Finally, you have laboriously completed the first draft of your children’s book manuscript and you are probably already exhausted. But what happens next?? How do you promulgate your new novel into the public arena? How do you secure a lucrative contract with a reputable publishing house and navigate the commercial terrain of the literary sphere?! We have you covered and have outlined the main steps involved from getting your manuscript from desktop to shop shelf!
Step One: Know your target market
If you have not considered which readers your novel caters for, you should do so now! If you carry out this independent research prior to meeting with editors / agents/ publishers you will seem like a reputable and knowledgeable author. Similarly, knowing the commercial potential of your novel will be important for the editor/ literary agent you hire, as it will help them to ascertain whether the work should be part of a series, or standalone etc. It is also important be aware of the wordcount and format of your novel. You need to ensure your completed manuscript adheres to industry standards prior to engaging the help of further professionals. We have categorized the children’s book wordcount range by age below, to assist you with the editing of your manuscript.
Categorization of Novels
1. Picture books -6 years of age and under– 1000 words.
2. Early readers -6 plus years old -2000-5000 words.
3. Chapter books -7-9 years old- 5000-10000 words.
4. Middle Grade -9-12 years old- 30000 -50000words.
5. Young adult -12-12 years old - 50000- 100000 words.
As well as knowing whom your primary readers are, it is also important to deduce based on this information, which bookstore may be best to approach re selling / promoting your work. Book shops seem to be more popular when it comes to children books sales, as parents tend to prefer them over online retailers. Compare and contrast your work with other popular works by authors of that genre. Which topics did they discuss? Which publishers have they engaged etc.? Your aim should be to use the works as a form of inspiration whilst also maintaining your own authentic narrative voice. If possible getting children to read your work may give you the best and most honest form of feedback for your work!
Step Two: Edit your manuscript
It has been stated by many authors that the editing process is truly the bane of their life! Before engaging a professional editor try and refine your work as much as possible, as this will be a time saving mechanism. Editing your work is very important with children’s books as the wordcount is shorter and thus authors need to make a greater impact within a shorter time frame. Some of the most Important questions to ask yourself throughout the editing process..
1. Is my theme strong?
2. Is my narrative tone of voice strong?
3. Is the point of view consistent?
4. Are my characters memorable /likable?
5. Is my plotline simple but also engaging?
Unless you are a professional illustrator / entering the self-publishing arena, do not worry about illustrations. Your publisher will usually choose the appropriate professional to design the cover of your novel. Similarly, it is also suggested that one hires a professional editor. Engaging the services of a children’s book editor will help you connect with your target audience, because as well as reviewing grammar/ punctuation etc. , editors will also review the overall narrative framework and make suggestions for improvement. Similarly, the editor will be able to assess whether your manuscript adheres to the professional formatting standards for that genre. He / she will correct typeface, line spacing, page numbers etc. Manuscript format templates can be found online also If you wish to double check formatting post the engagement of your editor.
Step Three-Hire a Literary Agent (optional)
Often to issue your manuscript to a publishing house, it is necessary to engage the services of a literary agent. We have discussed the role of a literary agent below, alongside some of the advantages and disadvantages to working with one!
Role of the Literary Agent
Hiring a literary agent usually Increases the chance of your work getting published, as they help you to navigating the commercial end of the literary process. Literary agents are a form of mediator acting on your behalf, and usually take between 10-20 percent of the overall sales for the writer they represent. They usually will carry out the following actions on your behalf.
1. Help you to secure a publishing contract– Literary agents act as mediators and negotiate publishing contracts.
2. Review manuscripts – Literary agents may also review manuscript sand may offer insights / suggest potential edits.
3. Composes query letters /pitch packages – Literary Agents also help you to draft your query letter and potential personalized pitches to publishers.
How to secure a literary agent
To secure a literary agent, one should draft a query letter. This is usually one page note with an ‘elevator pitch’, to entice the agent to work with you. Your query note should highlight three main points.
1. The target market / niche for your book.
2. The unique qualities of your book/ your main selling point.
3. Why you and this literary agent are a suitable match.
Research who is the best agent to represent you/ your book and which authors they have represented before. If you don’t wish to secure a literary agent you can also issue the book to a publishing house yourself. We have listed the main advantages and disadvantages of hiring a literary agent.
Advantages of Literary agent
1. Negotiate most lucrative book deals - Often the best book deals are secured via the hiring of a literary agent. They will have commercial acumen and contacts within various reputable publishing houses.
2. They manage the business end of things – You don’t have to worry about marketing / business/ negotiations with publishers. You can focus on your writing.
3. Career guide – Literary agents often offer you excellent feedback on how to best promote your work and act as an advisor regarding the literary marketplace.
Disadvantages of Literary agent
1. Trust – You need to entrust the literary agent with your precious manuscript! To ascertain the legitimacy of the agency, you can review if they are members of the Association of Authors Representatives, a searchable database which ensure a code of ethics is always adhered to by its members.
2. Cost – Literary agents usually charge a 15 percent commission fee over all the rights of your published work which includes audiobooks, film rights, etc
3. Time – It can take additional time for your book to get published when you have engaged a literary agent, but it is often worth the wait.
Step Three: Forward your manuscript to a publishing house.
The last step involves forwarding the final version of your manuscript to a publisher. This process involves in depth research, making a list of the top publishers for your niche, and submitting your own personalized query letter to the publisher of your choice.
A. Make a list of Publishers
Compile a comprehensive list of Children’s book publishers. If you have not engaged the services of a literary agent, small independent publishers may be more likely to accept work that has not been issued by a literary agent. When researching the best publishers for your niche you can review the below services.
1. ‘The Bookseller’ website.
2. ‘Publishers weekly’ website.
3. ‘Writers market guide’ (US) and Writers Artists Yearbook (Ku).
4. Speak to other authors / Editors / members of your local writer’s centre
5. Check the acknowledgements section of any published novels for agents.
Compiling an ordered list of publishers starting with a wide range first and narrowing down later. A spreadsheet can be useful to track the details of the agents / publishers with further relevant details such as which authors they represent, what niche they focus on, links to their website, and how to submit your manuscript. Prioritize your choices based on all the relevant information. Always maintain regular checks on whether the publishing house in question is accepting submissions still, especially as your list expands over time.
B. Personalize your Query letter
Select a publisher from your chosen list and research this publishing house further. Read some of the books published and look at the other clients/ genres/ and categories they use. When you are drafting your customized query letter ensure the following points are included
1. Ensure you have addressed your letter to the correct person.
2. Explain why you feel this publisher should manage your manuscript.
3. Draw a comparison between your manuscript and the other manuscripts this publishing house has managed.
Once you are satisfied you have taken the above three steps, you can also get your query letter professionally reviewed to ensure your query letter meets the correct standards.
Publishing your children’s book can be a stressful task and having support along the way can help you achieve your end goal! Joining a writer’s group to get advice on your novel/ Insight from them. Similarly excellent online groups such as ‘Children’s Book Authors’, and ‘Children’s Book Writers and illustrators. The Society of Children’s book writers and illustrators are an excellent society to join as members get access to directories of publisher’s agents and other useful information.
Overall, we can conclude from this once you used an organized approach, targeting the appropriate publishers / agents for your novel’s niche, you will increase your chances of securing a reputable publishing house to propel your book into the public arena!
Author: Jessica Mc Carthy