By Laurie Lazzaro Knowlton
Over the past two decades I have been asked 4 universal questions by people interested in writing for children. I’d like to share the answers with you.
1. “What can I do to get published?” The answer is:
A. Do your homework.
You need to read, read, read. Read all the HOW TO books you can get your hands on. A few suggestions:
Ann Whitford Paul’s, WRITING PICTURE BOOKS
Barbara Sueling’s, HOW TO WRITE A CHILDREN’S BOOK AND GET IT PUBLISHED,
Harold D. Underdown’s, THE COMPLETE IDIOT’S GUIDE TO PUBLISHING CHILDREN’S BOOKS
Lee Wyndham’s, WRITING FOR CHILDREN AND TEENAGERS.
B. You need to read books in the genre that you would like to write.
Study the character’s development. What is his motivation?
What is standing in the main character’s way keeping him from accomplishing his goal? Identify the tension tools used to build the plot.
What did the author do to get the reader into the setting?
C. Attend conferences and workshops. Check your local Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators group. They usually offer conferences, workshops, and critique groups in your area. National SCBWI also offers two conferences every year. One conference is held in California in August and a second conference is offered in New York either in January or February. You can locate the information on the web: www.SCBWI.org
2. “Do I need an agent?” I do not believe you need an agent. You can research possible publishers through the CHILDREN’S WRITERS MARKET. First look to see if the publishing house is accepting unsolicited manuscripts. (This means that they are open to un-agented manuscripts.) Second, see if they are accepting manuscripts in your genre.
After finding a publishing house is open and that looks like it might work for your genre and theme of your story, then research the publishing house on the internet.
Become familiar with the editors. Check to see if they have a blog. This will help you find out: What else has the editor published? What is her passion? What type of book is on his wish list?
Make a list of possible publishers and begin sending your manuscript out. Some publishers require that you submit only to them. This is called an exclusive submission. Other publishers will allow simultaneous submissions.
Always make sure you keep a record of where you have submitted your manuscript. Record the date you submitted the manuscript and if it is returned. If you are lucky enough to get a personal note from an editor, send a thank you note. If they made a suggestion to improve your story, get to work!
3. “How do I submit?” When you finish your manuscript it is important to have it critiqued by your peers or a professional. There are many authors and editors that offer critique services. Check your local SCBWI to see if there are members who have open critique groups or offer critiquing.
Make sure your manuscript is perfect. Check grammar, spelling, and punctuation. When your manuscript is ready, you will need to write a cover letter.
Use a regular business letter set up. Your letter should be short.
Dear Editor’s Name,
I have enclosed my xxx word picture book: NAME OF BOOK.
Then add some information about your writing history: Example: I am a former librarian and a member of the SCBWI and I participate in the local (NAME OF STATE) chapter. I have been published in the regional newspaper. Close the letter with a thank you for time and consideration.
An Example of proper manuscript format:
City, State, Zip
E-mail address Word Count
Center your title half way down the page.
Then begin your manuscript. It needs to be indented for every new paragraph.
Your manuscript should be double spaced.
You will need a header starting on the second page. Your header should include your name, the name of your manuscript on the left side and the page number on the right side. Every succeeding page should have the header on the top.
Many publishers request a SASE (Self addressed stamped envelope) so they can return your manuscript. Others say they will recycle the manuscripts so you do not need to send a SASE.
4. “Do I need an illustrator?” The answer is, no. Publishers have a “stable” of illustrators that they prefer to use. They know their illustrators are professionals: Their work is consistent and produced on time.
Let the publisher worry about the look of the book while you do everything you can to produce a quality manuscript. Once you and your editor have polished your manuscript. Start planning on having a book launch!
I hope these answers help you to get your work ready for publication! Good luck with your writing.