SCBWI's Blueboard - A Message & Chat Board


FAQ list

Hi! I’ve just written a children’s book! What do I do now?

First, congratulations! Good for you for having the passion and drive to create...and create something for the most important people on earth—kids.

Now that you’ve written it, what should you do with it?

If you just want to be able to share it with family and friends, there are services like and others that will print your book for you—perfect for sharing it with a small circle. But if you want to seek out a larger audience, it gets a lot more complicated.

Before you start, understand that being a children's book author or illustrator is not going to make you rich and famous overnight...or perhaps ever.  This thread might prove illuminating:

Publishing is an industry, just like fashion or insurance or medicine.  It’s not something you do on a whim, or for the heck of it; like any other industry, there’s a lot to learn before you can be a participant, even on a small basis. You wouldn’t, say, open a clothing store in your town before you’d thoroughly researched everything about it: the potential clientele, earnings  projections, what fashions sell best in your area, store locations...well, on and on. The same is true for publishing. Here’s a link you might find helpful to start you on your way:  SCBWI members might want to read this thread as you think about dipping your toes in the publishing pool:

The first step is to make sure you know what kind of book you’ve written.  Children’s publishing can be broadly divided into a few main areas: picture books, chapter books, middle grade books, and young adult books. Each has its own definition and expectations. Here are a few links to help you figure out what you’ve written:
Picture Books:

Chapter books:

Middle grade:


The next step is to make sure your book is of publishable quality. Most authors and illustrators of published books spend years learning their craft. They take classes, go to conferences, join critique groups or find critique partners to exchange manuscripts with. Here are a few links discussing that:

As you might have already guessed, the Blueboard has a wealth of information about writing, illustrating, and publishing books for kids. Perhaps the best thing you can do if you’re serious about writing or illustrating for children is take time to just wander around and read different topics that catch your eye, or use the search engine to find information on specific topics.  Here are a few pointers on using Search:

Okay, got it—making my book the best it can be comes first.  But what’s next after that? How do I get my book out into bookstores, libraries, and schools?

For now, the best way to have your book reach the largest possible audience is to try to find a commercial publisher. Commercial publishers—companies like HarperCollins and Scholastic--pay authors and illustrators for the right to publish their books. They will:

- do further editing to make a story as good and as salable as possible (don’t forget, they’re in business to earn money); this includes content editing, copy/line editing, and proofreading.
- typeset and format the pages
- create a cover (and find an illustrator if it's a picture book)
- print the book
- prepare an ebook version if electronic rights are part of the contract
- send out advance copies to professional review journals, select bloggers, and other "pre-buzz" generators
- use their sales force to get your book into the hands of distributors and ultimately, your hometown bookstore

It’s very, very hard to sell a book to a commercial publisher—they only take what they think is the best of the best. Although some publishers will consider direct submissions from authors and illustrators, most prefer to have work submitted to them by literary agents.

A literary agent is a professional who not only sells books to publishers via their carefully fostered connections with editors at publishing houses (it’s their job to know what editors are looking for which kinds of books) but help their clients with all aspects of their writing or illustrating careers.  Not every agent represents every kind of book, just as not every publisher publishes every kind of book. You will need to do a great deal of research on which agents represent which kinds of books and what their individual interests are.  Once you’ve done that (most of which can be done on-line), then you craft a query letter, which briefly describes your work.

This is not a speedy process.  It takes time first to do your research so that you can best target your submissions...and then it takes time for agents to read their submissions, request manuscripts, read them, and decide if they want to represent your work.  Then they’ll often ask you for revisions that they think will improve your work...and then they submit your work to publishers they think would be a good match...and then you’ll wait some more, and quite likely the news won’t be positive. If it is, then there’s more waiting—a YA novel usually takes 18 months to 2 years from the date it’s sold to the day it’s released.  If you want to be a writer or an illustrator, you have to cultivate patience...a lot of patience  The good news is that while you wait, you can be working on your next story and improving your skills.

Here are a few links on the process:

I don't think I want to go that route. What else can I do?

Once upon a time, the above was the only way to go. Now, though, there are more options that can be considered, including self-publishing and subsidy or vanity publishing.

Self-publishing means that you are not only the author, but the publisher of your book. It means that you take care of (or hire someone else to do) everything involved in the publication of your book--having it edited, formatted, a cover created, uploading to online distributors for an e-book version, formatting a print version/working with a print vendor, and marketing. It can be a lot of work, but some authors prefer this route: they like having complete creative control of all aspects of their book. Here are a few links that might be of interest:

Subsidy or Vanity publishing means that you pay a company to perform all of the publishing steps outlined above. Sometimes you choose from among several "packages" that include certain levels of service for set prices. It differs from commercial or self-publishing in that the publisher's target market is not the reading public. The vanity press's target market is authors who want to get a book in print, and they make their money from aspiring authors, not from readers. Therefore, they do not have a vested interest in whether your book sells. They will usually accept the work of any author who is willing to pay for their services, regardless of the manuscript's quality. The quality of their services and your finished book can also range from good to poor or nonexistent, so before deciding to work with such a company it's extremely important to look at books they have put out so that you know what you are getting. Here are some relevant threads: