Sunday, December 11, 2011

Writing Books for Children: Submissions

The foundation of writing for children, or any genre for that matter, is to learn the craft of writing. In regard to being a children’s author you will need to learn the specific rules and tricks to create appropriate stories with age-appropriate words and storylines.

Once you have taken the time to hone your craft and have critiqued, revised, and edited your manuscript to a polished state, it’s on to the next phases of the traditional writing books for children path: submissions, promotion, and a writing career. This article discusses submissions.

Writing Books for Children: Submissions

Before you think about submitting your work anywhere, be sure you’ve completed the necessary steps to learn the craft of writing. You’re manuscript needs to be as polished as you can possibly get it.

Submissions can fall into two categories: those to publishers and those to agents. In regard to submitting to agents, in a webinar presented by Writer’s Digest, agent Mary Kole advised to “research agents.” This means to find out what type of agent they are in regard to the genre they work with and the agent platform they provide: do they coddle their authors, do they crack the whip, are they aggressive, passive, involved, or complacent. Know what you’re getting into before querying an agent, and especially before signing a contract.

Here are two sites you can visit to learn about agents:

The same advice works for submitting to publishers also; research publishers before submitting to them. Know which genres of children’s books they handle and the type of storylines they’re looking for.

Whether submitting to a publisher or an agent, always follow the guidelines and always personalize the query. There may be times the guidelines do not provide the name of the editor to send the query to, but if you can find that information, use it.

According to Mary Kole, it’s also important to know how to pitch your story. This entails finding the story’s hook. Agents and publishers also want to know what the book’s selling points will be and what successful books it’s similar to. In addition, they will expect to be told what your marketing strategy will be. It’s a good idea to create an online presence and platform before you begin submissions; let the agents and publishers know you will actively market your book.

Along with the story’s hook, you need to convey: who your main character is and what he/she is about; the action that drives the story; the main character’s obstacle, and if the main character doesn’t overcome the obstacle, what’s at stake.

Ms. Kole recommends reading “the back of published books” to see how they briefly and effectively convey the essence of the story. This will give you an idea of how to create your own synopsis.

When querying, keep your pitch short and professional, and keep your bio brief and relevant. You will need to grab the editor or agent and make them want to read your manuscript.

Here are four tools you can use to help find a publisher or agent:

•    Writers Market: Where and How to Sell What You Write
•    Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market: Over 700 listings for book publisher’s, magazines, agents, art reps, and more
•    Guide to Literary Agents: Where and How to Find the Right Agents to Represent Your Work
• Online resource to help you sell what you write

Karen Cioffi is an author, ghostwriter, freelance writer, and editor. To learn more about writing and marketing visit While there, sign up for A Writer's World newsletter; you'll get two free site-related e-books in the process.


  1. Thanks Karen. I plan to check these sites. I'd like to read more about finding an agent before beginning the search.

  2. Glad you found it useful, Vivian.

    Linda, it's always best to research first.