For anyone who is new to children’s publishing, here are a few common mistakes that are easily avoided.
- Don’t get an illustrator for your picture book manuscript. It’s the publisher’s job to assign an illustrator to the project. So if you are planning to go the traditional publishing route, you don’t need to include illustrations. In fact, unless you are a professional illustrator, sending illustrations in with your manuscript is a sign of an amateur writer. A few sparse illustration notes are acceptable if absolutely necessary, but for the most part, editors and agents will be able to “get” your story without any visuals. They do this every day.
- Don’t mention anything about how much your child or grandchild loves your book. This is the equivalent of writing “my mother thinks I’m really smart” on your college application. Of course your child loves your story, but it tells the editor or agent absolutely nothing about the quality of your manuscript. It means your child loves you. Which is wonderful, but don’t put it in a query letter.
- Don’t rush. It’s not a race. Too many writers are in such a hurry that they send out a manuscript that still needs work. Or they send out a manuscript to any publisher at all without taking the time to find the best fit. That is a formula for automatic rejection. Be deliberate. Be purposeful. Be professional.
- Don’t worry about copyrights.There are all kinds of ideas about mailing your manuscript to yourself, or paying fees to register the copyright paperwork. Forget all that. The moment you write anything, your writing belongs to you legally, lawfully, copyrightedly, and every other way. The only way that changes is if you sign a contract that assigns rights to someone else.
- Don’t be paranoid about someone stealing your idea. Only you can write your story. Even if someone else were to have the same idea, no two people would write it in the same way. You wouldn’t want to plaster your manuscript all over the internet, but sharing your manuscript discreetly with a writing group or a critique partner is a good idea.
- Don’t give up! It’s very rare that a writer’s first written work gets published. Keep moving forward. What will you write next? Develop new projects, try a different kind of writing, practice patience and perseverance. You’ll need it in this business.