For children's book authors and illustrators wanting to get started
First, if you haven't done so already, READ, READ, READ. You need to know what is out there. You can't imagine how many people are crushed to discover that their fantastic new idea: a.) has been around for centuries, or b.) has just been published!
Reading will also give you a feel for the writing that is getting published, and who is publishing it.
While you are reading, jot down the names of publishers of the books you like the best. This is where you will be sending your manuscripts or your art.
I think publishing is a matter of taste. You have the hard task of finding a person who's taste in books is similar to yours. It is sort of like finding the one person who would pick the same pair of shoes that you would from all the shoes for sale in Manhattan.
Now comes the actual writing. You DO have to do the writing. About as many people have "ideas" as have breakfast, so you have to actually write them down. Otherwise it is hard for publishers to read and react to them!
Unless you are talented as both a writer and as an illustrator, you DO NOT need to find an illustrator for your story or an author for your art. It actually works against you to try to partner up with someone. Publishers like to match the pictures with the words themselves. You may as well brace yourself now, because their vision might not be the vision you had in mind. Unfortunately they are the bosses on that one, at least for now.
If you have a chance to attend a conference such as one of the many regional Society for Children's Book Writers and Illustrators conferences, do it. They are completely geared for you and you will learn more in one day than by any other method.
When you finish your story, type it perfectly. When you have a satisfying portfolio, package it safely and attractively. Write a cover letter containing one sentence summarizing your story, and one sentence about you if you are a teacher or a librarian or an expert on your subject (of course you are), or if you have been published or exhibited: these are good things to say. Keep it very short. Keep everything short and clean.
Now, take out that list that you made while you were reading and start sending your story out to your favorite publishers. You need to weigh your package and include a stamped-self addressed return envelope. This is VERY IMPORTANT if you want a response or the return of your work. Keep track of who you send your package to and when you sent it.
Before you address your package, you should check out the informative web sites and publications I list below. They will tell which publishers are not accepting any unsolicited manuscripts at any given time. There are also publishers looking specifically for certain types of writing. If you know these things, you will save yourself time and money.
If you are an artist, you need to make color copies of your work to send or take to publishers. If you have a website you can do this electronically. If you have the time and the money to travel, you can call publishers to ask if their art directors will meet with you. Some publishes have a portfolio review day. Every place is different.
Now, send away! It will be hard to lick the envelope because it always feels like you could do just a little more improving. But you must send! And then you must wait. It may take months to hear a reaction. Unfortunately, this is normal. It is one of the hardest parts of the job.
But you need to be writing your next story, or painting more pictures anyway, so this is the time to do that.
Good Luck. Best of luck. We all need that!
If nothing else comes of all this effort, at least you read some good books and you can at last say that you finally did it!
First of all: paint, paint, paint! Get yourself a large selection of work of which you are unequivocally proud. Whatever you do, do lots of it! Contact the websites or call the publishers or card companies whose product you like and learn about their submission guidelines. Most card companies are looking for new artists and writers all the time so they will tell you exactly how and where to submit work. Sometimes they give you a list or send you regular e-mails letting you know exactly what they are looking for and when they need it. Follow up after you send your work or samples. Sometimes it is as easy as that! Good luck!
Society for Children's Book Writers and Illustrators
The Children's Book Council
To schedule an appearance by Patience Brewster at your school or function, contact us.