Breaking into the children's publishing market can be very difficult. It is one of the most competitive of all the markets, mainly because it looks so easy to write a children's book. Nearly everyone you meet has an idea for a children's story in his head. But getting the idea in readable format and selling it to a publisher is another story. Many talented people never become published because they give up. Here are a few tips to help in your journey.

Five basic steps to getting published:

1. Write the best manuscript you can.
2. Develop credentials so editors will be more likely to read your manuscript.
3. Research the market so you will send the manuscript to the right publisher.
4. Submit your manuscript in the best manner possible.
5. Don't give up.

(Develop your writing skills. Do not send a manuscript until it is your best work.)

1) Take a writing course (universities; conference workshops; writers' institutes).
2) Join a critique group or writer's club.
3) Subscribe to writer's magazines.
4) Read writing technique books for basics & manuscript preparation.
5) Read and analyze published books like the ones you want to write. VERY IMPORTANT!!!
6) Write as much as possible. Try different styles until you find your own "voice."
7) Learn to self-edit your manuscript until it sparkles. Cut excessive adjectives; use strong verbs.

(This lets editors know that you are serious about writing. Editors are interested in your potential. It doesn't guarantee that they will buy your manuscript, but helps insure that it will get read.)

1) Join professional writer's organizations (Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators).
2) Attend writer's conferences (great place to meet editors) and conventions like ALA, IRA and state library association conferences.
3) Enter contests (You're never too young to start this.)
4) Write for children's magazines. Short pieces (both fiction and non-fiction) are often easier to sell.
5) Set up a webpage and start a blog about writing. Join social networking. Editors like to know you have an social media presence.

(This helps insure that the publisher you submit to is buying your type of work. Each publisher has preferences.)

1) Study market guides such as the annual SCBWI guide and the Children's Writer's & Illustrators Market.
2) Study market updates in magazines (The Writer; SCBWI Bulletin; Children's Book Insider).
3) Study publishers’ catalogs to see what they like to publish. (Free for postage)
4) Study Publisher’s Weekly's Spring & Fall list of new children’s books. Know what's out there.
5) Look at current books in the library or book stores to see who is publishing work like yours.
6) Some publishers are more receptive to beginners:
a) Educational presses (limited payments & limited distribution)
b) Regional presses (limited payment & distribution)
c) New publishers or new imprints of established publishers
d) Book packagers (Daniel Weiss; Mega Books; Parachute Press)
e) Specialty publishers (religious, ethnic, university)

Be professional. Think of your query letter as a resume and your manuscript as a job interview.
1) Query letter should be brief and to the point--one page long.
2) Today, most publishers accept e-submissions. Check publisher websites to find their submission policies.
3) If manuscript is requested, send it promptly with brief cover letter.
4) Keep records of your manuscript's submission history.
5) Multiple submissions are okay if publisher says so. Inform editor if ms. is a multiple submission.
6) For picture book manuscripts, do not send a dummy or illustrations. Type it like a regular manuscript or a poem.

Many talented writers never become published because they give up. You must have a burning DESIRE to be published; you have to want it more than anything else and be willing to work hard and sacrifice. You have to learn to take rejection and criticism and to overcome depression. Desire, persistence, and talent are the keys to success. Good-luck to you!

The five steps above are for submitting to an established, traditional publisher. You sign a contract, receive an advance, and receive royalties. They will have a sales department and promotion department to help you.

Some writers prefer to skip traditional publishing and self-publish their works. The biggest hurdle to this method is advertising and distribution. If you are type of person who enjoys promoting, then you may be able to have a successful book. Most self-published authors, do not make much income, but there are always exceptions. If you are really fortunate, your self-published book may be picked up by a traditional publisher who has a larger distribution.
 Writing Tips Part 2 -- Picture Books
Writing Tips Part 3 -- Novels
Writing Tips Part 1 -- General Info
Reference Books and Links
Reference Books and Links

 Writing Tips
Return to:

  Author Visits
Part 4