The big companies have narrowed the market and fortunately, imprints are independent and all these publishers have several book imprints, you can still submit your manuscripts to each of them.
- Not all publishers are closed to unsolicited or agented-only manuscripts. Look for the open doors. Don't let the closed ones frustrate you.
- They all tend to be slow to respond to submissions, so try to target your submissions.
- Look in the section under the price and ISBN for each book in many catalogs, and you'll see who owns and can license the subsidiary rights. If it says the publisher's name and "all rights," that book either came in as an author's submission direct to the publisher or was commissioned. Some rights may be held by an agent, a foreign publisher, or a book producer. Checking this information helps you get a feel for how many books have come as author submissions and how many came from agents or from other companies.
- Some smaller imprints might have guidelines that read "all submissions will be evaluated for all imprints," so you don't have to submit to each imprint.
- Use JacketFlap's (www.jacketflap.com) database of publishers if you don't have access to catalogs.
- Editor's Wishlists include 1. I wish more beginning writers were familiar with our backlist and current titles before submitting their projects to us, and 2. I wish more beginning writers submitted their materials according to our specific submission guidelines.
- You'll find a wider and more varied range of opportunities among magazines than among book publishers.
- It will be difficult to make headway at the really big companies. Look instead for companies that produce supplementary materials. Attend a convention to find them. This is a relatively unknown market and one that might be just right for you.
- Browse your local teacher supply store. Make notes on books similar to what you write. Contact those publishers and request guidelines.
- A regional publisher specializes in subjects relevant to a particular part of the country. A niche publisher specializes in a subject that's of interest to a small group of people and sells it books nationally but only in specialized outlets.
- Check out the "Guide to the Small Press Market" to find regional publishers.
- An online source for information about independent publishers is John Kremer's list of "101 Top Independent Publishers" at www.bookmarket.com/101publishers.htm
- English-language markets outside the US include Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand. Check the Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market which covers publishers outside the US.
- Check the Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market and Publisher's Weekly for new imprints.
- Update your market guide every year.
- The best time to self-publish is after you are published, made easier if:
- ...you have a book that's already been published, and for which you have not only gotten rights back but have bought or been given the film to print it.
- Find out what other books out there are similar to your so you can say in a cover letter how yours is different.
- The least-encouraging positive response is a short note scribbled at the bottom of a form letter. Very few manuscripts get even this much of a response. Submit to this publisher again. Anything more than a form rejection letter is encouraging.
- More encouraging is a short signed letter. This is an invitation to write to that editor again, with a different manuscript.
- A letter that rejects your manuscript but provides detailed reasons why should set off a celebration in your writer's heart. This editor is interested in you. Don't be in a hurry to make revisions. That editor isn't expecting to hear from you right away.
- Unless an specifically asks you to send her everything you've ever written, pick and choose and send her only your best work.
- Coming across as over-eager or desperate won't get you better results and might cool his interest in you. Be professional at all times. Let her get in touch with you. Wait the industry standard three months. After that get in touch with a phone call or a note.
- It can take so long to hear back from publisher because a manuscript might not deserve an immediate rejection. They may need time to think about it.
I read The Complete Idiot's Guide to Publishing Children's Books by Harold D. Underdown. This was the third edition and some of this may be out-of-date. This is a list of things that I got from it at this point in my writing career. My knowledge is past the beginning stage of writing, and I know a lot about books in general from my work as a Children's Librarian. So, for me, the greatest gain was about submissions and imprints and tidbits that specifically relate to what I'm writing. I came away with some new ideas about how to approach my submission process, I was encouraged by some of what I read, and I have set some new goals for the year. Maybe some of it will be applicable to others. Turn to the book for the complete conversation about each bulleted item. Most of these are exactly as Harold Underdown wrote them. I hope you'll find something useful as well.
I am a writer of Children's and Young Adult books. I received my MFA in Creative Writing for Children and Young Adults from Hamline University in St. Paul, MN, and am an active member of SCBWI. I also have my MLS in Library Science with an emphasis on children and happily worked as a Children's Librarian for nearly 20 years. One of my favorite activities was reading books aloud to kids, especially to school-aged kids. Like the kids, I enjoy having stories read to me, so I listen to many of my books on audio and serve on audio judging committees.
Another favorite activity is creating fun snacks for library programs, friends, and family. I do that a lot and continually search for more ideas.
I have a tiny brown tabby cat named Gypsy, who originally belonged to my brother and sister-in-law, a very large Russian Blue mix named Bosley from the shelter who has quickly made himself at home, and a new puppy named Prince Albert. He's a Cavapoo, which means he's part Cavalier King Charles and part poodle, and adorable. I am married and live in Dayton, Ohio with my husband Rod.
You can find more detailed information about me by clicking the link below: