You feel done. Your reviewers are satisfied with your work. You have combed over every word. You’ve trimmed the fat. Well done! It’s time to submit!
The first thing I would recommend doing, which requires a little leg work from you, is finding books at the library that you love, that have a similar feel as yours and find out who published them. Start there. After you have a good list of houses you want to submit to, you can start doing all the internet searches to find their specific submission requirements.
Make a spreadsheet. You might think that you could never forget a submission but TRUST ME you will. Most of the time you are not going to hear back from a publishing house for 6 months… if you hear back at all. So be sure to note where, when and who you sent your work to!
Before you send your story off to all those NY addresses, you are going to need a solid query letter. This is your work and you can be as weird and ecentric as you want in your letter so don’t let my example I’m going to give you make you feel stuck being regular. But here is my perfectly normal query letter that I sent out for Candy Monster:
Dear Lara Perkins:
Sam loves candy. His level-headed parents want him to eat healthy. But when this stubborn seven-year-old candy connoisseur is allowed to eat all the candy he wants, no one is prepared for the outrageous, magical, body-transforming, candy-binging adventure. This 1399 word picture book will help kids see why doctors, dentists, and parents say, “Everything in moderation”. Children ages 4-8 will find it delicious!
About the authors: Brian is a huge nerd. He is probably off reading in a tree at this very moment. He is currently working on his PhD in Creative Writing at Oklahoma State and has a vast number of grown-up publications at places that like to put a capital “L” in the word, “literature”. You can be connected to his publications at BrianWadeAnderson.com. Kristin married Brian. She is a hipster who thinks her two kids are going to be the next Tina Fey and Jim Gaffigan. She received a bachelor in Behavioral Science and when she’s not writing or laughing at her kids she is working at a Domestic Violence women’s shelter.
We look forward to hearing from you about your interest in Candy Monster!
Thanks a bunch,
Brian & Kristin
A few take-aways from this example: they want to know your word count, a bit about the story, a bit about the author and be addressed specifically. If you have any connection to them in anyway, mention that… it’s not what you know it’s who you know.
Now that you have built a good query letter, let someone spell check it for you. Great. Now let’s start researching who to submit to. Every publishing house has a little different requirement so be sure to read all the submission guidelines before you submit. Every time. Nothing will get you thrown out faster than not having your work submitted exactly right. And don’t expect an explanation from anyone about why your work was passed over.
Just a little note about children’s book submissions: if you are a writer and writer only, they do NOT want to see your sketches or even your attempt to illustrate. You submit just the text of your book. Most houses will assign you an illustrator if your work is accepted. If you are a stellar illustrator, of course, send it!
Here is a list of the places I submitted Candy Monster to:
Andrea Brown Literary Agency
Martin Literary Management
P.S. Literary Agency
Harold Ober Associates
Jean V. Naggar Literary Agency
Now that you have submitted your work you are in for a long wait. Most of the time you won’t get a written rejection, you just won’t hear back ever. That’s a little depressing. But, every once and a while you may get a really nice rejection giving you some tip for how to make your work better. TAKE ALL THEIR ADVICE! They have given you a gift. Thank them for it. Make the changes and resubmit it to them.
Best of luck on this whirlwind of research and reading and emailing. Let me know if you have any questions, I’ll try to help any way I can.