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Time to Submit! – Or Is It?

Updated: Dec 8, 2022

You’ve written a manuscript and are ready to submit to a publisher? Wonderful! That is the first step in your publication journey. Or is it? There are a few things to consider before submitting your work.

1.) Before you submit and while you are researching your book – yes, even a non-fiction picture book needs research – see what books are on the shelves right now. Go to your local bookstore and read. This gives you an understanding of how many words are in a current picture book. Usually, this falls around 500 words (or less). However, don’t get hung up on semantics. There are plenty exceptions to the rules.

This research gives you an understanding of how your book would fit among current published works. You might find that your storytelling is better fit for a chapter book or middle grade for example. You can take that insight and tweak yours to be the best it can be for the topic or word count.

2.) Have critiques done to see if there is a trend in suggestions.

Not all suggestions need to be taken to heart. This is a subjective medium. However, with research into current books and the critiques, you will gain an understanding of what words, phrases, subject matter, and even what plot works in today’s market.

Step back and take feedback seriously (but not too seriously). Critique groups, critique partners, writing organizations, etc. are all very good ways to get feedback on your work. Family and friends may care for you and your work, but if they aren’t already immersed in the craft of writing picture books, their biases might cloud analytic judgement on your manuscript.

Many overlooked errors can come from a critique. Plot structure, character growth, and even consistency details can be addressed before sending it off.

3.) What does the publisher want to see? If you are thinking about submitting a science fiction middle grade (age range: 8-12 years old) to a picture book imprint, don’t waste your time. Save yourself and them some time in researching what they accept. Don’t begin what could be an in-depth submission process if they aren’t even going to consider your piece based on their criteria.

4.) Err on the side of not creating your own illustrations. A poorly illustrated manuscript or book dummy is hard to unsee. Remember that publishers will find an illustrator will fit with your work unless you are an author-illustrator. Focus on the story so that the publisher can visualize the imagery that works. If your manuscript needs to include an important visual that is not in the text, add an art note, but don’t get carried away.

5.) Too many illustration notes can complicate a manuscript. Use art notes/illustration notes sparingly, like a hot spice. You may need to specify that your character is a toad, and that is why they are afraid of giving kids warts. Perhaps the toad goes on to learn that this is a myth. If that is the case, including this important information is necessary. If having a hat and a cane isn’t pertinent to the story, leave it up to the illustrator and publishing team.

6.) Finally- have fun with it! Easier said than done after reading this blog post’s advice. Writing is an art and submitting for publication is a business. Remember these two things and you can maintain a good balance throughout the process!

What has your submission experience been like? Click the social media buttons on the top of the page to let us know!

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