Welcome once again Fellow Children’s Writers and Friends,
Alright we’ve looked at where to get advice about writing for children when you’re completely or at least fairly new to the craft and still bamboozled about where to begin. (See Attractions on the Literary Highway 27/11/15). We’ve looked at Conferences (Fun at the Festival 23/3/16) Competitions (Win Win Win! It’s Competition Time 28/1/16) and Critique Groups (Thinking Critiqually 25/5/16) as ways to not only help you learn about your craft, but also encourage opportunities to network with other writers. By now if you haven’t already done so, you’re probably ready to consider submitting your work to publishers, be they magazine, newspaper, online or of course publishing houses.
So now you have another new and exciting bend in the road to publication where like every other, decisions have to be made. What do I say in my email/letter? How do I show my manuscript in the best light? Where can I find out about those? Well look no further! Now I don’t claim to be an expert by any stretch of the imagination, in fact I, like Police am accustomed to my silent fears gripping me long before I reach the…keyboard. However, like any good writer, I have done my research (More on this in future posts) and I can tell you five key points which I have found very useful; be professional, be polite, have an elevator pitch, know your brand (self) and know your market and your manuscript’s place in it. To elaborate:
Be Professional – do your research, know which publishers publish your sort of manuscript. It’s no point sending an early reader to a publisher which only publishes books for adults. Similarly you wouldn’t send a Young Adult Novel to a travel magazine focusing on kid friendly holidays, nor an article which would suit the latter to a publishing house specialising in Picture Books. Aside from looking at their website, actual publications in shops or online a key place to find this information is in the Publishers Guidelines. Find these or request them politely and follow them to the letter. Present your query and/or submission in a professional manner using a clear 12 point font, well thought out formal language which is clear, concise and catchy.
Be Polite take the time and effort to research whether via the web, marketplace books, or a simple phone call, who you should send your submission to and as much as possible do so using their correct name, with their correct title and of course with correct spelling.
Have an Elevator Pitch for those of you who haven’t heard this term before it simply refers to what you might say to someone (preferably an editor) if you only had the few minutes it would take to ride an elevator together (possibly, especially if you bore or badger them, only one floor) about your manuscript. Essentially it should include; who your main character is, what they want most and what’s making it most difficult to get it. If it is a non-fiction piece or a travel article or some other sort of writing which is informative more than narrative it should include a clear and interesting summary of your manuscript in about three short sentences.
Know Your Brand Although this can and often does include information about blogs, websites and social media you are engaged in professionally, that is bordering more on your platform. Your brand is essentially you! You and the things you like to write about and the style you tend to write it in (can be more than one) A publisher is not just interested in your one, no doubt ‘brilliant’ manuscript, but in whether you have any more in you. Be ready to tell/show them what else you have ready to go or at least are working diligently on. Publication is a business and it’s only if they like what the see that they’ll invest in you. This is also where you would state why you’re the right person to write this piece, include your experience and expertise for example if your an ex-Olympic athlete than you would probably be very suited to writing for an athletics magazine as would a teacher to be to children’s writing. Also include any previous writing credits if you have them. Don’t worry if you don’t have any yet, no one who has been published, did at first.
Know Your Market and Your Manuscript’s Place in it. Look at your manuscript carefully, decide who it might be aimed at e.g. 3-5 year old children or 12-15 year old girls. Again research that market to see what else is out there. Is your piece similar in style to anyone else’s but not too similar. State this in you submission. Is it Fantasy? Graphic novel? Romance? Coming of Age? Add this to your submission too. The clearer you are about your piece the better you can sell it. It is up to you and your piece of writing as to what you will include here but (a great) title, age range, genre and word count are essential. So come on pluck up that courage, do the hard yards on the research trail and above all ensure that your submission letter/email, cover page and most importantly manuscript are as polished and professional as you can make them. Above all write a great story! (Or a detailed and entertaining informative piece)
Hopefully I’ve given you some food for thought and a fair bit of work to do, or better still a bit of encouragement, if you’ve covered these points already and I wish you the greatest of luck and a hearty Farewell Fellow Travellers as you
Savour the quest