It was four years ago and I had officially decided to publish a children’s book. My heart fluttered with excitement as I printed my manuscript and cover letter. I didn’t know, at that moment, I was making some major publishing mistakes that were NOT going to get my book published.
I sent that manuscript out with rainbows of hope and definite confidence that I’d have publishers fighting over the rights to buy my manuscript.
Except all I received in return were crickets.
After doing my research these last four years, I’ve discovered (and now laugh at) those major publishing mistakes that told everyone I was a definite newbie.
5 Major Publishing Mistakes I Made (And How You Can Avoid Them):
1. My target reader wasn’t the market I was pitching to.
My story was intended to be a picture book for
Except I targeted the wrong publishers for those books. I just mailed it to any publisher I could find that accepted picture books. Very wrong.
Before you start writing your book (and especially before you send it to publishers) understand the target readers in the children’s market. I created an easy guide for you to understand here.
2. I sent along amateur dummy illustrations (because I thought I was going to be the illustrator).
I can draw. This is true, but I don’t draw digitally. And I’m not a Children’s book illustrator. However, I thought I had to create the illustrations to get this book published—mostly because I thought publishers preferred this. Plus, I wouldn’t have to split the royalties later.
However, you should NEVER send rough sketches to a publisher. Even if you plan to do the drawings. You should only send polished, professional illustrations from your portfolio. (And that’s another thing–you should have a portfolio!)
**Note: Non-illustrating authors should simply include illustrator notes in the manuscript to explain visual parts of the story.
3. I used incorrect formatting on my manuscript.
Honestly, I can’t remember what my manuscript looked like (Part of my brain censoring me from the embarrassment LOL). But I’m sure I sent some sort of typed story version with the dummy.
Here are the aspects you should include in your manuscript:
- Top Left Corner: Contact Information
- Top Right Corner: Age Level and Approximate Word Count
- Header: Title, Last Name, & Page Number
- Halfway down the page: Title in CAPS with name below
- Font: Romans 12pt
- Double Space Your Story
For a more in-depth look into formatting your manuscript, check out my article that breaks it down in detail for you!
4. I didn’t have anyone review my manuscript.
To my horror now, I sent my manuscript to publishers without ANYONE’s opinion. No other writers read my story. Heck, I don’t even think I had my mom read it.
Meaning no one, especially another children’s author or professional, proofed my work.
You need to at least have your critique group review your manuscript. The critiquers will look for more than grammar and spelling. They will look at word choice, how your plot is developed, if the story is viable, places to tighten your sentences, etc. And they will give you an idea if it’s ready to be sent.
**Note: A great place to meet a critique group is at conferences or a writer’s group. Check your library events page to see if any local writer’s get together. Or join SCBWI to connect with your region.
5. I thought my manuscript would sell immediately.
This is probably my biggest rookie mistake. Because even if I had done all of these other things perfectly, it STILL could take my manuscript a lot of submissions and months of waiting before it actually sells.
Every author gets rejected. In fact, even after authors publish a book, they get rejected. This is a very subjective industry and you need to be patient and believe in your manuscript. Only through persistence and continual submissions (after sufficient research into an agent or publishing house) will you be able to sell your book.
In the four
This doesn’t mean that all of my submissions or manuscripts are perfect—and neither will yours be right away—but I have a better chance at getting them seen and taken seriously by an agent or editor through correcting these five major publishing mistakes.