Jan 232016

by Sandra L. Cook, ©2001, All Rights Reserved

Preparing your manuscript for the publisher is like preparing a term paper.

“Ahhh!!” You scream!

Do not fear, because it isn’t THAT scary. Like a term paper, once you have the content written, the presentation mechanics are the easier part.

Preparation Basics:
– Use plain white, decent quality, standard 8.5×11 paper.
– Text should be typed in one standard font style.
– Double space your lines.
– Allow at least one inch margins all around the page.

Do NOT type a separate sheet for each page you anticipate in your published book unless an odd layout is required; submit your story as a single piece leaving page delineation to the publisher.

Do not submit illustrations with your story. You may point out that you are an illustrator if you wish to illustrate your own work; in which case you may submit an illustration sample. Publishers generally prefer to select an illustrator so it is unnecessary for you to do so.

Your submission package should consist of three elements prepared in a manner similar to the following:

1) Cover Letter:

The question often comes up regarding cover letters. Should you include one? In my opinion, you ALWAYS, always, always send a cover letter. Why? Because it is a more professional approach. Even if the editor gives it a cursory glance, tosses it aside, and delves into your manuscript.. If they like your manuscript, they will scrounge around looking for the priceless information contained in your cover letter. They’ll be digging through stacks of manuscripts with beads of sweat oozing out of their pores, desperately vowing never to toss another cover letter aside! (Okay, back to reality ūüėČ The cover letter gives you an opportunity to introduce yourself and show a bit of personality that may not come through in a tightly written manuscript. Write a concise, informative cover letter and make it the first paper the person opening your package sees.

2) Title Page:

In the upper left corner of the first manuscript page provide your name, address, email, and telephone number. In the upper right corner provide the word count of your text. Mid-page, centered, provide the title in all capital letters. Double space after title and begin your story or chapter text

3) Subsequent story/chapter text pages:

In the upper left corner label with the following information in this basic format: your-last-name / story-chapter-title. In the upper right corner provide the current page number. Double space and continue with story/chapter text.

After you have professionally formatted your script, you are ready to prepare your envelope or box. For the best presentation, do not fold your manuscript; use an envelope large enough to send it flat. Use a box if you are sending a large number of pages.

It will look more professional if you type your recipient’s address as well as your return address. Also, always include a SASE (Self-Addressed Stamped Envelope) for the publishers’ reply. Without a SASE, you’re unlikely to get any response at all!

If you’ve done your market research and have found publishers who’d be interested in your work, you are ready to send off your submission package. Then… off to write the next story!

If you want more detailed information about formatting your manuscript for submission, there are a few excellent books available to aid you in our Bookroom.

Best of Luck and Happy Submissions,

Join The CBI Clubhouse Children’s Writing Community!

 Posted by at 3:35 am
Jan 232016

One of the questions I am asked most frequently is, “How do I find an illustrator?”

My response is, “You don’t!”

Many new authors who write picture books assume that they must have illustrations before submitting their story to a publisher. The truth is.. your chances for publication are better if you do not pair up with an illustrator.

Most publishers prefer to pair unknown authors with established illustrators to enhance the marketability of the book. They also pair new illustrators with established authors for this purpose. If you are a brand new author with a brand new illustrator, there is no built in fan market for your book.

The likelihood that the publisher will love both the manuscript and illustrations is not that good either. Publishers will often reject the entire package rather than one element or the other. This limits your chance for success.

One case where these factors do not apply is in the case of an author/illustrator. If you do both well, then you have a marketable talent that will serve you well. Having to deal with only one person makes the editor’s life easier. It saves on costs and time which are required when coordinating the work of two individuals.

If you are both, you can submit both illustrations and manuscript together. You can also save on your own costs and submit the manuscript alone while mentioning in your cover letter that you are also an illustrator. Then offer to send the illustrations if they are interested in your manuscript.

As a note: NEVER send original illustrations with a submission!

In conclusion, if you have your manuscript written, then you are ready to research the market, professionally package your manuscript submission, and start submitting. If you do your market research, you will meet with success sooner than most!

If you are interested in learning more about illustrating children’s books, you can check out books on the subject. Simplyclick here to launch a new search for Children’s Book Illustration.

Happy Writing,

Join The CBI Clubhouse Children’s Writing Community!

 Posted by at 3:32 am
Jan 232016

by Sandra L. Cook, © All Rights Reserved

When getting ready to submit your manuscript to publishers, there are several things to consider before making your first submission. Start with a sheet of notebook paper for each manuscript. Write the title of your story at the top of the page. Use this sheet for information gathering prior to submitting your manuscript to publishers. Let’s begin the market research process….

First determine your audience’s age and write it down. Is your manuscript for toddlers or very young children? Is it an early reader, an early chapter book, a mid-grade novel or a young adult novel?

Picture books are generally written for the very young child, but can be geared towards children as old as 10. Early Readers have very simple text and generally cover 5-8 year-olds. Early Readers allow children to read the book themselves. Early chapter books are for 7-10 year-olds, Midgrades cover 8 through young teen, and Young Adult books are for teenagers.

There is variation in reading abilities at every age, so these ranges are not set in concrete. Use your common sense about topics are of interest to your targeted age group and what is readable by them.

Once you have decided the appropriate age range, pinpoint the topic (or genre) of your book. Is it fiction, fantasy, non-fiction, nature, concept, religious, adventure, suspense, history, contemporary, humor, folktale or educational? What type of book is it?

Jot down the names of all categories your manuscript will fit into along with your targeted audience’s age-level.

To narrow your field of publishers, write a descriptive statement for your book. Include its genre and choose two adjectives that capture the personality of your book. In example, “This is an energetic and comical non-fiction picture book”. Use the two adjectives to help you verbalize the tone, mood, and pace of your manuscript.

The tone is generally the overall ‘feel’ of the book that is a blend of emotion and read speed. Pace is whether the reading is fast or slow, steady or rhythmic. Mood is emotional… happy, sad, excited, angry.

Descriptive examples would include:

Deep (with meaning) and Simple
Straightforward and Uplifting
Dark and Suspenseful

It is important to have an established description. Editors say they like to get a ‘feel’ for a book from the cover letter and your descriptive statement is excellent material for your cover letter that will accompany any submission you make.

While the cover letter will not replace reading the manuscript, it will arouse the editor’s interest if your descriptive statement fits a need they wish to fill. After drafting descriptive sentences for your manuscript(s), write them down also.

Now it is time to research publishers….

You must figure out which publishers publish books in your manuscript’s category (genre). You must hunt for publishers that want YOUR book. Randomly submitting to publishers will insure rejection (which we all hate), will waste your time and money (which we all hate) and will waste the publishers’ time (which they hate)!

A 2012 Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market (Children’s Writer’s and Illustrator’s Market) or Children’s Writer Guide is essential (Ordering information offered at the beginning and end of this newsletter).

Get a highlighter or pencil and get ready to mark in your book. If you cannot bear to write in your book, get post-it notes to use as placemarks. Start at the beginning of the publisher listings.

Scan each listing asking yourself the following questions in order(if at any time you answer ‘NO’ then move on to the next publisher’s listing):

1) Do they accept submissions or queries from writers like me? (‘like me’ takes into consideration unagented, unpublished, SCBWI member, etc – YOUR individual qualifications as a writer)

2) Do they accept submissions for the age range my manuscript targets?

3) Do they accept submissions of this type? (nature, adventure, humor,
history, etc.)

Add any question you wish to use as a screening criteria – For example, I always see if the publisher buys ‘All Rights’. If they do, I don’t want to submit to them so I eliminate that publisher from my submission pool. Also scan for publishers that specifically say they DON’T want what you’ve written (such as “No Picture Books”).

If you answered ‘Yes’ to all of the questions you’ve listed, highlight or put a post-it note by that publisher’s listing. Go through ALL of the publishers. Mark each one that fits your manuscript and personal qualifications.

Highlight parts of the publishers’ listings that are important to you. I highlight in different colors depending on how strongly I feel the publisher fits my stories and style. I highlight in one color if they match everything, in another if they match most characteristics of my manuscripts, and in other colors for various criteria such as “simultaneous submissions” or “query only”. I keep a `highlight’ guide in the front to remember what highlight color represents which information.

Now comes the difficult part! Make a list of all potential publishers for your manuscript. It is time to get down to the nitty gritty. Go to the publisher website (if they have one) by coming here, then to the publisher sites to see what books the publisher is currently publishing.

You can also go to our Bookroom to search for books by publisher. Other places to do research are the library or a bookstore, but the online sources often have the newest publishings available.

Look at the books published by each publisher. Do they look anything like yours? In other words, can any of the books be described with the same adjectives you’ve chosen to describe your book?

On some books, you will be able to determine this from the description alone. With other books you won’t be certain.

If the publishers’ books are NOT at all similar to yours, mark that publisher off your list. If their books are compatible, note at least three or four titles they have in the same genre as your manuscript. After looking up each publisher, you will have a list of several who seem like good matches.

What I am about to suggest next will seem like an overwhelming task, BUT… you do NOT have to do this EVERY time for EVERY manuscript you write. After you have completed the following exercise, you will have solid knowledge about which publishers publish which types of books right now. This is an exercise to do at least once a year – I like to do it over the Christmas break (two weeks of reading by the fire with a cup of hot cocoa ūüėČ – Or on an ongoing basis. It’s relaxing, fun, and educational!

Go to the library and check out the titles you have listed for publishers who publish books like yours. Then.. Read them. WHAT?!?!

Yes, read them.

You don’t have to check them all out at once and you don’t have to read them in one sitting, but you MUST read the publishers’ books to know the flavor and style of the publishing house. As you read each book, write two adjectives next to the publisher’s listing to describe that particular book.

Many publishers will have a few adjectives that will describe book after book. Some will have varying books that are described with a wide range of adjectives. This is because some publishers have a narrower focus than others.

It will be easy for you to see if your manuscript fits a particular publisher’s style. If it doesn’t, cross them off the list for this manuscript, but keep the information on file for future manuscripts.

Since I write picture books, I check out 20 books at a time and read them. When I’m done, I return them and check out the next 20. I have been known to make great progress and have checked out 80 books in a week!!

If you are writing mid-grades, obviously you will not be able to cover the same number of books. Research any series’ published by a particular house as well as the best-selling books in their line. Two or three books from each house is all that is practical to read initially, but you can make your reading exercise ongoing throughout the year.

Any time you read a book, note the publisher and add the title with adjectives to your list. Look over your list of adjectives and see what publishers have books that are described with the same adjectives you used to describe your manuscript. Highlight them. These are the houses you want to target.

Look down your list for publishers that have books described with similar adjectives. Highlight them too. These are the houses you want to target if needed.

NOW you are finally ready to get down to addressing envelopes! Are you tired yet? Writing, researching and submitting is NOT for the faint-at-heart! But, if you have made it this far, you have done the HARDEST part of the job. You will KNOW your publishers and can submit with confidence knowing you have done your research. You are likely to reach the right editor at the right time by doing this research up front.

Next locate the submission policies for each publisher. You need to acquire a copy of the CURRENT submission guidelines. You can write the publisher for the guidelines, being certain to enclose a SASE for their reply, or you can look on my website for a direct link to their guidelines. I’d recommend coming here first and saving yourself the postage costs if possible.

When you get the publishers’ guidelines, follow them. This may seem blatantly obvious, but there are many writers who don’t bother. The publishers have guidelines to fit their work flow and will not be happy if you don’t comply. If they aren’t happy, they are less likely to make you happy!

Your final step is Submitting and Waiting…. and waiting… and waiting. Now, submit and wait. Write some more and wait. And write some more and wait.

By time you get your response, hopefully you will have more manuscripts circulating. Your targeted submissions will be more likely to land you a coveted publishing contract in less time than average. Your goal in getting a contract is to be ‘below average’ (that is, meeting with success in less than the “average” amount of time)!!! Of course, your writing MUST be above average, which will lead to the former.

You can order the “Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market” for the required research at:

Our Amazon Associates Store

If you’d like to learn more about writing for children, I’d highly recommend ordering “Writer’s Guide to Crafting Stories for Children” or “You Can Write Children’s Books.” You must have a “Publishable” manuscript before any publisher will purchase it. You can find more books about perfecting your manuscript at
Our Amazon Associates Store

I hope this information helps you in your quest for publication.

Best of luck and Happy Submissions!!

Join The CBI Clubhouse Children’s Writing Community!

 Posted by at 3:31 am
Jan 232016

When you think your manuscripts are ready for publication, the best thing you can do for your writing career is join a critique group.  Be aware that a bad critique group can hinder your career, but a good one can cut years off of the time spent refining your skills.  You will want to select your group carefully or establish well defined guidelines if you create a new group.  Keep reading for critique group guidelines.

Groups are usually formed by a few individuals coming together for that purpose.¬†¬†If you are a member of SCBWI, you can look in your directory for individuals near you. ¬†Contact them about starting a group (or to find out if they know of one locally).¬†¬†You can also post a message on the Write4Kids message board (found on my “Favorite Sites” page) to locate other writers interested in creating a critique group.

If you start a new group, you will want to be certain to establish well defined guidelines for participation at the very beginning.  This will avert problems that may come up later or assist in the handling of situations. Things to consider are:

Maximum group size – (8-10) is ideal – too small and the group may fold for lack of support and participation, too large and there may be too much work for everyone to keep up.

Allowable Submission Sizes – one picture book or one mid-grade chapter per submission period are standard.

Submission period – weekly, biweekly, or monthly keeping in mind that in the beginning submissions will be heavy due to a backlog of manuscripts, but will slack off after some period of time.

Required critiquing РWill everyone be required to critique everything?  If not, what rules define lack of participation; how much is too little?  How long will a person be allowed to hold a manuscript before critiquing it?

Membership РHow will membership terminations be handled?  What will constitute an offense leading to dismissal from the group?  What behaviors will / will not be tolerated?

These are guidelines for establishing and running a critique group.  The most important thing is to establish rules that suit the individuals in your group.  Every group will be slightly different, but the bonding and comraderie that takes place in a well formed critique group is nothing short of amazing!

I wish you the best of luck in finding or forming a group.  It will greatly enhance your ability to get published.  Thank you also for visiting my site.  I hope it helps you find homes for your manuscripts in the future!

Best of Luck,
Sandy Cook

Join The CBI Clubhouse Children’s Writing Community!

 Posted by at 3:29 am