An Editor’s Suggestions on Publishing Decisions for a Children’s Book

This is part 12 of my series on “An Editor’s Comments.” These are actual comments I’ve made to clients, and are directed to their particular needs, so they are sometimes quite different than what you’ll find in a style manual or other editing book. I hope you’ll find these thoughts helpful! If you want to learn more, check out the rest of the articles in the “Editor’s Comments” section and the “Various Editor’s Tips” section in my “Writing and Editing Articles” table of contents.

Greetings! Just a couple ideas that you might want to try out as you make decisions about how you will publish your children’s story:

Take a Trip to the Library to Get Ideas

Consider taking a trip to the library to look for books with a similar length (number of words) and format (children’s narrative non-fiction, illustrated with photographs) and target audience (eg. read-aloud book for parents to read to children ages 3 to 7 and/or self-read book for children ages 7 to 10). Take a look through those kinds of books to:

  • get ideas on how you could have your book laid out
  • find out which similar books are popular and have sold well. Ask the children’s librarian (and do some internet research, too). Jot down the title, author and publisher, as well as take short notes on how the book is similar to yours, how well it has sold. Write down in what way(s) your book is similar and in what ways it is unique. This will be important to include in your proposal, and it also can give you some good ideas for tweaking your own book.
  • research the library’s most recent copy of the Children’s Writers and Illustrator’s Market by Alice Pope (a Writer’s Digest book) to discover agents and/or publishers who are looking for books similar to yours, and what their specific requirements are. Even if you are planning to go through an agent, it is helpful to be able to mention that you have researched the genre and that this type of book is popular right now. This will also give you ideas on how you might tweak the manuscript to make it really suitable for the current market needs.

Be Aware of Issues With Photographic vs Pen-and-Ink Illustrations

Children’s narrative non-fiction books with photographs are more expensive to produce than similar books with pen-and-ink drawings. Some publishers may be leery about publishing your book illustrated with colour photos. If you indicate that you have an excellent set of photos available, but are open to other illustrative options, publishers are more likely to be willing to take a look at your manuscript. I’d suggest that if a publisher requests the manuscript (or even a couple chapters), you could send the manuscript without photos inserted (which means you’ll have to make a new copy of it without them), and indicate that you also have available a copy with photos if they are interested. I know you also have a photo in mind for the cover—but you need to be aware that publishers often prefer to use their own illustrators and illustrations.

Be sure to let me know how your search for an agent and/or publishers proceeds. I think your manuscript has some strong possibilities for being accepted by the right publisher. Good luck!

What Experiences–And Advice–Do You Have for Authors Wanting to Shop a Children’s Manuscript of  This Type?

Please feel free to share your tips in the comments. Thank you!


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