Friday, January 06, 2017

You've Written a Children's Book? Read This! (part 2)

Don't read any further until you've read Part One of this two part feature.

Have you read it?


And have you followed the directions (or are you at least planning to)?

Okay, then read on!

You've Written a Children's Book? Read This! (part two)

You may not want to hear this, but you need to. After you get your manuscript polished to its most brilliant shine, your polishing work is far from over. But this time you'll be polishing a cover or query letter instead.

I'm getting ahead of myself, though.

Once you've polished that manuscript, you'll want to send it to agents or editors. Which will it be? Get an agent first, or send directly to publishers (or both?). There is no wrong decision; this is completely up to you. However, there a couple things you will want to keep in mind:

1. Many publishers/editors do not accept unsolicited manuscripts or queries from unpublished authors. So having an agent will probably mean your work will be seen by some who would not have seen it otherwise.

2. If you have an agent, your days of stressing over query and/or cover letters are done! You can focus more on writing, and isn't that what we all want?

3. If you are a hands-on kind of person, it may be a challenge for you to "let go" and let your agent do his or her job. Then again, maybe you'll find an agent that will give you plenty to do!

Once you've decided which approach to take, you need to know to whom you want to send your manuscript. And that means you will need to do research!

Don't make the mistake of sending your manuscript off to every agent or editor you've ever heard of. Agents and editors are people, and people have different tastes. Not only that, but they have RULES about how to submit.

So, here's what you do:

1. Compile a list of agents/editors who represent/publish your kind of book.

2. Look at specific titles they have worked on. Is your book similar (but not too similar) to other books on that list? I don't necessarily mean a similar story, but similar in tone or style or format.

3. Search #mswl on twitter and visit to see what people are looking for.

4. Use social media. Follow agents and editors to get a feel for their tastes. Read blogs, interviews, and articles in which they are featured. Participate in pitch parties (such as #pitmad) on Twitter.

5. Go to conferences. Can't afford it? Check out WriteOnCon, a conference you can attend from home! This conference, combined with a twitter pitch party, led me to my agent.

Once you've narrowed your list of potential agents/publishers, it's time to polish that query letter. This can be a daunting task, but there is help. Check out this article from Writer's Digest or this blog post from which deals specifically with queries for picture books.

Have a few of your fellow author friends read your query for you if you're unsure. But it's nearly impossible to feel 100% confident when clicking that send button (or sealing that envelope). Just follow a basic query letter format and don't stress too much over it.

Now that you've polished your query and are ready to send your manuscript out into the world, be sure to follow submission guidelines, which are usually easy to find on agencies' and publishers' websites. You wouldn't want your query to go unread after all that work.

Phew! Time to breathe a little. And wait. And while you're waiting, work on that next manuscript!

Happy writing!

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