Previous entries in the series:
Part 1: Overview
Part 2: My Tools
Part 3: Publishers Database
Part 4: Describe My Manuscript
Part 5: Make My Marketing List
Before I start sending out a manuscript, I always make a list of the possible markets that I have in mind.
I have done this in different formats over the years, including one document in the folder of the project that is simply a list; one document that lists the potential markets for ALL of my projects currently in submission; and, most recently, a database (of course) of all my projects in submission and their potential markets.
But that’s just the mechanics. More important is how you determine which publishers to PUT on the potential match list for your manuscript. Basically, I identify and describe my manuscript, and then I look for publishers (and specific editors) who publish that kind of book. It sounds simple, but it’s not.
Take heart, however. This is why you’ve been reading PW Children’s Bookshelf and building your publishers database. This is why you have perhaps subscribed to PublishersMarketplace.com and HornBookGuide.com. Perhaps you’ve attended state or national librarian or educator conferences and you’ve lugged home catalogs and pored over them. Maybe you religiously purchase Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market and study the listings. This is all good stuff, letting you pick out the information one speck at a time that will ultimately lead to your having a decent understanding of who publishes what.
They could be knitting, you know :>)
Let me show you an example from a manuscript currently making the rounds. I’ll change just a few details and call it COWBOYS CAN’T KNIT.
Here’s how I filled out my describing it database fields:
||kind of ending
||solves an out-of-this-world problem and gets the confidence to be just right in this world
Here’s how I’m describing the book, which is a 400-word picture book manuscript, in a few sentences:
“I’m getting in touch with a new picture book manuscript, COWBOYS CAN’T KNIT. Cowpoke Kevin loves to do the usual cowboy stuff. Riding. Roping. Roaming the open range. But he also likes to knit scarves, write songs, and sketch. He’s, well, awfully arty for a cowboy. The rest of the cowboys, especially Dirty Dan, are not too fond of Kevin’s hobbies. But on a cattle drive, when they all encounter a menacing (maybe) group of aliens, Kevin saves the day in a surprising way.”
After I know how I want to pitch it, I start choosing publishers whom I think might possibly be a good fit.
First, I think about my existing relationships with editors. This is sort of a gut reaction kind of thing and grows out of ongoing relationships. Of those editors, I put Peachtree’s Kathy Landwehr, Boyds Mills Press’ Rebecca Davis, Sterling’s (formerly) Meredith Mundy, and Roaring Brook’s Connie Hsu. Awesome! Four possibilities right off the bat.
I also read through my Publishers Database carefully, seeing what job changes or acquisitions I’ve noted that might make an editor a possibility. Maybe there’s an editor there who has given me positive feedback and invited more submissions who has just moved to a new publishing house. Even if COWBOYS DON’T KNIT isn’t the kind of thing she would have acquired at her previous publisher, I might submit to her if I think it could be a fit at her new publisher.
I go to HornBookGuide.com and do a search on picture books with a keyword of “individuality” and then read a bunch of reviews. Which books can I find that feel like kin, but not a twin, of my manuscript? Publishers won’t publish two books that are TOO similar, because they would compete with each other for sales.
Kelly diPucchio’s Gaston (love that book) feels like kin, so I put Atheneum on my list. Leila Rudge’s Gary leads me to put Candlewick on my list. And so on.
If I find a book TOO close to mine, then I don’t add that publisher to my list. In fact, I make a note on my list NOT to submit to that editor/publisher. Paula Wiseman, for instance, published the book I used as a structural mentor text for this manuscript. The storyline and topic was totally different, and maybe she would not have picked up on the similarities, but it feels too close to me. And Meredith Mundy later rejects this manuscript because it is too similar to Cowboy Camp (by Tammi Sauer, one of my favorite authors, though this was a title I hadn’t even read!). If I had realized that before, I wouldn’t have submitted the title to Sterling. Live and learn.
Then I consult PublishersMarketplace.com to find specific editors’ names. For instance, I see there that Antoinette (the companion book to Gaston) sold to Emma Ledbetter at Atheneum, so now I have a particular editor’s name to send to, plus at least one comp title to mention. (“I love Antoinette, which you acquired, and I think the same readers might enjoy this book.”)
At PublishersMarketplace.com, I also search for Picture Book Deals that are tagged with the keyword “individuality,” and I come up with a couple more possibilities. And I read through all Picture Book Deals announced in the past year and find one more name to add to my list—not tagged individuality, but with a humorous western setting.
Along the way, I might be visiting publisher websites to study their most recent catalogs, doing searches in Google to see what a particular editor has said in blog interviews or industry articles, or trying to find who edited particular books that I think are great kin to my manuscript. I’m also circling back and trying many other keywords besides individuality. One way to find other keywords is to start with a book I already think has the same feel to it as my book, even if the theme is different and the topic is different. Then I look up that book in HornBookGuide.com and see how it is tagged. That leads me to other possible keywords to search for.
Gaston doesn’t reveal any new tags for me…
…but Where Oliver Fits leads me to try Self-acceptance as a keyword.
So then I have a new search to do.
And so on.
This is not a short process. I spend hours creating my submissions list for a manuscript before I start sending it out. I try to come up with at least 10 markets, each with a specific editor’s name, and each with at least one comp title to mention. I’m not saying I’m always successful at all of that, but that’s the goal.
Good luck! We’re almost to the end of the series. Next week, I’ll talk briefly about how I decide how and in which order to submit!