A friend of a friend asked me earlier today what she should do to get her children’s story published. This is what I told her:
To start you on the road to getting published, you will need to send in a portion of your manuscript (maybe the first couple of chapters) with a cover letter and a brief synopsis of your story. The cover letter is similar to what you would hand in to any prospective employer. It is an introduction to you, your education and writing background, a line or two about why you chose their publishing house, etc. The synopsis should be written in present tense. eg Sally walks to the store. She meets John there. etc. It should be no longer than a page or two and include the ending. Don’t think you are piquing their interest if you leave off that part. They will assume it’s unfinished. They have to know there is a satisfying conclusion in order to consider your manuscript over someone else’s. Above all else, it’s always a good idea to get someone to read over all the work you are submitting to make sure you haven’t missed any spelling or grammar mistakes. (I can read my manuscripts over a dozen times and still miss blatantly obvious mistakes because I am just too close to it!)
Now begins the hunt for a publisher. You can start by checking out the Writers Market books at the library. These come out each year with a list of publishers, what they publish and who to send your manuscript to, usually their acquisitions person. The books should tell you whether they are taking unsolicited manuscripts or authors without agents. You will probably be better off starting with the Canadian publishers because we don’t have a lot of literary agents in Canada. They are more likely to accept your work. The Manitoba Writer’s Guild has a newsletter that lists markets and contests where you might want to submit your manuscript. The internet has a list of Children’s Publishers. Each site also has submission guidelines, which you should follow. It’s a good idea to check out their book lists, too, to make sure that your story is the type of story they are looking for. Any publisher you send it to, make sure they are a legitimate company and not a ‘vanity press’, which will ask you to pay the printing costs.
As for copyright, the minute you put your ideas to paper, it is technically copyrighted. If you are worried that someone will steal your story, mail a copy of your manuscript to yourself but do not open it. The postmark acts as the copyright date. I’ve never bothered to do this because I have witnesses (my writer’s group) who read my work before I send it anywhere, but it is something to consider if you want to make sure that you had the ideas before any similar story ideas come into print.
To name a few reputable children’s publishers, I know of Orca Books, Raincoast Books, Second Story Press, to name but a few. If you are an aboriginal or Metis writer, Pemmican Press here in Winnipeg is your best bet. They do a lot of kids books and have a long line of illustrators to choose from. If your story is aimed at teens and has historical content, like my books, Great Plains Publications has really put a push on their teen labels and I have found them very approachable.
Hope you find this information helpful.