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sub six series 2

 

A big thank you to Vivian Kirkfield for sharing her thoughts on manuscript submissions with us today.

 

 

TRYING BACK DOORS: A FEW THOUGHTS ABOUT SUBMITTING TO

SMALL PRESS PUBLISHERS

by Vivian Kirkfield

 

Did you ever lock yourself out of your house? Back in 1996, we arrived at our new home in Colorado Springs, having driven 2000 miles from Connecticut. We climbed out of the car, walked up to the front door of our new house, and quickly realized we had packed the keys in one of the many boxes that were being transported by the moving company. They would not arrive for several days.

Fortunately, I was able to get in the back door. Well, sort of. There was a dog door at the back of the house. I’m pretty small, so I scrambled through the flap and ran around to unlock the front door for the rest of the family.

There are a couple of ‘back doors’ in the publishing world as well, and writers can sometimes find success using them. I’d like to share a couple of thoughts that might be helpful to all of you.

SMALL PRESSES

A small press publisher can be a good place to start your climb to the top of the publishing pile. There are thousands of small press publishers in North America alone. Of course, you still need to do your homework: check their reputation, check their submission guidelines, research their book list to target your submission, and only send your work when it is the best it can be.

What are the advantages of working with a small press publisher?

  1. You may get much more personal attention because a small-press editor works with fewer writers and can afford to take a personal interest in each book.
  2. Small presses are less numbers-driven and more interested in quality.
  3. Many small presses specialize in a niche market. Your queries can be focused much more precisely, and you can often find a publisher who is a perfect fit for your book.
  4. A small press may be able to afford to keep a relatively large backlist. Your book will stay in print longer, maybe even for years, providing a lot more time for word-of-mouth to take effect.

What are the disadvantages of working with a small press publisher?

  1. Small presses only publish a limited number of new titles each year, some only one or two.
  2. Small presses cannot afford to market your book the way a larger publisher can. They list it in their catalog, but tours, signings, and any other marketing will probably be up to you, the author. However, these days, even major publishing houses do not spend very much in marketing dollars for unknown authors. If you want your book out there, you will have to hustle it yourself.
  3. Small presses do not have the distribution capability of major houses. The large book wholesalers, like Baker and Taylor or Ingram, don’t carry many small press titles and the superstores usually only buy from these major distributors.
  4. Most small presses operate on very tight budgets and unforeseen problems can sometimes push a small press into bankruptcy. If you decide to sign with a small publisher, make sure you have a contract provision that allows you to reclaim the rights to your manuscript.

How to Approach a Small Press Publisher

I had an interesting experience with a small press this past year. One of my manuscripts seemed to be a good fit for a small niche publisher. I did some research and found them on Facebook and left a comment about how I was going to submit something to them. There was an immediate response and an invitation to submit, which I did. About two months later, I received a lovely email from the acquisitions editor, encouraging me to revise the story and resubmit it. Unfortunately, by the time I revised and resubmitted it, the editorial staff had been reorganized, my contact was no longer there, and they were no longer interested in the manuscript. But I’ve sent it on to several other places. I won’t cross my fingers because I am too busy writing and revising more manuscripts.

Here are a couple of submission tips for small presses and niche publishers:

  1. Know what they publish.  Don’t query a regional nature manuscript to a press that publishes stories about military families.
  2. Read and follow their submission guidelines to the letter and prepare your submission package carefully.
  3. Be patient. Be courteous. Be considerate.
  4. If you don’t have an agent to represent you, make sure you know what you are signing away and what you are getting.

And here are some online resources to get you started:

Fantastic article from Science Fiction and Fantasy Writer’s Association for EVERY writer who is submitting to agents or to editors. It includes important links to check out both publishers and agents: http://www.sfwa.org/other-resources/for-authors/writer-beware/small/

Agent Query — http://www.agentquery.com/publishing_ip.aspx

Literary Market Place — http://www.literarymarketplace.com/lmp/us/index_us.asp (free registration required)

Bonus link from Alayne: From Writer’s Digest – THE PROS AND CONS OF PUBLISHING WITH A SMALL PUBLISHER by Brian Klems —  http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/the-pros-and-cons-of-publishing-with-a-small-publisher

 

I wish you all the best of luck with whatever submissions you bravely put out there this year.

I’d like to thank Alayne for the opportunity to participate in the ALL ABOUT SUBMISSIONS series.

 

About VivPicture 054 Bian

Vivian Kirkfield loves being surrounded by picture books and children. A former kindergarten teacher, she has a master’s in early childhood education…and when she isn’t scribbling stories, she is hiking and fly-fishing with her hubby, reading, crafting, cooking with kids, and sharing self-esteem and literacy tips with parents. Although she is not a fan of heights and was always a rather timid child, Vivian is constantly taking leaps of faith. In 2010, she self-published her award-winning parenting resource, Show Me How! Build Your Child’s Self-Esteem Through Reading, Crafting and Cooking. Three years ago, she went skydiving with her son. In May of 2013, she flew half-way around the globe to speak at the 2013AFCC/SCBWI conference in Singapore, and she is amassing a respectable pile of picture book manuscript rejections. To learn more about her mission to help every child become a lover of books and reading, you can follow her on Twitter, connect with her on Facebook, like her Show Me How page on Facebook, visit her blog at Picture Books Help Kids Soar or contact her by email.

book pic from wordpress blog

 

 

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sub six series 2

I apologize for hijacking Jan’s informative post with a few announcements. I feel it is important to let you know that I have decided to let ALL ABOUT SUBMISSIONS Q & A rest for the summer. However, there are still some ALL ABOUT SUBMISSIONS guest posts coming up. The two main reasons for the summer break with the Q & A are:

1) It’s a busy time for everyone, so I thought it might be nice to give the team a break.

2) I am busy with writing projects and my new picture book critique service.

Many of our Q & A members have had good news since we started the team. I am hoping to share some of it with you in the future.

I would like to thank today’s guest blogger, Jan Godown Annino, for sharing some of the things she has learned in her writing journey. Here’s Jan. . . .

 

Admissions about Submissions:

Things Learned from my Crackerjack Critique Partners

 by Jan Godown Annino

 

It could be that at the end of this day, you won’t submit that poem, story, article or book. I’m talking about that manuscript glowing over there in your To-Go queue.

Why not?

1. There is a time to submit.

2. And there is a time to delay a submission.

Having spent plenty of time around the table with my prize-winning poetry critique partner and two groups of published writers / editors, I’ve been privileged with an inside view of their submission experiences, results, and hopes.

Jan's crackerjack  critique group L to R : Debra, Ann, Jan & M.R. Photo by Paolo Annino

Jan’s crackerjack critique group
L to R : Debra, Ann, Jan & M.R.
Photo by Anna Annino

As the leader of a writing workshop in a retirement community for several years, I discovered a surprising reason to hold back on submissions. Also, in attending crackerjack workshops at the Hollins University summer children’s literature program, I learned a lot about submission attitudes from fellow writers.

Today, I share what I learned about manuscript submissions and writing from the above mentioned experiences.

This blog post is about moving a voluntary, not required writing for everyday employment, submission along. Moving it the long, long, miles from the keyboard toward publication. NOTE:  Writing required for everyday employment such as, works-for-hire, paid/staff writing assignments, writing in other employment settings, or other similar pieces are not in the hopper for this discussion.

Two Little Reasons to Hold Back on Submitting

Little reason one: The poem, article, story or book manuscript ain’t poifect. It’s not the best.

Some things that might get overlooked or might need a little extra attention are: the idea, research, writing, revisions, fact-checking, copy editing, formatting & agreements / commitments previously made with an agent or editor.

Although flush with the thrill of creation earlier, the writer now realizes that all the words don’t work well. The next revisions might start with arrangements for hiring an expert copy-editor where they will work together to provide polish before submitting. They might look for things such as, lax formatting, missing significant facts and so on.

The best work moves forward. The less than best, no.

Now for a word about partial manuscripts. Sometimes, upon request from editors or agents, a writer sends out work that is partially written. But those requests for partials do not mean that those professionals on the receiving end hope to read work without sparkle. Those partials must be the best they can be, not hurry up, rough-and-tumble drafts.

As for the writer who has an arrangement with an agent or editor to peek at works-in-progress that are covered in construction dust, well, that writer owns a unique send button. Brava! Not every keyboard has ’em.

For most of us, it works in our favor to leave the typos, wonky formatting, and blobby ideas at home.

Little reason two for holding back on submitting, with three aspects to it: An unready, unprepared writer.

1. Not the writer’s true topic.

A writer may realize they dislike the topic that they are messing around with in Microsoft Word, longhand, or however it is they bring something to the page.

As a community college adult education writing instructor, I had big ears for the round-the-world adventures of active retirees. They are the ones who taught me about this “wrong topic” problem.

Out of about 20 fascinating writers with lively stories to tell, each semester, usually one-fourth shared that they were slogging away at a piece that they didn’t want to write. But they were dully plodding because a spouse, child, sibling, college group, former employer, etc. tasked them with it. Someone had complimented them on their writing, rhyme, annual family newsletter, vacation report, or anecdote about Uncle Mortimer and the wasp in his armpit by telling them, “You have to publish this!”

If you don’t want to write the piece you are working on, give yourself permission to write something you want to write. (Note – again, under discussion is voluntary writing, not required writing for everyday employment.)

 2)     Scrutiny

A smaller part of little reason two is that an author is unready, at this particular moment, to be out there for scrutiny. Consider the following scenario: An author’s pal runs interference and sets up a pitch session with their editor or agent. The unprepared author doesn’t have the pitch polished, is sick with the ick, is distracted by several serious family kerfuffles, etc. The editor is faced with either wasting time with an unprepared author or a string of cancelled appointments due to the author’s personal issues.

The remedy is to always try to be ready, but to understand if the time is truly not right. Ask the editor/agent if you can be in touch soon, like in two weeks?

3)     Unwilling to budge

A third aspect of little reason two is that the writer is emotionally tied to the story exactly the way it is submitted. The connection, often from a heartfelt childhood experience or other event, is so vivid to the author that any manuscript changes suggested by an editor or publisher feel wrong . . . or it seems as though it would be a betrayal of this emotional material to make changes for improvement.

So why send a piece to a traditional publisher, whose job is to find ways to make the piece better, and whose experience guides them to do this, when the writer’s thinking from the get-go is,  I’m not open to substantial changes. You must be open to changes to work with a top-drawer editor and publisher.

There may be other reasons a writer is unready; please share a comment.

COMMENT prize

The prize(s): A surprise item (or items) from Jan’s writer’s vault (U.S. & Canada postal mail, only.)

To be considered for a prize, leave a comment, by June 30 midnighty and include your real name if that is not the automatic comment name.

I appreciate those who helped. In acknowledging assistance (Ann, Debra, M.R, especially, thank you) any foolishness of thought, fact or interpretation, is my own. I’d like to also express gratitude for Sub Six/Alayne and your supporting cast, and more thanks to Kristen Fulton for the enthusiasm she shares in the writing community.

Photo by M.R. Street

Photo by M.R. Street

About Jan

Jan Godown Annino’s picture book biography of Betty Mae Tiger Jumper, SHE SANG PROMISE, is an ALA Amelia Bloomer Top Ten book. ​The New Jersey native moved to south Florida as a teen and now ​​lives with her family safe from pythons,​ ​crocodiles and most tourists,​ ​in North Florida​.​ ​Her ​poems for children are published in a 2014 Peace Corps anthology for Ethiopian schools, and her poetry for young readers also appears in Milkweed’s STORIES FROM WHERE WE LIVE, Literary Field Guide Series (Piedmont & South Atlantic edition).  ​Her Florida nonfiction books​ ​ ​are also well-regarded. Jan is​  ​an active reader in schools.

Visit Jan’s blog

Learn more about Jan on Twitter

You can also find Jan on GROG a group blog offering guidance and support to writers. 

CLICK HERE TO FIND A COMPLETE LIST OF “ALL ABOUT SUBMISSION” POSTS

CLICK HERE FOR INFORMATION ON ALAYNE’S PICTURE BOOK CRITIQUE SERVICE

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sub six series 2

HOW TO SUBMIT WITHOUT FEELING LIKE THROWING UP

by Yvonne Mes

Through my travels in various children’s writing groups, on-line and in person, I have come across a few people who have said something like:

“I have just submitted my manuscript to (insert name of dream agent or publisher). Eurgh, I feel like throwing up.” Or they took it one step further and expressed the state of their nerves by regurgitating their lunch.

I am here to tell you submitting should not make you feel sick!

You may not be quite as emotional as some, or go to these bodily extremes after submitting a manuscript, however feelings of anxiety are quite common.

I admit to having experienced some strong but opposing emotions when submitting a story. I share a couple of my experiences below.

Ignorance is bliss

My first submission was a picture book story for a writers’ festival competition. I knew nothing about writing for children, but I had children, I loved reading, and I had an active imagination. Therefore, I was confident my story was a winner. Ah, the bliss of ignorance. I whistled merrily as I pressed that send button. I would win that contest. Someone would offer me a contract, and people would soon start calling me the new Mem Fox or Jane Yolen.

Fast forward a few months …

During the months of waiting for the results, I immersed myself in picture book writing. I researched online. I read books. I enrolled in one writing course and then another. By the time I found out I hadn’t won the contest, I was only a little devastated, because by then I had realized that the story I had submitted, well … sucked.

Too much knowledge is dangerous

The next time I submitted a story, to an agent no less, I had almost finished my writing courses. I had spent a lot of time on this story. I had joined several critique groups. Using their feedback, I revised and revised and polished my story so much that I could almost see my reflection in it.

But this time when I submitted, I had realized how hard it was to get traditionally published, how small the chances were and how long it could take. This time, I felt I had everything to lose. And I did feel rather queasy.

Yvonne's post queasy

Control

Now, I am going to be wildly assumptive and judgmental, or perhaps incredibly insightful and say that most of us writers are control freaks.

When you hit that send button or let that letter slip from your fingers into the great unknown and unpredictable via the mailbox, be it real or virtual, it is out of your control.

You had control when you coaxed it into being. You let others critique it, but still, you were able to decide what was worth taking into account, and you were in control of the revisions. But once it’s gone, you can’t change that sentence around anymore or find a stronger verb. And now that you have let it go, you are worried that perhaps it could have been better.

Yvonne's post calm panicEven if you are completely confident about the creative masterpiece that is your manuscript, you worry about the things beyond your control. What if the mail truck does a double flip en route to Mr. Dream Agent? What if the agent sloshes her coffee over your manuscript? What if a computer virus hacks her inbox? What if your agent has left to join another agency and your manuscript has been filed in the black hole of lost stories?  There are so many variables beyond your control. And it makes you sick. Sick to your stomach. Pass the barf bag.

After a suitable amount of waiting, anywhere from 2 minutes to 6 months, you hang on to every little shred of hope that your story has, in fact, NOT been rejected but perhaps misplaced temporarily or even better is taking longer while a contract is being drawn up. You anxiously wait, and wait, and wait.

Yvonne's post stop.jpg

Hang on, hold on. Stop! What you are doing? Do you really have time to obsess over these things? Let’s be practical.

Set a reminder in your diary at the date the agent or publisher had specified as their cut-off date. If you haven’t heard anything by then, ask them for a status update. If you don’t hear back from them within a few weeks, that’s it. You have been rejected. Move on.

What can you do?

Yvonne's post yoga ladyNow, I am the least Zen or Buddha-like person. I don’t believe in fate and karma, and I can never quite attain a sense of calm and complete relaxation, or at least not for very long. But I do believe in logic.

And my logic tells me that once my manuscript is gone, it is out of my control, and therefore not worth spending energy on.

Let it go.

Know that you have done all you can. You have done everything you can to make this manuscript the best. You did what you could to make yourself visible as an author. You did your homework, your research on your story AND on the agent or publishing house. You studied the craft of writing. You had the story critiqued several times. You have not written the stuffing out of it. Now it is time to …

… let it go.

Know there is more than one good story in you. Revel in the knowledge that even if every submission you ever send out gets rejected, you are already a successful writer. You wrote a story. You made it your best. And you are in the game!

Let it go.

So what if you discover you have made a grammatical error or misspelled Mr. Cszrukosy, your dream agent’s name? Well, it is out of your control now. Besides, if the rest of your query was professional, and your story is pretty awesome on top of that, well then, they will forgive you that mistake.

Go and work on something else. Spend some time with your family or friends or pets. Do something else enjoyable, like read a book! And then … start writing something else.

Let it go.

And if ‘Letting Go’ doesn’t work try the following:

Face your fears

What is the worst that could happen in the micro cosmos of this particular story? It could be rejected. Let’s be honest, statistically that is the most likely outcome. You know that it is going to happen, just not how, or when. Even established writers get more rejections than they do contracts.

Be practical, increase your chances by writing more stories and submitting more often, and if the story keeps getting rejected?  It still doesn’t mean the death of your story. If you receive feedback you can work with, you can submit it somewhere else. If you don’t receive feedback, seek it out. Maybe your story plot is fine but instead of a picture book, your idea will work better as a short story for a magazine or chapter book.

Yvonne's post Brethe In

Whatever you do, keep submitting. Press that ‘send’ button, shove that letter in the mailbox, breathe, smile and let it go.

Yvonne's bio imageBIO

Yvonne has been around children most of her life, if she isn’t working with them, she is raising them. Yvonne coordinates Write Links, the Brisbane children’s writers group  ww.brisbanewritelinks.weebly.com and is a supporter of Kidlit411.com. Her short story My Sister Ate My Science Project will be published in The School Magazine (Australia) this year. In addition to writing for children, she also likes to work on her illustrations.

Yvonne has a Bachelor of Children’s Services, a Certificate in Professional Children’s Writing, a Cert IV in Visual Arts and Crafts and a Cert IV in Training and Assessment.

You can find out more about Yvonne on her website. www.yvonnemes.weebly.com.

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List of other ALL ABOUT SUBMISSION posts.

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sub six series 2

As promised, children’s writer, Elaine Kiely Kearns, shares her tips on submitting to agents and editors in this bonus post.

Thank you Elaine!

SUBMITTING TO AGENTS AND EDITORS

by Elaine Kiely Kearns

Okay, so you now have a manuscript that you love and are proud of. (Hopefully, you have more than one, because that first awesome manuscript is going to impress the hell out of some agent/editor and they are going to request additional manuscripts, right?)

Okay, so where do you go from here?

We’ve all heard it repeatedly that it is necessary to query agents that will be interested in your manuscript, but how in the world do you figure that out? Why shouldn’t you just make a list of picture book agents and start submitting? I think that the first thing that people forget in their race to secure an agent is that they forget that you are looking for a partner in your career. A long lasting relationship! And just like a friendship, or a partner, you cannot just randomly query people and expect that to work out in the long term. You need to have a plan.

The Plan:

Step 1- Make a general list of picture book agents that you are interested in querying. Here is the place to make your all encompassing list. Add every possible agent that you would like to query, big names, small names, it doesn’t matter, just list.

Step 2- Make educated decisions about the people on your list. You must be very practical when you now look at your list. Think about what kind of agent you want to represent you. For example, I write silly, funny manuscripts. That is my thing. So I am interested in finding an agent who is also interested in funny, quirky manuscripts. Do you know why that is important? Not only because my agent needs to believe in my manuscripts (duh), but because (like it or not) this is a business. If my agent is interested in quirky, funny manuscripts, my agent will be really good at SELLING quirky, funny manuscripts. And, after all, that is the name of the game, they need to sell your product.

Step 3- Figuring Out What in the Universe an Agent Likes or Doesn’t Like.

Welcome to the internet, Detective Querier! This is where search engines will be your best friend. You need to take each of those agents on your list and spend time googling them on the internet.  Most agents will post what their likes and dislikes are on their agent pages. Most agents do online interviews. Do you know why? Because they WANT you to send them the stuff they like! Yes, they do! They don’t want to get the manuscripts that they do not represent any more than you want to get a rejection letter. Some like rhyme, some like quirky, some want an educational element, some want less than 300 words. You can find all of this information through the internet. For example when I am looking to query, I do the following:

a.) Google the name of the agent.

b.) Search their own literary agency site first, make notes.

c.) Search for recent online interviews, make notes.

d.) Search Query tracker. READ the comments left by others about queries. (You can learn a lot from the people who came before you)

e.) Search Preditors and Editors (especially if the agent is not in a big house) http://pred-ed.com

f.) Search Verla Kay’s Blueboard on the SCBWI site, http://www.verlakay.com/Blueboard/ read the notes.

h.) Don’t forget to check their tweets! Very often agents will reference books they love, or mention authors they love. This is very valuable information! You are getting some insight into what they like and you can query accordingly.

After you have completed the above, you should get a good picture of the person you are ready to query. You can eliminate the agents that won’t be interested in your manuscripts, and target those who will!

Conferences and Submissions:

If you are invited to submit to an agent or editor after a conference, make sure you take advantage of the opportunity! And although the invitation is welcomed, you still need to do the homework above before you submit. The difference is with a conference (as in a roundtable) you have hopefully made some type of connection with the agent or editor so that they will remember you. Make note of that in your query submission! Give the agent or editor a reason to remember you so that they can put a name with the manuscript!

I wish you all the best in your query process. Please let me know if there are any other tips that you can offer that I have neglected to mention.

Happy writing,

E 🙂

For additional writing resources, from querying to accepting an offer visit www.KidLit411.com

ElaineElaine Kiely Kearns is the founder of KidLit411.com and a member of the SCBWI. She earned her Masters in Education from Fordham University in 2002. She dreams up wild and wonderful stories in New York where she lives with her husband, two daughters, and menagerie of animals. She lives on coffee, chocolate and humor. (Mostly chocolate.)

You might also like RESEARCHING EDITORS AND AGENTS: HOW TO DETERMINE WHO TO SUBMIT TOPart One and Part Two.

See a list of  ALL ABOUT SUBMISSION POSTS.

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AAS Q&A 4DO YOU HAVE A QUESTION ABOUT SUBMISSIONS THAT YOU WOULD LIKE ANSWERED? ASK YOUR QUESTION IN A COMMENT.

Before I get started today, I want to thank the ALL ABOUT SUBMISSIONS Q & A team for their great answers to this month’s question.

When I first got the idea for this series, I asked children’s book writers what questions they would like answered regarding manuscript submissions. Several people asked similar questions about agents and editors. I decided to share all the questions with the team, as I believed it would offer them more brainstorming power. I think if I were to combine all the questions asked, they would lead to two basic questions.

1) How do you manage your agent/editor searches, information gathering, and so on?

2) How do you determine who you sub to?

Here are the questions as asked:

  • How to narrow down your “where to submit” list?
  • I find researching agents and editors overwhelming. Where is the best place to start?
  • How do I know if I am really targeting my manuscript to the right publisher? I know that we are supposed to study publisher’s websites, market guides, read other books published by them in the same genre, etc., but how do I “really” know if mine is right for their list? Are there any tips or tricks that help you to narrow down potential publishers? Are there any “tried and true” methods used by those of you who are published? I don’t know about anyone else, but I tend to feel somewhat overwhelmed when I peruse those market guides.

Once again, the team came through with excellent answers. And once again, they have offered so much information that I will do two posts. Click here for RESEARCHING AGENTS AND EDITORS: HOW TO YOU DETERMINE WHO TO SUBMIT TO? PART ONE

* * *

Sylvia Liu, Writer-illustrator

portfolio: www.enjoyingplanetearth.com

blog: www.sylvialiuland.com

Sylvia Liu is a winner of the Lee & Low New Voices Award. http://blog.leeandlow.com/2014/01/15/announcing-our-2013-new-voices-award-winner/

Here’s how I research and query agencies:

(1) Overall Strategy: Small Batches. The best advice on querying agents is to do so in small batches (4-6) at a time, and include both your top and lesser choices in each batch. That way you can get feedback (or silence, which is a form of feedback), and adjust your query. If you blast out a query that is not working to 50 agents, and they all decline to ask for more, you are out of luck. If you get rejected on your first round of 4-6 submissions, you will still have other top choice agents to send a revised query to.

(2) Initial research. I start researching agencies using Literary Rambles, which has a comprehensive list of children’s agents with detailed interviews of their likes and dislikes and links to other interviews. I also check out lists like the top 25 children’s agents by sales and the many lists on Kidlit411’s agent page.

(3) Excel spreadsheet. I create an Excel spreadsheet with agents I’m interested in, listing their name, website, submission process, and any specific interests relevant to my work. I color coordinate the entries by highlighting my favorite ones in one color and my second choice in another.

(4) More research on top choices. For my top choice agents, I do more research. Their websites usually list their clients. I’ll check out as many books of their clients as I can find and read them (for picture books, it’s easy to read; for middle grade books, I skim or read the first few chapters). This is a good way to see if my work would fit in with the agent’s tastes and to get good personalized information for the query letter.

(5) Send out in small batches and keep track of responses in Excel. I send my query (for picture books, that often includes the story pasted in the email text) to 4 to 6 agents, including 2 to 3 of my top choices, and 2 to 4 of my second choices. I use a spreadsheet to keep track of the date I sent a story, what I sent, and the usual response time (some agents will tell you that if you haven’t heard within x weeks, consider it a rejection).

When I get a rejection, I highlight that entry gray, so I can tell at a glance which submissions are still active. If I get requests for more material, they get a yellow highlight. When I followed this approach last year, I got two requests to see more work, which did not lead to representation. I highlighted those entries in light purple (to remind myself I’m making progress). My 2013 Excel spreadsheet had a lot of lines of gray (rejection) and white (no response), 2 lines of purple, and one bright yellow (my contest win – I also keep track on my spreadsheet all my contest entries).

* * *

Sophia Mallonée, Children’s Writer

www.sophiamallonee.com

Unfortunately, I don’t think there are any special tricks to narrowing down your submission list. The only tried and true method to finding the right agent or publisher is through research. Lots and lots of research.

The thing is, as much as you might not want to hear this, all of that painful time spent researching, is actually really good for you. Think about it. If you find an agent, that person doesn’t simply help you sell your work, they become a partner, working with you to help you mold your career. Speaking not only as a writer, but as an ex-agent (in the photography industry), your relationship with your agent should be just that, a relationship. This is a person who has to not only believe in your work, they also have to share your vision and passion for it too. You don’t want to just sign with anyone, you want to sign with the one.

You need to research, you need to sift through lists and websites and message boards and everything else you can possibly find. Then once you’ve done all that, you can start the courting process. It might be quick and heated, or it might be long and drawn out. But in any case, it is the way it is and the way it should be. None of this is something that can be rushed. This is your career and there are no shortcuts when it comes to building a strong foundation.

As for finding publishers to submit to, the same holds true. Read blogs, read books both in stores and libraries, Google publishers, go to conferences, listen to what editors have to say and in other words, research. This isn’t a race to see who gets published first, this is your passion and your work. Work. It’s not always easy – if it was, everyone would be doing it.

If you believe in what you do, then let your belief be your fuel. You will power through it and eventually, you will find the place that you were always meant to be. Good luck!

* * *

Julie Falatko, Author of SNAPPSY THE ALLIGATOR (DID NOT ASK TO BE IN THIS BOOK) (Viking Children’s, 2015)

Represented by Danielle Smith, Foreword Literary

http://worldofjulie.com/

I found the best way to find agents who would be a good fit was to read a lot of picture books. When I read books that I loved, or that were a little bit like mine, I’d dig around and figure out who the author’s agent is. A few agent names kept coming up again and again, so I moved them to the top of my spreadsheet. I then researched those agents like I was cramming for finals. I wanted to know everything I could. What books do they like? What are they like on Twitter, if they’re on there? Do they seem passionate about books in interviews, or snooty and snarky? And: are they still open to submissions? Are they still accepting picture books? Submission guidelines change, and the biggest best thing you can do is to read them and follow them exactly.

I read advice that said you should simultaneously query huge batches of (well-researched) agents at a time, but I could never get my head around this. Maybe because what I write is kind of oddball, and so it didn’t seem like there were that many agents who might dig my style. Instead I went for a super-focused, very personalized querying approach. It was maybe more nerve-wracking, because I felt like I was narrowing my options, but I think it’s what helped me get an agent. I wasn’t wasting anyone’s time. (I ended up querying eleven agents total.)

* * *

Kirsti Call, Children’s Author of  THE RAINDROP WHO COULDN’T FALL!

http://www.characterpublishing.org/store/index.php?route=product/product&path=82&product_id=60

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ILoU8KRTjRM&feature=youtu.be

www.kirsticall.com

Here are 3 things that help me decide where to submit:

1. I go to the library or bookstore and read!  When I find picture books that I like, I take note of who the publisher is. Then think about which of my manuscripts would be a good fit for that publisher.

2. I search Book Markets for Children’s Writers 20142014 Children’s Writer’s & Illustrators Market and SCBWI’s The Book.  I mark each publisher that fits with the name of the manuscript I want to submit.

3. I network.  People in the 12×12 community or Children’s Book Creatives share what they’ve learned about publishers and then I have a better idea of whether they are a good fit for me and my story. I was lucky with my debut picture book, The Raindrop Who Couldn’t Fall.  A friend in my critique group was published by Character Publishing, so I submitted to them.

* * *

Alayne Kay Christian, Award Winning Children’s Author

Butterfly Kisses for Grandma and Grandpa

Represented by Erzsi Deak, Hen&ink Literary Studio

Between today’s answers and those posted yesterday, I believe the team has done a thorough job of answering the question. Therefore, I have decided to share some links that fit well with this topic. First, I want to mention that Elaine Kiely Kearns, Children’s Writer http://www.kidlit411.com/ will be our guest blogger on March 15. Her blog will be a bonus post for this topic. Not only will she give her tips for researching agents and editors, she will be giving some other tips for agent submissions, including bringing your manuscripts to conferences and sending conference submissions.

RESEARCHING AGENTS PART ONE

Alayne’s Links for HOW DO YOU DETERMINE WHO TO SUBMIT TO? Part Two

Before I give you links to resources, I want to offer some links to a couple Facebook Groups that relate to submissions and agents and editors.

Agent/Editor Discussion This board is for picture book authors. We discuss agents/editors, sending manuscripts, cover letters and queries. We support the successes and celebrate the rejections (that means we are one step closer to a yes). It is a closed group, but you can ask to join on the page.

Sub Six The Sub Six picture book support group’s focus is supporting each other as we work toward our submission goals.

Hot off the press. SO YOU WANT TO GET AN AGENT, by Romelle Broas

http://romellebroas.blogspot.com/2014/02/so-you-want-to-get-agent.html

From PUB[LISHING] CRAWL: RESEARCHING AGENTS by Susan Dennard; INDUSTRY LIFE

http://www.publishingcrawl.com/2013/09/06/researching-literary-agents/

4 THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN RESEARCHING LITERARY AGENTS, from Writers Digest and Brian Klems’ The Writer’s Dig.

http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/4-things-to-consider-when-researching-literary-agents

HOW TO RESEARCH LITERARY AGENTS, By Noah Lukeman from WRITERS STORE

http://www.writersstore.com/how-to-research-literary-agents

ALL OTHER “ALL ABOUT SUBMISSIONS” POSTS

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AAS Q&A 4DO YOU HAVE A QUESTION ABOUT SUBMISSIONS THAT YOU WOULD LIKE ANSWERED? ASK YOUR QUESTION IN A COMMENT.

When I first got the idea for the ALL ABOUT SUBMISSIONS series, I asked children’s book writers what questions they would like answered regarding manuscript submissions. Several people asked similar questions about agents and editors. I decided to share all the questions with the team, as I believed it would offer them more brainstorming power. I think if I were to combine all the questions asked, they would lead to two basic questions.

1) How do you manage your agent/editor searches, information gathering, and so on?

2) How do you determine who you sub to?

Here are the questions as asked:

  • How to narrow down your “where to submit” list?
  • I find researching agents and editors overwhelming. Where is the best place to start?
  • How do I know if I am really targeting my manuscript to the right publisher? I know that we are supposed to study publisher’s websites, market guides, read other books published by them in the same genre, etc., but how do I “really” know if mine is right for their list? Are there any tips or tricks that help you to narrow down potential publishers? Are there any “tried and true” methods used by those of you who are published? I don’t know about anyone else, but I tend to feel somewhat overwhelmed when I peruse those market guides.

Once again, the team came through with excellent answers. And once again, they have offered so much information that I will do two posts. Part Two will go live tomorrow.

* * *

Teresa Robeson, Author and Artist

teresarobeson.com

My least favorite part of the writing life is not coming up with ideas, or the initial writing, or even the several hundred revisions I have to do on each manuscript. No, my least favorite part is doing market research to send it to the appropriate agent or editor. I don’t know why I dislike it; perhaps it seems so dry and methodical after the creative process of writing a story.

The following are steps I take to ensure I’m targeting the right person, be it an agent or publisher:

1)   I determine what specific category (that is, age range) and genre my story is in. This is very important since agents and editors have their likes and dislikes and won’t rep or publish anything that’s not on their want-list.

2)   I look through a copy of a children’s writers market guide and see who is accepting works in the category/genre of my story. Usually, I use the Writer’s Digest one – CHILDREN’S WRITERS AND ILLUSTRATOR’S MARKET or the Institute of Children’s Literature version – BOOK MARKETS FOR CHILDREN’S WRITERS. Those market guides will have not just a general alphabetized listing of publishing houses and agency names, but they also have listings by specialization. For example, the Category Index of the “2014 Book Markets for Children’s Writers” goes from Action/Adventure to Fantasy to Young Adult Nonfiction, and everything in between.

3)   After narrowing it down to a section comes the tedious but necessary part of skimming through all the entries under that section. You may decide to choose more than one section to look at. For example, if you have a fantasy for middle-graders, you should check both the Fantasy section and the Middle Grade Fiction section. The optimal agents/editors to send to would be the ones that fall into both categories.

4)   While doing step 3, I put the agents/editors into three categories: Most Desirable, Somewhat Desirable, and Last Resort.

5)   I start with the Most Desirable and look up their websites to see if they’re currently accepting clients/manuscripts and see if there’s more info about their likes and dislikes. Plus, their websites will have their most updated mailing (or emailing) addresses.

6)   Step 5 might help you further rank all the people/places in your Most Desirable list from your dream agent/publisher on down. Start submitting!

There is no guarantee that, even with all that work, you are targeting the best person/place for your manuscript — perhaps Agent A just broke up with her boyfriend the day she reads your story, and even though she normally loves YA romance, she may hate your romance that particular day. You can’t control these things, but if you’ve done the research above, you can be certain you’re sending your story to the people who would be interested.

Note from Alayne: The market guides that Teresa mentions in her answer also offer a variety of manuscript submission related articles, information and examples. They also have lists of contests. The info provided is different every year, so if you get a chance, give them a look. Some libraries have these guides in their reference section, plus Amazon has their look inside feature.

* * *

Cindy Williams Schrauben, Children’s Writer

Raising Book Monsters – kids who devour books and hunger for knowledge

http://www.RaisingBookMonsters.com

I am still an agent-orphan, but . . . I have studied, researched, and absorbed information for quite a while now, so I will share what I believe to be best and worst practices.

This process is overwhelming; one that is driven by passion and a desire to reach a goal as quickly as possible. Blind drive and determination can be problematic at times. It can, I’m afraid, cloud our vision and instigate reckless behavior. Let me give you an example: I have my list of “dream agents” carefully chronicled on a spreadsheet with links to their interviews, wish lists, current titles, and agency sites. I have created this list with care and a clear mind. I know what I want and who can help me to get there based on hours of research. But then . . . my internet writing family starts buzzing about the fabulous Agent X who has just opened up to submissions. Hmmm, doesn’t sound familiar; I check my list, but he’s not there. I check out his stats, current clients, past sales, and desired projects and realize that he isn’t really a good fit. But, as the buzz continues and I get caught up in the excitement . . . Maybe I will be the exception. Agent X says he doesn’t like quirky-zany stories, but surely he will like mine! So, I spend hour upon hour researching and writing a killer query, and I send my story off. Wait, why did I just do that? Because I lost sight of my writing . . . my goals . . . and the best path to get there.

Instead of reiterating the Internet sites and market guides that are available for research, I will end here with general advice. This journey to publishing is a rough one, and it should be traveled with a sure foot and discriminating mind. Do your research. Keep careful records. Determine a path and stick to it. Stay true to yourself and your writing. Submitting your work to long-shot agents not only wastes countless hours, it plays games with your self-confidence as well. So, garner your patience, use the down-time to learn more about your craft and stay on a straight road toward your goal.

Note from Alayne: After I read Cindy’s answer, I asked her the following: You mention when Agent X pops up, that you get sidetracked and check out his stats, current clients, past sales, and desired projects. Do you have a specific place you go to get these stats? If so, would you be willing to share?

Cindy’s answer: As far as researching, I use an agent’s site, first and foremost. Facebook, Twitter, Literary Rambles, Query Tracker, and good old Google for interviews. I feel that interviews give me the best insight into the agent and not only their wish list, but their writing preferences related to style, voice, etc.

* * *

Marcie Flinchum Atkins, Children’s and YA Writers

www.marcieatkins.com

1) Read, read, read. When you find books like the ones you write, look up the author. Google the author’s agent. Then you can say, “I really like your client xxx’s work, and my work is similar to xxx.” Knowing who agents represent or the types of authors they represent is very important. You aren’t going to send a picture book to an agent who represents adult thrillers. It’s a waste of everyone’s time. Reading books like those you write will help you know the market, but it will also help you get a leg up on agent research.

2) Follow blogs and industry newsletters. I find Literary Rambles a helpful site as a starting point. I also subscribe to Children’s Writer Newsletter and Children’s Book Insider. They often write about agents and what they are looking for. If an agent mentions that she is looking for a middle grade magical realism novel, and you have a completed one, then that might be an agent you should consider researching a little bit more. You can also Google the agent’s name + interviews. I’ve found interviews all over the internet just by Googling.

3) Go to SCBWI conferences or join groups like 12×12. Agents go to these conferences or participate in 12×12. Live conferences help you get an idea of personalities of different agents.

4) Connect with other writers. Once you get to know people in critique groups, Facebook groups, and at conferences, ask them about various agents. My critique group had dinner together the other night, and between the five of us, many of us had experiences with various agents through in-person critiques, e-mail contact, or even representation. Nothing can beat networking in that form.

5) Stay organized. I recently wrote a post on this blog about submission organization. Once you do your research, keep track of it. I use a spreadsheet. Every time I find someone who I might be interested in, I put them on the spreadsheet. I make notes to myself, paste in website addresses, then it makes researching much easier next time. If I just have a name, I don’t know why I put them there. But if I put a name, a web address, and a note to myself “looking for multicultural YA,” then I even know what manuscript I want to send.

* * *

Alayne Kay Christian, Award Winning Children’s Author

Butterfly Kisses for Grandma and Grandpa

Represented by Erzsi Deak, Hen&ink Literary Studio

First I want to announce my professional picture book manuscript critique service.  Click here to learn more about my service. Between today’s answers and those that will be posted tomorrow, I believe the team has done a thorough job of answering the question. Therefore, I have decided to share some links that fit well with this topic. But first, I want to tell you about tomorrow.

RESEARCHING AGENTS AND EDITORS PART TWO

  • Sylvia Liu will offer some additional resources plus her five step strategy for researching and querying agencies.
  • Sophia Mallonée will give her photography industry ex-agent perspective on the importance of finding the right agent.
  • Julie Falatko will talk about her super-focused, very personalized approach to finding, and signing with the agent that appreciates her “oddball” writing style.
  • Kirsti Call will share three things that help her decide where to submit. And I will offer more links to other agent/editor resources.

Alayne’s Links for HOW DO YOU DETERMINE WHO TO SUBMIT TO? Part One

Perfect fit! MARCH 27 WEBINAR through Michigan SCBWI – HAROLD UNDERDOWN PRESENTS: FINDING THE RIGHT FIT – RESEARCING THE RIGHT AGENT, EDITOR, AND/OR PUBLISHING HOUSE.

https://michigan.scbwi.org/events/webinar-3-researching-the-right-agent-editor-andor-publishing-house/

https://www.facebook.com/events/402818103189026/?ref=3&ref_newsfeed_story_type=regular

Since a couple answers mention Literary Rambles, I thought it might be good to start with the following:

THREE PART SERIES ON LITERARY RAMBLES: RESEARCHING LITERARY AGENTS

PART ONE

PART TWO

PART THREE

THE FOLLOWING HAS BEEN BUZZING AROUND THE WRITING COMMUNITY THIS WEEK.

ON TWITTER, GET THE INSIDE SCOOP: EDITORS AND AGENTS POST THEIR MANUSCRIPT WISH LISTS – OVER AND ABOVE GUIDELINES.

 #MSWL PICTURE BOOK

#MSWL MG (Middle Grade)

#MSWL (Other)

SHARON K. MAYHEW OFFERS A LIST OF AGENTS, EDITORS, ETC. 

http://skmayhew.blogspot.com/p/blog-awards.html

Click here to find all other ALL ABOUT SUBMISSION posts.

DO YOU HAVE A QUESTION ABOUT SUBMISSIONS THAT YOU WOULD LIKE ANSWERED? ASK YOUR QUESTION IN A COMMENT.

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sub six series 2Organization Tools and Tips for Submitting Your Work

By Marcie Flinchum Atkins

Submitting your work can be overwhelming, especially when you start to send out multiple manuscripts over a long period of time. Because I write poetry, short stories, articles, picture books, and novels, I needed a system to keep track of everything. I’ve tried to streamline it into a process that works for me. I’m going to walk you through some of the tools I use. Some of these may work for you. Some of them may not. Feel free to tweak them to fit your submission needs.

Picture Book Status Log

Now that I’m beginning my third year in 12×12, I have quite a stack of picture books. Many of them are no good, but there are a handful I want to pursue, and I now have a handful with very specific rejection letters. I wanted to have some way of assessing where I was with each manuscript.

I created a Picture Book Status Log where I could record the title of each book and make notes about the stages of development. It’s nothing more than a way for me to see what I’m working on and keep me on track for revisions for all of my promising manuscripts.

Screenshot of Status Form

Picture Book Status Chart Google Docs

Completed Works List

Again, as I started to query agents, I found that I needed an easy way to access all of my short paragraph synopses of my finished picture books and novels. I also needed an up-to-date bio that I could include with all of my query letters.

I created a completed works list. At the top, I include my updated bio. If the bio needs updating, I change it here. I can then copy and paste the bio into query letters.

I also listed the titles, word count, and short synopses of each completed book. I can also copy and paste this into query letters. Then all I have to do is personalize the letter.

I’m spending less time scrolling through old query letters and updating them this way.

Screenshot of completed projects template

Digital Files

While I do print out multiple versions of my picture books, I don’t print out my novels as much. I keep very organized digital files. First of all, I store everything on Dropbox (http://www.dropbox.com). Ever since I cried on the desk of the Geek Squad fearing my master’s thesis was gone forever, I have used Dropbox. Forty dollars and a few hours later those amazing Geek Squad guys had my thesis on a CD. But I learned my lesson. Now I can rest comfortably knowing that if my computer were to be destroyed ALL of my writing is backed up.

I name files by working book title. Inside of the file, I keep all of the files related to that book. For example, in the beginning, I have the millions of drafts. If I do a rewrite, I do SAVE AS and rename it with the title and the date. Once I start submitting I save it with the title, my name, date, agent’s name, agency name. Yes, it’s a long title. But, at a glance, I can see what I did with that manuscript.

Screenshot of Digital Files

Physical Files

I also keep physical files on my desk. I bought these file organizers from Staples when I started seeing my works-in-progress grow in number. I need to see what I was working on (still in revision), what I wanted to research, and what was out on submission. If I get a rejection letter, I might resend it out right away or it might go back into the WIP (work-in-progress) file if I received revision suggestions. If I finish a WIP and send it out, it moves to the On Submission file.

files on desk

Log for the Folders

Inside of each folder, I keep a written log taped to the inside of the folder. I do this more for short works—short stories and picture books. I write down when I sent it out and to whom I sent it (including critique groups). If I sent it to an agent or editor I include their name and agency or publishing company. When I get a rejection, I make a note about the comments, and mark the date it was returned. I often print the rejection letter and put it in the file to help me make changes later.

Screenshot of log for inside of folder

Log for inside of folder

I have been asked why I keep physical copies and not just store it all on my computer. I do store a LOT on my computer, but, for me, writing and revising picture books doesn’t ALL happen on the computer. I do a lot on paper. Someday, I also want to take that thick file to a school visit and show young writers how much writing and rewriting goes in to making a great 500-word picture book.

Submission Spreadsheet for Agents

I read a lot of blogs about the industry. As I hear about agents that might be possibilities for my work, I log them into a spreadsheet. I include the agent’s name, their agency’s name, what they are looking for, and any links where I read about them.

If I submit to them, I include the date I submitted and what I submitted. I also fill in that row in a color. For me GREEN is on submission, PINK is a rejection, BLUE is that the agent is open to future submissions.

Even if you aren’t ready to submit yet, it’s a good idea to start collecting information on agents that might work for you.

Screenshot Agent Submission Explainer Slide

Submission Spreadsheet for Agents

Submission Spreadsheet

I also keep a separate spreadsheet that has two sheets. One sheet is for things I submit for publication. On that sheet I include the date, the title of the submission, what I included in the submission (query + 10 page, query + 3 chapters, cover letter + full, etc). I record who I sent it to and approximate time for response. After I hear back, I make a note.

Submission Log picture

On the second sheet, I record my submissions to my critique groups. Because I’m a member of three different critique groups, it’s important that I record what I send to each group. I learned a long time ago, I can’t rely on my memory.

Google Calendar

I use Google Calendar to keep track of all events in my life. I have a color for personal, a color for writing, and a color for blogging.

When I send a submission, I take a look at the guidelines for the agency and put on the calendar when I expect to hear from them. I honestly try to make it longer than it says on their website. This helps me know when I should follow up.

Google Calendar Screen shot

Make it Work for You

Figure out the easiest way to organize for YOU—what makes sense in your brain. Don’t rely on your memory, however. Keep very accurate records. And most importantly, get your very best work out there.

Bio:

marcie 15 for web small

Marcie Flinchum Atkins teaches fourth graders how to write by day and writes her own books for kids in the wee hours of the morning. She can also be found wrangling her own kids and reading books with them. She blogs about making time to write and using mentor texts at www.marcieatkins.com. Marcie holds a MA and MFA in children’s literature from Hollins University.

 

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