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How to Know it’s Time to Submit Your Manuscript

Take the first step to writing your children’s book story. Download the free children’s book template here to help you get started.

It’s been six weeks since I quit my job to become a published writer, and I’m finally taking the plunge and submitting to publishers! But how do you know it’s time to submit your manuscript?

After my first submission, I learned that there are some necessary steps to follow before you should hit send. And most will be the reason why your manuscript does or doesn’t sell. 

Let me share those secrets with you.

Submit Your Manuscript Guidelines and Tips

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How to Know it’s Time to Submit Your Manuscript:

Sending your manuscript to agents and publishers is like sending your kid to school for the first time.

Your nerves are on hyper-drive, but you’re trying to keep your composure until you’re finally alone and can down a glass of red wine while watching a Hallmark movie in the middle of the day with tissues littered around you.😭 

But how do you know when you submit your manuscript that it’s going to sell? The easy answer is you don’t. And the good news is you can still prepare for the yes.

Download the free children's book template

Steps to Make BEFORE You Submit Your Manuscript:

1. Have it Reviewed by Your Critique Group or a Professional.

I’ve been meeting with the same ladies for almost five years. They’ve seen anything from my really rough drafts to my fully polished manuscripts. And all of their input has been undoubtedly valuable.

Before you submit, take the first chapter of your novel or your complete picture book to a writer’s group. A lot of writer’s groups meet at public libraries or can be found through your regional SCBWI group. (Read more about how to find a writer’s group here.)

Even if you don’t have a critique group that will put eyes on your writing regularly, it’s better to have a once over with some people that know the industry, rather than only your or your mom (who thinks you do amazing at everything).

Kidlit Publishing Toolkit_How to Publish a Children's Book

Should you pay for an editor?

This is a topic that comes up at a lot of the conferences I attend, and the overwhelming majority don’t believe paying for an editor is vital. After doing additional research, I’ve decided there are only a few times when you should pay for an editor:

  • If you have the money in your budget, and want to put forth the additional expense.
  • If you don’t know any writer’s groups or critique partners (Even online) that can read your work.
  • If you’ve been published for a while and you want to skip going to group activities.

Using a professional isn’t a bad idea, but you need to make sure they’re a good one. Anyone can say they know how to proofread manuscripts, but that doesn’t mean they understand the children’s market.

Check reviews and try to get trusted referrals BEFORE making any decisions.

2. Research a List of Potential Agents or Editors to Send to.

When I decided to submit this last time, I created a list of the top 50 agents that I was interested in working with. Some of these were from large houses and some were junior agents that were looking to grow their list. But all specialized in solely selling children’s books.

The number that you submit to doesn’t matter, so long as you’re doing your research. Although, since the industry is so subjective, you should have a substantial list of potential agents or editors that you want to show your writing to.

Places to do research before you submit your manuscript:

I recommend getting the Children’s Writers & Illustrators Market Book for 2019, because it’s a $20 investment that’s filled with:

  • Small publishing houses
  • Educational markets
  • All the children’s book agencies (and their agents)
  • Big publishing houses (who may not accept unsolicited manuscripts)
  • Plus all their contact information!

Get a hard copy for yourself here. 🤗

3. Follow the Strict Guidelines for Each Submission.

One of the biggest pet peeves that agents mention when asked about submissions is when writers don’t follow the guidelines. Especially because they’re listed on their site.

I know that a lot don’t because some writers even comment about it on Literary Rambles and normally mention that they’ve been rejected. 🙈

This sounds easier than it is, but it’s easy to forget tiny details when you get in a groove. Plus, they’re SUPER important to follow. Some agents want 5 pages, others want 10. Some want it copy/pasted in an email, others want it mailed.

You need to READ! Check out these other articles to help you find an agent and write a successful query letter.

Download the free children's book template

What to do After You Submit Your Manuscript?

Time to celebrate: you just sent your manuscript! 😍

There are a few things you can do now that you’re in the waiting game (And after you’ve spent your time celebrating your awesome accomplishment!):

1. Create a log to keep track.

Submit Your Manuscript Submission Tracker

I set mine up in Google Drive so I can edit it from wherever. In my tracker, I store:

  • Name of the agent/contact person
  • Agency or Publishing House
  • Date Sent
  • Method (Email or Form)
  • Response

If you’re offered representation or publication, you can follow-up with others that you’ve sent to, in order to get the best offer for you.

2. Start working on something else.

Nothing is worse than watching paint dry, hovering over a hot stove until the water boils, or waiting to hear back from a submission.

Instead of waiting for a response, start working on your next project. A- it’ll take your mind off of things and B- it’ll give you something else to sell in your career as a children’s author.

Also–it takes a while to hear back from a lot of people and others may not respond at all.

Kidlit Publishing Toolkit_How to Publish a Children's Book

3. Consider making edits.

I have a story I’ve been working on for four years, and I’m still not sure if I’ve gotten it right. But I really love my characters and believe in the story–no matter how many forms it takes.

However, if I’ve sent it to some 50+ agents and haven’t heard a yes or even a “this is great, but not for me, keep going” email, then I need to look at my submission.

My pitch might not be working–how I sell the story could be falling flat and no one even makes it to my writing.

However, if I’m getting a lot of rejections off my query, instead of no response at all, it could be my story. That’s when I’ll consider editing or rewriting parts or all of my draft. (Read this article to help you identify when you may need to rewrite your manuscript.)

One of the biggest mistakes after you submit your manuscript is giving up too soon. It takes a while to sell a manuscript, but if you follow these steps, you’ll be better prepared to be published.

Have your manuscript reviewed, research who you want to send it to, follow their guidelines, and keep track of submissions.

For more reading, check out these other articles on the blog:

Time to Submit Your Manuscript!

3 Things Needed to Publish a Children's Book | Free Workshop | How to Write an Amazing Children's Book

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    1. Hi Maria! It’s actually a really common question. You don’t have to register your story because you’re already protected by copyright as an author. As the creator of the original work, you’re protected from anyone stealing your work, and in the event that was to ever happen, you could legally pursue them. If you’re submitting to reputable critique professionals, agents, and publishing houses, you shouldn’t have any reason to fear that they will steal your story. Hope this helps ease your fear! Good luck with your submissions. 🙂

  1. I’m trying to find a children’s book agent I finsh my book it’s only 15 pages and I dont a have it illustration

  2. Thank you for all the great advice! One question is still open : If I am writing a children book that needs illustrations, at what stage do I send the manuscript? Do I have to have the illustrations already (not done by me, but I am in talks with some illustrators) or can I send the plain text?

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