The number one question would-be and new-be children’s book authors ask authors like me is (no surprise) “How do I get my work published?” I understand, because I asked the same question when I was just starting out.
Here’s the thing: the publishing industry is a bit of a different animal than most. There’s no “shark tank”, no product application, no routine “I’ve got this idea” pitch forum. You can’t just walk into a publishing house and ask to meet Editor So-and-so. If you want to be published by a traditional house, whether one of the big five New York houses or one of the myriad smaller presses, there are certain ways to approach the business today.
The publishing industry has changed substantially since I began writing. For one thing, if you don’t want to work within the traditional industry, it’s very easy today to self-publish. I’m not going to discuss self-publishing here because there are plenty of other resources out there (and here’s just one I recommend.)
Today, many traditional publishing houses and editors are closed to unsolicited submissions. Some are still open, but you must know which ones and what their submission requirements are. Many prefer email submissions; some have reverted to hard-copy with SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope) submissions. Some accept queries only. Some accept queries and the first ten pages or three chapters. Some want the entire manuscript.
And many houses are closed, which means you must first find an agent to represent your work, which is just as difficult as finding a publisher.
If you want to become a traditionally published children’s author, here is what I can recommend.
(Note: I’m making one assumption here. You have already studied the craft of writing, and polished your manuscript to a high shine. You’ve vetted your work with critique partners. In other words, you’re not submitting your first draft, because that’s a waste of your time and energy. For more on writing craft see this page, and my previous blog post.)
- The primary resource for information on the publishing industry in the children’s field is the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). If you are at all serious about being published, you should join. They provide mountains of information, including details about agents and editors and what they publish, how to submit, and who they represent. On a personal note, I would not be published today without SCBWI, and have been involved in the organization since my early writing days.
- You can meet editors and agents at writing conferences or workshops, and those may be places where you can formally pitch, be formally critiqued, or be given the ability to send a query letter later. (But please – no unsolicited pitches during conferences. That is frowned on, big time.)
- Having a paid critique from an author at a conference or other venue can be just as fruitful as meeting an editor or agent. An author can open doors for you if they think your work is ready. (However – asking an established author for a referral is only appropriate if you know that author very well, and if they have read your work, and if they have encouraged you to request a referral. It is not appropriate to request either a reading or a referral from someone you don’t know or barely know and who hasn’t read your work.)
Here are some further resources:
- AgentQuery.com. About 1,000 agent listings and an excellent community/resource for any writer going through the query process.
- QueryTracker.net. About 200 publisher listings and 1,000 agent listings.
- WritersMarket.com. About 400 to 600 agent listings. $5.99/month subscription fee.
- Chuck Sambuchino’s Guide to Literary Agents blog is also an excellent resource for news and views related to literary agents.
- http://aaronline.org/ A professional organization of over 400 agents who work with both book authors and playwrights. Members must meet the highest standards and subscribe to the Canon of Ethics.