Dawn publishes creative nonfiction picture books with an emphasis on science and nature. As a small independent press, we only publish 4 to 6 titles a year! This means we turn away 99% of the hundreds of manuscripts we receive each year.
Anthony D. Fredericks, one of our award-winning authors, has published a book with tips for prospective children’s book writers about everything from creating high-quality picture book manuscripts to submitting to publishers and getting an agent.
Writing Children’s Books: Everything You Need to Know from Story Creation to Getting Published is highly recommended for writers who want to learn how the publishing world works.
We’ve collected five of our top tips, plus a few words from our editor, Carol Malnor, about how to rise to the top of the submissions pile.
#1 Do not send illustrations with your manuscript!
If your goal is to publish a manuscript that you have written DO NOT find your own illustrator. The vast majority of editors prefer to match manuscripts with illustrators themselves. Worst case, it can provide a reason to reject your writing outright. (Professional illustrators usually have their own guidelines for how to submit their work.)
#2 Research publishers before your submit to them!
Publishers often have specific parameters—and you ignore them at your peril. Some may publish only early readers, middle grade fiction, or (like Dawn) creative nonfiction picture books for early elementary students. Know who you are submitting to and impress the editor by sending only appropriate manuscripts.
#3 Rhyming is harder than it looks!
Fredericks advises novice writers to hold off on the rhyme. Most rhyming books are written by experienced, established writers with a number of published books under their belt. If you are determined to rhyme, don’t be sloppy! As Fredericks says, watch out for “poor rhyming patterns, inconsistent meter, or imperfect syllabication.”
#4 Only submit edited, revised, high-quality manuscripts, not first drafts!
You wouldn’t go to a job interview wearing sweatpants and without washing your hair. Likewise, present your manuscript in the most professional way possible. Editors don’t have time for egregious spelling errors, bad grammar, or poorly written stories–no matter how great the original idea is.
#5 If you want to write children’s books, read (contemporary) children’s books!
Read bestsellers and also the particular books from publishers that interest you. What worked when you were a kid might not be as relevant now. And the quickest way to learn what an editor likes is to look at their most recent publications.
Finally, if you are interested in what Dawn’s Carol Malnor has to say about the life of an editor, read her interview here, as excerpted from Fredericks’ book. And good luck!