Josh Funk's Guide to Writing Picture Books
On occasion, friends, librarians, and even strangers approach me and tell me that they’ve written a children’s book – and they ask me ‘how did you get yours published?’ Well, getting published is hard - but not impossible. A dose of reality is important, but I really don’t want to overwhelm anyone.
So you wrote a book. Now what?
Here is what I generally suggest. Look at the following five websites – in order.
Start with Jennifer Laughran’s Word Count Post - it still applies today. It’s not impossible to get a 3,000 word picture book published in today’s market … no, actually it is. Get the disappointment over with first. Your 15,000 word Young Adult novel just isn’t long enough. Let’s rip off the Band-Aid and move on.
If you’re still with me and haven’t cried yourself to oblivion (or your word count is actually in line with the genre for which you’re writing), then GREAT! Let’s make sure your craft is as good as possible. There is no single link that will help make this happen, but if you join the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI - get used to hearing this acronym), you’ll be able to find workshops, critique groups, conferences, retreats, and more -> and that will help you hone your craft.
If you’re confident that your manuscript is the best it can possibly be, it’s time to find somewhere to send it! Whether you are sending directly to publishers or looking for an agent, try to find a copy of the most recent Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market and SCBWI The Book. These will help you find out which publishers are looking for what, as well as which agents are looking for whom.
But don’t send yet. You still need to write your query. What’s a query, you ask? A query is the professional business letter you send to the agent or editor ‘asking’ whether they would like to read your manuscript (oh, I get it? asking=querying). How do you write one? I suggest starting at AgentyQuery.com. There are links from there to other sites, which will link to others, which link to an unending list of others – all filled with help writing queries. Querying is hard. But you will survive.
Now that you have some sense of what you’re in for, here are a few articles to read. First, read Kilby Blades' Ten Things Nobody Tells You About the Publishing Industry in Publishers Weekly. It's a great recap of what to expect as you move forward with your writing. Then check out Delilah S. Dawson’s 25 Steps to Being a Traditionally Published Author. First, it’s hilarious. Second, it gives an exciting account of a success story. Third, it truly goes through every step along the trail to publication – highs, lows, and in-betweens.
If you’ve gotten this far, you’re ready to really begin.