First congratulations. There’s nothing like finishing a manuscript. Yes, I know you want to send out your manuscript RIGHT now. After all, you’re FINISHED. You spent days, months, or years writing your book. It’s done. Your husband loved it. Your mother loved it. Even your dog… well, you get the point.
So now you want to get it published. Unfortunately, you live in _____ (fill-in-the-blank) and don’t know any agents or editors, so you want to know if anyone has any recommendations for how to get it published. Maybe you discovered a group on Facebook like Children’s Book Writers USA or Kidlit411, so you post something like:
I am a teacher/ retiree/ auto mechanic, who just finished my first/ second/ thirteenth children’s book. It’s about a pony that finds inner peace and happiness. I read it at my daughter’s pre-school and everyone loved it. What should I do?
Unfortunately, posting to a group online and saying you’re looking for an agent or a publisher is kind of like going to a biker bar and saying that you’ve got a pocketful of cash or standing up in the cafeteria at high school and announcing that you need a date to the prom. Or given today’s technology, maybe it’s like sending the announcement out to the school listserv. Sure, someone might contact you, but really?
So what should you do?
Learn about the craft of writing and the publishing industry by joining an organization like SCBWI (Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators) and then attend your local conferences. Talk with published authors and everybody else. And though there aren’t any shortcuts–the traditional publishing industry is slow—know that there is some value to that slowness. Oh, and join a critique group.
If you have to ask, “What’s that?” Odds are that even though you’ve “finished” your manuscript, it’s probably not ready. You know that teensy problem with the plot, the one on page 153, that an editor will fix? That’s why you have a critique group. They’ll also hold your hankie and help you blow your nose when you start getting rejections.
Which leads me to the next issue, AGENTS. Research several. You’ll want to send your manuscript to all of them. DON’T. Odds are you’re still not ready.
Write a QUERY LETTER. Tailor your first paragraph to the agent and explain why you are contacting her specifically. If you can’t, check her MSWL on Twitter (you’re not on it yet? Go back three spaces). Read her interviews, mention the conference you met her at, and how you liked the outfit she wore to the coffee shop yesterday (don’t do that!), or how you loved the book that she represented. QueryTracker is free. Publisher’s Marketplace costs money.
Then send out a small batch of queries, but don’t get your hopes up. You’ll succeed but it may take time. At the NYSCBWI conference, established agent Molly Ker Hawn of the Bent Agency said that she receives approximately 40-50 queries per day. That comes out to roughly 15,000 queries per year. She asks to see a full manuscript for about 2% of those, or about 300 books. Then she’ll take on five new projects a year. Don’t be discouraged. If your work is top-notched, your time will come. Keep querying. And while you’re waiting to hear back from agents, write something COMPLETELY new.
If you have other questions, feel free to check out these great resources or email your questions, and remember you aren’t alone. We’ve all been there. And btw, feel free to follow me on Twitter, like this page, or friend me on Facebook and mention that you’re a writer. I know it seems a little strange now, but believe me, you’ll be trying to build your platform soon enough.
Bio: Larry Fogel-Bublick is an author of several MG manuscripts including: Duncan and the Case of the Killer Cake and Slam Duncan and the Blintz of Darkness. He is currently working on a YA novel. He has learned all of these rules the hard way.
Here are a few of my favorite resources:
http://www.underdown.org Harold Underdown is an editor and author of the book, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Publishing Children’s Books. He is very generous with his comments on online forums.
www.Kidlit411.com Sylvia Liu and Elaine Kiely Kearns run a great site that has a lot more info. And you will have questions.