Q: I have this really great picture book idea. How can I get it published?
A: In today’s market, getting published is, at the same time, super-easy, and also incredibly challenging, depending on the path you choose.
Let’s talk about the EASY way first: Today, through the magic of the inter-webs, you can be your own publisher with the click of a button. Websites such as Amazon’s CreateSpace, and many others, offer options to self-publish your brilliant words.
The Downside: Sure you’ve got a bright, beautiful new book in your hands, with your name on the front. But it’s all up to you: sales, distribution, advertising. If you actually want your new book to be read by anyone besides your extended mishpacha, you’ve got lots of work ahead of you.
The Other Downside: Making a self-published book is lonely. No editors, no designers, no copyeditors, no support.
The HARD way: Finding a publisher. If you find a publisher, you’ll get all sorts of goodies: Editing, designers, distribution, marketing. Not to mention a CONTRACT with some type of payment! But finding a publisher is incredibly challenging. Here are some tips:
Write an excellent, original story. Like, really. The best you can make it. Don’t just send in your first draft. Write. Revise. Then bring it to someone you can trust to give an honest assessment. Revise again. Join a writing group and share it with them, Revise again. THEN, when it’s as good as you can possibly make it, submit it to a publisher for consideration.
Submit thoughtfully. Do your research. Different publishing houses have different needs and audiences. Go to Barnes and Nobles and look at books that you love, admire, and are about similar themes to your own story. Look at the spine to see who published them. That’s who you want to submit it to.
What to submit: Your proposal should include your entire manuscript (conventional wisdom says that it should be about 1000 words or less), and a brief cover letter that describes who you are and the gist of your story. Unless you are also an illustrator, it is generally preferred that you do NOT include any artwork.
Don’t despair: Writing a great story that is plotted beautifully with fantastic characters and evocative language is INCREDIBLY hard. I’m an editor myself and I still get stories rejected more often than they are accepted. (Sometimes by the person I share an office with!) If you do not have your story accepted, that does not mean you are a bad writer, bad person, or talentless shmatah. It means you are just like the rest of us: human. If you are lucky enough to get some feedback from those you submitted to, and you agree with their suggestions: then revise, and submit again. Or, write a new story. Maybe the next one will be better.
Celebrate! And pay it forward: You got published? Mazel Tov! Kvell! Make a Kiddush! Then pay it forward: There are lots more aspiring writers. Take the time to give their work a read. Give them suggestions and help them make their stories the best they can be.