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Aspiring Authors and Illustrators

Can I join the CBC?

Membership in the CBC is open to U.S. publishers of children’s trade books and their staff, as well as in some cases to industry-affiliated companies. Membership for individuals not employed by children’s book publishers is not available at this time.

You might consider joining The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, the international professional organization for writers and illustrators of children’s literature since 1971.

Will you publish my book?

The Children’s Book Council (CBC) is the non-profit trade association of children’s book publishers. Our role is to support and inform the industry and to foster literacy. The CBC is not a publisher and does not review manuscripts nor publish books.

Will you promote my book?

The Children’s Book Council (CBC) promotes titles published by our member publishers. Publishers with at least four children’s trade books in print are eligible to apply for membership. We are unable to promote books that are not published by our members.

Can you recommend a publisher for my book?

Every publishing house is unique and each is looking for different things. It is important to thoroughly research a publisher and the types of books that they publish before contacting them. The CBC Members List includes the target age groups, formats, genres, and submission guidelines for each of our member publishers.

How does a book get published?

Though the process varies from publisher to publisher, almost all manuscripts must go through The Acquisition ProcessThe Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators has information on what you can do to start the submission process.

What can I do to get published?

Do your detective work. Follow the Children’s Book Council’s NewsfeedTwitter, and Facebook to keep abreast of the latest in children’s and young adult literature and literacy — including industry trends, award news, job moves, new releases, & more.

Visit the collection at your local library or favorite bookstore. Take note of books you enjoy or books similar to your own. Who is the author, who is the illustrator, who is the publisher, who is the agent? Keep tabs on people, companies, and agencies so that you have an idea of what they do and what they are looking for. Try to determine how these books are similar to your own and what makes your book stand out.

Review your work carefully. Make sure it is finished before you send it to anyone. Have friends, family members, and colleagues review your work. Children often make the best reviewers. Talk to librarians, teachers, and the staff at your local bookstore to find out what children are interested in right now.

Research every publisher and agent thoroughly before submitting to find out what they are looking for and any guidelines they may have. Take the time to tailor your query to the person you are writing to.

What is a query letter?

A query letter is a pitch that briefly describes your project so that the recipient can decide if they’re interested in reading your manuscript. Sometimes a query may be accompanied by a sample from your manuscript. Read each publisher’s and agent’s guidelines carefully before submitting.

The trick to writing a good query letter is to get the right balance between overview and details. You want to give the reader enough to understand the project, but not so much that they get distracted or overwhelmed by minor issues. Think of your query letter as a movie trailer for your book. Your letter should not be longer than one page and should be professional and well-written.

Is it acceptable to send query letters to multiple publishers at the same time?

It is acceptable to query more than one person at a time, but do not query multiple agents or editors within the same company. You should state in your letter if your query is a multiple submission or an exclusive. If an editor or agent expresses interest and asks to see your manuscript, you should stop querying other parties until your manuscript has been reviewed. If an interested party is taking too long to get back to you about your manuscript, it is acceptable to query other people, but you should inform the interested party first.

How long does it take to get a response?

Response time varies from publisher to publisher and between agencies. Many will provide you with an estimate in their guidelines. It’s safe to assume that it could take months to hear back about a submission, and sometimes even longer. Keep in mind that most editors and agents receive multiple submissions every day. It takes time to read each query and manuscript and consider whether or not the project would be right for them. If you don’t hear back at all from someone you queried, it’s safe to assume they are not interested in your work.

Do I need an agent?

Most, though not all, publishers do not review unsolicited manuscripts and require an agent to submit your manuscript. See our Member’s List for submission details. The Association of Author’s Representatives has an agent’s directory that allows you to filter agents by the types of manuscripts they’re looking for.

We recommend reading Lisa Bullard and Laura Purdie Salas’ blog post, How to Query an Agent or Editor: Do Your Detective Work, before querying an agent.

I have written a children’s book. Do I need to find an illustrator?

Publishing houses receive artist portfolios regularly. They also have contacts with professional illustrators with whom they have worked with in the past and work with illustrator agencies. Unless you know a professional illustrator or unless you yourself are a professional illustrator, you’re better off leaving the art decisions up to the publisher. If your manuscript requires some visual cues, provide notes to that effect, but if your manuscript does not jump off the page without fabulous visuals, then it’s likely publishers will pass on your work.

If you still wish to find an illustrator of your own, The Society of Children’s Book Illustrators and Writers had an illustrator’s gallery you can browse through.

I am an illustrator looking to work in children’s books. How do I start?

Publishing houses look for different types of artwork, so it is important that you read carefully what each house is interested and check to see whether they are accepting submissions before you send anything in. When you have found an appropriate publisher or agent, send them a portfolio demonstrating your style and range. If you have produced professional artwork for anything, include it. Remember, many publishers will not return submissions, even with an SASE (self-addressed stamped envelope), so don’t send any original artwork.

There are a lot of user-uploaded art sites that you can consider creating a profile on. This will ensure there is an online database of your recent work you can refer people to, and give you the opportunity to receive peer reviews on your work. The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and the Graphic Artists Guild are good places to start.

Does the Children’s Book Council run any contests for children’s writers or illustrators?

The CBC does not run contests for children’s writers or illustrators. The Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) does offer a variety of awards and grants to new or unpublished authors, including the On-the-Verge Emerging Voices Award,  given annually to two writers or illustrators  who are from ethnic and/or cultural backgrounds that are traditionally under-represented in children’s literature in America and who have a ready-to-submit completed work for children.

For newly-published authors, The Ezra Jack Keats Foundation hosts the annual New Writer and New Illustrator Awards for Children’s Books.  Your publisher must submit your work for consideration.

Where can young children get their writing published?

The Children’s Writers and Illustrators Market is an annual publication with a section devoted to publishers and magazines that will accept—and even specialize in—producing work from young writers. The CBC Members List has information on whether or not a publisher accepts unsolicited manuscripts.

Helpful links

Cynsations: a source for conversations, publishing information, writer resources & inspiration, bookseller-librarian-teacher appreciation, children’s-YA book news & author outreach from author Cynthia Leitich Smith

Inkygirl: an illustrated guide for those who write and draw for young people by writer and illustrator Debbie Ridpath Ohi

PoeWar:  a collection of prompts, tips and job listings to help writers build and practice their skills.

Writer Beware: a blog which services new or aspiring authors by tracking and exposingscams, fraud, and misconceptions around the publishing industry.

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