This topic is complex and a bit overwhelming, but I’m going to try to break down my overall process into steps (over several blog posts) and explain it. Who to send your work to and how to send it–those are the most common areas that writers early in their journey have questions about. So…I’ll give it a shot.
Today, I’m just going to share an excerpt from my book Making a Living Writing Books for Kids. It will give you an idea of my basic philosophy around submissions. Keep in mind, though, that this is what works for ME. If an entirely different system is working for YOU, then you should stick with that! There is no one right way to do this.
Find Homes for Your Love Writing
Getting your love projects published does rely on a certain amount of luck, as far as hitting the right editor in the right mood on the right day. But 90% of it, I believe, comes down to submitting your work smartly and consistently. Make your own luck!
Submit Work Regularly
Submitting your work regularly is a key requirement for getting published. But it takes lots of other habits to support that one big task. In order to submit regularly, I:
• read widely in the areas of picture books and poetry, my two specialties
• read a review journal regularly
• keep track of who’s publishing books I like in my areas (I do this through a combination of tracking books in Goodreads, keeping a publishers database in Excel, keeping abreast of publishing deals in PW Children’s Bookshelf and Publishers Marketplace, and studying publishers’ catalogs, websites, and booths at big conferences
Those are time-consuming but necessary habits if you do not have an agent.
Each month, I look at what submissions I plan to make the following month. Here’s what I do:
• check my list of manuscripts that I’m actively submitting
• mark the ones that are out with fewer than three editors
• check which editors on the market list I’ve made for that particular manuscript I might submit to next (making sure they don’t already have a different one of my manuscripts right then)
• study each of those editors and find somewhat similar titles that I can mention in my letter (Since you acquired XYZ, I thought this manuscript might appeal to you…)
• figure out contact information for each editor (from CWIM, their website, or Publishers Marketplace)
• write a fresh cover letter for each manuscript and each editor, making sure to update anything needed (like the editor’s name and the books I’m comparing my manuscript to, as well as any personal contact I want to remind her of)
• attach my manuscript
• send the mail or email
• note the submission in my submissions database
It’s easiest for me to do this in big chunks of time rather than a little bit each day. Every month, I typically spend one afternoon identifying my submissions for the coming month and which editors I’m sending them to and another afternoon actually putting together the submissions and sending them out.
I spend six to eight hours per month on submissions. I could do it all in one day if I had the stamina, and some people prefer that.
It’s exhausting, honestly. But it also fills me with hope to send off a bunch of letters. I’m renewing old relationships, introducing myself and trying to start new ones, and learning which editors will respond to emails and which won’t. It’s all rather exciting and satisfying.
And when I get sick of doing it, I remember this mantra: Editors can’t buy it if you don’t send it!
Thanks for this information! I hope to be submitting this summer!
Great information. It looks like I have work to do. 🙂 How important is it to mention comparable books?
Thanks, Mary. I think it’s pretty important, ESPECIALLY if you’re 1) contacting an editor at a house that is officially closed to submissions or 2) contacting an editor for the very first time.
Excellent thoughts! Thank you for sharing your process!
So practical and helpful. Thank you!
Pingback: How I Do Publisher Research and Submit My Children’s Book Manuscripts: Part 3: My Publishers Database | Mentors for Rent
Pingback: How I Do Publisher Research and Submit My Children’s Book Manuscripts: Part 4: Identify and Describe My Manuscript | Mentors for Rent
Pingback: How I Do Publisher Research and Submit My Children’s Book Manuscripts: Part 5: Make a Marketing List | Mentors for Rent
Pingback: How I Do Publisher Research and Submit My Children’s Book Manuscripts: Part 6: Submit! | Mentors for Rent