Publishing Child Book?

The Nuts & Bolts of Getting Published

How many times do you think Dr. Seuss’ first manuscript was rejected?

5 times? 15 times?

Nope. A whopping 23 times!

It seems that to get published you need to have the “thick skin” of a salesperson. Can you take rejection?

Dr. Seuss did, and “The Cat in the Hat” is now available in several languages and has sold millions of copies.

Obviously, nobody likes rejection. But fortunately, you can improve the odds slightly by being aware of the nuts & bolts of getting published.

The "Bad" News: Getting Published is about Selling
The "Good" News: Anyone Can Learn How to Do It

Getting published is really about selling. And there is a specific process, similar to any sales process, you need to follow.

Research potential publishers and create a “prospect” list. You should carefully select the publishers you want to target based on criteria such as whether they publish stories similar to yours, what type of audience they sell to, etc. Given the odds, you probably want a list of at least 50 or so. You can, of course, separate your prospects into tier 1 and tier 2 prospects. Remember to select them carefully so you don’t waste time on prospects that are unlikely to be interested in your manuscript.

Determine the submission format. Some publishers prefer that you send a query letter, others prefer to receive a proposal while still others want to receive a synopsis and the first three chapters. You can find out what they prefer by simply calling them up and asking.

Tip: Always address your correspondence to a real person. Take the time to find out the name and title of the most appropriate contact person. This one step alone will greatly increase your chances of getting noticed by the right person.

Query Letter
With a query letter you don’t send a full proposal or (sample) manuscript. As the name implies, a query letter is just that: a query. It’s essentially the same as a “sales letter”. It’s like the “junk mail” that you receive in your mailbox.

You want to grab the editor’s attention with a good opening paragraph. The objective is to get the editor interested enough to want to read the rest of your query letter and then to read your manuscript.

In the second paragraph you describe the theme and market for your book. It should tell what your book is about and answer the question: “Why should I publish this particular book, and not another?”

In third and final paragraph, you establish your credibility. You want to convince the editor that you are just the right person to write this particular book.

You should close your query letter with a “call to acton”. Namely, ask the editor if you can send your completed manuscript to him or her. Make sure to be specific and to provide a self-addressed stamped envelope. You could even include a reply card. The point is to make it as easy as possible for the editor to say “YES” and to contact you.

Tip: While some publishers accept email queries, “snail mail” is still the most reliable means of communication. In this age of information overload and spam, email may go ignored. So, to be sure, send your query letter by regular surface mail.

A proposal is sent either as follow-up to a query letter or to publishers that prefer to receive a book proposal from the start. The proposal includes a cover letter and the entire manuscript (if it’s short) or the first three chapters of longer manuscripts.

Writing a good cover letter is essential. Just as you would never send a job application with just your resume, you should never send a manuscript without a cover letter.

A follow-up cover letter may be fairly brief (e.g. half a page), and should remind the editor that he or she has asked for your manuscript (e.g. “Thank you for your interest in…”). Although it may be brief, make sure to reiterate, concisely, why your book is a potential winner.

Tip: Aside from including your manuscript, you can also include a market analysis for your book. This serves two purposes: it increases your credibility and may convince the editor that your book is highly marketable. Remember, you want to make it as easy as possible for the editor to say “YES”.

A cover letter sent as part of your initial approach resembles a query letter. The only major difference is in your objectives. The objective of a query letter is to get the editor to ask for your manuscript. The objective of a cover letter is to get the editor to read the enclosed (sample) manuscript and then to contact you about a book deal (contract).

The important thing to remember in all your communications is to focus on “WII-FM” (What’s in it for me). Instead of launching immediately into a diatribe about why your book is so great, try to show the editor how publishing it will benefit him or her. Publishing is a business, so the “bottom line” IS the bottom line.

Tip: Always include a “P.S.” The P.S. in a sales letter is statistically proven to be the second most read part of the letter (after the headline or opening sentence). The P.S. really attracts the reader’s attention.

What should you say in your P.S.? You can restate benefits, introduce a new benefit, provide more credibility or communicate urgency (to motivate the editor to take immediate action).