Friday, December 4, 2009

Submitting picture books

I have just finished a picture book aimed at 4 to 10 year olds and am now seeking publication.

I know you have said previously that it is incredibly difficult to find a publisher/ agent for a children's picture book but I wondered if you feel it's better to approach a publisher directly or go via an agent. If you believe the latter is better, could you please recommend some agents to approach? I have an illustrator attached to the project (albeit not a well-known one) so is it best to send the manuscript with or without the accompanying pictures? And finally what can I do to make the manuscript stand out from the rest of the slush pile?

I'm curious about your picture book for 4 to 10 year olds, as that's not an age range any publisher would recognise ... Picture books are typically for children aged one to about five or six. There is a huge difference between the stories a four-year-old likes and those that appeal to ten-year-olds, so I'm not sure how you will have bridged that gap in your own story.

As to the submission question: submit to anyone you can. If publishers are accepting submissions, go for it. If there are agents looking for picture books, submit to them too. Unfortunately I can't recommend any, as it says in my little 'About Me' thingy on the right-hand side.

Send the manuscript with a couple of illustrations but not the whole lot - mainly because it's expensive for you to keep reproducing colour illustrations. Also take care not to send in anything unless it's been requested - that's a waste of your time and money.

To make your manuscript stand out, you only have to do one thing: make sure it's excellent. There are no visual tricks that agents and publishers respond to. We work our way through the pile and what always stands out is talent. The other thing that always stands out is rudeness in a letter, so maybe avoid that ...


Orange Slushie said...

in my experience of the children's publishing world, it can count against you to have an illustrator attached to your ms already. often it transpires that the publisher likes the ms but not the illustrations, or vice versa, and then things can get awkward.

Zara Penney said...

Yes. Orange Slushie is very very right. Editors really don't like this. You are far better to just send the m/s on its own. And if it is accepted, then you can tell the editor I have an illustrator.

I would say that it'd probably be rejected by the editor who would say send me some samples but unless the person is very unique, it will be a doomed to fail. Editors have a style preference.

I would also suggest that the person who has sent this query also will fail simply because the age group quoted is totally out of the picture book genre. Possibly the educational publication market might use an age group like this for difficult readers but again, they are very professional so shouldn't assume that it's a walk-in there.

I'd say that a few weeks studying the shelves of the picture book section in the bookshop and/or local library to see what is selling.

The educational publishers do not sell through bookshops in the main. They are usually attached to school selling distributors, schools, librarians. It's a different market to general children publishing companies.

A phone call to publishers or a visit to web sites of major publishers will usually have a submissions guide lines... often with different names.

But leg work is important as far as thoroughly researching the genre you are aiming at.