1. Write a Good Book
This is such a ridiculous suggestion it may even be over-looked but the key to this statement is “Good” and not just good in your head but good for children. What age group are you writing for? Have you read it to children in that age group and received a positive response? I’ve read children’s books that I walked away from asking under my breath how that got published, you don’t want that happening to you. Write something good, entertaining and educational and make sure it is good!
2. Edit, Edit, Edit
Another ridiculous suggestion, but a misspelled word in a children’s book is like a fly in your soup, unacceptable. Read, Edit, Put it aside – and not just for a day, put it away for a month. Then go back and read it with fresh eyes. Edit again. And when you are done, hire an editor or better yet, befriend a teacher. A friend is not likely to tell you the cold hard truth and you need to hear it before your manuscript gets its 30 second interview with a publisher.
3. Decide HOW You Want to Publish
– Traditional – (preferred but quite hard)
– Vanity/POD – (This is self-publishing with a company for a fee)
– Self Publishing – (On your own)
Each have their costs. Traditional is the ideal way but it is growing increasingly difficult for a no-name author to get their foot in the door. Between the costs of vetting a new author, and putting forth the time, the traditional publisher would need to see a manuscript literally do the jig on their desk before they give it a chance. Finding an agent is the best first step towards getting in the door but also comes with obstacles. And with all of the above, marketing is not part of the package.
4. Market, Market, Market
This is not a suggestion, this is a requirement! If you don’t market your book, no one will EVER know about it. This does not necessarily mean TV advertisements during primetime or a full page ad in the New York Times (however if you have that kind of money to spend more power to you) nor does it mean that a non-existent marketing budget should hold you back. There are many Free marketing solutions, many options for small budgets and a whole lot of opportunities for grander budgets. But never rely on someone else to market for you – only YOU know how good your book is!
* By no means does this constitute as a step by step how to publish manual nor should this be considered a substitute for additional reference and knowledge gathering on the subject matter involved. This is written as third-party opinion and can not be construed of as legal advice nor an intent to infringe on any other advice. This is not a complete list of steps and is meant only as a starting point for consideration.
Step 1: Find the publishing company that’s right for you
It makes sense that a romance publisher wouldn’t be interested in a children’s book, just like a Christian publisher wouldn’t be interested in a political book. Go to the library. Find books in your genre. Write down those publishers names and then…
Step 2: Research
Go to that publishers website. Read their submission policy. Follow it to a T and put your best foot forward. Write your introduction letter, your synopsis, your outline, and make sure it is as polished as your perfectly written and triple edited book.
Learn the lingo –Query, SASE, ISBN, Galley, DRM, PR, etc. and know what you are doing. An uneducated author is a confused mess waiting to happen and publishers are not counselors. They will not coddle or teach you, you have to be willing to learn on your own, and with the internet, there are plenty of sources for education. Never Stop Learning!
Step 3: Submit and Wait
After you’ve followed all of the rules for that one publisher, you submit and wait. If you haven’t heard back in 6 weeks, follow steps 1-3 for the next publisher in line, making sure that you follow all of THEIR submission guidelines not the other publishers guidelines; One rule not followed equals one manuscript trashed.
Why wait? It takes a publisher time to process through the hundreds of submissions they receive daily. If they take the time to go through it and 5 weeks later write and say, we’re interested and you decided to not wait and received a response from another publisher (yes that would be the best possible outcome) you now how to decide which one you will go with. But if you choose one, you can’t go back to the other if you change your mind and if they find out you are vetting them against each other, they both will drop you out of spite. Do it right, or don’t do it at all!
Step 4: Find an Agent
After you have submitted to all publishers open for unsolicited manuscripts, find an agent willing to take your project up. An agent will decide forst if your project is right for them, if they feel strongly towards it and if they feel they can get this book in the door successfully. They have to feel good about it or they may be wasting their time.
Finding an agent is much easier said than done because there are a lot of agents and a lot of scams. Paid up front is not always a scam, but promises and guarantees are. Commissions upon signings are good but sometimes those aren’t the best. There are many websites that are dedicated to keeping respectful lists of agents and you will just need to query each and every one of them.
Step 5: Protect yourself
Getting your foot in the door of a publisher is an agents’ sole and primary responsibility. Then they take off leaving you standing in the office of a publisher who may or may not do you wrong. Will you be able to retain your rights? Will there be limitations on your distribution or availability schedule? Is there an advance? What are your royalties? What are your responsibilities? Do you need to get a lawyer involved? You did copyright didn’t you?
And then don’t forget the marketing. – PUBLISHERS DON’T MARKET – That’s right, they distribute. They get the book on the book shelves but it is up to the author to Publicize. If the books don’t fly off the shelves into readers hands within say, 2 weeks, the book stores send them back and you are done!
Step 6: Hire a publicist
For thousands of dollars – their fees – they will direct you in the best marketing avenues for your book. Advertisements, TV commercials, online marketing, they will tell you this is what you need to do, and they’ll take care of it for you, you just cover the costs of the marketing, the $1000 advertisement, the $5000 TV commercial, the $2000 website…
They can get you in the door to the morning talk shows, the radio interviews, they have those connections, but your advance will be sucked up in no time. It’s a wonderful ride, don’t get me wrong. If you get the chance to take it – DO. But know ahead of time where you want to go.
I was rejected!
Being rejected does NOT mean you aren’t any good. A rejection is an opportunity to try something else. Never ever take a rejection as a slap in the face. Publishers have to put a lot of money into an author’s book. They have to feel that it is going to be a smash hit over night for them to take a chance – and – the majority of them have come to the tragic realization that paper books are on the way out. Most publishers have been retooling their process to convert everything to an electronic world. While children’s books are popular and will always be popular, Traditional publishers are finding it increasingly hard to compete with the electronic devices.
To me – that means that they are finding themselves becoming obsolete, and that proves that the stigma of self publishing is old news.
Thanks to technology there are all sorts of ways to self publish today. Self publishing used to be a taboo subject but not any more. There are still some who feel that a self-published author wasn’t good enough for the traditional publishers and while in some cases that is true… there are many more examples where that was 100% false.
Look at, J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter), Christopher Paolini (Eragon), William P. Young (The Shack). I’ll bet you’ve heard of Chicken Soup for the Soul, Spartacus, The Joy of Cooking, Shadowmancer and oh yeah, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz…. self published. Besides, people like Edgar Allan Poe, Walt Whitman, Emily Dickens, Beatrix Potter, Mark Twain, D.H. Lawrence, and John Grisham, even self published their first books before they were well-known enough to be picked up by the traditional publishing houses.
Sometimes you have to prove your books through actual sales before you can get a publishers attention and that is where self-publishing takes its turn. The more you can do yourself, the better off you will be but a really good place to start (and learn the process) is a POD publisher. There are many to choose from, like Xlibris, AuthorHouse. They will create your galley, design your cover, and publish your book with a worldwide distribution for a set price. If you want editing, extra. Publicity, extra. Postcards, bookmarks, website, extra. But they do all of the pre-work and get it done, then all you have to do is market it.
While this is a really good step and something that will definitely teach you the process as well as make it easier on you your first time, I did it myself… I suggest, if you feel you are up to it, if you are willing to learn; take the bull by the horns and do the entire thing yourself. Yes, it is a lot of work. Yes, it can be confusing. But more importantly, you can save $500-$1000+ on the startup process, that is money that can be put towards marketing.
If you know what you are doing, or are willing to learn you can create your own cover, complete your interior layout, and publish free of charge in places like CreateSpace, Lulu and Smashwords. These places are designed for the newbie. They have rather informative help sections. They give you step by step instructions on layout, formatting, and design. They even provide you download capabilities to test your book out on platforms you don’t have to make sure they look the way you want before going to print. Self publishing has been made easy.
In both cases you retain your rights, can earn 30-70% royalty, only buy however many books you need or want, and your book can be ready for sales in a couple weeks versus a number of months. But if you notice, my repeat word in either case is MARKET.
Between free press release website, free social media, blogs and book signings at public libraries, you can do a lot for little to no cost. Then if you setup a website, contact newspapers and radio stations and give them something interesting to report about, you can continue to build exposure.
So if you can write a book, actually finish your book, and feel it is ready to go, then you can publish it. While I’m not an expert on marketing (or publishing) I’ve pretty much come to the conclusion that there are no experts. In this ever changing world of technology and opportunity. The only limitation is your own imagination.
So get to writing… and never stop! Repeat authors with additional books, is just another way to market yourself. The sky is the limit.
To Illustrate or Not To Illustrate – That is the Question
When publishing a children’s book with illustrations you have two options, illustrate or don’t. Many times Traditional publishers will pick an illustrator for you. If you are an unknown, they may be inclined to pick a popular illustrator to help drum up interest, however, that is an additional expense that may not be needed or they may not want to invest into a gamble.
A picture is worth a thousand words – You’ve heard it and know it’s true. When submitting your manuscript adding in some well-illustrated images can be the eye-catching aspect you need to get noticed. Your story may be good, but your illustrations make it great. Plus, a complete manuscript with no work needed to get it running can be a lot more enticing to a publisher. Then, if the Traditional publishers bow out of doing business with you, you are ready to go the self publishing route.
I can’t draw! Neither can I. Hire an illustrator. Many can be found involved in writers and illustrators groups, or maybe an unknown is looking for exposure. Throw out a classified ad in CraigsList or the newspaper. See if there is someone on social media. The opportunities are out there, you just have to look for them. Plus, being a part of a writers groups is good exposure for you and provides perfect networking possibilities.
Networking is the BEST form of Marketing.
To finalize. Write your book. You know you have it in you. That is the hardest part of the whole job. Edit. Then go for it. You have nothing to lose.