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More questions and answers will be added periodically....
What exactly do I submit as an illustrator/ writer?
If you want to illustrate AND write your own story, then submit the complete manuscript, a book dummy and two sample illustrations. There is a chance that the editor looking over your project may think that either your writing or illustrating is stronger. If you're not hell bent on doing both, then indicate that in your cover letter. Say that your illustrations and manuscript can be considered separately. Perhaps an editor will LOVE your story, but think that your illustrations aren't up to par. In that case, she may look for someone else to illustrate your story. OR she may love your artwork, but think that your story is "slight," or a list of other things. If your illustrations wowed the editor, she may keep your samples on file. Perhaps your illustration style will be perfect for someone else's story. Remember to include your phone number, address, e-mail, and name clearly marked on all submissions.
I have a lot of projects. Can I send them all?
No. That probably isn't a good idea. You'll be giving an editor the impression that you don't LOVE any one thing. The best idea is to wait until you get a yes or no response... then you will be free to send that same editor another project. Your chances will be better, in my opinion, because if the same editor sees your name several times, he or she may be more likely to remember you. Of course, that doesn't mean that you should blitz editors with new story ideas. So send ONE manuscript at a time. DON'T send an editor twenty new story ideas in a few month's time! If you've received multiple rejections from the same editor, it's probably safe to say that your writing style isn't for her or is possibly not the right fit for that particular publishing company's needs.
All my rejections in the past have been form letters, but this time I got one from an actual editor! It was even signed! Does this mean I'm close to being published?
Unfortunately, no. Different editors do different things... some answer everything personally and some don't. Some have their assistants look over the slush pile, and in that case, the MS you sent the editor may not have actually been read by him or her. If your return letter is signed by the editor you submitted your story to, then that COULD be promising, but not necessarily. Maybe the editor had more time that day to sign his or her name who knows. A penned note, of course, is quite promising. Also, if an editor explains why he or she didn't like your MS, then that also shows promisethey took the time to explain! Also, if an editor says she'd be happy to consider future work, then that's great! Check Verla Kay's website for an analysis of the rejection letter. www.verlakay.com Verla gives some good tips for reading and "analyzing" your rejection letter.
I'm an illustrator and I want to illustrate kid's books? Who should I send my work to?
First, if you are in the NYC area, gather a few portfolios and drop off your work to the publishers (make sure to include some "leave-behinds" (promo sheets, postcards, etc.). Sometimes specific days are set aside for portfolio drop offs, depending on the company. A good place to check for that info is the children's book council illustrator's guide There, you will see a listing of what kind of artwork each publisher is looking for, what time and day is best to drop off your portfolio, and what time is best to pick it up. Generally, most publishers will make your portfolio available to pick up by the end of the day. If you are not in the NYC area, a good way to get attention is to mail postcards or promotional sheets to designated publishers. Many sources instruct illustrators to submit artwork to the art director, but you should also send samples to editors they are always looking to find good illustrators to illustrate their manuscripts.
What do I put in a cover letter?
Well, first I can tell you what NOT to put in a cover letter. DON'T say that your kid loves your story, your dog ...your neighbor ... or even your class of students, if you're a teacher. Your story should stand on its own. Giving yourself gushing reviews from your family and friends will not help. Also, if you've published a series of articles for a medical magazine or a romance story in the local paper, do not include that information either. Just because you can create a well written essay on the dangers of salty foods, does not mean that you can write a good kid's book. You should include any publishing experience if it's in the children's field. If you've already had a children's book publishedgreat! Note that in the cover letter. Do not send cookies or chocolate to sway the editor's decision. It won't work. If anything, you'll give the editor a good laugh and perhaps provide the office with a nice lunchtime snack. That's ALL. For more information on coverletters, check out the purple crayon for an informative article.
I got a rejection letter and the editor said some nice things! Should I rewrite it and send it to her again?
It depends. If the editor is asking for a rewrite, she will make that clear. An editor may make suggestions and then ask if that's a direction you'd like to go in. BUT if they say "Thank you for the submission, while your MS was cute and heartwarming, it is not right for my list," then do not bother to resubmit.
I just wrote my first picture book. How do I find an illustrator for it?
You don't. The publisher will find the appropriate match, oftentimes paring a new author with a more seasoned illustrator, and vise versa. IF you get your MS accepted, then perhaps the publisher will ask for your input and ideas, as to who the best illustrator could be, but don't bet on it.
Do I have to copyright my work before I submit it?
No. First of all, your work will never be stolen by a legitimate publishing company. Second, by copyright law, your work IS under copyright protection the minute it's created. The same goes for both text and illustrations. When you do get published, the publisher will print the necessary copyright information in the book.
I just wrote my first novel. What's the proper format?
First, make your MS double spaced with one inch margins on each side. Include your last name and novel title on the top left hand corner of each page. On the right top corner, put the page number. So it should look something like this:
The very first page should look like this:
Should I use one or two spaces between sentences in my MS?
There seems to be a bit of a debate about that lately. Two spaces was standard with the use of the typewriter, but with today's computer technology, one space is fine due to letter width, etc. I've heard that agents now request that there be one space only. Do remember that it's content that counts! No editor will reject your novel because you've used two spaces instead of one.
I wrote a story in rhyme, but I've heard that editors HATE ryhme! Should I not send my story?
Just look at the picture books published each year. There are plenty of books in verse. What editors don't like is BAD rhyme. Many beginners think that their children's books should rhyme. It is my guess that the slush piles have been flooded with bad rhymeeditors are probably sick of reading it. Some editors may have asked not to see more of it for that reason. Even if an editor isn't a big fan of stories in verse, it is still possible to sell a story to that editor if it is the RIGHT story. Do keep in mind that a story in verse is harder to edit if changes have to be made later on. Rhyme is also hard to translate!
How should I submit my novel? Should I bind it?
No. Don't send your novel stapled or bound. Send the loose pages in a padded envelope or put a rubber band around them. ALWAYS number your pages!
I submitted my story to a publisher 3 months ago and I haven't heard back. They said that they'd respond within three months. Should I call the editor and ask what's going on?
It isn't unusual for a publisher to take longer than indicated. Sometimes it can take up to a year or more to hear back! That doesn't mean that you should let your story sit for a year, however. If the publisher says they take three months to respond, give them another couple months. You should never let years go by without hearing back but you shouldn't be impatient either!
If I haven't gotten any response about my submission. Is that a good thing? If an editor is taking longer does that mean my story is being considred for publication?
It can take some time for an editor to call with an offer. He or she must sell your manuscript to the other editors at the imprint... they have to discuss the marketing potential, etc. However, your envelope could also be sitting in an office unopened. There is no way of telling. So in conclusion: time is not an indication of good or bad news.