How do I get published?

One of my facebook friends sent this message to me yesterday:

Hey Shadra! Hope you are well. I wrote a book a few years ago and am interested in trying to get it published. Do you happen to have any contacts you could connect me with or your advice on attempting to publish?

If you are interested in publishing books for children and are looking for contacts, the book that you need to get started is the Children’s Writers and Illustrators Market Book. This book lists most, if not all publishers of books for children. It is also full of testimonials and advice from published authors in the field.

The children’s market is certainly not easy to crack. It takes thick skin, lots of patience, and perseverance to gain access to the field. Even after you publish your first book, you will have to work hard to see that book survive out in the world. With books having to compete with television, movies, and video games, an author should be prepared to do a lot of legwork to make sure their book stays in print.

Some people have a manuscript that they wrote years ago and are only interested in submitting that one story. This is usually a dead end. In graduate school, I wrote and illustrated samples for two picturebook ideas. I submitted them both to publishers, got some good feedback, but wasn’t offered contracts for either. I revised them and put them away. In the meantime, I continued to work on my illustration and entertained many new ideas for picturebooks. As my illustration career grew and I gained more visibility, my agent continued to submit my picturebook manuscripts while I worked on my other projects.

This year, I was offered a contract for a manuscript I wrote in 2010. It is a fun story written on a whim—a story that I never knew was in me. I wrote it, shared it and put it away for years before revisiting it. Most writers will tell you, they have tons of stories in their files and a stack of rejection letters to match…especially in the early throws of their careers. They will also tell you that success is about 20% talent, 70% hard work, and 10% luck.

Reading a ton of kidlit is also a great way to become a better kidlit writer. Read books out loud. Really listen to the way the story sounds. Pay attention to the way words and pictures work together. Stay up to date on the latest trends and successes in the field by reading industry reviews and articles. There are also a ton of resources on the web run by authors, illustrators, book lovers and book specialists like Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast, A Fuse 8 Production, The Brown Bookshelf, etc.

I also get this question pretty regularly:
Hi Shadra, I recently wrote a picturebook and am in need of an illustrator. Are you available? If not, where should I look?

Illustrating a book takes between 6 months to a year for most artists. Illustration advances typically start between $10,000 and $15,000 for new artists, but can run even higher. A writer is not expected to hire their own illustrator. When a publisher decides to publish your manuscript they search for illustrators for you.

Some will decide to self-publish. In this case, yes you will want to look for your own illustrator. The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) is a great resource for this. you may also want to look to your local art school or university for students who are looking to hone their skills and are willing to work with your budget. SCBWI is also a great place to find other authors and writer’s groups who can offer constructive feedback and helpful critique before you are ready to submit your manuscript to publishers and agents.

So, that’s it!

Read, read, read.

Write, write, write.

Don’t give up.

Good luck!