How I Do Publisher Research and Submit My Children’s Book Manuscripts: Part 2: Tools


Part 2: Tools

I use several tools, some free and some pricey, to help me research markets and submit my manuscripts. In this post, I’m going to describe the tools and very briefly say what I use them for. Future parts of this series will have more information.


I use Excel documents to keep track of many things. I don’t do anything super-fancy with them, and I’m sure I’m not using their full potential. But they work for me. And they work better than just Word documents, because I can sort my information in many ways (for instance, by last name, by date, by manuscript). Here are the main databases I have created to help with my research and submission.

Publisher Database – Here’s where I put info about editors and publishers who publish the kind of writing I like to do. For example, I have no interest in writing YA, so I don’t bother to include info about YA editors.

pub db 2018

The columns above are Publisher/Imprint/First Name/Last Name/Title/Email/Source of information/Note. Most commonly, the note area holds news of that particular editor buying a particular manuscript. I mostly track acquisitions of picture books and poetry collections. The yellow is just a flag to myself that I want to send that person something soon, and the dark purple is a note that that editor has replied and told me she only takes submissions from agents. (I don’t delete the editor altogether because I would probably forget and resubmit to them.)

I find the info that I put into this database in several different places:

  • PW Children’s Bookshelf
  • com
  • Conferences I attend or get notes from
  • My writing community

Submission Plan Database – Here’s where I have my actively being submitted manuscripts down the left, and all the publishers I think might be a possible fit across the top.

sub db 2018

The colors mean different things. When I have a manuscript ready to start submitting, I go across my columns and put pale yellow for any publisher I think might be a possible fit. If I submit it, I change the box to pink. If it gets rejected, I change the box to blue. The other colors along the top row mean various complicated things you don’t need to worry about right now. If I pull a title from submissions in order to revise it, I mark the title hot pink.

This is a new way of doing this for me. I used to just keep lists in a Word document. But it got too confusing. I have between 10 and 20 manuscripts out on submissions, and it’s really helpful for me to be able to see at a glance, “Hey, Publisher A is a possible market for Manuscript B. But I see Publisher A has a pink box filled in below it, so that editor is already looking at a different manuscript of mine.”

Submissions Database – You have to keep track of what you submit, to whom, when, and what the response is! This is crucial to your efforts to become a working writer. My submissions database has almost 1500 entries and goes back to 1996. Wowza. Here’s an excerpt from many years ago.

sub db 2018 b

The columns I use are Keyword (a one-word description of the topic), Status (Sold, Abandoned, etc.), the manuscript’s actual Title, Format of submission (email, hard copy, by me, by an agent), Word count (so I can tell if and when I switched to a different version), Publisher, Editor, date I Sent the manuscript, what the Reply was, Date the reply came to me, and Tickler date (the date I want to follow up if I don’t get a response). I guess I wasn’t using those last two columns almost 20 years ago, but I use them today!

Children’s Bookshelf

This is a free once or twice a week email newsletter from Publishers Weekly all about children’s literature. It announces job moves and promotions as well as a selection of recent deals made. There are also industry-related articles. You can subscribe at

This resource is not cheap, but it is probably the best investment I’ve ever made as an unagented writer. On this website, I can look up all the picture book acquisitions made in the past year, for instance (their database is not exhaustive, but it is very large and always helpful). Or I can look up all the acquisitions made by a certain editor in the past three years. If that editor has a Dealmaker page (many do), I can then get the editor’s snail mail and (most importantly) email address. I can find information here that would take me hours and hours to find elsewhere. The cost is $25 per month, or you can get a discount by signing up for an entire year. It will probably be most useful to you if you have several manuscripts ready to submit. But even with only one manuscript, I personally would buy a one-month membership and research my little heart out.

Horn Book Guide Online

This is a searchable online database of all the reviews from the Horn Book Guide (which reviews many more titles than Horn Book). I mostly use it to find comp titles (titles I might compare my manuscript to in my cover letter) and to figure out which publishers might be a good fit for any particular one of my manuscripts. I wrote a blog post and included a demo video here: There’s a free demo version online with two years’ worth or reviews, and that might be all you need. Otherwise, you can subscribe for various periods, with an annual subscription being $48 as I write this.

My Writing Community

Concrete resources are amazing, but my writing community, both off- and online, is also a source of marketing info. Because I talk with kidlit writers all the time and am a friendly but professional part of the community, I can sometimes ask flat-out, “Anybody know of an editor still at XYZ Publisher?” I did this recently in a Facebook Group for nonfiction writers, and two different writers published by the company I was asking about offered names, experiences, email addresses, and opinions. You can’t put a price on that kind of information and willingness to help!

So, those are my basic tools. Remember, you might set up your databases a totally different way (and go about this entire process differently, too). I’m just sharing the way I do it in hopes that it will inspire you to figure out what will work for YOU!

About Laura Purdie Salas

children's writer, poet, reader, visiting author, speaker/teacher, mentor, copyeditor, freelance writer
This entry was posted in Getting Published and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to How I Do Publisher Research and Submit My Children’s Book Manuscripts: Part 2: Tools

  1. rndkathryn says:

    Thank you so much. You always provide great information and helpful suggestions.

  2. Pingback: How I Do Publisher Research and Submit My Children’s Book Manuscripts: Part 3: My Publishers Database | Mentors for Rent

  3. Pingback: How I Do Publisher Research and Submit My Children’s Book Manuscripts: Part 4: Identify and Describe My Manuscript | Mentors for Rent

  4. Pingback: How I Do Publisher Research and Submit My Children’s Book Manuscripts: Part 5: Make a Marketing List | Mentors for Rent

  5. Pingback: How I Do Publisher Research and Submit My Children’s Book Manuscripts: Part 6: Submit! | Mentors for Rent

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