August 7, 2007
Finding a publisher requires some perseverance, research and, yes, superb writing. A good start is checking out the library to read the most popular children's books and seeing what publishers are behind books most similar to yours. You can then put together a list of those most likely to publish your book.
Many people have written children's books, but few meet a publisher's standards: manuscripts offering intriguing characters with a unique vision. But coming up with that next "Where the Wild Things Are" requires you to understand the publishing world and what sells.
There are numerous classes for aspiring children's authors, but you might also find a writing mentor or two by joining groups like the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, a Los Angeles-based organization that hosts seminars and networking events for people trying to become children's book writers.
Once you have a manuscript in polished form, send a typed copy, a short cover letter and a self-addressed stamped envelope to publishers. You can find one of the most comprehensive lists of publishers and their submission guidelines in the Childrens Writers and Illustrators Market 2007, a guidebook for children's book publishing. Some publishers allow you to send manuscripts you've sent elsewhere while others want exclusive dibs, so know the policies of each one before sending them your manuscript. Others suggest you send a query letter first.
If, after two months, you still have no response, contact the publisher to inquire. If you still don't hear back, you might write a letter withdrawing your submission and send it to the next one.
You don't need to send illustrations with your manuscript -- unless you happen to be a professional illustrator. Most children's book publishers have a pool of illustrators they work with and prefer lining up their own.
Having a literary agent also will greatly boost your odds of selling your manuscript, because they are attuned to working with the major publishing houses and know what it takes to get a book published. Most literary agents take a 10% to 15% cut of your profits. You can find lists of agents in the Literary Market Place, available at literarymarketplace.com. You also could check the "Acknowledgements" section of books similar to yours.