I’m often asked advice on how to get published. It’s not easy getting published (understatement), but it’s not impossible either.
This is what I recommend—
Read…read…read other children's books
Especially ones released in the last few years. And notice who publishes them. I am a firm believer that other children’s books are the best teachers of all. Too, they show you what your competition is, and there is plenty of it! “Study” the books. Ask—
What makes this book so good?
Why do I think this book got published?
Does the book have fresh writing? Great rhythm? Wonderful plot?
Is the 1st sentence a “grabber”?
Does it have a unique main character?
Does it have a satisfying ending?
Then try to incorporate some of the best elements of the books into your own writing.
How do you know what’s been recently released?
Visit bookstores. Also, in February and July, Publishers Weekly lists all the new children’s books (by publisher) coming out for the following season. In February, look for the Spring Announcements. In July, look for the Fall Announcements.
As with anything, “practice makes perfect.”
Make a dummy (if you are writing a picture book)
Most picture books are 32 pages long. Cut your story apart and make a “dummy” of your story to see if it fits a picture book format. The 32 pages include the end pages, title, and copyright pages, so your story should fill up about 28-29 pages of the dummy. This is just to help you. Don’t send the dummy to editors unless you are a professional illustrator and have done sketches for your story.
www.scbwi.org (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) This is a national organization devoted to helping children's writers and illustrators. It provides valuable writing, illustrating, and marketing information; helps you get in contact with other writers and illustrators; and keeps you informed of upcoming events, conferences, and contests. Also join your local chapter of SCBWI. (Look at the national site to find info on your local or regional chapter.)
Buy Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market
(comes out annually) This is a market guide that lists book and magazine publishers, their addresses, and needs. It also includes helpful articles on such things as how to prepare a manuscript and how illustrators should submit their work to editors. Contests, conferences, and an extensive list of helpful books and websites are included.
Read how-to books on writing children's books
Creating Characters Kids Will Love by Elaine Marie Alphin
Writing Children's Books for Dummies by Lisa Rojany Buccieri and Peter Economy
You Can Write Children's Books by Tracey E. Dils
The Writer's Guide to Crafting Stories for Children by Nancy Lamb
Writing for Young Children by Claudia Lewis (old and out-of-print, but a great book)
Writing Picture Books A Hands-On Guide from Story Creation to Publication by Ann Whitford Paul
How to Write a Children's Book and Get It Published by Barbara Seuling
Writing with Pictures by Uri Shulevitz (mostly for illustrators)
The Complete Idiot's Guide to Publishing Children's Books by Harold D. Underdown and Lynne Rominger
On Writing by Stephen King (an excellent book for writers of any genre)
Join a critique group
A great way to find one is through joining your regional chapter of SCBWI. I think it’s best to be in a group with people who write in the same genre you do, such as picture books or YA (young adult).
Good web sites to check out:
Cynthia Leitich Smith's Writing Books for Children and Teenagers
Writing, Illustrating, and Publishing Children's Books: The Purple Crayon (A great resource on this site is called "Who's Moving Where?" – gives up-to-date news on editor changes at publishing houses.)